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Author Topic: AoD November update  (Read 23418 times)
Vince
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« on: November 12, 2011, 01:35:44 PM »

Long story short: we're still testing, we released build #6 a few days ago, working on the 7th. The beta test is going well. We've slowly increased the number of testers to 12 and got a lot of great feedback and suggestions. The game is getting better and more stable, but we're not *there* yet, unfortunately.

Well, that's about it. Since it's not a very entertaining update (on the plus side, I made it less depressing by not discussing the technical issues we're dealing with in details), I'll share some thoughts on game design with you. Yeah, don't you feel special now?

When we started working on the game, there was a number of "traditional" elements I wanted to eliminate to, um, "streamline" the gameplay:

- mindless running across maps and locations. You know, the typical "fedex" quests or "now run all the way back and tell the questgiver that you finished the quest!" It adds nothing to gameplay and just wastes your time.

- mindless sidequests. You run around and talk to NPCs with silly problems.

"I'm a hunter, can you please kill 10 wolves for me?"
"Um, yeah, sure, I love killing wolves."

"How would you like to listen about my family problems and then talk to my father/brother/wife/son to solve them for me once and for all?"
"Oh boy, would I!"

"My [place] is infested with [rats/spiders/bandits/tax collectors]. Please help me, I don't know what else to do."
"Say no more, my good man. That's why I play RPGs I live for this shit!"

- mindless looting. "Hey, a barrel! I wonder what's inside. A magic sword?!! Wow! Hey, another barrel..."

So, we've eliminated all 3 and focused instead of developing interwoven questlines with different options and outcomes. The outcome? There is no need to explore the towns, 'cause there isn't much to do outside the faction quests. If you want to walk around looking for spontaneous stuff to do, you're in the wrong game.

In other words, only when we skipped the mindless stuff, did we realize what it was there for. Take Fallout 2, for example. Even though it was inferior to the first game (that's just, like, my opinion, man), it was a well-rounded game with a lot of content. Sure, some quests were silly but when mixed with the good stuff, they didn't seem to bug me that much.

Now, let's do a mental exercise. Take Den - a two-map town with a lot of stuff to do:

1. Collect money from Fred.
2. Get book from Derek.
3. Lara wants to know what is guarded in the church.
4. Get permission from Metzger for gang war.
5. Find weakness in Tyler's gang guarding the church.
6. Help Lara attack Tyler's gang.
7. Deliver a meal to Smitty for Mom.
8. Free Vic from his debt.
9. Sabotage Becky's still.
10. Get car part for Smitty.
11. Return Anna's locket.
12. Talk to Stacy and ask her to tell you the story about her cat.

I hope we agree that "quests" #1, 2, 4 (the name implies more than the quest delivers; it's a straight "go to NPC A, tell him something, report back" type stuff), 7, 9, 11, and especially 12 are kinda shit. Quests 3, 5, and 6 are basically one quest. So, overall, we have "helping Lara to put Tyler out of business, permanently" (sadly, without the option to side with Tyler) and "freeing Vic in different ways". Without the fluff, without running between NPCs on different maps, you could do Den in about 5-7 min. Exploring, looking for stuff (no matter how silly) to do, running back and forth is 3/4 of Den's "menu for tonight's entertainment".

Once the testers pointed it out, we had to fill the town with something. Naturally, we didn't want to fill it with barrels, ripe for picking chests, NPCs suffering without quality delivery services, etc.

At first we wanted to do something quick and stupid. You walk down the street and see - perception check - something hidden in that, uh, wall? tree? barrel? In the end, we decided to do it right, as painful as it is during the beta test. Trust me, we all want that fucking demo out so that we can relax and, like, not think of it for a week or two? Have fun, enjoy life, run outside naked, play Skyrim, troll some forums?

One by one, we added 8 - I don't know how to call them? mini quests? situations? events? something something? They filled in the town, expanded the gameworld and lore, and gave you a reason to explore. So, I guess we did learn something in the end.

Here is what we've added, in case you're curious:

1. The preacher (special thanks to Gareth who did most of the writing (8 pages worth of dialogues))

The preacher introduces the religion and House Crassus to the player, and offers 3 paths: embrace the religion and let it fill the void in your character's heart, argue with the preacher and make him doubt himself, or hijack the religion and make it your own tool. Now, the latter is, obviously, a lengthy process, but this conversation is one of the ways to get the ball rolling. And it feels good for a change to feel the chosen one bullshit to other people.

[success] "Brother," you interrupt him, smiling gently and putting a hand on his arm. "I can see you're still struggling with the demons of uncertainty. It is difficult, I know, even for a holy man such as yourself to put aside doubt. But you must trust that They have a plan."

The preacher straightens as your recognize his holiness, a little honey can win over even the wary heart. You continue, your voice low and soothing.

"Do you not see how perfect their plan is? That we were both guided here, to a place so desperately in need of the Gods' guidance, to work together to achieve their plans.

Rejoice, brother, for the Gods have chosen you to play a major role in those plans. We will bring this land into the Light! Together!”

The startled look has returned to the preacher's face, but with it is a new emotion. Awe. You can see the thought worming its way into his heart, the idea that he has been Chosen for a Special Task. He is yours, now."

2. The prospector (loremaster's only).

"You turn it over in your hands thoughtfully. Adorned with beads and engraved with runes, it appears to be a ceremonial bowl of some sort. Strangely warped, but that isn't unusual for artefacts of the Old Empire - who knows what arcane forces had been unleashed on it? Two small, metal drums are affixed to the underside, too awkwardly angled to be supports for the bowl. You rap one with a knuckle and listen. Hollow. Reservoirs, perhaps, containers of sacred liquid for the bowl? You are unsure, but you keep your expression carefully neutral, it wouldn't do for the punters to see your uncertainty. Unprofessional."

3. The refugees.

"You see a group of road-weary travelers trying to enter Teron. Their clothes are ragged and they have the look of desperation about them.

“You have to pay a levy to enter, “ explains the guard patiently, looking at one of the women with interest.
“We don’t have any money, “ pleads one of the refugees. “Our village was attacked. The raiders took everything.”
“These are hard times, “ agrees the guard lazily, “but we aren’t running a charity here. If you want the protection of House Daratan, you have to pay. If you can’t pay…,” he looks at the woman again.
“Please, show mercy,” begs the man. “We have nowhere else to go.”
“Mercy? “ explodes the guard. “Do you have any idea how much it costs to maintain these walls? How many men-at-arms it takes to keep the town safe? Everything costs money, and if you don’t have any, you are nothing but a dead fucking weight.” With these words, he pushes the man back and turns around, indicating that the conversation is over.

“What’s going on?”

“Refugees… Fucking freeloaders. They think they are entitled to what we’ve built here. Like we need more beggars and thieves!” The guard spits.  "

There is a number of things you can do here, including an option to be a horrible human being. Well, these *are* hard times.

4. The kebab seller

"You see a dark-skinned man cooking kebabs over hot coals. “Come, “ he says with a strange accent. “Good food, very cheap. Special recipe. Make you strong. Like ox.”"

No, it's not what you're thinking.

5. Miltiades

You are about to leave the market square when a man in rich robes approaches you.

“A moment of your time, kind master. I’m Miltiades, a merchant by trade. I’m terribly sorry to impose on you, but I’m in a bit of a predicament... You see, I deal in the finest weapons and armor. Each item is a work of art, forged from the rarest metals and crafted to perfection. Unfortunately, I can’t open up a shop until I settle a … dispute with the Commercium, and I can’t settle it until I start selling my merchandise.

Thus, I have no choice but to beg people to show kindness and buy what they can at greatly reduced prices. I’m asking only for what I paid for these items, so it is quite a bargain. Would you like to take a look? My wares are in a house nearby.”

This is a drama in 3 acts.

6. The storyteller

"You see the inn's patrons begin to gather around a strangely garbed man, who paces in circles, muttering. A murmur of expectation runs through the room and sure enough, the man stops his pacing, turns, and with a dramatic flourish cries out "A tale!" All are quiet now, but the man's rich, deep voice rolls out to fill the silence. "A tale for tonight's entertainment! And what a tale! History itself will unfold before your very eyes, a tale of mystery and wonder! Come one, come all, and listen!"

7. The rat cellar - come on, every game should have a cellar with rats.

"You enter the ruined tower. It was destroyed during the war, twice rebuilt and twice fallen. Instead of blaming hasty craftsmanship and inferior building materials, the spirits of those who died there during the war were held accountable. The tower was said to be cursed and left to squatters and beggars.

Several squatters, accustomed to people coming and going, look at you without any interest. The place is practically empty, save for piles of rubble and trash. An unusually large rat is roasted whole over an open fire, filling the tower with a revolting aroma. The squatters don’t seem to mind it.

There is a hatch leading into the tower’s cellar."

No, you don't fight any rats there.

8. Can't describe, too spoilerish (in a sense that you can be fooled without realizing it).

And in conclusion, I'll quote what some testers said (which fills my heart with joy):

GhanBuriGhan: "... the demo will keep you busy for quite some time. If you really go for exploring all the options, trying all characters, winning all the fights, etc., you can probably spend as much or more time on it as on some full release titles."

Vahhabyte: "True-true. I think I've won all the fights in the beta and discovered some very epic artifacts (which can only be used in the locations not available in the demo), however when I read other testers' feedback on their adventures (mainly as different kinds of talking characters) I realize that I'm still missing so many things."

Starwars: "And to further add upon that, I'm not nearly as combat-focused as many of Vahnabyte's characters seem to be and there are times when I read reports of his on the Beta where I go "wait... what? where? how?"
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evilhyde
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« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2011, 02:32:56 PM »

Very interesting update!  I like how you guys are really trying to think outside the proverbial box and break those old RPG tropes.

Like the examples. Good way to give more gameworld information and atmosphere in an interactive way that still uses the player's skills.   Approve
« Last Edit: November 12, 2011, 02:38:10 PM by evilhyde » Logged
Vahhabyte
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« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2011, 02:57:49 PM »

One by one, we added 8 - I don't know how to call them? mini quests? situations? events? something something? They filled in the town, expanded the gameworld and lore, and gave you a reason to explore. So, I guess we did learn something in the end.

Here is what we've added, in case you're curious:
...
Oh, how come I've missed the preacher!
By the 8th one, you mean the little game with a Hardened edge Masterwork prize? Wink

Keep it up, these encounters really added excitement to the game.
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saka-rauka1
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« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2011, 03:04:09 PM »

Quote
8. Can't describe, too spoilerish (in a sense that you can be fooled without realizing it).

Quote
By the 8th one, you mean the little game with a Hardened edge Masterwork prize?

Well done
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Vahhabyte
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2011, 03:14:59 PM »

I've just realized that's #9  8)
« Last Edit: November 12, 2011, 03:17:13 PM by Vahhabyte » Logged

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Dicksmoker
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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2011, 04:11:07 PM »

Sounds nice and it's a good idea. This also reminds me of PST, which had a lot of similar events (and sometimes just interesting conversations) which really made the gameworld come alive.

So, um...I guess you now need to do this for every town?

Oh well. Keep it up, and take your time. I've got a lot of games to play (SKYRIM just came out!) and I can wait in the meanwhile.
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Vince
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2011, 04:27:17 PM »

There are 3 towns in the game, so that's 2 more. Some of these "adventures" continue into the other towns, like the preacher and Miltiades. The rest will be done from scratch, fitting the themes of these towns, but once we know what to do, once the path is established, it's not that difficult or time-consuming. A lot of time in the game's lengthy development cycle was spent on the trial-n-error design approach. You have to go through a lot of different ideas to know what works and what doesn't. 
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LibertyRansom
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« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2011, 04:32:35 PM »

 Sounds good.  More content is always good.  Exploring for side-quests is one of my favorite aspects of an RPG  Approve  

Honestly though, one or two fed-ex quests aren't so bad.  They give you an excuse to explore a little bit.  As far as barrels, I thought Arcanum handled the barrel situation fairly well.  They would place trash cans around the city which occasionally would have something worthwhile for crafting.   Also, a few hidden "barrel/treasure" perception checks while exploring isn't a bad idea.  Finding a coin or two, maybe something cheap.

Keep it up!  We can all wait as long as it takes!      
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evilhyde
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2011, 04:47:25 PM »

A lot of time in the game's lengthy development cycle was spent on the trial-n-error design approach. You have to go through a lot of different ideas to know what works and what doesn't.  

Hey, that just means the next game's development will be much quicker.   Approve


Keep it up!  We can all wait as long as it takes!     

Definitely this.
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Lgrayman
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2011, 04:49:06 PM »

Sounds great. I almost give myself neck ache from the amount of nodding I do when I read VD's posts; I've never seen someone whose tastes and opinions in regards to gaming mirror mine so closely. This is easily my most anticipated game right now... even though it's painful to wait, I'm really glad you guys are taking as much time as you need to polish it. Keep up the good work!

I've actually been playing Fallout 2 for the first time very recently so I was really glad to see you use The Den as an example. Some of those quests really do suck - I usually make sure to do every last quest, but I skipped some of those ones that were terribly boring like finding the book which could spawn in multiple places. Though, even the most generic fedex quest can be made interesting and fun if it's done well, expands the games universe, involves interesting characters and is well written so I wouldn't mind too much if they were to be included in such a way in AoD.

On a side note, VD, are you planning to review Skyrim or post any impressions on it? The Oblivion review was amazing.
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likaq
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2011, 04:50:30 PM »

There are 3 towns in the game.

How big they are?
By that i mean amount of content ( quantity of quests, npc's ),  and physical size.
Tarant size?
New Reno?
Junktown?

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Vahhabyte
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2011, 04:58:17 PM »

About the size of Maadoran in the combat demo  8)
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likaq
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2011, 05:22:05 PM »

So, somewhere between Junktown and New reno  Smile
Not bad, if we take into consideration that game is made by 4 people in their free time.  Salute

On a side note, VD, are you planning to review Skyrim or post any impressions on it? The Oblivion review was amazing.

This.
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Casaubon
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2011, 06:02:44 PM »

There are 3 towns in the game, so that's 2 more.
So the demo will amount to 1/3 of the whole game?
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Vahhabyte
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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2011, 06:14:37 PM »

Speaking about the number of quests, I think it's roughly 3-4 per PC background, plus 3-4 vendetta related ones (around 22 in total?), plus these 8 mini-quests/encounters. Also, some of the quests lead you to several sub-locations, incl. bandit camp and a mine.
I really doubt it's as much as 1/3 of the content, although you can even destroy a guild or two in the demo...
Also, keep in mind there will be many non-inhabited locations.

At that, the demo seems to be enough to raise an epic uber-warrior able to wipe out small armies, SP-wise, provided your combat build has Int 10 Wink
« Last Edit: November 12, 2011, 06:16:33 PM by Vahhabyte » Logged

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