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Lost in the Flames

  • Roden
  • 05/13/2015 01:33 PM
  • 1607 views
Her Dreams of Fire is a short atmospheric piece made by Liberty for the Golden Week of RPG Maker 2003 event.

Gameplay

As an atmospheric piece, there is little gameplay in HDoF, however, it's strange- I'd almost have rather seen less in some cases. Several times during the game the player is forced to make a choice between four options of "...", the choice of which doesn't matter in the slightest and always results in the same thing. At other points you have to choose the only choice available. I get what both of these "mechanics" are supposed to represent, but I think that because of the greater nature of the game and the fact that they're crammed into such a short space they come off being flat. Besides that, you are given legitimate choices at some points, however because of the pointless choices it feels like those don't actually matter either.

The only other gameplay to speak of is the "jump or don't jump" scene on the tower, which I hesitantly include even though all you're doing is waiting for something to happen and closing text boxes. Again, I understand the meaning of continually telling the player "you should jump", but I do think the game does this for far too long near the end, making it lose all of its effect and become more annoying than anything.

Worldbuilding (Setting, Atmosphere, Writing & Characters)

There isn't much going on in the worldbuilding department, sadly, which I think was partly due to the RTP assets and the short length of the game. The game attempts to create a very dramatic atmosphere and story, but falls short in the end because of writing that verges on the side of hammy and even sometimes pretentious. The story has multiple endings, but doesn't really seem to know what it wants to be or what it wants to say at the end. I felt as thought I was getting mixed messages about the point of the game- did it want me to kill the girl? Did it want me to save her? What differences to the choices in relation to the parents make? Why is the player being blamed for the suicide when the game seems to want you to jump off by its very design? (This last point is a big issue for me- lots of art games pull the old "force player to make the bad choice" route, and all things considered its just bad design. It's not really noteworthy or edgy anymore, and all it does is hurt the message).

A good example of the writing being hammy is the dream sequence right in the beginning, where the player walks about and checks on certain things in the room. Everything you check on makes a very "easy" reference to some artsy quote about the story of the game, so it comes off as being too simple and lacking depth. For example, you check on the mirrors and it's a quote about the "shards of so and so", or checking on the stove is a quote about "the heat of passion". It feels like the game is trying to dumb itself down and disrespect the player's intelligence by making the easiest possible association, and it really hurts things in the end- I would have liked there to be more subtlety to the expression of those elements.

Aesthetics (Graphics & Music)

As part of the Golden Week contest this game uses nothing but RTP resources, so there's not a whole lot to say here. The graphics are used competently, and the music is well chosen. Liberty uses panoramas in order to create an interesting version of a "burning house" effect, which is probably the most notable thing about the visual aspects of the game.

Overall

I can't say that I like this game too much. The message within seems to almost say that there's no choice involved in being suicidal, and I'm not sure I agree with that. I know that you can save the main character from killing herself, but then why have your choices not really make a difference in the end? Why take the easy route with exposition in the dream and otherwise, forcing the idea into people's faces? As someone who was suicidal before, I actually kind of feel like the game is somewhat offensive, like it's playing it off as being simple or easy to understand. I can't exactly pin down why, but it's just a feeling I get from playing it, but I know that Liberty wouldn't do that intentionally, as she understands the concept of suicide.

In the end, I can't really recommend Her Dreams of Fire. It left me feeling more confused and slightly annoyed than anything else. There are certainly better atmospheric pieces on this site and beyond, if you care to look.

Posts

Pages: 1
This may help clear up a few things for you: http://rpgmaker.net/games/7691/ploxexplane/

I appreciate the review and I'm glad it left you frustrated. That was part of the aim - to make you, the player, feel like Era does. Powerless and confused.

Era is a woman trapped in her past. She is trapped by memories and dreams that haunt her and a voice (her own voice) haunting them, telling her horrible things about her self and how worthless her life is. She wants to live but she is afraid to delve into those dreams in order to retrieve the truth and move on with her life.

And yes, you get blamed for killing her. She actively jumps back from the edge. Why do you listen to the voice, who is the antagonist of the game, constantly wearing down the player and Era with it's mocking and using the truth against her. Almost every line in the game is that enemy - Era's self-loathing. The part of her that just wants to ignore the truth and implode. The part of her that wants her to die.

Era, herself, is waging a war against it as best she can, and resists the temptation, but she is caught in the strings of being a puppet to the player. Your choices change her life path and whether she finds out the truth and learns to handle it, or denies that truth and tries to hide away.

Also, cancelling choices is a Thing. That you can do. Yeah. In this game there is only one choice that does nothing (the very first). All others matter and have alternatives. Every last one of them.


This game is not about suicide. Quite the opposite. It's about fighting against the temptation that whispers "You'd be better dead. Your family would be happier. People's lives would be better. What do you bring to people's lives? Nothing. You should jump." (We both know that voice quite well, I'm sure, and like Era, have fought against it on more than one occassion.) Only once is Era suicidal - and you more than likely didn't see that ending because it was hidden in a cancel choice. The jump? Murder, pure and simple.

She knew she was depressed and actively sought help. She saw her doctor who told her to see a psychologist. She went and saw a psychologist. She fought hard against the strings holding her in suspension.

There is a good ending, one which sees her happy with a family and loving her life - but you can only get to it if you look for the truth instead of letting yourself get drawn in to being contrary or going along with lies.

I fully expect people not to get the good ending the first or second time playing. I expect people will jump the first time, murdering her.
I expect people will go for the lies the second time, getting a bad ending.
I expect people will zoom through the third time, not bothering to learn the truth by exploring their surrounds and thus missing out on vital clues that lead to the truth.

And the truth is not a happy one, but it leads to a happy future. Just as sad truths, when accepted, can lead to living on and learning how to move forward.

So, no, suicide isn't the name of the game - if she kills herself you failed and because you were the one pulling her strings, it is your fault if she dies.
This may help clear up a few things for you: http://rpgmaker.net/games/7691/ploxexplane/


This clearly shows a difference of opinion between us, as I don't believe that any atmospheric piece or art game should need a manual that explains what it is. That's for the game to do, and, as the entire point of the genre, what its success should be measured on.

Also, cancelling choices is a Thing. That you can do. Yeah. In this game there is only one choice that does nothing (the very first). All others matter and have alternatives. Every last one of them.


This is something that I wouldn't have banked on or made so important myself, since cancelling choices isn't something that a player really does all too much. Thinking about it, I honestly can't remember the last time I intentionally cancelled a choice dialogue with the intent or idea that it would progress the game somehow, especially not an important story choice. It seems like a sort of backwards game design idea.

Again, there's also the issue of the first choice presented to the player not making a difference. This is a crucial moment of the teaching process- if the first choice means nothing, it will colour the opinions of the player and make them think that the other choices following it mean nothing, or mean less.

It's about fighting against the temptation that whispers "You'd be better dead. Your family would be happier. People's lives would be better. What do you bring to people's lives? Nothing. You should jump." (We both know that voice quite well, I'm sure, and like Era, have fought against it on more than one occassion.) Only once is Era suicidal - and you more than likely didn't see that ending because it was hidden in a cancel choice. The jump? Murder, pure and simple.


Again, this goes back to my point about not liking to force the player into making negative choices by tricking them. It confuses the message of your game- if the game is about rejecting suicide and conquering it, then why does the game so strongly push the player towards it? Why is the good ending hidden behind strange, illogical mechanics like cancelling choice boxes? Why does the game only continue on the non-jumping scene after such a long and drawn out wait?

I can see where you might be coming from with making the player wait for 2 or 3 minutes without jumping, but in the end it isn't a very fun sequence and hurts the final product. There are probably more subtle and fulfilling ways to get the player to reject suicide, and ones that would better communicate your message at that.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
13391
This review is pretty spot-on to how I felt playing this. I also really feel like that "explanation" page was not needed here, because it doesn't allow the player, or anyone viewing any sort of fine art, for this instance, to come up with an interpretation of their own, which is pretty much the goal of any artist.

In my playthrough, I DID notice that you can still cancel out of choices, but it didn't sway my overall opinion of it. The lack of clarity in design actually hurt the experience more than helped it, because the message I got from the beginning of the game was that I was powerless to "help" this character, and nothing I did truly mattered for this gal, and judging from this line:
author=Liberty
Era, herself, is waging a war against it as best she can, and resists the temptation, but she is caught in the strings of being a puppet to the player. Your choices change her life path and whether she finds out the truth and learns to handle it, or denies that truth and tries to hide away.
...It sounds like you wanted the exact opposite reaction.

Think of it this way: How would a bird know how to build a nest when it is never taught how to pick stuff up in the first place? How would a player, or viewer, know how to relate to and manipulate a character when they aren't taught that what they do means anything? A lot of your defending statements sound like you expect the player to know so much about the game's/visual novel's mechanics and backstory before going in, but that's often seldom the case and shouldn't be an obligation on the player's behalf.
...which is why I'm putting something after the endings to point out that you can cancel choices now. Because I didn't think so many people wouldn't know about it being a thing.


Also, as for the explanation, I said already that it's up to the player to come to their own conclusion but creators have reasons for creating things and they also have the right to point out what their reasons were, what their intentions in the creation is.

A friend of mine is an artist who does landscapes. She won a prize in a local show for one landscape of hills. A woman came up to the judges and complained that the image was profane and sexual, and should not be shown where kids could see it. The woman was inflicting her own opinions on the piece that were never, ever the artists intentions. It was an image of hills - pure and simple.

The woman has her rights to think it sexual but that doesn't mean she is right in her interpretation. You have a right to think of the game as you do and write a review in response, but I hold the right to write an explanation so that people who want to can see what the game was meant to be about.

Every piece of information about the story can be gained through the game itself, but exploring and looking at the clues that are dropped - both visual and written. Era jumping back, the exploration of different areas, the fire overlays, the dialogue of her family's bones, the images of her seeking help... all things in the game that hint towards what really happened and the truth.

Again, my assumption that people would know about cancelling was wrong, and will be rectified, but everything else is in the game - perhaps in some ways vague, but there is a reason the game is tagged as Mystery.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
13391
author=Liberty
...which is why I'm putting something after the endings to point out that you can cancel choices now. Because I didn't think so many people wouldn't know about it being a thing.

That's okay, but that's not what I or Pizza in his review is really getting at. Not adequately communicating that you can cancel choices was only part of the problem.

author=Liberty
A friend of mine is an artist who does landscapes. She won a prize in a local show for one landscape of hills. A woman came up to the judges and complained that the image was profane and sexual, and should not be shown where kids could see it. The woman was inflicting her own opinions on the piece that were never, ever the artists intentions. It was an image of hills - pure and simple.

Situations like this do happen, and I agree that people can be absolutely wrong with their interpretations about a work of art. However, unless there are more people who thought the same way as that woman who complained about the painting of the hills, I don't think you can adequately compare your friend's situation to yours, because that's one person, while multiple people (as current reviews and comments suggest) were at a loss as to what the "correct" message this game was trying to send to them (If that's not the case, then why did you even feel the need to add in an "Explanation" page?). Shouldn't it occur to you that there was an error in the way you presented information in-game as a result?

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