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Andor
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I saw this game advertised on the weekend Impulse buys a couple of weeks ago. I looked at the reviews, which were not terribly flattering and decided to give it a go anyway.

 

I'm not exactly sorry I did, but this game is a lot better in potential than in execution.

 

The first, and largest problem is that this is actually two games. One is a game about guiding a young magician through the trials and tribulations of high school. This is the secondary game, sadly. The primary game is the meta-game of trying to figure out just how to do that within the overly ornate and arcane and utterly undocumented game system. That's not the game I was hoping to buy, and it's not one I would have willingly paid money for. All games have a bit of a learning curve, but it should not take more than one entire game for me to figure out some fundamentals. For example I spent most of my first game trying to figure out how to bully Phillipe Marchent back. Never did figure it out. It wasn't until my 3rd game I discovered that the 'School survival' skills unlock some fundamental skills and actions. And that's just pathetic.

 

The skill system is way too big with hundreds of skills, most of which do the same thing, and which are almost never called on appropriately in the challanges. It's like the skill system was developed by taking a shotgun to a thesarus and pumping the scraps into a database.

 

I'll return to that database thing in a bit...

 

Okay, suggestion 1: Please, for the love of all that is plushie, when you pull up the description of a sub-skill in the right hand column, can you please patch it to include the actual current skill level and the parent skill in the description? When a new sub-skill is gained in an event there is currently no way to know what parent skill it lies under for futher training, and it's not as if there were any sort of intuitive or logical link between the parent skills and the sub-skills. (E.G. Acrobatics is not a sub-skill of athletics but of Sleight-of-Hand. Oh yes, of course! Who hasn't thrilled to the sight of a stage magician tumbling and flipping about the stage as he does card tricks? Oh, that's right, NO ONE HAS! They are unrelated skills!)

 

Right, the database thing. I don't have a problem with a graphic light, text based game. It should not however be rubbed in my face that it's just the front end to a database. Dominions 3 is basically just a giant database with some poor graphics and text in front of it but it never feels that way in play. It also handles much more data much faster and that's due to nothing but better programming.

 

Suggestion 2: Populate the action menu at the end of the previous turns processing, that way it appears instantly when I try to adjust my calendar rather that having a 2 to 5 second pause as I wait in agony to change 'rest' to 'study' for each and every day in a week.

 

It's way too late to change the fundamental architecture of the game at this point, I understand that, but there are some pretty simple tricks like the one I mentioned above to improve how things look and feel.

 

Graphics: Fine actually I have no problem with the graphics.

 

Sound: A few things here. The music itself is fine, although it's way to obvious that half of it comes from Fantasia, it's even the same recordings! But there does need to be more of it, the loop is too short. Also there needs to be some event related sound. Take a look at "King of Dragon Pass". That's another static-graphic, text based game, but it will overlay the background music loops with appropriate sound effects during a battle or other related event. Some classroom noises, and a few screams would go a long way towards enhancing the feel of this game.

 

Gameplay: I thinks it's obvious I'm not delighted here. It far, far too hard to figure out how do to too many things. I 've got 5 characters going at this point and still have yet to construct a single thing in the game in spite of the fact that there are several skill groups centered on that very idea! Almost actually. I did have one character construct several things on commision. Not that I ever found out what he made on commision or learned the recipie so he could construct one for himself! That lack of feedback is terrible. For a game with oceans of text you dole it out in penny packets when it comes to useful feedback. I had a character get suspended. I don't know why he was suspended, nor will I ever know. Useful. Likewise once you leave an event there is no way to re-look at it. I can't even tell you how many times I've clicked the 'valadiate' button only to notice there was one more page of text I missed in the event. Too damn bad, apparently. Oh and if the game is going to be crawlingly slow can you at least disable the damn button until the next screen shows up? Several times I've thought I clicked validate but nothing happened so I click it again and move on. Other times the games was just being slow and when I clicked it again I chose the default option and ended the event from a menu that hadn't even been drawn yet. I want to feel like I'm fighting events within the game, not the game itself, thank you very much!

 

Oh, last complaint. Where is my report card? I finished the game and never found out my scores! What's the point of telling my how a course is graded if grades are never given!

 

All in all... the games has promise, but it needs a lot of polish both on the basic programming and on the events which appear to be completely random in how they interact with the skills system. ("A ball is headed towards your face!" Is the appropriate skill Athletics? Incantation? Negation? Botany? Interpretive Dance? Acrobatics? History of tofu? Answer: Who the hell knows! They all seem to answer the same question in different events that present the same problem.)

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Andor;

 

Thanks for the suggestions and the review, and for giving us a go! We do not agree with everything you wrote, but we always appreciate feedback.

 

For suggestion 1, an Academagian has requested the Parent Skill already, and it will appear in DLC 2.

 

Suggestion 2 is something we are looking at in a different way- we intend to implement a semi-user defined method of calling up an old day's actions and copying it to the current.

 

Reporting in general is something that we are actively working on, although some of the things you mention (for instance, the commission) is left to you, the reader. The Validate Button, we agree, should be greyed out during the period of loading.

 

Lastly, regarding your report card, it's mailed to your Parents, and you'll see it at the beginning of Year 2, during your summer vacation. :)

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Naturally I don't expect you to agree with everything I said, but I do appreciate the prompt response. :)

 

One other thing I forgot to mention. It should be easy enough to flag events by type and then filter them so they match the activities of the day. I found it very disconcerting that during the weekdays I'd see lots of events about picking flowers or hanging out in a tavern (even while suspended!) but my weekend would be full of events about a class or a test. How hard is it to restrict the classroom events to days when you actually have class? Not very, really. Unless you didn't include a type flag in your event data. Then it's a bit trickier.

 

As a side note this game really does remind me of two other games. King of Dragon Pass, as I mentioned is very similar in playstyle although the subject matter is utterly different. And My Pet Protector has a very similar subject although in play it's simpler and faster and mostly involves beating up monsters.

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Event flagging really would be a nice feature. I've had a number of event ideas that occurred to me, but I haven't posted them in the Writer's Corner because it doesn't seem like most of them make sense without flagging to establish them to only happen when they're plausible.

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Well, the most interesting of the options that occurred to me was a bully-event that, as I'd written it, only made sense if the player was friends with two of the other students in particular. Or at the very least, not enemies with them... Can an event be set to only be possible if one's relationship with another character is greater than 1?

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89157Z;

 

Events can have Prerequisites, but deselecting days would be prohibitive.

 

Well the easy way to do it would have been to build flags into the model so you that when an event pops up it checks to see if the day in question has activities that match the flag. Class room event? Does he have class that day? No? reroll or pass.

 

That having been said if you can have prerequisites I don't see why having 'weekday' vs 'weekend' events would be such a big deal, unless you're saying that due to the funky calendar you'd have to manually enter every day individually into a "Is this day acceptable for this event" list. That would be a nightmare. And of course it would still fail to accomplish the goal since a classroom event could still crop up on a day you played hooky. Runtime logic is the only way to go.

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I'd like to second some points in Andor's review.

 

The primary game is the meta-game of trying to figure out just how to do that within the overly ornate and arcane and utterly undocumented game system.

The skill system is way too big with hundreds of skills, most of which do the same thing

Solution: Streamline the skills and sub-skill system. Organize them better to make sense and trim the count from 20 to 50%. It's more sensical to see Acrobatics and Climb under Athletic, for example. Dialectic sub-skills Logic and Sleuthing are too similar they can be combined further (even with Observation and Reason) and merged with parent skill Law or Rhetoric. Ambush/Raid/Espionage can be merged (Move Silently, Infiltration and Hide are in essence Stealth). Lie/Bluff/Deception/Bluff are too similar yet they're spread around random Parent Skills.

 

There are other non-obvious connection such as Endurance under Rimbal, all Raid sub-skills (Navigation makes more sense in Explore), Perception under Sabotage, Awareness under Society, Observation under Blackmail, Patience under Malice and so many other things.

 

It might seems like we're cutting the big universe for the sake of easier difficulty curve/gameplay, pleasing casual players who never bother to read readme/manual and rage afterward (but they're customers too!). However it should be okay since Abilities and Actions and Lore are already big enough to make up for the cut in Abilities. Or you can think of it this way; if players can find and develop their own strategy and execute it with smoother gameplay, they can enjoy the game's universe more.

 

Likewise once you leave an event there is no way to re-look at it.

Don't know what to feel about this. The game as-it-is already got huge database with slow processing speed. A bigger cache will hurt unless there's revamp in the (future) game's architecture. The ability to scrollback and is nice, but better option is to enhance the game's loading speed for feedback so players can avoid those accidental Validate click (I experienced it often myself).

 

If only there's windowed mode for this game, it'll be perfect even with current performance speed as idle game.

 

--

 

Here's my personal impression and suggestions so far:

 

I like Exploring at first, but later it crowds my Calendar's Use Ability with Abilities I'll never bother to use. This is painful since I have to keep scrolling up and down and look hard to find the Ability I want. There should organization for Abilities (or sub-Abilities) to ease navigation or at least a way to organize it on your own.

 

Spells are too similar with minor differences. Why do you want to decrease their Flattery/Observation/random sub-skills by 1-2 points? It's not effective at all and the result aren't immediate. Same with Phemes. Once we know what sub-skill we want to enhance/decrease, next we want to find what Phemes to use, not the other way around where you have to click each Phemes and find what each one adds with random text format (sometimes the bonus number is at the bottom of flavor text, etc).

 

Navigating Clique and Lore's main page and each NPC's status page are stressful. Since they're so big you should format it in pages (like individual Lores) to increase navigation speed instead of requiring players to scroll. Each Clique should have their own page, so when you click at one clique it'll move you to new page and you can click See Previous to return to Clique list; instead we click at one Clique, slowly scroll back up to see the data, scroll back down to find the next Clique, repeat. NPC's individual status page are simply too big to scroll, like all our character's information in left bar combined into one.

 

Relations main page are lean with functional Name/College/Level sorting so no problem with that.

 

Abilities and Actions, Skills and Research, and Magic page on the left can be painful to scroll as well though not as much.

 

Make School Survival importance more obvious for the sake of new players.

 

I never found any use for Context button.

--

 

That's all I can think for the moment.

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Raide;

 

Thanks!

 

Some of your points will be handled by better organization/reporting, but there will ultimately be a limit to how much can be changed in Year 1. Year 2, of course, is a different story.

 

Context is used in Stories, and is a way to keep track of the various actors that are linked within.

 

We disagree about Skills and Spells, but not the origin of your point, which is valid. One way you will see Skills evolve in Year 2 is more cross-linking, so that similar Skills can stand in for one another. For Spells, some are clearly better than others, but it's all in how and when you learn them. Spells will evolve, too, but I can't talk about that yet. ;)

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The desirable end result would be enhance in gameplay. One way to do it is to cut, combine and streamline (which you disagree with). The other is better organizing and accessibility with cross-linking, shortcuts, and alternative navigating method other than current manual scrolling/click-hold (which I hope will be executed better in Year 2).

 

I also want windowed mode so I can browse and do other stuffs while waiting for the game the load. It turns the game into idle game at the cost of losing immersion, but you can't help it since the game got slow processing speed in the first place.

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Solution: Streamline the skills and sub-skill system. Organize them better to make sense and trim the count from 20 to 50%. It's more sensical to see Acrobatics and Climb under Athletic, for example. Dialectic sub-skills Logic and Sleuthing are too similar they can be combined further (even with Observation and Reason) and merged with parent skill Law or Rhetoric. Ambush/Raid/Espionage can be merged (Move Silently, Infiltration and Hide are in essence Stealth). Lie/Bluff/Deception/Bluff are too similar yet they're spread around random Parent Skills.

 

There are other non-obvious connection such as Endurance under Rimbal, all Raid sub-skills (Navigation makes more sense in Explore), Perception under Sabotage, Awareness under Society, Observation under Blackmail, Patience under Malice and so many other things.

 

It might seems like we're cutting the big universe for the sake of easier difficulty curve/gameplay, pleasing casual players who never bother to read readme/manual and rage afterward (but they're customers too!). However it should be okay since Abilities and Actions and Lore are already big enough to make up for the cut in Abilities. Or you can think of it this way; if players can find and develop their own strategy and execute it with smoother gameplay, they can enjoy the game's universe more.

 

I just wanna say I agree with this 100%. I really like this game, but you CAN have too much of a good thing, and the skill system of this game is a case in point.

Looking at the way this game handles skills, and what they are used for, you could merge/consolidate 20-40% of them, and have no real difference in gameplay, but a huge upgrade in terms of usability and immersion IMO.

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There are some big problems with reducing SS or even Skills now after the release is done.

First of all the team would have to scrap the plan that all saves even from the release Version can be imported to year 2 because how to handle the Skillpoints spend in no loger existing subskills.

Second the char training is balanced toward the curent high number of skills and even just a reducing of 20% will make it to easy to realy max a char toward the end of a year.

Third half of the game would be needed to be rewriten because all Events, Adventures, Locations, Spells ect. are curent build to use all Skills and a simply put to gether wont do it.

Also the placement of the SS as fare I have read it was done so that the diverence in number off SS per Skill dont get to big.

There are sure more points who speak against a reduction even through I also wonder in the difference of i.e. Spy and Espionage.

But I agree that the finding of a SS realy need to made easyer because during adventures or events I whant to look at the level of the SS that options ask for to avoid SS that are maxed!

At moment looking for a SS you dont know where it is is very hard.

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However it should be okay since Abilities and Actions and Lore are already big enough to make up for the cut in Abilities.
Oops it should be Skills.

 

Anyway I want to say good job for Legate of Mineta over the prompt responses so far. It's really nice when the someone on behalf of the developer responded to the player's opinion. Whether they actually follow through is different matter.

 

EDIT:

First of all the team would have to scrap the plan that all saves even from the release Version can be imported to year 2 because how to handle the Skillpoints spend in no loger existing subskills.

You don't have to be able to import literally everything to Year 2. What matter is how you translate the data from Year 1 to hopefully better framework/mechanic in Year 2. Doing such major overhaul for Year 1 will kill the developer. Better just to pool fan resources and develop huge mod for that.

 

If we do end up with less amount of Skills and sub-skills, the learning progression will have to be curbed, either with possible failure in Training, or bigger step requirement, or higher max level, which means major rebalancing issue, discarding the good balance we already have in current game, and potential lost of fun. Right now you only need to train once or twice (with help of Spells) to level up a subskill. Imagine if it requires twice the effort. I think the game will be less fun without constant reward, like what we have now.

 

Any upgrade for even obscure sub-skills is much better than none at all.

 

So let me fix my argument: number of skills and sub-skills are okay, but organization and navigation is the problem the developers need to tackle.

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I also disagree strongly with reducing the number of skills.

 

I like the fact that I'll never be good at everything. (In fact, I like the fact that I won't even know about everything. Spend some time with a typical high school student. The narrowness of their world is surprising. Not that that changes much over time.)

 

I like that you can learn different subskills and end up with entirely different builds. Unlocking some of the abilities on the lesser-used skills is a lot of fun.

 

Remember, too, that you have four more years to go, with lots of time to broaden your base of skills. It's true that a long-term focus sometimes leads to certain gaps--it's a major omission that there is no immediate consequences to your exam results, even if it's only a simple comment of how well you've done compared to the rest of the class, for example--but that same long-term focus also provides a richness you don't see in other games.

 

Also, Raide's and Schwarzbart's comments are spot on. Decreasing the number of available skills either makes it too easy to max skills (or gain competence in them), or reduces the pace of advancement and the cool options you unlock along the way.

 

It's not streamlining this game needs, it's better documentation. You're right, it's not good that you don't understand what general path you'd need to take to create things, etc., and once you've picked up the skills, how exactly you should go about it. Even a general description of possible paths would work better here then the existing opacity. Here I'd recommend early documentation about what paths to take to excel at certain things, and then once the skills are unlocked, some kind of tutorial or other documentation that guides you in a more step-by-step fashion. The current focus the devs have on improving reporting and communication is a step in the right direction, I think.

 

The other thing that's an issue is that certain skills are more useful than others, because that's how the events were written. It makes sense that the various spell skills show up a lot--you are a wizard-in-training, after all; of course you're going to turn to spells for help--but other subskills are probably overrepresented, especially compared to some of the more obscure ones. I've lost count of the number of times Brute Strength would get you out of a jam. I don't think I've ever seen Bassan. More events that focus on a wider variety of skills and subskills would go a long way toward addressing this.

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I'll just casually stroll into this discussion to note:

 

1) Some Skills are used more often in Events than others by design. Some Skills are the tools for your Random Events and Adventures, whereas others give you options, cool unlocks and lore. You'll notice, for instance, that the Class Skills are pretty heavily represented amongst your choices. That said, I personally am all in favor of more Bassan Exits, so (as Schwarzbart notes) if you happen to see an Event that would benefit from one, let us know. ;)

 

2) All Skills, as they are, will transport forward into Year 2. Actually, that's true for everything you come across in Year 1. Granted, some things will be modified- Spells, in particular, will see some additions to fit in with the new [teasingly hidden] system. Better organization is something we don't plan to wait until Year 2 to provide, however, it's just that some features (like user defined searches) may have to wait until Year 2.

 

...great discussion, though!

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Well, it's not a Bassan exit, but there's one Language exit which (according to its description) really only relies on knowledge of Elumian. Switching it to the subskill would at least bring Elumian into the thing!

 

And, also not Bassan, but there's a scene at one point with a group of adventurers that you're trying to get the attention of. Perhaps that could use an Oncestrian exit (since Oncestrian is the language of 'real adventurers' according to the fluff). Some kid who knows all your specialized lingo could be pretty interesting to such a group when the lingo usually acts as a solid barrier against the wannabes.

 

I don't even remember which language Bassan was, though I seem to recall one of the lores mentioning that some trolls speak Bassan and that not knowing Bassan when faced by a troll who prefers the language can be a frightening situation.

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I also strongly disagree with trimming the skill system. It's the heart of the game, honestly, and it's fine that it is large and complex. At the same time, there ARE some parent skill/subskill associations that are really strange. Endurance in Rimbal, Courage in Forge, Observation in Blackmail, Music Theory in Art instead of Music, etc. all kind of puzzle me. They do relate to those skills, but it seems like they used to be in another skill and were spread elsewhere to balance things between the parent skills. That's fine and probably best for game balance reasons, but I do find it extremely strange that my character with 10+ in Music and a 10 in Music Study screws up so many Music Theory exits in events because I didn't realize it wasn't a Music skill until recently. Also...Malice could really do with a rename. I don't see how Gambling, Puzzles, and Patience are all that malicious; this certainly would make a lot more sense as Gaming or something like that. Heraldry would probably be better represented as Chivalry; there isn't actually a way to study family crests (to my knowledge) within the Heraldry skills, so it doesn't really make sense for it to be called Heraldry; even if there were, the skill set as a whole has more to do with the stereotypical chivalry than with heraldry.

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Personally, I never doubted the presence of Courage in Forge. Serious work with a mundane forge can often require a steady hand in the face of forces that could just as well maim you if you screwed up. I can only imagine a magical forge would be worse and that stuff could kill you if you screwed up. But you won't. You know what you're doing and you know that as long as you do it right it isn't dangerous at all.

 

Besides, blacksmiths are almost always extremely brave in fiction, and this fits that.

 

I agree that Heraldry is confusing right now, though.

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