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Author Topic: AoD September Update  (Read 17804 times)
Oscar
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« on: September 01, 2011, 10:41:37 AM »

So, today the update is early. The big news is that we started beta-testing 2 weeks ago or so. Now, instead of me telling you how much work the game still requires, other people can step in and tell you the same thing.



Gareth: "To sum up my initial impressions : The core game is there and solid. Text adventures are golden, they give you a great sense of having a personal story, without it being linear. It's also really cool to see events from multiple angles. And the game is looking great, lots of rich details.

That being said, it's not ready for primetime yet. The game needs 'fluff', interactions and non-essential NPCs to talk to as you wander around and discover the setting. This lack of interaction makes the world feel empty, not because there aren't people but because you can't interact with them.

Also, even though the game isn't about holding your hand, if you wander outside the core interactions you quickly get lost, in terms of what you could or should be doing. A lot of this is due to that lack of fluff, which can be used to subtly nudge the player.

Overall, you can see the potential in the parts, but the whole experience still needs to 'come together'. And it's the more 'fluffy/subtle' elements that do this. Lots of work still to be done."



Brian: "Just finished a first playthrough. My initial impressions are:

The setting and story were very interesting and I wanted to hear more about the world and politics of the local region, but finding my way around town and locating critical NPCs and new quest givers was exceptionally difficult due to the way buildings are marked and critical NPCs are lit. There's a few things I would recommend to help draw new players to key areas:

-The town has a lot of very similar buildings with similar colors chemes. For key areas or buildings with critical NPCS or quests, you want to make them stand out. A lighter color roof, flags, colorful plants, special lighting or sounds, signs, wall decals would help the player better distinguish where they were (landmarks) and whether the building had anything of interest inside.

-Doors that don't open should look much different from doors that open to know if the building could be entered. I had to mouse over doors to figure out if I could enter the building. Windows should also be closed. Consider making generic buildings (that can't be entered) a different color.

-Light NPCs differently than the world lighting so they don't blend in with the environment. You could also slightly tweak the saturation of their models to make them pop a bit more. I could not spot Feng immediately after entering his building (which took me a long time to find).

-Try to make non-speaking generic guard/town NPCs use a similar model. Assign special colors/models to NPCs (shopkeepers, guards, quest givers) with dialogue - it creates a visual language that makes it easy to spot who has dialogue. For example, if a guard has dialogue, he has his helmet off, if on, he never has dialogue. This can be subverted in cases where the conversation auto-starts (the imperial guard conversation, for example).

-Have no idea who the factions are, critical NPCs are, or where the quests are. Having minor NPCs or shopkeeps/bartenders gossip about the area would help a lot.

-Dialogue is very reactive, which is nice, but I often have only one thing to say at any time and it feels very linear. Even putting in two different ways to say the same thing would help.

- I'm running around looking for the next quest or part of the quest chain and frequently not finding anything. Is there anything I can do with the map quest past going to see Antidas? It's difficult to find NPCs and figure out if I can do anything with them at the moment. I have found several with portraits but have only been able to get as far as an audience with Antidas. More emphasis should be placed on specific areas and people the player needs to see - even with a journal, players need important info repeated, especially in a fantasy world where they are coming into the world without any prior knowledge of events, places, people. The story parts are very intriguing (really!) so I want to get to the next points of interest as quickly as possible. "



Galsiah: "Overall I'm enjoying it quite a lot. I've always thought the concept of one situation played from multiple perspectives for the vignettes was great, but I hadn't anticipated that so much of the game would be like that. Having the actions of one PC form the background of quests for others really brings things to life.

E.g. the thieves guild quest to intercept a shipment of gold would seem highly generic in isolation, but once I'd arranged the payment myself with a merchant character the situation felt a lot more real. Similarly with the Carrinas situation - having played from the IG side, the motivation of those who want him dead is much clearer. I'm sure there a quite a few overlaps/interactions I haven't yet come across, but I love the overall approach when compared to more separate quest lines for each guild.

Probably the largest negative so far is simply wanting more options in many situations. However, in large part that's a consequence of the design - a dialogue choice might have five or more potential options, but any one character will often have only one or two; and clearly you need to restrict options for some characters in order to make earlier decisions meaningful. After playing situations with more than one character, things seem more open, but when playing through the first time things can feel a bit linear at times.

Another aspect I've found a bit problematic is judging the combat/non-combat skill balance for a character who's not going entirely one way or the other. Things are pretty simple for a
primarily combat-focused character, or an entirely non-combat character, but it's harder to know that a moderate investment in combat skills won't just be wasted - most combats that are challenging for a combat-focused character will be suicide for characters with only a modest investment, and it's hard to anticipate the difficulty of combats ahead of time. Quite a bit of that might come down to the ironmanism of the current build though - it's clearly more vexing to have to start over, than to get a second attempt or to try another approach.

As I said before, I also think the character generation could be a bit more interesting/effective if the player had more to think about in allocating skill points. Right now a character is almost entirely determined by stats, leaving the player with not a great deal to decide. Once he's done a tiny amount of quests - e.g. the vignette, and talked to Feng, -, he already probably has more skill points to allocate than in character creation, which makes the skill allocation part of character generation feel pretty trivial. Obviously you need to keep stats having a highly significant impact on initial skills, but there's a lot of ways to maintain that while giving the player more significant direct skill decisions.

A small thing that's bothered me a little is having major characters from different guilds have nothing more to say than "Yes?" or similar, when there's no quest associated with them. Right now that makes them come across a bit too much as mechanical quest dispensers who have none to give you, than as characters. Having a few just-for-colour responses to dismiss the PC without significant conversation might help. Alternatively, going for something similar to the Dias response after the first story - "Dias tells you a story, and another, and..." - something that describes the interaction indirectly.

The combat is certainly challenging - though the ironman sudden-death and no-cure-for-stat-damage aspects make things a bit frustrating at times right now. Maybe there could be a bit more variety in equipment possibilities, but I think once crafting is in that should be significantly improved. So far I've been playing high-AP dodgers for the most part, and once I've got a decent iron weapon, there's not much choice in equipment terms (though maybe I should use nets more, even with the expense). But I guess with crafting there'll be more of a decision to be made between various bonuses. If the 'Craft' script isn't lying, 40 crafting seems to be enough to get a fair amount of options.

Fundamentally I think it's very good - most of the improvements I can think of are small things to make the existing situation flow more smoothly and/or better exploit existing variety. Of course the wanting-more-options issue is larger - but that amounts to saying that the problem with ice-cream is that there's not more ice-cream."



PS. Other testers can share their impressions freely.
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2011, 10:58:11 AM »

Interesting. Will you guys be working on changing some stuff in response to the beta testing impressions?
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Vince
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2011, 11:00:13 AM »

Already working.
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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2011, 11:06:40 AM »

Smile
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sporky
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2011, 11:49:50 AM »

That's some really specific and detailed feedback, nice effort guys.

I would find lighting and color cues for important buildings and NPCs very useful. I remember getting lost in the combat demo getting too far from the arena.
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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2011, 11:51:25 AM »

Just to be clear, it's not that there is anything wrong with the design as much as the non-essential fluff and polish elements need to be worked on. It's understandable, they're a small team, RPGs require a metric fuck-ton of content and they've been working on getting the core game and content to a playable state. The beta test process will work through the kinks, with that kind of polish nicety added in as we go.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the dudes wanted to illustrate that the game isn't ready yet, and it's not just them being perfectionists about things, there is work to be done. But don't treat it as a sign the game is terribly bad or anything. Games only really come together in the last 5% or so.

I've offered to help Vince out a bit, things like writing dialogue for arb tavern patrons and so on. Fear not, I won't mangle the spirit of AoD, I promise at least 2 fucks per dialogue. In fact, you'll already have read some of my writing contributions, here and there on the forum. Wink
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« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2011, 12:22:59 PM »

So, today the update is early. The big news is that we started beta-testing 2 weeks ago or so.

Pics or it didn't happen.

In other words : I believe all of us non-beta testers would like a picture or two from the actual build if possible.
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galsiah
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« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2011, 12:33:43 PM »

So is the whole game in beta or just the demo area?
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2011, 12:35:51 PM »

Sure.



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Fryjar
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« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2011, 12:49:01 PM »




Brian: "Just finished a first playthrough. My initial impressions are:

-Dialogue is very reactive, which is nice, but I often have only one thing to say at any time and it feels very linear. Even putting in two different ways to say the same thing would help.



Galsiah: "
Probably the largest negative so far is simply wanting more options in many situations. However, in large part that's a consequence of the design - a dialogue choice might have five or more potential options, but any one character will often have only one or two; and clearly you need to restrict options for some characters in order to make earlier decisions meaningful. After playing situations with more than one character, things seem more open, but when playing through the first time things can feel a bit linear at times.


Do you plan on doing anything about this? I noticed hints of this issue in the dialogue screens that were released so far as well, but I got the impression that the lesser amount of selectable dialogue responses was a conscious design decision by you, as you didn't want to provide fluff / only slightly alternate dialogue options that didn't drastically change the course of conversion or provided only non-vital info.
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Oscar
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2011, 01:08:51 PM »

So is the whole game in beta or just the demo area?

Just the demo area.
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Fryjar
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2011, 01:21:30 PM »

Regarding Galsiah's remark about the issue that showing only a subset of possible answers depending on your stats makes the game feel a bit linear if played only by one char:
I feel that showing more often the possible dialogue options (or a slightly altered version) for which your character misses the skill prerequisites and simply providing a negative outcome
would be a viable way to fix this, if it is used in the right amount. Balancing this out by not showing all options all the time when it doesn't make sense or when one misses the skill prerequisites by too many points, will still
give the player a sense of discovery upon replaying the game while highlighting the different approaches that different player builds provide .
This might also help players gauge the quality of the c&c that don't have the intention to replay the game.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2011, 01:33:49 PM by Fryjar » Logged
Esquilax
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2011, 01:25:42 PM »

I noticed it too, Fryjar. I think Vince and Co. believe that varying dialogue choices that are only flavour and lead only to slightly different responses from NPC's should be avoided, but I'd disagree to a certain extent; I think that having a tone to the PC's dialogue gives the character a little bit of personality, even if it doesn't necessarily lead to a completely different outcome.  I understand the disdain for this sort of approach, because when when to an extreme, like in a lot of BioWare games where the only actual choice is whether you're an asshole/saint (or who you can fuck), this is bad, but a little bit of flavour dialogue can make things seem a lot less "bare-bones".

I'm hard-pressed to recall a dialogue screenshot that had more than 3 options. Sure, they may have been 3 options that lead to very different experiences, but it just looks a little empty, is all. Having more options when talking to characters that are just there to learn more about an NPC might not change things much, but it gets you invested in the game world.

In Bloodlines, I'd still have to do what the Prince wanted for the story to progress, but I still liked that my Ventrue could act like a pathetic sycophant, or that my pissed off Brujah could tell the big man to go fuck himself when the opportunity arose. I realize it seems like a small detail, but it makes things pretty entertaining if you're PC isn't just some dude that goes around asking everybody questions and periodically slashing people's throats with [Critical Strike] checks.

« Last Edit: September 01, 2011, 01:27:59 PM by Esquilax » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2011, 01:46:22 PM »

Thanks Oscar

I kind of like there are no fake choices. Sure, having several options for the answer can give the PC a bit of personality and works in most RPG's, but in AOD only having one answer if there's no real choice emphasizes that in this game all choices are meaningful.
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Fryjar
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2011, 01:47:21 PM »

I noticed it too, Fryjar. I think Vince and Co. believe that varying dialogue choices that are only flavour and lead only to slightly different responses from NPC's should be avoided, but I'd disagree to a certain extent; I think that having a tone to the PC's dialogue gives the character a little bit of personality, even if it doesn't necessarily lead to a completely different outcome.  I understand the disdain for this sort of approach, because when when to an extreme, like in a lot of BioWare games where the only actual choice is whether you're an asshole/saint (or who you can fuck), this is bad, but a little bit of flavour dialogue can make things seem a lot less "bare-bones".

I'm hard-pressed to recall a dialogue screenshot that had more than 3 options. Sure, they may have been 3 options that lead to very different experiences, but it just looks a little empty, is all. Having more options when talking to characters that are just there to learn more about an NPC might not change things much, but it gets you invested in the game world.

In Bloodlines, I'd still have to do what the Prince wanted for the story to progress, but I still liked that my Ventrue could act like a pathetic sycophant, or that my pissed off Brujah could tell the big man to go fuck himself when the opportunity arose. I realize it seems like a small detail, but it makes things pretty entertaining if you're PC isn't just some dude that goes around asking everybody questions and periodically slashing people's throats with [Critical Strike] checks.



My sentiments exactly.
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