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PostPosted: 17 Mar 2013, 14:44 
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I have a friend who is making a point-and-click text adventure video game called Junction. It's interesting in that the game is first-person visually, but you're playing as a female, which is kind of atypical, especially when you add in that the story is narrated to you (so it's told in second-person). In his own words: "Yet, you're not a classic adventure game ageless-faceless-gender-neutral-culturally-ambiguous-adventure-person. Though the story is a conspiracy-theory-inspired tale, you play as an adult woman who has a son, a husband, and a backstory. It's a bizarre perspective, but like I said, I'm weird like that and it's just how the story ended up coming together." I've played through it a few times in the past and it's pretty enjoyable.

Anyway, he's trying to do some stuff to drum up interest in the game, as he's as indie as it gets--he's doing all of this by himself. So I thought I'd call in a favor. Help him out, and I'll get us some fun stuff. (Reminder: It is a rough draft, so the graphics and text aren't polished or complete, and the music and sound haven't been added yet.)

Here are the prizes, determined by how many people help Dale out:

5 - I will amaze you with my own terrible drawing skills and draw us as a forum.
10 - I will do the above and I will personally make time to get us one of our older themes (of the forum's choosing) back. (Ethan, you're welcome to help if you'd like, as you're far more talented than I am at this.)
15 - I will do the above and Dale will draw us a banner. I will create a theme based around said banner so we can have a 100% unique skin for Mercury. (Ethan, you're welcome to help if you'd like, as you're far more talented than I am at this.)
20 - I will do the above and I will do a Let's Play of a game of the forum's choosing (any game), so long as I can obtain the game and play it on PC. You may make this as painful or fun for me as you would like.
30 - I will do the above and I will learn a song on my guitar or keyboard and play it for you guys on a Livestream. (I have stage fright, so this is kind of a big deal.) (Singing may or may not happen--I'm not a great singer, but if I can find a song I don't absolutely suck at, I might sing.)


If you play through the game to any significant degree and send Dale some kind of correspondence, post here. I will double check with Dale that it's been sent to him and you're set.

You guys have until Tax Day! (April 15) to play through the game a bit and send him feedback.





If you'd like to help out and give him feedback, here are some instructions.

Quote:
Here is the game: 38MB .ZIP FILE

Just unzip and stick it in a folder somewhere on your computer. A folder on the desktop will work just fine. You will also need the .NET framework (if you don't already have it) and the XNA 4.0 redist to already be installed for the game to run. If you are having trouble running it, let me know.

A few things to note:
- Do not worry about typos or text overrunning boxes. I do not care about them at all. None of the text is finalized and a great deal of it is going to be rewritten. I'll worry about copy editing when I get closer to completion.
- The Notebook button on the interface doesn't do anything. The feature is meant to display hints, give solutions, show a synopsis of past events, and record recent conversations in case you missed something. It will be implemented in a future version.

Please answer the following questions when you're done, along with your clear time and any other thoughts you might have (again, you do not have to play the entire game if you do not want to):

1. Do you normally play, or like to play, adventure games?
2. What is your overall assessment of the game as it stands?
3. Gameplay aside, what are your thoughts on the story as a whole?
4. Does it bother you that you're playing as a woman?
5. Does it bother you that the character you're playing as is not an AFGNCAAP but has some backstory and predefined relationships?
6. How difficult are the puzzles? How could they be improved?
7. Did you ever feel "lost" in the game and not know where to go next or what to do?
8. How are the (finished) graphics? Do they fit the gameplay and story?
9. How are the non-player characters; what are your thoughts on them?
10. How did you feel about the ending (if you reached it)?
11. What was your favorite and least favorite aspects of gameplay?
12. What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the story?
13. Do you feel this game is commercially viable?
14. How much do you think the game should sell for? How much would you be willing to pay?

If you have any other questions, or get stuck before the end, let me know.


There are a number of ways you can submit feedback, should you choose to. One is by just posting here. Another is by PMing me. A third way is to ask Dale directly via Twitter for contact information... or you can email him at dmajohnson[[at]]hotmail[[dot]]com.

Two things:
One: Be completely honest. He can't improve if you just say, "Yeah it's great!" I've actually been pretty thorough with him in the past, contacting him whenever I get stuck and what processes I go through to get to answers and what annoyed me, and I think that helped, but you don't have to be that detailed. You just need to be honest. If you don't like it, let him know and let him know why.
Two: Don't spread this link around without his permission. I don't really know why anyone would as it's not like this is Elder Scrolls VI or something, but just thought I'd mention it.
Three: You are allowed to get people to register for the site in order to help out with this contest. Encourage them to stick around, though. =)


NUMBER OF POINTS TO DATE: 11
- Mark B Writing [x1]
- The Time Being [x1]
- Albert Clare [x1]
- Dinowoman [x1]
- Zeth [x1]

- David [x1]
- Myke [x1]
- FoxStepCEO [x1]
- Crystal [x2]
- Kennori [x1] - extra entry for sharing on Reddit!
---



I thought I'd also show off some of the stuff he's done.

Here he actually does a playthrough with what he's got so far:
[youtube]bB4LhDKN4r4[/youtube]

Here he shows off some of his artistic ability while he talks a bit about how he draws (there are some references to Avatar: The Last Airbender) and what he's been working on with the game. He draws Link!
[youtube]WQWG92JJCQU[/youtube]

If you have feedback for his videos, he's been asking for some, so it'd be appreciated.

On a side note: He also does a comic that hasn't been updated in a bit, but it's fairly interesting: Swordmaster Odyssey. He also takes commissions. I plan on getting something when I have more cash, which will probably be after I move, unfortunately. He did sketch me a Stein, which I am so fond of I made it my Tumblr background: Stein (Soul Eater)



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PostPosted: 17 Mar 2013, 17:48 
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uuuuuuugh adventure games

They're not really my cup of tea so I was going to offer to plug it instead, but apparently that's not a thing that's going to happen? I'll try to find some time but my motivation isn't very high so nag me about it



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PostPosted: 17 Mar 2013, 18:54 
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I am more than happy to help out, but I gotta ask: do we even have thirty people on this forum?*

*Not counting the bots.


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PostPosted: 17 Mar 2013, 18:57 
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I've begun playing — it's quite interesting thus far.



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PostPosted: 17 Mar 2013, 19:23 
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The Time Being wrote:
I am more than happy to help out, but I gotta ask: do we even have thirty people on this forum?*

*Not counting the bots.


We do! You might have to prod a few people to come back. =)



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 06:06 
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ITT: We get enough people to make Crystal play Nethack >: )

That means I'm in, by the way.

Also: DMA is making a game? Awesome!



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 12:13 
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Belle wrote:
In his own words: "Yet, you're not a classic adventure game ageless-faceless-gender-neutral-culturally-ambiguous-adventure-person. Though the story is a conspiracy-theory-inspired tale, you play as an adult woman who has a son, a husband, and a backstory. It's a bizarre perspective, but like I said, I'm weird like that and it's just how the story ended up coming together."
Is this really what we consider bizarre or weird? My initial response was "refreshingly different." Well, no, actually it was more like "thank god, finally a character and not Anon."

Oh, and this is DMA? As if I didn't have enough motivation to do this already. I miss that guy, he was one swell guy. Or is, rather. If he's making a game he's obviously not dead or anything.



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 14:04 
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Yes, this is our good friend DMA. =)

And yes, the typical gamer would consider that weird. People with more... refined tastes... such as ourselves... would characterize it differently. =P



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 17:27 
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I never realized I had refined gaming tastes. I'm certainly familiar with the AFGNCAAP thing but I think the number of games I've played that haven't used it far outweigh the ones I've played that have. In fact, the only games I can think of that I've played with that perspective are Zelda, Portal and Pokemon...and even then the characters all have defined genders and appearances.

Well, that and maybe Dear Esther, but I think that's a special case.


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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 17:37 
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I don't think LoZ and Pokemon can really be classified in the same category as this. On the other hand, seems like Dear Esther could, yes. And so could the Ace Attorney games. And Ace Attorney definitely has chars and you definitely play them. That having been said, I'm still pretty aware of visual novels that are even MORE like this being known for anonymous protags. I think more often than not it's not a straight played anonymous. It's more just like "vagueness". We know the protagonist that we are playing is a young, male person from X faction. (No, not that X-Faction.) They probably also have a face in an official art piece. But it's mostly just "there". It doesn't reflect much about, and I think you'll find that when you get down to it, their features may be strong, but they're also generic and stereotypical of large, idealised concepts. I mean even Link started that way. The franchise just exploded and evolved to where he was more distinctive. But the core is still there. I mean how many mid-length blond haired young male protagonists can you list?

For me, looking at the preview as I've just done, I am strongly reminded of a few games.
1. Hotel Dusk (Which I got stuck on and never finished, but even what I did get done I loved; severely underrated game IMHO.)
2. Ace Attorney
3. Portal (I'm having trouble figuring out the direct connection in my head with his one, but I think it's the "strong female protagonist" who isn't cranked to eleven in terms of sex appeal, which is something I find highly appealing.)
4. Radiant Historia (Again, having trouble figuring out why my brain is drawing a strong connection here. It may have been the music he had playing in the background, combined with the tone evident in the speech I saw from the characters. Or it may have been something else entirely and I'm simply clueless.)
5. Dear Esther (Because.)



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 17:57 
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Also Dale says that if you do send him feedback, also send him a name you'd like him to credit you for. He refuses to credit "Penis" or "Damn Hot Fucker," even if you ask nicely.



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 18:56 
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Zeth wrote:
2. Ace Attorney
That was precisely what came to my mind when I watched the clip. The way the characters and the info panels address you, and even the art style reminded me strongly of Ace Attorney.

(And I know the discussion's moved on, but
Zeth wrote:
My initial response was "refreshingly different."
That was also exactly my response when I read the description, as indicated by my comment to Klarth yesterday: "it was refreshingly different from the usual sort of videogame character.")

I sincerely hope my laptop will support this. From what I've seen, I think it should, but so far I haven't succeeded in installing it. I'm clearly doing something wrong with the xnafx40 stuff. But I know Klarth's got it running and I see him regularly so I'll check with him how he has things set up. I'm looking forward to being able to try it out.



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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 19:42 
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...I have to say I really don't see how Ace Attorney fits the AFGNCAAP thing. The characters that you play as are very specifically defined in terms of age, appearance, personality, etc.


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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 21:49 
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If you can't get it to work after a while, Dino, try emailing Dale directly. He should be able to help.



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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2013, 03:46 
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Got it working finally, just before I went to bed last night. Problem seems to have been my computer (or maybe my mouse). Things that were supposed to happen when you clicked things weren't happening (basically xnafx wasn't responding when I tried to install it), but after talking to Klarth and ascertaining that he appeared to have done exactly what I had, I tried once more, despite having tried it 3 times previously, and that time it actually asked me if I wanted to run it.



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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2013, 13:18 
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The Time Being wrote:
...I have to say I really don't see how Ace Attorney fits the AFGNCAAP thing.
It doesn't at all.
Quote:
And Ace Attorney definitely has chars and you definitely play them.
Ace Attorney is so strongly evoked because of the format. Although I can't say I see any artistic stylistic resemblance like Les does.



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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2013, 14:03 
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I think I've lost track of this conversation.

Anyway, I seem to have installed the game without any fuss, so I'll get right on it.


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PostPosted: 22 Mar 2013, 13:38 
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Okay, I'm stuck.

Spoiler: show
I'm in the bunker, the sliders are outside the door, and I'm supposed to be getting Travis to the safe room, but I can't figure out where it is or how to get to it. Nothing I do seems to have any effect on the metal door, the glass cabinet, or the opening in the closet in the bathroom. I've picked up the bolt cutters and the battery pack, but have nothing to use them on. Oh, and showing things to Travis seems to make him disappear.


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PostPosted: 22 Mar 2013, 14:41 
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Spoiler: show
Once Waetcher has told you to use any means to find the safe room, you'll be able to use the bolt cutters on the glass cabinet. In there you'll find a torch, which the battery pack fits in. Go into the toilet and when you come out, Kris will rush in. (I can't remember which order I did those in, and don't know if it matters.) Visit the toilet after Kris has gone in there. You'll find a toilet roll has appeared. Go back and talk to her and she'll tell you the closet door is just stuck, not locked. When you return, you'll find you can force open the closet door. There's an opening in there which you can look down with the torch. That's as far as I've got so far, other than telling Waetcher about it.



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PostPosted: 22 Mar 2013, 14:45 
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*head+desk*

The ONE thing I didn't
Spoiler: show
try the bolt cutters on.


Much obliged.



EDIT: Okay, I finished it. A few questions/comments:

Was the game supposed to have any music or SFX? I noticed that there was some in the video up there, but the only time I heard any was in the opening screen. (And I hadn't realized before how creepy a game with no music or SFX at all can be.)

Is there a way to actually fail the game? If so I never ran into it, but I was curious.

Spoiler: show
What was the point of the wallet, the ammo and the game console? I was never able to use them for anything. The notebook in the inventory never worked on anything either but I wasn't sure if it was related to the notebook function on the action bar that's not working yet?

Was there a point to the truck? It seemed like it was set up to mean something but never did. There was also the cypher machine that never did anything. Random flavor? And for that matter, what was up with the Montauk thing? Especially given that you later find out that none of it was real...was that, like, David's inner conspiracy theorist influencing the junction or what?

When the sliders first show up they're described as wearing hoods, but later on no hood is to be seen on the one you get to actually look at. I mean, it's a bit hard to tell since the art isn't finished, but he certainly doesn't look like he's wearing anything that would have a hood on it (or anything at all). I mention this because I thought that the hooded figures and the brief glimpse you got of the slider while he was creeping around the bunker were a lot more creepy than the actual confrontation with him later, where he just kind of looks like a fairly stereotypical alien. I realize there's no way to hide the alien during the direct confrontation, but maybe you could, I don't know, obscure his face or something.

During the penultimate sequence through the dreamscape-ish area, when you enter the faux parking lot, were nearly all your inventory items supposed to get replaced by chainsaws (I mean I figured at least one chainsaw would show up, but...)? I wasn't sure if that was a bug or some weird psychological trick. CHAINSAWS EVERYWHERE.


During the
Spoiler: show
second flashback sequence
all the dialogue boxes just up and disappeared. I could select action/dialogue options but couldn't see anything. I was able to advance but it left me very confused as to what was going on. Also, at certain points showing items to people made them either disappear or mouth words but have nothing appear in their dialogue boxes.

My clear time was 3:59:57, but take that with a grain of salt 'cause I am the slowest gamer ever.

1. Do you normally play, or like to play, adventure games?

Well...that's kind of tricky. With adventure games it's all about the story. The mechanics don't interest me enough to bother if the story doesn't grab me. I think that with adventure games also, there are some large design flaws that are very easy to fall into. Definitely not saying that all adventure games have those flaws but it's sort of like Sturgeon's Law, y'know? A lot of classic adventure games have moonlogic puzzles or screw you over if you don't do everything exactly right (I'm looking at you, Sierra), and they don't seem to be made very often anymore, so it's kind of hard to find good ones. Money and chronic procrastination also frequently impede me from playing games which I might otherwise.

So, uh, what all of that adds up to is that I've only ever played one full adventure game (Secret of Monkey Island). I've played parts of several others though.

2. What is your overall assessment of the game as it stands?

I liked it. I thought the interface worked pretty well, wasn't frustrating to deal with like adventure game interfaces often are. I'd say the point at which I went from "I'm playing this so I can get Crystal to LP something" to "I'm playing this to see what happens next" was probably about the time that
Spoiler: show
the group went into the tunnels under the bunker
or maybe
Spoiler: show
when the sliders showed up outside the blast door
, it's a little hard to say.

3. Gameplay aside, what are your thoughts on the story as a whole?

I thought the story was pretty good. I especially liked the way it
Spoiler: show
lampshaded/deconstructed/justified the adventure game genre (how everything can be solved through a puzzle, etc). My main complaint would be that the story feels a bit disjointed in places. Information seems to be distributed unevenly; sometimes the game gives you exposition in big clumps and then sometimes it gives you only scattered hints that are never elaborated on. In particular, I think the opening sequence, where the game tells you what a junction is, could be removed completely. It's explained quite thoroughly in the game later, in a perfectly natural way, so having it just be told straight to the player at the beginning feels forced and unnecessary. I think taking that part out would greatly help to raise suspense during the first part of the game, since you wouldn't really know what was going on. Also, I was very confused about Adrian and his backstory, since, like I said, I couldn't read what was going on during the part that seemed most crucial to explaining it. The game very much felt like it was part of a bigger story, with strong hints towards other things going on in that world, which made me wonder if you were planning a sequel or something? If so, it makes sense, but if not, the game feels like it ends with too many threads hanging to be entirely satisfying. Finally, I know it was mentioned that the text is going to be revised, so I'm not sure if this is a valid complaint, but some of the dialogue and narration feels a bit stiff; it tells you very straight-forwardly what's happening, often in a bit more detail than is really necessary. Show, don't tell, and all that.


4. Does it bother you that you're playing as a woman?

Well, given that I play the game of life as a woman...no. Why would it?

5. Does it bother you that the character you're playing as is not an AFGNCAAP but has some backstory and predefined relationships?

Again, why would it? The vast majority of the games I've played either have a predefined protagonist with their own history and character or have customizable protagonists that let you create a history for them. The actual number of games that I've played with a protagonist that has no features or history is very small. I'm not even sure I can think of any.

And actually, Serenity really didn't have that much of a backstory anyway. We know that she
Spoiler: show
met Adrian in third grade, went through a junction with him, and then later married him and had Travis
, but that's all we're ever told about her.

6. How difficult are the puzzles? How could they be improved?

Most of the puzzles were pretty straightforward to me. Some of them were so easy I barely spent any time on them, most of them at least made me think a little. All of them made sense in hindsight, which was good. Adventure games too often have puzzles that make no sense whatsoever. A couple of them felt a little gratuitous, most notably the one in the beginning where you have to
Spoiler: show
go into the security booth, try to use your ID, find out it doesn't work, talk to Waetcher, go to the car, get his ID, and use that
; it just felt like it was there for the sake of giving you something to do. Also, having a puzzle where
Spoiler: show
you only find what you need after searching a box for a second time when there's no indication that you need to do so
was just mean.

7. Did you ever feel "lost" in the game and not know where to go next or what to do?

Only twice. One time I mentioned above but I feel like that shouldn't count since in hindsight the solution was blindingly obvious. The second time was
Spoiler: show
when you're exploring the bunker with David and he make you set a trap before using the water pump. I knew the trap had something to do with the distance meter, even before David mentioned it, but couldn't figure out what, exactly, so the segment became a game of 'pin the distance meter on random things' until I figured out what I needed to use it on. I feel like that could have been done a little better since I could arrive at the gist of the solution through deductive reasoning but could not arrive at the means to implement the solution through anything other than random guessing. But maybe that's just me. The fact that he said, "We should set a TRAP for it" also threw me off since I kept thinking I needed to combine the meter with something to make it a trap, while the final solution was not really a trap but an alarm.


8. How are the (finished) graphics? Do they fit the gameplay and story?

Sure. I liked them. Something about Travis seemed a little unfinished. It might have been his hair. I really liked David's design, though that might have been because
Spoiler: show
it was the only finished thing to look at for a relatively long stretch of the game
; regardless, it seemed quite crisp and well done.

9. How are the non-player characters; what are your thoughts on them?

I liked Waetcher's neat little bit of stereotype-breaking, being a pseudo-MIB who actually wants the public to be informed. And I liked David; his character in the latter part of the game developed well and felt natural. Kris wasn't really onscreen long enough for me to form much of an opinion of her. Travis felt perhaps slightly more chipper, responsible and easy going than I would normally expect a boy of his age to be, but, hey, it's within the realm of possibility.
Spoiler: show
Adrian
has cool sunglasses.
Spoiler: show
Pontier
came out of nowhere and confused me to no end.

10. How did you feel about the ending (if you reached it)?

Spoiler: show
It confused me a little. All the stuff about Adrian's backstory and his struggle over having a 'pretend' family seemed kind of like part of a whole other story that was just shoved in there at the end; I didn't feel like it was established well enough previously to be brought up the way it was so near the end. And, like I said, it felt like there were some threads hanging. Also, Adrian's gifts to the kids felt a bit too perfect and neat. It was almost like an episode of Oprah or something. "You get a scholarship! You get a scholarship!"


11. What was your favorite and least favorite aspects of gameplay?

Spoiler: show
Favorite: the part where you have to use one of your many chainsaws to cut down the dream-trees; it was a real HELL YEAH moment. Also, the last bit where you have to choose to 'take' Travis. I really like it when the interface is used creatively like that. Least favorite...probably having to keep switching the battery pack in and out of the flashlight.


12. What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the story?

Spoiler: show
I think I pretty much already covered all my least favorite parts of the story. As for favorite, I liked the whole sequence near the end where you have to go through the twisted reality-dreamscape thing. It was surprisingly creepy considering the graphics and a brilliant deconstruction of the puzzles in adventure games. That moment where you enter the hallway, discover the door won't open, turn around, see the mirror, turn back around, have the interface tell you that there's no one there to talk to and then slowly realize that everyone's disappeared...that had a nice chill to it. Also the bit where you briefly see the slider while you're searching the shelves; that was a nice bit of not-quite-a-jump-scare. Good stuff.


13. Do you feel this game is commercially viable?

Sure. Why not?

14. How much do you think the game should sell for? How much would you be willing to pay?

Hmmm. I'm not really sure I'm qualified to say, given my highly skewed financial priorities (skewed towards not having any money, that is). $5-10?


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2013, 19:39 
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I've finished; I didn't love it, but it wasn't painful.

----------------------------------

Play Time: 2:39

1. I do not normally play Games of this Kind, but it was not unenjoyable.

2. As it stands, the Game is visibly incomplete, but was rather interesting.

3. The Story was interesting overall, but got a little hurried towards the End, and some Characters, like Kris, might have done well with more Development.

4. No.

5. No; I play mostly eastern RPGs, with pre-defined Characters.

6. I got stuck a few Times, but the Game was not, overall, terribly difficult.

7. The Fuse Collecting and Generator Running did not seem to have much of a Purpose when first encountered.

8. The finished Graphics have a clear, consistent Aesthetic and have no major Problems.

9. On the Non-Player Characters:
Travis: He plays the Role of a frightened Child fairly well, though his simply banishing all the Sliders with no prior Experience does have Shades of a Mary-Sue.
Waetcher: His Name is the Thing that sticks out most to me; I consistently want to read it as "Wachter" or "Wechter"; he isn't unlikable, but I never felt a strong attachment to him.
David: Probably my favourite of the non-player Characters, and probably also the most well-defined.
Kris: A little underdeveloped, and that she had some Interest in Law Enforcement was not very clear from the Story.
Overall: It might have been better to have Sections in which each of the non-player Characters accompanied Serenity, though I hesitate to really recommend this, as it may make the Game much longer, or far more work, than you mean it to be.

10. It was all right, but not unpredictable; Pontier was the most interesting Part of it, in that he implies something sinister may be at Work in our own World.

11-12: I don't have particularly strong Feelings about Gameplay, but the End of the Story did feel a little rushed.

13. It is difficult to say whether or not a finished Product would be; as it is (that is, in its incomplete State and with the numerous Errors in the Text and placeholder Graphics), certainly not.

14. I do not believe myself qualified to answer this Question as I do not normally buy Games of this Kind.



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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2013, 20:49 
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Rachel may consider herself slow, but my game-playing speed is measured in geological time. :P (And I was in convos on the messengers all the way through, so I was stopping and starting all the time. I didn't noticed whether the clock carried on running while the game window wasn't on top.)

Big spoilers in this. Don't read unless you've either finished it or really don't care.

1. Do you normally play, or like to play, adventure games?
I've played very little in the way of adventure games of this type, with the exception of some of the Ace Attorney series (not sure I'd have counted that as adventure games, but Wikipedia describes it as that, and the gaming style is very similar), which I like very much. But the amount of gaming I do overall is far lower than the average gamer anyway.

2. What is your overall assessment of the game as it stands?
Spoiler: show
Shorter than I was expecting and, were it to be released as a commercial venture it might benefit from having some of the later sections fleshed out more to give the player more to do during the surreal scenes and maybe more build-up to the final confrontation with the slider. I also felt the slider, as s/he/it currently appears in sketched form didn't look especially intimidating or original - it reminded me a bit of a cross between a skeleton and ET. The talk about them being outside the blast door and the hints that there might be one or more inside the bunker, and even the distant silhouette of it were far scarier than the creature itself was when we finally saw it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the game very much. I found the scene where there's nothing but trees and light, where going in any direction just lands you back in the same spot, quite spooky. I also liked the unexpectedness of suddenly finding yourself back in the car park, with everything as it was before you arrived, rather a nice touch - especially when I looked in my inventory and found it almost entirely full of chainsaws. That was the first time I began to realise things weren't real, as opposed to just being some kind of weird 'otherworld' inside the junction.

I presume the succession of blank screens, and screens with Adrian visible but no dialogue or narrative, during the flashback where Serenity first met him were due to them not having been completed yet, rather than a bug?


3. Gameplay aside, what are your thoughts on the story as a whole?
Spoiler: show
I liked the story very much. I tend to particularly enjoy stories that mix up reality and illusion and leave the reader or viewer doubting what's real and what isn't. It might have been nice to have made more of that aspect of the story. However, I would have liked to have the chance to follow up all the other tantalising little plot points that got mentioned but never elaborated on.


4. Does it bother you that you're playing as a woman?
Since I am a woman, then of course not. But I can't really imagine why it would bother a guy either - you play as a woman in Tomb raider, Portal and Final Fantasy XIII, and probably various other games too. The gender of a game character should fit the character, not the player.

5. Does it bother you that the character you're playing as is not an AFGNCAAP but has some backstory and predefined relationships?
Most of the characters I've played have had backstories. What is different about this one is that the character is a married woman with a living husband and a child. I think that's a big point in its favour. It's a refreshing change to have a non-stereotypical protagonist.

6. How difficult are the puzzles? How could they be improved?
There was only one puzzle that I found particularly difficult.
Spoiler: show
That was finding all the fuses. I wonder if I would ever have found the one under the water if I hadn't consulted someone else: I had no clue how to even begin to think about setting up a trap. I'd tried using the distance finder in all plausible places, but it never occurred to me to show it to David.
I have to say, though, that I'm not an experienced gamer so, if I didn't find most of the puzzles particularly challenging, some players might find them too easy.

7. Did you ever feel "lost" in the game and not know where to go next or what to do?
Spoiler: show
I felt totally lost in the forest for a little bit, when I found that I couldn't go anywhere or interact with anything, but I think that was quite good - it contributed to empathy with the sense of helplessness that Serenity must have had.


8. How are the (finished) graphics? Do they fit the gameplay and story?
I like the style of the finished graphics. Although the drawing style is different, the overall impression they make on me with the simple shading and stationary characters in front of a background scene, is very reminiscent of Ace Attorney. (The opening screen, in which the narrator tells us that our universe is like a stream, with the squiggly representation of that in the graphics behind it, reminded me strongly of the start of FFVII Advent Children, where Marlene is explaining about the Life Stream. I don't know if the similarity is coincidental or whether you were influenced by it.)

9. How are the non-player characters; what are your thoughts on them?
Spoiler: show
I found myself feeling very sympathetic towards David, even early on, when he was being morose. I guessed he was probably claustrophobic as soon as there was the delay with him entering the closet opening. It was probably good for balance that Kris was a lot more co-operative, though she was a less interesting character. I'm glad it was David we got paired up with. Waetcher was ok. I don't have any strong feelings on him. Same with Travis. I was surprised how young the sketched Adrian looked. I'd have placed him as early 20s, which is a bit too young to have a son of Travis' age. Pontier seems to be cold and obnoxious (maybe even a little sinister?). It made me want to know more about him, especially after the notes found in the bunker.


10. How did you feel about the ending (if you reached it)?
Spoiler: show
It was possibly a bit long for a closing scene with no action to speak of, when you consider it in comparison with the length of the whole game. It was nice to know everyone survived and David got his scholarship, though when Serenity got stabbed I did wonder if the game might possibly end with the world being saved but the protagonist dying. That would have been an interesting turn-up for the books!


11. What was your favorite and least favorite aspects of gameplay?
Favourite:
The fact that it was a point and click game. I'm not good at real-time reactions and co-ordination, so a game like this, where I can take my time and stop and think suits me well.
Least favourite:
There was nothing that made me think, 'I don't like this'. I don't know if it would even come under gameplay, but the only things that I felt slightly critical of were
1)The fact that when you clicked on things with Interaction selected, some of the actions shown against the items in question were not actually possible (such as 'climb' a ladder that had disintegrated), while others (such as 'ignore' against a sign) gave away what sort of interaction was involved, even before you'd clicked the item, so there was really no need to bother to read the text that it brought up. It might have been better to use 'examine' in some of these cases, and then read the text to learn about the state of the item in question and what you might want to do with it.
2)
Spoiler: show
Occasionally things were mentioned in detail, suggesting they were important, and then never mentioned again, most notably the key in the glass cabinet, which was described, and the characters discussed, but once you got the cabinet open wasn't even listed as being in there. Maybe it was deliberate so as not to give away too clearly which things were important, but they key incident in particular struck me as odd.


12. What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the story?
Spoiler: show
Favourite:
From the point where you're trying to get into the safe room and things start getting weird, through all the unreal scenes.
Least favourite:
I'm not sure I have a least favourite 'part' as such, but I found it a slightly unsatisfactory that there were so many hints about much bigger aspects of the story that were never followed up.


13. Do you feel this game is commercially viable?
As I said above, I think it would benefit from being fleshed out a bit more before going commercial. I think customers might find it rather short, and it's not lacking in things to flesh it out with, as indicated in my reply to question 12.

14. How much do you think the game should sell for? How much would you be willing to pay?
I have no idea. Sorry.



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PostPosted: 24 Mar 2013, 19:59 
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Forgive me for registering just for this, but I didn't know how else to answer anyone's questions since they were posted and not emailed. :P If anyone has questions about the game or its production, I'd be happy to answer.

In this post I'm going to address just Time Being's feedback, but I'll get to the others when I have a chance. (Not sure they'd all fit in one post anyway...)

Quote:
Was the game supposed to have any music or SFX?

The build of the game you played is from last year and the only music in that version is the title theme. I would have preferred to release the current build for people to playtest but, ironically, the audio is causing frequent crashes that I haven't gotten around to fixing yet.

Quote:
And I hadn't realized before how creepy a game with no music or SFX at all can be.

Junction isn't a horror game, but I was trying to get across a bit of suspense and unease with the atmosphere of the game. I'm glad I succeeded, if even only a little. Hopefully with the full audio that feeling is still there.

Quote:
Is there a way to actually fail the game? If so I never ran into it, but I was curious.

There is no way to get a “game over” in the current build of the game. Future versions of the game may (or may not) include possible failure, but there will be an autosave feature, and you'll always be able to go back to right before whatever choice “killed” you.

Quote:
What was the point of
Spoiler: show
the wallet, the ammo and the game console? I was never able to use them for anything
.

Some items are there because your inventory is just everything you have. Most people carry a wallet, thus you have one. Other items are purposeful red herrings, in part because I dislike the adventure game cliche of “everything you can pick up will be useful later, even if it isn't useful now and there's no logical reason to keep it” and in part to discourage rubbing items on things to make the plot move forward. Other items are leftovers from abandoned or removed puzzles (the ammo box, for example). The game console is used to unlock an optional racing mini-game that does not exist and probably never will.

Quote:
Was there a point to
Spoiler: show
the truck
?

Like items, there are lots of room features just there for atmosphere and to give the player things to explore. The
Spoiler: show
truck is there because of this, although it also functions as a landmark so that when you're in the hallway with David later you realize you're looking into an area you were previously in and couldn't previously travel between
.

Quote:
And for that matter, what was up with
Spoiler: show
the Montauk thing? Especially given that you later find out that none of it was real...was that, like, David's inner conspiracy theorist influencing the junction
or what?

Yes and no.
Spoiler: show
There are only two memory segments in the game at the moment because I haven't made up my mind whether to explore Adrian's character or not. I'm tempted to ax him altogether, but he may get to play a part by calling you a couple times during the story. In total, there are supposed to be about six memories, some of which you may end up being “optional” that you have to look for.

“Montauk” is a reference to the “Montauk Project” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montauk_Project) and is actually influenced by Serenity's presence more than David's. Because the as-of-yet unwritten memories are missing, the connection is not obvious, but it is hinted at in the very first memory. One of the responses will get young Adrian to mention he wants to go back “home” to Camp Hero in New York. In another memory you find out Adrian is an Indigo Child that was raised in the Montauk Project program. Adrian thrived in the program, at least to an extent, while others were “broken”, so to speak.


After I finished the ending of the game, I went back and wrote a twenty-five page Story Bible that details a lot of Adrian's backstory along with other elements of the world, few of which are actually applicable to anything (some old examples: http://dmajohnson.livejournal.com/574496.html). I'm trying to be careful about how much I go into with him, because he's only tangential to the actual story and I'm having enough trouble trying to figure out exactly what the story's scope should be.

Quote:
I [...] thought that
Spoiler: show
the hooded figures and the brief glimpse you got of the slider while he was creeping around the bunker
were a lot more creepy than
Spoiler: show
the actual confrontation with him later, where he just kind of looks like a fairly stereotypical alien
.

Somebody else has already called me out on
Spoiler: show
how boring the alien/slider/thing is. I thought making him a generic gray was somewhat witty, but once it was pointed out to me, yeah I think I took the lazy way out. He's been redesigned, and he looks a lot more otherworldly now.


Quote:
Spoiler: show
I wasn't sure if that was a bug or some weird psychological trick. CHAINSAWS EVERYWHERE.

I did it because I couldn't stop thinking about how hilariously the player would react when they opened up their inventory.

Quote:
During the second flashback sequence all the dialogue boxes just up and disappeared.

This is a known issue that I didn't discover until after that build was sent out. If you select a certain response (I forget which) it bugs the rest of the sequence. It's fixed in the current build and I can summarize the scene if I need to.

Quote:
My clear time was 3:59:57, but take that with a grain of salt 'cause I am the slowest gamer ever.

For the record, the first ever playthrough of the game clocked in at 2:57:30, and I already knew how to solve everything. Granted I took my time, but I'm still surprised some people are finishing in under two hours. Must be speed readers.

Quote:
I'm looking at you, Sierra

Oh god, Sierra.

Quote:
I'd say the point at which I went from "I'm playing this so I can get Crystal to LP something" to "I'm playing this to see what happens next" was...

I hate to gush, but I'll be honest here. I read your post late last night and this comment made my day. (Or my allergy-fueled-endless-runny-nose filled night, as the case was.) I hope the final version of the game hooks people a little earlier on, though. The game's demo won't last until that far into the game.

Quote:
I thought the story was pretty good. I especially liked the way it lampshaded/deconstructed/justified the adventure game genre (how everything can be solved through a puzzle, etc).

Just a general comment to everyone here since the game never says it outright and I'm not sure if everyone catches it, but the “this is a story about you in a different reality” line in the beginning is there for a reason. Serenity is literally another you; your avatar in another world. As such, her personality consists entirely of how other people would perceive a player avatar as being: obsessive about searching for things, intrusive, slightly forgetful, and a bit of a kleptomaniac.

Quote:
I think the opening sequence, where the game tells you what a junction is, could be removed completely. It's explained quite thoroughly in the game later, in a perfectly natural way, so having it just be told straight to the player at the beginning feels forced and unnecessary.

Here's another place where the second person perspective comes back to bite me in the butt. If it were told in the first person or third person removing it would work amazingly, but since it's in the second person it wouldn't make sense for Serenity (and therefore you the player) not to know the bare bones basics of what a junction is. Unless you play up Serenity's forgetfulness to amnesia levels, which I tried at one point in a later build and immediately came to hate.

Quote:
The game very much felt like it was part of a bigger story, with strong hints towards other things going on in that world...

That's why I had to write the aforementioned world bible, to make sure everything stays straight. In the current build (which is basically a rough draft) there's a lot of dropped or reworked plot points that come up. For example, the whole idea of
Spoiler: show
“reversing the gate” was dropped before the story was finished in favor of a simpler force-things-through-at-will ability, yet Waechter still spends a bunch of his speech to David and Kris drilling it in as a plot point because I haven't gone back over it yet.


Quote:
...which made me wonder if you were planning a sequel or something?

The game's current story is a prequel to the original story idea where Serenity and a thirteen-year-old Travis have to climb a derelict tower in an attempt to release Adrian from another dimension. I decided to go with the current story to save time (there were more NPCs and puzzles were meant to have multiple solutions). This shift happened three years ago, so you can see how well that went.

I wrote the current story in such a way that I could still do the original story later, and as I mentioned there's a lot of material in the world bible that's just there to be there and could be easily explored, but at the same time I don't really want to put in the time it would take to make many more of these. One day I may do a sequel or two, but not for many years to come. Either way the current story needs to be able to stand on its own. (Which again brings me back to the question of the story's scope and whether it's too wide or too narrow.) There won't be so many (any?) hanging threads in the final game, unless I screw majorly somehow.

Quote:
Finally, I know it was mentioned that the text is going to be revised, so I'm not sure if this is a valid complaint, but some of the dialogue and narration feels a bit stiff...

Early in the game there's a line “You look at the pictures and smile.” After letting the game set for a month or so I replayed it to see where it stood and I visibly cringed when I read that line. It still pains me. Physically.

That said, a lot of the game's narration style is drawn from early text adventure (the earliest builds of the game has absolutely no graphics other than text boxes and a barebones interface). The text has a long way to go before it's finalized, but I don't want to lose that homage completely.

Quote:
Well, given that I play the game of life as a woman...no. Why would it? [...] The vast majority of the games I've played either have a predefined protagonist with their own history and character or have customizable protagonists that let you create a history for them.

I talk about this in the gameplay preview and elsewhere, but it's obvious that I'm not explaining my fears about it in the right way. My worry isn't so much that the game has a female protagonist that has a husband and child. My worry is that the game addresses “you” as a female protagonist that has a husband and child. The husband part especially. A lot of people actually get upset when they're asked to identify with a player character--even in the third person, let alone the second--but I don't know to what extent of the gameplaying public that is. No, I don't think it should bother people at all, but that doesn't mean it won't.

Quote:
A couple of them felt a little gratuitous, most notably the one in the beginning where you have to go
Spoiler: show
into the security booth, try to use your ID, find out it doesn't work, talk to Waetcher, go to the car, get his ID, and use that;
it just felt like it was there for the sake of giving you something to do.

It's there to introduce basic game mechanics. Namely, showing items to characters. I'll try and break it up a little with character building or other unrelated things to do between steps and see if that helps.

Quote:
Also, having a puzzle where you
Spoiler: show
only find what you need after searching a box for a second time when there's no indication that you need to do so
was just mean.

I am sorry for being so mean. Nobody seems to like that puzzle. :(

Quote:
Only [got lost] twice.

David's dialog in that section is going to change a lot, so I'll take this into account when I go back over it.

Quote:
Something about Travis seemed a little unfinished. It might have been his hair.

Do you know what about his hair gave you that impression? A perfect artist I am not, but I want the characters to look their best.

Quote:
Kris wasn't really onscreen long enough for me to form much of an opinion of her.

I literally did not notice this until I started writing the ending. “Wait a minute, I forgot to give Kris anything to do...” I don't remember how that happened, but it did. She's going to have a larger purpose in the final game.

Quote:
Travis felt perhaps slightly more chipper, responsible and easy going than I would normally expect a boy of his age to be, but, hey, it's within the realm of possibility.

His personality is largely passive because I don't want him to be grating. What's the point of the story if you want to strangle your own son yourself?

Quote:
All the stuff about Adrian's backstory and
Spoiler: show
his struggle over having a 'pretend' family seemed kind of like part of a whole other story that was just shoved in there at the end...

This has to do with the way I tend to write stories: I wrapped up story points that I thought needed to be present but weren't and mean to introduce in the next draft.
Spoiler: show
He angsts about it WAY more than he really needs to, though, when he should be addressing other issues,
as I'm about to get into:

Quote:
Also,
Spoiler: show
Adrian's gifts to the kids felt a bit too perfect and neat. It was almost like an episode of Oprah or something. "You get a scholarship! YOU get a scholarship!"

This is the most hilarious summary of the ending I've read yet. And sadly, it's funny because it's true.
Spoiler: show
Adrian spends too much time angsting about himself and not enough talking about the characters players are more apt care about.

Since it's not explained well in the current build, I'll try and summarize what the point was. Adrian's giving them the gifts for two reasons. The first is that their lives from this point on are partially ruined and it's a bit of an apology from him. Hostile entities in other realities now know they're connected to the Bells and aren't above using that to their own gain. There's also the government, which is going to keep a close eye on them for the rest of their lives to attempt to keep them from leaking anything. And then there's rats like Pontier who would gladly use them as pawns. Of course, Adrian never mentions ANY of this so it's my fault it comes across the way it does in the story.

The second reason is that because of his childhood Adrian thinks he has buy other people's affection, to the point that he somewhat spoils Travis. This is meant to be brought up in a memory segment (unless all the memories get dropped and Adrian is regulated to extra or just deleted altogether).


Quote:
As for favorite,
Spoiler: show
I liked the whole sequence near the end where you have to go through the twisted reality-dreamscape thing.

Spoiler: show
This was literally thrown in at the last minute because I felt it would feel too rushed to go straight to a confrontation with the slider after getting to the safe room. Everyone seems to really enjoy it, though, so I'm glad I went through the extra trouble to add it and flesh it out.
I'd like to pull a little bit of that feeling into earlier parts of the game.

Sorry for rambling, I like to comment on my thought process more than is probably healthy for me. Thanks a lot for playing the game and giving your feedback.


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PostPosted: 24 Mar 2013, 23:10 
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DMAJohnson wrote:
Some items are there because your inventory is just everything you have. Most people carry a wallet, thus you have one. Other items are purposeful red herrings, in part because I dislike the adventure game cliche of “everything you can pick up will be useful later, even if it isn't useful now and there's no logical reason to keep it” and in part to discourage rubbing items on things to make the plot move forward. Other items are leftovers from abandoned or removed puzzles (the ammo box, for example). The game console is used to unlock an optional racing mini-game that does not exist and probably never will.


...That actually makes a fair amount of sense now that you've pointed it out. I suppose I'm just too used to everything in a game being a Chekov's Gun. The game console did bother me more than the other things, though, because the wording in the item description kept making me think I was supposed to give it to Travis at some point.

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Spoiler: show
I wasn't sure if that was a bug or some weird psychological trick. CHAINSAWS EVERYWHERE.

I did it because I couldn't stop thinking about how hilariously the player would react when they opened up their inventory.


It was pretty hilarious, really (although it probably will be a lot more so once the
Spoiler: show
graphics for the chainsaws
are there). It made me envision
Spoiler: show
the characters taking on the army of sliders at the end with their massive pile of chainsaws.


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I think the opening sequence, where the game tells you what a junction is, could be removed completely. It's explained quite thoroughly in the game later, in a perfectly natural way, so having it just be told straight to the player at the beginning feels forced and unnecessary.

Here's another place where the second person perspective comes back to bite me in the butt. If it were told in the first person or third person removing it would work amazingly, but since it's in the second person it wouldn't make sense for Serenity (and therefore you the player) not to know the bare bones basics of what a junction is. Unless you play up Serenity's forgetfulness to amnesia levels, which I tried at one point in a later build and immediately came to hate.


I get this, but I'm not entirely sure you have to play it that way. I mean, obviously Serenity should know what a junction is, but as long as you don't give the player any "Durrr, what's a junction?" dialogue options she doesn't have to act like she doesn't know what it is, since the player only loosely determines her dialogue choices. Seems like you could have her and Waetcher kind of hint around it, since the point at which it's explained in-game comes before the point where the player really needs to know what's going on to proceed.

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Something about Travis seemed a little unfinished. It might have been his hair.

Do you know what about his hair gave you that impression? A perfect artist I am not, but I want the characters to look their best.


I dunno...maybe it just seemed a little too chunky? I realize that's a pretty useless bit of criticism there.

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Travis felt perhaps slightly more chipper, responsible and easy going than I would normally expect a boy of his age to be, but, hey, it's within the realm of possibility.

His personality is largely passive because I don't want him to be grating. What's the point of the story if you want to strangle your own son yourself?


Yeah, definitely. I'd far rather you erred on that side of caution.

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Sorry for rambling, I like to comment on my thought process more than is probably healthy for me. Thanks a lot for playing the game and giving your feedback.


Sure thing.


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PostPosted: 25 Mar 2013, 05:22 
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DMAJohnson wrote:
Quote:
Also, having a puzzle where you
Spoiler: show
only find what you need after searching a box for a second time when there's no indication that you need to do so
was just mean.

I am sorry for being so mean. Nobody seems to like that puzzle. :(
Having just read that, I have to say that oddly enough that puzzle didn't bother me in the slightest. I've had numerous experiences in games where certain vital pieces of information aren't revealed until you've done certain other actions, which aren't always directly related to the thing concerned, so, whenever I couldn't find what I needed straight away, my natural reaction was to re-check everything I'd already looked at in case what I'd done in the meantime had brought something new to light. (Maybe that's a reason why I took so long over the game.)



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