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Zen and the art of Adventure Games (Feedback for Tim) [SPOILERS]

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Just beat Act 2 - I liked it!

Puzzles & Reviewers

I was one of the people that complained about Act I being too easy, and was happy to see how things shaped up puzzle wise for Act 2. I did not get "stuck" once (in the negative sense), but I was certainly slowed (in a good way). Never used a hint, and I didn't think the game was either too hard or too easy - just right.

To the reviewers who complain (was surprised to see the mixed reviews and even some negative reviews), I think that says way more about them than the game. I mean, I'm sorry, are people that dense these days? The game was challenging in a good way, the way a puzzle game should be, but perhaps people are just way too used to being spoon-fed, are hyper impatient, or just don't understand what legacy/classic adventure games are all about.

So I just want to encourage Tim: As someone who "gets it" don't worry about the nay-sayers. You took a risk and delivered what was promised in the Kickstarter - a "classic" point'n'click adventure game. The VERY REASON something like this has to be Kickstarted is because games like these are a niche market to a certain extent. Games like these can be polarizing. And that's a GOOD thing. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see a 50/50 positive & mixed review on Metacritic. If it was all positive, you probably wouldn't be making anything too risky or too polarizing or thus too niche. Don't take the mixed or negative reviews as a sign of doing something wrong, take it as evidence that you did something right and make a product that big publishers are wary to publish because some people just don't "get it" (though I think if more games like this existed today, more people would understand the genre - and I don't mean in the interactive Telltale movie way). I also wonder if there were a number of people who just want to hate, as little sense as it makes to me, it seems certain sites were just hell bent on attacking Tim / double fine all along the way.

I enjoy Telltale games for what they are - but the choice is largely an illusion with only minor gameplay impacts (I played Wolf Among Us and couldn't help but notice how much quasi choice there was). And there was no puzzling to be found. It was fun for like, an interactive TV Show, but it was NOT a brain teaser.

My Critiques

I feel the only things in the game I can critique were likely budget related.

More art screens and new characters would have been great. It felt a bit stale in Act 2 (the puzzles made up for it!!) but some of my most engaged moments were the new art screens on the Alex's ship in the lower levels. There is something SO refreshing about seeing new art, locations, characters (like the native hexipals - that was awesome!!), etc. It would have been so great to see more new locations, characters, and environments but I know the cost that goes into that.

Also, taken as a whole, it felt like some of the weight in Act 2 could have been shifted into Act I. In an ideal world, exploring Sugar Bunting would have been great, as well as exploring the fake world's on Shay's ships as multi screened worlds with puzzles to solve, only later learning they were simulation chambers. I would almost GUESS this was the original intention but scaled back in scope. As a result, the game as a whole felt a tad linear and fetch-quest-ish in a confined playground VS more open/expansive.

Also, I still think the ultimate solution in the future would simply be too include a two difficulty mode (ala Monkey Island 2) at the start to cater to lazy reviewers or the puzzle impaired. Where the whole game could be Act I easy, or Act II challenging.

Zen and the art of Adventure Games

What I love about a true adventure game like Broken Age or the many classics is they invoke a sort of Zen like nature. The puzzles often serve as a sort of "Koan" as they call it in zen, a mystery or riddle to ponder on. I love that. I love when I walk around a game world, get "stuck" (I like to called it "slowed") and have to leave and come back the next day. I'll be at work and sort of drift off thinking about the game, and have an "aha!" moment. Or wake up and eat my cereal and them "wham!" A light bulb comes on, you run back to the game and try it. *THAT* is the intended experience.

I never ONCE had a moment where I said "Really? THAT was the solution?" or was frustrated at the game, but I find myself frustrated with the intellectual capacity of a reviewer who would (and did) write that, or complain about getting stuck. I found everything, and I do mean everything, to make perfect sense in the game world and be well hinted at while not giving it away (if anything, some spots were too strongly hinted at).

I also did NOT find there to be any real plot holes or story problems. People who wrote crap like "why BA's story is a broken mess" or complained about things not resolving... again... I feel like they just don't get it, and perhaps they should spend time reviewing their own lack of understanding instead of a game that was pretty smart, clever, and thoughtful. But then again, that's the great thing about INDIE GAMES AND THE INDIE MARKET in general - so don't discourage, Tim. I can't even count how many brilliant Indie films have been described as "boring" or "weird" but friends and everyday suburban types who love movies like Transformers and can't be bothered to sit through some spectacular pieces of brilliant filmmaking because it doesn't have a traditional plot structure, or spell everything out, etc. But that is the BEAUTY of Kickstarter and Indie projects - to hit a market like this - so please don't let it bother you. I 100% agree with what I read in a recent Polygon interivew, Tim, where you mentioned that you couldn't help but feel like people who reviewed it negatively were playing it wrong. I agree - if someone approaches it like an FPS, or a Telltale game, or is in a hurry to play it, or doesn't WANT to get stumped and have to take a zen like/koan approach to things they will just be frustrated.

On the other hand, I appreciate SO much the mental leaps and creative jumps required to navigate the game. Loved the joke building puzzles and the knot untying - not HARD, but enjoyable, and reminded me of old Monkey Island puzzles. Just clever and funny. The wiring puzzles and the variety and progression were very Myst like, that was great fun. As were the outside the box thinking and multi-stepped logic to get to certain solutions. Personally I always liked the "monkey wrench" puzzle in Monkey Island 2 even though it got me super stuck and almost pissed me off when I figured it, because when I figured it out, it literally felt like your brain was expanding. SO simple, it just required a way of thinking that you usually do not think in. Honestly, I feel like it formed my brain patterns in some ways growing up with those - people always say I am super creative and think outside the box, and I'm not sure which came first... but I cannot help but feel like growing up on these old adventure classics helped me see the world outside the lines and come up with novel ideas. (Though I also think the monkey wrench puzzle could have used a few more well placed hints, which I thought Broken Age did a great job of in leaking out hints and setting things up).

As for the story, it all made sense to me - the combined intuition as a puzzle device didn't feel contrived, because to me the whole game seemed to center around some sort of mysterious connection between two people and building a bridge. Right from the start - this idea of parallel worlds, parallel stories. Almost a sort of Carl Jung like idea of a collective unconscious, or a Paulo Coelho sort of "soul of the world" idea. It really fit in with that and so the intuitive connection between the 2 characters made perfect sense in a philophical sort of way.

I also was surprised by all the confused questions over the ending as it seemed to make sense to me even before the very ending - this idea of how we actually are dependent on eachother, imperfections and impurities and all. This idea of how shielding ourselves from danger actually makes us weaker - it's sort of what the Thrush attemtped to do and became fragile, and look at Shay how they tried to trap him in this fake play world to keep him "safe" (sort of like how American society does to our kids now, playgrounds with no danger and risk are attributed to psychological problems, etc. - there was a NY times article on this, I believe, a few years back).

Anyway, to me it seemed like a great fantasy take on both culture, religion, traditional, philosophy, etc.

I don't think the grass is always greener with these big hits and mainstream successes. I mean, really. The most important thing is being true to you. Personally I would rather spend my life making "love it or hate it" art rather than "universally liked" art, if only because I feel I am saying something more personal and more unique and more honest and more risky when you alienate certain people. I've always felt when I make very smooth statements of opinion that I am being well spoken, but perhaps not entirely honest. When I please everyone, perhaps I am either saying something really safe, or not really saying something that I feel NEEDS to be said. I mean, big hits like Witcher 3 that please everyone are cool, but I don't know if it would genuinely make someone like you happier? Though I sure do wish you guys could get to the point where you just didn't have to worry about money.

So, let the haters hate - in my opinion, Tim, they just don't get it. That always sounds weird to say, as if ignoring other people's critiques is a sort of defense mechanism, but really, in this case, I think it's true and shouldn't even be surprising given the nature and niche of the game. Keep making great stuff.. or as your article said.. "be the Ramones."

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