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MotW: In-Depth Playthrough

  • Volrath
  • 06/05/2015 03:50 PM
Hey all,

Not much to report on the MotW Remake at this point. I still think about it quite often but we've both been fairly busy with our "real jobs" and we're waiting on certain tools before we start for realz. In the meantime, Super Solest fan NeverSilent has started a playthrough of the original game while taking detailed notes.

We started this already, but since the Solest forums have been retired, I decided we should continue it here. He'll be along to post his impressions after a session of the game and anyone who wants to weigh in can join us in the comments for this blog entry.

Peace bros!


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Got any Dexreth amulets?
A few weeks ago, I realised that while I have been following and supporting Solest games for quite a while now, I feel like I actually very rarely contributed anything substantial to their projects. With this reexamination of Master of the Wind in the light of the planned remake, I hope to change this.
During this playthrough, I will pay very close attention to details and give as much and as in-depth feedback as possible. Therefore, it is going to take a long time to complete, but I hope the result will be useful. At the moment, I'm aiming for one post per week.

Due to the nature of a to-be complete playthrough, there will be massive spoilers present for anyone who hasn't played the game yet.

Also, please keep in mind that in the notes I post here, I will apply a very high standard when criticising. This seems reasonable to me considering the game is planned to be remade as a commercial game. At the same time, this means that regardless of the flaws I point out, I still fully stand by the score I gave this game in my review.
In addition, everything I write is obviously just my personal opinion, so of course feel free to disagree or point out where I am wrong.

All that said, let's begin.

Title Screen:

- As simple as it is, I am still quite fond of this title image. Especially the background effect of seemingly being inside a whirlwind is memorable. I presume you will want to design a new title image for the remake. I'd recommend having something in the image that tells a bit more about the actual game's content. But you might want to keep the old title screen's effectiveness in mind as well.
- The title: Of course, this is not something that's likely to be changed. But as much as I don't want to admit it, I still think "Master of the Wind" is kind of a generic and uninspired name for a game with such a powerful, atypical narrative.
- Another thing that immediately comes to mind: the music. You relied heavily on existing music for the original version. How do you imagine it will be possible to recreate or even improve its effect on the game's atmosphere by means of different music in the future version? I mean, Joel Steudler has shown in Labyrinthine Dreams that he can create strong, atmospheric pieces - but this will be quite a challenge, it seems to me.

Arc I:

Outside of Fort Drake:

- Lightning in the sky. Not an extremely original way to introduce the scene, though the very quick transition to the heroes is effective and quickly establishes an impression of the setting's space.
- Enkur's facesets have lost nothing of their power of expression. I would seriously consider asking him to contribute pieces to the remake.
- In medias res. That's almost always a very good way to start. It's not too vague, but enough to spark some curiosity.
- The fantasy superhero theme is visible right away through means of the masks. I remember that this struck me both as the most interesting and the oddest aspect of the game as soon as I noticed it.
- That reminds me, the introductory text you usually post together with the project never really seemed to convey how complex and original the game really is. At least, I felt it makes it sound more like a typical RPG with some superhero stuff thrown into it and does not really do the actual game's writing justice.
- "I hate when the bad guys do that. Why haven't we learned to do that?" This kind of lampshade hanging right at the beginning is a little risky, but I personally very much appreciated that the game consciously addresses oddities in typical design, and that they are discussed and solved in-game.
- In these few lines of dialogue, we already get a glimpse of the main characters' personalities, their goals and ways of thinking, and their sense of humour. Also, one of them is apparently a skeleton. My opinion that this is a particularly well-done intro scene has not changed.
- Interactive objects (the well) and fluff text (when trying to leave. I'm not sure about the average player, but I've always liked these things a lot and would be happy to see even more of those in the new version.
- Nitpicking question: How and why are those torches still burning in the rain? Why do the heroes have such problems with locked doors - can't Stoic just break them open?

Fort Drake, Inside:

- Fairies. Another risky move that pays off later in the game. I still think it's brilliant how you managed to give save points their own personalities and develop subplots around them. You should rethink how to use and where to place them in the remake, however, since the lack of random encounters will encourage going back to heal and save after every fight even more, thereby potentially making healing items feel completely obsolete.
- Sheesh, this music... I remember how perplexed I was the first time I entered that dungeon and a song like that started playing. I can't say I dislike it, and it's a nice way to break the typical expectation of only having medieval-sounding music in a fantasy game. However, I would have gone with something less extreme for the first background music in the game.
- The encounter rate. Well, I said before how I'm not very fond of random encounters, and I'm extremely glad you will not use those in the remake. I do wonder about possible balancing issues, however.
- The falling through floors puzzle is not the most original mechanic, but you pulled it off in a good enough way. I would consider maybe adding some additional twist to it in the future version, though.
- Shroud and Stoic definitely need to have more different and/or interesting skills or abilities right at the beginning already. Combat is not interesting at this point and becomes a chore after the first few fights. Also, the skills the heroes do have are rather useless and don't seem like they are worth it.
- Stoic's dual-wielding is definitely a cool feature, though, and should be more prominent in his fighting style in the remake. Currently, it really only affects his stats/equipment and his normal attacks. It should affect the way he works in combat in different ways, too.
- I do still like the fact that the apparitions' debuff skill simply says "BOO!"
- Concerning the battler graphics, the things I said about the face graphics apply here as well. There's a lot of personality in those images. Shroud's grin fits incredibly well and makes him match Stoic's skeleton face's expression perfectly.
- Oh, yeah, there's no battle music either, the background music just keeps playing. I think that was a good choice, since battle music can quickly become annoying if it is heard often and interrupts the background song.
- How can Stoic even be poisoned? That's something that needs to be explained.
- "Skull Knife - A knife made of human bones." Who said equipment can't tell stories? What was the reasoning behind this rather macabre choice?
- "If the man who designed this place crosses my path one say, he will pay dearly for this." Poor ArtBane. Also, it's refreshing to see characters actually reacting to the dungeons they're exploring. (Another one: "Whoever designed this place had some sort of key fetish obviously." This is great.)
- Ah, the rope jumping puzzle. I perfectly remember that when I first played this game, this was the point at which I was sold. I hadn't seen many very impressive RPG Maker games before, so an almost professional-looking puzzle like this was a whole new experience for me. Yes, I was easily impressed, but to be fair this really is a pretty good puzzle. However, being unlucky when falling down and having to climb back up from the lowest floor is a bit of a pain.
- Healing Wind and Intensity learned! This is more like it. In my opinion those skills should have been available right from the start.
- Treasures like the ones here are a good incentive for players to interact with the dungeon some more. Especially if they require you to work the puzzle mechanics some more. However, this should not be overdone, or it might start to feel repetitive.
- All things considered, I can confirm that while it has some smaller issues, I still quite like this dungeon. It potentially appeals to a lot of different types of players and introduces them to the core concepts of the gameplay early and quickly without being overwhelming. Except for the high encounter rate, in my opinion Fort Drake does a good job as an intro dungeon.
- Encounters on top of the outside walking space of the Fort. That seems rather unnecessary.
- The ??? key and the secret storage room. As much as I like the concept, I'm not sure if it's a good idea to do something like this so early in the game.
- The cinematic cutscenes have always been one particular strength of this game. Not having a boss fight against Andau here yet might seem anticlimactic at first, but it makes sense in the larger context. Still, the scene does feel a bit more clunky than later ones, especially with the way text and sound effects are used.

A few more general notes:
- Especially considering the program the game was made in makes movement usually feel rather static, the dungeons in Master of the Wind to me always felt extraordinarily dynamic and aware of space. This is a very good thing, as it obscures the fact that the player is usually moving on a grid. To put it a little further, I think that combat should be designed to also reflect that dynamic feeling - which the current turn-based battles can only do to a very limited degree. Also, as you pointed out earlier yourself, a more action-based battle system would fit the cinematic style of the cutscenes better.
- If I'm allowed to be really picky here, it seems odd to me that both heroes start off at level 1. Especially in Stoic's case, this just doesn't fit the level of skill they can be expected to have if they have been playing the superhero game for some time before. Of course, levels are just there as a help for the player and don't actually mean anything, but I do think having them start at something like level 10 (without actually increasing their stats) would just appear more convincing, even if it's purely cosmetic. Then again, I'm not sure if it would be such a great idea to stick with the mechanic of levels at all. At least, I personally prefer systems where you earn points you can spend on improving your stats and skills over systems where your characters' power suddenly goes up with a "jump".
- On that note: One thing that I find odd about many games is that the only way for characters to get more skilled is to fight and kill enemies. Why does defeating the same enemy type for the twentieth time grant me experience, but undergoing monk training classes doesn't? I think there should be more ways to "level up" characters other than grinding.


Port Arianna:

- I can now distinctly remember why I hated Finley so much at the beginning of my first playthrough. He really is an obnoxious punk at this point. But I like how this first strong impression changes throughout the course of the story.
- That cutscene in Torto's shop is longer than I remember. I don't personally have a problem with that, but it might benefit the flow of the game to take some of the conversations out and insert them at later points.
- Speaking of which, do you have any plans concerning Emma? She kind of feels out of place in this cutscene anyway.
- I think ArtBane was right when he considered rearranging the events in Arc I to have Morias appear before instead of after the second encounter with Andau. That would make everything feel less linear and give a better sense of completion after Andau has been defeated.
- I already know I will miss the Port Arianna music in the remake. In my mind, this track and the place have become inseparable.
- A while ago, you mentioned you wanted to cut back on the amount of NPCs. I understand that, but at the same time it's important that players can still see how diverse Port Arianna is. There should still be plenty of non-humans present. (Also, do not remove the "I can't"-Lodite.)
- It might be a good idea to give players a better sense of direction when they have to visit a certain person or place. It's easy for me now since I already know where Gino lives, but a new player might struggle with finding his workplace. I'm not even saying a map would be necessary, but some available reminder of where the player needs to go would be helpful (maybe something like the "current objectives" in the menu in X-Noir). That would also prevent people from forgetting what they were supposed to do next and wandering around aimlessly. (Of course, not knowing where to go could potentially encourage exploration, but I think that is a choice players should be able to make for themselves.)
- I never understood what the point of the stash in Cade's and Bones' room is.

Gallian Graveyard/Mausoleum:

- On the one hand, I think this is an excellent dungeon due to its strong atmosphere and direct connection to major plot points and hsitoric events. On the other hand, it is bogged down by the overly strong emphasis on combat. Having to find and defeat the five lancers while dealing with loads of other encounters (and a significant increase in enemy difficulty) at the same time and little other things to do somewhat lessens the impact of the scene.
- The Gallian ghosts' pieces of dialogue (especially the lancers) however contribute a lot to the atmosphere. The same goes for the ghost of the elf you can speak with (which I think should be mandatory).
- Also, how come Shroud and Stoic do not seem at all surprised by suddenly finding themselves among hordes of ghosts? I'm pretty sure that's not an everyday occurence.
- Having all party members gain EXP even when they are K.O. was a great decision.
- Well, there was the first small boss fight against the three elite lancers. The reason for having to fight them seems not that believable, but it's definitely a nice challenge. (And of course Shroud learned Squall right after it was over.)
- All in all, I think the idea for this dungeon is really good, but its execution could be much better. I would suggest having not more than three instead of five minibosses (lancers), and giving each of them some small individual abilities to make them feel more unique. While the focus on battles does contribute to the feeling of hostility to be associated with Gallia, I'm sure there are ways to prevent this from becoming repetitive.
- "Smirnoff Ice, drink it!" I'm sure you will eventually have to cut out some of the easter eggs and references you hid in the original game, but do know that I enjoyed and still enjoy seeing them a lot.
- The crack in the wall in the church basement might be a good moment to introduce Stoic's Bull Rush...


Gallian Church:

- The increase in difficulty in this dungeon compared to previous places is enormous. Enemies are a lot more dangerous and puzzles are much trickier. Now, I don't have any problem with that per se - but the previous parts of the game should prepare the player for this. The way it is currently set up, there is a rather sudden shift in difficulty from "rather casual" to "challenging".
- While I appreciate the spread pieces of written history as a form of world building, the quiz/puzzle connected to it makes little sense. Also, Stoic should know all of this already, so why bother collecting those pages? I'm sure there are ways to get the player to pick up this background info without its use feeling so forced.
- Shroud's Squall spell is extremely powerful and pretty much indispensable during this part of the game. Of course, using it is always a case of risk vs. reward, since he is also the healer and needs his turns and SP for that, too. Still, it could have been balanced a bit better.
- I just read Andau's diary. Before playing MotW, I thought vampires in media were done for. Andau proved me wrong. His backstory and personality simply make sense, he probably is the most believable vampire character I've ever seen in any story. Still, I do wonder if it would be possible to introduce his backstory to the player in a different way than through a diary? That's not really a big concern, though.
- Navigating this dungeon is a lot more difficult than I remember. It might be helpful to give the player some indication as to where in the building Andau actually went. (Some players might also appreciate a map, though I am personally ambivalent to that.)
- The way things currently are, not fighting those bats in the darkness maze is actually a rather bad decision. They are the easiest enemies in the dungeon, but still give decent EXP. So if the player chooses the optimal solution, this maze turns into a grinding area instead. You might want to rethink the way this area works.
- I'm not sure how I feel about you playing wih the passability options for some secrets in this dungeon (like here and here). It would make more sense if this were actually a recurring mechanic, but as far as I can remember, it's almost never present in any other dungeon except this one.
- Wow, this bat swarm minigame is frustrating. The player has so little free room for movement that it's almost entirely a matter of luck if he succeeds or not. But since it's optional, I guess it's not that big a deal.
- This puzzle, on the other hand, is awesome. It's simple, yet tricky, and I felt really accomplished once I figured out how it worked.
- It would be nice if, after having solved an area and pulled the switch, I didn't have to walk all the way back through all the rooms I just cleared. Especially if there are no more actual things to do in those rooms. Though I guess without random encounters, this won't really be a problem.
- Please, please, remove this "puzzle" from the new version of the game. Everyone who I've seen play MotW so far (myself included) kept walking around the entire church for a long time thinking they missed something, until they found out how to open this door by chance. This non-optional hidden switch is one of the very few really annoying and unfair things in the game, and there's no benefit or value to it at all. Please, remove it.
- The following puzzle with the dark path and the lamp bat is really neat, though. I still appreciate that very much.
- I remember how long it took me to solve this puzzle with the lanterns and crates. It's not a bad idea, but the graphics used (especially the "switch"-like tile in the centre) make the solution so obscure that it becomes more frustrating than fun, I think.
- As a whole, the idea behind the Gallian Church dungeon is great, but the quality of its execution is very mixed. Some puzzles and mechanics work very well, others don't. Also, due its size and non-linearity it's rather difficult to navigate at first when compared to previous dungeons. It has lots of potential, but not all of it is used as well as it could have been.

Got any Dexreth amulets?
I didn't have a whole lot of free time this week, so I didn't get nearly as far as I wanted to. Sorry for that. Still, I did finish the Gallian Church and started venturing into the Terr Mountains, so I have at least some notes for you.
Without further ado:

Gallian Church, Boss Battle:
- Maybe it's just me, but the way this area is mapped makes very little sense to me. I know what it is supposed to depict, it just looks... off.
- The first (minor, mind you!) boss in the game has an actual backstory and motivation for his villanous actions, plus really good combat music. What more could you want?
- Good thing Shroud is usually faster than Andau and Stoic. Without his quick healing, this would not end well. Andau is packing a punch!
- Wow, that "Obscurity" spell of Andau is powerful. Shroud just got damaged so much the bats managed to finish him off. At least this gives me a reason to use some of all those items I already have by now.
- The way the music loops is somewhat odd here, to be honest.
- And Shroud got knocked out again. Lesson learned: Don't stall out the healing until the last moment. Going for maximum efficiency might actually get me killed here.
- I think this boss fight does a good job at introducing some core concepts of advanced combat here already. The player needs to learn to react to getting hit hard and using his different skills in the right situations. Shroud serves as the example of what happens if you don't pay attention here, but the fight is not unforgiving because Stoic resists Andau's attacks, so the player can learn from his mistakes without getting a Game Over immediately. Very good design, I think.
- Hm... The dialogue after the end of the battle is interesting. Shroud is really showing his naive-idealistic views here, while Stoic is more cynical. Still, I'm not sure how well it fits the impressions we get of them later... I could just as easily imagine Shroud to be more judgemental and Stoic being more understanding due to his experience. I'm not sure if this is just my personal memories getting mixed up or if the writing seems a bit disconnected from the rest of the game here.

Port Arianna:
- Bones'/Stoic's colourful threats really deserve to be so iconic. I almost feel sorry for Finley. Almost.
- Those beds were obviously not meant for big skeletons. The way Bones is lying on it looks really awkward.
- One thing I never actually tried out: What happens if you don't talk to the Elf girl on the graveyard? Does the dialogue during the night change, or does the game somehow force you to speak with her?
- Just as a side comment on this screenshot: Doesn't Stoic mean "sensitive" instead of "sensible" here?
- So I'm supposed to go find Emma now, but there's not even any kind of reaction when I go to her apartment door. I mean, I know where she is because I've played the game before, but that's still not very player-friendly.
- I just visited Barry in his shop (I think that's the only chance to get in there before it gets taken over?) and I think there should be some hint to the player that it might be worth taking a look in there. There's some interesting foreshadowing going on there, at least.
- How does Bubba not even recognise Cade at the pub at this point? He must be really drunk.
- What was the point of those two crazy NPCs in the boating supplies shack anyway? Also, the sailor who gives you the key keeps saying to come back later for something else which never actually happens.
- Not really important, but I found a bug: When looking at the door of Kovak's future mansion, Bones comments on it despite the fact he's not even there with Cade (he's at the hospital visiting Rana).
- Is there any reason nobody thinks the tattoo on Rana's forehead looks strange (or even suspicious)? Then again, they've known her for a while, so they're probably past that sort of superficial things by now.
- How is everybody in Port Arianna still walking around on the streets and not reacting at all to the fact that a guy just robbed the bank and ran all through town with a tiger?
- It should be made more explicit that Gino didn't give the dynamite to the player directly, but that you are expected to actually go inside the tent and pick it up. Or just have Gino do give it directly.

Terr Mountains:
- I really like the concept of having an item that's important for progressing coming directly from enemy encounters without it turning into a fetch quest. It's even still useful after all passages have been unlocked.
- While there's nothing really wrong with this dungeon, I also feel it's just not very interesting either. It's mostly just a gimmick dungeon plus walking around in different caves a lot. The random encounters make movement on the map quite unattractive, though, so I wonder if the concept would work better without those.
- This Whack-a-Kobold minigame is really silly. Never mind that it's also entirely based on luck since the target disappears way too quickly to get him if you're not already standing close to him by chance.

And that's all I have right now. Next time, though, I'm going to try and complete this dungeon and finish up Arc I entirely, so we can move on to less explored parts. See you then!
Ah, good stuff. Few quick thoughts.

Cade's attitude towards Andau changes a few times. When they learn his backstory, he's sympathetic since he also lost his loved ones...but once Gabriella gets brought into it, that sympathy is gone. By the end of Andau's arc, he regains some respect for him and realizes that they really were similar in some ways. You could even argue that Andau's warped viewpoint about his revenge is a twisted version of Cade's ideals about justice.

My brother enjoyed making insane NPCs and he was the original mastermind behind the baby and the clown (and also the cat that used to say "better bring your wallet or you're gonna PAY A FEE"). We knew they were too ridiculous to be wandering around but at the same time didn't really want to get rid of them so we tossed them in that shack. I doubt we'd have any NPCs who were that silly in a new version, but hopefully a lot of them would at least be funny.

AB disowned Terr Mountain a long time again. I suspect that scene would be more of a chase sequence than a full dungeon.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
A little late again, I'm afraid, but here I am nonetheless. Let's get right into it.

One side comment: If I press the Q button while playing, this happens. I'm pretty sure this option was not intended to be available to players.

Terr Mountains, Part 2:
- Why is the player even asked whether to use the rope in this area or not? Considering the rope isn't consumed and there's no negative side effects to using it, that choice box is just pointless.
- I'm never against a good minigame from time to time, but I feel like something more interesting could have been done with this one.
- Some of the mapping in this area really makes no sense. How, for example, does this ledge even work?
- The option to see the number of remaining treasures is still a really nice idea. It makes exploring areas much easier, especially when I'm not sure if I might have missed something or not.
- Morias and Douglas provide a nice challenge, and the battles are more interesting now that Stoic has his Bull Rush available. However, I think depending on the situation Douglas's Ferocious Roar (that does nothing except for stunning a character) is either rather pointless or way too dangerous for such an early boss - in any case, it never seems like a well-balanced ability.
- The scene in which the heroes return victoriously with the town's money is a little cheesy, but also a really cool way to introduce the unfamiliar concept of (fantasy) superheroes to the world (and the player). There probably is more potential to start exploring that theme here, though.

Hm, that part was much shorter than I thought it would be. As a whole, I think Arc I does a good job introducing the player to the characters and the world of Solest, but not so much in regard to the larger plot. There are hints to be found here and there, but I'm sure there would be ways to make the intro feel more connected to the rest of the story without giving too much away too early. Even a change as small as introducing Violet earlier, for example, could make a lot of difference. But I seem to recall you were planning on merging Arcs I and II anyway, and since Arc I is short in comparison that should not be a huge problem.

I guess that means next time I'll be moving on to Arc II. See you there!
Heh, more evidence of Terr Mountain's status as the weakest dungeon in the game. Outdoor stuff is tough!

Arc I was conceived mostly while I still believed MotW would be a smaller-scale, more episodic narrative set in a single location. Although all that changed, evidence of it is still there. A new version would add more relevant plot content early on while still hopefully establishing the world and characters.
I agree that Terr Mountains is one of the weakest in the game, but that's not saying it was downright awful, it had some... somewhat high points?

At the very least, you nailed the atmosphere down pretty well, but I think the real problem comes in each time you encounter a kobold minigame and some mapping issues.(But I guess that point is already made clear)

Hope to see more on the latter arcs. The mines in Arc 2 was one of my favorite dungeons in the game while Arc 3 is my favorite Arc altogether.
Cool stuff NS. Thanks for the hard work so far.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Glad to be helpful, Artie.

Like Seacliff, I wouldn't say that Terr Mountain is not a good dungeon per se - it's just that most other dungeons in the game are better. Turning it into a chase-focused area instead seems like a good idea to me, and would definitely open up a lot of possibilities for interesting mechanics. The most important thing would probably be to neither make Morias come across as too minor a threat to warrant an own dungeon, nor to make this part of the game unnecessarily slow.

It's good to see some discussion and input from others popping up here - thanks for that, Seacliff. The more ideas and opinions we can get, the better.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Arc II:

Port Arianna:
- So there's Auburn's first appearance. Generally, a fitting first impression for the player, I think. However, and I'm not so sure why I suddenly feel like this, both her and Cade's overtly flirtatious behaviour in this scene seems just a little exaggerated. Maybe it's just due to the short music sequence, though.
- I think it would benefit the story if the player had a little more information on Equipment King at this point. Cade's and Bones' attitude and especially their anger towards Barry could otherwise be difficult to understand for some players. (I mean, I did and still do get it, but not everyone thinks like me.)
- Sure, Finley is supposed to play the role of the opportunistic moron in this stage of the game (which he does very well) - but dialogue like this is just a little too much, don't you think?
- I really hope you're not planning on cutting down Violet's role and screen time in the remake. She's way too cool as a character to be left out. And the discussion between her and Cade is a part of the story where the different viewpoints really become visible. I like that scene. It could do with some fitting music, though.
- This is a rather broad question, but do you have any plans concerning the crafting system? While I think it is a nice addition to the gameplay, it never felt like it worked completely as intended or made use of its full potential. Ultimately, I think you'd have to decide whether to make crafting either more (hunting for materials, wider range of recipes, crafting more essential to plot and gameplay etc.) or less important (no crafting, or a very small and straightforward system just for small bonuses). But letting it stay the way it is now is probably not a good option. I'll give my opinion on more specific crafting-related points as I encounter them.
- I think it's a really good and fitting idea to suddenly have Gino start charging the heroes money for weapons. That's a good example of story and gameplay influencing each other.
- On that note, I think that especially in a version without random encounters, you will have to give some additional thought to the matter of money and its importance in the game. Considering it plays such a big role in the story, it always felt a bit unreal to me to have loads of money in my inventory without a real need to spend it.

Terr Coastline:
- This is definitely one of the most beautiful locations in the game. You seem to have a talent for mapping beach areas.
- After talking to the escaped child, here's a question that came to my mind: Why did the kidnappers actually put the children to work in the mines? What is it about the "stuff they want them to dig up"? Is it just labour for the sake of exhausting and disciplining the children, or is the interest in raw materials for their employer involved as well? As far as I know, this was never made entirely clear.
- Also, how did that one child even manage to escape if a boat is needed to get back to the coast from the mines?

Lamorack Mines (Intro):
- This has always been one of my favourite dungeons in the whole game, so I'm excited to find out what kind of impression it will make on me now.
- Another strange thing: If one person on each side is needed for these switches to work - then how can the thugs leave the mines without having one of them standing outside all the time?
- Oh dear, the first trace of the infamous number puzzle. I still don't entirely get why people had so many problems with it, to be honest. It seemed rather straightforward to me. Have you already thought about an alternative or a different way to use this mechanic? (It would be a shame to lose the inside joke material.)

I've decided to take a break before jumping into the actual Lamorack Mines dungeon, because I'd rather play and enjoy it in one session than break it up into multiple parts. Maybe I'll do that later today, maybe I won't be able to do it before next week. Either way, I wanted to get what I have so far out here as quickly as possible. So this is to be continued.
Ah, Arc II. I have a tough relationship with this one. It's pretty important to the story as a whole of course, but in terms of re-writing dialogue, this is where we'd need it the most.

-Auburn's intro is fairly forced, I just didn't know much about the character yet and it kinda shows. It would be different and the music would obviously be different too.

-Of the few scenes that have been written for a new MotW, several are discussions of Equipment King. I suppose that's the part I really want to nail down this time. I figure Violet will have a similar role.

-Not sure what we're doing with crafting. The fact that the characters are armorsmiths basically forces us into it, but I have a feeling AB would want to do something much different with it.

-The bit with the children is just sloppy. At the time, I thought I was being clever and referencing Wal-Mart's reliance on goods from countries that use child labor, but it doesn't really make sense with The Hand's mission. In a new version, I suspect they would be sitting comfortably with Dican maybe reading about Gallian history.

Keep it coming!
Got any Dexreth amulets?
-The bit with the children is just sloppy. At the time, I thought I was being clever and referencing Wal-Mart's reliance on goods from countries that use child labor, but it doesn't really make sense with The Hand's mission. In a new version, I suspect they would be sitting comfortably with Dican maybe reading about Gallian history.

Hm, I don't know. I actually think that reference to child labour is clever. Only, in the current version the logic behind it is simply not clear enough. I can't stop you if you think it would be better to scrap the idea, but I don't think it's as pointless as you make it sound. (After all, forcing people to do hard work to make them more vulnerable and receptive to ideology actually is an existing strategy of brainwashing.)

Either way, I was in the mood for some more MotW today, so I decided to start early this week.

Lamorack Mines:
- Man, this music is amazing. It's so catchy and rhythmic, it just fits the dungeon perfectly.
- I don't think I'm overlevelled at this point (I only just yet learned Dust Devil and Bone Cleave), but still I'm defeating these enemies with ease. (Note: This changed later.) Perhaps it's just luck? Despite this, the encounter rate is still way too high and slows the dungeon down considerably. Having less enemies so the player can focus more on exploring and on the puzzles would probably benefit this dungeon.
- The idea of using that first minecart to defeat the bandits is a cool idea. Perhaps this mechanic could be given a larger role in the remake of the dungeon?
- One thing that is counterintuitive, though: If the player crashes the first minecart into the heap of rubble, nothing happens. However, doing the same thing with heaps of rubble later in the dungeon will destroy them and reveal hidden treasure. This inconsistency might give players a wrong idea and cause them to not even look for those treaures.
- It's interesting that during the first two arcs, it seems like Shroud is a more qualified leader than Stoic. Especially during their discussion on the large bridge, Stoic seems prone to wanting to take rushed and irrational decisions (like jumping down from there). Having played the whole game, I know that this only happens when he is under pressure or very emotionally upset, but this early in the game, the player might get the impression that this is his default behaviour. I think it's necessary to make it even clearer to the player that his concern for the kidnapped children causes Stoic to "freak out" a little here, and that there is a difference between this and his normal way of acting.
- This minecart puzzle is still brilliant. It's neither too complicated nor too simple, neither too long nor too short, it's straightforward yet requires some thought, it's fun to play and doesn't eventually become frustrating, and there's some extra treasure for those who don't mind spending a little more time on it. I can't think of anything negative to say about this puzzle.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have no idea why so many people had so much trouble with this number puzzle.
- Why does the player have to interact (press Enter in front of) those stairs on the ship instead of just being able to walk onto them? That's unnecessarily confusing.
- Requiring the player to interact with a randomly differently coloured ground spot is probably not the most elegant way to have this minigame start.
- One of the few real complaints I have about this dungeon is that its layout can be very confusing and can cause players to get lost or unsure about where to go next. Now that I think about it, have you ever considered implementing a minimap feature for dungeons like these in which the player has multiple directions they can go?
- Hm, I'm not so sure how I feel about the mole maze. There's a sound basic concept behind it, but it's neither really a challenge nor a lot of fun. I'm sure there would be ways to make exploring this area more interesting than having it be just a trial-and-error-type test of patience.
- The Mole Boss battle, on the other hand, is a lot of fun. I think this is one of the first clear examples of the challenging multi-stage boss battles MotW was to become famous for.
- I like how having to forge the church key not only works as the motivation for having to explore the whole mine area, but also introduces crafting into the non-optional parts of the gameplay. The part about acquiring the tool steel is maybe a little convoluted, but ultimately it's a good idea. Maybe using similar situations to make crafting more essential also in later sections of the game would help both to integrate the mechanic better, and to set the heroes' work off from Equipment King.
- The mole minigame where you have to stop your minecart closest to the edge of the cliff always seemed a little absurd to me, although it can be fun. Usually, it takes me a lot of tries to win (which can be frustrating), but this time I somehow managed to win on my second attempt.
- I want to positively point out that the unsettling atmosphere in the church is presented in a very powerful way. However, that's also the reason why this inside joke feels particularly out of place here.
- Speaking of Arcadius, I suddenly wonder why there seems to be no church or chapel to Arcadius in Port Arianna, or any other city, for that matter. Also, in my opinion it might be a good idea to give the player just a little more (vague) information on Solestian religion before this part starts. In the past, some people have wrongly accused MotW of being an anti-religious game, and perhaps the fact that the first real encounter with religion in the game is a rather negative one contributed to that misunderstanding.

Lamorack Mines, Boss Battle:
- That purge ability of Dican is really mean. I even remembered he can do that, yet I accidentally still used Stoic's Intensity purely out of habit. Guess I will have to fight him without my attack buff. Having bosses that can and will use strategic abilities like that are a rare sight and can completely change the dynamic of a battle, so compliments for that. However, I can't help but think such a move would be better suited for battles later in the game, where there is more than just one buff available to the player and they play a bigger role.
- I like that no matter what strategy the player chooses (going after Dican directly or defeating his visages first), he always has a trick up his sleeve to respond. It is nevertheless possible to trigger both of his reactions by damaging him first and then defeating the clones, which I think should not happen.
- Just as an aside, I think it would make more sense to actually see the cave already starting to slowly collapse the moment the fight ends, not just after they have been talking for a while already. The collapse scene feels a little forced the way it is now.

Overall, the Lamorack Mines dungeon is a little spotty in some areas, but the majority of it is a product of great design. Without the random encounters and perhaps with a little extra focus on minecart mechanics/puzzles, I can see this dungeon being thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Port Arianna:
- There should have been an option to save after the battle with Dican and before the start of these longer cutscenes.
- I quite like this scene that is shown right after the children have been rescued. Everyone expects a moment of triumph for the heroes, but instead they have their accusations thrown right back at them and they look like the bad guys. It's a really effective way of playing with typical superhero themes while also introducing Kovak and immediately displaying his intelligence and cunning.
- That child's drawing is a very nice and endearing touch. May I ask who actually drew this masterpiece?
- I remember when I first saw that Hand logo and heard the music starting in the background. Both are extremely effective at making the player feel uncomfortable.
- To be honest, I don't know whether the change of perspective to the scene with Kovak and Ketsu is a good decision here or not. It absolutely makes sense to have the transition happen at this point, and the scene is definitely interesting for the player. Still, I can't help but think that keeping up the uncertainty about Kovak's crimes for the player for a little longer would have been more effective in the long run.

And that's that for today. This was quite a long session, but I enjoyed it. Next time, there will be plenty of opportunities to relax, because we're going to a party! I'll see you then.
-Regarding churches in towns, it was really just graphical limitations. Most of the tilesets aren't really equipped to make convincing places of worship...unless I wanted to adapt the style of the Southern "megachurches" that look like supermarkets from the outside. It's an interesting point, though.

-I actually drew the kid's drawing. When the art is supposed to be unprofessional, it's much easier for me to contribute. :P

-I think that the first Kovak and Ketsu scene could be entirely cut with very little consequence to the overall story. While planning out a new version, I thought it might be interested for Ketsu to adopt more of a classic supervillain identity. The leader of the Hand would be a costumed villain named The Prophet, while Ketsu Ellester would be a preacher with controversial beliefs but otherwise doesn't seem to pose a real threat. Anyone who played the old MotW would see right through it but it might be interesting for newcomers.
- To be honest, I don't know whether the change of perspective to the scene with Kovak and Ketsu is a good decision here or not. It absolutely makes sense to have the transition happen at this point, and the scene is definitely interesting for the player. Still, I can't help but think that keeping up the uncertainty about Kovak's crimes for the player for a little longer would have been more effective in the long run.

I agree with this, since the player is about to invade the mansion as the next dungeon, any hidden information can be revealed there. And if that is still too soon, there are plenty of chances to bring it up in the next arc.

So yeah, not a bad scene, but I don't think it was timed well enough. I also think it will help for the team to know about the hand a bit more before finding out they are the ones behind the equipment king, but that's just my taste.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
First of all, I want to apologise for the lack of updates last week. I've been going through a bit of a burnout recently and felt unable concentrate on anything at all. I actually did start playing some more MotW, but couldn't think of anything meaningful to say. Continuing the playthrough under these circumstances seemed pointless. But I picked it back up now and tried again today. It's not much, but here's what I got so far.

Once again, there's some huge spoilers ahead.

- One point about the dialogue in MotW I just now realised again: There's a lot of instances where "non-word" verbal actions are described in the dialogue windows (like *sigh* or *snicker*). I don't have much of a problem with that personally, but I do admit I think it looks a bit unprofessional. In many cases, I think there are alternative ways of expression that you could use to give the dialogue a bit less of an "internet style." I don't know what your own view on this is, but I wanted to at least point it out.

Kovak's Party:
- During the scene before the party, when Morias is being freed, why does he keep evading the subject of how he got busted and doesn't tell Tyranda and Shadehorn about Shroud and Stoic? I can only imagine he must be too proud for that, because otherwise his behaviour makes little sense.
- I can't help but ask myself how long it must have taken you to get that dancing choreography right, especially for Finley.
- The music crystal seems like a bit of a weird idea at first, but I think it's a nice way of introducing the concept of Solest as a world which is starting to move past the "medieval" period, and where magic and technology are beginning to merge and evolve. I just don't remember seeing many other instances of this worldbuilding aspect in the rest of the game (at least not on the technological level - it's different when it comes to politics).
- I feel like in the case of the Hand attendant, you originally had a bigger and better backstory in mind which you ultimately rushed quite a bit. The final revelation at the end of the game is interesting, but her motivation just doesn't seem powerful enough to justify going through all this trouble and having to support the Hand's cause for so long. Also, it feels improbable that she would never have tried anything to get Ketsu out of there by herself. If there were some mysterious incidents within the Hand (or some inside info that reaches the heroes?) that she turns out to have been responsible for, for example, this character could play a much more interesting role than she currently does. But at this point, her actions just don't seem to match her actual motivation.
- I know this is nitpicking, but how did Cade and Bones manage get back to their apartment to switch into their costumes so quickly to save the day at the party? Or did they have them with them the whole time? (That could actually be a common problem for superheroes: Have your costume with you all the time and risk exposure (plus having to carry it), or leave it at some secure place and need to go get it every time something happens?)
- That scene where Finley starts going crazy with his guns is just amazing! I think this is his first turning point in the story where he goes from being an obnoxious idiot to being an obnoxious idiotic hero. Finley has a really strong development as a character over the course of the game, and watching that happen has always been a lot of fun for me.
- I can't quite remember: Was there ever an explanation as to why Tyranda and Shadehorn don't seem to recognise Shroud?
- The big battle against the Toutens feels really epic due to finally having a full party and the build up from before. Finley and Auburn are mostly fine as party members and both bring some good new strategic options to the table, especially Auburn's Dispel and Crowd Control (though this can be a bit overpowered) and Finley's Adrenaline Shot, but their other skills aren't as useful yet so their novelty wears off somewhat quickly.Unfortunately, the enemies' skills aren't as interesting, and it's rather easy to prepare for their single-use special actions once you've found out the pattern. Just as a suggestion: If the Toutens were able to use some kind of team actions or combos, I think that would enhance the "group clash" atmosphere of the battle and also make keeping the enemies under control more urgent and interesting.

I realise this is a very short piece of feedback, but I wanted to get at least something done and out there today. If possible, I will try to finish up the Mansion dungeon this weekend as well, though. Just know I'm not dead and this playthrough is still going on.

- The music crystal seems like a bit of a weird idea at first, but I think it's a nice way of introducing the concept of Solest as a world which is starting to move past the "medieval" period, and where magic and technology are beginning to merge and evolve. I just don't remember seeing many other instances of this worldbuilding aspect in the rest of the game (at least not on the technological level - it's different when it comes to politics).

I liked the music crystals for a very similar reason, but it seemed like they just threw the idea out altogether after Arc 2 save for the fairy side-quest and the sand castle fangame. I would like to see them be used more, even if it's just for a sound test option.
-The *sigh* and *snicker* thing may seem unusual for a video game, but I remember it being pretty common in comic books. I can see that it might look unprofessional by today's standards.

-The music crystal was one of those ideas borne from the limitations of RTP. Given MotW's setting, it would have made more sense to have a live orchestra at a party like that but there was no art appropriate for that (maybe we could have used Ercello's angels, but then they wouldn't be a surprise later). So I came up with the idea of the music crystal which I think was the first indicator of something unique about the Solest setting - the way in which magic and technology will join together as the society gets more advanced.

-Originally, I imagined the Hand Attendant (Christine) having a role similar to Cari. But then Cari came along and Christine didn't have much to do until we came up with a story for her towards the end. It's kinda messy.

I still love that party scene. It took an awful long time to do, mostly just testing the movement over and over and over for days, but it's one of the most memorable parts of the game.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
-The *sigh* and *snicker* thing may seem unusual for a video game, but I remember it being pretty common in comic books. I can see that it might look unprofessional by today's standards.

You're right, that is something typical for comic books. I hadn't even thought of that. Now I keep thinking that it might be an interesting idea to do this with actual speech bubbles - like having these words pop up in a speech bubble above the character's head while they're speaking.

Anyway, a little late, but nevertheless, here goes the Mansion dungeon:

Port Arianna:
- Okay, I take back part of what I said earlier about the upcoming technological breakthroughs not being as visible. Not only did I completely forget about the most obvious one, Finley's gunslinging, but also there's Daydream's show and music equipment.
- Though it's probably a little superficial, I'm a bit surprised nobody has ever asked Rana about what the symbol on her forehead means. Then again, all the characters have known her for some time now. But to the players, it might appear like you wanted to give them a much too obvious clue that there's something wrong about her.
- This picnic scene with Rana and Bones is really sad. I guess I don't have to ask where Rana got her ideas about an undead's happiness from... Though, I'm asking myself if the scene would have an even stronger effect if the player had gotten to know Rana a bit better beforehand. All we know about her by now is what we deduced from Andau and the heroes talking about her, and the visit to the hospital - and that is only optional.
- Now I'm a bit confused: How incredibly talented must Auburn be to be able to learn playing a new instrument within just one day's time? I think it would make more sense if they just secretly used a music crystal or something similar to replace Caipen's part, and let Auburn "playback" and just pretend to play the bass guitar as part of the show. That would even emphasise Kovak's and Ercello's scheming nature even more.
- Gino's questioning of whether it's acceptable to break the law in order to catch a supposed criminal is very interesting. I think it's a bit of a missed opportunity that this dilemma of how far you can go as a superhero/vigilante type before you're just like those you oppose isn't explored a bit more throughout the rest of the game.
- Just one little thing I noticed as an aside: Maybe I'm just imagining things, but I think it's really telling how Cade always sounds slightly more aggressive and determined when he's in costume. I really get the impression that the mask is what gives him a lot of his confidence and courage.

Kovak's Mansion:
- I'll just say this the way I see it: That part about Kovak just allowing Shroud and Stoic to search through his mansion is one of the few plot points in the game that make no sense at all. Usually, Kovak is very secretive about his work, and even if he underestimates the heroes, there is no reason why he should invite them into his house, let alone leave incriminating materials in rooms they could possibly access. And Vec never even states a reason for letting the heroes in, such as Kovak wanting to prevent damage to his home that might be done if they break in. Also, the layout of the dungeon does not present any way to access Kovak's private room (where he currently resides). So if there is some (secret?) way to get there, why doesn't Kovak have everything that could be used against him hidden there?
In addition, it is very unlikely that a rich man like Kovak would use only non-dangerous security mechanisms to protect his house against burglars, especially since his normal property is valuable enough already to be worth stealing. And the suspension of disbelief for puzzle dungeons goes a long way, but having clues hidden in his own house that reveal the secrets of the security mechanisms (which Kovak already knows) is just absurd.
To be fair: I like the concept of this dungeon a lot, and many of its puzzles are very nice. But if you want to keep it the way it is now, as a puzzle dungeon with no combat and no danger of being caught and arrested, you really should come up with a better justification on Kovak's end than "Those two miscreants will never be able to get near my files."
- The library room in the mansion is a really clever way of introducing some more lore and background info while at the same time providing clues for the puzzles. In this context, such a thing works much better than for example the history quiz in the Gallian Church.
- I know this is silly, but I really like Stoic's phrase "I am mighty" that he uses every time he bull rushes something.
- I really like that greedy Fairy in Kovak's mansion, too. (Even though it just cost me 250 GP.)
- The music-activated lock is a funny idea in principle, but the solution is just so silly and improbable... Also, how do Kovak or Vec normally open that lock if they want to get in there? Are they both hobbyist musicians as well?
- After the end of the mansion dungeon, some more concrete information about Cade's backstory is presented. I think there's something special about how this is done: Often, dramatic backstories (especially of orphaned protagonists) are presented in a very over-the-top manner during crucial scenes. But here, this information is revealed by Cade almost as an aside, as a way to explain his motivation for one specific action which isn't even that significant for the plot. I think that this narrative strategy of gradually letting the backstory unfold instead of making use of big melodramatic revelations makes it feel much more natural and easier for the player to go along with it.

I know some of my criticism might seem harsh here, but please know that in General, I did still enjoy this part of the game a lot.

Next session, there's a big concert coming up. That's going to be fun!
- I'll just say this the way I see it: That part about Kovak just allowing Shroud and Stoic to search through his mansion is one of the few plot points in the game that make no sense at all. Usually, Kovak is very secretive about his work, and even if he underestimates the heroes, there is no reason why he should invite them into his house, let alone leave incriminating materials in rooms they could possibly access. And Vec never even states a reason for letting the heroes in, such as Kovak wanting to prevent damage to his home that might be done if they break in. Also, the layout of the dungeon does not present any way to access Kovak's private room (where he currently resides). So if there is some (secret?) way to get there, why doesn't Kovak have everything that could be used against him hidden there?

Originally there was another scene where Kovak mentions that the mansion security will take care of Shroud/Stoic. The original design had Golems that would attack the players. I can't quite remember why we removed them. It's possible I just didn't want to work on more battles for arc 2. As it is, the dungeon doesn't make much sense.

Interesting factoid: Kovak's Mansion was mostly designed by Volrath. I designed the puzzles where Shroud levitates pots to activate switches and Stoic bullrushes the doors but the word puzzles and layout were Volrath.
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
The party at Kovak's Mansion and the Concert are, in my opinion, the best parts of the game. Shroud storming the Hand's fortress was another high point.
-Rana's forehead mark didn't become part of her design until long after that scene was finished. You would think that Stoic would have a sense that she was involved with dark magic, but dark magic has several disciplines within it so he might not have guessed she was an apprentice necromancer.

-Auburn had a comprehensive musical education when she was younger. This isn't said in the game, but I imagined she had played guitar in the past, just not bass. Although if we want to be really nitpicky, the song that figures into the music-lock puzzle is just straight up electric guitar, no bass...even though she's supposed to be playing a bass guitar.

-I remember one review we got said that "When he's Cade, he's a total G. When he's Shroud, he's a whiny little prick." I wouldn't put it quite like that but basically, Cade is the mask. He's trying harder to fit in. But as Shroud, he can let fly with his anger/resentment.

-As AB said, without the golem thing, the mansion sequence gets stranger the more you think about it. My recollection was that we didn't want to assign Enkur more battles for an arc that was already very heavy on them.
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