Approaching the Horse


Over at Affinity, Caine posted a bit about Witcher 3 [aff] which is, in case you haven’t heard, a really good game. (It has some issues, like that the main character is a graying cis white dude)

Generally, I have a great time looking at what game designers do in terms of the evolution of costumes and gear, and I get all sniffy and huffy when I encounter something that’s not remotely right – like the gigantic badly-balanced swords you see, or the armor that wouldn’t allow any movement.

One of the many things Witcher does pretty well is horses. Most games with horses, they’re sort of like a dirtbike – just push the ‘A’ button to jump over anything, etc. Witcher has a model for “horses are scared” and other people and creatures around you get skeeved if you draw a sword or walk into them, etc. If you try to ride your horse, Roach, (all horses are named “Roach”) straight at a Chimera, you’re likely to get bucked off.

On one quest I was attacked by a pack of brigands on horseback, which worked out badly for them. So, I began to loot and – in the process – walked up behind one of the horses they were no longer using:

Until they add horses defecating and urinating all over the place, that’s the most realistic in-game equine behavior I’ve ever observed.

All that fun aside, I loved that they got the castles more or less like real castles: no buildings butted up against them that you can use to jump over the walls, no big doors, mazy streets. This is a tiny bit of Novigrad:

Since they do allow people on horseback in town, one thing is definitely missing: horse poop. [stderr]

Also, here’s a Rendanian man-at-arms; their armor is sort of generic Italian renaissance condottiere blurred with 100 years’ war. Note the leather-covered steel, accurate halberd construction, padded arming-jacket, and fatigue-bags under his eyes.

The world of Witcher 3 isn’t a very nice place. In fact, 100 Years War captures a lot of the feeling of it. If you’ve ever seen The Last Valley (featuring the omnipresent Michael Caine!) it’s got pretty much the same war-weary muddy and shattered feeling. There are many times you’ll find yourself picking your way across a battlefield that is rotting in the sun, occupied by scattered corpses and burned carts, looters and the occasional ghoul. There are fascist witch-hunters that like to burn people at the stake; I acquired quite a bad reputation for discouraging them with extreme prejudice. In-game antifa, I suppose you could say.

Just don’t walk up behind the horses from an angle where they can’t see you!

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As a gamer whose first games were text-based adventures, and whose first graphical role-playing game was The Dungeon Master (unless you count Rogue on a PDP/11) I am endlessly gobsmacked by how high the bar in graphics has raised in a measly 30 years.

 

One more screengrab just for fun: this Rendanian mercenary is the spitting image of a guy I know:

Hey, Eric!

Comments

  1. says

    In the thread at Affinity, I mentioned that I finally watched the trailer in that post. I was absolutely stunned by the graphics. So good, it’s hard to describe.

  2. says

    Caine@#1:
    So good, it’s hard to describe.

    Witcher’s got some great weather effects including crazy sunsets. Riding through a forest in a storm, it’s pretty immersive.

    I wonder at what point we’ll get where incremental improvements don’t matter much (e.g.: like we hit with inkjet printers a decade ago – the dots are smaller than our eyes can see, so nobody cares any more) games running at 4k on a big panel are nearly photoreal; in another decade they will be. The next generation VR goggles will use ‘retina’ displays, so they’ll be pixel-free.

    (I know you have internet hell, but if you ever get a chance to watch the horse kick Geralt in the face, it’s one of those “should have seen that coming” moments)

  3. Ketil Tveiten says

    Props for spooked horses kicking at you; anti-props for “hoof to face” being five pixels of health bar rather than “death by caved-in skull” though. Also, back scabbards, ugh. That’s probably even stupider than dual-wielding.

  4. says

    Ketil Tveiten@#3:
    Also, back scabbards, ugh

    I know, right?
    Worse, the swords appear to sometimes materialize sideways through the scabbard – the designers couldn’t even figure out how to make it work.

    There’s a whole opportunity for game-play that they missed: have Geralt carry his swords slung over Roach’s saddle. That way, if he is dismounted and attacked and Roach spooks: hilarity ensues. Another bit of fun would be you could wear a properly hung regular-length sword, and they could accurately simulate what happens when you try to mount a horse from the wrong wide, wearing a hanging sword. (By the way, that’s a fun question to ask horsie friends: do they know why you mount from the horse’s left side? It’s not for the convenience of the horse, unless by “convenience” you mean the horse doesn’t have some idiot trying to sit on a sword on its kidneys)

    If you really want a technical detail to /facepalm over: Geralt periodically gets to fight opponents with shields. So you get a good idea how useful a shield is. But Geralt’s IQ is too low for him to contemplate getting a shield. I mean, FFS, they weren’t a fashion accessory! Also: helmets. Geralt has this great bit scar on his face because his IQ was too low for him to figure out why everyone goes around with steel hats protecting their faces and brains.

  5. Ketil Tveiten says

    How would you see his dashing Fabio-looks if he had a helmet though? I think “preserve Fabio style” is also why he seems to be immune to all the grit and dirt everyone and everything else is covered in, too.

  6. kestrel says

    The art work is really beautiful for this game. But of course, what I would notice is that Geralt has an elastic hair band in his hair. Wow! They must have a Dollar Store there somewhere. :-D

    The horse kicking like that is pretty funny because of course, they will do that IRL. I got kicked like that once, but she didn’t land the blow on my head, it landed on my upper arm. It was not broken, but man, it sure felt like it.

  7. says

    kestrel@#6:
    But of course, what I would notice is that Geralt has an elastic hair band in his hair. Wow!

    I bet you’ve never tried sword-fighting and doing shoulder-rolls with your hair tied back with a leather band, huh? It just slips. (btw, Napoleonic hussars wore braids for a reason!) (other than just stylin’) (OK, it was napoleonic hussars, so it was probably just stylin’)

  8. says

    Ketil Tveiten@#5:
    he seems to be immune to all the grit and dirt everyone and everything else is covered in, too

    You know what would be sooooo funny would be a game like this where, if your character sits still long enough, the make-up crew and key grip come in from the edge of the frame and touch up his outfit and foundation and the production assistant runs in with a light-meter and checks the lights. That’d be the sort of thing I could imagine in a Portal game..

  9. Siobhan says

    @3 Ketil

    anti-props for “hoof to face” being five pixels of health bar rather than “death by caved-in skull” though

    Is that really out of place for a character that is routinely stabbed/mauled by enormous fantastical creatures but is somehow still in one piece? The whole Witcher pretext is “cursed with awesome.” At least they offer some kind of flimsy excuse for being made of iron.

  10. Siobhan says

    Like, my suspension of disbelief is under strain when a game is trying to be realistic but your character is superman. It’s gotta pick one or the other. >_>

  11. says

    Shiv@#9:
    Is that really out of place for a character that is routinely stabbed/mauled by enormous fantastical creatures but is somehow still in one piece?

    Yeah, really. “I laughed at your hoof in my face!” No wonder the horses are depressed: he kicked me so hard I did a backflip, and it didn’t even muss up my hair.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    Take a look at Shiv’s gravatar.
    That is what a warrior wears to control their hair.
    Snoods rule!

  13. Siobhan says

    @12 chigau

    That is what a warrior wears to control their hair.

    A beanie that falls off in a stiff breeze? o_O

  14. chigau (違う) says

    It could be a sentient snood.
    Hangs out in your hair until it’s time to net the enemy to oblivion, then quietly return to your coiffe.

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