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hadecynn

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A member registered Oct 11, 2017 · View creator page →

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This is a review for the IGMC 2018 Secret Santa event.

Full disclosure, I've never been a fan of point-and-click, interactive adventure games, so I'm probably not the target audience for this game. In any case, I played through the entire game once and achieved the true ending. 

While it wasn't a critical issue, there were a fair number of glaring mapping/passability issues. To be fair, a lot of these might not have even been noticed in a normal RPG. However, given that the core of this game is to click on random stuff and talk to people, these bugs become magnified and detract from the overall polish and experience a lot more than they would've otherwise. 

The use of dynamic lighting was advertised as a main feature of the game, but its implementation was not user-friendly. When the lighting changes at the 30-minute mark, the city map becomes nearly impossible to see. I had to adjust the brightness setting on my monitor to be able to see where to go.

The game's story was understandably limited in scope due to the restrictions of the jam, but the issue with Judged for Crime's narrative unfortunately extends beyond just its length. There are three main issues that could use some improvement:

1) Grammar and (writing) Style. In the same way that the mapping bugs are emphasized by the point-and-click aspect of the game, having poor grammar and writing in a text-centric game also severely hinders the experience. 

2) Characterization (or lack thereof). The characters in the game are extremely flat. Between the grammar issues and the inconsistent character speech patterns, it was difficult to identify with and therefore invest in any of the characters. The worst offender(s) were probably the main character's parents; while reading their dialog during the visit in the dungeon, there was a moment when I seriously thought that this whole ordeal was some sort of exaggerated act that the parents were putting up to teach the MC some sort of lesson.

3) Logic. Every work of fiction asks its audience for the suspension of disbelief, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, Judged for Crime asks for more than that, it asks that logic and common sense be thrown out the window as well. This might okay if the game was highly abstract or fantastical and could be sustained on its own rules and systems. However, this game is neither a high-fantasy adventure nor a supernatrual horror, it is a mystery that asks the audience for logical thinking and deduction. Between the premise, the setting, and character dialog, there were just too many instances where behaviors of characters are unbelievable. 

All in all, while the game had a beginning and an end, and there weren't any game-breaking bugs that I encountered in my playthrough, the experience felt lackluster and unpolished. There was definitely a lot of missed opportunities, especially considering that the game was published a full 6 days before the end of the competition (20% of the whole contest duration).

lol Sin. It's nice to hear that coming from last year's judge. I'll check out the stream later. Thanks for playing!

This review is from the IGMC 2018 Secret Santa event. I may or may not have finished the game (I'm not sure, details to follow), so this is based off of the sections of the game I did get to experience.

The setting and lore of the game is an original touch that leaves a good impression. The backstory art pieces, while simple, fits with the overall aesthetics and help reinforce the unique worldview of the title. There's definitely a lot of potential and personality that can be glimpsed from the demo here. 

However, the execution falls short and leaves much to be desired, especially considering that the game was submitted more than 7 days before the end of the contest (which is about 25% of the entire duration.) There are numerous bugs and questionable design issues that might've been addressed had the designer made full use of the time available.

Some bugs encountered were:

1. The game will crash in battle if no skills were learned.

2. There are numerous wall tiles that had passability issues, resulting in the character being able to walk through walls.

3. Certain skills are either coded incorrectly or have the wrong description, as they do something different from what they advertise (eg. Resurection < spelling mistake, btw) 

Design issues:

1. Battle balancing. In my first playthrough attempt, my first enemy encountered used Life Drain twice, dealing more than half of my total HP each time, and I was dead. If it wasn't for the fact that I was playing the game to give feedback, I would've stopped playing right there. In my second attempt, after picking up all the Attack-family skills, I was able to progress more, but an encounter left me poisoned, and with no antidote, my HP slipped down to 1 while solving puzzles on the map. When I noticed it in the next battle, it was too late and I was sent to the Game Over screen again. By my third play through, I've decided to skip battles altogether.

2. Skill learning system. While I understand the intent that the designer had for creating a "choose-your-own-skills" system, there were a number of user-unfriendly quirks that worked against the intent. For one, the decision to use a map to navigate through the skills instead of a window-based UI made the system unnecessary clunky. Understandably, this might have been necessary because the designer didn't have access to custom coding one way or another.

However, from a design perspective, there's also the issue that the function of skills is not clear to the player. The descriptions of "raising ATK by 20" or "charming an enemy for 5 turns" don't carry any meaning without context of the system, and players don't have that insight into the inner workings and formula of the game. Therefore, while in theory this system allows players to make "choices", players end up having to make "uninformed decisions or guesses" rather than any strategic or tactical reason.

3. Puzzles. Certain puzzles are explained once (mirror), certain puzzles are not explained (the first fire/orb color, block pushing), and certain puzzles are explained over and over again when the player steps on a certain tile (sunbird). Not only is the inconsistency jarring, the fact that certain explanations are omitted or only accessible once means that players can easily get stuck. 

4. Not knowing where to go next. After encountering the Witch and being thrown into a dungeon cell, I climb out with a new party member to continue my journey to... I don't know where to go. I've circled around the map twice and could not find a way to progress in the game, and this was where I stopped playing.

All in all,  A Witches Heart had a very unique premise and custom visuals that was unfortunately undercut by the implementation and design of its gameplay systems. To be clear, the effort was certainly there, and that alone deserves recognition.

In looking at a lot of the issues and bugs, the core problem might simply be that the designer has too much information and insight in their head, and could not accurately gauge how the experience would unfold for players that did not have these inside information.

Thanks for the follow-up comment!

Yup, I definitely wanted players to be actively engaged while playing.

To be honest though, because of the rules of the contest/judging and all, I definitely threw more stuff at the player and at a much faster pace than I would if this was a full/normal release. I think part of the difficulty you experienced was also because there's just not enough time for you to digest all the systems yet. It's kinda like choosing the lesser of two evils; on one hand I knew doing this would make it tough for players, but I wanted to showcase the potential depth of the system, so we ended up with what you see today.

Hi Uzuki, thank you so much for the praise! I'm really glad you enjoyed the battle system and recognized my attempts to make it interesting beyond the standard turn-base fare. I definitely plan on working on this after the contest, and I hope it'll continue to interest you as the project develops. Thanks again! 

Thanks for trying the game out even though it's not your standard genre of choice! I really appreciate the time and effort!

I'm glad you recognized the gameplay loop and found it enjoyable, as well as the acknowledging the suspense when waiting for the attuning to finish, those were all deliberate choices and you've picked them all up!

By raising HP, are you referring to raising max HP or just restoring HP? Your maximum HP does increase with every Level Up, and there is the "First Aid" skill that acts as a clutch in emergency situations, as well as being able to carry up to two Blessings of Life.

I definitely wanted to showcase the gameplay and systems in the game, so the plot is understandably under-developed; I'll make sure she does a better job at convincing in the future. =)

Thanks again! 

Glad you found the feedback useful (and thanks again for yours on Abyss of Oblivion).

1. Those all sound like interesting ideas. Intuitively I think giving rewards/powerups that are NOT locked to the card used might be good, as you probably wouldn't want to create a sunk-cost feeling in players that works against experimenting with new cards/setups.

2. Totally understandable. If I'm being honest as well, Floors 11 - 20 in Abyss of Oblivion I've only ran through once or twice as well. lol

3. Totally understandable as well.

4. If I recall, the 3x6 tiles in MMBN were all vanilla-colored tiles with red/blue frames that don't reflect the maps on which the battle occured, right? If you could afford a different set of assets (just one) for battles instead of feeling the need to stick to the map tiles, it might give you more freedom to do what you need to do. Just a thought.

Hey LazyBumStudio,

Having played and enjoyed Dear Edwin last year, I was very excited to read in the progress threads that the same team would be working on a new project, and this time with a focus on gameplay. Unfortunately, I might have hyped myself up a little too much and set the expectations too high.

Visuals:
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I actually liked the pixel style of Dear Edwin a lot more than the style used in fading remnants, and felt there was much more polish in Dear Edwin than here. I'm not sure if it was intentional or if the team ran out of time, but the presence and absence of shading/highlights on certain elements versus others (like the trees on the map versus the racks in the storage room) made the game's aesthetics look very unbalanced and unfinished. The sprites and character busts are great, though as many have mentioned, Lia not having a portrait when speaking when everyone else did took some time to register and get used to.

Story/Theme:
I know this is only a vertical slice, and I know there's a deadline, but similar to the visuals, seeing what was presented here further impressed upon me that the team might have bitten off more than they could chew. Especially considering the bar that was set by Dear Edwin.

The game's description paints a picture of a bleak, post-apocalyptic world, with phrases like ("Humanity is a lonely shell of what it once was..." and "...search for answers in a world that has forgotten mankind..."), and yet, for a good part of the demo we have three teenage(?) girls talking about eating peaches and friendly bickering with each other in a way that would seem more appropriate in a high-school slice-of-life setting. At first I even thought that through some bizarre reason peaches are now the only way to sustain life and is worth more than gold, but the game doesn't do anything to confirm or deny this idea.

The main quest dialog suggests that our protagonists seem to be in a hurry to find someone, wanting to avoid detours or being too involved with other people's troubles, but then the same trio also has time to fool around in garbage bins playing jokes on each other. As such, I have no idea how we (the audience) should be identifying with these characters and their predicaments, making it very hard to feel invested in them. 

Also, the fact that they are the only human-like people in the game (so far), but also don't seem surprised to see animal-people in town, have numerous interesting implications, but what these implications are were not even slightly hinted at in the game, leaving me to wonder whether it was even necessary to present these side characters as non-humans in the demo. (ie. Chekhov's gun)  

Gameplay:
For me, gameplay is about giving players agency and having interesting choices. Choices can be story choices, progression choices, battle choices, etc. but regardless of form, it's about giving players some form of self-expression and having more than one outcome. Having said that, even though there was the mouse chasing, the water pipe, and the distilling machine puzzle, I felt that those were more like interactive elements than real gameplay. 

Yes, they are something to DO beyond reading dialogue and moving on the map, but not something you can PLAY with, not only because they were required to progress the story, but also because there is only one "right answer". I understand that the definition of gameplay and games differ from person to person, and so I might have simply had expectations that were not aligned with what the team had in mind.

Overall:
Make no mistake, despite my disappointments with the game, I'm fully aware of the effort and work that went into building fading remnants, and I applaud the team for that. If this review sounds especially harsh, it's only because I believe (and still do) in what this team is capable of, and felt there could have been so much more. I sincerely hope that the team finds encouragement rather than discouragement from what I've written here, and am still very much looking forward to your future projects.

Cheers for another IGMC finished!
Andy

Hi beenbaba,

Thank you for the praise and I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed the experience and even found it addicting! xD

To comment on a few points you raised:

1. The floors in the Abyss are in fact procedurally generated. Having said that, I definitely agree that they could use more decorations. In fact, it was in the original spec, but because it was lower on the priority list, it got cut as the deadline drew near.

2. You are absolutely correct in assessing that there's way too much information way too fast, as well as the fact that this was a deliberate choice because I wanted to demonstrate the game's potential. In a full/normal release the introduction of mechanics and their tutorials would be spaced out MUCH farther apart so players will have time to learn and familiarize the previous thing before I throw the next one at them.

3. In regards to traps, I agree that there needs to be some rebalancing, but the idea that traps + encounters can KO you if you aren't carefully managing Level Ups, Blessings, HP/MP, and Chain Bonuses is intentional. To explain the reasoning, a key distinguishing feature of this game is that there is no real "game over" state. Being KOed in battle only creates some light penalties, and unlike roguelikes, players keep most of their progress. So I wanted to have KOs to actually be a part of the experience as players travel in the Abyss (if they're not being hyper vigilant). It's there to create a certain level of tension ("I don't want to lose EXP", "I don't want to lose that Tier 3 Ability I just got", "Let me just make it to the next Light of Reprieve so I can cash in on my EXP and permanently keep Ability X"), while not being unforgivingly punishing by sending you back to the title screen and erasing your progress for the last 30 minutes.

4. As far as battle BGM goes, the choice to have only Remnant and Boss battles have real battle BGMs was to emphasize them when players do hear them. I feel like normal encounters are so short (and designed to be short, especially if you activate High-Speed Mode) that the constant transitioning between map and battle music would be jarring, but I will take a look into it to see if there are any alternatives. I did actually try a system where the battle music "remembers" where it stopped between battles, but even then the changes were too abrupt and frequent.

Thanks again for playing and providing such valuable feedback!
Andy

Thank you! Do you mind if I copy and paste what you posted there here so others can see if if they're interested?

Hi beenbaba,

So I went back and finished what I started. I thought the final boss was really interesting; without spoilers I'm just going to say I liked the homing bouncing projectile. 

As I've mentioned in the previous message, this was an incredibly polished prototype and I won't be surprised if Cyanima wins the contest. Having said that, here are some feedback on what I think needs to be expanded upon or addressed:

1. How to make the battles rewarding to motivate players to fight. This is a problem that plagued Battle Network too, which I'm sure you're very familiar with. Due to the fact that each enemy type/encounter only rewards either Gold or a type of Card/Chip and there's no EXP, if the Card isn't a particularly good one, then players have very little reason to engage with enemies, as Gold farming is much more efficient with resetting treasure chests through entering/leaving. I found myself avoiding all blue enemies and trying to squeeze by red enemies by the time I was in the desert map. In Battle Network, they alleviated this a little by having rarer alphabet versions of Chips locked behind better battle performances, so players would want to keep fighting just to get a higher score/drop, but since your system doesn't have the alphabet subsystem, it makes battles even more of a chore to do.

2. The problem above is further compounded by the D.CP cap. I don't quite recall what the starting memory capacities of MMBNs were, but I do know that the game allowed a good deal of deck customization before hitting the memory cap. (I think they even started you out with some additional cards you can already swap with to customize before any battling?)

In Cyanima, however, by starting the player at 100/100 D.CP and having mostly cheap Cards in the default deck, you essentially block players from being able to use any of the new Cards they get via exploring or combat that costs more CP (the $5000 price tag for D.CP+ in the shop didn't help either). This issue continues throughout the game, as the scarce D.CP+ items you get from clearing the map simply can't catch up with the costs and amount of the better cards you get in the same process. In total, I only switched out 3 cards from the default deck from start to finish, which is really a shame because I'm well aware of how fun this customization system is.

3. Elements. So, even though I finished the demo, I'm still not sure what elements are supposed to do in this game. If you were going with MMBN, then I assume the damage dealt is doubled when using an element the enemy is weak against. However, in MMBN they had a very strong visual cue ("!!" spikey speech bubble-thing upon hit, if memory serves correctly) that was missing here. As a result, I couldn't really appreciate the diversity of elemental Cards available in the demo. Between this and the D.CP issue above, even though there were dozens of Cards in theory, in practice I felt that there were only 4 different commands in the game: the pea shooter, Shots, Swords, and Healing.

4. Battle presentation. This is going to be a tough one, but needs addressing nonetheless. In MMBN the 3x6 battle grid took up the whole screen, which made it much easier to see all the things going on and gave players more time to react. In Cyanima, I'm assuming in an effort to minimize the amount of art assets needed, you guys made the battle arena only take up about 1/9 of an already small screen. This made it difficult to appreciate all the information in the battle, such as the enemy HP being obstructed by projectiles or other enemies, or the names of Cards chosen in the bottom-left corner simply not being registered by the brain because all the attention is focused on the center of the screen.

Again, I think you guys did a fantastic job and the game is already pretty amazing, but if you have plans to take the project further regardless of how the contest results turn out, I'd love to see improvements on the points I raised above.

Cheers!
Andy

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Even though almost the entirety of the battle/deck mechanic is a copy of the systems in the Megaman Battle Network series and the D.CP balance isn't quite there, I still have to applaud the execution and its implementation in RPG Maker. Kudos to you guys. Combined with the slick visuals (and probably the best use of my animation assets in any projects I've seen to date), I wouldn't be surprised if this project wins the contest. 

However, I wasn't able to finish the game. After defeating the boss in the 3rd area (Glacial field), by choosing not to teleport out after collecting the Emblem, it seems like I was locked in the room with no way out. How much more content was there after that?

Thanks!

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Not a game-breaking bug, but since it is possible to defeat the thug boss before the underling, the conversation between the boss and underling after the first strike on the underling makes no sense if the boss is already dead.

Also, consider implementing the feature to auto end-turn if all player characters have already moved (or if that's in the Option menu, make it ON by default).

Cheers!

Hi IGMC team,

Just want to confirm. Unlike last year, the entry we submit this year does not need to have an "ending", correct? It could hypothetically be the prologue or even just a chapter from somewhere in the middle of the larger story?

By extension, would a demo that focuses on pure mechanics/gameplay with very little story be penalized? 

Thanks!

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I originally already had plans to play this entry, so I have the great fortune of killing two birds with one stone as this was assigned to me for the IGMC 2017 Secret Santa event.

Strengths:
Visual Aesthetics & Atmosphere
Without a doubt, this is one of the best looking entries in the competition. While custom resources do not always guarantee better visual presentation, Dear Edwin's original assets are coherent, polished, and perfectly compliment the story it tells.

Writing & Dialog
With the exception of a typo or two, the writing in Dear Edwin is excellent. The manners of speech for characters of different socioeconomic statuses are believable, and dialog strikes a fine balance between driving enough plot and revealing enough character, without ever becoming too dense and dull. 

Neutral:
Audio
While the custom soundtrack wasn't bad, there wasn't anything particularly memorable either. Tracks matched the environments and scenes in which they were used; given the type of experience this project intended on giving, it was sufficient, but no more.

Weaknesses: 
Gameplay
There was much deliberation as to whether or not this section should be mentioned, given that the project is up-front about the fact that it's an interactive novel. Ultimately, the choice to include this in the review boiled down to a simple question: "Do the gameplay elements enhance or detract from the overall experience?" And unfortunately, in Dear Edwin's case, the answer was the latter. 

There are two elements that can be considered "gameplay" in this project:
1) Interacting/Talking with NPCs and the world
2) Exploring/Moving in maps

Given that this is a detective story, many opportunities were already missed by the design choice to spoon-feed all the clues to the player through unmissable events that are necessary to progress. Even more opportunities were missed when a number of townspeople NPC had dialog that didn't contribute anything to world/lore/character-building. If "having the freedom to choose to talk to townspeople" is a prominent and core game feature, then what does dialog like "They're too focused on each other to talk to me", "I can see my friend's house from here", or "..." add to the play experience? 

On the point of giving players the ability to move about and "explore", there's the obvious benefit of showcasing the spectacular art that the game boasts. However, if this was just about eye-candy or awe-inspiring visuals, there are better alternatives to achieve this end.  Exploration should lead to discoveries, but unfortunately, there's little to be organically discovered in Dear Edwin. There are very few items that can be interacted with, especially on the larger maps. (Ironically, objects that the protagonist comments on are usually found in smaller maps.) 

This, coupled with the "..."-spouting NPCs mentioned earlier, leads to situations where a player would spend time wandering around the map and try to engage with objects or people, only to find that they've wasted their time. A particularly puzzling design choice is the decision to add knocking sounds to doors when the player tries to interact with them. By adding that to the game, one would assume the designer is subtly communicating to the player that there is something that the player can achieve through this mechanism. However, the only instance in which a door was knocked on and answered was during an event scene that is partially triggered WITHOUT an interaction command from the player. 

Presenting Dear Edwin in an "RPG-like fashion" is by no means a bad thing. However, it does beg the question whether this project would've benefited even more if it took on a different form of presentation.

Ending (Potential Spoilers)
While the story had an excellent setup and kept up its momentum for most of its length, the closing act leaves much to be desired. For one, there was no aftermath following the revelation of the story's main mystery. While not all mystery stories require an epilogue, the lack of closure given the nature and implications of the core conspiracy unfortunately makes the project feel rushed towards the end and incomplete.  

Tangential to that, given the protagonist's backstory and internal conflict that helped fleshed out his character, it seems illogical and out-of-character for him to unravel the conspiracy at the setting and location that he did; as it is natural and easy to imagine that doing so has with the potential consequences of repeating his past mistake at a much larger scale. While I can see how this might be a deliberate choice on the writer's part, in either case, this is another reason why the lack of closure or aftermath is troubling and gives off the unfortunate impression that the final scenes of the story were rushed.

*Note to Devs: I'm trying to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but if this part (or any part of the review) is too cryptic or you would like to discuss, feel free to let me know. You know where to find me.

Concluding Thoughts
All in all, Dear Edwin was a charming experience that easily stands out from its competitors. The lack of meaningful gameplay and seemingly rushed conclusion are regrettable flaws, but otherwise the project is well-made and polished. Kudos to the development team!

- hadecynn

Awesome. Thanks!

Thanks for stepping out of your comfort zone and giving my game a try! Out of curiosity, when you said you stopped at the harder Monstons, are you talking about the ones unlocked after the story segment? Thanks!

Thanks for letting me know your interest, I hope the game can match your expectations and you enjoy it!

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Thanks for catching that! I'll fix it for V1.04. Hope you're enjoying the game!

EDIT (10/29 7:41 AM PST): Bug should be fixed. Thanks again!