General Category > Stars Beyond Reach Beta Discussion

Rece Identity, Cartoon Videos, Marketing, Player Habits, Immersion

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I had several thoughts about the way things happened between watching the excelent cartoon videos and playing my first game of SBR. Now that I think that I had time to reflect on this here are my thoughts:

First of all the videos are perfect! I was amazed by them and I watched other people's reactions as they were watching them. That's customer winning material out there.

But my first reaction after the videos were: what's the name of the cute race? Failing to find that I went to do other things.

When I got in the beta, I started a few games to see how the different races look in order to find that cute race from the videos. First Flaw: There isn't a picture of each race at the selection screen. Moving on I noticed that the only place where I can see my race was the top left GUI triangle i.e. no race properties screen or anything for that matter.

After I restarted 5-6 times immediately in a row picking a different race in an effort to find that race in the videos, let's call them Blarghs cause I hate typing, I was finaly dissapointed. Second flaw: there are no Blarghs in the game.

In a simmilar fashion, I instantly took notice of the different building styles of my neighbours, but I was also dissapointed that all of my buildings look the same regardless of race choice. I understand that there might be too many specific buildings and that it would be prohibitive for the product to create art for all of them but still. If buildings are the center of the game and you plop them and look at them for 99% of your play time and you love them as they level up and become more awesome, then they are THE major mechanism to create immersion for the player especially if there's nothing else i.e. map units.

Reading later in the forums that they were meant as a generic "placeholder" race and proccessing all that, my marketing centers of the brain started kicking in:

1. You are creating huge consumer interest with specific cute cartoon characters only to shatter that expectation and dissapoint your customers with the final product.
2. There are people out there that expect to see race specific graphics for the activity taking place on the screen and especialy for their stuff that they INDENTIFY themselves.
3. Race immersion is totaly off and that will be a hurdle in holding player interest. I felt it after only playing 2-3 ACT1s.
4. There's the reason why Blizzard and other game studios spend major $$$ for videos and cinematics: Since games are an escape from reality the player expects to see and learn more in detail about his representation in this new reality and of the other characters. Otherwise the avatar-effect doesn't kick in at all or the player is prematurely ejected from the fantasy.
5. Videos create gameplay expectations. I knew that SBR is a 4x so I knew what I was getting myself into. In that sense the videos while funny and original don't indicate the type of gameplay that's in the game which for some other ppl might be considered even boring.

In closing, I have to say just 1 word: Blarghs!!! Add them later, add then in an expansion: it doesn't matter, just add them. :)

The race in the video was meant not to be a placeholder race, but to be an "everyman" race that is not too specific.  Aka, so the videos would not be from the perspective of one of the only 8 races you can play as.

As for the racial immersion, this is a citybuilder as much as a 4x, so it has to have enough buildings to really fit that mold.  It's a LOT of buildings on the human side, and they have to be recognizable enough that the player can actually play in proper citybuilding faction.  Nothing worse than firing up your Freem Drive to activate the Morgona Dome and get my Crystal Spider Starfighters a +7 boost to neutrino-cloaking.  A great example of this gone so wrong, to me, is Rise of Legends.  They had 3 super unique factions that just absolutely were a mess to play and understand.  I had no relation to them.

With a lot of other games, like Age of Empires or Civ for instance, you're talking about minor art differences and then the occasional unique unit.  Here we have a TON of unique writing and options that are race-specific, the roads are different per race (it's a minor art difference that doesn't impact the readability of the buildings in a citybuilding fashion), and so on.

Anyhow, certainly adding the Blarghs in an expansion might be done.  Bear in mind the animated videos, while they are promotional materials for sure, are not our trailer by any stretch!

No worries I just bring the new player perspective into all of this.

For starters, the roads don't stand out. It took me hours to even notice them.

And I never said to change the building names and make everything race specific. That won't work for the reasons you stated. But creating different recognizable racial building graphics is truly hard. I didn't said it would be easy I concede that point. That's why games always throw that instant tooltip on top of the mouse cursor with the buildign name and/or icon. And that's why games also add building animations to convey function.

But even a simple GL racial color tint or shader would make them stand out a bit for each race and give you the "we're on a different place" feeling.

Making a few race specific buildings per race is something that you should look into sooner or later. But that's a discussion for another time that needs more thought and work.

As far as the videos are concerned, yes I know that they aren't trailers, but you must recognize that people become drawn to them and not at the game. i.e. Love the material but don't like the game. And not because you did something wrong as a game company but simply because of the nature of the thing.

speaking of that I remember the races used to have persifick race persifick  landers that had different stats it got changed to what it is now unfortunately because I really liked having race persifick landers.

Yep, it all makes sense, but bear in mind this is the 11th hour and there's not time to change any of that anyhow.  Those sort of art concerns are things that take months to implement, literally.  A few specific notes:

1. With the roads, those are subtle enough to not be garish and overwhelming.  We had a lot of experimentation with different things, and this was what looked best, which was ultimately the deciding factor.

2. In terms of racial tinting and whatnot, that sounds good in theory, but a big problem we had for a while was players being able to tell the 70+ various buildings apart.  These are citybuilder problems that are common; 4X games don't usually run afoul of this because they don't have the volume of buildings we do.  You've only seen act 1, which is less than 1/5th of the buildings I'd say.  Anyway, so we use color as well as shape to differentiate buildings by function.  Trying to do that AND racial tinting means that one or the other wins out and in general also makes for conflicting color palettes at various points.  We went with the somewhat neutral road backgrounds based on those providing a bit of a racial feeling without it overwhelming the more-important-functionally-speaking colors that help players in a citybuilding sense.


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