ACRA'S PLAYTESTING TOPIC

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Links to game sessions:
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Baclyae Revolution - [ 1 | 2 | F ]
Keeper of the Fog
Notes from Province - [ 1 | 2 | ...
Port Traventor - [ 1 ]
{ New game slot here . . . }


I've complained multiple times about how too many developers here keep their nose to the ground, only worrying about their own project(s), with no care for the rest. It's something I've most certainly been guilty of. And will probably continue to be guilty of from time-to-time. So this is my attempt to rectify that, at least a little.

I think what makes this different from other similar topics is that the main goal isn't about getting a review out of it. Those may or may not come out afterwards, down the line, but that's not my priority. It's to give my full mindset, step-by-step, as I play through the game. How my opinions and perceptions shift over time, and a more in-depth look at any given section of a game than a review would. I think the best descriptor would be to call it a Written Let's Play? I don't really like that moniker, but whatever.

When I'm not guts-deep in my own gamedev, I'd hope to put out a session a week (roughly an hour of gameplay, several more of editing my thoughts into something coherent), hopefully more, but I guarantee nothing. I'd also like to say that I'll probably juggle between multiple games at a time, which hopefully won't get confusing, but should loosen the glut of one big game clogging the system for months and months. I likewise make no promises to finish every given game. But I'll try.

Now, I'd like to say I'm taking all comers, but I know I can't realistically deal with every one that might cross my table. So I'll be upfront and say what traits I'll specifically favour when making decisions of what to play, probably in this order:

1.) A high degree of customization: classes, skill trees, interesting equipment choices, a choice in party members, that sort of thing.
2.) Nonlinearity. I realize that's a pretty rare request when taken at face-value, but I mean it in broader contexts, too. Things like branching dialogue and whatnot.
3.) Long; this might seem an odd specification, but I know other people tend to favour a breadth-first approach to make their Makerscore number go big fast, so I figure I'd specifically go the opposite direction and tackle lengthier games. This doesn't mean I won't do unfinished games or demos, just that I'm aware of the irony that the longer the game, the less likely it'll be played, and would like to do something to rectify that.
4.) Only RPGs, or at least still in the turn-based domain. It sounds like an absolutely idiotic thing to say, and yet I feel RPGs are under-represented on a place called RPGMaker.net, what with every other month's Featured Game being a platformer.
5.) Not Commercial. Obviously.

Doesn't mean I won't consider things that fail to meet these criteria, but that should at least give a general direction. I do at least somewhat know where my biases lie. You are also welcome to suggest a game that you didn't personally create... but I don't realistically see anyone doing that, and I'm primarily looking to help active developers gain an outsider's perspective on their projects, and another playtester, rather than being funny or interesting or anything.

So, suggest away!
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Baclyae Revolution: Session 1
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Lemme start with some pre-amble. I have no idea what a Suikoden is, which Baclyae apparently takes heavy inspiration from. This may or may not be important later. Also, perhaps more telling, I don't know the first thing about VX Ace (or any other RPGMaker engine). I'm probably going to give credit for things that are standard-issue, and think nothing of things manually coded in. Maybe that matters, maybe not.

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Well. Baclyae Revolution wastes no time just dumping stuff at you. We're in prison, gonna be executed at orders of her Majesty. Random prison break that we had no part of. Empress died a couple days ago. Either the Princess or the Duke did it. And the guys who rescued us just peaced out. ...Can VXAce not do sound effects on the field? Cutscenes would be a little more put together with a little noise, or something. Someone blowing up a wall, or some clattering of prison bars being broken, or something. Anyway, two steps on the field and two people (Karuna and Aurelie) join us with no rhyme or reason of what our (or their) goal is.

...Actually, what is our goal? We don't know what we were imprisoned for. Presumed unjust and we're just dirt farmers, but I'm not sure if we have any reason to go on an adventure and raise an army to take revenge on... the Empress who's already dead? Wait. Is the Princess 'her Majesty'?

Whatever, maybe I'm overthinking things. It videogame, go punch things. Story'll work itself out later. Or not matter. First dungeon time. But. wait...



Uh. That's the world map. I think this is the WHOLE world map. Which, okay, maybe not a big deal, but it's all the same hard to imagine a grand, spanning game having 100+ characters taking place in a rinky-dink island that barely fills a single screen and consists of four buildings.

A few steps into a forest, and we're forced to sleep at some random fort in the forest. Sleeping removes everyone from the party (or maybe cutscenes do that). We then meet Feroz, who I guess is our boss now. I think he was someone who rescued us, maybe? This might not be a fair thing to say, but I can immediately tell I'm going to have a hell of a time picking one character out from another. These portraits just don't do anything to align with their mapsprites or stand out. Anyway, go climb a mountain.



Should talk about combat. Pretty basic right now. Enemies haven't done anything to stand out. Unites don't take any MP, and seem to have no downside. Combat currently consists of spamming Best Friends (a hit-all attack) and Luxaren Allure (a single-target attack), as they both hit for wildly stronger than characters can with basic attacks. Runes won't be for a long time yet. Far too expensive right now.

I get that basic attacks always suck, but isn't the Unite system fundamentally against having a big cast of characters? Won't I always want to bring the same pairs of characters, thus have very limited room to experiment with party combos? Again, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, and should see these systems out further.

Got back from the volcano, and I'd say I've reached the actual start of the game. We have an actual goal and an actual developed character in Natasha. Steal the magic thingy so the evil nobles don't have it. It's not much, but at least it's not aimless anymore. Kinda wondering if that isn't where things should've just, like, started at? We've already wandered all around her castle before now, with no permission or reason to do so. Also, why does Kerry keep speaking like she's the lead? Isn't Sarah the main character? I'm also all of a sudden sitting on 11 characters.



While this is perhaps asking a bit much, it would be nice if there was a way to sort the party list. I get the feeling I'm gonna want to use Kerry pretty much all the time to spam Best Friends, so having her at the top would be nice. On that note, guess it's time to strip everybody I'm not using naked to equip the current party. Maybe I'll sell some of thier stuff, too, see if I can afford a Rune. Kinda annoying that I'll have to manually bring everyone in the party to see their equipment and skills, but like party sort, that's probably me asking too much. Also, I notice that right now, equipment sells for the same price you can buy it for. That seems abusable. But I guess it's just starting gear so far, so whatever.



So, Runes. I think this is one of the systems that was manually added in, which is why I'm assuming it exists completely seperate of every other menu and can't be changed on a whim. Have a couple immediate problems. I talk to the Rune lady, but as soon as I go to equip, it immediately brings me to this screen, with no obvious ability to choose who I'm equipping or unequipping. It opens to Naora, my 5th party slot (of 6), incidently, further confusing matters. Why would it start there? Also, I've, uh, taken Minotaur off and now I'm not allowed to put it back on? Maybe I'm here too early. Guess I'll just reload an earlier save?

To the mountain--



Uh, I guess the mountain was the range by the castle, not the big mountain on the map. Did the same thing with the volcano, honestl-- wait, southwest? Is she still talking about the volcano? Also 'remeber'. And don't give me that guff, I've seen these names for not even two seconds, I can't parse them. >_>

To the mountain, for real this time. Archer-boy has weirdly high HP, but looks like he sucks, as he can only deal a single point of damage to older, weak enemies, so he's out. I guess there's no front/back rows, so bows are stuck without anything to make them stand out.



GEEZ, these plants are freaks. They've eaten 300 HP like it was nothing. Huge jump in enemy HP/Defense. And anything that isn't Luxaren Allure or Rush does < 10 damage. Oddly, their offense is lacking, as they're only hitting for ~40, themselves. Did get two levels from the fight, though. Thankfully, I had a huge amount of Rush built up.

Still, this is Glikx Heights, so I am in the right place. Maybe, uh, maybe I should grind a bit in the volcano first. Or a lot. I thought maybe I was supposed to shop first, especially as I found a merchant in the woods, but he doesn't appear to be at the castle, and the others are sell starter gear still. I think my goal'll be getting to 2000 gold. Maybe I can buy someone a Fire Rune. Maybe the plants won't like that. Maybe I can figure out how to equip Runes by then.

---

If I had to describe the game thus far, I'd say that everything is pocket-sized. The world and the maps are extremely itty-bitty. Each region has maybe 3 enemies with no real differences to them. The game's got no patience to slow down and just let characters talk. I haven't heard a single word from literally the majority of my party. They just... exist. I don't know anything about Suikoden (beside 108 'party members'), but I surely hope they took the time to at least flesh out each character a little bit, or at least they talked a bit after joining the party, perhaps while not in the party. Here, it feels like almost everyone in the party so far exists to fill out some quota than deliberate game design. Just crammed in there, tight as can be.

I realize I haven't said anything nice, which is pretty unfortunate, because it's certainly not my intention or desire to be mean. I just... I see a lot of obvious flaws right now, with very little compelling gameplay to counterbalance it.
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Bacylae Revolution: Session 2
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Had a brief talk with Marrend about Runes in the mean. PageUp/Down shift through characters, and all three of buying runes, equipping runes, and unequipping runes cost me, thus the act of removing Minotaur was nothing short as an act of self-sabotage. The game does tell me such cost, but I guess I overlooked it, trying to mash my way to selecting a different character. It probably won't be the last time I have button issues.

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Grinded for a bit, and realized the Medicines enemies drop are far more valuable than the gold they drop, so got the units to 13 or so. Didn't help a bit with the Plants/Bandits on Glikx, so I just snuck past the area without getting into any battles, hoping I'd find a shop on the other side. Instead, found some more allies.



Four of them, all Bandits. They're the first ones to get any actual attempt at characterization. Simple, but it's all it needs to be. I know Gail is the leader, Sevat is an asshole. As bandits, they benefit from weakening the nobility. They joined at level 11 and have better gear than I can buy, and the four combined have an attack-all, so I guess they're my entire new party now. Also, we've now got both a Karina and a Karuna. Also also, Gail means to say 'reins of government from', not 'reigns of government form'. ...I actually didn't even notice those typos earlier. Not even sure Reign/Rein is wrong, as you're reining in the reigning ruler. Anyway.



Okay. Group battles. I got a bit excited for a second, but it doesn't look like it's a real reason to use multiple characters. It just tosses you to this kind of nothing screen, without any descriptor of anything, and no ability to choose the teams. As near as I can tell, all I can do is mash Enter and hope for the best, as there's no skills, targetting, enemy status, or anything. Those coloured 38/63 might be important, but I got no idea what that may be. Went for a while, and then the enemy archers started going ballistic and started doing 170+ damage on every action. So that didn't go great.

Re-try went better, mostly as the Orange team got a lot of early evades and crits, and Archer didn't later on. Realized what that enemy status screen was about; there's only two enemies, an Infantry and an Archer, with the Archer only coming up when Infantry is dead. Sucror's number is expected damage taken/dealt for them specifically. Tactic seems to be to use the Sucror team early, as they heal when not attacking. Still, we're typically eating 3x the damage we deal, which isn't a great look, but we outnumber them, so a winner is me. All in all, not terribly compelling, and certainly less so than a regular battle. Aaaaaand four more units arrive out of the ether.

Our next goal is Wal Pinnacle. Is THAT the mountain I've mistaken both the volcano and the range for? Are we really doing three mountians back-to-back-to-back? I know I keep bringing it up and it's super not a big deal, but it does strike me as a little silly. I suppose it's not even that fair as the volcano is fairly different, but I just, like, I've never seen a volcano be a location you visit in the first 30 minutes of a game.



It seems now that we've taken over the entire Imperial Capital, THIS is the real base. All the units I've recruited are wandering around. Their dialogue isn't anything amazing, but it at least passes the bar, and most character seem to have a whiff of a personality or background. Seems like Oharu lets you summon any encounter table on a whim.

That merchant from earlier is here. Of those four who joined when I took the castle, only one is playable, the other are other kinds of 'shopkeepers'. Someone lets me adjust the MWin's colours, something I could do from the start. I can just hear the strain to get 108 people here and have them have SOME purpose.

So now that I can see the pieces come together, for real this time, personal opinion time. This is what should've been happening at Natasha's old base, or at least partially. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that, at least our key units should wander that castle, at least while it's our base of operations. They can leave for the main castle when we get it. The vendors, yeah whatever, they can stay. Kinda think that Rune girl shouldn't be at Natasha's castle at all, as all I was able to do was harm myself with it at that point. If there isn't a 'better' Rune buy-list, maybe Rune editting should be available as soon as you get the main Imperial castle? And even if there is, maybe split the duties across multiple people, so your options expand with time? Maybe this already happens.

Skipped her earlier, but there's this Blackjack girl, Mae, at Natasha's old castle. Thing is, I'm, uh, not sure what the buttons actually are. I... can't find Stand. Enter and Space both seem to Hit, Esc and Delete are forfeit, thus absolutely useless. Are A/B/C programmable in the options? No? Hm. Z hits too. We're getting closer... Found it! It was Shift. Swear I tried that before... Aaaaand now I have infinite money, especially as Blackjack is a pretty easy game to win at, and Mae doesn't win in a draw. Personally, this is why I don't like the idea of gambling/minigames when save-anywhere is allowed, especially when I can bet millions every round; if the cap was in the hundreds, it'd be pretty inoffensive. That said, I won't abuse it if I don't have to. ....Prrretty sure I'll need to, though.



I had noticed the ability to distribute party XP before now, but I didn't think it would've amounted to all that much. Turns out, I've got more than enough to take Sarah from 15 to 50, more than tripling her stats. So I guess that fault's on me. Maybe explains the huge boost in enemy quality. While I'm probably going to regret not making one uber-character, it's enough split six-ways to get a group to mostly reach 21.

Now fighting Monks on the Pinnacle, Aurelie's Inevitable Blade does a whopping 300 to all enemies, even if it does half-kill her in the process. Far better than anyone else can do, even better than Rush. One board into here, and I've got five new characters, all combatants. Some are as high as level 27 and 35, probably making me splitting my experience a foolish endeavour. I've actually completely lost track of the number of characters I have now.

I've also finally bought new equipment here, but the upgrades in stats are relatively minimal, weapon-wise. Armour-wise, +2 across five different slots is a lot more noticeable, and honestly, less important right now. Enemies are were already only doing one-third of one character's life per attack, while soaking up all but the absolute strongest attacks for single-digit damage. Mild typo note; Poelyn is supposed to be Poleyn. Split Mail is probably supposed to be Splint Mail, but at least Split is a word, so, whatever.

There's something about Runes I gotta figure out, as while two of the new recruits are Water mages, what spells have have isn't the same. That's actually pretty interesting, but I don't know the full context yet. If I tried to put Fire on, say, Kerry, would she get four spells, or would perhaps she only have access to just one? Doesn't look like there's a Rune shop here, so I'll do it when I get back home.

Mina's Water did darn near 1000 to everyone. That's... yikes. Meanwhile, Best Friends, an attack that uses two characters' turns, is doing like 50, and Unicorn, which Paralyzes the user, is doing maybe 15. Later encounters with weaker enemies keep these general ratios. Female Monks seem immune to Light/Dark attacks, but even still, it looks like we're entering the age of mages only. I've always seen inklings of this, but if this is how things stay, this game's balance is completely busted. I didn't notice any earlier as spells were either prohibitively expensive before now, only produced meh results (Sarah's light arrow against the plants), and the Earth mage from the early game has like zero offensive spells. Mina's attack-all Water spell costs 2 MP. Maybe it's just Mina who's busted. Time will tell.

I wasn't sure I was done in Wal Pinnacle, but since I couldn't find anything else to do, went home, and yup, that was it. Time for another skirmish. Bleh. Sarah and Mina are now level 50, with 5 others being 30. Now that I'm here, I think I should investigate how Runes work.



Okay. It seems I was getting a little confused, because Sarah and Mina have 'better' versions of Light/Water Runes, so they have slightly different spells. They're not semi-unique lists per character. While, unique as that may be, it is a little disorienting, especially as Mina's got a spell for 2 MP that a normal water mage gets for 7 MP. Hold on. I'm editting Runes in the Castle, and... they're free to edit here?!? Yeah, at the old castle, when you click Attach, that part of the menu changes to show prices. No such thing happens at the Imperial Palace. And backing out of the menu, can confirm it's free. This NEEDS to be made consistent. It might be a different story if getting free Rune changes at the Imperial Palace was a reward, but you're handed her for free (or virtually free; she might've joined when Momo the librarian did, or something like that, but that's still like a two-minute walk).

Coupled with the self-harm I did early game, I would personally just introduce Runes either after Glikx Range, or just before Glikx Range, and the reason I got bodied there was because I wasn't utilizing the new mechanic. But that comes to an issue I don't have enough foresight on; I'm REALLY worried physical users are going to turn out worthless for the remainder of this game. Lord knows I've never seen Unicorn/Minotaur break 30 damage, against enemies with 500+ HP. If I'm just in a 'physicals suck right now' rut of the game, that's totally fine.



I found a book girl in that fort in the forest, and she runs this library, host to this screen. It gives a description of every character (and also location/event). This is, again, far more description and detail than 90% of these characters have ever gotten. It was a great find, but all the same, makes me a little sad, because you see none of this in-game. It tells me that Marrend had some foresight in character planning, but I think a lot of it got left in his head and never makes in into the game. Something I think happens with a lot of people, myself included, really. Oh yeah, and not that I ever used her, but Sylvia in my party is misspelled as Slyvia here.

There's also the baths on the bottom floor (random aside; is it weird this castle, and the others so far, for that matter, is 75% underground? Aren't castles, like, literally towering structures?) where pre-determined (those with Unities, I think) sets of characters have brief conversations with each other. Also, it looks like I've got 46/108 characters, and have all around seen about 45% of this game so far in a bit over 2 hours.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
21806
I honesty wasn't expecting a second session of Baclyea Revolution, considering the commentary from the first. However, I felt I should share with you that I have a plan in regards to relaying Unite combinations a little bit better. Not to mention the point earlier about Rune configuration.

I've been thinking about the bath scenes, and that I might want to do something different with them, too. I probably want to drop the RNG-like nature entirely, and process them through some other method. The Suikoden games that have bath scenes run them off party structure, and I... kinda want to avoid that. I'm not entirely sure what method I should use, though. The idea currently running through my head is that the game displays a list of available scenes for players to choose from, and have scenes they've already watched grayed out, but still watchable?
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Bacylae Revolution: Session Final
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Starting off with another skirmish. Still not great. Took 3 attempts. Pretty sure it's all luck. Character level appears to affect nothing here.

While I'm sure this is supposed to emulate some aspect of Suikoden, in its current state, it just isn't very good. My personal thought, (and this is a very 'me' answer, because it's exactly what I do in Draug's Resurrection), would be each of the 3+ teams splits off and fights their own individual battle(s). Lose any one, and either you lose the whole event (simply have the other team leaders say they're getting overwhelmed and then the gameover cutscene), or, the more complex version, another team has to cover that front and re-fight those enemies. It gives some reason to use more characters. Though, I noticed several armies consist largely of NPCs (Natasha, Feroz, Hans, Zoe, other people I don't think I recognize), so some team makeups would have to change. Such a functionality of multiple teams might still happen later in the game, though, dunno.



Hm. Even the game seems to be aware how mad OP Mina. Going to the Duke's keep in the north. At his castle, recruiting his goons (7 of them) before even talking to him.

Oh. This duel of a few elite units against the Duke is... another army skirmish fight. Isn't this literally the opposite of what we were asked to do? Thankfully, there's no crit-happy Archer Unit this time, so it only took one go-around.

Beating him gave another four characters. Of those 11 new units in the past 5 minutes, 8 are combatants, most of them being classed as Thieves. Including the Duke himself, oddly. They're all level 44-46. So, it's official then, we were indeed supposed to jump straight from level 20 to 50 in the span of about one area.

Sounds like an incoming invasion from the Mainland. So I guess we really are on an itty-bitty island, after all. Back to Wal, get 4 more allies; all combatants. A reminder that that's a solid dozen new characters joining without a single battle in between them (especially since I can use Okiku to warp around for free).

Um, so I'm going through the Timberlands, and, as per usual, Mina dominates, other spells are doing about a third of her, and attempts at physicals doing about a tenth of that. Enemies do about 1 damage (except to Kerry, who is still level 35, who takes about 80, or 1 damage if blocking). Cockatrices and Ogres drop about 7000 xp (really low); Werewolves drop 200,000 xp. Why did recruiting Noel bring like seven other people? The game was getting better at at least having recruits exist on the map as individual units. Not that many of them got enough dialogue to make them feel like they had sufficient reason to join. Then again, we control 2/3rds of the island, maybe they're just afraid of us.



Okay, now, this doesn't really matter, but here's some enemies with WAAAY too wide sprites being stuck on top of each other. Battles are pretty much a haze. Actually, I think in this section, things are getting a bit better. Balance is still odd, but I'm used to it by now. Enemies are starting to use magic, so they can sometimes do meaningful damage again. What is fun is Sarah having a passive Silence rune on her head, and having her mass-Silence the enemies via Best Friends. Which, yeah, I think that's what should be noted about Unities; they can be completely stuffed if one of the members dies first. So it makes sense for them to be slow, but high-reward if nobody dies.

Random aside; it only now occurs to me now we haven't fought a single boss. And also, honestly, I'd hesistate to call any of these locales 'dungeons'.

One more awful Skirmish, and Hillary, the would-be main villain joins with very little fanfare. Sitting on 106/108 characters. After a while of wandering, there's someone I missed on Wal Pinnacle. They want money to join, so I guess it's time for excess Blackjack. 100,000 GP later (which, by the way, I started with about 10k GP after selling all the excess equipment/runes I've had piling up, so getting them is NOT feasible without Blackjack abuse), I've got everybody.



Oh yeah, so here's what the equip screen looks like now. As you can see, that's a fairly stupid number of characters. And I'm sure that's not even the full list. I'm not even sure it's half the list. So, the question is, what separates any one character or class from another? Fairly little. Class determines what equipment they can use, and characters within a class can have pretty random stat distribution. So I'd say it's classes being the same that's the bigger issue, as equipment means fairly little. I'm sure I could come up with some very rough ideas to make them more distinct, but I don't know if there's much point in changing things at this point. The game isn't really designed around battles, so it'd be a lot of effort for very little payoff.

The grand finale consists of yet another skirmish battle (which I dominated because most teams have Rest now), then the game's sole boss, who couldn't even hurt me through Canopy Defense. About eight Final Flames later (which was doing ~1700 from Sarah/Mina/Olivia, while Luxaren Allure was doing maybe 150), a few more words are said, and it then whisks through all 108 characters at quite a pace. I could definitely see it being too fast for some people to read.



It then lets you save, but trying to reload the save just boots you to the title sceen. Odd. Might be standard VXAce protocol. Not that important.
Total time was 4:04:53.

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It's fairly clear there's a LOT of little things wrong with numbers, ratios, scaling, and balancing. Magic damage needs to be reduced, Weapon Runes need to be improved, enemies probably need to be more HP, less defense (so weak units can contribute). Offensive equipment needs to do more, and there should maybe probably be a shop update sometime before claiming the Imperial Palace. The good news is, I think the majority of this can be made much better with relatively little effort.

What's more complicated is finding a good levelling curve, because right now, the fact I can (and sure seems like should) get a character from 30 to 50 in about 2 battles via Party XP is absolutely ridiculous and stupid. I don't think, in theory, Party XP is a bad idea, but could you softcap it so you can only raise a character up the the party's single highest level? Which is to say, if Aurelie is level 34, anybody else could use XP to reach 34, but no higher, and Aurelie herself cannot use Party XP until someone else surpasses her. I don't think there's a lot to do about the torrent of characters. Taking them out feels silly at this point, but all the same, they're genuinely clogging down some menus with the sheer mass of flesh under my command.

...And that's kind of the big thing. There's no sane way a four-hour game can properly sustain even 20 playable characters. What's here is the framework, if that, for a much bigger game. Battles and regions pass in the blink of an eye, once you understand how to exploit the battle system's holes. It's conceivable you could re-work each section of the game to be much, much longer, the battle system more fleshed out and balanced, areas to have their own gimmicks (such as something like slashing/thrusting weapons not being allowed on Wal Pinnacle, a home for monks), making characters/classes having their own virtues/flaws, but, by that point, it might as well be a completely different game.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
21806
As the game stands now, the shop updates basically go: Staerdale Palace for the base-line stuff, Wal Pinnacle is better, Clafton Keep is even better, Trygh Forest has the best stuff, with all Parltron Citadel doing is completing the trade-item list. So, yeah, maybe I should move the shop update that happens in Wal to Staerdale. Though, having them available right off the bat doesn't 100% sit right with me. After Sraphyhl Peak would be the best/only time for it, as the game stands. I might want to move the last update entirely to Parltron as well.

I had the idea of nerfing the encounters at Glix at one point, but, it would certainly be worth testing/observing to see how much the difficulty spikes there if players have better equipment. I'll take a look at how much to tone down Magic Rune damage, and tone up Weapon Rune damage, as well.

The suggestion about limiting Party XP distribution is a valid one. Though, the rate at which the player earns Party XP could probably be modified/limited as well. Though, I dunno. I kinda like how it can break the game-balance, if that makes any sense. That, and the ability to purchase Stat-Stones after they become available in Trygh/Parltron.

*Edit: At any rate, thanks for giving this mess of a game a try!
AtiyaTheSeeker
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
5424
Ach, if only I had a current game that's far enough to ask for playtesting! Thank you for the service. :o
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Keeper of the Fog
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Can't believe it's been over a year since I last did one of these. Only feels like a few months. I guess I got sidetracked. A lot.

Anyway, Fogkeeper. Or probably Keeper of the Fog. It seems to use both names. Knowing how short it is, I'm a little worried I won't have anything to say. I certainly had that problem with Princess Pri last Christmas. In a lot of ways, Keeper of the Fog reminds me of it, but I suppose that's not all that surprising; both very small-scale games made for contests, and set in buildings where you look at a lot of objects. Difference here is that there is at least a bit of a battle system, simple though it be.

While Atiya had also set up an .exe file, for whatever reason, it would always fail upon trying to install the very first file (audio, incidently). I suspect this is on my overzealous Antivirus, but even disabling it didn't stop it from failing. Ultimately, went with the .zip and found the RTP externally, so everything's fine, but nevertheless thought I should mention it. Probably nothing you can do about it, but I'll admit there was an odd feeling of catharsis that download problems are not strictly my domain.

It starts quickly enough, and--



This line really got me. It has the same energy as Toad's 'I forgot my bazooka at home' line from Mario RPG. Anyway. So the first real goal is finding a password. It's worth noting that almost every little object has some text associated. The one below gave an item, but most don't.



Maybe that's just... what you do when you make a tiny horror-esque game. Either way, the writing is pretty solid. Punchy is probably the ideal word.



Combat is entirely pre-determined, with no random encounters. It seems very 'tight', I guess. Things can quickly go bad. Numbers are low enough that you're frequently on death's door, so it feels tense. As a sucker for debuffs, I do suspect that Hawkeye is kinda bad, as it only lasts for one attack and takes away from your PSyche, which is also used to cast the far more useful Regrowth. Which can also heal out of combat. Something that didn't occur to me to try until after I beat up a haunted TV. We'll see if that botch-up costs me down the line.

Got most of the hints now. A short story, huh? Time for my complete and total illiteracy powers to kick in. CROAK? GREED? GROOM? BROOM? PROOF? ...Yep. Got nothing.

Never did find hint #2. For whatever reason, my brain just assumed... wait, BRAIN? No, not brain. Anyway. Assumed the basement would be after going up the stairs, but nah, I guess I coulda gone there after getting the mask. One fight against the Wall later, and I've used both my healing items. And then I find two more, so nevermind.



Again, very punchy dialogue. Unfortunately, none of the enemies are huge, so they don't have huge guts to rip and tear.

Found the last hints, which are pointing VERY clearly in the direction without just saying the name. Unfortunately, I don't know shit about Lovecraft other than the exceedingly unfortunate name his cat had, so this is wasted on me. Still, shouldn't be that hard to figure out.

...Okay, I'll admit I just googled it after a while. I only feel very slightly dumb for doing so. Was expecting something edgier. And I grabbed a ring down there, too. Which seems like some kind of failsafe so you've gotta go down there, even if you do guess the password, or know it beforehand. Normally, it'd be the kind of thing I'd test for, but I'm confident enough it works fine that I'm not going to.

Enter the password, fight one last enemy, and that's pretty much the end. Fight's pacing wasn't that different from the rest. I did use all my healing items in the end, but considering me trying out the Pistol and Hawkeye a bunch, it's definitely generous enough that a normal player won't have too much trouble finishing it. Basic + Regrowth + Shotgun seems the optimal set of moves for pretty much all cases throughout the game.



I suppose it wouldn't be fair to call it an abrupt ending, but I did kind of expect a full second floor to the house, for some reason. Game was almost exactly half an hour, but I suspect a fair bit of this was me standing around, writing parts of this. A lot (almost all?) of the assets were done by others, and from a LOT of different sources, but they all blend together quite well, so I'd seldom know if there weren't like twenty names listed in the credits.

What I think makes a lot of difference and makes it engaging is that you make little concessions that let you progress in other rooms, rather than 'find thing, go to next room, repeat x10 until game over' like other of these small-scale games. The combat was definitely fun enough and felt well-balanced for a survival horror game, but taking a step back, I suppose there isn't that much depth there, being really only a few options in combat. Speaking of, though, I never managed to get a stun with the Magnum, nor was I ever inflicted with Fear. Dunno if that's unlucky or no. Combat complaints are nitpicky. It's absolutely what it ought to be for this scope of a game and felt fun in-the-moment.

At the end, Keeper of the Fog is definitely solid for what it is. I know it wasn't exactly a deep-dive into a complex game, but I think it was a fair enough point to re-start doing these.
Acra this is awesome. If you have a chance, can you look at Notes From Province? It's long enough to scare away traditional Let's Players.
AtiyaTheSeeker
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
5424
Shucks, that was quicker than I'd imagined, Acra! Though, like you said, my game is also really short. Weird that there was an issue with the EXE! I don't know if someone's wrong with the extractor, or if it was indeed an overzealous antivirus. I know Windows Defender doesn't like them, but it at least lets me run the file anyway.

Looking back, "punchy" is probably a kinder way to describe the dialogue. I did want to give the impression that the MC is both analytical and crass, though I think I turned up the cussing dial to farcical levels. You're not the first to have trouble with the password, nor to suggest BRAIN or GREED! At this rate, I may have to put the answer in a blog post, albeit under a spoiler tag.

Also, wow. Comparing that line to Toad declaring that he left his bazooka at home was unintentionally uplifting for me, lawl. SMRPG is one of those big inspirational games to me, at least for my main project and world (A Maned Lioness, A Child Called Ash and my WIP, A Lion in Scarlet). Heck, the Sunken Ship in SMRPG was what inspired the big puzzle gimmick. It's also pretty reassuring to compare Keeper of the Fog to The Kidnapping (And Other Crimes) of Princess Pri!

Despite hiccups, I am glad I accomplished two things I set out to do. One, that the combat was tense, because it's very much a cheese-able formality in my other single-character games. Two, that the game was somewhat non-linear, because of the issues you'd pointed out for other games like this. I do recall the Magnum's stumble chance being all over the place -- the Banshee was supposed to be 100%, other enemies 60%, and the TV and final boss 0%.

Overall, I'm glad you seemed to have a good time with it. And I'm glad it helped you get back into these text LPs!
Notes from Province sounds like it's right up my alley. I'll see if I can't get a part done by the end of the week.

...Is what I'd say, if I weren't having the exact same .exe issue I had with Keeper of the Fog. I'll definitely need to look a lot further into this, as it seems like it's gonna be a recurring issue. If I ever get it to work, though, I'll absolutely play it. Looking around a little, I've found a fair few other people complaining about this 'extract failed' issue... back in 2016, and it doesn't look like they came up with much of a solution, either. If it wouldn't be too much of a hassle, could you make a .zip for your game, as well?

Atiya, the password puzzle is fine. At least, once that book name-drops Celephais, it's really easy to backtrace the collection it's from. It is, after all, the driving point of about 80% of the game, so I don't think you can hand it out too easily.

I personally did think the cussing was a bit overkill, especially towards the end, but I didn't feel too much like bringing it to attention. Dana is justifiably angry at the end, so angry = sweary is reasonable enough. It's, also, well, it's very easy to call out a mechanical shortcoming as it's pretty much an objective affair, but in spite of / because of my rambling nature, I don't consider myself a particularly good writer, so I don't feel qualified to call out dialogue quibbles unless it's really obviously bad.

I definitely don't want to give the impression that Princess Pri was bad, just that I had aggressively nothing at all to say about it, which was kind of a problem for me when I hoped to do both a review and some fanart for last year's Secret Santa. In all honesty, it was a bit tricky to say as much as I did about Keeper of the Fog without it feeling like a play-by-play of every room, which would feel kinda self-defeating for a short game, I'd think.
author=Acra
Notes from Province sounds like it's right up my alley. I'll see if I can't get a part done by the end of the week.

...Is what I'd say, if I weren't having the exact same .exe issue I had with Keeper of the Fog. I'll definitely need to look a lot further into this, as it seems like it's gonna be a recurring issue. If I ever get it to work, though, I'll absolutely play it. Looking around a little, I've found a fair few other people complaining about this 'extract failed' issue... back in 2016, and it doesn't look like they came up with much of a solution, either. If it wouldn't be too much of a hassle, could you make a .zip for your game, as well?


Did you try right clicking on the exe and selecting "Extract to Notes From Province"? That will extract the files with the software you normally use to extract a zip, rather than the RPG Maker extractor. If that doesn't work, I'll be happy to upload a zip.
AtiyaTheSeeker
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
5424
Woah, hang on. I didn't think you meant that Princess Pri was bad. It seems to have gotten good reviews. And I think you did well to give my brief game a brief summary, covering the main stuff. It can be tricky to write about some games, especially if they're short. I didn't write a whole lot for Bedtime Adventures or Awe Vs Ozzy myself, but made sure to cover what I though was important.

And I think you do fine as a writer. I know I'm rambly myself. I've constantly said to myself "I need an editor" when writing, uh, anything lengthy these days? I appreciate the honest thoughts. And whatever the issue is with the extractors, I hope you can figure out a workaround.
I only got the basic-ass version of WinZip that this machine came with (and most/all versions of Windows 7 did, I imagine (and by the way, I'm Windows 10 now)). No WinRAR or whatever extractors might be related to RPGMaker's engines. Right-clicking gives ample options, but none have anything to do with extracting it in any way. Trying to open the .exe with WinZip in varying ways just gives me nothing but blanks. Good idea, though. I probably just don't have some program that is common within the RPGMaker community, so this rarely comes up. Maybe I should just get WinRAR again, but I remember it being a pain in the butt on my old machine, so I kinda don't really want to.

I know people were complaining about me at the end of last year's Santa, so I wanted to state my thoughts on Princess Pri flatly, for others who may be listening. I was undeniably a bit crestfallen that Marrend had to test Draug's Resurrection yet AGAIN (he did some stuff privately barely a month prior), but was having more problems getting it to run than ever before, and some people may have misinterpreted that mood as me being irate to my Santaee, as well. That playing it was a bother to me or whatever.
AtiyaTheSeeker
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
5424
If need be, I'd recommend a free, open-source instead of WinZip or WinRAR? 7Zip has been my go-to extractor for years, and it's worked fine. That's my preference, but could be a possibility.
Uploaded a .zip version. Should hopefully help out other people who have similar extraction problems.
=====
Notes from Province: Session 1
=====

This first part is going to be a bit scattered, since I generally don't feel I have much worthwhile to say just yet, as it'd mostly amount to walking into stores and finding out what they do. They're certainly written fine, and the adventurer's shop in particular stands out as pretty funny when I tried to go into his kitchen, but I just don't see that as very interesting or insightful to anyone at all. I'm simply wandering around town and learning stuff, not really making active decisions in the process. And that's perfectly fine.

First though, lemme back up to the very start. Two presumable party members, Sita and Cyl, make quite poor first impressions in the first couple minutes of the game, the former attacking you with less than no reason and the latter being a homeless woman sleeping in your house. Very shortly after that, you're given free-roam of the town.

And from that, what comes to mind from wandering around the town for about half an hour is Harvest Moon / Rune Factory. Or maybe Animal Crossing is more apt, as Mr. Rooftop seems like a pretty on-point evil Tom Nook meme wannabe.



I'm not sure how complicated it all is to set up in RPGMaker VX Ace, but the house mechanics appear to be quite impressive to me. Although, being an RPG, I suspect I'll ignore the house-decorating as much as possible to save money to buy better equipment early.



Speaking of maybe-not-that-impressive-but-I-think-is-neat, all the interactables in the environment have little ellipses above them. Very handy to tell what you can look at and what you can't. And as this screen mentions, day and night seem like a pretty huge deal, which further cements the Rune Factory analogy.



I also must note that the game has quite an impressive amount of progress logs and checklists and overall a very player-friendly interface. I do think if there's anything missing from the base menu, it's time of day. Maybe it's just something I don't have yet, like getting the ability to run on the field from Rio. Actually, since I later found a clock in the Hot Springs/Inn, I'm almost certain I'll find one sooner or later, so probably disregard this.



Further on this, even in-battle, the game is generous enough to supply you with ample information, even down to each enemy's individual tactics, like the hornet multi-attacking and being super-weak to Counter as a result. It's neat and definitely makes them feel distinct, possibly at the cost of immediately defanging themselves. Low-key feels like something you'd either get from a scholar-type party member scanning them or from defeating enough of them, but I'm getting distracted. It's good.

There's a surprising number of fights in-town, not the least of which are the wandering hornets. Somehow, they don't bother anybody else. Anyway, they seem to work fairly well as intros to Kyme's various skills, who I initially pegged as the party's tank due to his moveset, even before I found shields for him. That said, Recovery seems incredibly good for being absolutely free. Maybe I'm just used to MP being a resource you have to spend with care, but having an easy way to recover it gives you a lot more options in battle a lot more frequently.

Lemme append my earlier statement about not making active decisions. I suppose I did make a conscientious decision to keep wandering town after finding the route to Frost Falls and to keep wandering around town after finding the medicine thief. It's currently shortly past midnight (Hot Springs clock), and I hope I don't suddenly faint when 1 AM comes around, and I hope James and Lily's mom doesn't die from me ignoring that sidequest for so long. I don't think the latter will happen, but definitely curious about the former, especially with how big a deal your house is made to be.



Having had my fill of town (lots of doors are locked if it isn't evening, and I guess I mostly squandered that time-window, as evidently like 2 AM doesn't qualify as night), finally getting around to finishing with the medicine, where my first party member, Ezekiel joins, even though I was absolutely stomping that assassin anyway. Next, getting around to Frost Falls, and Ezekiel leaves, after being in the party for all of 30 seconds. I was kinda wondering about how it'd handle getting party members 'early'. I wonder if they'd have just stood aside while the bandits went at me. I kind of assume they would. I later found that I probably could've gotten Sita incredibly early, too (I guess I either missed her house or it was locked by time-of-day), but the thing about Counter is, it's a busted ability when alone, but wholly unreliable when in a team, so ironically, I think finding other people might actually be making me weaker short-term.



Frost Falls is an extremely short area, and basically re-affirms that Cyl is basically wholly unstable. Doing the area started a new day, which I guess put an end to my hypothetical goal of never sleeping. This seems like a thematically appropriate place to call it a session, even though I don't feel like I personally accomplished much. I actually recruited Sita in her house before deciding to call it quits, but nevermind that. Next session, I think I'll start by looking at the arena Ryoma mentioned up north.

Bugs / Oversights / Typos:
- When first entering the Dance Studio, Rio was doing his inputs off-center from his D-Pad. I think it's due to him wandering around a bit, so it's not a guarantee he'll be in the center when movement starts.
- Buff tutorial text vs. Zack has some text go offscreen.
- Ryoma softlocked the game after giving me three shields. I was in his spot when he tried to sit down. The dancer kept dancing, but I couldn't move or open the menu. I initiated conversation from his left, closer to the piano.
- 'C' wasn't assigned to the C key initially. It's the input that Shift/Spacebar is, but. I fixed it by using F1, but I had to start a new save for a minute to re-find that bit of info. Maybe this was changed from another RPGMaker game? It seemed like it affects all save files once changes. Maybe I changed it by accident when mashing buttons to try and find a run button at some point. Definitely hazy on this, and I'm probably straight-up wrong here, but maybe you should take a look, just in case.
- Cyl referred to herself as 'a women' after defeating the first Snow Urchin. Cyl seems like nothing short of a lunatic though, so maybe referring to herself simultaneously in first-and-third-person is on brand.
=====
Notes from Province: Session 2
=====

Did Bronze Coliseum, fought Ryoma at end. Afterwards, Kyme's basic Slash now heals MP a tiny bit, based off of how much Bleeding he's been inflicting. It's kind of impressive how intricate their movesets are. But so far, the fights have been kinda lacking in difficulty, so I'm a little worried all this effort and nuance is gonna be sorely underutilized.



On the way out, bumped into the thugs Jack and Zack, which gave an interesting little conversation where Ezekiel and Sita actively acknowledge each other. Then killed a rat man and a mechanically interesting optional boss rat under Sita's house. Multiple times through said rat dungeon, Sita would say something context-sensitive, like asking big-cross man Ezekiel if he couldn't just crush the rats.



Both these things impressed me, considering there's probably no guarantee I'd have these two in my party at this random point, if there's, uh, I think it said seven other party members. It could also be that I'm over-estimating how nonlinear this game actually is. Or maybe I'm just incredibly used to all party members becoming completely mute once they join the party. Also, why do so many people have dungeons under their houses? Bolinda had one, too. Maybe that's the only option when most/all of a game takes place in/around town.

I actually didn't bother to talk too in-depth to Bodrick the first time I met him, and upon returning to open Mr. Verner, well, I had pretty much cleared his whole laundry-list unknowingly. So yes, maybe I am over-estimating the nonlinearity, as it sounds like that's mostly all I can do at this juncture. It seems that Sita and Ezekiel pretty much have to be the first party members, with the rest being later, so it's a safe bet that it's them or nothing at this point, thus easy to plan around.



Beat up the Squid down south, got the ability to buy weapons. As usual, the game gives options; right now, either have Counter last longer or for Kyme to have more MP. I know those High-HP/Low-HP targeting snakes would've been duped by Longsword, so maybe Counter's the better option, when I'm not broke from wasting it on winning garbage from the chest minigame. I just have an urge to clear out a minigame on-the-spot if it's something I'm capable of doing, y'know? Even if it is a terrible financial decision. At any rate, I feel worthwhile shopping choices are a woefully underutilized concept, and am happy to see any game where it isn't just a linear 'this just better' checklist to cross-off when in the newest town.

So I guess I'm actually kinda mostly outta things to do except go up Mt. Verner. Sounds like it'll be an actual dungeon. To be honest, I was low-key expecting the monsters to be total pushovers, as pretty much everything in town felt like a non-issue (or it absolutely ass-blasted me, like that plant), and all the neat combat mechanics were gonna be let down by extremely easy monsters. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case. The foot of Mt. Verner only seems to have three monsters, but they can hit quite reasonably hard, and take a bit of a beating.



At least initially, anyway. The party started getting stat up levels at, uh, somewhere between level 6 and 8, which nearly doubled their stats, so that made a pretty sizable difference. What definitely felt great was duping all these snake dorks into all blowing their turns on getting Countered by Kyme.

Have to stop there for now. Just at the entrance to a watery cave in Mt. Verner, and have just skipped the Spider Cave a few tiles back. I figure the Spider Cave is harder, so I'll do that second. I'm at about 3 hours in, though it probably doesn't feel it by reading this.

Bugs/Typos/Quirks:

- Saving and reloading in the boulder puzzle near Julius Cheeser resets the positions of the rocks. You can almost trap yourself there doing this. You can get out by saving ontop of the rocks' spawn location, though, and you'll be able to phase out of the rock. I imagine this is just how the engine works, so I don't think there's much you can do about it.
- Actually, the reason I felt the need to reload and found the above bug was because I accidentally skipped the 'push rocks' tutorial, which turns out didn't say as much as I thought it did. I don't know if RPGMaker works like this, but I've personally found the way to handle sudden walk-on events like that is to put a short (0.2 seconds) delay to buffer inputs, so the player doesn't skip text boxes they aren't expecting by holding down the up key.
- Not really a bug, but I wanted to mention it anyway. I sometimes feel the combat dialogue is a little too fast, that I have a bit of trouble gauging how strong specific attacks or enemies are. Especially Sita and her multi-hit attacks; I don't really have time to mentally calculate the sum of her damage, since they're so zippy. If this is something that could be an easy option toggle, I'd look into it, but it's hardly worth worrying about if it isn't trivially handled.
When does session 3 drop? These are great to read :)
Hard to say, especially as the next one won't be of Notes from Province. Tw0Face privately sent me a request to review Port Traventor, and while I'm not particularly a fan of RTS'es, I thought it was at least worth checking out. Unfortunately, from what I've played so far, it's probably not going to be particularly positive, but isn't that in classic RMN Christmas tradition? The one after that will be back to Province, though, as I am genuinely interested in what I've played so far.

I've given up doing these on a routine, though, and pretty much do these whenever there's a lull in work or I'm otherwise too depressed to work on Draug's Resurrection. The fact is, until I feel comfortable with the work I've done on DR, and that those efforts have been rewarded, acknowledged, or even tolerated, doing these'll pretty much always be a secondary priority.
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