Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Almost Loving Eclipse Phase

Eclipse Phase is almost a great game.

As a rule, I don't like science fiction games set in space. I just don't get excited by them. I'm not sure why. I mean, I went to Space Camp when I was a kid. I like space travel.

My best guess is that in space games, you're typically just playing a normal guy. I don't think that's all of it, though. I don't know that it really matters, though. The point here is that I got excited about Eclipse Phase. I just started thinking of all sorts of character concepts. Given that a central conceit of the game is that people can download/copy/backup/reprogram/reupload their minds (into multiple bodies, no less), I think that the philosopher in me was intrigued by the idea of playing with different notions of the self.

The point is that I got excited by Eclipse Phase.

Then I tried to make a character.

As long-time readers of my blog know, I'm not afraid of game mechanics. Still, a ridiculously complicated spreadsheet was pretty much required for character creation. Even then, it took hours. The sad part is that it isn't necessary. Character creation allows you to tweak your character a lot, but the steps described for it are fairly inefficient and could be simplified quite a bit. Moreover, a significant number of stats are redundant. For instance, there is a Willpower aptitude. There is also:
  • Lucidity (Willpower x2)
  • Trauma Threshhold (Lucidity /5)
  • Insanity Rating (Lucidity x2)
These are all multiples of Willpower... Couldn't we just have a single stat and build the mechanics around that? Willpower isn't the only stat that gets multiplied like this. There are ten stats and seven aptitudes (basically extra stats). Five of the ten stats are derived from a multiple of one other stat or aptitude.

Eclipse Phase also has you separately define your Ego (mind) and Morph (body), because the two can become separated. Everything on your very long skill list is based off of both your Ego and Morph. Determining the changes to your character sheet that would come from replacing your Morph would take a significant amount of time without an impressive spreadsheet. In some games, though, this could happen all the time - an important means of travel is Egocasting: in which your ego is sent as information and downloaded into another (presumably temporary) Morph.

This is cool. It is also really annoying.

From the small amount of the game that I've actually played, it seems to run well... but we also haven't run into any of those situations that would call for switching out Morphs. As cool as the idea is in theory, I kind of hope we don't.

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