Before we get to the impressions, let me explain the state of the game to you first. When we decided to tweak a few things and add a few attacks, we couldn't add them to the existing system and Nick had to rewrite it from scratch, vastly improving the code and the overall system (less stuff hardcoded, more stuff open to scripts to play with). So, the framework is solid, but there are a lot of minor issues due to the volume of work required to put everything back together and lack of time as Nick had to focus exclusively on the DS demo to deliver it in time for PAX.
Same goes for the scripting issues and characters still standing here and there when they shouldn't. All this stuff is easy to fix once you know where to look and will be fixed within a week or so. We could have delayed the testing by another 2 weeks, but I figured that we had enough to start and get the ball rolling.
Last but not the least are minor visual issues, but we should be able to fix them in 2-3 weeks.
I asked the testers not to sugarcoat anything (no reason to lie and pretend that the game is better than it is, since 800+ people will get their hands on it sooner rather than later). Keep in mind that the current focus is on combat issues, so the testers are given pre-set characters with high stats and a truckload of SP to ensure that they fight more and die less.
Testers impressions (posted in their order they were received):
* * * Wrath of Dagon
Everything looks very solid to me. Quests are really complex and well implemented, and I've only seen a small portion so far. Environments are large and impressive, there's plenty to explore. Of course there are some issues but they look like they wouldn't be hard to iron out. The biggest open question right now is combat, the new system looks very good, but with my current super powers it's easy to plough through everything, so there's no way to make a definitive judgment until everything is balanced properly.
* * *l3loodAngel
I am really impressed with the Maadoran content and I rarely have something positive to say. The writing is much better than I have anticipated. The actions and responses fit the psychological portrait almost perfectly. The way that Gaelius pretends to the audience that your failure is according to the plan as a man of his stature should or how some imperial guard behave like a bureaucrats, whose only motivation is to keep their station or Lorenza... This is the first game that I took screen shots of some conversations and descriptions to not have to go through the save games. I know that I sound like Pete Hines, but there were only so many games where descriptions and positions match the actions and the attitude.
The C&C is much more meaningful than in previous town. You get more choices and they will affect the end game much more those in Terron, as expected. Some lead to using ancient machinery, obtaining mysterious artifacts or some unexpected plot twists. Additionally, most of these quests involve Stat/skill checks, thus there will be plenty of reasons to replay the game.
One distric of Maadoran is roughly bigger than the whole town. It's hard to even compare Gaelius palace and some noble's houses to something like Terron. The city looks gorgeous. The GFX are upgraded (but that was seen from Screen shots), loading times were improved vastly and I haven't encountered a crash related to engine.
Almost forgot. As a boatman you Will have some impressive fights on your hands. In Maadoran you will have to work for your combat reputation increase and your life. Evil
Now the bad:
The slums are a disappointment for me. I imagined that I will see more people doing everything to get by and serving as a some sort of entrance point to the city. Now that part of the city is seriously lacking action.
The Gladiator Arena rooster could be improved (some guys scrapped) and updated to utilize the alchemical and other new stuff, that's fairly common in the game now.
/when asked to clarify:l3loodAngel:
The poorest district is usually the district where the most action takes place. Illegal activity, some minor power struggles, gifting and trivial rivalry between gangs ( Lara vs Tyler in Den FO2) and the law doesn't care, because there is no money involved. Nothing far reaching, but some interesting local action.Vince:
Technically, the thieves' guild is the law there and the local 'nobility', but maybe I didn't do enough to show it properly.l3loodAngel:
When people are poor, don't have the money and are hungry, no amount of authority is going to stop them from activity. Some will just try to get to the top or die trying.Vince:
Authority - no. Brutality (when it comes to punishment for breaking the guild's rules) - yes. The Maadoran thieves' guild aren't 'thieves', aka merry men who steal stuff. They are a criminal organization that rules a fairly large district. They wouldn't let anyone, least of all some poor and desperate fucks, shit in their own backyard.
* * *pianistamoeba
Only had limited time to test thus far, but from what I've seen the core of the design (quests, encounters) looks very solid indeed, even if everything still has rough edges. There's lots of interesting, distinctive personalities in Maadoran, and I feel like I've only scratched the surface of the interaction between them after 2-3 hours of playing around with the beta. I've been deliberately half-browsing the dialogues, in order to "immerse" myself more into the writing and the story when the game is more polished.
One thing that might be an issue (not connected with technical/scripting problems), that caught my attention is the repetitiveness of some of the combat encounters. A scenario in cramped geometry, where the PC faces 2-3 thugs using mundane weapons and mundane tactics seems to occur quite a few times in the poorer parts of Maadoran. I don't recall this from Teron, where every encounter had a more or less distinctive set-piece. Things like BA suggested on the bugs thread, some of them using nets/bolas/bombs/dirty tricks, might spice up things a bit. On the other hand there is a plethora of great, unique set-piecey fights, like the tomb, Serenas, Kemnebi, etc.
Also the fact, that nothing is balanced yet and a 8-10 skill level fighter can lawnmow through all the combat encounters makes it hard to be very critical about the combat system yet.
I think nobody has commented on the addition of the hovering name of the object when you put your cursor on it yet. It's a nice addition and brings more clarity to the interface. However, this somehow makes me intuitively interact with the small details of the environment more, which in turn makes the environment feel emptier than in Teron. I know that you'll be adding random bystander NPCs etc. to the city, but I feel the fact that the game uses lots of descriptive text in the dialogues/text adventures creates a small discrepancy between the text and the shiny graphics and makes me wish for Fallout-style descriptions for the small environmental details as well.
I've already mentioned that on the technical side the game runs much more smoothly and the graphics are gorgeous. I hope no more development time is concentrated to these things, the tech production values are already much more than adequate.
Well that's it, for limited first impressions.
* * *Lainestin
I've really enjoyed the writing so far in Maadoran. The characters, the descriptions, and the quests have all been really enjoyable and have made me want to play and explore more. It has been really interesting to see how you've progressed as a writer as development has gone on.
I'd like to see some of the areas fleshed out more. Obviously, this will happen with Maadoran, but I'd like to see some of the satellite areas developed more as well. Especially with places like the mountain pass and the Ordu camp where it seems like there'd be opportunities to add minor quests, characters, and/or story lines. I didn't like how, while doing the IG quest in that area and trying to avoid combat, I never actually saw either location. All I saw was the dialogue screen with a couple of characters.
/when asked to clarify:
There were opportunities to leave the dialogue with Bass and the Ordu chief. My complaint had more to do with the fact that as soon as I arrived to the mountain pass, I was in dialogue with Bass which lead to me being teleported to the Ordu Camp and dialogue with the chief which lead to me being teleported back and dialogue with the IG commander and leaving. It would feel better, imo, if when you arrived at either location, you weren't immediately entered into dialogue.
When I went through again and tried other options, I was able to leave the dialogue and run around those areas. I don't think any of the other characters in the mountain pass currently have dialogue enabled and the battle with the Ordu there isn't enabled yet, so there isn't much to currently do there. Maybe, when those things are activated, it won't feel to me like it needs more development. I met Belgutai at the Ordu camp, but must have missed the Keeper of tales. I'll take another look at the camp. I've mostly only have been hitting the arena, the IG quests, and some of the side quests so far, so maybe some of the other paths to the Ordu camp will shine a different light on it.
* * *Vahhabyte
While Teron alone feels like a fully-fledged cRPG, so one can spend many weeks playing it, and still there will be some more exciting paths and options to discover, Maadoran is a vast epic expansion to it, it has a roughly three times greater area, three times more intractable NPCs and miniquests, three times more sublocations, which are also much bigger and livelier than Teron's.
Correspondingly, the number of opportunities and quest solutions grew geometrically, even at the current beta stage of development Maadoran is full of action, boiling with both hidden and shown subplots and intrigues carried out by ambitious NPCs with elaborated deep personalities and realistic motives.
Teron was like a kids playground, a hatchery in which the PC matured to become a provincial celebrity, in Maadoran you're starting as an almost-nobody again, as a disposable stranger to serve as a pawn in this time really epic games, ruthless and large-scale ones. One single action into which you are drawn can lead to immediate and dramatic consequences for a faction, at that you still benefit nothing from that, being merely a pawn. Being a pawn you can shift sides of the board, but at both sides you're still treated as a pawn, even if your mission is connected with vital matters, like whether Maadoran should prosper, united under one reign (which clearly implies ridding of the treacherous competitors) or lie in ruins, raided by ravenous nomads.
Becoming a queen is hard and for sure it requires more than just high body count and damage per turn, which often could work out in Teron. Maadoran is more intricate, its civilized ('nothing personal, it's only a matter of job') ways of conflicting are often more exquisitely deceitful and bloodthirsty than the blunt clashes in Teron.
The scale of opportunities in Maadoran is epic, sometimes you can feel the presence of the ancient magi, through their mysterious artifacts or war, and just like in Teron they merely tease you, posing more questions than giving answers.
Reaching these mysterious depths of lore is, again, optional, instead one can concentrate on fooling, using or killing people, progressing with one's career with a faction and expanding one's set of opportunities, status, gold reserves and masterwork weaponry arsenal.
The fights in Maadoran are very many, at this point I cannot estimate their overall difficulty due to the beta's limitations, but since the blood and sweat covered Arena from the combat demo is back along with its 'three peaks of difficulty', and elsewhere in the city you're normally attacked by no less than 3 (up to 7!) iron-wielding skilled fighters, many combat encounters will require smart investment of every single SP you got and tricky tactics; many battles will definitely leave you with 1-10 HP left. Besides, so far I've seen no allies who would join you to save your ass in Maadoran.
And, as usually, all these fights, except for the Arena path of the champion will be optional, all situations resolvable or avoidable in peaceful ways, provided you got the necessary skills or reputations.
Just like in the case of Teron it may take only a couple of weeks to explore 1-2 paths of accomplishing a faction's set of quests with good outcomes, but exploring the most interesting (and rewarding) solutions [like raiders leader's story in Teron] and discovering all special exciting opportunities [like Feng's legend in Teron] will require much more time and flexibility in your playstyle.
* * * MaximillionMiles
Sorry about the delay. Wedding party + hangover this weekend prevented me from writing my thoughts on the game. Didn't play too much, but here's what I got:
- Maadoran feels rough, I'm not gonna lie, but it's a diamond in the rough, which is worth more than a shiny turd if you ask me. You can feel the greatness in many parts, if you get past a few issues. Part of me regrets experiencing Maadoran for the first time in such a state, because it would have been even better to play a polished experience for the first time, but it's part of the job of a tester
And despite the roughness, I still had fun.
- Maadoran is big, and feels big. Some areas also looked fantastic, like the pass or the tomb. Really good visuals. Post-apocalyptic art is a problem because it risks getting drab very quickly with its bleak, faded colors and dreary environments, but some places here and there really manage to shine. Only place I was disappointed is Gaelius' court, which could afford some more oomph, but that's just me.
- As for the big changes to the system... It's still too early to tell. We haven't had the chance to play with the stats and the overleveled characters of the demo make it hard to judge the combat.
- The diplomat's path feels like it ends too early, unfortunately, the same as Teron. What there is, however, is quite engaging and has loads of paths, which makes me itch to try all different possibilities and see if I can get a jaw-dropping moment like crowning Antidas in Teron. So far there have been a few good moments (being a
is the closest just for the reactions you get), but none matching the kingmaker path in sheer, contorted, plotting shenanigans. But I haven't completed all the paths yet, so there might be more here than what I have found so far.
- The plotting itself also feels really believable, easily more than 90% of other media everywhere, period. I'd hate to spoil it, but events in the game feel closer to historic examples rather than fantasy cliches, which is really refreshing. Further on the dialogue comments, a nitpick I have is that some people are convinced way too quickly when I feel there should be more back-and-forth conflict in the dialogue. But it's a small complaint, and only for some characters. Might post more specifics later.
- Didn't enter the Abyss so far (and really looking forward to it too
) but not sure if it's because the entrance is buggy or because I couldn;t find the right entrance, so there's that.
Overall I enjoyed the demo a lot, even rough as it was, and cannot wait to play an even more polished version.
PS - note that the only version that I played was the one given on Wednesday/Thursday, before a bunch of bugs were patched. So there is still a more polished version of the demo that I have yet to play. Keep that in mind.
* * *
Well, that's about it for now. Any questions, just ask.