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Since we have only two releases left... giving it a run through! (WoT warning)

Discussion in 'Release 50 Feedback Forum' started by Lord Tachys al`Fahn, Feb 19, 2018.

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  1. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    In a way of putting my mouth where my money has been for a while now, as the topic says I'm giving this a run through fresh (in single player offline, that is) from more than a dozen releases since the last time I was actually able to play, and hoping that I find things much improved in many good ways.

    Before I even start, however, one thing that does concern me is this: That we have two releases before "release", but one of those is a cut over to a new version of Unity. While I have faith that they can manage that with few, if any, problems, it DID eat up a huge amount of development resources the last time. I know the devs see this as necessary, I just worry that it will consume resources at a very critical time in the final stages of development before they are going to call this "released".

    Anyway, back to the play through. I will be going through this and addressing things as I see them, with either follow on replies or follow on posts as I progress.

    Isle of Storms:

    • The Isle of Storms: Love the scene as a whole! The feel, the look, the premise, all of it fits well, in my opinion, as a middleman between the techno-wizardry gateway we have apparently managed to create for ourselves in the "real" world, and that of Novia. Now, on to the specifics of my visit there and what I like/love/am confused by/hate about them.
      • Novia: I loved exploring the splinter we are relegated to and looking out at the breathtaking view of Novia, only it didn't take ALL my breath away. (Please note that here I was going to state (had, actually) that the image of Novia seemed like a flat, static portion of background and suggest that it be made into an actual model, but upon closer inspection, I can see it is a 3d asset) I think in an effort to make it suitably blurry under the intervening atmosphere that the texture applied was lower res, which instead made it feel flat. As you can see in the following picture, there is a lot of aliasing going on and it is starkly contrasted by the (seemingly) hyper-detailed nearby rocks:

        [​IMG]
        Please consider replacing it with a more appealing higher resolution image.

      • Arabella: Love the new model for Arabella, not liking the sparkly hand wave and other attention-getting actions and highlights.

      • Mirror: Also like the positioning of the character creator in the game itself, rather than an arbitrary interrupting step that is disconnected from the whole
        • Character creation: Only complaint here is the hair. I love the nostalgia involved linking back to Ultima Online with this, and I know there are other more detailed options that were added in, but it seems sadly out of place to only be able to swap between a lot of Max Headroom style options in a system that allows minute detail changes to everything else.
      • The Path: One small critique: the point where it tells you how to jump. Could there possibly be a reason you NEED to jump? Maybe place an obstacle like a fallen tree that can't be circumnavigated, but instead needs a jump or charged jump to get over it? That would give the hint on HOW to jump more of a credible reason for being where it is.

      • The Orcale: Kind of liking the more steampunk-ish/wizard of oz feel to her, rather than the pincushion face that was there before.
        • Talking with the Oracle:
          [​IMG]
          • I don't know if this is a short avatar issue or something else (I have my avatar set to the shortest available height), but my avatar seems unnaturally obsessed with the Oracle's armatures. Maybe have the player's avatar focus on something more like the nose of the Oracle's construct?
        • The Test: I love it, and I love the throwback to the earlier Ultimas! However, that being said, I have one small quibble about it. I know we're only choosing between three principles here, but I feel like we need to be asking more than three questions to plumb the depths of my soul... I know three suffices, but it feels so shallow.
      • The Lunar Rift: Small complaint: I miss the concept of what this was supposed to do... It still looks fantastic, but what had originally been proposed could have been easily accomplished. Perhaps it was an abuse related decision? *shrugs*

    Overall: Even without any of the suggested changes, this scene is beautiful and very well done.

    And with that, time to jump through the Moong... errrr... Lunar Rift, and since it was determined during the test that my personality type was EN.. um, sorry... Ranger, we are off to The Battle of Solace Bridge!

    The Battle of Solace Bridge:

    Something that struck me shortly after going through the rift: All three initial scenes are recent attacks, all of which the Oracle would know something about. Upon completing the choice of path, but before heading through the rift, it might be helpful for the player to know they are headed into some sort of combat zone and to be ready to defend themselves!

    Anyway, on to the scene:

    • Starting point: Upon entry, it is obvious that the character is in danger, as nearly everything is on fire! The lack of enemies is understandable, but also kind of weird, since you are supposed to already be equipped to handle enemies. *looks at inventory* Well, I have arrows... but no bow? weird...

    • South gate:
      [​IMG]
      • Dangerous... how? Other than there being no way to open the gate, the danger here is not obvious nor immediate. Perhaps a horde of undead no human could wade through on the other side? Or, a slight change to this with something that makes this area more immediately dangerous, such as a burning tree fallen across it?
    • Blue...:
      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]
      • I missed the door... and the bow... and the soldier... but seriously!!! Keep in mind I haven't played this in a LONG time, and the time since I've started over is even longer! I hope blue and sparkly isn't the new black... I know there were some complaints a while back about the obscurity of the things you needed to find in these scenes, but this seems to me to be an over-reaction in the opposite direction, especially with the white text popping up in the middle of your field of view directing you where to go.
    • Opening the gate:
      • First, you have this (which has a typo in it that I'm submitting to for bug hunting :p ):
        [​IMG]
        Which, I believe, could be handled in a manner that better reflects the urgency of the situation by using our 'nearby elderly gentleman':[​IMG]Who could be gesticulating wildly right outside the gate for you to hurry, perhaps calling out to you to do the things the interface is telling you to do, putting you more 'in the game' (yes, I know the word is immersion... *grins*)! As much as I really disliked it, Arabella's wave and point emote would be almost perfect here.
        • Edit: Afterwards, I noted that he did indeed use the wave and point emote... the point here is that it he could be positioned AT the gate, and be used better to help liven up the scene and make it feel less forced.
    • The Bridge: Difficulty here could be ramped up some, as with Edvard there to absorb pretty much ALL the damage without any apparent effort, and the skill level you give the player with their chosen weapon, crossing the bridge is ridiculously easy. Either tone the skills WAY down and make this a tiny bit challenging, or ramp up the enemy difficulty a bit to accomplish the same.

    • The Boat: Please... no more blue!!! I mean, I remember the last time I was here, and yeah, you had to hunt the boat down and the directions that he gave you to look UNDER THE BRIDGE might have been somewhat misleading (not sure how, but... *shrugs*). For the sake of all that is holy... the boat is right there!!!!

    • The water: Wait... what???
      [​IMG]
      • I'm immediately thrown into a love-hate relationship with the water. I mean it is cool and all that you can see the bottom of the river, which I love! The shader applied, however, makes me hate it at the same time. Pardon the blunt observation, but I mean, honestly... I made better looking water when using the A7 engine and mesh deformation combined with basic shaders... and that was years ago!!! This looks like a sheet of badly pitted polyurethane being slid diagonally towards me... there is nothing that makes me think of water when I see it! You guys are a team of industry LEGENDS, I expect better than this. There are hundreds of better examples and/or solutions... please fix this.
    • Northern Solace Bridge area: I ran around a bit, and while there are a couple of very light encounters to be had, it is all the same as the 'escape' across the bridge. There is a lot here that can be done to liven up the scene, and some things that just don't make sense.
    Overall:

    The impression I get is that we are supposed to be arriving right on the tail end of the destruction of this town by the undead army, with you being dropped in the middle of a dangerous situation and a need to escape.

    Only, there isn't any... danger OR urgency.

    Here's what doesn't make sense: You have this town that was supposed to have been attacked, and by the hole in the wall, the flames and their positioning, as well as the placement of all the enemies, it is assumed the attack came from the North. Why is the southern gate closed, with no way to open or close it, and no reason why it should be closed? Were the undead looking to destroy the town? Were they trying to get THROUGH the town? There is no way to know based on the way the scene is situated.

    Suggested changes to help provide the things that seem to be missing:
    • Set the town up as follows:
      • Assume the undead were trying to get through the town.
      • North Gate is closed with the dead guard nearby as before, with some zombies inside the gate feeding on corpses.
      • Have the South Gate broken open from the inside, with a smattering of zombies inside, some close enough to aggro on the player.
      • Place the archer and bow near the player, and with the white text warnings, alert them to the danger of the zombies
      • Have a huge force of undead arrayed outside on the South Gate, apparently headed south, but as time ticks on, have waves of them start turning to face the player, making it apparent (via the hint text) that they have to do something to do to block the southern gate before they are overrun. (cutting down a tree near the gate that falls, catching fire as it blocks the gateway, perhaps?)
      • Give the player a hint that it will not stop them for long. This provides the sense of urgency that starts driving the player towards the North Gate.
    • Increase difficulty of the scene by either dialing down the skills given to the player, or dialing up the stats of the enemies.
    • Increase undead presence outside the north bridge, not in crazy amounts or ridiculous strengths, but enough to make the scene feel more "alive".
    • Perhaps make it so that Edvard either knows about Charlotte, or that he could hear the child crying, providing the first ethical challenge when he gives the player the choice to go back and try to find her (if they don't already have her in tow). I know this is implied in the nearly on-rails attempt to steer the player towards the house and pick up other quest items, but it makes Charlotte more of an overt choice than an "well, she's here, I might as well...". If this has been put in place already, my apologies, as I haven't tried it any other way as yet.

    The experience so far has been ok. There are plenty of things to polish, but that's all for now... next up is the *Smacks self in forehead: edit* Solace Bridge Outskirts.

    Edits: made to help break it up a little, and smooth out the flow.




     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
  2. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    Something that just occurred as I logged in to start the next leg of my journey:

    Since Arabella is a suitably mysterious woman, what with speaking to half formed specters on splinters of rock that inexplicably possess atmosphere floating in space and all, could we not build in a tiny bit to the initial conversation with her that says she will be offering telepathic "hints" to help guide our steps for a short time?

    Just a thought to make those blobs of white text have some in-game reason for existing...
     
  3. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

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    Solace Bridge Outskirts:

    Well, I made my way downstream (I have to assume it was downstream, as I had no oar with which to steer my fate... ;) ) to the outskirts, and happened upon Private Garridon at the landing there. Helpful lad... got enough out of him to get moving, anyway.

    So, up the switchback path I went and was greeted by... by... what bizarrely fresh hell is this, and how can I make it go back????

    [​IMG]

    Next question: Why are there children dancing about it, singing 'nursery rhymes' that make me want to go hug Freddy Krueger?

    I made the mistake of talking to the lovely miscreants Dave, Julie and Lily. These adorable scamps remind me of what you would have if Damien had got together with the Children of the Corn to produce a set of beings capable of scaring away the twins in the Shining...

    ...And the guard nearby has noooo ideeeeeea why someone hasn't taken them home!

    On the plus side, they want me to go find a "story book" for them. Is finding a book about Bloody Bones and handing it over to some budding Obsidians not something akin to contributing to the delinquency of a minor intent on malicious mischief? I don't know, but by golly, I'm gonna do it!

    On a side note, I must have been delirious from trying to wrap my mind around just what these children were, because I went and tried to walk between some nearby tents, and could NOT for the life of me extricate myself! I remember hearing some shouting, stomping of booted feet approaching me, and feeling a very solid weight caressing my skull... then I woke up on the outskirts of the outskirts!

    (Read: Got stuck, and had to exit to the main menu and start on the world map. When I went to go back in to the outskirts, I noted a menu pop up with the default location, as well as other locations I had been to... I LOVE this!!!!)

    Private Garridon seems to have let his position get to his head, as the ruffian laid hands on me as I disembarked from another oar-less skiff!!! I yanked my arm out of his hand and after a distinct 'good BYE', I went on my way. (Got yanked into a conversation with Garridon upon re-entering the scene. NOT a fan of this, but it brings out something to test... Ok, so he doesn't do it if you have already seen Kinsey... Good. ;) )

    From here, I went on to speak with all the soldiers and other folk remaining.... and with the exception of a few idiosyncrasies,, all went well. Helped out some with a variety of people (trying not to drop spoilers here...), but perhaps someone should pay a visit to farmer Filmore... unless someone can disabuse me of my notions on the identity of this poor soul?
    [​IMG]

    And wouldn't you know it... along the way I had the opportunity to drink from this beautiful river!!! Cleanest water I've ever had!
    [​IMG]

    With all that said and done, my sights are set on Soltown!

    Overview:

    All in all, aside from a handful of typos and bugs, this scene was a wonderful follow up to the Battle of Solace Bridge! You had some storytelling to start immersing the player into the world, a quick taste of resource gathering for fun and profit, and a great deal more quests with some fat rewards to get the players going and a bit of a moral dilemma to wet their appetite for more.

    Pros:
    • The water!!!: Much better than last scene!
    • The quests: Varied, with a little of almost everything to get the players involved in several other activities, such as resource gathering.
    • The story: Starts to make an appearance, leading the player deeper into the game for more...
    • Special story characters... :D
      I got to shake hands with Bloody Bones and his lover!!! :D
    • FINALLY being able to spawn at locations you have discovered, rather than the same point, (Hey, it's new to me, all right?)
    Cons:
    • Lack of moral dilemma consequences:
      • The Painting's Rightful Owner: While I eventually discovered the way to get the painting without killing Hartley, I did actually kill him, retrieve the painting, and then give it BACK to him! Lord Langston has nothing I desire right now, so the consequences of defying him are negligible at the moment. Maybe they make themselves known later on? Hartley, however, provides no such potential for loss other than losing the chance to gain points in Love rather than Truth (assuming these are the sides of this dilemma), as I can always give heirlooms to the soldiers. I haven't tested the repeat function of this, but may tomorrow.
    • Blue sparklies: Just no... please... no.
    • Complete lack of difficulty. Even the "special" characters were simple to defeat. This should NOT be so...
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
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  4. Earl Atogrim von Draken

    Earl Atogrim von Draken Avatar

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    10/10 would lol again.
    Really nice feedback!
     
  5. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    Thanks... tweaked it just a bit though ;)
     
  6. Paladin Michael

    Paladin Michael Bug Hunter

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    Great feedback :)
    Go on, this is what we need for improving...
     
  7. Max Bennis

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    This is a nice feedback considering commercial launch is at our doorstep and above mentioned stuffs are the first thing new players may encounter.

    Long way ahead...long way..
     
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  8. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    On the morrow, I sat beside the river at the outskirts of Solace Bridge, to collect and consolidate my thoughts prior to moving on.

    It was my wish to review my progress thus far and ensure I hadn't missed anything important, but I quickly found myself unable to precisely recall things that have happened, the sequence and details slipping this way and that in my brain. This task should pose no challenge for me! I tried to write them down, and so I at least captured most of what I had done, but it was a disorganized jumble of memories, to be certain! This task wasn't too challenging, was it? Of course not!

    I
    had led that poor girl to safety, hadn't I? Edvard was right there... I know he took the child under his wing, but why can I not recall talking to her? That task could not possibly have challenged my abilities!

    Then there was that blasted book! The horrors I had to face were nigh-unimaginable, and then I agreed to get the book for them! I know I shook hands with some very accommodating fellows, and they were more than happy to give it to me after I gave them a few arrows. I even remember the salivating, toothy grins of the imps as I handed it over, or, did I? Was the act of handing over a book a superhuman challenge to my manual dexterity?

    *scratches head... and fails. That was apparently too challenging for me*

    All so very strange. I know... I'll see how many ways I can describe old Filmore!

    Journal:

    Overview:

    I logged in and took stock of my quests remaining, noting quests that were definitely completed, such as speaking to Charlotte and turning in the Bloody Bones book. These two were odd, as I know I completed them!

    Then I opened my journal.

    Four motrin later, I came back and wrapped my head around a journal that cannot accurately keep track of the steps I have taken, deeds I have done, or quests as yet unfulfilled... a month away from release... And yet, supposedly none of it was too challenging for me. It couldn't have been! The journal said so DOZENS OF TIMES!

    Pros:
    • Great to have a way to look back at all you have done, and see what you may have left to accomplish

    Cons:
    • I don't need a reminder that something is within my capabilities with EVERY quest. If something is too difficult, the quest giver should be deciding whether I am up to the task, and the resulting giving or withholding of the quest should be recorded. Or, better yet, I shouldn't be able to SEE the quest at all unless I have a chance at completing it!
    • Typos abound. That is all, and too much at the same time, given this stage of the game.
    • Inaccurate information. All quests should be tying themselves off correctly by now, unless they are either fairly complex arrangements that need a lot of careful tweaking or are just that new.
    • Entries for the same quest giver look like they were written by completely different people. See Filmore.
     
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  9. Quenton

    Quenton Avatar

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    I don't like making comparisons to WoW, but the way WoW deals with quests and quest difficulties is a lot smoother.

    Coloured coded quests in the quest log based on difficulty, a single short list by quest name (which can be expanded for the full details), and as Tachys has pointed out, the quest doesn't show up as a quest until the player has a chance to deal with it.

    Something definitely has to be done about SotA's multipage setup if it's ever going to be resolved.
     
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  10. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    Solace Bridge:

    At last, I shook off my strange befuddlement, and struck out into the Novian wilderness, to find my way to Soltown and perhaps Charlotte's mother. As I wasn't sure if my memory of handing off Charlotte to the bard were a zombie-stench induced fever dream, I needed to know that at least she would find out about her husband. Unfortunately, there was no way across the river, so I had to head along its banks to the northwest, which led back to the horrors from which I had fled: Solace Bridge.

    I must have taken a tumble down the southward path as I descended upon the town and knocked my head while doing so, for when I stood and brushed myself off, I was greeted by a sight that was at once strange yet familiar. I could not believe my eyes...

    [​IMG]

    Was this not the arch that was consumed in flames, southwest of the town? No... the direction was off. I continued to gawk at the seeming impossibility of it, until several guttural snarls brought me back to my senses. Some more of these wonderful, if ill mannered, gentlemen were coming up to ask about my arrows!

    Once they were satisfied with my merchandise, I continued along the path, only to encounter another sight, as wondrous strange as the first: The gate to Solace Bridge


    [​IMG]

    This can't be! It's all wrong... no bridge... the wall whole... for a while, I stood there disbelieving...

    [​IMG]

    Then I noted the direction of the sun and remembered it was late afternoon. I was facing north! But, how, I... I had approached from the north, yet here I was looking at the south gate! That must have been one HELL of a knock to the head. I ran south down the road a pace or three, to get a look over the town, and noted it was definitely true. I had somehow managed to completely bypass the bridge, flying over the water in my unconscious state (as my clothes were all dry) and landed outside the southern reaches of the town.

    Shaking my head to try and clear the cobwebs, I continued on to the town, soon noticing a familiar sight.

    [​IMG]

    There, once again on the other side of a fortification's gate from me, stood Edvard! At last! A chance to confirm my hopes that I retain my sanity! I opened the gate (from the outside... AGAIN), wondering not for the first time if Novians truly understood the purpose of a gate locking mechanism...

    After speaking to him, and finding out the he did indeed take Charlotte on to see her mother, I was at last allowed that small comfort. My memory may not be complete, but at least she arrived safe!

    Alas, weep for my sanity... for after I was done speaking with Ed, I turned around and surveyed the remains of the Keep. I soon came to know that snowballs in hell had longer life expectancies...

    This building.

    I know it.

    I know it was almost burned to the ground!

    [​IMG]

    I feared to enter, but I had to see, had to know.

    But... how???

    [​IMG]

    WHole and undamagEd... as if, Johan was it? Yes... As if Johan had just stepped out for a strolL. But no, there is not a body, but a bleached Pile of bones, grasping a note!

    I picked up the note, and my horror grew with the reading of it:

    [​IMG]

    Hobart? But what of Johan? What of Charlotte... oh Lord... Charlotte!

    I dashed upstairs in a craze, nearly taking each landing in a single stride.

    [​IMG]

    Bones here too, and they belong to a child!!!


    It can't be her... it can't!

    I fled... the rest of the town, the bridge, the landscape passing in a frenzied blur... I knew only that I had to be gone from this bizarre place and know from Charlotte's mother herself if the child truly lives!




    Overview:

    I stopped here on a whim, to investigate the Bridge and see what it holds for someone just starting off. The immediate sense of confusion from entering the town from the south by default, despite the landscape taking you into the area from the north, was weird to say the least. Then to go in and find the tavern-esque building to be in perfect condition, rather than nearly demolished added to the weird factor. Then you go in to a perfectly OK building inside of a burned out ruin, to find that not only is it just fine on the outside, but the inferno that had been brewing on the inside was apparently mitigated as well. AND there is a skeleton here... with another note... and its not even the SAME GUY!!?!?!?!? But there IS a child-sized skeleton upstairs where Charlotte stood... yeah. ok.

    The scene overall is nice, but seems to have recovered way to quickly from the raging inferno that this scene was just a few days prior, both inside and outside the town to the north. Yes, there are dead trees and foliage that have apparently been burned to the core, but again, there is way too much LIFE, in both greenery and NPCs, here for what JUST happened. Even the North entrance is completely untouched despite being a blazing wall of flames just days before. On the plus side, the presence of some scattered undead south of and inside the keep, as well as the lack of them on the bridge makes sense in this go around, as the forces you fled from would have moved south of here.

    Also, once I saw the spear of blue light in the distance, you know I just had to go investigate my favorite mysterious feature: the lunar rift.

    I LOVE IT!!!

    The look is fantastic, and perhaps I just didn't give it as much of a thorough going over before because of the word that it would not work as intended, but I never noticed the moon phase marks on the inside face of the inner ring of stones! Then I hovered the mouse over some of them, and noted different names! And just like that, I'm acting like a giddy schoolgirl over here! *laughs* And it WORKS!!!! YES!!!! (I left the scene and came back in after writing most of this, since the phase had shifted, and it had both shifted the "pointer" to the appropriate stone, but changed its destination as well!) My apologies, but I had last heard that this wasn't happening, so ... yeah.

    On to the Ps and Cs...

    Pros:
    • NPC population (bridge, keep and south gate): It is appropriate both qualitatively and quantitatively.
    • NPC Population (rest of scene): Only pro here is the difficulty is commensurate with where the player would be as balancing stands RIGHT NOW if they followed the path of Love first.
    • Lunar Rift: LOVE. IT.
    • Visuals: Fantastic, where appropriate.
    Cons:
    • South Entrance: South by default makes no sense, specifically in this case. You proved you can change the entrance location on a map based on where you were positioned in the previous one with the overland map exits for THIS scene. Do the same in reverse: if the player hasn't discovered another entrance, above a certain set of overland map coords before you click "Enter", default = North gate. Below those coords, default = South gate.
    • Lack of story continuity: You have a serious discontinuity between the Battle scene and the Aftermath scene. Fixing the tavern building alone would go a long way to dealing with this. Taking a hard look at the area outside the north gate as a whole would cover the remaining few yards to a touchdown.
    • Visuals (Beyond north gate and bridge): The greenery seems too much too soon, and the North Entrance to the scene is MORE out of place than the tavern building inside the keep for the same reason!
    • NPC Population (Area north of the keep): Didn't visit the graveyard, but the rest is too lively, and perhaps with the wrong NPCs, for the same reason the visuals are off in this area.
    • WATER: Oh my gods the water... FIX THIS :p
    That's all for now... as my mad, dashing self implied earlier, we're hell-bound for Soltown!
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  11. Elwyn

    Elwyn Avatar

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    You should use /stuck, this will not only keep you from having to exit first, but it also logs the stuck location for the devs to fix later.
     
  12. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

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    Thought I had tried that... but luckily, this blunder is repeatable!

    Done!
     
  13. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    And of course, with tomorrow's release 51 going live, I will continue this in that frame of the world at large!

    See you there!
     
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  14. Vas Corp Por

    Vas Corp Por SotA Dev Moderator SOTA Developer

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    Great post! Great feedback! Thank you!
     
  15. Koss

    Koss Avatar

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    Awesome post.. excellent read..

    Thank you and please continue to post!
     
  16. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    I will, for it appears that I lied... there is time, and so I post ;)
     
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  17. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    Soltown:

    I ran for as long as I could, and then farther, frenzy and denial burning reserves I never knew existed. The need to find Charlotte's mother and redemption dragged me forward as much as the cracks in my fraying sanity propelled me away from the Bridge. This continued until I drew too near a particularly old maple, and some of it's exposed roots snared my foot. The world tumbled and blurred as I bumbled ass over applecart for a few moments, that came to a sudden end. It seems I had chosen a particularly obstinate outcropping of rock to be my next dance partner. It backhanded me for my impertinence, and then, my slate wiped to black.

    Pain crawled into my ears in the form of chirping birds, prompting me to open my eyes. This, in its turn, allowed pain to vector in on my brain through my eyes, like a hungry party-goer trying to skewer the last olive out of a narrow-mouthed bowl with a toothpick. A particularly sharp but wobbly toothpick...

    I picked myself up off of my slate bed, and staggered around until I:
    • Stopped the world from spinning
    • Shoved my stomach back under my ribcage
    • found something resembling a path
    This last feat allowed me to at least feel like I had a destination in mind as I stumbled along, cobbling together the humpty-dumpty-mess that was me into a semblance of humanity. By the time I was done, I looked up and noticed a couple of thin lines of smoke rising into the air ahead... Soltown, perhaps? I would be legendarily lucky if it was, all things considered.

    Apparently, I should be finding what passes for a lottery here.

    The first smokeline drew me towards a small circle of tents, where a group of worried looking women busied themselves with daily chores to keep their minds from deeper concerns. As I approached, the closest of them paused in her sweeping. She eyed me critically for a moment, then gasped, recognition dawning in her eyes. She swiftly approached and bobbed a quick but respectful curtsy.

    [​IMG]

    "Many thanks, traveller, for all you have done!"

    I looked at her sideways, my eyes narrowing and an eyebrow arching in curiosity. "I think you have me confused with someone, lady" I stated flatly.

    She raised her eyed to mine as she fervently shook her head. "No, good adventurer, the bard who delivered her described you most accurately. It is you who rescued my child!" she exclaimed, forgetting her propriety as she reached her hands out to clasp one of mine in a grateful gesture.

    Child...

    The realization hit me: this is Charlotte's mother! I'm not sure what kept me upright, because the sudden knitting together of the fragments of my mind in that moment hit my like a lightning strike, leaving me numb with the shock of it all.

    We spoke further, during which I relayed the last bit of news, the unsent letter from Johan. She sighed, and her posture let me know I merely confirmed what she already knew. As we continued to chat, she spoke of what the future held for her and the girl now, and she thanked me for everything. With nothing further to chat about, we said our farewells and I made my impertinently forward way around to the rest of the occupants of the shanty town.

    The others present each had their own burden to share: stories of grief, loss, and rage. Apparently there was a fire, and I learned a few details that could lead to discovering who had set it but not the exact identity, so I talked to the rest. I helped a few in different ways, and found myself coming to believe truth to not always be the best policy. Sometimes, the best show of virtue is allowing one to believe the best in a loved one, especially when the truth will serve no justice, and at others, your virtue can shine brightly even as you lie to hide it, so that another's may ignite, perchance to shine. The needs here are great, and while some might be met in the immediate vicinity, others are calling me elsewhere, some even pulling me back to cover ground already trod.

    That is not to say that it was all gloom and despair.

    There was one woman, named Linda, who spoke of her love for her cats and her husband. She seemed so... familiar... to me. I know there is more, but I could not seem to tease it out into the light. Nagging though the name was, the woman herself was a joy to speak with, relaying to me the quirks and personalities of the three other loves of her life: Cissi, Tiger and Whiskey.

    Eventually, I found my way away from the tents, and went out into the town "proper" to find others I needed to speak to, such as the good Captain. I delivered the report from Captain Kinsey and the welfare of the guard contingent at the outskirts of Solace bridge, knowledge of which he was greatly heartened to finally receive.

    I also happened upon Arabella again! After not seeing her during my accidental trip back to the Isle, I had thought our paths divergent. From her grim mien, and the news she bore, I believe I will be seeing much more of her in the future. She wishes me to visit a couple other towns that are wallowing in circumstances as dire, if not more than, those of the Bridge. Forward, back, sideways, rift-ways... I'm beginning to feel stretched very thin.

    There is more to see here, but I will have to leave that for another time. There is much to do, and I need to see to my arms and defenses if I am to go forward.




    Overview:

    Despite this being almost instantly recognizable, for I spent a lot of time in the Hidden Vale, especially around Braemer, the sheer quantity of things to do almost drew me away from dwelling on that. The branches here are almost immediate, proliferate and far reaching. I like the different levels of quests, ranging from the immediate vicinity to across the continent. At once I have the choice, AND the ability, thanks to the lunar rifts, to either continue single-mindedly on the path I have chosen, or to go off and investigate the other two paths, as well as opportunities to perform small tasks that take me off the beaten path and into more personal aspects of the characters around me.

    The townsfolk and refugees are many and varied, and it is nice to see more characters that are not just the placeholder npc models anymore. There are some discrepancies, such as a woman claiming to be wearing a red dress, when she has nothing of the sort on her person, or an online-only character being in the offline game mode, and verbally slapping you in the face with it. I know there are some external game mechanics that players need to be introduced to, but wherever possible, this should be handled in a way that doesn't break the 4th wall.

    Lets take the offending Guild Registrar. You can keep it the way it is, where it is PAINFULLY obvious you can determine which mode the game is in during the scene and select a dialog chain that fits the mode, or you can use this as an opportunity to play with the player a little... give them something interesting to interact with that serves no useful purpose other than to be played with, even if only in a funny, witty, weird or downright disturbing way. The orphans in the outskirts come to mind for that last one...




    Pros:
    • Svahn:
      I remember, upon hearing of Svahn's loss on the forums, asking Darkstarr via pm if there was something that could have been put in place in remembrance of a soul passing. I had suggested maybe a small pond where you could find two swans swimming together for as long as you cared to watch them, with no other occurrences of the creature to be found anywhere in game.

      I love this more.
    • Ethics: Liking the variety of opportunities to exercise one principle or the other in minor ways that add some depth to the game and its narrative, without causing world-shaking (hint: will be nice to run into some of these too :D) consequences.
    • NPC Schedules: I like the fact that sometimes they have places to be, and that it warns you they need to go soon... (see Cons)
    • Quests: LOTS of quests, with different levels of difficulty/investiture.

    Cons:
    • Braemar (minor): Haven't been there yet, but aside from the tent camp just inside the default scene entrance, the general layout of Soltown is reminiscent, if not identical.
    • Guild Registrar: Pretty sure you can flag an asset for loading depending on game type? Having an online only service NPC in an offline game is kind of amateur -sauce :p If it stays, give it a better reason for occupying NPC real estate. Otherwise, kick it to the curb!!!
    • NPC Schedules: ...but please have it use either a generic term (if we don't know the name yet) to say they will be leaving soon! The use of the moniker NPC is kinda 'jarring'. and when they have to leave, have them (rudely/nicely/dismissively/etc) excuse themselves, and end the conversation! It isn't always daylight when we're talking to them, and sometimes (like just NOW) they take off and you don't see it happen, leaving you to wonder why there are no responses...
    • Many cases of the sparkles: I get it... I do. I just don't like it. Especially in a place like Soltown with quite a few quest points, and I fear, the larger cities in Novia where my whole compass may be nothing more than a sparkly blue bar!!!
    • Ethics: Not liking that aside from small +/- tweaks to personal virtue values, the "dilemmas" are not resulting in real change to the game world, even though this is offline mode. Some things I can understand, especially when you have an online version of the game, where you cannot possibly account for all possibilities with any mechanic you choose because of the need for some people to see the world one way (because they haven't reached that decision node yet) and others a different way (sometimes drastically so) in an online setting. In an offline game, however, this should be easily achievable.
     
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  18. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    And now, with the release looming and with bed and work in my immediate future, I will engage the FSD and move forward a frame, continuing this in R51.
     
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  19. majoria70

    majoria70 Avatar

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    Thanks for doing all this work. I have enjoyed reading your feedback. And I'm pretty sure you can turn the sparkles off or the intensity. I have not yet played with that feature yet. I am personally happy we got them since knowing where to go is sometimes very daunting in the set-up of this game and sometimes the sparkles are a bit confusing sometimes still but I do like that you can point at them and see a bit of information if I recall correctly. ;)
     
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  20. Lord Tachys al`Fahn

    Lord Tachys al`Fahn Avatar

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    Yes, you get a name or generic title, and the reason you want to talk to them. You probably can dial it back, or maybe even turn it off... I'll investigate that before I stroll on. If that is the case, I'll stop complaining *laughs*, but if it isn't, well.. ;)
     
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