Hi everyone, I'm the user who sent in that proposed layout Riva Celso posted on twitter. This is the bulk of my original e-mail, with his reply comments in italics. My new comments at the end (get your reading specs out, pretty long all put together...)
The first thing that hits me is the wasted space, and wasted art. You
clearly switched to circles to equalise player-team and enemy-team space
in a top-down layout. But when your art is portrait-based, optimised
for being shown left-to-right, why stick to the Planet Stronghold
format? PS had only one row each, so of course there was space there,
but with that changed, the top-down set-up seems out of place. The
circles eat up the room for displaying the portraits, increasing the
abstract feel of combat and forcing you to put the art in the corner to
avoid wasting the asset, eating up more screen space and dividing player
Well the use of squares instead of the circles could be changed indeed. The fact is that I was planning to display even more info on the side of the circles
I attach an example layout that retains almost all the information of
your current setup, and greatly increasing player immersion. The only
lost info I can see is movement order, but that could use a side panel
toggle or perhaps a number in the corner of a portrait (or some
combination of the two). Your backgrounds would be less visible, but is
that really a problem in a character-centred story?Heh, depends on tastes really, another user (my writer) said that she prefers to see a background for example!
I think I could use your layout but with some adjustments, I think the battle order would be important, because when you hover the actions, it "previews" the changes (so you see how long would take to perform the action).
Now as for the combat system in action, it looks very solid! The use of
multiple conditions and statuses should allow clever, prepared combat.
But from the perspective of a new player, take for example a moment
such as 3.42 in the video- No Mercy is selected from a separate screen,
almost covering the main screen. Then when the player goes back to the
main screen, the goblin has already disappeared! Compare this to what,
e.g. Puzzle Quest 2 does- with skill selection on screen, and weapon
attacks bringing up a full-screen animation (almost the reverse of your
setup). I'm not saying all the information and skill selection could be
done on screen- but surely most of it could. In particular, common
actions such as basic attacks and common spells should surely have very
quick ways to pull off in a modern game- double clicks, right clicks or
hotkeys for instance.Haha no worries for that- all the battle effects are still missing! there will be visual indications when an enemy takes damage, and also which kind of damage!
Also the new window that appears was temporary - I didn't decide yet where to show the player possible actions, because they change based if you click on yourself or on a party member.
I would love to see your new RPG do really well, as you and your team
have great strengths that deserve to be recognised. But I just can't
see that happening with your current interface. It was sad to see your
highly abstract RPG battle, with even decimal points after every number,
and then look at videos of the latest casual games such as Angry Birds
and Plants vs Zombies, with nothing to detract from the action and
visual appeal. Old-style RPGs are now so niche that even RPG Codex has
shut its doors. It'd be great to see a strong, character-based RPG do
well in a 21st century style, and let's hope you can make it happen!Just to understand the major problem was the character in portraits, or even the rest of interface ? I think I could change the characters to use square and use your "side" view rather easily without changing much of the current code.
-My new comments:
Thanks for the thoughtful replies and taking my comments seriously! I don't have attachment to any particular format or layout per se, and I haven't seen all the art planned or how exactly how the battle system really works for bigger fights. It's kind of like looking in through a little misty window for me, so obviously you and your team have the best view of the work! I was mainly thinking of the portraits and how everything had started to look abstract- that'd be ok in an army battle system, but with all the empty circles and squares there are now it kind of loses the feeling of the fighters being there as individuals in that place, in my opinion. Anything that avoided that and kept most crucial info and options on screen would be fine by me, whatever direction or exact info it uses.
But while a lot of things are a matter of taste or polish, other things are just basic simplicity and ease-of-use issues. The need to bring up a huge right click menu to act on an enemy, and then to be forced to haul the pointer across a large expanse of brown background and assorted text just to find the basic attack key, is simply obnoxious. I understand that it's not full beta yet, but I wouldn't play any game that forced me to do that hundreds and hundreds of times...
So really I'm just after simple-looking, intuitive and fast (well, for an RPG!). I'd like to be able to at least vaguely visualise what the battle might look like, and to see it unfold on-screen as much as possible. But at all costs it must not be a pain to play, either for long battles or multiple easy ones. So anything that added intelligence to the interface, like remembering previous options used by each character perhaps, or just basic shortcuts, would allow us as players to relax and not feel like we have to waste time proving we grasp the basics over and over.
Not that it's that similar a game, but playing Birth by Sleep on the PSP (almost finished the second character's campaign), and what strikes me at this point is how the game mostly almost plays itself- in a good way! The abilities all cycle through to each other after each is used, though you can change manually to any command not on cooldown, or use the shortcut button for one of them (like a heal). The player can reorder and select their deck themselves out of combat from their full range of available powers. In combat, a well-ordered deck of strong abilities, combined with other tricks like blocks and dodges, simply rolls along mowing down enemies all over with little need for hesitation once you're used to the flow. (Bosses can be trickier though!) And it's usually really fun.
If you had a setup that let the player's choices flow naturally together once they grasped the combat, and every skill/option had its use for the experienced player, I see no reason why a game like Loren couldn't have a nice sense of flow like that. (Encounter difficulty matters a lot of course, if the player's too intimidated even by regular mobs they won't experiment with and learn all the powers properly- but if one skill or combo owns all with no downside then that kills it too...) Optimisations are just a means to an end- let the player get stuck into basic fighting quickly and easily, but clearly let them know they can get many more advanced combos and tactics going if they want them with just a bit of effort and imagination. Then the final victory or defeat will be theirs and theirs alone-let's hope the art, story and relationships inspire players to do their best!
Anyway guys, Winterwolves and Loren FTW! Stay (or get!) well and put your hearts and minds into finishing this monster off and show the gaming world some of what they've being missing!