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Finished Broken Age? Discuss here! (Including Spoilers)

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I thought the gameplay in KR0 was nice. The balance of multiple choice text, stylised driving and point and click movement feels like it's functional and in some places specifically enjoyable, but complimenting/enhancing rather than distracting from the presentation of the story (which is what adventure games are meant to be about, right? Gameplay that supports/progresses the story).

The gameplay should support the story, but it has to meaningful gameplay that doesn't compromise player agency.

I never felt that the walking, the interactions and the driving in Kentucky actually added anything useful in the game. For me, that gameplay felt like a compromise, that it was there not because that it was meaningful interactions, but because games need interactions in some form. It was like in Swords&Sorcery; - click here to proceed. And when a game gives me that feeling, then I start to question why it can't just play that part itself.? It there is only one thing available to do, why do I have to do it?

Yes, this. It's like, even if you come up with a really cool and stylish way for me to turn the page.... you're still merely asking me to turn the page.

Turning the page--even if it is the most stylish and interesting page turn ever--is not the most engaging interaction.

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OANST, share your notes over in this thread if you want :D

I thought the gameplay in KR0 was nice. The balance of multiple choice text, stylised driving and point and click movement feels like it's functional and in some places specifically enjoyable, but complimenting/enhancing rather than distracting from the presentation of the story (which is what adventure games are meant to be about, right? Gameplay that supports/progresses the story).

The gameplay should support the story, but it has to meaningful gameplay that doesn't compromise player agency.

I never felt that the walking, the interactions and the driving in Kentucky actually added anything useful in the game. For me, that gameplay felt like a compromise, that it was there not because that it was meaningful interactions, but because games need interactions in some form. It was like in Swords&Sorcery; - click here to proceed. And when a game gives me that feeling, then I start to question why it can't just play that part itself.? It there is only one thing available to do, why do I have to do it?

Yes, this. It's like, even if you come up with a really cool and stylish way for me to turn the page.... you're still merely asking me to turn the page.

Turning the page--even if it is the most stylish and interesting page turn ever--is not the most engaging interaction.

And yet, Sword & Sworcery had rhythm/timing based combat mechanics, and some fun find-the-thing stuff. With both S&S as well as KR0, I found the use of use the point and click style for movement helped give a sense of control over the exploration that the characters have. KR0's overhead map driving feels like it resonates well with the story, and the ritualistic traversal mechanics for navigating the Zero bring something compelling and surreal to the mix.

Beyond having the actions you take having an impact on the framing of the core narrative (in KR0, player choices/actions tend to impact on the things that lead up to the event, not the event's outcome - it's unusual, but a long way from meaningless), KR0 is full of all sorts of unmarked surprises. There are lots of neat things to discover and rewards for exploring (in the driving parts, most of the the point and click aspects and in the text adventure parts). You have to enjoy the game's content to find that stuff worthwhle though.

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Okay I finished this a couple of days ago.

I guess I see DFA as a whole as a bittersweet, flawed success. It already has a place in gaming history for almost single handedly launching the idea of crowd funded games, which has already proven to be a great gift to fans of niche game genres. But like a lot of pioneering ventures there's a cautionary tale in there as well. I don't think the protracted split release has been good for the reception of the game, the perception of Double Fine, or ultimately for the game itself. I think it's a bit of a sad thing that the door may be closed on DF for future crowd funded ventures due to the PR fallout, though of course I hope that isn't the case.

As for the game itself, I think it has a number of flaws but overall I enjoyed it a lot. Tim's imagination and dialogue are as sharp as ever. He really has a gift for having humour just fall naturally out of conversations and situations rather than the forced gags and punchlines you often get in self-consciously 'funny' games.

Though the overall story is a bit... all over the place, I liked that there's a consistent thematic throughline to most of the sub-plots (i.e. the need to think for yourself and see past the world that has been created for you by others). Though part 1 went way overboard in aiming for 'accessible' puzzles, I thought part 2 mostly got the balance right, with some solid, creative puzzles in there.

I do have to echo some of the criticisms I've seen, though. It falls into a trap a lot of mystery tv shows fall into where it coaxes you along with twists and intrigue, but when the time comes to actually explain everything there's a feeling of scrambling to come up with something to connect the dots, and not entirely elegantly.

Act 2 lifts the veil early on, and while I don't think the story decisions were *wrong*, necessarily, I feel like the versions of these characters hinted at in part 1 - the parents as actual AIs, Marek as a more ambiguous figure than the straightforward villain he ended up being - had more potential than what we actually ended up with. I'd be interested to know how the writing of the game evolved, and exactly how far in advance things were planned. There is a bit of a 'first draft' feeling at times.

For the talk of it being a modern, updated adventure game, I have to say this feels more traditional than a lot of its contemporaries, and not necessarily in a positive way. Being mostly restricted to two main locations makes it feel like quite a static game, and doesn't have the cinematic sweep of the best adventures.

There were also a few writing issues in terms of characters appearing to know things they shouldn't really know, which was of course later was somewhat mystifyingly turned into a gameplay mechanic. Some direct communication between the two might have helped with believability there, or at least some elaboration on the implied 'connection'.

I also felt the world building was a little inconsistent. In almost every respect Vella's part of the world seems like a preindustrial society, and yet she knows what b&w photography is, is fine with most aspects of the spaceship, and other characters randomly mention the existence of tv and videogames. Again, that added to the feel of things being made up as they went.

That sounds like an awful lot of complaints for a game I enjoyed a lot and consider to be good overall. I'm glad it got made and finished, I don't regret backing it at all and would most likely back again. But to me it feels more like a pleasant detour into the past than the future of the genre.

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I'm aware that I might not fully have understood Kentucky Route Zero, that I missed vital aspects of it, but the feeling I have now, is that if Kentucky Route Zero and Swords&Sorcery; are the way forward for adventure games, then I'm not really that interested anymore. They're not the kind of games that got me hooked on the genre. It has to be more then that.

Fair enough - but I have to wonder, why are we talking about 'the way forward' for adventure games, as if there's only room for one way forward? The wonderful thing about where we are right now is that there's so much room :)

And yes, I do find the 'turning the page' analogy sooo reductive.

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Fair enough - but I have to wonder, why are we talking about 'the way forward' for adventure games, as if there's only room for one way forward? The wonderful thing about where we are right now is that there's so much room :)

Of course there's room, but I'm not so confident that I want in these kind of games are what the developers want to do. I just hope that I kind more games of this kind, where the part of actually playing the games isn't such a compromise.

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Well, by room I also mean that there are more people making games, funding them in different ways than ever. If YOU want this kind of game, you can bet that somewhere some developer wants it too.

(Also I take issue with the description of these other styles of games 'compromising' on 'the part of actually playing' because that presumes that there's one correct intepretation of what proper play is, which is coincidentally the one you like ;) )

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And yes, I do find the 'turning the page' analogy sooo reductive.

Well, that makes sense, because I was looking for an analogy to describe a thing that *I* think is reductive. =D

I like KR0 for every reason except for the gameplay. The gameplay is okay, but it doesn't set my heart on fire. I have my beefs with certain conventions in adventure games, as we all probably do or have done, but I'm not calling for anyone's demise.

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Well, by room I also mean that there are more people making games, funding them in different ways than ever. If YOU want this kind of game, you can bet that somewhere some developer wants it too.

Yep. Like in this case :). That's why I'm in these forums is very local about the aspects that I thought Broken Age did very well.

(Also I take issue with the description of these other styles of games 'compromising' on 'the part of actually playing' because that presumes that there's one correct intepretation of what proper play is, which is coincidentally the one you like ;) )

Well, it's of course just from my point of view, but I do feel that the less player agency there is, and the less meaning there is to the interactivity, the more compromised a game is for me. But just to be safe, I do want to point out that I don't think that any of Kentucky Route Zero, Gemini Rue or Valiant Hearts are bad games. Far from.

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Alright. :)

I guess personally I'm less and less impressed by the idea of player agency as an ideal. I think there are games that it works really well for - clearly any game describing itself as having an open world is going to be one where agency is very important indeed.

But that said, it's a very power-fantasy oriented idea of how interaction can be meaningful in a game. That's why I think something like The Walking Dead often isn't acknowledged for how clever it is in many ways. Because you're not really much of an agent in that story. The whole thing is that stuff is pretty terrible and you can, maybe, make tiny bits of difference here and there but ultimately you're getting swept along by events. And I think that's conveyed very meaningfully by the modes of interaction in that game.

And I think a similar thing works well for different reasons in KRZ, for example. To me that game has to work in that way to convey the mood it conveys. I relate to it a lot because it really reminds me of... well, not a recurring dream but a recurring GENRE of dream that I have where I'm trying to get somewhere by some mode of transport and it gets increasingly difficult and strange and off track. And the way that I interact with that game, the strange dream logic where a poem grants me access to a console or the next time I pass a location the people are gone, and things never quite respond in the way I expect or even necessarily want, I find it very fascinating.

To rephrase what I said earlier, it's not that I find games with great agency unimpressive - I just thing 'give the player as much agency as possible' is quite a well explored challenge, while we're still very much exploring what effects can be achieved when we take agency away or restrict it to something rather more limited than is traditional, and I think that's certainly interesting, and meaningful.

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But that said, it's a very power-fantasy oriented idea of how interaction can be meaningful in a game. That's why I think something like The Walking Dead often isn't acknowledged for how clever it is in many ways. Because you're not really much of an agent in that story. The whole thing is that stuff is pretty terrible and you can, maybe, make tiny bits of difference here and there but ultimately you're getting swept along by events. And I think that's conveyed very meaningfully by the modes of interaction in that game.

I haven't played that, but I did enjoy The Wolf Among Us. That game worked for me, because even if I had limited control, everything I did felt like it had a purpose. Time dialogue choices effected the scene and the story, and QTE's determined the outcome of several situations, where failure meant that something else would happen, instead of game over.

To rephrase what I said earlier, it's not that I find games with great agency unimpressive - I just thing 'give the player as much agency as possible' is quite a well explored challenge, while we're still very much exploring what effects can be achieved when we take agency away or restrict it to something rather more limited than is traditional, and I think that's certainly interesting, and meaningful.

Trying to experiment and evolve the genre is very much meaningful. The risk is however that you when doing that you make the interactions in the game meaningless, when you remove all challenge and choice in the scenes. My hangup in recent adventure games are the scenes where you can only do one thing, with no chance of failure, and yet you have to do that thing to make the game proceed. That's when the interactions are meaningless. To not bore me in those sequences, you have to make that scene really f*cking special. Journey is the one game that I think really nails this.

Dreamfall: Chapters is a recent culprit of that does this wrong, where they had scenes that were painted as dramatic ones, but where nothing happened until you stepped on that spot, or clicked on that item. People were after you, but it was clear that that they never ever going to catch you, and the game just sat there waiting for you to find that one thing that triggered the next sequence. No options, no choices, no challenge, obvious solution. I many ways similiar to Shay's situation when he is tasked to save the runaway train. :)

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Dreamfall: Chapters is a recent culprit of that does this wrong, where they had scenes that were painted as dramatic ones, but where nothing happened until you stepped on that spot, or clicked on that item. People were after you, but it was clear that that they never ever going to catch you, and the game just sat there waiting for you to find that one thing that triggered the next sequence. No options, no choices, no challenge, obvious solution. I many ways similiar to Shay's situation when he is tasked to save the runaway train. :)

An excellent point - lack of agency isn't always the right candidate most meaningful choice but agency isn't either. Indeed that opening with Shay wouldn't have even worked conceptually if we as players were given a lot of agency: the whole point of it was to convey the frustration of a routine and what better for that than making the player feel like they don't have any agency over events, until they figure out the loophole.

Bioshock, the original played with this nicely too (spoilers I guess) but the big revelations in that game coincide with one of very few moments in that game where your agency is explicitly taken away, while at the same time making you reflect back on the game so far, moments where it felt you had agency but actually really didn't.

I think The Stanley Parable is also basically an exploration of player agency, and often a very clever one, exploring what happens when you give it, when you take it away and finding meaning in all those scenarios

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An excellent point - lack of agency isn't always the right candidate most meaningful choice but agency isn't either. Indeed that opening with Shay wouldn't have even worked conceptually if we as players were given a lot of agency: the whole point of it was to convey the frustration of a routine and what better for that than making the player feel like they don't have any agency over events, until they figure out the loophole.

Bioshock, the original played with this nicely too (spoilers I guess) but the big revelations in that game coincide with one of very few moments in that game where your agency is explicitly taken away, while at the same time making you reflect back on the game so far, moments where it felt you had agency but actually really didn't.

I think The Stanley Parable is also basically an exploration of player agency, and often a very clever one, exploring what happens when you give it, when you take it away and finding meaning in all those scenarios

I think you've given really good examples of situations where revoking player agency is really meaningful, but I'd argue that these are only meaningful because a certain degree of agency (range/quality of choice) is expected/assumed and then revoked. The scene with Shay and the train only works because the rest of the game is not like that. But the more frequently your game proceeds in that click-through manner, then it's no longer a rhetorical device. Now it's just the way your game is.

I'd compare it to the run-on sentence. You should not write an entire book of nothing but run-on sentences (unless you're doing it as an intentional joke, which is what The Stanley Parable did with agency). But you CAN write a run-on sentence sometimes for rhetorical effect (e.g. to give the sense that a character is rambling nervously, etc), just as you CAN sometimes revoke player agency for rhetorical effect. But an entire game of limited agency...? To that I furrow my brow and say hmmm.

I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am apparently the only player on earth who did not find the Andrew Ryan scene clever. I found it kinda hammy honestly. But I begrudgingly accept that I'm the minority opinion there.

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It wasn't so much the Andrew Ryan scene itself that I thought was interesting so much as the context surrounding it.

Anyway, it's true that those examples I gave are lower agency in the context of greater agency elsewhere, but I also stand firmly by the idea that a game where your agency is consistently low or weird or compromised in some way can produce interesting effects, and I think KR0 is an example of that. It simply wouldn't work, tonally if the player felt like they had full control over events or how things beyond basic movement (and even that is toyed with) would be interpreted by the game. Like I said, I think it's the closest thing to playing a dream that I've experienced. The interaction is necessary, but non treated in a standard way.

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It wasn't so much the Andrew Ryan scene itself that I thought was interesting so much as the context surrounding it.

Well, the thing everyone always seems to find clever is the whole "a man chooses; a slave obeys" thing. And then they stand back and think, "Wow, in a video game you are usually presented with a NARRATIVE of choice, but your actions are typically just following orders all the time". And then the game throws in the whole "would you kindly" twist. I'm not sure if this is what you're referring to, but I didn't find that whole idea particularly mind blowing.

It would be like if I were watching a sci-fi movie, and in the sci-fi movie, one character said to another character something along the lines of, "You know, when you watch sci-fi movies, none of the things in that sci-fi movie are actually real or even possible. It's all just make-believe. But when you watch a sci-fi movie you still sort of BELIEVE that it's real while you're watching it and don't question it at all... isn't that weird?"

I just didn't think it was that astute or interesting to point out that video game audiences, like audiences of other works, also suspend their judgment of certain things in order to enjoy themselves.

Anyway, it's true that those examples I gave are lower agency in the context of greater agency elsewhere, but I also stand firmly by the idea that a game where your agency is consistently low or weird or compromised in some way can produce interesting effects, and I think KR0 is an example of that. It simply wouldn't work, tonally if the player felt like they had full control over events or how things beyond basic movement (and even that is toyed with) would be interpreted by the game. Like I said, I think it's the closest thing to playing a dream that I've experienced. The interaction is necessary, but non treated in a standard way.

I just don't find that engaging, though. Playing a game where you are basically just proceeding forward while the game limits or distorts or toys around with your basic movements basically just sounds like beer-goggling the player. The result of beer goggles IS interesting in its own way, but where I am concerned, it stops being interesting very quickly unless there is also something that I can do.

To meet you somewhere in the middle, I did recently play Ephemerid, which is a kinda-sorta point and click game where you have absolutely ZERO control over the story or any of the characters. The story pretty much just plays out all on its own, and the only thing you can really do is sort of play with the environment AROUND the story while the story follows its rails. But the game has such an incredible soundtrack, and the things you do with the environment are so flashy/dreamy that it's kind of entrancing in a way. I thought it was okay. The musical interaction element helped it A LOT, and also the fact that it was quite short (about a half hour). If it didn't have the musical aspect and went on for multiple hour/episodes, then I absolutely would not like it. But it knew when to stop, and I appreciated that.

As for KR0, though, I still like it for a lot of reasons (the dream-like feeling of it being one of them), but am still sticking to my position that I would like it more if the gameplay aspects were more engaging (i.e. better range/quality of choices). =)

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It wasn't so much the Andrew Ryan scene itself that I thought was interesting so much as the context surrounding it.

Well, the thing everyone always seems to find clever is the whole "a man chooses; a slave obeys" thing. And then they stand back and think, "Wow, in a video game you are usually presented with a NARRATIVE of choice, but your actions are typically just following orders all the time". And then the game throws in the whole "would you kindly" twist. I'm not sure if this is what you're referring to, but I didn't find that whole idea particularly mind blowing.

Firstly, "mind blowing" is a term I have not used. ;)

Secondly, I DO think that it's an interesting comment on player agency. At the very least, it's a meaningful way to convey a point about that, by way of removing agency, and I think that it's an effect that could only be achieved in an interactive narrative.

The player understands the "would you kindly" twist on the intellectual level, but also on a personal level because they will then think back to all of the times that they just followed the instructions without giving it a second thought because that's just what you do in games, and I think that's at least mildly thought provoking, thinking about situations where you might be being controlled without realising it. I think thematically it all ties together very nicely - and I don't think it's nearly as hamfisted as the film example you give. Especially at the time it came out, when I think questioning player agency was much rarer.

Then later, if you replay, fully in the knowledge of that twist, you are frustrated by the knowledge that although technically you could not follow the instructions, you will not progress anywhere until you do, and so the experience of carrying out those actions has quite a different quality second time around (though like with everything, the twist only works once).

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Firstly, "mind blowing" is a term I have not used. ;)

Secondly, I DO think that it's an interesting comment on player agency. At the very least, it's a meaningful way to convey a point about that, by way of removing agency, and I think that it's an effect that could only be achieved in an interactive narrative.

I would agree that what it does is a thing that can only be done or would only work in an interactive narrative. So maybe in that way it's interesting in a cerebral sort of way, but it didn't really affect me. People seemed to find it emotionally or experientially interesting or moving, and I did not feel those things.

The player understands the "would you kindly" twist on the intellectual level, but also on a personal level because they will then think back to all of the times that they just followed the instructions without giving it a second thought because that's just what you do in games,

Yeah, that's the thing that has me baffled. Have a lot of people just never realized before that that's what you do in games? Of course that's what I was doing, because I'm playing a game. And of course I wasn't thinking about it, because suspension of disbelieve/judgment. Having that pointed out to me felt like something between stating the obvious and insulting my intelligence. Again, to me it would be like Darth Vader pointing out to me that I've been believing him this whole time that the force is a real thing, but he's been lying to me. It's not real at all. But to keep enjoying this movie, I'll have to keep pretending like it's real, even though he just told me it's a lie. I dunno, I just find that kind of hammy and dull.

It's further complicated by the fact that revealing that to you doesn't really mean anything. Once you realize you're "just following orders", what then? Presumably this would be a revelation, and you'd want to rebel, and NOT follow orders anymore. But you just keep following orders, like you've always done, AND OF COURSE that's what you do, because you're playing a game. Probably after the Andrew Ryan scene, when you got back into the gaming zone, you stopped thinking about that and just enjoyed yourself, and of course you did, because video games.

If video games are like magic tricks, all this did was explain to you how one of the magic trick works and that it's all just sleight of hand. That's interesting and all, but I'm AWARE it's all just sleight of hand and that you are actively tricking me with illusions and deceit. I came here specifically and deliberately to be fooled in such ways! Please fool me more! No need to point out that's what you're doing. I understand fully well the concept of magic shows.

The fact that video games can point that out in a way that no other art form really can is an interesting observation, but that just comes back to video games being different from other narrative forms for all kinds of reasons. The specific agency thing it points out was just not a very interesting observation to me.

This does sort of get back to my beef with games that have no real agency, though. Yeah, agency is usually a sort of illusion even in games that have more of it, but that's what I want. I want to be tricked into thinking that what I do matters. I don't care if it's a lie. I want that magic trick. When I don't feel like what I do matters, when I have no agency or an insufficient illusion of agency, I kinda lose interest.

and I think that's at least mildly thought provoking, thinking about situations where you might be being controlled without realising it. I think thematically it all ties together very nicely - and I don't think it's nearly as hamfisted as the film example you give. Especially at the time it came out, when I think questioning player agency was much rarer.

Maybe a better fiction example then would be something like the unreliable narrator. It plays with your expectations, because why do you always believe everything the narrator tells you! He could be lying!

So yeah, unreliable narrator stories can be interesting, but I don't think the observation that readers generally trust their narrators is that interesting, because of course they do.

But in an unreliable narrator story, once you realize the narrator is unreliable, you can stop believing them or start questioning them, which is fun. But with the agency thing in Bioshock, now that you realize you have none, you can't then try to HAVE some. It's just the same as before.

Then later, if you replay, fully in the knowledge of that twist, you are frustrated by the knowledge that although technically you could not follow the instructions, you will not progress anywhere until you do, and so the experience of carrying out those actions has quite a different quality second time around (though like with everything, the twist only works once).

I dunno, it pretty much seemed the same to me each time. The game obviously wants me to do X to keep going. So I'm gonna do X and then keep going.

I know that's sort of what its "point" was---i.e. that I would do that---but that's why I come to the magic show. I'm aware that video games don't have "real" agency, but I purposefully subject myself to a well-crafted illusion of agency. Having it pointed out to me that my agency is an illusion just makes me feel like, "No duh. Be quiet. You're ruining the magic show."

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Shay isn't opposed to him because he needs him, but I'm not sure how they could made it more obvious that's something up with Marek, other then by hanging a "Something's up with this guy!" sign around his neck. Which they kinda did by dressing him up as a wolf.

He talks Shay into the opportunity to help, but is obviously just using him to reach his own goal, where he either can't use both of the ships controls himself, or just isn't comfortable doing it since he want's to get out of each location as soon as possible.

//

Confusing? No one's actually liking it, it's just that they have been thought that it's the way things are. Already in Vella's first scene, you have both clear objections and doubt/hesitation from her family. Those who give the impression to like it are the maidens, who obviously have been taught from birth that it's an honour and learnt to question it, and Marshal Dune and Levina, who seemingly put the interest of the towns above all else.

I think that the details you're asking for are there in the game.

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:

Celia Pearce: How do you see the relationship and the role of story in games?

Tim Schafer: Games have always stressed story a lot. Besides being the part that interests me most creatively, stories are also really motivational for the player, to pull you through the experience. Puzzles can be challenging, but I know I go through games a lot of times because I want to see the characters through, to solve their problems, find that character who was kidnapped and see them through to the end. So, it's about motivation.

CP: In many of your games, there is some sort of dilemma that the main character is presented with at the onset of the game that propels the story forward. Often, the dilemma is very "gamey" if you will. How do you establish a dilemma that will motivate the characters through the game?

TS: I think you have to do two things at once. You have to provide the character with motivation and you have to provide the player with motivation. Because the character will care about things that the player will not necessarily care about.

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.

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It was brought up in the most recent DF Game Club, but I don't think anyone had an answer - why does the volcano look familiar to Shay?

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Possibly because of the volcano in the train ride on his ship? That's my best guess.

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It was brought up in the most recent DF Game Club, but I don't think anyone had an answer - why does the volcano look familiar to Shay?

He feels deja vu not because he's been there before, but because his kinda sorta witch mountain twin person (Vella) has been there before.

Or something.

*totally makes something up*

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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?

They're laughing at her because she's young, and she's not thinking about consequences. She's thinking of that action that will stop that event from happening, but not longer. And I thought that I definitely noticed that was if not hesitation, then at least an them being unwilling to take the subject further. Which extends to the knife being in focus there, her mother focusing on what's required from her to get the day over with.

There's absolutely not an uncomprised joy in that scene.

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.

Being vague is what you need to be to be able to leave things open to interpretation and discussion, especially when it's fantasy/tale like this. Otherwise, midichlorians might happen.

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.

What we definitely see of him in act 1 is someone hiding something, and in act 2 we're shown what he's hiding, and that what he's hiding and his motives stand against what Shay want, what her parents believe and want, and want Vella want. And that it will hurt them all. If that's not a bad guy in the story if we accept Shay and Vella as the "heroes", then I'm not sure what would be a bad guy here really.

I'm not actually sure that i's meaningful for us to continue the discussion since we're so far away from each other in it. I'm quite baffled that you got so little out of the story, but since it isn't my game or my story, then I think we should just agree to disagree.

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Being vague is what you need to be to be able to leave things open to interpretation and discussion, especially when it's fantasy/tale like this. Otherwise, midichlorians mighthappen.

That got a chuckle out of me. Good god. Midichlorians.

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Being vague is what you need to be to be able to leave things open to interpretation and discussion, especially when it's fantasy/tale like this. Otherwise, midichlorians mighthappen.

That got a chuckle out of me. Good god. Midichlorians.

Whenever I hear the word "midichlorians", the image that always springs to mind is chlorine tablets. Like for swimming pools.

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What we definitely see of him in act 1 is someone hiding something, and in act 2 we're shown what he's hiding, and that what he's hiding and his motives stand against what Shay want, what her parents believe and want, and want Vella want. And that it will hurt them all. If that's not a bad guy in the story if we accept Shay and Vella as the "heroes", then I'm not sure what would be a bad guy here really.

The point is we're not actually 'shown' that, we're told it through a load of expository dialogue. Considering one of the main themes of the game is in not just taking everything at face value and doing what you're told, it's a bit ironic that the story ends with you doing exactly that.

Re: 'agency' (a classic 2015-era buzzword if ever there was one), the problem in regards to story/character driven games is that player control has to be restricted in order to preserve some kind of narrative consistency. A story that ends with a character going on an unprompted murder spree because the player felt like it is a meaningless story. It is possible to incorporate player influence on a story in meaningful ways, but it's always going to be a balancing act.

My concern with Broken Age is less about control and more that a lot of the players actions (in the non-ship sections especially), don't really the advance story or character in a meaningful way. Much of that half of the game is taken up with entertaining, but mostly superfluous vignettes.

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I don't think Vella should fill the chart out herself automatically, but I tried for way too long to put checkboxes on the chart with my mouse and became frustrated that it wasn't working. If they wanted me to make a chart outside the game they should have used dialog to hint at maybe needing to chart out what information I know and not given me a chart in-game. Once the chart is in the game, I want to use the in-game chart. Copying it into meatspace isn't intuitive at all. I thought it was broken.

Another thing that was highly unintuitive was the fact that the cutscene that plays when Vella decides to make the boot chart forces Vella to go through the portal again and shrinks her head one size outside the players control. I was worried the game had bugged out when I couldn't talk to mom anymore as Shay because it didn't occur to me for a while that a cutscene would alter my gameplay state like that.

The labels for the wire terminals only being discoverable by just deciding to randomly stick wires in the hexapal and then charge it up without actually having a solution or a plan also was super unintuitive. I'm not one to just start brute forcing a puzzle. I'm going to wait until I find all the pieces before even trying, and that's the only puzzle that requires you to just say, "screw it, let's see what this pattern does."

Those were really my only problems with the game. Didn't bother me at all that Vella and Shay were seeming to pass information between each other unknowingly, the whole premise of Project Dandelion was that Shay had an unquantifiable connection with the maidens. Even though his only interaction with Vella was that she tried to knock his block off, he still trusted her for some reason. they weren't unrelated individuals, they were intertwined in some metaphysical way.

It also didn't bother me that Shay had forgotten that his parents were real people and not computers. It was an able metaphor for the kind of relationship that often forms between parents and a child, particularly a teenager. Recognizing them as real people and not just automatons that should just do what he wants and get out of the way is Shay growing up.

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Just finished Broken Age. Both acts. Right from the start. I purposely started over to experience the entire game in one sitting (well, not one sitting, but one playthrough with both acts in context). That's more like it, Tim. I wouldn't say quite up to Day of the Tentacle or other Golden Era game standards, but much much closer this time. I was scratching my head on a few occasions and when I was worried the game was over it carried on for even a little while longer than I expected it to. MORE of that, please! I was hoping for more locations than what we'd seen in Act 1, but judging by the content of the documentary, it's just great to see the thing finished at all. Not only that it feels done and polished too, not unfinished. I would have said backing the game was worth it anyway even if I didn't enjoy the final product, but I'm even happy with the content this time around (Act 2).

It's obvious what he considers "harder" puzzles are just logic puzzles, but it did stretch it out and not in an un-entertaining way. I was DOING stuff and I had to do MORE stuff just to GET other stuff. I was busy and I wasn't bored once. This satiated my process-of-elimination mind well. It was great. I liked the pacing as well. When I got stuck for more than a while I switched characters and started again where I had left off stuck before and I made progress. It really does work to break up the game, loosen your mind and freshen things up again. A lot of characters and places unfortunately only had one function, but a few of them had more than one and that was very welcome. I didn't feel like I was done with one area as soon as I got there.

I just wish there was a little more to the ending. More of an epilogue. It really felt like it needed one after all the work I'd felt like I put in...which is a very good sign. On the one hand, underwhelming endings aren't very satisfying, but again considering that I felt like I put in a lot of work for a bit of a lackluster reward, that shows that I was enjoying myself and wanted a great payoff. Ultimately, the short ending isn't really THAT bad and it just shows that I cared about the experience. It's certainly no Curse of Monkey Island or KQ7 ending at least.

I wish I could get stuck for weeks again like the old days, but there's no sense in waiting for those days to return. It's a new age and games like that aren't successful anymore so I can't expect it. But this is the closest I've seen Tim come. Just wish the whole game was more like that. Good job. *clap*

Note: This is all a gameplay review. I won't comment on the storytelling as much. It was enjoyable and I didn't think anything was "too stupid" or "on the nose" or "overdone" or "not explained or delivered well enough". Mostly because I don't care as much as others do. I was looking to have a good time playing the game and that's what I had. The story didn't do anything to detract that from me and wasn't too absent either. Good stuff. This proves to me that Tim is still capable of making a good GAME, not just a good STORY, even if it still could have been a bit better in my eyes. That's what I was most interested in with this project and was very pleased to actually find more than a simple shred or trace of it.

EDIT: I also need to of course add my congratulations to the whole team and everyone involved, not just Tim, as there were way more hands involved in this than just Tim and his ideas. Great job ALL OF YOU! *applause* 3 years well-spent. I hope you believe it was worth it because I sure think it was. Fantastic job.

Also, I think it's kind of funny and ironic this time around that I thought something was just fine and didn't bother me while KestrelPi (as well as many others) felt that that certain aspect was a little lacking. Just goes to show our priorities. Mine is more favoured to gameplay, yours seems to be story. :)

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Why did everything go wrong with trying to get to Prima Doom? Vella didn't actually do anything to damage the ship when she escaped with Jessie, did she?

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I finally finished it and Act 2 was definitely an improvement on Act 1.

The story, the art, the sound, the music, the voice work... all sensational.

For the most part, the puzzles were better.

But as someone mentioned earlier, there's a difference between a hard puzzle and an annoying puzzle. If you don't feel smarter after solving a puzzle you've been stuck on for ages, instead feeling angry with it, it's not a good puzzle. That didn't happen to me until basically the very final puzzles of the game.

The musical note being the pattern to scratch into the star thing, with the musical star chart red herring? I didn't feel smart when I figured it out, I felt "what if someone was tone deaf and didn't understand the notes going up and down?". It didn't feel like a puzzle. Especially when somehow Vella is meant to know what Shay is hearing (which I'm sure has been covered in this thread a bit - makes no sense to me, even though I'd figured it had something to do with that when Shay solved a puzzle using Vella earlier).

And the wiring. Oh my lord. The fact is - I understood the puzzle, I got it straight away. But the idea of having to backtrack so much (and pressing the spacebar so often to skip the same cut scenes over and over again)... I just sat there shaking my head. I put the game away for a week because I couldn't deal with the chore of solving the puzzle I'd already solved.

Then when I'd already given old mate his hammer to bang the drum with, but I needed to turn the power back on? I set him up on the drums so his mates would hang out with him, go to turn the power on, go upstairs and use Gary only to realise that wait - Alex had already come back up and I'd set off Gary and... OH NO I HAVE TO START AGAIN OH NO. That feeling of dread. That's how I ended the game. Not feeling smart, not feeling happy, feeling dread. I couldn't even enjoy the ending with that as the final puzzle.

But overall, if you take those puzzles out (does anyone actually want those annoying fiddly puzzles? I'm sure Broken Age has more of those puzzles than any of the classic Lucasarts games...), stellar gaming experience. I'm gonna have to give it a B when combined with Broken Age Part 1.

It'll likely be a long time before I play through it again.

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does anyone actually want those annoying fiddly puzzles?
I don't care what anybody says, I loved wiring

:D

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does anyone actually want those annoying fiddly puzzles?
I don't care what anybody says, I loved wiring

:D

Haha fair enough.

It's just that there was a reason I steered clear of Myst and Riven and the like - I didn't want to just solve those sorta puzzles to get through a game. Would have done my head in.

Then a lot of them sprung up in Broken Age and I was like egads. No thanks.

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