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KuroShiro

Some Constructive (I hope) Criticism

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Since the response to the game on these forums and elsewhere seems to be overwhelmingly positive, I feel the need to temper that with some well-intentioned criticism. As this post is probably going to come across as pretty negative, I'll say in advance that I thought the game did many things right, mainly the 'arty' aspects. The background art and the animations were both beautiful and very well done. The soundtrack and voice acting were both excellent. The story reveal at the end leaves me looking forward to the conclusion.

However, there are also things that I felt the game did wrong, and sadly a lot of those things are aspects of adventure games that I care about quite a bit. As background, I've been playing adventure games for over twenty years, have played basically every one of note, and think Grim Fandango is the pinnacle of the genre. i.e. I really, really like adventure games.

My issues with BA revolve entirely around its game-play and design. Firstly, the interface itself is clunky and unpleasant to use, mainly due to the one-button only interaction system. Accessing the inventory and using items is clumsy, particularly if using a touchpad. There's really no reason for it to be like this, other than making concessions to design for tablets. Would it be that hard (on computers, at least) to switch right click to examine on inventory items, and make left click simply pick up, so there's no need for the drag-and-drop? Secondly, the one-button interface also makes movement a bit irritating, particularly in parts of the cloud colony area where clicking a hotspot by mistake means dropping through the clouds. Basically I wish there was a verb-coin, but I realize that probably won't happen because of tablets (grumblegrumble), so I hope DF can at least make a few concessions to usability on PC/mac.

Secondly, and this is more of a personal critique leading into a general one, I don't really get the sense that this game was made for someone like me, a long-time lover of classic adventure games. This is a bit disappointing, given the initial pitch of the project was to create a classic point-n-click adventure game. By this I mean that the focus of the game does not appear to be on puzzles, or exploration, or even really gameplay as such, but on pure storytelling. I mean, the puzzles in this game are preposterously easy; I more often felt a feeling of shock at how simple it was to accomplish certain goals (like getting the cloud shoes, for example) than I did a feeling of accomplishment for solving a difficult puzzle. Basically, it felt more like The Walking Dead than Day of the Tentacle, and while that is not an *inherently* bad thing (well, it is to me, but I'm trying to be objective here), if the goal was to make a classic point-n-click adventure game, then it is a problem. I really hope that DF will make an effort in act 2 to make this more of a game than an interactive storybook, at least if that is their goal. To be fair, they will probably be more financially and critically successful following the course they are currently on, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

One thing that I do think is objectively an issue from any perspective though is that the game world, while very pleasant and atmospheric, feels empty compared to most games in the genre. I found myself constantly looking for more things to do, and surprised by how little content was contained on each screen. Something I feel is illustrative of this **warning, very minor spoilers ahead**, after Shay 'breaks' the missions and can eventually go back to the mission rooms, all my adventure-game instincts told me that there would be more puzzles to solve back in there, at least in the train room. But no, all you could do was grab a couple items and repeat the previous content. **no more spoilers** This made me feel like portions of gameplay were excised in favor of something else (possibly just getting the game out the door) which is always a sad feeling to have playing an adventure game. I strongly hope that DF will make an effort to add more depth to the game world in act II, hell, maybe even going back to act I and touching up the world a bit and making it more involved. I think Shay's section especially could use some more content.

Anyway, this has gone on a bit so I will wrap it up. I hope I don't come across as horribly negative or embittered, and that DF can at least glean a few insights into aspects of their game that can be improved (this is technically a beta after all). Right now, BA strikes me as a Young-Adult Novel sort of adventure game. One that will probably be quite popular and enjoyed by many, but which will also leave many craving more depth and challenge. How it winds up moving forward remains to be seen.

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That's a very fair and well reasoned critique, and although I really loved the game I can't say you're wrong on any of your points. In particular, the hits games take these days to make them playable on tablets is a ridiculous waste. I'm sure there are plenty of impulse buyers on iOS who would get the game, but they're not your core audience (especially for a game pitched to classic adventure fans) and if you want to make simplistic phone games, then make them.

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Good review, and quite valid. As someone who has also been playing adventure games for 20 years, I still loved it... But it's definitely more The Walking Dead vs. The Secret of Monkey Island, in terms of puzzles. It was on the easy side of things -- getting stuck was more like not knowing what to do for 2 minutes, and then stumbling head first into the solution -- but it resulted in a more smoothly flowing story than say, Deponia.

Regarding the controls... I got used to them, but dragging items vs. clicking them did annoy me.

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I agree with you 100%. I also loved the style and design of the game but the gameplay has almost nothing to do with a classic point & click adventure, the main target group is obviously the mobile market. I really hope there will be more and especially harder puzzles in act 2.

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I think you have some good points there...although I dont really see how that can add up to a generally negative impression. Im sorry you had to play what you see as a beautiful interactive storybook instead of a hardcore brainteaser...but thems the breaks. probably it seemed more important to get new fans to the genre...I dont mind it so much. difficulty is really hard to get right in adventure games. its such a fine line between frustration (that scares most people away) and too easy.

I mean, its still a fair criticism. but old school adventure game only means its a point n click. doesnt promise it to be tailor made to hard core fans.

you bring up something interesting with the economy of art and backgrounds. seeing as there was some worry about budget and talk about cutting things its strange that there are so many rooms that pretty much dont do anything or very little, as you mentioned. maybe that will be explained in later episodes.

and I dont really see how a verb coin would help with that issue. in the games with verb coins clicking without holding still meant youre walking there right?

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I have to disagree with you on the controls. The way they are set up in Broken Age is intuitive. It takes time getting used to, but way less than with a right/left click system, and infinitely less then a verb-coin system.

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I agree almost completely. The game has lots of spectacular art, the writing is great, the music and voiceacting are excellent. It's an audiovisual tour de force and I really like it in those respects, but I feel like it falls flat in the gameplay department. It doesn't quite have the sense of discovery you get from a lot of adventures -- the realization that every field is densely packed with content to examine and fiddle with, the thrill of learning new things about a character from the way they describe ordinary items, and the epiphany that comes from figuring out the solution to a difficult puzzle. In this sense, I kind of feel like this project might have appealed to me more personally if the future of the company didn't hinge on its success and the development team was able to take more risks -- but who knows? Maybe streamlined gameplay is just Tim's design ethos these days, or maybe the gameplay compromises are a limitation that comes with putting a game out on touchscreen devices.

I'm sure the game will do well considering how this sort of thing is exactly what a lot of people want out of a point-and-click, but speaking in terms of pure adventure gameplay, give me something from Daedalic or Wadjet Eye any day.

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To be clear, wanting a verb coin (and by that I really mean more options in interactivity than strictly a Full Throttle or CoMI style verb-coin, but it was the first example that came to mind) wasn't really related to my finding movement annoying at times. That's just me wanting the game to be that much more like a classic adventure, and that much less like a game clearly designed for tablets.

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I absolutely agree with these complaints about the product, but I feel the need to add to this thread that my personal response was a lot more negative (and irrational).

This isn't constructive criticism but seeing the positive reaction from most mainstream gaming websites I want you to know this, coming from an old fan of LucasArts and other Point and Click adventure games.

While I played and finished your game "Broken Age" I did not have fun at any moment, it was only disappointment.

It almost felt like betrayal.

"a classic point-and-click adventure" was the advertising description.

This is not what Broken Age is. There is nothing "classic" about the limiting one-button controls, the lack of interactive objects in the scenery, the extremely low difficulty of the puzzles and therefore the short length of the game.

The visuals of the game are suberb, no doubt, but such a bland and shallow gameplay experience was simply not what I imagined when this game was kickstarted.

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I absolutely agree with these complaints about the product, but I feel the need to add to this thread that my personal response was a lot more negative (and irrational).

This isn't constructive criticism but seeing the positive reaction from most mainstream gaming websites I want you to know this, coming from an old fan of LucasArts and other Point and Click adventure games.

While I played and finished your game "Broken Age" I did not have fun at any moment, it was only disappointment.

It almost felt like betrayal.

"a classic point-and-click adventure" was the advertising description.

This is not what Broken Age is. There is nothing "classic" about the limiting one-button controls, the lack of interactive objects in the scenery, the extremely low difficulty of the puzzles and therefore the short length of the game.

The visuals of the game are suberb, no doubt, but such a bland and shallow gameplay experience was simply not what I imagined when this game was kickstarted.

My feelings exactly.

Not what we were promised. Not a "classic adventure".

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I wanted to start an own thread, but your points totally match with my concerns about Broken Age.

I am fan of those interactive storytelling games like Walking Dead and I must admit Broken Age felt quite like it. I had the feeling of more freedom in those old pointnclick adventures. Huger instances where I could walk around and combine any item with any object. I know Act 2 can't get now a totally new and different style like the first act did, and it's okay. But I still hope that this might start a new wave of more pointnclick adventures, and maybe some with "real" puzzles again. Nonetheless I loved the first act and the story got me hooked. I am looking forward for act 2 and hope that this game might be followed by another game with more pointnclick :)

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guys you mustve known about the interface already and come to terms with it over the last year +. its been in the doc. besides its not more limiting than beneath a steel sky and those games...if you want to talk old school. about the number of hotspots well yeah...its a bit sparse.

"I did not have fun at any moment"?? you saddo. go play myst with your pants down again then.

brainteasing in adventure games is pretty much a myth anyways. very rarely has it ever been about just thinking really hard or any form of actual mental exercise. I thought BA had great puzzles. just could have used more of them and less being poked in the right direction.

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By this I mean that the focus of the game does not appear to be on puzzles, or exploration, or even really gameplay as such, but on pure storytelling.

Oh please God no. Not another one of THESE. :(

brainteasing in adventure games is pretty much a myth anyways. very rarely has it ever been about just thinking really hard or any form of actual mental exercise.

That's... taking an eraser to the history book, I believe.

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One thing that I do think is objectively an issue from any perspective though is that the game world, while very pleasant and atmospheric, feels empty compared to most games in the genre. I found myself constantly looking for more things to do, and surprised by how little content was contained on each screen. Something I feel is illustrative of this **warning, very minor spoilers ahead**, after Shay 'breaks' the missions and can eventually go back to the mission rooms, all my adventure-game instincts told me that there would be more puzzles to solve back in there, at least in the train room. But no, all you could do was grab a couple items and repeat the previous content. **no more spoilers** This made me feel like portions of gameplay were excised in favor of something else (possibly just getting the game out the door) which is always a sad feeling to have playing an adventure game. I strongly hope that DF will make an effort to add more depth to the game world in act II, hell, maybe even going back to act I and touching up the world a bit and making it more involved. I think Shay's section especially could use some more content.

I feel pretty sure that we are going to revisit those locations as Vella.

I think the problem there, is the splitting up of the game.

Remember when you went back to Rubacava and El Marrow in Girm Fandango?

That was awesome.

But still, I guess there were some wasted potential in those mission rooms, and I had the same feeling as you.

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KuroShiro, I know you didn't mean to, but you just spoiled the ending of this game for me. Thanks. In the future please be EXTRA careful about talking about spoilers, or place "SPOILERS" in your subject title.

(I'm sure you think you were being covert, but it's one of those things that is patently obvious thanks to the word you chose. Ah well. Thanks for trying.)

EDIT: Yep, I was right. Undoubtedly my fault for not being able to stay away from the forums until I'd finished the game. Oh well.

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having interface pop op where mouse cursor is Full Throttle style is imo prefered.

and just clicking on items, not having to hold and drag, which is obviously made because of touch tablets.

Obviously not full throttle where the inventory popped up at the mouse cursor LOL. remembering fail here.

But still i feel like since there is sadly no verbs of any description, i feel like inventory popping up at your cursor could be neat.

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yeah im feeling similar way im taking this slow clickking everywhere but there aint that much of content in scenes (expect bugs and crashes) for example i think the first screen of vella for example has 2 objects to examine city and her sister (dont remember if you could examine the house) and both have only 6 lines of text to be read :/. Still the story is awesome and i really like the art and the music is epic. I think you still have time to add more flavor text into game before official release.

And yes puzzles are way too easy, most of them are almost auto solving cause you have only few items to try.

Great game make act 2 way longer.

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I think this whole difficulty debacle could have been solved by an easy and hard mode, or by having an optional hint system.

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I just want to add one thing to the criticism

Please add mouse acceleration to the game, the mouse move far to fast for my taste.

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Yeah, my feelings were similar. I really enjoyed it, but the game often felt a bit "thin". Some more interactive objects and more character background (dialog) would have been nice. And like most people said, it was way too easy.

My favorite part was Vella's adventure after the cloud colony. It somehow felt more open and (at least for me) the puzzles felt more like real puzzles rather then an obvious solution. Plus some Monkey Island vibe. :D

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One thing that I do think is objectively an issue from any perspective though is that the game world, while very pleasant and atmospheric, feels empty compared to most games in the genre. I found myself constantly looking for more things to do, and surprised by how little content was contained on each screen.

Definitely this. There were so few hotspots and dialogue options. Almost everything you could do in the game was part of solving a puzzle; there wasn't a lot that was random, irrelevant, and just fun to explore.

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One thing that is important, when making such time consuming background and locations, is to use them.

I dont feel like back tracking and such like in Day of the tentacle, that game really shows what you can do with a few locations, and it used them over again very well.

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Also I think just having just one button/action really makes the content seem less than there is.

I pressed the right button lots of times out of instinct hoping for another response.

The lead characters don't have that strong personality as other Tim's characters and even the NPCs don't seem so engaging as others.

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Difficulty in adventure games is such a difficult balance to preserve. You need puzzles to stump players just long enough to feel satisfying. There were definitely times when this was the case in Broken Age, but more often the solutions were the first things I tried.

That's the key to good puzzle design. You want to toy with the player's expectations so that he has to try a few things before discovering the solution. You don't want to frustrate him because he doesn't have all the information he needs, just make him step back and think a bit.

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Everyone has a different opinion of what classic is. Some people were complaining early on that the game wasn't literally a 640x480 pixellated game.

"Yeah, but that's just crazy..."

Thing is, I think that it's crazy to say this isn't a classic style adventure game, because I think it is in every way that's important to me.

Anyway, I think the criticisms in this post are a little more measured than some of the ones I've seen. I just wanted to say that because I keep on seeing this 'obviously it's not classic because x, y, z' - it's not well understood what constitutes a classic adventure, and I've seen plenty of disagreement on the topic. For me, Broken Age fits the bill more than easily.

Difficulty concerns - while I agree that some more challenging puzzles in act 2 would be welcome, this is something that is already planned (based on the last doc episode) and will surely be double-planned based on the feedback.

But I do half-agree with frilansspion here - brainteasers in adventure games are at the very least rarer than most people make them out to be. When I think back to my playthroughs of adventure games, I did get stuck of course. But not all the time, and usually not for very long. Most adventure game puzzles are just a matter of course. It's a strict minority that present a real challenge (though we imagine they're more common because they're often the more memorable puzzles).

Add to that the fact that when I played most adventure games I remember as being difficult I was 9-12 years old and probably not as good as puzzle solving as I am now, and lots of people are the same age as me here, it's probably slightly unfair to compare my puzzle solving ability as a young child to now.

I know that this game is easier than those old games - and I'm certainly not trying to say that the fact it's easier is entirely an illusion, that would be silly - but I do think it's probably not AS easier as we think, for a combination of reasons.

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I thought the interface was well designed. You don't have to go through an full menu to talk to a guy.

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I feel your pain KuroShiro. I really enjoyed the game; it looked and sounded great, it was funny, and it was fun, and I don't regret backing. But it was easy, and quick, and I think I know why.

Ultimately you can brute force any adventure game. Apart from the odd timed puzzle or maze, the solution to every single problem is to say the right thing to someone, look at the right thing to set off a trigger, or rub two or more objects together. So the problem isn't that the Broken Age part 1 puzzles are easy, it's that they aren't obfuscated. In what we think of as classic adventure games, the required interactable items made up a surprising small proportion of all the interactable items in the game. Not only did this make the world seem fuller and more alive (another problem Broken Age suffers from, in how streamlined it is) by hiding the linear path, it meant that you had many more possible solutions to consider. Take any seemingly bizarre monkey island or grim fandango puzzle, then remove all of the elements in the world not directly required for solving that puzzle, and I'm guessing most people who'd been stumped for days and nearly given up...would figure it out pretty quickly. It's my contention here that people don't get stuck because they can't figure out to use a monkey's tail as a wrench, but because they're too busy trying to get the toolkit just out of reach, or use the incorrectly sized wrench they already have. It's the double edged sword of classic adventure games, that what we like about them the most is what most infuriates us. Double Fine have avoided that problem by streamlining (there are no toolkits, no wrong wrenches, only monkeys with tails), but have lost the allure of classic adventure games in the process.

I have to point out though that the riddle to get into the Dead Eye God's Pyramid was exactly right, at least how it played out for me. It took me a while but I worked it out and felt great about that, but then I couldn't find the item in the world to show to the guards. This was frustrating and I got stuck, because its location had been obfuscated. When I thought about it a bit more though, I was able to reason out/check every room for where I might find the item, and then I got to feel clever for figuring that out too.

If I'd had the item in my inventory because I accidentally solved the puzzle earlier to pick it up, I wouldn't have gotten stuck, but I wouldn't have been able to figure it out, because like with the other puzzles I would need a monkey wrench and only have a monkey in my inventory. With less options the right one, even to a complex puzzle, becomes obvious.

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Hmm I think you bring up some valid points but I can't say I agree with the interface system gripe. You click the arrow click an item and drag it over a person.... what's clumsy about that? And then you have to consider "well if you cant drag and drop items over characters how do you present an item to a specific character"? And every conclusion you will come to is either adding more dialogue options when you talk to them, or adding verbs to each item. More dialogue would require more voice acting which requires more money. Verbs are a somewhat valid option but I'd personally rather drag and drop than [Click Character>Go to inventory>Click Item>Present item] . Drag and drop is WAY more efficient and I never had any problems with it when i was playing. And then you have to consider "Oh darn well that item didn't work whelp lets try another item then [Click Character>Go to inventory>Click Item>Present item]. Why do that whole step process all over again when you can just drag the item over the character in like 2 seconds?

And most games aren't designed for using a touch pad. Not saying you shouldn't play the game on a laptop but if you do you should probably get a mouse with it. Not just for this game but any game.

I do agree that it's much more story focused than puzzle focus. I don't necessarily agree with the major consensus that the puzzles were easy or that they didn't make you think.

I will give you one thing and that's shay's world could have had a little more puzzles in it than it did.

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(Okay, I'm going to try my best to express myself in english)

I think it's okay if the game is more about the story than the puzzles, but then it needs to be longer, and have more content. If it's going to be story driven and light on the puzzles then you should be able to explore the world and interact deeper with the characters and their surroundings. It's definitely really short, and I'm not talking about the hours it takes to beat.

For example, I was hoping to learn more about the village, Vella's family and Mog Chathra while wandering around town, talking to the townsfolk and observing the preparations for the Maidens Feast. I was expecting more places to visit and explore, and more interactions and dialog with the wonderful characters I met (like that awesome family on Merriloft with the brainwashed dad).

Everything was happening so fast (too much ellipsis in my opinion), and I was solving puzzles almost by accident. You can't focus on exploration because there isn't much to see, and the characters doesn't have a lot to say (also, some dialog trees were weird... as if the character already knew things that the player didn't).

I know good production values (voice acting, artwork, music...) are important in adventure games, but in hindsight maybe I would have given up on some of that in exchange for a bigger and more fleshed out story.

Overall it's okay, considering there's still more game to come. I like the story, the characters, the art (even though the ending felt a bit rushed and less polished compared with the rest), and the cliffhanger was awesome. But yeah... it's disappointing that it was over so soon. Maybe it was not such a good idea to split it in two.

Now I'm worried that Act II will be even shorter.

I didn't mind the lack of "verb wheel", but I agree that the dragging is unnecesary on PC. Just right click to examine and left click to use (select the item and then click on the place you would like to use it).

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Hmm I think you bring up some valid points but I can't say I agree with the interface system gripe. You click the arrow click an item and drag it over a person.... what's clumsy about that?

Most graphic adventure gamers are accustomed to use the right click to inspect an object and left click to "grab object" and "throw it" to the desired hotspot. It's impossible to do on a touchscreen, that's why the game doesn't use right click commands, but it's clumsier for guys that have played lots of adventure games.

Another thing it's that instead of dragging the object to a character, in most games you have access to the inventory screen, so you can use the dialog options and the items to talk about (that could be easily done just showing the inventory at the top when there's a conversation).

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