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Community Feedback, Game 1: Daybreak Empire

A topic by NightBlade created Jun 15, 2018 Views: 196 Replies: 5
Viewing posts 1 to 6
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For the first game, we're going to review Daybreak Empire. Please post your detailed feedback here. Once everyone's done, I'll post a comment pointing to this thread, so they know where to find the details.  You can read more about this initiative here.

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My first and second impressions of the Daybreak Empire demo:

The graphics are neat, technically and artistically. It's easy to understand what's going on, without lots of explanatory text. The HUD, terrain and character graphics integrate nicely. I particularly like the abstracted and distinctive character designs. They remind me of the way Ben Costa (the artist behind the comics Shi Long Pang and Rickety Stitch) draws people.

The controls are straightforward, click to select a unit, click to move, click to attack. Some tactical RPGs present you with a rather intricate menu system right from the start, with a multitude of classes, equipment, abilities and so on. I used to play Dwarf Fortress a lot, so I know that navigating that kind of system quite soon becomes second nature, but I'm still not sure that it's worth all the key presses and the heightened threshold for new players. In many cases, good game design can enable complex gameplay without relying on a complicated control scheme.

To actually hit something and deal damage, you need to push a button when a moving slider is close to the center of its track. I'm not sure about this concept. The first time I tried this game, I couldn't hit anything and got so annoyed I uninstalled it. When I tried it again yesterday, I could hit successfully every time. I can understand that RPG creators want to add an unpredictable factor to their battle system, and this approach is definitely an improvement over the random rolls-to-hit in Battle for Wesnoth, which have driven me to ragequit and uninstall not once but twice. That said, I still worry that doing the same old timed button push will eventually become tedious when you play the full game. If they asked me, I'd suggest that they leave it in for now, but consider ways to add variety to this aspect of the game.

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I played through the full demo (three battles) in one sitting (30ish minutes). I liked the tactical aspect (which reminded me of Final Fantasy Tactics and friends), not so much the map overworld part -- the latter was more confusing (and the opposing force doesn't seem to do anything, which makes sense for a demo). The pixel art was very well-done, as were the effects (you didn't feel like it's lacking any animation).

Other than the learning curve (which is a bit steep) and the confusing infantry-beats-cavalry (which is explained in the comments), I really liked the tactical aspect; you really have to think how to deploy carefully (eg. cavalry can charge anywhere but can get overwhelmed quickly; archers can hang back and snipe; cavalry archers are confusing; infantry swarm cavalry). 

Most importantly to me, the game was straight-forward to play through: there's a convenient "next unit" button, and it auto-cycles through units with simple options like move (which you can use multiple times for far-moving units) and attack; ranges (including attack range when you move) are clearly indicated with red/green squares on the grid; unmovable tiles (eg. houses) look good and are easy to navigate around.

I liked the trigger system a lot (and used it in my games). The only criticism I would say is that missing the trigger entirely should probably be less of a fail; taking a page from Super Mario RPG, a successful hit should be skillfully double-damage etc. while a miss should be just a regular attack. As a game designer, I would say the design of the battles is pretty standard, nothing special or new other than the trigger system.

On the other hand, the overworld part is confusing; it's not really explained that you have bases, you can generate units/gold, and command units to move. I eventually generated three more units and tried to marge them, but clicked X and one just seemed to disappear. Not sure exactly how this works. Also, opponents didn't seem to increase in units or gold over time.

The characters were pretty well-developed also (in how they develop over time) and the overall picture of the game world is easy to understand. There were a couple of confusing sentences, but nothing untoward.

Also: please add a settings screen with options to turn off music!

The strategic, army-building view does seem like a work in progress. I'm curious about what it's going to be like in the finished game. There obviously has to be some constraints preventing you from filling every territory with maxed-out units and buildings. It's hard to give useful feedback on that mechanic while it's in such an early stage.

I share your concern that the gameplay as seen in the demo might be a little too straightforward. There will apparently be more unit types in the full game, which is nice, especially if they fill other tactical niches (e.g. long-range artillery, fliers, armored spearheads). Presenting diverse, challenging scenarios is also important. If all you do is walk across the map to whack those guys over there, then there probably won't be much reason to carefully raise your army and make your deployments.

I think the chip-acoustic music is enjoyable and adds personality, but muting it should be an option, yes. Even the best music can become a grating distraction in a protracted battle, when you're trying to concentrate on your plan. There could also be a third option that restricts the music to cutscenes and battle highlights.

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Oops, I missed this last week! I played the game today and really enjoyed it, though there are a few problems of varying severity. I think the best way for me to explain might be in bullet point form! Tbh this kind of game is not really one I give a lot of thought to the design of, so my suggestions might be way off.

Minor Problems/Bugs

  • The MacOS build doesn't appear to be packaged correctly. It is a zip file containing the contents of an application package. However, you can run the main executable and it works fine, just a bit weird.
  • There is no scaling applied, or obvious way to resize the game. This means I'm squinting at a tiny box in the centre of my screen.
  • In the introductory battle some of the sprites were flickering and stuff, and sometimes disappearing altogether depending on where the camera was focused. This didn't seem to occur in subsequent battles.

Gameplay Problems

  • The main problem in my mind is that there is really no challenge or strategy involved in the map/world view - you can just keep clicking and waiting until you've built everything up to the max, have money pouring in each turn and a full roster of level 5 soldiers, then steamroll over the next territory. The last battle was laughably easy for me. Having some threat of attack, needing to keep territories defended, something more required for upgrades than just money and clicking, those sorts of things, might round out this side of the game.
  • The battle arenas were a bit small, and nothing about them really added much, tactically. Only the first one was larger than a single screen. Having a lead in to battles, multiple smaller engagements, chokepoints to defend or attack, things like that might add some depth.

What I Liked

  • I really liked the way the attacking worked, requiring some degree of skill on the player's part to determine damage/crits rather than just using an RNG, I thought it made it more engaging.
  • I thought the counterattacking, and the way it suggested which types of units to use for what, was really cool.
  • The story was really great, and the way the dialogues were presented, with the target of a line of dialogue semi transparent, was really good.
  • The art was really good, both the main game art and the full size character art for the dialogues.
  • The music was really great, although the battle music felt a little bit repetitive after a while. A transition to some victory music would be a nice addition, it feels a bit anti-climactic at the moment to win and have the battle music just keep going.

Overall I really enjoyed this game and I hope the overarching strategy side of it in particular gets fleshed out a little more.

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback this week. You can view the next weekly discussion thread here.

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