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De Choppa

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  1. Well firstly, if you play the first scene with Vella again, no-one opposes the maidens feast at all apart from Beastender. When you talk to the parents they both basically say "look, just go along with it". When Vella suggests they kill Mog Chothra everyone in the family laughs heartily at her like she's stupid! The mother is far more concerned about the knife than she is that her daughter (our character, the character we're supposed to care about and identify with) is about to die. I mean if our characters own family don't care about her, why should we? But the point is, yes I agree the details are there. We're told a bunch of stuff in vague detail. That's one way to tell a story, but it's pretty much the worst way. Relying on details alone to tell a story is how you end up with info-dumps. For example, If you had the choice between hearing me describe in intricate detail what happens in the new Star Wars movie, or going and watching it for yourself, what would you choose? I'm guessing you'd probably enjoy actually experiencing it for yourself more, regardless of how much detail I used to explain what happens. The rule of thumb in good storytelling is Show, Don't Tell. In Broken Age, we're told lots of stuff, but we're almost never shown anything. We never get to experience (like, see) Marek being a bad guy, he just talks in a creepy voice and that's about it. We see Mog Chothra eat people, but the people he's eating are happy, and so are most of the people watching. Our character is slightly unhappy about the situation but not terribly bothered and we the player don't know anything about her or Mog Chothra anyway so why do we care? There is no tension, there is no sense of conflict, there's really nothing except "this thing is called Mog Chothra and it eats girls like Vella because reasons. Now click these things and you can proceed to the next level". Stories need tension! Stories need characters we feel connected to and care about! Yes I agree having the bad guy wear a wolf suit is a pretty clear way of saying "hey this is the bad guy", my point is: that's terrible storytelling! If he wasn't wearing a wolf suit we'd have almost no way of working out if he was good or bad, cause he doesn't really DO anything bad in the entire story! I can't remember a single bad thing you see him do at any point. He talks about a eugenics program, he talks about Vella getting 'processed' or something, but we never see any of that in the game, so again it's meaningless fluff. And on a Scooby Doo level of storytelling, where it's just nonsensical fun, that's ok. But Tim Schafer is a better writer than that and it's disappointing that the story of Broken Age doesn't take the time to establish reasons for us to care about our characters or their dilemmas the way that Full Throttle and Grim Fandango did so well in their opening 10 minutes. Anyway, since I don't seem to be convincing anyone, I'll recruit Tim himself to back me up: Part of what I'm getting at is that in Broken Age, we are not given any motivation *as players* to embark on either story. In Act 1 particularly we don't know anything really about our characters so we can't really connect with them very deeply. Their problems aren't treated that seriously by supporting characters in the story so they don't have any weight, or else their problems aren't engaging (like boredom, or rescuing anonymous space creatures because... Reasons!) And even when a serious problem arises in Act 2, there's never any real sense of tension or danger because we don't ever see the danger in the game at all! We're told something bad will happen if our characters end up at the plague dam and then nothing happens when we get there! So again, the game kinda coasts along being a nice set of puzzles, pretty artwork, lovely music and amusing dialogue, but it's story let's it down compared to the classics. Ok I rest my case.
  2. Once again, look at either Full Throttle or Grim Fandango. Both games start their stories very well without feeling either flimsy or like info-dumps. They do that by introducing us to their characters, giving us a feel for who they are, what they want and what their dilemma is in the story. We are given clear problems to solve with our heroes and we are enticed to discover more about their world. Before you've pointed at or clicked a single thing in Full Throttle you already know who the good guys are and you want to be one, because they're badass. You know who the bad guy is, you know you don't like him and you've got 4-5 reasons why you want to stop him even though you don't know exactly what he's up to. You've got other tantalizing questions in your mind like "Who is this Maureen woman he mentions and why is she trouble?". We get drawn into the story and we're motivated to play. For me, Broken Age really doesn't set any of these things up very well at all and it results in a muddled experience. For example, who are the bad guys in either story? In Shay's story, I guess it's Marek but he's the most likeable and interesting character you meet, plus he actually solves Shay's (and the player's) problem of being bored so he's not someone we're opposed to at all. Come to think of it, I can't remember Marek ever actually doing anything particularly bad in the entire game, apart from lock us in a room and talk about a vague eugenics program we never see in action. For Vella it's supposed to be Mog Chothra, but almost every character you meet seems to like Mog Chothra, so it's confusing. Plus when MC finally appears it's a floating grey blob with no apparent sentient thought. It's no more a villain than a dog eating out of a dog bowl. So the adventure we're invited to go on is 'stop this creature eating things'. Wouldn't it be more compelling as a teenage girl character to stop the adults in the story from happily feeding their teenage daughters to a monster, since they are the ones choosing to do that, or at least find out why they're doing it? Neither story really has any compelling antagonist to inspire us to do anything for the entire first act. Gemini Rue does this a little bit better in my opinion because it has that mind-wipe scene at the start to show us that something sinister is going on which directly impacts one of our characters. We don't need to know everything at the start of the story, but we do need to have a reason to actually embark on the story. Tim talks about this quite clearly himself in this article: http://www.gamestudies.org/0301/pearce/ I enjoyed playing Broken Age, but as a story it was a shambles.
  3. Ok, to me the setup of both Shay and Vella's stories were very flimsy and just as "because reasons" as Gemini Rue. *Welcome to the game. You're about to be sacrificed to a monster and we're feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about it. Please help us find a knife so that we can all eat cake before offering you up to be killed. Umm, why? Because! That's what happens in this world! We cheerfully sacrifice our children to monsters! Ok, why don't we fight it? Because! Umm... Cake! Wait what is this monster? It's a monster! It comes from beyond the Plague Dam! What's a Plague Dam? Oh, just roll with it willya? We'll explain it all in Act 2!* Ok sure it tells you stuff I guess... It's just that none of the stuff has any weight to it because it doesn't mean anything and no-one seems to care about any of it. The story tells you that they tried to fight off the Mogs which ok, that's interesting, there's a history there. Except that's immediately cancelled out by the fact that they're actually HAPPY to be bakers, and they're basically happy that their daughter is about to be eaten by the monster. So in the end it's more like "You're going to be sacrificed to a monster because... well just because we do that here". On top of that, why should we the player care? All we know about Vella at this point is that she likes to sleep under trees, she lives in a town where people really like cake and we're playing as her. The sum total of her personality is "I'm kinda not that chuffed about getting eaten by a monster, but I'll go along with it I guess". In most games, we do things to keep our character alive. In Broken Age the very first thing we do (as Vella) is find a way to get ourselves in a situation that the characters all believe will end in our death. The only reason we as players have for doing that is because "its a game, this will make sense later!". Then we go over to Shay, whose initial tasks are intentionally meaningless, repetitive and boring. Finally when Marek shows up there is a bit of intrigue, but then he asks you to 'rescue' those space creatures. Why? Because! That's what you have to do at this point in the game! We'll explain it in Act 2! Compare the beginning of either of Broken Age's stories with the beginning of either Full Throttle or Grim Fandango and it clearly just lacks anything like the hook of those classics.
  4. Funnily enough that was the major problem with Broken Age Act 1 as well in my opinion.
  5. Maybe but it doesn't live up to Gemini Rue, Resonance or Primordia either, recent (classic-like) adventure games I only played a year or two ago. I don't understand the big deal about Gemini Rue either. I found it incredibly dull, especially playing the prisoner character. There's something about wandering through multiple identical grey featureless rooms, corridors, elevators and airlocks- many of which are completely unnecessary- that just doesn't do it for me. I got bored and stopped playing but I do occasionally wonder if there's some pay-off later in the game that makes all that worthwhile. At least Broken Age's somewhat annoying retreading was through attractively designed rooms.
  6. My first post here on the DFA forums- I was a backer in the original kickstarter, and then bought an extra copy for iPad (great game for lazing around in bed/the couch and playing!) and watched all the main documentary episodes, so this is a bit of a hefty reaction-dump. Big thanks to all of the Double Fine crew, it's been an awesome adventure and well worth the $30-odd I spent to help make it happen! Impressions: ACT 1: Act 1 was, to be honest, pretty underwhelming. One of the biggest gripes I had was the lack of intro cutscenes to hook us into the story! Both Full Throttle & Grim Fandango had great intros (especially Full Throttle!) so it baffles me why Broken Age lacked one and the game suffers for the lack of it in my opinion. While the art and music were great and drew me into the world(s), I really didn't feel like I had any motivation to do anything at the start of the game. Sitting under that tree with Vella was beautiful, and I didn't feel any reason to move on from there. It didn't make sense that everyone would so cheerily sacrifice their daughters (or themselves) to a monster for one thing- it would have made much more sense to me if more people were against the idea but felt powerless to oppose it. As it was, Vella's whole family (apart from Beastender) seemed either spineless, heartless or stupid when they were introduced, and yet they were presented as caring thoughtful people. I might have been able to buy it if there had been more of a setup in an intro sequence. As it was, I had no motivation to solve the very first puzzles of the game, apart from knowing that it was a game. Why would I want to find the ceremonial knife (for example) if it speeds up my imminent demise? Why would I want to trick Gramps into giving it to me if he's the only one trying to save me? I'm doing the very first puzzle of the game, I don't really know why I'm doing it AND I'm acting against my own interests. Bad start! And then you switch over to Shay. Once again, no intro, nothing to give me a reason to care about this kid. And then I'm faced with a bunch of tedious, repetitive 'missions' as my first introduction to the character. I get that it's supposed to establish his ennui, but as a player I don't think ennui is the experience I want to be having in the very first moments of a game. Also, sorry to say it but those yarn pals were annoying as hell and it was painful listening to them squeaking out the same lines of dialogue repetitively while I figured out what to do. Even once Marek came along, which was a relief, I felt like I was just jumping through hoops until we found out what was really going on in Act 2. Out of interest I gave it to my girlfriend to play. She's played point and click games before but didn't have the nostalgia I had to keep me going. It would be fair to say she was confused and pretty bored after the first ten minutes. So apart from the beautiful art and music, I think the start of the game was a bit of a misfire. ACT 2: Act 2 on the other hand was a huge improvement! As suggested, I restarted the game and played through from the start. The game doesn't really start going anywhere until Act 2 begins, because we finally start to understand why we're doing anything. Of course, the puzzles also improved as well and became much more fun to solve which was a big help. In fact, once we had the basic story in place, some supporting characters to connect to and some of that old Schafer humour coming through, I really enjoyed the game. The whole story with the Thrush was flimsy as hell and felt tacked on but to be honest I didn't particularly care. By that stage the story (for me) was really just about getting Shay and Vella back to their families who (thankfully) were somewhat more developed in the 2nd Act. CHARACTERS: Both the main characters were good and felt familiar thanks to the classic Tim Schafer musings. I really enjoyed some of the supporting characters- Dutch, the Tree, the Hipster, Shay's parents, M'Gee and by the end the Hexipals came into their own as well. I didn't like many of the adult humans in Vella's world, and Vella's family in particular were a big weak-point in the cast for me. Completely useless and extremely nonchalant about their daughter's well-being throughout the entire game, in a way that just seems poorly written. I mean they literally stood in a corner (or danced!) watching everyone else frantically do things at the end! The kind of people that would offer you marshmallows while your house burnt down. It would have seemed more realistic and satisfying to me if Vella was more rebellious toward her parents, because they really didn't seem to give two shits about her. Then at the end when she saved the day, maybe they could have realised how much they'd taken her for granted. But nope. I mean her mother was practically hitting on that bird-girl on the swing... Shay's parents may have been absurdly distant at first, but at least they both took an active role in protecting their family when shit went down. PUZZLES: I'm glad to say I never succumbed to hints or walkthroughs to solve any of the puzzles. I came close early in Act 2 trying to get Hope to open the central control room door. I'm so glad I stuck it out and solved it for myself, because the feeling of satisfaction I got from it kept me going for the rest of the game. I knew that if I just paid attention to the in-game hints and took some time to think, the answers would come to me. The knots puzzle was a bit annoying, mostly because it just seemed artificially difficult. The solution was pretty obvious, but you still had to resort to trial and error because of intentionally vague info. The wiring puzzles weren't that bad after the initial one, I ended up enjoying them quite a bit especially with that interplay between the two characters and their access to different bits of information & items. OVERALL: The charm of the game, combined with the satisfaction of solving the puzzles resulted in a really rewarding experience for me, to the point where I even enjoyed the fact that the story didn't really make any sense and the staging of the ending was a bit clunky. It was a bit like Scooby Doo- it's absurd that the janitor is dressing up like a swamp monster to scare the kids away from the theme park but, in the end, that's kinda what's fun about it too. So again, overall the whole game was a lot of fun and combined with the behind-the-scenes insight I got with the documentary series, it has been very much worth the money I paid. Thanks to everyone involved for all the hard work creating this game and the huge level of transparency in showing us all how it was done! Here's to more point and click adventure games!
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