Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 24, 2020

There is a story from the early days of Ultima Online, that Richard Garriott had planned animals to spawn according to an in-game ecology of herbivores and carnivores, but that the system didn't survive playtesting, because players just slaughtered everything. Still, games that have open worlds or smaller areas populated by animals and monsters need some sort of system to spawn those "mobs". So, these days these spawns are either on a timer, or are scripted to happen when a player does something.

Players, being aware of how spawns work, end up exploiting spawn mechanics. If you are looking for advice on how to farm this or that in Horizon Zero Dawn, that advice will almost always contain a part where you save your game at a campfire, and then immediately reload the saved game, because this sequence makes everything respawn. You can farm mobs by finding a large concentration of them near a campfire, and then repeatedly kill the same herd over and over. There is even a location where you can find a large bunch of valuable resources for free not far from a campfire, and can loot that cache over and over by this respawn method.

Having finished Horizon Zero Dawn, I started playing Gears Tactics, as I got this for free as part of my Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription. And while there is a lot of things to like about Gears Tactics, the monster spawning is absolutely horrible: Monsters spawn in a scripted way, when you reach certain objectives. Quite often there will be a lot of monsters spawned at the same time; so if at the moment of spawning you find yourself for some reason in a bad tactical position, you can easily be overrun. You do the mission again, but this time you know how many monsters will spawn, and where, and you will be better prepared and probably win. I absolutely *hate* this system. I need to lose to an unforeseeable event, memorize that event, and do better in the replay because I have tactical knowledge about events that for my characters are in the "future".

This gets really extreme in some cases in Gears Tactics, especially with the emergence holes. If you have a character very close to an emerging hole, and that character has a fragmentation grenade, you can walk to the spot, plant the grenade, and walk off again. Then when the hole opens up, it triggers the grenade and immediately closes, before even the first group of monsters can emerge. But if you are not that close, you can only throw the grenade after hole opened, and the first group of monsters emerged. If the hole is designed to spawn strong monsters like Grenadiers, this alone makes the difference between winning or losing the scenario. I find this game design very bad! I will have to either stop playing, or play a low difficulty to make missions winnable on the first try.

That was a Raph Koster thing, not Garriot. UO was Koster's game.
I'd have thought the clue was in the name: "Gears Tactics". Isn't the behavior you're describing the very definition of a "tactic"?
"Tactic" exists in the real world, where you have only one try. The "you can't win unless you know what will happen" situation of Gear Tactics would be the equivalent of having to use a time machine to set up your troops.
Have you tried red dead redemption 2...seems like more your style of open world than horizon
Seeing as you have Xbox game pass you might want to give Battletech a try. It it a bit like XCOM which is a game I remember you liking. The turn based combat with battle robots is very good and the overarching campaign game is not as unfair as XCOM while still keeping you on your toes as you strive to gather, upgrade and maintain a squad of battle mechs. The in game tutorial is pretty poor unfortunately (or at least it was when I played about a year ago) but there are enough helpful resources available online to get you started.
I second the recommendation for Battletech. Pretty good tactics game.
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