Thanks for showing this. The work you've put into it is really paying off.
Thanks! Whew, this is quite a post.
Having watched the video several times, read the blog notes, and given some thought to all this new info, I also have some feedback.
1. I noticed that after you enter a new map, enemies don't attack immediately. This is a very nice touch.
There's initial invincibility whenever you change chunks -- good eye. Enemies won't attack unless you use an ability or move, so you can sit there safely for as long as you want sizing things up. There is no way to pause this game (for compatibility with multiplayer, etc), but changing chunks is something you can do pretty straightforwardly and it fulfills basically the same need.
2. Maximizing the use of just-in-time procedural generation ("lazy loading") makes complete sense to me. It's not just good for all the reasons given. What you're actually doing is taking something that's distinctive part of this game and emphsizing it as a core element. That's just smart, not only in a game design sense but for marketing as well.
Thanks! We do try to play to our strengths whenever possible.
3. When crossing by a crafting station, the game displays a message like "Unable to link to ____ due to lack of crafter". What does this mean? Is a "crafter" an object or a person? This may become obvious after playing for a while, but I think for the new player it will be a little confusing.
Hmm, yeah, this may need some wording work -- good point. You use the crafting stations themselves directly to do your crafting, but it requires the presence and aid of an NPC who has that crafting ability. If you yourself have the crafting ability then of course you don't need an NPC for that. In the first settlement, at the start, there's a limited number of crafters there and so you'll want to recruit more NPCs with the appropriate skills. Usually you find them at wind shelter sites for thematic reasons I won't get into fully here (that's a Keith thing, and he might consider it spoilery, but I think it's a cool rationale that ties together why groups of people can't travel, why the illari are needed, why lone survivors tend to be at wind shelter sites (or insane), why player characters work differently, and why a few things (enchantments, mainly) carry on from character to character past death.
Lots of work has definitely gone into the lore here, mostly by Keith, and I think it's come out really well. A lot of these things you can piece together via the memory crystals, and other things NPCs will hint at through conversation, etc. Well, their... monologue... lines, I guess is the better word. NPCs have some contextual text that pops up when you walk by, as you probably saw.
4. Watching the video closely, it appears that the character takes no damage from falling. Is that correct? Is that the case everywhere, or only under certain circumstances? Given the way that vertical movement needs to work in a 2D side-scroller, the gameplay reason is fairly obvious; you'd be losing massive amounts of health all the time. What I'm asking about is really more how to explain no falling damage within the setting of the gameworld.
Well, this is a society based around magic, and it's one that lives on precarious chasm edges. It's just a basic magical imbuement that pretty much exists in the species by now. That said, it's all a matter of degree and velocity. Your terminal velocity in the lava flats is capped much higher, and if you hit the max terminal velocity there you'll die. There are thematic reasons why both The Deep and the Lava Flats work the way they do. As with AI War, there's not really a limit to the way we can make up BS to match the gameplay we want.
But, as with AI War, it's actually really fitting all throughout; I made up the bulk of the AI War lore, but in the case of AVWW the bulk of the credit definitely goes to Keith for that.
5. At one point in the video the character runs completely out of "magic". This is usually a good way to get oneself killed. Is it planned to add some kind of visual notification that the character is low on magic?
It's possible, and you do have a good point, but I think this is one of those things that will bear itself out more through playtesting. I may just need to make the magic bar change color when it gets very low -- I'll make a note to put that change in, regardless, because it should be helpful. The problem is, I didn't really run out of magic points -- rather, I think I had about 4 left, and that was too little to cast the fireball spell. But I could still cast things that cost less. Getting to literal 0 is going to be a rare event, because most of the time things don't divide evenly. And things like the fire touch are actually MP-free, so you never run completely out of the ability to do everything
At any rate, the clearest indication that you can't do what you want to do is when you try to cast a spell and nothing happens. Then you see that your MP is low, and probably that's your cue to just right-click either a Restore MP Scroll if you crafted those, or a Magic Potion if you've collected them. Worst case, toggle ability bars or open your inventory, then right click, then toggle back or close the inventory. It's all pretty fluid, and this is a game where one tiny mistake is unlikely to mean your doom unless you are already really low on health. Most
of the time. Generally the game is lost through a series of mistakes, rather than one critical one, although if you get gored by a Rhino that's a level higher than yourself that's pretty much curtains right there. They're good to avoid.
6. This may just have been an artifact of watching gameplay as a video, rather than controlling the character myself. But I found myself surprised and a fraction of a second behind every single time there was a map transition. There was no visual indication on the main map or audio cue when a main map area transition is about to occur, other than that the map stops scrolling very briefly as the character reaches the edge of the map. So there's no warning that you're about to execute a transition.
It is of course true that you can see on the minimap how close you are to a map transition. However, given the frequency with which enemies will be coming at you, draining your health (and this will be especially crucial if you're in dangerous areas above your "level"), I have a feeling that the attention of many players will be on the main map 99.9% of the time. That will mean they don't know when a map transition is about to occur. And if enemy spawning is reset when you exit and then reenter a map area, that could be upsetting to some players who (rightly or wrongly) expect "state" to be preserved.
I'm interested in hearing whether anyone else experienced this same surprise at transitioning to new map areas, and if so whether some kind of small but obvious visual "you're about to exit this map" indicator could be added on the main map.
I think this is an artifact of just watching. When you're running, your character is normally in the back third of the screen. Then suddenly you hit a transition edge and the screen stops scrolling and your character moves increasingly toward the other side of the screen -- an anomaly during normal play. At full run speed at 1080p, that gives you something like 4 seconds to realize that you're going to make the transition, if you weren't already aware. At smaller resolutions the warning is less, but it's still pretty obvious. And, frankly, it's the same as in most other 2D games of this sort that I've played -- Zelda 3, Super Metroid, etc. Top down and side view, I mean.
Lastly, if you do happen to accidentally exit off the side, then all you have to do is run right back over. It takes several seconds in most cases before the chunk you left is dropped to disk and thus cleared, usually in the neighborhood of I think 10 seconds, so if you come back into the chunk right after transitioning, then it's like you never left. Except now you're invincible until you move, and you have some time to think.
7. On the message "Press action key [to do whatever]", I would suggest that instead of saying "action key", that text should be the name of whatever key is mapped to the "action" event. It's good that you're telling players what they need to do; the problem is that it requires players to memorize one more thing on top of everything else when it's relatively simple to avoid that problem by simply telling them which key to press.
One nice enhancement would be to display the name of the key that the player currently has mapped to "action." Maybe the default is Tab, but I prefer to remap the "action" trigger to the middle mouse button. In that case, the nice message would be something like, "Press MMB to [whatever]."
Yeah, I thought about that, but decided against it for the simple fact that there are multiple confirm buttons, AND each one can have a mouse, gamepad, and keyboard binding. So it would literally be "Press T, Enter, or Gamepad Button 1 to blah blah blah" with the default bindings. With custom bindings it could also be talking about mouse bindings, etc, etc. If you notice right on the main menu there's a brief little default controls summary that is incredibly brief and simple. If you don't remember that T is a binding for this, you can always hit Enter. And if you don't remember any of that, you can pull up the keybindings screens from right in-game at any time (preferably during an invincibility period, or in a chunk without monsters, of course).
My initial urge was to do just what you were describing, but I discarded that for the reasons above, anyhow.
8. It appears that the character is always lit, as though he or she is always carrying a lit lantern. Can this effect be switched off and on? Or does it imply that no stealth-based gameplay is intended for AVWW?
It's not actually light, it's meant to reflect your field of vision instead. It isn't the full brightness of an actual light source. Right now we don't have any carried-along-with light sources in the game, although there are ways to place stationary lights of various sorts, and most spells also glow. So it doesn't really have any bearing on stealth play.
Stealth mechanics are something I'd like to do at some point, but thus far they haven't been a priority and I doubt there will be time prior to beta. I also don't have a super great model for them in mind, at least not yet. But I do plan to have some invisibility spells/potions in by beta, so that's one way you can sneak past enemies. Beyond that... it's something that probably needs to wait until beta for much discussion, but I'm interested in exploring it. And we've been intentionally avoiding doing anything that would BREAK the ability to have stealth gameplay, in the meantime.
9. From the video, I now understand the need to carry around wood bridges. I seem to remember though that I read here that characters could carry quite a few of these, but that they would need to restock periodically. What I wonder from a design perspective is: does needing to restock these add to the fun of the game?
It seems clear from the video that you basically have to have these bridges to progress through the game; you won't get far never going underground. If so, then requiring the player to monitor how many of these they have on hand adds two challenges -- the action of restocking, and the risk of getting stuck at the bottom with no bridges left -- but it's not clear that overcoming either of these challenges makes the game meaningfully more fun.
Certainly it's more "realistic" to require restocking of this item. On the other hand, a lot of things in AVWW are pretty clearly implemented for gameplay reasons regardless of any connection to realism. (That's not a criticism; simply a practical observation.) What I'm wondering is what you and the others here think of just letting characters have an infinite number of zero-encumbrance bridges. Is the loss of requiring the player to manage the current number of bridges stocked greater than the benefit of being able to focus more on fast-paced, movement-based gameplay?
This is something I've thought about a lot as well, and I'm really not sure. One thing you can do to completely nullify any need for bridges is to transmogrify yourself into a bat. The downside of that is your defensive values are then halved. I also have some future plans to include some NPCs with wings that can inherently fly, that you encounter very late in the game and can become if you wish.
It's kind of a two-master sort of thing, honestly. When it comes to the lava flats areas, I would say that the wood platforms as they are definitely add to the tense platforming nature of it. Since you have to wear a heat suit there, that also means that you can't be a bat or use your inherent wings, which fits.
On the other hand, there's this risk/reward with the wood platform based on crafting them versus something else when you're inside or on the surface, and I think there is some value in that. But we haven't playtested extensively enough to really be sure, there. I've been thinking about this very issue quite a bit, at any rate, and I'm not really sure what I want to do. One solution would be to have a form of grappling hook or similar that works in lieu of the wood platforms most of the time. Even just making the existing teleport spell available to players very early on in would solve this, in a different form.
So... yeah. The bulk of this game isn't meant to be a platformer or feel like one, but I guess what I'm trying to figure out is a way that makes inherent sense where we can maintain that in lava flats and make it not a hassle anywhere else. While still making spelunking nontrivial in other senses. I feel like I have that... maybe 60% figured out, based on the above. That last 40% really just needs more playtesting, which is going to be a focus between now and beta for sure.
10. This may just be me, but I found it extremely distracting when the information boxes would pop up over every single interactable object.
It looks like you've already made the wise decision to give interactable objects either a unique shape/texture or a unique decal describing that object's function. That being the case, will you allow players the option of turning off these pop-ups (presumably once they've learned to associate the appearance/decal of an object with its function)?
Sure, I don't see any reason why not to allow turning those off. I think those may still need some refinement, anyway, though. One thing that they are critical about is telling you which action takes precedence when there are multiple things you could do at once. For instance, when a player bag has been dropped in front of a door, if you stand on the bag then you can pick that up instead of going into the door, and this makes that clear. Also, when it comes to identifying interior doors, they give the actual textual name that goes with the icons on said doors.
Another place where this is really critical is for letting you know where doors exist that are non-visually-obvious. This mostly applies to the outside of certain kinds of buildings -- particularly buildings with side entrances (that are thus non-visible), buildings with secret upper window entrances (oops, spoiler, eh?
), and buildings with things like a staircase leading up to a door on a raised platform, where the bottom of the stairs is actually the entrance.
Granted, we could handle those with a small icon instead of the larger text popup. We could also have the text popup moved to the top center of the screen, which is where it used to be, but then I found it almost invisible to me in many cases when I was trying to figure out what doors led to where. That was before the door icons were added, though, so perhaps I just need to move it back up there and have done with it. Or maybe that just needs to be the option: above the character, or at the top of the screen. Above the character is far more clear and easier to read, but it has the drawback of getting in the way.
I'm confident that one way or another we can find options to suit everyone, but that's not the biggest point with this specific topic: ideally, the default options would be so good and clear and nonobtrusive that it's satisfactory for the vast majority of players.
11. Why does a teleport portal (can we just call these "teleportals"?) spawn when you defeat a boss?
I'm not suggesting that this is somehow a bad thing; I appreciate the gameplay value of not having to backtrack every step of the way to the top of a building/tunnel/keep. This is really another question asking how this feature is explained within the lore of the gameworld. WHY do magical things work the way they do here? Are they just invented on an individual basis as needed for gameplay? Or are magical effects invented individually but later tweaked to function in a consistent, coherent way, but still basically just implemented with no in-game reason? Or is there some lore behind how all of these effects work the way they do, even if that lore is not revealed up front to the player but is part of the story of each game?
Obviously I'm hoping for the latter. I think certain kinds of games have more impact when there's a consistent, coherent internal logic to why things in the gameworld are the way they are. BioShock benefits from setting the plasmid-based action within a narrative of human exceptionalism, for example. Not having that kind of narative explanation for everything doesn't make a game "bad," of course; I loved me plenty of DOOM.
But having a lot of world-y elements (as I've mentioned before seems to be the case for A Valley Without Wind) increases the value of setting all that game's features within an internally logical narrative. I'm definitely not asserting that this isn't the case for AVWW -- how would I know? What I'm saying is that I haven't heard much about this part of the game's design so far, and I haven't seen it in this video, but it does matter to me. Worldy games are better when the things in that world make sense. And I'm hoping that, with teleportals as with everything else, someone is working to insure that that is the case for AVWW.
See our work with AI War; we come up with sufficient thematic BS for everything.
But in all seriousness, a lot of it comes down to having a central narrative hook that gives you the sort of latitude for game design things of this nature. Make no mistake that this is gameplay first and then we wrap the narrative around it. But coming up with a narrative that is cohesive is also really important. In AI War, we get a ton of mileage out of the AI's motivations being unclear, for instance, AND by the fact that the AI is focusing its attention outside the galaxy. Then we get yet more mileage by introducing various other factions that have different backgrounds and play by different rules.
I'm not sure how spoiler-y I really want to get with AVWW at this point, but suffice it to say that it all does fit together. This is a world rent apart and slammed back together in many ways, AND it's an inherently magic-using society that has never existed without magic as a part of their lives, so that gives us almost as much license as the AI War setting does. But when you throw in the Illari and the other factions that are there (and not all the Illari are even united), that gives us just incredible latitude to weave many disparate ideas together in a way that is cohesive, fun, and actually makes logical sense.
So, yeah: the portals thing has a thematic reason. I won't say specifically what, but I will say it's related to the reason that The Deep is... the way it is. And it's also related to why all the full bosses are... well, the way they are. That's really vague, but those three things are quite interrelated, and there's other things in the world that also tie into the concept at the core of these. I think it's more fun to discover this sort of thing through actually playing, though, so I won't get into specifics.
12. There's nothing to be done about it at this point, but I can't resist noting that -- speaking just for myself -- the chiptune-like music is still much too "game"-y. The piano-like music was actually pretty nice, but the 8-bit-style music was consistently jarring; it always felt out of place attached to the very pretty visuals. Again, I don't expect this comment to change anything. I'm just registering one person's opinion and trying to provide some explanation for it.
I mean, I'm fine that you feel this way, and I'm sure you're not the only one, but the general reaction seems to be "ecstatic." We get so many comments on the music in this game (even more than usual), that it's been just really positive. There is not any other way I would want to do the music for this game, it's just absolutely the best soundtrack Pablo's ever put together, and that's saying something. Not everybody's going to like it, but that's also been true of AI War, Tidalis, and probably most other games in general.
Overall, the progress made here is fantastic. I'm still the fence about the side-scrolling thing; it's not a genre I enjoy. But I'm trying to be open-minded about it, and from this video you might just sell me on it.
Hopefully others will feel the same way! Thanks again for giving us this peek at how things are going.
Thanks! And, my pleasure. There's been a huuuuge
amount of world-scaffolding that has gone into place since June and now, making the game still lighter on content than it will be at beta or 1.0, but it's coming along well. This engine is incredibly robust and fully-featured at this stage, too, which is just going to let us fly with it like we have been able to do with AI War for a while; I'm really enjoying getting to focus on content more now, though, I have to say.