Author Topic: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?  (Read 4240 times)

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2013, 08:10:39 PM »
I'll throw a bit of my input here. First of all:

3. Cave Story, which is obviously hugely popular, has very similar controls.

It an't really popular, bro.

"Not really popular" games don't get 3 remakes, one of which was a rerelease at cost for the same platform it was free on.

In terms of mouse control, the entire game and balance has been built around the assumption that there won't be mouse control. Asking for mouse control will result in a secondary control scheme that will end up causing one set of players to be playing an imbalanced game while the other set will be playing the game as intended. There's no way that I'd buy that any developer could completely overhaul all the balance to the extent that they would need to in order to re-enable mouse aiming. I mean, they probably could just flip a switch and let you mouse aim, but it would not be a polished experience, and the game wouldn't have been built around it. That's the problem.
This almost reminds me of Gratuitous Space Battles. That game didn't allow direct control of your ships. The entire game was built around that. Then, somewhere down the line, the developer decided "Y'know, we'll have an optional checkbox for it." I've heard nothing good about the functionality of manual ship control in that game. Now, if it was a game that I were capable of playing, I'd totally offer my own impressions, but the point I'm trying to make is valid. You can't just change a core mechanic and magic the rest into working around it. That'd be what a game designer's magic wand would do.

So, that's my impression of the whole mouse control issue. I wish that it were available. I actually wish that these spells and graphics and enemies could just be thrown into Valley 1's gameplay/engine. I'd play that game to no end. The thing is... realistically, I don't know that'd be feasible.

Offline x4000

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2013, 08:58:59 PM »
There's a lot of hyperbole in here.  AI War's worst reviews were just as bad as the reviews of Valley 1.  The best reviews of both were each glowing, and from similarly major sources.  The difference was the majority were more middling or negative with Valley 1, as opposed to the majority being upper-middling or high with AI War.

Regarding the whole control scheme thing, I think there are also a lot of wild generalizations being thrown around here.  Where is your data coming from?  Personal experience and anecdotes?  How exactly is it that we know that all games that use the keyboard but not the mouse do terribly?  Such as Braid, Limbo, Cave Story, and on and on.  Plus a hojillion million action-adventure games from a top-down perspective; there are plenty that you play using the keyboard or gamepad if you are directly controlling your avatar, as opposed to leading your character around with the mouse ala Diablo.  You can argue that most of those are not remotely the same genre as what we have going with Valley 2, and that's fair enough.  But that's going to be true of any comparisons made to Valley 2, because there's not much else like it.

The target audience for Valley 2 can best be summed up as: people who like action platformers, think the game looks intriguing when they hear about it, and who don't already have Valley 1 for whatever reason.  The Valley 1 playerbase is really not our target audience, as that would be stupid (given that we're giving it to that group for free).  Valley 2 is enormously different from Valley 1 in part because there was so much rejection of the former.

One of the biggest complaints about the first game was... tada... the controls.  They didn't feel "tight" and the whole thing "just didn't feel right" to a number of people.  We've reinvented the game physics and controls to better match games that I actually prefer the controls of myself -- Super Metroid and Cave Story and such.  And since then we've honed the heck out of these controls in order to make them even more superior (the angled aiming stuff, and not having to switch weapons via a toggle, really are solid improvements over either of the others in my opinion).

To some extent we were always going to be caught in the middle with this: people who wholeheartedly embraced the first game were likely to have issue with some or many of the changes we were making in the sequel.  That's a big part of why they get it for free without it overwriting the first game.  But Valley 2 is targeted at people who did NOT like the first game, or who have simply not heard of it (the latter of which is most people; we're starting with a clean slate with the majority of potential customers by virtue of being obscure).

Like all Arcen titles, it's also targeted at: me.  Personally, I vastly prefer Valley 2 to Valley 1, and really feel much more proud of this one and find it a lot more fun to play.  Worrying about the target audience for a game is always a bit of a funny thing, when you're blazing new ground: you can't just say "oh, all players of Diablo will play this, because it's so similar but better in X ways."  You can't say "all fans of Mario will like this because it's the next in the series and it's more of the same but new levels and a few new powerups and enemies."  (For the record, I love Mario and have almost all those games.)  When you make something new, and on spec, the target audience is inherently nebulous.  That's the central risk of innovative game development, really.  That's why there's a lot of sequels and genre games in AAA game development -- with their budgets, such a risk just isn't generally acceptable to anyone.

At any rate, sometimes this sort of thing can backfire: case in point, marketing Tidalis to the Steam crowd, when they are neither all that into puzzle games or games with casual graphics.  Who knew.  But what Valley 2 represents is a lot of challenge, both mentally and dextrously for those inclined, and a strategy-platforming mashup that hasn't been seen since Actraiser (and is hugely distinct even from that).  People who like some mix of those various things will hopefully buy Valley 2.  If you're looking for any more certainty in the future than that, then indie game development really isn't the industry for you, heh.

I mean, who would have thought that Minecraft would be anything like the hit it turned into?  There had been plenty of similar games before that; Infiniminer, etc.  The art is decidedly retro, and wasn't the style of retro that was considered cool until it made it cool.  The core mechanics are just kind of bizarre compared to the larger market before that game came out; crafting and building... with blocks in some random world?  It sounds obvious and fun now, but try to think back to four years ago.  It would have sounded like some sort of niche game that a few people might tinker with, not the most popular indie game of all time.

My point isn't that this will be the next Minecraft -- that's almost 100% impossible to happen, given the accessible nature of Minecraft versus the specific challenging nature of this.  It's got no more chance of becoming the next Minecraft than Starcraft or Crysis 3 or whatever do.  However, Arcen neither needs nor expects for the game to be that popular.  We're making the sorts of games that other people are NOT making, because we want to play those sorts of games and think that others will likely want to do so as well.

Valley 2 is cohesive enough, and touches on enough genres that are popular enough, that I don't see any reason why it doesn't have a good shot at doing well for itself.  If some folks don't want to play it because of a lack of mouse support, I don't really know what to say to that; I guess those people just won't play it, eh?  It's not like they don't have a keyboard sitting right on their desk in front of them that they are extremely practiced at using for movement in other games.  If they really want to use the mouse, they can still bind the firing functions to the mouse buttons if they like.

Generally speaking, my experience has been this:
- For every person who registers at the Arcen forum and says something, we literally have 1,000 silent customers who buy and play the games in question.
- For every review that is written, we get a tiny blip of sales that barely registers against the background noise of normal sales; Kotaku and Total Biscuit were the only two exceptions I've ever observed.  Other than that it's all been about Steam Sales and I imagine cumulative word of mouth and reviews.

Valley 1 partly messed up because it tried to please everyone in every way, rather than sticking to what it is.  Diablo isn't for everybody (for instance, me), but it knows what it is and the people who play it really like it.  Some people scoff at Zelda, but the series has a very defined identity and another large group really responds well to that (for instance, me).  Valley 2 is not going to be universally liked.  Minecraft, Zelda, Mario, and Diablo are not universally liked.  There are laundry lists of things that those games do "wrong" in the opinion of the people who don't really like those games.  But universal acclaim isn't the goal: finding enough customers who fit into your niche and enjoy what you do -- and then delighting them as much as possible -- is the first, last, and only goal.

Put another way: there are no reasonable amount of changes that you could make to Diablo to make me like it, because I just don't like the core premise.  It's just not my thing, through and through.  If you changed it enough to please me, it would no longer remotely resemble Diablo in any way, and the people who like Diablo would be pretty upset.  With Valley 1, I let the siren song of trying to please everyone really tempt me -- I put in everything and the kitchen sink, and what resulted was not something that I ultimately ever really was satisfied with.  Valley 2 represents me going back with a clean slate, stopping all that pandering, and building the game that I hadn't realized I had been trying to make all along (sometimes you learn these things as you go).

Do I worry that the game won't be popular enough?  Of course.  Am I worried reviewers or players will hold a grudge because of the first game?  Definitely.  Does the fact that some people will reject the game because of no mouse controls give me pause and cause me anguish?  Quite a bit, actually, whenever I contemplate it.  However, through much reflection I have decided that this is the optimal course.  Trying to please the people who want mouse controls would likely give them a sub-par mouse experience in various ways.  They could play, but it wouldn't be as good.  So then what happens?  They claim the game isn't that good.  We saw a lot of that with Valley 1.  I'd rather that they not play, and their worst comment is "I don't like the controls," rather than them playing and going "well they sure don't know how to balance a game properly!" because they were playing with the mouse and everything was completely hosed for them in the balance department.

In a sense, I've learned to be very firm and say no to the whole "eh, let them have it their way and wreck the experience for themselves" argument.  I've learned that when I do that, people are rarely grateful -- they just shift their complaints to other areas that are now broken because of giving in on that, and thus we wind up chasing our tail and spending literally tens of thousands of dollars doing it.  I'm not a totalitarian in the sense that I think that everyone should play the same way -- wherever possible, I think that supporting as many playstyles as possible is important and good.  I like variety, and I like people being able to come to it on their own terms as much as possible, too.  It's just that there really is a line that shouldn't be crossed where balance or fun gets thrown out the window, and you aren't doing anybody any favors by giving them that flexibility.

This is getting circuitous and rambling, so I'll cut it off here.  I hadn't planned on responding again, but I let myself get sucked back in.
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Offline LayZboy

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2013, 09:15:37 PM »

"Not really popular" games don't get 3 remakes, one of which was a rerelease at cost for the same platform it was free on.

Nobody really talks about it anymore, so it's not popular really.

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2013, 09:19:02 PM »
Well...
The thing is, I do remember times where the game was rather big, and constantly discussed left and right. Its time has kind of passed, and that happens to pretty much every game ever. Do you think people will be talking about Trine or other similar games years down the line, even though they're really great and set a high standard? No, they probably won't. People don't talk about games forever. It's about the legacy it had while it was alive.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 09:53:31 PM by LaughingThesaurus »

Offline x4000

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2013, 09:21:17 PM »
Indeed.  I'll take that level of popularity any day.  I'm happy if I please an audience, make a game I'm proud of, and make enough money to keep doing more games with the staff I want.  Everything beyond that is window dressing.
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Offline Professor Paul1290

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2013, 09:35:30 PM »
Like all Arcen titles, it's also targeted at: me.  Personally, I vastly prefer Valley 2 to Valley 1, and really feel much more proud of this one and find it a lot more fun to play.
...
We're making the sorts of games that other people are NOT making, because we want to play those sorts of games and think that others will likely want to do so as well.
...
But universal acclaim isn't the goal: finding enough customers who fit into your niche and enjoy what you do -- and then delighting them as much as possible -- is the first, last, and only goal.
...
Valley 2 represents me going back with a clean slate, stopping all that pandering, and building the game that I hadn't realized I had been trying to make all along (sometimes you learn these things as you go).

I gotta say, this is a far better answer than anything I would have expected.

I guess I didn't really know if you were making it this way because you just thought people would like it better, or if you genuinely wanted it to make the game this way. Being a bit pessimist I assumed the former, so thankfully I'm wrong.

I still say you're going to piss people off with this game, but you definitely picked the all the best reasons to do so!

Well done sir, very well done indeed! :D



Offline x4000

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2013, 09:58:04 PM »
Cheers. ;)

I piss somebody off with anything I do now, that goes with the territory. What counts is how many people are made happy.
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #22 on: January 25, 2013, 10:59:39 PM »
If you make anything, even simply words, you'll always be pissing someone off. It's not something that can ever be avoided.

Offline Misery

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2013, 12:26:26 AM »
3. Cave Story, which is obviously hugely popular, has very similar controls.

It an't really popular, bro.


This depends though, entirely on who you ask.   Alot of console gamers dont know that game.... but *lots* of PC gamers do, even if they havent played it.   And the game has been ported to other platforms.... which is something you cant manage WITHOUT high popularity, considering how most console publishers operate.   Particularly among the indie crowd, the game is legendary. 

More to the point though, there's also the very simple fact that there are tons..... and I mean TONS..... of different games that use similar controls.  My own PC game collection is ample evidence of this.   There's too many games on here to even count (hundreds, if you DONT count the arcade roms), and literally every single one of them except for three are games I play with the controller.... and I dont mean with the analog sticks.   Stuff like 8-way movement/aiming/whatever has been done in gaming for a very long time indeed, and while it's become rare among console games and triple-A titles, there's still about a bazillion different games on PC that use it. 

Just as there are lots of players who think keyboard + mouse controls are the best thing ever, there are lots that think it ISNT.



As said up above, it's simply impossible to please everyone.   Cant be done.  Take even the most well liked game ever with a bazillion fans.... whatever that game might be.... and I'll point out to you a bazillion others that LOATHE it, or simply dont care whatsoever about it.   And really.... I prefer that developers make the games THEY want to make.  Not the games they think OTHERS want to make.  And few enough developers understand that one as it is (though again, that's mostly among the console ones.... having to bend over backwards to meet the demands of big publishers).


I honestly think the game as it is now is going to please way more people than if it were to have the controls changed just to "please the masses".  This type of game is going to attract a specific sort of player for the most part, and that sort is likely to be fairly used to this sort of thing.

The one problem is that since it's so incredibly different from the first game, there'll be complaints based on just that alone, but.... not that big of a deal.



All in all, I think things are coming along excellently.   The game is great fun and plenty challenging, and that's what matters.

Offline Nanashi

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2013, 01:33:55 AM »

Offline chemical_art

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #25 on: January 26, 2013, 08:53:28 AM »
There's a lot of hyperbole in here.  AI War's worst reviews were just as bad as the reviews of Valley 1.  The best reviews of both were each glowing, and from similarly major sources.  The difference was the majority were more middling or negative with Valley 1, as opposed to the majority being upper-middling or high with AI War.



I guess I was wrong, sorry.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/ai-war-fleet-command/critic-reviews

AI War: 90 - 65

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/a-valley-without-wind/critic-reviews

AVWW : 70 - 29

So the worst AI War review is not better then the best AVWW 1 review.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #26 on: January 26, 2013, 09:09:38 AM »
Metacritic also represents only about a third of all reviews, too. Some non-metacritic sites really trashed ai war but loved valley 1, etc. At any rate, the comparison of Valley 1 and Valley 2 would only be relevant if Valley 2 weren't immensely better. As in, I'm not sure what the relevance of its scores are to a sequel that improves on everything complained about by reviewers of the first, and wildly departs from the first in general. To some extent that's like looking at reviews of Mario Sunshine to predict reviews of Mario Galaxy. Some relevance, certainly... but only to a very limited point.
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Offline LayZboy

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #27 on: January 26, 2013, 09:33:31 AM »
Just as there are lots of players who think keyboard + mouse controls are the best thing ever, there are lots that think it ISNT.

Anyone who thinks a game is better without more precise control has something wrong with them.
Unless the game was designed around it, then it is fine. Valley 2 when it was released clearly wasn't though, it's gotten better now though.

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #28 on: January 26, 2013, 10:46:35 AM »
Just as there are lots of players who think keyboard + mouse controls are the best thing ever, there are lots that think it ISNT.

Anyone who thinks a game is better without more precise control has something wrong with them.
Unless the game was designed around it, then it is fine. Valley 2 when it was released clearly wasn't though, it's gotten better now though.
It hasn't been released yet though. This is an open beta phase of the game. That's why I've never really declared an opinion on the game. It's not done yet.

Offline madcow

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Re: Is keeping the balance and controls worth it?
« Reply #29 on: January 26, 2013, 11:07:51 AM »
Just weighing in to say that personally I prefer platformers that control without mouse.  Trying to play AVWW without mouse was not particularly enjoyable - so I'm pretty well enjoying the mouseless experience.

And cave story is definitely a success it's silly to say otherwise. Another comparison I'll throw out is Spelunky which has only 2 way aiming (left/right) and procedurely generated levels, it's probably one of my favorite games and did well enough that it got ported to Xbox (where it did well) despite being free on PC.  Though its an entirely different game from AVWW despite those similarities.