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.
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...)
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.
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.
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.
What was the point of
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.
Like items, there are lots of room features just there for atmosphere and to give the player things to explore. The
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
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
Yes and no.
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.
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
Somebody else has already called me out on
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm looking at you, Sierra
Oh god, Sierra.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
...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.
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.
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.
A couple of them felt a little gratuitous, most notably the one in the beginning where you have to 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.
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.
Also, having a puzzle where 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.
I am sorry for being so mean. Nobody seems to like that puzzle.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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...
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.
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:
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.
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).
As for favorite,
I liked the whole sequence near the end where you have to go through the twisted reality-dreamscape thing.
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.