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Greg Rice

Episode 16: This Time it's Just for Love

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Anyone want to re-back DFA after watching this video?? Can we organize some sort of drive to donate more money?

Also: I agree with the backtracking. I'd like to feel the game got bigger, not just added new areas and cut off the older ones. (More Jack Black!)

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Regarding marketing, I've said it before, but I feel they still haven't capitalised on the public release of the documentary. With its honest depiction of the development of the game, I think it has the potential to become a bit of a marketing machine for Broken Age as well.

Agreed. I love the documentary, but how much edited footage do they have now -- 12 hours? Something like that maybe? Would be so hard to edit it down further for a feature-length film like Indie Game Movie (imagine all the cool stuff they're going to have to cut), but they really should. I'd buy it, despite already watching every episode that's posted.

I totally agree. Actually I enjoyed watching the documentary even more than playing the game.

There are many suggestions on the forum on how to help you guys but we backers have one thing in common; we all had some money to spare. So if an extra developer is needed, just run a campaign and I'm sure that some of us will fund that. Of course that developer needs to wear a special T-shirt, a silly hat, or whatever to be recognized in the documentary as a backer funded developer.

Is this cheating? Hell no!

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Loved the video insight! Loved the game, can't wait for Act 2. Despite being a backer and getting it on my Mac, I also bought it on my iPad because :)

Good luck guys, and to Tim Schafer, keep on being awesome!

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Tim, I have a solution to make act 2 financially more successful AND please the hardcore fans: In-game puzzle purchases! if someone wants a higher difficulty he can buy additional harder puzzles!

Hahaha. Maybe in-game hint micro-transactions too!

Oh wait, I think Bridge Constructor actually does that. It's not so funny when you're making fun of a trend and then realise it's already a sad reality :(

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How about creating making use of the fan base to expand the localization to more languages? It seems like that would be a pretty way to expand the potential market base. Any chance Chinese/Japanese gamers could be enticed into the world of adventure games?

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I think once it is finished a lot of people that didn't buy before will want the finished product, plus it will be the better time for the real sales push

Yeah, I agree. And once people have a complete story arc to review, the word of mouth sales will probably see a bit jump too.

Ooooh, nice points above about the documentary. Maybe release that on Steam, like that Indie Game movie, could be a big boost.

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Maybe you should bring in more detailed hints if someone cannot guess a puzzle. This hints should be related to how often the player tries something and a kind of a time counter.

I think a kind of graduated hint system is a GREAT idea. I loved how "The Room" did that, how after a certain amount of time passed and you hadn't solved the puzzle, a new hint would be unlocked.

And the yarn pals are awesome, whoever made them. :) And Tim's scene with them was hilarious.

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Any "hint system" that's implemented should be able to be turned off. Sometimes I like to wander from room to room just to click on everything and hear all the dialogue, especially idle dialogue and animations etc., so I don't want a hit popping up while I'm wandering around not solving puzzles on purpose. >_>

Tales of Monkey Island Episode 1 did that and it annoyed me to no end even though I had hints turned off. >_<

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What does Oliver say at ~8:30 sounds like

"...essentially they're throwing out any kind of way of cleansoftidaballbin that's the first thing that goes"

:) (I have a really bad time parsing sound to words sometimes)

***********************

<3 amigurumi yarn pals and tentacles ^_^

I have to learn how to amigurumi.

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What does Oliver say at ~8:30 sounds like

"...essentially they're throwing out any kind of way of cleansoftidaballbin that's the first thing that goes"

"Clean software development"

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Split Act 2 into 2 parts!!

Act 2 part 1

and

Act 2 part 2

Woo!

You sir (or madam) are a GENIUS!

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Man always feel sad for Tim when they show him reading bad reviews, harsh criticism sux :( Also - Oliver is a genius! I hope DF gives him every reason to never leave. Really great episode, loving these insights - I bought the ipad version too and was holding off playing through again until act 2 but since it will be a while off i'll just have another go now.

Totally unrelated (except that i keep seeing them in these videos) - would love to know where Tim got his DOTT and yarn pal knitted toys? Also the big Raz is sweet too! I got Josef from Machinarium off the amanita site but no luck finding the others.

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In my defense I am pretty smart.*

Since it's not clear in the documentary I would like to point out that I sent those predictions as part of a package of stuff meant as a response/thank you for DF/2PP mentioning me in the last episode. The predictions were included purely for fun. Will my predictions accurately foretell the story of Act 2? Of course not. Will I even come close? Who knows? But it's fun to try.

I lost the original text to a hard-drive crash but for those interested my major predictions were (if my memory serves):

1. Broken Age is not a love story.

2. Operation Dandelion refers to colony ships being spread throughout the universe like seeds on the wind.

3. The town councils are using the Mogs (colony ships) to secretly repress the townspeople.

4. Shay will chose to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

5. In the end the people from the colony ships will join the towns.

6. Maggie Simpson shot Mr. Burns

Some of the other stuff in the package:

A janky custom Rubik's Cube: http://imgur.com/9r1HTSK

Broken Age paper masks: http://imgur.com/RYmUd26

*That's what my Mom says anyway. Weirdly though not everyone seems to have been informed of this fact.

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Seriously teared up during these. Very emotional couple of videos. Justin seems like a really melancholy guy (don't mean this in a bad way), but seems to be an unsung hero of Doublefine.

Ahhh! So emotional! I'm getting all da feels up in mah chesty area!

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..the thing about difficult puzzles going on. I don't know.. this annoys me a bit. I understand that it's possible to get a huge amount of people together in a room, and have all of them throw the controller at the screen after failing to figure out the railroad puzzle.

But that's the only one in the entire game. And because it's so early, and it's the first time you figure out that breaking the rules in the game probably leads to the solution. The crocheting, the teleporter - both of those puzzles are very good puzzles, and probably more difficult than the railroad as well. But since people are prepped, that's not a problem now.

So it's a real mistake to be afraid of putting in more complex puzzles, with the idea that each individual puzzle should be possible to solve instantly for any random person who has never seen the game before, etc. That's not how this works. If you guys have played Primordia, for example, there's a good example of laughably complex puzzles - that are presented in such a way that they make narrative sense, and therefore become possible and fairly easy to solve. As long as you immerse yourself in the game world, etc.

That's something Broken Age mildly fails at. Having those internal rules that make narrative sense imposed on the player, forcing them to try to think in the way the game works, and then letting that lead to a solution.

Because please do admit that 99% of the puzzles in Broken Age aren't even puzzles. You go up to a person, exhaust all the dialogue options, and you get something that will .. lead to another set of dialogue. When you complete that, you get a new object that's critical to the next dialogue. So the complexity in the entire game is finding which of the four nodes you're supposed to visit next, with your new object in hand.

Same with the solution to the puzzles as well very often. Shay's puzzles are not as bad. But Vella has things such as the crystal -- you're not even given a clue as to why the stained glass piece actually will work (other than the shape, and the fact that there's nowhere else to put it). Did the lumberjack's girlfriend bring it there from the Dead Eye God's lair? No, the real crystal was there from the beginning until it randomly breaks. So why does stained glass work in the machine? Makes no sense to mix internal narrative reality and game-world rules like that, without adding that clue to why something crazy like that actually would work. Did his girlfriend dabble in chemistry, hyper-coolants and laser cutting?

Stuff like that is important. The crazy narrative rules oozing off of every puzzle is what made Day of The Tentacle work, Grim as well. And leaving those things out actually makes solving the puzzles more difficult, even when they're not actually difficult, or even puzzles at all. Because you're really just randomly clicking until you get to the solution.

It's the reverse of pixel-hunting. Before, you had to survey every screen for where the next object that might be possible to use somewhere. Now, you have to hunt for where the next random piece of dialogue comes in. But neither of those are very good solutions. Also, not why I like adventure games, or why I choose Schafer-made.

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Because please do admit that 99% of the puzzles in Broken Age aren't even puzzles. You go up to a person, exhaust all the dialogue options, and you get something that will .. lead to another set of dialogue. When you complete that, you get a new object that's critical to the next dialogue. So the complexity in the entire game is finding which of the four nodes you're supposed to visit next, with your new object in hand..

No, that's simply not true. The vast, VAST majority of puzzles in Broken Age involve using an object with another object, or a person, or scenery, or something. Then in a few cases there are some puzzles about talking to people, and one or two where you have to be in the right place or it's about timing or something.

Even if the solution was, in act 1, usually fairly clear, this isn't a game you can get through mostly by talking to everyone and clicking on everything. You do have to use specific items in specific ways, and occasionally had to use a combination of items in specific ways to progress (like for example the puzzle to get out into space).

Yes, there are characters that would just give you stuff, but that's been true in adventure games since forever.

(just so's we're absolutely clear, like I always say, and talk about a little bit above, I think the puzzles in act 1 were probably too easy, I just find a lot of people's opinions about how or why they were too easy kinda weird. Also I think the crystal puzzle is a pretty badly designed one, and talk about that a bit in another thread so won't go over it again here.)

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Stuff like that is important. The crazy narrative rules oozing off of every puzzle is what made Day of The Tentacle work, Grim as well. And leaving those things out actually makes solving the puzzles more difficult, even when they're not actually difficult, or even puzzles at all. Because you're really just randomly clicking until you get to the solution.

That's along the lines that I've been thinking, but I and a lot of people have a hard time articulating exactly what the problem is. A "puzzle" should be more than "guess which thing to click on" or "guess which thing to use with another thing", it should be something more like "how should the story move forwards"...

In the older games it felt more like you were constructing a story than moving through rooms figuring out how to get to the next one. This is related to another thought I had earlier, that each room in Broken Age seems so barren, there's barely anything to do, and so the feeling of telling a story and living in the world is somewhat weaker. Also related to the simplified UI - there's less narrative and more "I used the thing on the thing and used it to thing the thing, by tapping on the screen a few times".

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@pi: ..ok, fine. Here's Vella in Cloud City:

1. Talk to doofuses.

2. Talk to Wife about doofuses.

3. Wife loses knife. (This knife is never seen again).

4. Walk down and talk to pageant. Exhaust all dialogue options to get shoes.

5. Talk to shrimp and ask to get ladder.

6. Fetch /your own/ knife that mysteriously dropped into a nest right next to the shrimp with the ladder.

7. Give Wife your ceremonial knife that you have no attachment to, and get a pair of unusable shoes.

8. Wear smaller shoes by dragging shoes on top of Vella.

9. Put larger shoes on ladder.

10. Use the ladder with cloud shoes once.

11. Use ladder to get to off-screen area.

12. Drop down right hole to knock fatso off branch.

13. Get egg. Switch with golden egg.

14. Optional at this point, get fruit. You get fruit by clicking on the branch, and Vella says, quote: "Give me some fruit!!!". That actually works.

15. Talk to guard. Exhaust options and he'll let you pass.

16. Talk to lazybeard. Exhaust options and a golden egg drops down. Note that you can't choose to confront him and put him on the spot, which then upsets him and he lays a golden egg. No, you just choose options that have randomly been unlocked from exhausting your dialogue options with the other characters in the location.

17. The second puzzle in the segment: place golden eggs in nest to increase pressure per area and drop the ladder.

So by all means - explain to me how these are "puzzles that work within the game-world's context". Rather than a string of events connected together with the barest minimum of narrative?

I mean, I'm sorry to be this terse, I really am. But when you for example chase demonic fire-badgers off a bridge of bones with a fire-extinguisher in Grim Fandango -- there's not much /puzzle/ to that either. But there is a thread here that explains the weird-ass physics and rules that make the world in that game work.

So please understand that I'm not really asking for "difficult puzzles". I'm asking for any puzzle, because those puzzles typically are very good ways to explain how the game-world works. The puzzles don't have to be difficult. It could just be about asking at the right moment, like in Grim Fandango. But it has to be something that works within the rules that world has established, and it has to be something that puts context on the narrative.

Shay's segment does that. Very carefully. It's not incredibly difficult. But the head-shrink puzzle, the crochet puzzle and the "break out of the cycle" puzzle is a very good way to present the game. Because all the puzzles describe the world and the rules it operates under.

But remove that, and you could just as well be watching a cutscene. Or play Under a Killing Moon, or whatever.

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Mainly your complaint seems to be that you talk to a bunch of people in the cloud colony that advance the plot without puzzles. I'm not saying the cloud colony is stuffed full of puzzles, but there are specific things that you have to do in specific orders to proceed, and when you're not talking to people (and Cloud colony is the area with most people to talk to) most of what you are doing is using objects with things.

Take the immediately following segment of the game. From memory:

1. Speak to Curtis.

2. Take Axe from wall.

3. Look at art.

4. Talk to Curtis about the art until he gives it to you.

5. Use axe with tree, can't do anything else with that yet, so proceed right.

6. Talk to Mayor, tell him his bucket hat looks classy to get it

7. Get Driftwood

8. Go to pyramid, talk to guards until they give you the squirt gun thing and the riddle

9. Give them the peach if you have it, go back and get it from Meriloft otherwise

10. Use gun thing on gross chum stuff

11. Use gun thing on girls

12. Take perfume from girls

13. Spray perfume on self.

14. Back to curtis, give him driftwood

15. Back at tree, use bucket on nose

16. Use stool on tree, get bucket

And so forth. most of these puzzles are using things with things. I agree - and have talked elsewhere about the fact that they're not particularly DEEP puzzles, but the idea that can get you get by most of the game just by clicking around places is just ludicrous.

The reason I think the distinction is worth making is that there's useful criticism and then there's stuff that just looks spiteful. And claiming that the game lacks actual puzzles looks spiteful to me. Talking about areas where puzzles could be more meaningful or deeper or perhaps harder seems like more of a useful thing to talk about than claiming the puzzles don't really exist.

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My feeling about the train crash puzzle is that it isn't too hard, it's that it is too easy. And I'm saying that despite having been stuck in the loop for god how knows long. I may have done the scene twenty times. When I finally managed to break the routine, and I achieved it on my own, I couldn't believe that what I had to do was all it took. Somehow I expected something much more elaborate. I think my brain couldn't handle the possibility that all it took was another click on the same spot in short succession. I expected items to be involved, somehow. Maybe it's because I drew a parallel to The Feeble Files' elaborate prison break sequence, in which the player has to perform many actions at certain points in the otherwise unending routine. It's also interesting to note that my mind somehow ignored at least one in hindsight obvious hint to the solution, the one that occurs when you try to use the spoon with the bridgeman. The solution is also maybe not entirely logical. It makes sense to yell at somebody to wake them up, but to make them go to sleep? How does that make sense? Well, the bridgeman isn't really a person, so I guess insofar it could make sense.

I think we should consider the possibility that the train crash puzzle wasn't too much to handle for people, but too little. After I solved the puzzle I didn't feel the warm feeling of finally having cracked a tough nut, but instead the cold disappointment of having been stumped eternally on something trivial. Not a good feeling, and I hope it won't recur in Act 2. Doesn't change the fact that I still love Broken Age very much, though.

I'm sure I didn't articulate my point very well, but it has been on my mind for a long while now, and I had to get it out because no one else seemed to consider it.

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There's a funny double edged sword that occurred to me with the play testing thing. I remember when I used to play adventure games a large part of it was playing through a puzzle over and over and over and over and getting incredibly frustrated and walking away from the game for a while. I'd keep thinking about the puzzle in the shower or while I was doing other things. I'd come up with other things to try and when I came back and solved the puzzle it was incredibly satisfying. I still to this day remember some of the puzzles I solved and how long it took to solve them*. The fact that play testing happens within this proscribed window of time and you don't really let the testers just gnaw on the game for weeks at a time means that you only get to see the first part (the frustration and walking away part). I'd argue that that part is sort of necessary to get the full satisfaction from the game, though.

* Coincidentally I played a hell of a lot more Sierra games than Lucasarts. Some of the puzzles were straight up abuse.

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This is undoubtedly true, but I don't like the need to distance myself from a game for awhile to let the subconscious do the work in such a story-focused affair. I played Gray Matter with a walkthrough because I wanted to experience the story, like, NOW. It's okay if I'm stuck for awhile, especially as long as I can explore the world in that time and discover new things. But if I don't feel like I make any headway anymore, if there are no new interactions to discover and the game starts to grow stale, then I might take a peek instead of a break.

Hm. I wonder if that's true. Maybe I need to think about this more.

Deponia I played mostly for the puzzles and without a walkthrough. It has a story, yes, and I liked it, but somehow it wasn't too important. I didn't feel the need to see it continue, I didn't wonder so how much how it would play out.

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I think we should consider the possibility that the train crash puzzle wasn't too much to handle for people, but too little. After I solved the puzzle I didn't feel the warm feeling of finally having cracked a tough nut, but instead the cold disappointment of having been stumped eternally on something trivial. Not a good feeling, and I hope it won't recur in Act 2. Doesn't change the fact that I still love Broken Age very much, though.

I'm sure I didn't articulate my point very well, but it has been on my mind for a long while now, and I had to get it out because no one else seemed to consider it.

That was excatly my feeling when I finished that puzzle. I felt really disappointed that the solution wasn't more involved. It took me probably about 15 minutes to get the solution, but I found it almost by a misclicking accident.

There was so much cool stuff going on in those scenes, that limiting the possible missions and the very simple and weird solution, felt like a huge let down.

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Aw man more bummers :(

I really wanted to see a success party like when the Kickstarter ended, not a bunch of somber faces in the all-hands meetings. It made me feel good to see everyone so happy and it hurts when they're not.

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Same with the solution to the puzzles as well very often. Shay's puzzles are not as bad. But Vella has things such as the crystal -- you're not even given a clue as to why the stained glass piece actually will work (other than the shape, and the fact that there's nowhere else to put it). Did the lumberjack's girlfriend bring it there from the Dead Eye God's lair? No, the real crystal was there from the beginning until it randomly breaks. So why does stained glass work in the machine? Makes no sense to mix internal narrative reality and game-world rules like that, without adding that clue to why something crazy like that actually would work. Did his girlfriend dabble in chemistry, hyper-coolants and laser cutting?

Stuff like that is important. The crazy narrative rules oozing off of every puzzle is what made Day of The Tentacle work, Grim as well. And leaving those things out actually makes solving the puzzles more difficult, even when they're not actually difficult, or even puzzles at all. Because you're really just randomly clicking until you get to the solution.

It's the reverse of pixel-hunting. Before, you had to survey every screen for where the next object that might be possible to use somewhere. Now, you have to hunt for where the next random piece of dialogue comes in. But neither of those are very good solutions. Also, not why I like adventure games, or why I choose Schafer-made.

I think you have great and very constructivre point there.

I guess one of the reasons adventure games can tell so memorable stories, is because the gameplay itself can be part of the exposition. The best puzzles tells you some extra details about the way the fictional world works.

A lot of the Vella puzzles doesn't really do that.

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3. Wife loses knife. (This knife is never seen again).

This bugged me a lot, now that you mention it. My classic adventure game sense made me keep thinking the lost knife would later become important. It didn't.

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3. Wife loses knife. (This knife is never seen again).

This bugged me a lot, now that you mention it. My classic adventure game sense made me keep thinking the lost knife would later become important. It didn't.

It will now appear in some weird random location somewhere in Act 2.

"How did mom lose her knife.... ON EUROPA?!?!"

(For astute readers: yes, I totally did that on purpose to annoy Info Cow.)

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While discussing difficulty, Tim mentioned that people were frustrated during playtesting when they couldn't get out of the train. I understand why playtesting is immensely helpful when designing games, but I think it's important to consider the possibility that adventure games might be a bit of a special case, where you don't want to remove all of the frustrating aspects. When I think back to the adventure games I've played, the best memories involve puzzles that:

- Seemed incredibly frustrating and confusing at first

- But eventually had a solution that seemed logical in hindsight

Those were the ones that made me feel super smart and good about myself. The fact that the puzzles seemed frustrating and confusing communicated to me that I was working on a difficult puzzle. The fact that they had a logical solution that I could eventually figure out communicated to me that I was smart, because I had been able to solve a difficult puzzle by applying logical thinking.

In other words, the best moments I've had playing adventure games involved being frustrated at first. Playtesting the games and removing all of these frustrating moments deprives the gamer of this experience.

I think the issue is more that it's just really difficult to balance for difficulty in adventure games. I think there was another episode earlier on where Tim was talking about that exact part, and he says something like that he didn't want to remove frustration from that section because that was sort of the point, but he also didn't want it to become a bad sort of frustration.

And that is a problem with all adventure game puzzles. They're not difficult in the same way as, say a platform game, where you're trying to complete a tricky sequence of jumps and you're failing but each time you're getting a little better at the controls until finally you overcome the challenge. The difficulty curve of a puzzle isn't really a curve, but more of an intuitive leap 'Ah! I see what I have to do.'

The problem with intuitive leaps is that they're notoriously hard to predict when they will happen from one person to the next. So while sometimes there are those notorious puzzles that EVERYone seems to get stuck on, but largely speaking everyone gets stuck in different places. A puzzle that takes me 30 minutes to work out, the next person might see the solution for instantly. So that makes it really difficult to figure out whether puzzles are too easy, too hard or what.

So the approach in Broken Age was to do quite a lot of testing because they wanted to remove the MOST frustrating layer of puzzles from this game, the one that nobody gets because it's just a plain poorly-thought-out puzzle. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying for that, but I think what happened as a result is that they overcompensated a bit - you can tell they overcompensated because, for example, there are a lot of dialogue hints in the game, for example, that often gave a puzzle away before we even knew it was a puzzle.

It's understandable that they overcompensated because usually the thing with making games is that you completely underestimate the difficulty. Beccause you're an expert in your own game, what seems like a simple thing to you could feel really crushingly hard to someone that didn't make it, so that's another way that it's hard to get right. So the tendency is to be a bit cautious with difficulty.

The important thing is that they seem to realise that they overcompensated and seem to be taking seriously their options to improve this. The tricky part will be to improve the difficulty in the next part without it just being a really jarring upswing. I'd like the first puzzle to be more difficult than anything in Act 1, but just a little and then the next one to be a bit trickier than that, and so on. Otherwise I don't think the game will flow well for a newcomer, from start to finish.

Some of what you're saying makes me wonder about the efficacy of play-testing, in general, past a certain point. I've wondered about this for a while now - as games gain more acceptance as an expressive art form, does the practice of play-testing with a random sampling of strangers need to be diminished? I'm a visual artist, and one thing I know for sure is that it's super difficult to paint a successful painting when you are self consciously making it for a specific audience. And the broader and more vague that audience is, the more difficult it becomes. If the audience is "fans of adventure games" that's bad enough. If the audience is "everyone, hopefully" then it's impossible. As a creator you can't think that way (or I certainly can't, anyway). It might be better, then, to playtest less, but choose very specific playtesters. A carefully chosen group of representative playtesters, or else friends and colleagues that you know are reliable judges (and I know they did a bit of that with Broken Age) might yield much better results than a wider, more general sample. I know some really small indies do exactly that but would that make sense for larger "mid-tier" studios like Double Fine? It seems to me like it would; at any rate it would be more analogous to how other creative mediums work.

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Well DF I liked part 1 even if it was easy. I don't know how fresh the story will be in one year though.

If I was super rich I'd totally fund you based solely on this Sarah McLachlan video about not making enough. :-\ Your documentary has also helped me realize that devs actually take comments to heart, and if I'm going to criticize someone online I should try not to make it personal. So there's that.

Maybe you can keep using the resources you've developed for this game to make KS-funded games until an adventure game really hits one day if KS funding doesn't cause ulcer-inducing levels of stress. There is clearly a talented group at DF, and any individual that can create a game with the pure CHARM of Grim Fandango clearly has some sort of genius/is an idiot savant. ;)

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Aren't all puzzles "difficulty-by-obfuscation"?

The difference is that earlier games gave you more AGENCY through more verbs and a bigger inventory. That means you were more likely to hit the right answer by specifically doing what was required to solve the puzzle -- and your agentic action solves the puzzle.

In Broken Age, so much of the game is on auto-pilot. "Your actions" are expressed through a generic interaction mechanic in which the game decides for the player what he will do. Combine this with a tiny inventory and you have a game that plays itself.

The lack of agency is why Broken Age is a bad game. It's an ok cartoon, though.

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