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darkwolf

Catching the scent

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I have two questions about the game play for Black Lake

1. In the game (or maybe just the tutorial), is the main objective simply to follow the line from one Clue to the other; using either sight, sound or smell? What is the challenge to this portion of the game play, and will these paths always be so direct (i.e. follow the yellow brick road to next objective)? And what is to stop the player from tunnel visioning on the path (focusing on the paw prints, or smell particle trail) and actual be encouraged to explore the surrounding area as part of the game play? [wait... that's more then two questions...]

2. Somewhat related to the first point; when showing off the smell particle path, where are all the other smells in the forest? A forest would be full of smells from the plants, trees, other animal paths. A skunk or particularly pungent flower could overpower the smell of others in an area; and that's the type of thing that could make it a challenge to pick your path out of a more busy network of smells in a very much alive and organic forest.

The idea of putting a smell search mechanic into a game in the first place is a really cool idea. I'm just curious how it would differentiate from normal sight mechanics for the player or the character. Whether it would rely on something more abstract then a direct line of depth and positioning.

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I have two questions about the game play for Black Lake

1. In the game (or maybe just the tutorial), is the main objective simply to follow the line from one Clue to the other; using either sight, sound or smell? What is the challenge to this portion of the game play, and will these paths always be so direct (i.e. follow the yellow brick road to next objective)? And what is to stop the player from tunnel visioning on the path (focusing on the paw prints, or smell particle trail) and actual be encouraged to explore the surrounding area as part of the game play? [wait... that's more then two questions...]

2. Somewhat related to the first point; when showing off the smell particle path, where are all the other smells in the forest? A forest would be full of smells from the plants, trees, other animal paths. A skunk or particularly pungent flower could overpower the smell of others in an area; and that's the type of thing that could make it a challenge to pick your path out of a more busy network of smells in a very much alive and organic forest.

The idea of putting a smell search mechanic into a game in the first place is a really cool idea. I'm just curious how it would differentiate from normal sight mechanics for the player or the character. Whether it would rely on something more abstract then a direct line of depth and positioning.

Good Questions DarkWolf!

As a prototype there isn't going to be much challenge. It's a single animals trail in the Proto, pretty much because games take lots of time. We have awesome ideas for more dynamic systems that would bring a whole layer of tracking skills into the game, but those we would slowly ramp in to the final game anyhoo and not have at the start. Moving through the forest is cool enough for the demo, you'll want to walk off of the animals path just to look at the place. And yeah I want the final game to have a spectrum of smells, Plants and Animals (I wanted a skunk too but there was enough to be done without that.). I'd like smells to be modified dynamically by Wind and Rain. Right now two weeks is only time to scratch the surface of a living breathing forest. :)

Any ideas for the expanded full game are super appreciated.

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I don't completely understand everything you have planned for the game(I haven't followed to closely, to keep a few surprises for the game), however were it to become a full game, what would you do, to keep the game interesting? Will the clues be dynamically changing as to continue interest after multiple playthroughs? Would you make it so that a second or third clue doesn't automatically shortcut you to the end, or will you have to find three or four clues out of eight or nine keep players from getting stuck?

Or are you more focusing on the complexity coming from some sort of battle/puzzles to free the animals of nightmares?

Other things that might be fun to see in a full game:

--Pets! Especially if they give you minor benefits in the game.

--Feathers and/or scarves! Nice slight benefits if pets are too complex, or to vary the abilities of the pets.

--Costumes! With third person games, I love to be able to change how my character dresses; Benefits, again, are welcome.

--Hats! Someone on the live feed seemed obsessed, and it worked for Team Fortress 2, so it's gotta be good right?

--Secrets animals/bosses! It gives the game an air of mystery wondering if there's more out there, and reward them for complex puzzles to get there, especially if it adds more story.

--An updating title screen! Seeing 'the story so far' at the open title screen would be a charming departure from the norm, and helpful if you took a break from the game for a while.

Too much?

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I like the idea of just figuring out how to find the animals you're tracking. Having to hunt down a colossus before you could fight it was one of the more interesting ideas of Shadow of the Colossus, although that game was obviously more focused on the fight than the hunt. Pretty much in that game it mostly boiled down to following where the compass needle was pointing.

However! It did sometimes get interesting! Because the compass needle (i.e. sword) always pointed in the EXACT direction of the target, showing you the way to get there in terms of the shortest straight line, but there were sometimes huge ravines or even mountains in the way, and you couldn't just hop over the ravine or ghost walk through the mountain. You had to figure out how to get around that problem and then pick the trail back up on the other side.

So essentially, in Shadow of the Colossus, there was always an "ideal path" that you could---in theory---follow straight to the colossus, if you happened to make all the right path-finding choices on your first attempt and there was nothing blocking the way. But the trail you were following would sometimes lead you to a forked path or to an obstacle that would force you to abandon the straight-line path for a while.

With BL, it seems like there would be something similar. You would IDEALLY be on a straight-line path toward the little critter you're tracking, but you will probably come to areas where the "clues" suggest multiple paths, such as footprints going one way but scent in another. (It's pretty common practice for mystery stories to arrange evidence in a way that makes several leads seem plausible at a time, and as the story goes along, the range of answers that seem plausible constantly evolves. Audiences want to decide what the answer to the mystery is as soon as possible, so purposely feeding the audience false leads and conflicting evidence is a good way to stay one step ahead of them and keep the mystery away from them until you want them to have it.)

There could also be the possibility of trails getting completely broken. Just as SotC would sometimes throw a huge ravine or a mountain in your way, BL can do the same thing. I think the team already mentioned a point where you're following a fox's footprints and then they go into a river, so you can't trail the fox that way anymore. In this case you might be able to switch to tracking by scent. However, imagine if you were trailing some kind of monkey or squirrel, and the trail suddenly went up a steep rock face or into a tiny crack between two huge rocks. In that case, you don't really lose the trail, but you're physically incapable of following it. So you actually have to give up ALL means of tracking the animal and just do some path finding for a while until you can pick up the trail again at another location. Or maybe if the animal retreated into a cave with a huge bear or a huge monster in it, you might have to do some other kind of problem solving to get in there.

I think trail-following and path-finding could easily enough lead to adequate problem solving scenarios.

What I'm curious about, though, is how monster avoidance will work. I've seen a monster pop out from behind a tree at the player in one of the 2PP episodes, but it wasn't clear what the player is able to do about it. Does the player take damage? Does the player have to run away? Is there some way to trick the monsters by hiding, etc? Some way of warding them off? Will there be different monsters with different ways of "harming" the player, or will the player have different ways of avoiding each monster type? I think Levi said there would be no combat, so I'm curious how that's being handled.

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Well, I presume the tedium of 'merely exploring' and following scents would be broken up by the variety of gameplay in the various 'dream sequences'. Having a varied and diverse settings as far as gameplay in each of the sequences would definetly make exploring the world, admiring it's beauty, and then finding new 'mini games' to accomplish a joy, I think.

I really, really like the idea of a visually appealing play just to experience, like Journey, for the overhead world, with those vastly different dream sequences to break things up.

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What I'm curious about, though, is how monster avoidance will work. I've seen a monster pop out from behind a tree at the player in one of the 2PP episodes, but it wasn't clear what the player is able to do about it. Does the player take damage? Does the player have to run away? Is there some way to trick the monsters by hiding, etc? Some way of warding them off? Will there be different monsters with different ways of "harming" the player, or will the player have different ways of avoiding each monster type? I think Levi said there would be no combat, so I'm curious how that's being handled.

Yeah that is something that hasn't really been brought up much either. The way it sounds right now sounds more like an annoyance rather than something that feels like a part of the game. It would be interesting if it brings up a nightmare mini game of sorts, to ease the monsters out of attacking or something.

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What I'm curious about, though, is how monster avoidance will work. I've seen a monster pop out from behind a tree at the player in one of the 2PP episodes, but it wasn't clear what the player is able to do about it. Does the player take damage? Does the player have to run away? Is there some way to trick the monsters by hiding, etc? Some way of warding them off? Will there be different monsters with different ways of "harming" the player, or will the player have different ways of avoiding each monster type? I think Levi said there would be no combat, so I'm curious how that's being handled.

Yeah that is something that hasn't really been brought up much either. The way it sounds right now sounds more like an annoyance rather than something that feels like a part of the game. It would be interesting if it brings up a nightmare mini game of sorts, to ease the monsters out of attacking or something.

The way it works in the prototype is that there are monsters that can see well and monsters that can hear really well - there are ways of sneaking by both of them if you're patient. You can also lull them to sleep by playing the accordion, but this gives away your position, so you might get got! A sleeping monster will wake up if you get too close...

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What I'm curious about, though, is how monster avoidance will work. I've seen a monster pop out from behind a tree at the player in one of the 2PP episodes, but it wasn't clear what the player is able to do about it. Does the player take damage? Does the player have to run away? Is there some way to trick the monsters by hiding, etc? Some way of warding them off? Will there be different monsters with different ways of "harming" the player, or will the player have different ways of avoiding each monster type? I think Levi said there would be no combat, so I'm curious how that's being handled.

Yeah that is something that hasn't really been brought up much either. The way it sounds right now sounds more like an annoyance rather than something that feels like a part of the game. It would be interesting if it brings up a nightmare mini game of sorts, to ease the monsters out of attacking or something.

The way it works in the prototype is that there are monsters that can see well and monsters that can hear really well - there are ways of sneaking by both of them if you're patient. You can also lull them to sleep by playing the accordion, but this gives away your position, so you might get got! A sleeping monster will wake up if you get too close...

Oh I see, so the player would have ways of switching into some kind of mode of traversal that was, if executed well, invisible to that monster's detection method? And lulling the monster to sleep would require playing the song at a close enough hearing range, but far enough away that the monster couldn't reach you before being lulled to sleep? Something like that?

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Interesting, so it's incorporating elements of stealth into the game? What extent are these stealth-like elements planned for in the game? Like occasional(random) encounters? Or more frequent patrols to deter from entering too far into the forest(towards the lake), before the story takes you there?

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Oh I see, so the player would have ways of switching into some kind of mode of traversal that was, if executed well, invisible to that monster's detection method? And lulling the monster to sleep would require playing the song at a close enough hearing range, but far enough away that the monster couldn't reach you before being lulled to sleep? Something like that?

Bingo!

Interesting, so it’s incorporating elements of stealth into the game? What extent are these stealth-like elements planned for in the game? Like occasional(random) encounters? Or more frequent patrols to deter from entering too far into the forest(towards the lake), before the story takes you there?

There are monsters on patrol routes around the forest - they have some basic stealth game functionality like knowing your last known position and checking it out if they've lost track of you. Braving the edges of the forest will lead to some surprises though!

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I actually like the idea that you'll be able to lull the monsters to sleep. When you combine that with the theme of a forest full of dreams, it really contributes to a Slumberland (i.e. Little Nemo) sort of vibe, which is obviously only a good thing.

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Having just finished a playthrough of Black Lake. I agree with some of the people there that said having other animals or people in the forest to interact with would help if this game is picked. There seems to be lots of areas to explore already in the level as I found myself sometimes aimlessly wandering around. Also thought of a way that might help players that do get lost, instead of using the sleep return to last clue, how about using some animals to guide you back to another clue. Almost like a bread crumb trail of say crows. If you approach the crow it will fly away, but another will land further in the forest guiding you to the path. While not coming out and telling the player this.

Another idea I had after reading the post about the planned stealth parts, how about a song that can call on a group of animals like squirrels that will run past you and lure the creature that is on your trail away for a few seconds. Like a diversion tactic. Could be interesting, and to sort of tie it into the fiction you can say some of the smaller animals are looking after you, because of your father. That way you can justify the traps left by the father also in a way too.

Just some ideas I had.

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