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Ethereal RTP

  • Puddor
  • 07/06/2012 12:24 PM
  • 319 views
Ethereal Heart is a RPG Maker VX project created by noellechan (also known as Kame on IRC). I decided to give it a test play.

I think it’d be best if I started from the good points of this game before moving onto its (many) flaws. Ethereal Heart, in short, follows the story of Princess An, a werewolf princess who ends up stranded on an island. The writing itself is interesting- I’m curious as it how the plot will pan out, and who doesn’t enjoy some good lycanthropic action? Some of the story ended up suspended because of the battles, but I’ll talk about that later.

There are some points where the game feels like it’s forcing things (like the conversation with the mayor) and the personalities seem unrealistic, but the driving plot characters at this point are interesting enough, and An seems like a good, strong protagonist.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it past the first town and dungeon, which I will now explain. It is very distinctly (and sadly) clear that this is noellechan’s first project. Noellechan is actually a fairly capable artist and I assume some of the graphics will be replaced, but at this point facesets are a mix of RTP and Face Maker, which don’t blend well. The Face Maker sets have some edits applied, but the graphical clash is still jarring and obvious.

Along with this, the mapping is—quite frankly—poor, especially in the earlier outdoor areas. The island in which you start out is barren and uninteresting, and at first makes no sense until you realize you’ve been captured by flesh-eating harpies. It seems to improve a little when you reach the town, but the quality quickly drops again once you reach the dungeon, with rampant use of the dungeon generator, a VX tool that often yields poor results.

Speaking of VX tools, very little has been edited within the database from what I can see. The sound effects have no changes whatsoever, the windowskin is the same, etc. It’s disappointing to see because though I think noellechan is trying hard it immediately comes across as lazy. The lack of automatic dash doesn’t help.

Now to the worst point of this game- battles. Good Lord. It’s a terrible thing, but I found myself questioning whether Noelle even ran through that dungeon (did you? legitimate question.) Did you fight every fight? Because if you did, you’re far more patient than I am.

Battles are literally every six steps and consist of enemies that can poison and blind you. And you have no items. And An doesn’t have any skills to begin with. The enemies are repetitive, boring, frequent and hair-tearingly frustrating. I was escaping 90% of the battles and was still crying out in disbelief. This is not how you make a dungeon. This is how you make me punch a hole through a window. Again. (Last time was when someone touched my cat). At this point the battles render the game nigh unplayable. Along with this, reality is suspended, given that a giant orb can dodge attacks. Really?

If you’re into a grindy RTP dungeon crawl of doom I suppose you’d like this game, but until Noelle improves a bit it’s not really worth playing…sorry! RTP can be used well, but it really isn’t here.


Notes for the Creator:
At this point I suggest you have a play of RTP centric games that do battles well, even with being turn based. I’d also suggest switching to VXA (there is a Project Converter around, and since you seem to have a vanilla system everything will be carried over- including your events). VXA gives you a LOT more tools for making battles easier. Have a good look around at mappers and RTP mapping and see what you’re doing/using wrong.

Since it’s the first game that pops into mind look at screenshots for Porcupine Princess or play PP 1.5/PP V5. PPV5 is fully RTP and though the battles are hard, they’re…still better than yours, I’m afraid to say ;A;

Your story is good! I am interested, but you need to be careful in balancing gameplay driven and plot driven characters. The townies had decent dialogue, I suppose, but the quality seemed to decline with the mayor. He seems too trusting?

Also, I felt lost a lot of the time. Some direction or pointers would be very appreciated.

I know it’s your first project or so, and I’m sorry for being critical, but I’m trying to help you improve. Look around RMN and try to find some decent projects—even 2k3 ones—and give them a whirl. It’ll help motivate you and you’ll learn more about the game making process in general.

Posts

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Duly noted and thank you for taking the time to play and review.

I did play through the entire demo at least three times trying to tweak it to the level I felt appropriate in terms of hardness. I guess I turned up the getting thrashed by enemies a bit much. Never did manage to kill those Will' O Wisps that you can interact with, but my goal was to have the player grind more. I guess that wasn't the right move :/

Currently trying to evaluate the pros and cons of doing the artwork for the entire game instead of what's provided as stock on RPG Maker VX. I'm not too keen on using the ready made stuff but it's a huge investment of time and resources on the IRL side of things.

As for the dungeon, any recommendations for making a more balanced one that's more visually appealing? I think I'm doing better with the second one, but I'll let you be the judge.







I would like to reiterate I'm not afraid of well thought out critiques or straight out criticism, just as long as we stay away from the "you're dumb" juvenile type XD Keep 'em coming! The only way a person improves is if someone provides honest feedback and through the person's hard work!
Puddor
if squallbutts was a misao category i'd win every damn year
3997
It wasn't that the battles were hard per say, it was that they were frequent and lacked depth. There was very little strategy involved.

I actually have a tutorial laying around about how to make random encounters more bearable that you might want to have a glance through. (It's mine, don't mean to self-promote but it's relevant to the topic).

The thing with the dungeon was not 100% about mapping, and even if it was mapped well, I wouldn't be paying attention because I'd be flipping my shit at the encounter rate. I am the type who prefers random encounters, believe it or not, so it's not just a prejudice against them or anything.

Also using VX default is fine. Consistency is the key. You -can- find naked bases for the VX portraits which take half as much effort to edit and it gives a somewhat matching vibe. I just think Face Maker does nobody justice, ever. It's almost on par with the VXA Generator.

Your current dungeon...hm. Have you given mapping it straight out an attempt? Try doing a basic layout sketch on a piece of paper and then mapping it out.

Otherwise, trying messing around with VX's dungeon tiles. There's some ok stuff in there to create 'points of interest'. Cracks, debris, bones, etc. Tile vomit everywhere! (no, don't, logically place everything)
Try and use certain rooms in the dungeon generator as certain 'areas'. Mix up what decorations you're using depending on what room you're in. If everywhere looks exactly the same, then the player is liable to get lost.
It wasn't that the battles were hard per say, it was that they were frequent and lacked depth. There was very little strategy involved.


Hmm... I'd have to admit I felt that way too. It was pretty much hack and slash everything. Suggestions?

...I wouldn't be paying attention because I'd be flipping my shit at the encounter rate. I am the type who prefers random encounters, believe it or not, so it's not just a prejudice against them or anything.


I rechecked what I set my encounter rate to, it's 17 steps.

Also using VX default is fine. Consistency is the key. You -can- find naked bases for the VX portraits which take half as much effort to edit and it gives a somewhat matching vibe. I just think Face Maker does nobody justice, ever. It's almost on par with the VXA Generator.


This is an issue I was going to address somewhere down the line without anyone having brought it up. I would like to do all custom graphics for the game but at this point the face generator thing is more of a place holder. I crafted the design of my characters with it but I don't plan on using it long term.

See An's art here, here and here.

I actually have a tutorial laying around about how to make...


Sure! I'd love to read through a tutorial of yours. After you posted this review I started reading all the tutorials I could find about mapping and dungeons.
Puddor
if squallbutts was a misao category i'd win every damn year
3997
Since RPG Maker's encounter rate calculation is dumb, set it at 60. You should never ever go below 20 steps, and RM's default is 30. Your encounter rate is like trying to go through the Deep Sea Research Centre in FF8 ;-;

Here's the link to the tute: http://rpgmaker.net/articles/615/
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