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Greg Rice

Episode 15: Evergreen Games

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One thing that we could have done differently with the beta review embargo is treat the backer beta period like any other company handles their betas. Specifically, make everyone who wants the beta sign an NDA. Or click on a box that says you accept these NDA terms. That's what I had to do to be in the beta for Battle Block Theater. That's what you have to do for almost any beta.

I'm not sure that would really make people happy, though. It would just make clearer the responsibility that comes along with exclusive, early access.

I would first cut down the people who could access the beta. So put it in a higher tier. probably 100 $.

And to be honest, this wasnt a real beta. The game was at the end fully playable and just needed some bugfixing. At the end it was an eerly test version for the press.

For the second part i wouldnt do a beta anymore....

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One thing that we could have done differently with the beta review embargo is treat the backer beta period like any other company handles their betas. Specifically, make everyone who wants the beta sign an NDA. Or click on a box that says you accept these NDA terms. That's what I had to do to be in the beta for Battle Block Theater. That's what you have to do for almost any beta.

I'm not sure that would really make people happy, though. It would just make clearer the responsibility that comes along with exclusive, early access.

It also makes sense NOT to do that, though. Some of the backers are bloggers or journos, but a lot of them are just regular consumers who love Double Fine games. So for them the backer beta period was an early access reward. It would be weird to tell those people, "Thanks for backing! To show our appreciation, we're giving you a contract to sign! Sweet!"

It's like, you want to exert enough control to keep uncourteous jerks on a leash and keep them from ruining the party, but people---even very nice and courteous people---do not like having their autonomy challenged and will resist it. So if you push that challenge too hard, there is a definite point where it backfires, and you don't necessarily know where that is. It's easier with people who are journos, because they're used to that sort of transaction in their line of work, but just an average person picking up the game to enjoy it and nothing else? Having them click an "I agree to shush" box may push them in a way they do not like, even if they don't say anything about it.

I think DF handled it as well as you all could have with the knowledge you had. And hey, you learned some stuff, and that's informing how you're doing things moving forward. And even better, much like the role a big brother serves for his little brothers, any struggles you may have experienced were witnessed by friends and admirers. By being the first to try something, and being the first to experience the consequences, you have helped your little brothers understand better what is a good idea to do or not do in the given situation. When you succeed, little brothers want to be just like you. When you stumble, little brothers see an opportunity to impress you. Letting people see those experiences helps everyone.

Obligatory Lil Brudder link: http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail109.html

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I think it's wrong to blame the media breaking the embargo as a primary reason for disappointing sales. Justin mentioned up that 1/3 of the articles were about the embargo, 1/3 were about having to ship two parts and 1/3 were actual reviews. Most of the reviews seems to be happy about the music, graphics and the story, but were disappointed that it was short and had to easy puzzles. Most of them hope that part 2 of the game will correct the “flaws”.

DF is threading into new waters with crowd-funding and open development (forum and documentaries). Sadly there has been some “wounds” from the openness. The first were obviously having to split the game into two. DF should probably have found a way to discuss this more openly – not just with the backers, but media as well. I understand that it is expensive to develop the game, and I were happy you manage to finance the development with 2-3 millions out of your own pocket. I admit I got more skeptical when that wasn't enough and you needed to split the game into two part. I believe it might have been prevented if Tim were allowed to finish more of the game design document prior going to full development, but in any in case; DF got bad publicity from the news of running out of funds and needing to split the game.

I believe DF would could have prevented some of the negative attention by having more openness to people who didn't back the game – and still letting backers get some goodies for them self – such as being able to watch the documentaries. I openly admit that it is difficult to find a good balance when thrading into new water for the first time.

The second wound DF got from media was the embargo. I understand that DF find it easy to blame the media/bloggers from breaking the embargo; but I disagree. This is new waters and DF should probably have found a better way to use new media to market the game without having an embargo at all. The idea of imposing an embargo to media belong to the “old” way of publishing games; but choosing to be open with the development require DF to utilize social media differently. There are countless of examples of independent books, movies and games who have experienced large success by using bloggers as their main tool for marketing.

I don't think everything is lost yet. Many are waiting to buy the game due to the negative publicity, and the fact that many reviews said it was short and to easy.

I don't think the question is: “how can we enforce an embargo?”, but the real questions are, how do we make it better (longer and more challenging puzzles), and how can we utilize social media to make better sales. Openness will always be a better option than forcing people to shut up.

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I play a wide range of games and read a wide range of forums and if there would be one criticism that most people would agree on, it would be that the puzzles in Broken Age were too easy. It's not just adventure gamers who click on everything, exhaust every line of dialogue, etc.

It's one thing to make the game accessible for people who have never played an adventure game, it's quite another to take out the challenge completely. In the end, it ends up undermining the story if the player never encounters adversity in the game and the characters breeze past every obstacle.

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can we just talk about the amazing fan video/musical at the end of this episode? the last line was particularly amazing and profound

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A couple of my buddies bought the game recently because of my word of mouth. It felt good to do my part. I'm trying to not just be the baby bird backer with his mouth hanging open to the sky waiting for more squishy goodness to fall in.

To Tim and the team, thanks for your hard work. My seven year-old has been playing it through by herself, and we've had good Daddy moments when she gets stuck. As a fan of all of Tim's previous work, I appreciate the difficulty level. I know it's not as tricky as those first two Monkey Islands, and I know some backers wanted that, but I was happy that I was able to come to the right conclusion on the puzzles on my own. I still can't get through Monkey 2 without looking stuff up.

On a final note, while I like TellTale, their prowess for storytelling doesn't compare to what we've seen here. (The comparison made by critics irked me to no end.) This game has defined 2014 for me, and you can bet I will do my part to Tweet and share when Act 2 magnanimously shows up on my Steam.

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What does Tim say to Chris Remo in the company meeting?

Tim: Chris Remo is moving on to hang out with his friends, which [--abouyousbenval--] whatever you guys are!

BIG LAUGH

Tim: I've been saving that one all week!

Just can't make it out!

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To those missing the Soundtrack. This should be it, you can stream it for free on the dudes Bandcamp page.

http://lifeformed.bandcamp.com/album/immerse

That's the documentary soundtrack, which is definitely a fine piece of work, but worth also mentioning that the very awesome game sound-track is here: https://doublefine.bandcamp.com/album/broken-age-original-soundtrack. And it's only $8.

Wish they could sell the Grim Fandango soundtrack on there... Wonder what happened to the rights to those old games. Do Disney now own them? Also, did Ron ever post anything about getting the rights to MI........?

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What does Tim say to Chris Remo in the company meeting?

Tim: Chris Remo is moving on to hang out with his friends, which [--abouyousbenval--] whatever you guys are!

BIG LAUGH

Tim: I've been saving that one all week!

Just can't make it out!

[--abouyousbenval--] = "is bad news for all of his..."

Tim: Chris Remo is moving on to hang out with his friends, which is bad news for all of his... whatever you guys are!

He's still got it folks!

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I feel so close to all of you there at double fine because of this documentary! Its creepy! I don't care about A-listers and mega stars of music or movies, but all of you there at DF are such heroes to me! (You're not quite B-list celebs like adult film stars and professional wrestlers, but you're all at least C-list right? :) )

The beginning of this episode was stressful with the PR snafu/embargo dealio. I guess these type of troubles were bound to happen considering the newness of this territory. I think you've made it on to the other side though as the initial release numbers are respectable and will only increase as Act II brings us to the stunning conclusion. Bottom line: Broken Age and more importantly the Broken Age EXPERIENCE (Documentary, forums, community) is unlike anything else out there in the entertainment world today. Its incredible. So enthused to be apart of it and peek into your awesome company.

Also, Remo! Nooooooooo! I knew he'd left earlier thru his Idle Thumbs stuff, I guess I'll have to watch more of his Spelunky Daily Challenges to get a Remo dose. Good Luck at Campo Santo Remo!

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I could watch these episodes forever. I love Tim Schafer... <3

In terms of difficulty I saw other people bickering about; Tim is right, the difficulty is fine. The days of being able to spend 4 hours stuck on one single puzzle in a game are in the past. If you make a game too hard, people will not keep trying like they would have 15 years ago, they'll either A. give up, or B. Google a walkthrough, which makes the game less enjoyable.

The reason puzzles used to be more difficult was either A. they didn't make logical sense (Monkeywrench!), or B. the objects you needed for the puzzles were one pixel somewhere hidden on the screen.

Now I know I'm painting this in black and white, and there are at least 50 shades of grey, but for the most part, I side with the developer.

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And to be honest, this wasnt a real beta. The game was at the end fully playable and just needed some bugfixing.

Actually, that's the exact traditional definition of a software beta. Features and content are locked and complete and only bug fixes are allowed, no new content, no new features. The entire point is to release to a community that's small enough to be manageable but larger than your own test team. More hands on the software means more bugs found more quickly. You do a beta so you can shake out the bugs that would otherwise be found on day 1 of your release. Better to find them during a beta than after release.

Though I acknowledge that other game companies have gotten a lot looser with their definition of "beta" allowing for new features, like in MMOs for example, but you weren't going to get to request features anyways because it's a story driven adventure game.

For the second part i wouldnt do a beta anymore….

If you go back and look at the backer forum for bugs there was a ton of bugs and issues reported. Many having to do with instability of the game in various flavors of Linux and also on older versions of Windows with older hardware. Double Fine doesn't have the resources to run a huge test lab with hundreds of machines with varying hardware configs. However, a beta community absolutely provides that capability. It was quite clear to me that the beta was absolutely necessary and the comments by Oliver during the very episode we're discussing supports it. It seems to me that the beta was fully justified by its results.

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Btw. was I the only one who found the main spoiler for act 1 in the video REALLY unnecessary? It's just to show a few reactions of people streaming the game, which doesn't seem to add anything of value to the episode. (I'm aware that there are spoilers in the concept art discussion later, but those are very minor compared to that big one.)

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Btw. was I the only one who found the main spoiler for act 1 in the video REALLY unnecessary? It's just to show a few reactions of people streaming the game, which doesn't seem to add anything of value to the episode. (I'm aware that there are spoilers in the concept art discussion later, but those are very minor compared to that big one.)

I suspect that was an intentional breaking the seal/ripping off the band-aid... putting that in means they don't have to worry about being careful what they spoil and don't spoil... all out of the bag now.

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I could watch these episodes forever. I love Tim Schafer... <3

In terms of difficulty I saw other people bickering about; Tim is right, the difficulty is fine. The days of being able to spend 4 hours stuck on one single puzzle in a game are in the past. If you make a game too hard, people will not keep trying like they would have 15 years ago, they'll either A. give up, or B. Google a walkthrough, which makes the game less enjoyable.

The reason puzzles used to be more difficult was either A. they didn't make logical sense (Monkeywrench!), or B. the objects you needed for the puzzles were one pixel somewhere hidden on the screen.

Now I know I'm painting this in black and white, and there are at least 50 shades of grey, but for the most part, I side with the developer.

With the preface that virtually all reviews agree that the game is too easy and the puzzles lame, I'll point you to a few things besides "A & B".

Normal adventure games have large inventories. You'll have lots of objects at any given time, increasing the scope of what you need to consider for any solution. Broken Age gives you about 2-3 at any one time.

There are about 2-4 hotspots (interactable environmental locations) per room in Broken Age. This makes it very clear what you're supposed to focus on and consider for interaction with your 2-3 inventory objects. The range of interaction in the game is so limited that for the most part ONLY the "right" solutions are available. A good adventure game makes lots of things interactable, so the player has to consider lots of possibilities.

As Tim said, most of the puzzles were one-step affairs. You'd pick up an object in advance and use it on the obvious solution (the vent in Shay's room, 4-armed Grabbin' Gary on the 4-bolt door, etc). It's weird because Ron and Tim specifically talked about the key-before-the-lock problem prior to development, and Tim still stuffed his game full of key-before-the-lock puzzles. Also, lots of important objects were gained merely be requesting them. Others were obtained by bizarre dialogue puzzles that were somehow still easy (e.g. telling the mayor his hat was fancy). I still have a hunch that this ask-and-ye-shall-receive approach was caused by the budget cuts that cut out 50% of the content, because it's a hell of a lot easier to make a dialogue "puzzle" than a world puzzle that requires animation.

The game also gives EXCESSIVE hints for every puzzle, before you've even begun to consider being stuck -- or even begun considering the puzzle.

Combine few hotspots, few items, free items, one-step solutions, and lots of hints with one final ingredient: one-step, one-click auto-interaction. The player doesn't have much agency -- you click, and the game decides what you wanted to do.

So that's A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H.

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Here's another vote for a Bob Chothra shirt :-). Thanks again for another great episode and the willingness to be so transparent. This documentary series has been so amazing. I hope the frustration around the backer exclusive content doesn't make well produced documentaries for future projects less likely, because I have loved the DFA and the Amnesia Fortnight documentaries so much. Really rooting for Broken Age to be a success for Double Fine. The game deserves to be played by lots of people.

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Great episode. Thanks for the update. Thanks for all the hard work Tim and DF team!!!

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Combine few hotspots, few items, free items, one-step solutions, and lots of hints with one final ingredient: one-step, one-click auto-interaction. The player doesn't have much agency -- you click, and the game decides what you wanted to do.

So that's A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H.

*nods* I thought the puzzles were a real let-down as well. Or, I thought the teleporter path puzzle and the crochet puzzle were great. Those were well thought through - even if they weren't super-difficult, they kept the game going even if you were stuck. The rest seemed like the result of a weird rationalisation about how the puzzles only were needed as a driver for the story anyway, so why make them halt the flow of the game in any way, just cut them out. Essentially replacing the puzzle solving with only the tedium of getting there. Then it was the key before the solution puzzles like you say, creating these express paths. ..kind of suspect that a lot of this turns up not just as a result of cuts.

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Tim: Chris Remo is moving on to hang out with his friends, which is bad news for all of his... whatever you guys are!

He's still got it folks!

Thanks! :)

I'm still wondering why anyone hasn't answered the question of: THE BLURRY GUY!

?ACT=36&fid=38&aid=3968_WkMkpRHs2WB9MZwI0FcW&board_id=1

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Love it... but two months too late?
It's actually pretty much on schedule. They said a while back that they're moving to longer episodes, in approx. 2 monthly gaps. Episode 14 came out at the end of January, 2 months after that is the end of March... plus a little extra time because of Amnesia Fortnight, which I think is fair enough.

There's always a time lag between what we see in the episodes and what's going on. I think the time lag is bigger this time, but I think it's probably because 2PP figured that there was enough (about 50-minutes worth) of a story to tell about the time between the releases that it was worth having its own episode.

What that will mean is that a LOT of the filming for the next episode would have already been done, which means it's possible it could either come a little earlier, or be longer still.

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It's weird because Ron and Tim specifically talked about the key-before-the-lock problem prior to development, and Tim still stuffed his game full of key-before-the-lock puzzles.

Weird indeed, I also remember all the interviews/panels throughout the months. I thought: "Okay, the puzzle side is covered, they know exactly what they're doing". Then I played Act 1 and I was like- "What happened?" I really hope Act 2 will be better, because Act 1 was a letdown for me. A huge creative effort, a nice story, but still a letdown as a game...

I'd really love to see Act 1 "fixed", but I guess it's just a dream.

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One of the things I'm consistently seeing in this series is a slow but sure wavering feeling towards of openness of this whole project. And that's more than fair. It was SO cool of Tim and the team to open up to us, and he literally couldn't have made this game without us, but there were a BUNCH of negatives to having everything so public (the internet freaking out over the Act 1/2 separation, the review embargo, random details getting leaked because some jerk backer decided to). So while I don't think he shouldn't have done this project, I DO think he should refrain from doing kickstarter again. It was a GREAT experience for all of us for sure, but development is tricky business, and I really think this game would be having much better press and better sales if this were made without us seeing all their stumbles. (Again, it COULDN'T have been made without us....but if he has options in the future, he'll probably avoid kickstarter in the future).

Still though, I loved the game, I loved being here every step of the way, and I swear I'm trying so hard to get everyone I know to get interested in this game.

Related: I wonder if they've made things smoother in the massive chalice side of things. IE less stress about the openness. Anyone here a double backer who has something to say on that?

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i am literally very angry with press though , they sure can respect embargo when companies like 2k,sega,gearbox,konami,activision impose but they wagged their tails when double fine did it. Tim strike back at them for act 2 we want revenge :x

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Related: I wonder if they've made things smoother in the massive chalice side of things. IE less stress about the openness. Anyone here a double backer who has something to say on that?

It's a smaller project with no famous names attached. Naturally, the expectations are different and it's less likely to be under a spotlight with every detail being scrutinised and speculated upon. In fact, I've barely seen any mention of it on the internet after the Kickstarter campaign ended. Not even when they cut a class from the game.

In any way, I think it's best to keep exclusive access to a minimum, maybe rarely giving out a little perk here and there, like for example Jane Jensen delivering Moebius to the backers one day early.

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Great to see another episode again. Its a shame that sales after a week werent Earth shatteringly good, having said that iOS and Android may push up the sales as I can imagine this game fitting in nicely. I still think you should do a demo though (just Vellas story up until just before Mog Chothra gets introduced)... As at the higher pricepoint (compared to other adventure games released recently) means that many wont buy as they cannot appeciate how simply beautiful and stunning it is to play, and worth the full price release status.

I would love to see a sales post of this game, as after sharing all the trials and tribulations with you I would love to see the hard figures as the game continues to sell. Also from a selfish point I want it to sell well as I really hope Double Fine can do more adventures now that the game engine and tools have all been built.

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Great to see another episode again. Its a shame that sales after a week werent Earth shatteringly good, having said that iOS and Android may push up the sales as I can imagine this game fitting in nicely.

Gamepad support implies a console release is likely as well.

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Gamepad support implies a console release is likely as well.

Yep, Ouya. But that's been planned from the beginning so it's not news.

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The sales are pretty in line with my own expectations. I think the launch was a bit mishandled, both in terms of PR, and the simple fact that, even at launch, the full game is still not available. I suspect this will get another nice bump when Part 2 comes out, but it's never going to sell as much as if it launched with both parts at a time when the project had the most heat.

But it's making enough that they're paying for production and making a tidy if not earth-shattering profit, so that's good. We'll never really know what could have been, but I hope it's enough to convince Double Fine that it's worthwhile to make an adventure game every now and then.

We've got an amazing year for adventures in 2014. Like insane, 90s levels of awesome adventure games. And I just hope that that isn't just a last hurrah.

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i am literally very angry with press though , they sure can respect embargo when companies like 2k,sega,gearbox,konami,activision impose but they wagged their tails when double fine did it. Tim strike back at them for act 2 we want revenge :x

From the video I got the impression the "problem" was more with bloggers and small sites, who have little/no experience with embargos, or even getting access to games before launch?

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