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Karma's a bitch...

  • pianotm
  • 10/04/2016 12:31 AM
  • 4116 views
Game: Karma Flow: The Prototype

Developer: OldPat

Story: After a long war, the nation of Hardnam's economy crumbled. Now, only the criminal organizations hold the nation together, but a mysterious force called Karma ensures that any crime committed is equally punished. Of course, for the best professional killers, Karma isn't so much an obstacle as a tool to be used.

Writing: The good thing is that there are interesting characters and the game has a strong female lead (strong female leads have been an obsession of mine in storytelling and writing for quite awhile now, so I'm always enthusiastic to see a game with one). Character development is a little slow. After the first level, we find Florien getting kicked out of her home. At this point, while it's easy to pity her situation, it's still somewhat difficult to like her. If you do the two mini-quests in the first level, you do learn a bit about her that makes her a bit relateable, but those quests are easy to miss, and if you do, all you really know about her until she gets kicked out of her home is that she's a badass killer dressed in black. Her character doesn't start to really flesh out until around the third episode, and these cutscenes are long enough that we're spending too much time with her without being able to relate to her. I understand the reluctance to use tropes, but using some isn't a bad thing. A common trope with mercenary main characters is to make them introverted and brooding. I know it's a bit cliche, but it signals the player that there's something in the character worth learning about, so without learning anything about the character, the player is interested anyway. It's also common to make them wise and aloof, which steps away from the Cloud-esque brooding, but still adds an element of intrigue to the character that can keep the player hooked. Florien comes across as cocky and arrogant (and as a reputable professional killer who's an old hand in the profession, I'm sure she has good reason to be): not the most likeable dominant traits. It is my opinion that she needs something extra to her character that will help the player become invested in her story. Otherwise, she's a mostly interesting character with a very nice artistic design. She just needs to be developed a little bit. The other characters in the game are story fodder. Whatever role they play in Florien's life, their only purpose in the game is to compliment her presence, which is absolutely fine for this type of game.

The game is in Italian, with the option to switch to a cumbersome English translation. Even with the grammatically questionable and often confusing English, this game makes the mistake of trying to tell too much story. Every cutscene is long enough to be obnoxious. The Marty Rivers commercials (tutorials) are charming, but putting them at the end of already overdrawn cutscenes just makes the skip option that much more desirable. By the way, the Marty Rivers commercials are the only thing you're allowed to skip. This is ironic since they're reasonably short, informative, and a little fun, whereas the cutscenes go on and on and on, tell a somewhat interesting but largely forgettable crime drama, and cover nearly all of the information that's already in the Marty Rivers commercials (the one exception being the first commercial, which explains the game's basic controls), making the commercial redundant. These cutscenes can be cut quite a bit by removing the tutorial information in them and placing that information exclusively in the Marty Rivers commercials. The story is heavily dependent on exposition. Any story in a game like this is going to be mostly expository, which is a capital reason to condense the story as much as possible. The less exposition there is in a game, the less annoyed the player will be. The real problem here is that you can complete the levels faster than you can actually complete the cutscenes. So, yeah, the player is going to spend a lot of time shouting at their monitors, "Get to the game, already!"


I'm particularly fond of the Italian BMT.


Gameplay: This is much better than the writing, but it's not without its faults. The system may not be original, but it is certainly imaginative and well thought out. It is a stealth game by which your principle method of gameplay is to avoid being spotted by the NPCs and reaching your target. Once there, you have the Karma system to be concerned about. You have to kill your target, but if you attack him, you'll lose Karma points, which will lead to a game over. This means resorting to indirect methods of killing, such as shooting explosive barrels or ricocheting off of reflective objects. It's a handicap that makes for some interesting gameplay. Enemies field of view is determined by difficulty setting. If they spot you, it will signal an alert a la Metal Gear Solid whereby all enemies in the area will pursue you. The only issue I have is with the actual combat. You can sneak up on enemies and kill them that way. Killing humans directly will cost you Karma points. You can kill Torments without risking Karma points, but if you confront them directly, you have to stand on the square immediately next to them. This leads to instant, nearly unavoidable damage, which will cost Karma points anyway. The only way to avoid this is if you have a gun you can shoot enemies with directly, which often isn't an option. This seems to be a common issue in action games made in RPG Maker.



Graphics: The custom busts are beautifully drawn and are well worth a look. The overall tiles and charsets are matching. I don't know if they're custom, or purchased from a graphics pack, but they fit perfectly, done in a noir style. This game looks professionally made and the graphics are seamlessly assembled.

Music: Every piece is familiar but I can't place it. It's well suited to the game's style.

Conclusion: The game isn't without its issues, but is definitely worth a playthrough. Although the cutscenes dramatically bog things down, the actual gameplay is fast paced and engrossing. Some minor adjustment to the combat and some major adjustment to the writing is definitely in order, but the game is fun, nicely presented, and most players will probably enjoy it. This game has a lot of potential behind it, but until it meets that potential, I can only justify rating it at a three.

Posts

Pages: 1
I've also played it and you're treating 4 star as a godlike rating or something. This is definitely higher than 3-star tier mind you.
I agree with most of your points though but the rating you gave it doesn't really correlate to them imo. Though here's the thing about the exposition point. Many players prefer lengthier cutscenes, more plot in general (not including myself). it's mostly important to have the cutscenes be short at the start, and once the game has the players, those players who like longer scenes, generally prefer those longer scenes and not as much gameplay. But that's just a matter of taste. I did feel like the initial cutscenes were too much but I was alright after that. Even though I'm pretty impatient with them.

Some of the bs things that happened to me did feel a bit rpg maker esque but that's all the limits of the engine, can't downrate the game based on it.

So yeah, the point is that there are a very minimal amount of issues so I feel like 3 star is unjustified. I'd say its a a 4.
OldPat
OrudoPatto, kisama!
4948
Thank you for your review, pianotm!

I mostly agree with what you wrote, except maybe the "how Florien should've been handled" part. I will be much more careful with the length of the sequel's cutscenes. For this game, all I could do was giving the player the option to skip them on a second run of an already completed mission.

You don't really need to stay close to the enemy in order to fight them with the knife, though. As the tutorial says, the knife has a 2-blocks range. You could hit enemies even if they are two blocks away from you.

Is it still dangerous? Well yeah, it is. A bit, at least. But this is not an action game, it's a stealth one. The action element is difficult to handle, as it should be, or else the whole point of going stealthy wouldn't count anymore.

I never thought that the English translation would prove to be THAT bad. At least, this is what your review tells me. Is it really that messy? That is really one huge letdown for me.

Also, I didn't really get the first screenshot's subtitle meaning.

Aside from all that, thank you again. It's good to finally get some feedback.^^
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
29532
atasuke10
Some of the bs things that happened to me did feel a bit rpg maker esque but that's all the limits of the engine, can't downrate the game based on it.

So yeah, the point is that there are a very minimal amount of issues so I feel like 3 star is unjustified. I'd say its a a 4.


Understanding the limitations of an engine is part of making a game. As for my score, it doesn't focus on any one thing. It takes all of the problems together as a whole and considers how it affects the overall feel of the game. Limitations of the game engine was a minor gripe and didn't really affect my view of the game that badly. If I itemized score, that would barely be a 0.1 or 0.2 penalty off the overall score. Hardly a dent on the overall thing. I generally liked the game.

As for the opinions on scoring, you'll find that many games with multiple reviews range from 5 to 1 star reviews. If you've got a problem with that, your recourse isn't to complain to the reviewer, but to write your own review. I agree, there's plenty rationale behind giving the game a four star rating

, but for me, it simply didn't balance that way.

OldPat
Thank you for your review, pianotm!


No problem. I'm sorry it took so long. I'd have gotten to it sooner, but even after real life got out of the way, I just wasn't feeling too much up to doing anything.

I mostly agree with what you wrote, except maybe the "how Florien should've been handled" part.


Well, it is a review as opposed to playtest, so to a degree, so this was really a matter of opinion for me. I knew others would feel differently. It was just how I felt.

I will be much more careful with the length of the sequel's cutscenes. For this game, all I could do was giving the player the option to skip them on a second run of an already completed mission.

You don't really need to stay close to the enemy in order to fight them with the knife, though. As the tutorial says, the knife has a 2-blocks range. You could hit enemies even if they are two blocks away from you.


Hmm...I missed that. And action went so fast when the enemies went on the attack that it really was hard to determine where the strike point was. I just chalked it up to a limitation in the engine. It doesn't really break the game. It's just a mild annoyance. I don't recommend slowing things down, because I feel that would break the pacing.

I never thought that the English translation would prove to be THAT bad. At least, this is what your review tells me. Is it really that messy? That is really one huge letdown for me.


To be fair, I've seen a lot worse. The English is used competently, but there is a significant amount of mis-structured sentences, which wouldn't be too much of a problem except there are several points where sentences need to be repeatedly reread to fully understand their meaning. Otherwise, there are no noticeable misspellings, no noticeably skipped words, and it's not bad enough to call broken English, but it is pretty cumbersome.

Also, I didn't really get the first screenshot's subtitle meaning.


Oh, I forgot to mention, your start screen (the one before the title screen where you can link up to Game Jolt), defaults to windowed screen, and it causes all of the menu options to overlap the text. It's a technical issue that had nothing to do with the actual game so I wasn't bothered about it, but I did think you'd want to know (and I still forgot to mention it).

Aside from all that, thank you again. It's good to finally get some feedback.^^


Again, not a problem! The game was fun and the graphics really were very nicely done.
Dragnfly
Beta testers!? No, this game needs a goddamn exorcist!
1809
author=pianotm
To be fair, I've seen a lot worse. The English is used competently, but there is a significant amount of mis-structured sentences, which wouldn't be too much of a problem except there are several points where sentences need to be repeatedly reread to fully understand their meaning. Otherwise, there are no noticeable misspellings, no noticeably skipped words, and it's not bad enough to call broken English, but it is pretty cumbersome.


I haven't gotten to play the new build yet due to life reasons but this part would fall on myself or Cave Dog. I don't know how much translation checking Cave Dog did so it's unclear to tell who did what parts but do you have any specific examples of the wonky sentences (including the line before and after the wonky part)? With the exception of how "Karma Patrol" gets used in singular and plural (which is something I completely messed up and didn't have time to correct) I was more thorough with this one's dialogue than any other game I've checked this year.

Not doubting you per se. I just want to know where I screwed up so that I can apologize properly.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
29532
Dragnfly
pianotm
To be fair, I've seen a lot worse. The English is used competently, but there is a significant amount of mis-structured sentences, which wouldn't be too much of a problem except there are several points where sentences need to be repeatedly reread to fully understand their meaning. Otherwise, there are no noticeable misspellings, no noticeably skipped words, and it's not bad enough to call broken English, but it is pretty cumbersome.


Let me apologize, replaying the game, I'm not finding moments where the text is difficult to understand. Mostly, I'm just getting distracted by the strong "accent" in the text. (I'm glad I didn't elaborate in the actual review. That would have been misleading.) Having not played the game for a few days, it gets easy to misremember distracting syntax as confusing syntax.
CAVE_DOG_IS_BACK
On sunny days, I go out walking
1142
the accent you refer to is something I noticed as well. however, I did not want to potentially wholly rewrite characters' dialogue (partly out of respect for the fact that OldPat may have wanted them to have a certain voice that I would be trampling on, partly because we did have not a lot of time and fuck that)

I think we did a pretty good job cleaning things up so they were grammatically correct and understandable tho. but I can definitely see how things would have felt 'off.'

@Dragn yeh I made notes of all the karma patrol things.
Dragnfly
Beta testers!? No, this game needs a goddamn exorcist!
1809
Ugh, the karma patrol thing will haunt me to my grave. I wish I could just cover the memories in karma petrol and light them on fire. I can't believe I made such a stupid mistake.

About the accents and mannerisms, I paid some attention to character personalities and such when making suggestions. It wasn't my job to change Oldpat's characters. I was just there to look for bugs and correct spelling and grammar without a lot of time just like Cave Dog says. That, and I rather liked the character personalities and quirks as they were.

If I saw a line like "Free ice for grass!?", I'd ask for clarification and use context to draw my own conclusions. If it's a language I'm more familiar with like French then I would try to deduce what cross-language synonyms were causing the problem but for Italian, I'm completely in the dark. I watched/read a bunch of Gunslinger Girl but I doubt that would help. So I apologize if some lines read strangely. I read everything back to myself and had no problem understanding them.

I hope that provides some context for how the work was done.
OldPat
OrudoPatto, kisama!
4948
(You'll have to excuse my English from here on out. T_T)

Ok, first off:

author=atasuke10
I've also played it and you're treating 4 star as a godlike rating or something. This is definitely higher than 3-star tier mind you.
I agree with most of your points though but the rating you gave it doesn't really correlate to them imo. Though here's the thing about the exposition point. Many players prefer lengthier cutscenes, more plot in general (not including myself). it's mostly important to have the cutscenes be short at the start, and once the game has the players, those players who like longer scenes, generally prefer those longer scenes and not as much gameplay. But that's just a matter of taste. I did feel like the initial cutscenes were too much but I was alright after that. Even though I'm pretty impatient with them.

Some of the bs things that happened to me did feel a bit rpg maker esque but that's all the limits of the engine, can't downrate the game based on it.

So yeah, the point is that there are a very minimal amount of issues so I feel like 3 star is unjustified. I'd say its a a 4.

Sorry if I didn't reply to you too, Atasuke.
It's nice to see that you think this game deserves much more and that you liked it.
Thank you so much! This comment of yours, together with the review, made my day.

But rating aside, I think Pianotm did a good job in pointing out the game's pros and cons.
The game is, in fact, packed with lenghty cutscenes and engine limitations. I tried to work in order to stay inside those limits but it's RPG Maker 2003 after all and the game I made is completely far away from what is the developer supposed to do with that tool.

I would love to get your feedback as well, when and if you can/want. Not a review if you're not willing to write something like that down, just a comment would be nice.

Thank you again, I'm really glad you liked it.^^

Second:

@Dragnfly and @CaveDog you did a wonderful, an amazing job with checking in on the translation and the overall game. Despite the little time you had, you were amazing and I couldn't ask for more than that.
I wouldn't feel "guilty" if I were you. I mean, the problem here seems like is far from simple spelling or grammar issues.

The "accent" thing, in particular, is something I wanted in order to give more characterization to each and every one of the game's characters.

We discussed about things like that Pulcinella's "hella" or Marty Rivers's made up words. They were all on purpose.

The Karma Patrol stuff it's still there, but I never saw it as such a big deal.

But... I have to admit, I feel pretty confused now.
In the review it is stated that the English translation is "cumbersome, grammatically questionable and confusing".

Now it's all a "No, it's fine, but that accent though..."

I don't quite get the main issue. Is it the accent? What's with the grammatically questionable thing and such, then?
The fact is... in the review, the issue sounded WAY more serious and "huge" than it sounds now.
In fact, I was kind of surprised, as I thought the translation wasn't all that bad given the fact that a lot of English people played it and them, together with Let's Players which for obvious reason gave me "real time" reactions, never showed sign of "what the hell am I reading?".

Just... trying to understand the issue here, that is all. Sorry if I'm maybe a bit slow here.

Aaaaaaaanyway...

No problem. I'm sorry it took so long. I'd have gotten to it sooner, but even after real life got out of the way, I just wasn't feeling too much up to doing anything.

You don't have to worry about anything. I was aware of your situation as you explained to me, and the last thing I would do is force people to play and write a review for the game when they already have their own things to do and/or they don't want to (as both are time consuming tasks after all).
I would be much more happy to see people playing the game because they feel like it, because they feel it's good and deserves a chance. Not because they have an obligation.

So thank you so much for this review, which I liked a lot.

Well, it is a review as opposed to playtest, so to a degree, so this was really a matter of opinion for me. I knew others would feel differently. It was just how I felt.

It's true and, in fact, it's not like you don't have a point. I mean, your opinion is understandable. Let's just say I felt like this is Florien and any other type of characterization would completely disrupt who she is. That "mercenary trope" is something I used for a lot of time now as well, so I needed something new. The whole point of Karma Flow is taking the basis and creating something fresh. Not necessarily original, but fresh.

Mostly, I wanted to depict Florien as "human" as possible. She's not an hero or a silent protagonist or a skilled antagonist or whatever.

The whole point was creating some sort of anti-hero with a lot of dislikable traits but with a tragic past and some kind of reason behind what she does that would make the player understand why she acts like that, relate to her through that.

I hope that from the sequel onward, her character will finally grow on you.
She will evolve more and more as the saga progresses, I can guarantee that.

Oh, I forgot to mention, your start screen (the one before the title screen where you can link up to Game Jolt), defaults to windowed screen, and it causes all of the menu options to overlap the text. It's a technical issue that had nothing to do with the actual game so I wasn't bothered about it, but I did think you'd want to know (and I still forgot to mention it).

W-woot?
My feedback isn't so different from the review actually, I just don't particularly agree with the scoring. Though the only cutscene that really made me go "I want to play already" was the one before the first mission. Generally Imo you want to throw your players into the game as fast as you can with a bit of context and give them cutscenes after they struggled in the game so they feel it as a "break". Or at least that's how I feel about long cutscenes. The first one was too much for me because I haven't played yet, but afterwards I enjoyed them all really. I wouldn't say they were badly spread, I actually think for someone with a liking to long cutscenes it was fairly well balanced.
The gameplay gave me some "grr" moments but nothing buggy, I just sucked and picked a difficulty not suited for nooblet me :D
The art speaks for itself, along with the atmosphere. They were both pretty fitting for the game so no qualms there.
I didn't notice it was a translation and found no real mistakes that threw me out of immersion.
(Sidenote: Commercials were a really good idea, and I don't think I'm alone with that feel :D)
About character development, I didn't get too immersed but it was enough to get me through the game, there's improvement to be had there, but it was fine.
sorry for the weird comment its too late right now but had to write it toda xP
OldPat
OrudoPatto, kisama!
4948
author=atasuke10
My feedback isn't so different from the review actually, I just don't particularly agree with the scoring. Though the only cutscene that really made me go "I want to play already" was the one before the first mission. Generally Imo you want to throw your players into the game as fast as you can with a bit of context and give them cutscenes after they struggled in the game so they feel it as a "break". Or at least that's how I feel about long cutscenes. The first one was too much for me because I haven't played yet, but afterwards I enjoyed them all really. I wouldn't say they were badly spread, I actually think for someone with a liking to long cutscenes it was fairly well balanced.
The gameplay gave me some "grr" moments but nothing buggy, I just sucked and picked a difficulty not suited for nooblet me :D
The art speaks for itself, along with the atmosphere. They were both pretty fitting for the game so no qualms there.
I didn't notice it was a translation and found no real mistakes that threw me out of immersion.
(Sidenote: Commercials were a really good idea, and I don't think I'm alone with that feel :D)
About character development, I didn't get too immersed but it was enough to get me through the game, there's improvement to be had there, but it was fine.
sorry for the weird comment its too late right now but had to write it toda xP


Thank you again, Atasuke. That comment is not weird at all imo. xD

Yeah, you're absolutely right. Making the cutscenes shorter at the beginning and then a bit longer on crucial plot points would've been great.

I had to make this game in one month and a half for a Short Game Contest, so a lot of things proved to be... difficult to balance for me. I did what I could.

I'll have all the time in the world for the sequel. I'm planning on balancing gameplay and story a lot. I can't wait to show what I've got in store with that chapter.

I'm also really happy to know that art and atmosphere proved to be good, a lot of effort was made to make them look nice and fitting.

Characters still need to develop a lot, yeah. The fact is, the whole story still needs to be told. I had time to simply tell the story about the conflict between Florien and Anabelle, that one has a beginning and an ending. But a lot of Karma Flow's full story is still missing.

Glad to know the translation worked, as I'm... beginning to worrying a lot about this.

I'm really glad to know you liked it. Thank you again (again), Atasuke!
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