Posts by Tag / GAME: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (14)


Damn skeletons don’t give me time to think

It’s important to me that games let me set my own pace.

Some of that is just the freedom from interruptions and time pressure that you can’t get in the real world, but a lot of it is also down to pacing. Being forced to stop what I’m doing and juggle my inventory or hunt down limited resources can ruin a game’s atmosphere. So can repeating content through forced grinding or punishment.

My latest example comes from Dragon Quest Builders and one of the few things I think the sequel does worse than the original. In both games, your towns are periodically attacked by groups of monsters. I’m not talking about boss fights or story battles - just random groups of monsters that show up and try to do some damage.

In the original, it was always possible to build structures out of materials that the random monsters couldn’t break through. You could build a defensive wall around your entire town if you wanted and then the monsters couldn’t even get in (except for the teleporting ghosts that showed up at night to harass your villagers, but they couldn’t destroy anything). This placed a constraint on building choices, but one you could manage however you chose - you either had to use unbreakable materials, respond very quickly and effectively to every attack, or repair things after attacks. I generally chose to build defensive walls and then engage the enemies outside of the walls on my own terms, knowing the town itself was safe. This also meant I didn’t have to panic whenever the enemies attacked - I could finish what I was doing, and then go stomp them.

In the sequel, this just isn’t the case. You can sometimes briefly get ahead of the curve, and it’s more of an issue in some chapters than others, but in general the randomly-attacking groups of monsters include at least one or two strong enemies that can break anything you can build. This means the constraint is no longer manageable. Every time you come under random attack, you have to drop whatever you’re doing and rush to the battle or part of your town will likely be destroyed and need to be rebuilt.

I feel like the intent here was probably to solve the “problem” that in DQB1 folks could just wrap their town in walls and ignore the random attacks, but I don’t think that was a problem. I liked it! I liked that my base could become a safe space where I could relax and freely rethink town layout and rebuild everything at my own pace. In DQB2, that’s significantly damaged - I get interrupted and lose my train of thought. It disrupts my flow. And toward the end of chapters when the tension is ratcheted up and the random attacks happen more frequently, I feel compelled to rush the story rather than take time to perfect my town - because if I do take that time, I’ll just get interrupted over and over and over.


Gratitude > Points

There are a ton of improvements in Dragon Quest Builders 2 over the original, but my favorite is the philosophical change in how your town is valued.

In Dragon Quest Builders, what matters is what your town has.

In Dragon Quest Builders 2, what matters is what your community does.

In DQB1, a room is worth a certain number of points toward leveling up your town. Many rooms also carry passive bonuses (for example: if you have a kitchen in your base, your hunger meter doesn’t decay inside your base) and a few are incidentally used by villagers (for example, the kitchen again: villagers will prepare food and store it in the kitchen).

In DQB2, rooms do not have point values. From what I’ve seen, they don’t have passive bonuses either. The only thing they do is get used by villagers. Sometimes this means useful items for you (as in the kitchen example), but it often doesn’t. However, every time a villager uses something you’ve built - sleeps in a bed, cooks in a kitchen, eats at a table, drinks at a bar, takes a bath, anything - they generate “gratitude.” That is the resource you use to level up your town.

DQB1 was a lot of fun, but its point system was admittedly a bit broken. In a couple of the chapters, I found myself building inaccessible hidden rooms buried underground or crammed in under staircases for the points and passive bonuses. In DQB2, there’s no reason to do anything like that - rooms are only valuable if your villagers actually use them. You’re thus encouraged to plan your town not around what rooms are worth a lot of points, but around what your community actually needs and will use.

It’s a good way to enhance the feeling that you are actually building and supporting a community - one of the core selling points of the franchise.


In some games, you get a dog companion who...

In some games, you get a dog companion who follows you around and sniffs out treasure. I think I first experienced this in Secret of Evermore and most recently in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

Now that I’ve spent a lot of time walking a dog in real life, I want to make a game with a dog companion who sniffs out treasure - but half the time, instead of finding treasure, they eat something off the ground. You can’t see what it is, but it has a 25% chance of inflicting a random status ailment.


Staggered DLC Releases Punish Your Best Customers

It’s been announced that Dragon Quest Builders 2 will have four DLC packs releasing over three weeks, so it seems like a good time to complain about this approach to DLC.

Release window sales are very important for triple-A games. Pre-orders are risky since they commit to a purchase before in-depth reviews are out, but they’re really helpful for the developer/publisher - people who pre-order are the best possible customers with the highest loyalty and investment, and can generate valuable organic marketing during the release window if they start playing the game right away and hype it up on social media. It’s absolutely in the interests of the developer/publisher to encourage and reward these customers.

As mentioned in my very first Tumblr post, DQB2 is my most anticipated game for 2019. I’ve had it pre-ordered since February. It comes out on July 12. Fully two weeks later come two DLC packs - one free, one paid. A week after that comes another paid DLC pack, and another week after that comes the final paid DLC pack.

Even if I buy all the DLC (which, to be clear, most of which is already out in Japan, with the last pack set to get a release date today) I won’t have a complete game until four weeks after launch. It’s not a great way to encourage and reward early adopters.

I recognize that often DLC is developed after the initial release of a game and can’t possibly be released alongside the main game. That seems to have been the case with DQB2 in Japan. But several times I’ve seen a game get localized from Japan well after all the DLC is available in Japan, including when that DLC is cosmetic and should be very quick and easy to localize, and still get a staggered DLC release schedule in other territories.

My assumption is that the intent is to extend the launch window, getting the game more attention for longer by putting out new content for it on a weekly basis for a while. But the result is that the best customers get a worse experience. (Relatedly, I assume the purpose of putting out free DLC instead of putting the same content in a more-convenient title update is to get people looking at the store where they might buy paid DLC.)

I feel like there’s a reasonable compromise available here - when there’s a season pass, it’s generally available before the DLC rolls out. Indeed, there’s one for DQB2 that can even be pre-ordered before the game launches. In cases like this where it’s feasible to make all the DLC content available at launch, why not do so via the season pass so early adopters get everything right away? The individual DLC packs could still be released piecemeal over time to extend the launch window, but this way early adopters are rewarded instead of punished.

If DQB2 did this, I would absolutely buy the season pass along with my pre-order. As is, I expect to get through a large chunk of the game before the DLC is even available, so when it does come out I’ll be much less motivated to pick it up.