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Author Topic: Thoughts and Comments on the Demo  (Read 1827 times)

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Thoughts and Comments on the Demo
« on: March 19, 2013, 08:11:15 PM »

I just started playing, and have a few comments already.  I'll type this post as I'm playing to get the purist reactions.  Since I know this is such an early demo, I won't make any comments on lack of content or interactibility with any elements (gameplay elements, not magical elements), unless I find lack of content in that area both particularly disturbing and likely (i.e. nowhere that there would obviously be more content later, but somewhere I would hate to not have content).  We'll see if there's anything like that at all.

First room (library, I guess?):
I like the art style, it's reminiscent of the mid King's Quest series, but with a little higher resolution.  At first, I thought it was a little too high of resolution to maintain the style, but I like it for the clarity it provides, and the visible pixels are comforting.  I adore the choppy animations.  Stylistically choppy.  The very smooth screen pan is a little jarring though, when everything else is either choppy or static.  The screen pan makes for good "camera" effect, sure, but the graphical feel it produces seems...weird.  I dunno, I don't seem to remember panning scenes much in the King's Quest games (my only experience with this genre, by the way, unless you count Myst), except VII, which was a different graphical style, anyway.  I could do without the screen panning for style's sake, but it's not terribly immersion breaking.
I like the running idea.  Double clicking is intuitive, and walking takes forever.  Good call, great idea.  I could use the ability to scroll through the Sierra-type icons with the mouse wheel, though.  My muscle memory tells me you could do that with the King's Quest III remake at least (though your brain can do weird things, so my finger and I may be remembering that incorrectly).
The portrait animations are going to be synched to the words, right?  That was one of my absolute favorite parts about the dialogue other than the presence of detailed character portraits themselves in the King's Quest games and their remakes; the mouths moved mostly realistically and in-sync with the dialogue.  That seems like a polishing thing that you'd take care of in the final steps of Beta, so I'm not worried, but I would be rather disappointed if that detail were overlooked. (it currently looks like D'arc is repeating "who gives a thump")
Speaking of the dialogue, to keep the living-novel like feel that the King's Quest games had, I suggest that there be a narrator, rather than D'arc narrating all of what he sees (and his snarky quips to...himself?).  That might also keep the player's immersion up, since a narrator narrating in second person constantly associates what you see with what the character sees, making you (the player) feel more personally part of the character.  Kind of like how Link from the Legend of Zelda games never talks or expresses much thought, allowing the player to project his own persona onto him.  D'arc should still talk and express his ideas, but I think a second-person narrator narrating what D'arc is seeing would serve to better make the player feel like he is D'arc, rather than a puppet-master controlling D'arc.
I like how the bottom of the screen tells you what the heck your mouse is hovering over.  One one hand, it removes the fun of guessing what's separate from the environment.  On the other hand, it removes the frustration of guessing what's separate from the environment.  I think this addition removes a lot more frustration than puzzle fun, since you still have to determine what unique objects are going to actually be used rather than just have their own, unique flavor detail.  Another good call.
You can easily position your legs to be "on top of" the rails at the top of the small staircases here.  Not really important, since it's (from what I can tell) a flavor location, but it does look weird.  Mostly applies to the right-hand staircase, but you can do it on the one on the left, too.
"It's out of my reach" -- "'Tis beyond my reach!" Heh.  Chuckle moment for me. :P
Neat idea with the dial and the door.  And good selection of elements, too.  One might say it's a classic choice.  Heh.  Meh heh.

Training Hall:
Yes, the scenery layout is just how it should be... doors on either side in opposing perspective, random trinkets in the background, and exaggerated perspective sizing for the extreme foreground... love it.  I can almost touch the nostalgia.
"Conductor"?  Seems a bit dry of a name, but I'll take it.  Nothing better pops into my head, so I'll roll with it and assume I'll just get used to it.  "Sphere of Knowledge"?  If that was intended to be super-cheesy, you hit that nail pretty dang square.  The Sierra games weren't exactly known for their avoidance of cliches, so if that's what you aimed for, you did it. :P
Now that I think about it, I had an idea for a magician-type game in which you would choose your master along with you element, and that would have a major impact on the outcome of the game (among other things).  I guess this kinda beat me to it, but there's more than one way to initiate a mage ;P (serious note: not stealing anything).  My personal musings aside, I'm very eager to experience going through the same game with these different branches available.
Jerk sphere.  Whatevs, the plot ensues.
I'm liking the pacing and content of the dialogue.  D'arc is saying lots of things I would say if my mouth were a little less restrained :P

Fountain Hall:
Pretty sure the first element I'm going to choose upon official release is water.  Blue is undoubtedly my favorite representative color for this set of elements, and it leads to stunningly blue visuals like this.  Brilliant scenery for this room.
Having him bend down behind the fountain.  Clever.  It'd be nicer to see some sort of visual representation of the water not staying in his hand, but I understand that resources and effort must be allocated in an efficient manner.
Just noticed that we have "experience" instead of just a point score.  Very interesting idea, indeed.  I presume that means we can't level-grind, as is usually required in RPGs, and must rely on getting through the story to really become more powerful.  Since the story seems to be about the initiation, and early-bird grinding can effectively segregate story and gameplay (for example, why am I still a trainee on level 99? No one knows), this seems a very good decision.  I'll wait to see how the battles play out in the game before making further comments on this.
It's good that you don't have to remember location combinations for the dial after you've been there once.  May seem an obvious inclusion, but in a few of my games I've left out some convenience options that would seem common sense.  So good idea ^_^

Reading Hall, again:
Doing the things to the gem.  Yeah, D'arc's self-narration is definitely weird.  "I shall pour the entire contents of the flask into the pot" (not exact words)... I once again suggest a narrator to make things sound less awkward.
The heat animation was neat, but I think it was a tad out of style.  I dunno.  Not as noticeable as the screen panning, so it's nothing big.  The bellows did kind of look like they were squirting water, though.

Empty Hall:
I tried some BS dial codes to see what would happen.  I knew I'd either come up into an empty room, accidentally stumble upon a room I shouldn't be in yet, or have my atoms scrambled by a non-existent dimension.  I wound up into an empty room, which I thought was just an unused hall.  Upon examining the room, D'arc informed me that it's the room non-mages stumble upon should they somehow find their way into the tower.  Good excuse for an empty room ^_^

Training hall, again:
Ooh, stat points!  Then Varner talks... "Who gives a thump?  Who gives a thump?  Who gives a thump?"
I would suggest an option to allocate stat points as desired, then to confirm your decision to finalize the allocation.  Not that there is too large or major decision (though I'm not sure how end-game stats will affect the end-game), but most games (though not all) that I've played that allow for stat customization using points allow you to allocate then confirm, with the chance to take things back and redistribute before confirming.  Like I said, nothing huge seems to be at stake; we're not building a character to go PvP in an online game, but it might make the system more comfortable.
WHOA!  I got teleported.

Woodsy place:
Goblins!  First battle.  Seems legit.  Seems to be a lot of run, cast, run, cast strategy (kiting), but that may change with the rest of the spells.  Unusually fast-paced for this genre, which is an interesting blend.  One would almost assume a game like this to be turn-based, but it's real-time.  I like that dynamic, since it combines the action-y battle scenes with the calm, lax play characteristic of this genre.  I'm a little concerned that it may turn out like King's Quest VIII, but I have high hopes.  I'll press on.
As for specifics within the fight, I like how D'arc defaults to running while in battle.  That, again, seems like an obvious thing, but characters in the King's Quest games always seemed to walk despite their lives being in danger, which was a little frustrating.  Good that you can take cover behind objects, such as that bush.  I would say something about the odd smoothness of the moving elements, like the arrows, but I remember projectiles being oddly smooth in the King's Quest games as well (at least in King's Quest VI, which is the oldest non-remake I've played, though I want IV and V so badly), so the spells/arrows are just fine (which, come to think of it, probably justifies the smooth movement I was previously commenting on as well :P).
Had to admit, I felt pretty badass Circle of Ember-ing all those goblins away at the same time.  Looking forward to finding out how battles will feel in the long run.

Training Hall:
...Oh, well, the end, I guess.

Overall, promising start.  I don't really have any comments other than what I wrote above, since I wrote it down as I thought of it while playing.
But really, who gives a thump?


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Re: Thoughts and Comments on the Demo
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2013, 07:37:50 AM »

Thank you for your excellent and verbose feedback. The only only point I feel i can comment on, as the writer, is my decision to write the story from a first person perspective. Your reflections here were interesting, as I have a very different response to second person. I find that it distances me from the character, whereas first person allows me to get further inside the character's head. That's perspective for you!

Having said that, I take your point about the awkwardness of some lines where D'arc says what he's doing, has done or is or going to do. Certainly some rephrasing is in order, in places. I'll keep that in mind when I come to polishing the text (once again!) prior to the voice recording.
Again, your thoughts and responses are appreciated and I thank you for the time you've taken to write them. I hope the final product is to your liking!
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Re: Thoughts and Comments on the Demo
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2013, 06:10:27 PM »

That perspective certainly makes sense.  That's definitely the feel I get from narratives written in first person, so I agree that would evoke a very similar feel in a game.  My thoughts, just for clarification, was that since second person tells you what you're doing, making you feel like you are the character going through the adventure, rather than going with him.  But our rather disparate opinions tell me that it's very much subjective, so in the end I suppose it boils down strictly to preference.  Other than that nit-picky perspective thing, I think my real problem really was just those awkward phrases.  So, if those rough spots get polished, I'll bet I won't even notice it anymore ^_^ (and see something I mentioned below for an advantage for first person that I didn't think of until after writing my previous post)

So you write the script?  I already touched on this in my first post, but I respect your choice of words for dialogue.  The exchanges between Varner and D'arc seemed to flow very naturally, and showed wit on the writer's (your, I guess) part.  Even some of the D'arc self-narrative lines (which I admit work very well for giving us his personality as well as his thoughts) showed wit.  They weren't witty in of themselves, but writing dialogue that seems to anticipate some of the player's personal responses takes wit.  The specific example that sticks out in my mind is after D'arc is tasked with retrieving the gem from the bookshelf and notes that it is just out of reach.  He then says "I imagine Varner thought that was amusing."  I had to let out a laugh, because after Varner first mentioned that I had to retrieve the gem, I thought "you jerk, you left it way up there!"  D'arc's words just fit so well with mine, it was amusing!  Not to mention "that was intense!" which were my exact words after fighting all of those goblins (I assume they were goblins, anyway).  I hope you write the rest of the game with similar taste, because dialogue like that adds so much color to the game and its characters!
« Last Edit: March 21, 2013, 06:13:21 PM by Halcyon_Serenade »


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Re: Thoughts and Comments on the Demo
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2013, 07:22:24 PM »

One of the perks of the first-person perspective is that there's no need to develop a "narrator voice." Traditional Sierra narrators tend to be a little wry, gently poking fun at the player, cracking jokes, and so on. But this leads to a problem:

1) If the narrator voice didn't have those touches of color, it would sound too flat...

2) ...but if it did, Mage's Initiation would feel too much like a QfG retread, and not like its own game.

First-person narration in a game Kickstartered by Sierra fans is a risky move, but I like that kind of risk. It shows that the authors are willing to write to their own strengths.

.  That might also keep the player's immersion up, since a narrator narrating in second person constantly associates what you see with what the character sees, making you (the player) feel more personally part of the character.  Kind of like how Link from the Legend of Zelda games never talks or expresses much thought, allowing the player to project his own persona onto him.  D'arc should still talk and express his ideas, but I think a second-person narrator narrating what D'arc is seeing would serve to better make the player feel like he is D'arc, rather than a puppet-master controlling D'arc.

I find it a little less immersive to be playing a mute cipher, unless that mute cipher gives me a LOT of opportunities to project my personality and the game really responds to my choices. The hero of Persona 4 is kind of mute, but still seems to have quirky tendencies (eating grass from a refrigerator, joining a cross-dressing beauty pageant), so it works. Likewise, the QfG hero has some personality that sneaks through (the goofy victory poses, etc), but also can be made to act in ways that establish character even further - being polite, robbing people, helping people in optional quests, and so on.

But when I finally played a Zelda game fairly recently, I just saw Link as a kind of doll, not someone I cared about, not even as a "someone" at all. The same goes for Gordon Freeman of Half-Life. It's just not my style; I don't want to project myself onto a boring person; I want to project myself onto an interesting person!

For a game where you're following a novice becoming a mage, giving the main character a personality to care about, so I can feel for their struggle, is worth a lot to me. I'm willing to empathize with this snarky lead.