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StrangeBean

General First Impressions (of v6.2)

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Finally got the chance to play for a few hours, so I thought I'd post some initial thoughts on stuff so far. As kind of a disclaimer, I'm just a dude who likes stealth games a lot, so that's all the experience I really have about game design.

 

The basic gist of what's to follow is that, it seems like there's a lack of focus in terms of what's meant to be challenging the player? For what is ostensibly a stealth game, it's very easy to disengage from encounters, even without any sort of forward thinking. I can definitely understand trying to avoid the player immediately dying to the first Wastrel they come across, but as it is there isn't really a lot of risk involved in taking on anything that isn't a Bobby. Your walk speed is fast enough to walk away from most encounters, even without using the generous amount of stamina. Getting between the buildings and breaking line of sight is easy, and it's only a short time before you're gone and they've forgotten anything happened. You usually don't even have to worry about being noticed by any other NPCs, since you can typically just run for a grassy area without buildings, where the NPCs do not typically go. In addition to this, it's easy enough to avoid encounters in the first place, since you move quickly enough to ignore yellow suspicion.

 

The problem with all this, to me, is that it doesn't seem to match up with what the game seems to be trying for; i.e. a more stealthy, thoughtful experience, with a focus on blending in and survival. Right now a player doesn't really have to worry when engaging any group of NPCs, since they can just walk away. It seems like what would be preferred is a player questioning whether or not they can even go near that group, let alone walk past them? Something more tense and uncertain for the unprepared, but definitely doable for the careful player.

 

(Any suggestions that follow are from somebody who has never made a game, so keep that in mind.)

I think the concern with movement is easy enough to adjust; the default walk speed could be reduced, closer to that of NPCs. It's at action game speeds at the moment, and it seems to me like slowing it down would help with the aforementioned concern. First, it would mean the player has to rely more on their stamina to get away from enemies, meaning they have to be efficient and careful about escaping. That way a bad situation can be mitigated with careful use of the environment, but it's not as easy as it is now. For another, it also means that there's more danger involved in heading into highly populated areas. Attracting suspicion to yourself could prove more dangerous, since you can't leave quickly without attracting further suspicion. It also means that you have to pay more attention to NPCs trying to chat you up, since It might even make things feel more like you're trying to fit in, instead of just dodging around NPCs. What might also be worth considering with this is adding a 'brisk walk', or something similar; suspicion goes up a bit faster during it, but not as fast as when sprinting. Tap and hold shift once for briskly walking, tap twice and hold for sprinting? Probably a better way to handle that.

 

The building placement is probably a bigger issue, and one I'm not sure I'm really qualified to talk about, but the main thing here to me is that you can pretty much just run between buildings whenever you like, and you will immediately be somewhere people aren't. For a game going for a dystopian, paranoid feel, this seems a little counter-intuitive? You don't really have to spend a lot of time on the streets at all, since you can jump into houses from the grassy space anyway. It's an especially prominent concern given the nature of the architecture; I've never been to Britian, but even in-game many of the houses look like they're meant to be fitting together into those rows of solid buildings a lot more than they are. That would lead me to believe this is something that's being worked on, but I figured I'd mention this in relation to my overall point anyway. If this is something changed later on in development, I think it'll add a lot of the sort of challenge the game's really looking to embrace, as well as giving a certain claustrophobic feeling to Wellington Wells as a whole.

 

NPC behavior is harder to address. I think it's safe to say that at an end-user level, the AI is one of the biggest things about stealth games, if not video games in general. There's a lot to say on the subject, and I'm sure it's going to get brought up a lot, so I'll keep my thoughts brief. Mostly, it would help if they were more persistent, and more aware. Disengaging an encounter currently means the entire situation is reset to zero, which means it's typically the best option in any given situation. If a player engages with an NPC, and they have a way to make the situation worse in the long-term, i.e. more Bobby patrols in the area, then that demands more preparation and quick thinking from the player. A way to give longer-lasting repercussions to encounters that aren't kept quiet would add a lot to the game, I think. Aside from making things more challenging in the long-term, it also gives players a feel for the space they're in. They may find locations more memorable if they know to avoid them, since the NPCs in the area are more alert, or something like that. As an aside, I think it would help some if the NPCs had things were doing; even the ones who do have that, like the Bobbies that were standing guard outside a hatch, didn't bother sticking to it, and it was left unguarded after I (completely intentionally) lured them away.

 

Additionally, the current state of defusing situations with social stealth doesn't seem to quite match up with the challenge the game suggests. I've enjoyed what I've played so far, but I do feel like it could be expanded, and greatly. I'm assuming this is to come, but I figured I'd use this as an opportunity to share some thoughts on it anyway. The grannies are kind of an issue at the moment; you basically have to avoid them entirely, or they very quickly ruin any stealth you were attempting. I can understand that being something appealing, but I feel like the tension in social stealth is better gained from being forced into plain sight for an extended period of time. The grannies force you back into the not-street zone, which kind of goes against what it seems like the game's going for? I feel like there's more social challenges that could be involved here, at the very least. Like, maybe instead of just spotting you right away, they might demand your attention, and you have to stand there and hold conversation for a little bit, or they get upset and suspect you of being a Downer? Or, maybe if an instant-detection NPC is something that is particularly wanted, maybe it's best to frame it as something other than a happy citizen of Wellington Wells, since it may be more clear if the player can quickly distinguish something they absolutely have to avoid from something they can socialize with, as well as making their arrival more distinctly shocking. Either way, I think adding more things for a player to consider and do when in social stealth situations would probably help a lot with the sort of challenge things are aimed at.

 

I think that's pretty much my main point, so far. The challenge doesn't seem to really come from where one would expect, I suppose. It's entirely possible I just have the wrong idea of what the game's intended to aim towards. I'm new to the whole Kickstarter thing, so this is just my thoughts from playing the game for the few hours I have typed in a long multi-paragraph ramble because that's the only way I know how to talk about video games.

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A few other things I thought during gameplay, largely related to visuals (I had the graphics set to low, so if any of those are fixed by the graphics being higher, then maybe ignore this.

 

- It would be nice to see greater variety in the Wellies. Non-white Wellies would be cool, especially given that they seem a lot more concerned with nasty Downers than with good, patriotic, PoC Wellies.

- The visual of the cliffs that the island end with is kind of distracting. I also don't see why the islands as a whole need to be so high up, but I don't know much about Britain. Or islands.

- The whole exclamation mark thing on the map is a little unclear. It might be worth considering alternate options; maybe the player can mark points of interest on the map, with brief descriptions. Automatically using the same two icons for everything makes it a little difficult to differentiate between events that the player comes across.

- I recall it being mentioned at some point that more buildings were going to be added; if more of these are going to be shops, like the butcher, I think anti-theft measures would be a good thing to look into. Maybe a currency system? I dunno, this is getting kinda beyond the scope of what I was hoping to talk about.

- I'm not sure why the Wastrels are so immediately hostile? Like, I'm just going about my business, not inside their houses, and they're all giving me the evil eye. Maybe some kind of justification for this is necessary (my bad if it's there and I don't see it), or maybe tweaking it so they're only concerned with you when you're around their house zone.

- The progression of the crafting mechanics (and getting the items for them) seem a little out of place for what is effectively not a very long distance/time to travel.

- I can only play on Low settings if I want to get anywhere, despite having pretty solid hardware, but that's to be expected this early in development.

- I tried going into the house that had an alarm going off and everything, but after walking into the garage(?) area, the light adjusted to be too dark to see anything, even outside the gate I'd walked through.

- There are a lot of little goofs with world generation, collision, pathfinding and stuff like that. I'm sure there's been threads made about them already, and I could make another if the pictures would help.

- I absolutely love the art style; even on the lowest graphics options, it very clearly shines through. I'm definitely looking forward to being able to play it with all the graphics maxed out and everything.

- The voices sound perfect, especially Uncle Jack. Some kind of clip viewer could be cool when things are all finished up; maybe after observing a video in -game, you can watch it later in the main menu?

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You might try the Fancy Suit for getting by the old ladies. What I've noticed is as long as you keep moving, the ask for gossip as you pass by. But if you stop, then they get suspicious within moments. I've toyed with using Shift+w for slower walking speed, and maybe it's just me, but I seemed to get fewer "Are you feeling well?"s.

 

I would love to be able to stop and watch Jack when he's on screen - it seems the Wellian thing to do! But because I'm not still walking, suspicion builds. If I stop to "Lovely day for it" it also seems to build because I usually stop walking. I'm not sure this could be easily remedied, or even wanted. But if I had a wish granted, it'd be to be able to try to rub elbows a bit more to hear if they let anything slip.

 

I am one of those who wants to look at EVERYTHING so I'd be disappointed if suspicion was so high strung that I couldn't pause to take in the little details, like what's painted on the shop windows, for example. I don't speed through a game to beat it; I want to do all the side events, see the landscapes, open the entire map.

 

The game will be getting a storyline as full release is close, I've read. With that, to get it all, the balance could be good for the ease of escape (I'm not grest at escape, so I try to avoid being outted :)

 

For me, the Wastrels are a paranoid lot who don't have the benefit of forgetting their guilt of some very bad thing, I suppose any newcomer not like them could be a threat?

 

Just my thoughts, also probably too long-winded, but it's the only way I know how to do it :)

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Your second point is mostly what I'm getting at; stealth as it is now is mostly about the player running and hiding, just because it's pretty much the best option at any given moment. What I think would be more fun is for the player to have the tools to remain in plain sight for longer, and for the challenge the game presents to involve using them in a more intelligent way. It's definitely possible to avoid the grannies, but I think the method you have to use to avoid angering them should be more about the 'social' part of things than the 'stealth', as with most of the NPCs. Anyone who's had to fend off elderly relatives at a family gathering knows that that's how it works anyway

 

And as far as the Wastrels go, I definitely get the paranoia, but their dialogue and general positioning makes them seem a lot more concerned with their houses. It's not /that/ big of a deal, but it'd make a little more sense to me if they were primarily housebound. Might also make it a little easier to work as a starting area? Puts more of the focus on the Wellies, since you can get there with less interruption, and the starting area is a bit easier for new players, giving them an area to get some starting items before they head into the village.

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I'd like there to be some kind of mitigating factor to the grannies beyond just walking fast myself, either influenced by clothing, Joy level, or a combination. I had an almost 45% Joy level and decided to celebrate my first Fancy Suit by trying to interact with an old lady. I stopped, she turned yellow. I tried to Lovely Day For It to defuse the situation and she took such offense I ended up being stomped on by a bobby.

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I can back both your opinions, yep. Stopping to chat, have a cuppa, etc. should make you appear more "one of us" and not less. Maybe what we don't know yet on the storyline gives explanations as to why it isn't so?

 

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Great feedback guys, thanks a lot!

 

We didn't want to go immediately for a very hard experience, to avoid frustrating too many players, we need some feedback on the experience as a whole. The game is definitely on the easy end at the moment and we will adjust everything as we go along. We also want to add difficulty levels as not everybody wants the same thing from a game.

I agree we will probably reduce the walking speed, increase the perception ranges (they are very low at the moment, the wastrels in particular are very short sighted), and adjust the behaviours. We are also working on new types of NPCs that challenge different part of the gameplay experience.

 

keep it coming.

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@marc Personally I'd prefer to keep the walking speed as-is due to the size of the map and the fact there will be a time limit to escaping the island. I think I heard there will eventually be subway-type fast travel, but even exploring a single island can take a good chunk of your time, especially if the need for sleep is introduced. Reduce the walking speed and time and distance become much bigger issues. I also like the ability to move at a nice clip, especially when engaging sprint will attract attention.

 

I'd rather see a rebalance the AI's pursuit speed/range to put more emphasis on sprinting, hiding, or taking Joy to shake it. Possibly also an option to saunter as well as sprint -- you know, take your Joy and then slow down so you're no longer suspicious, something more strategic than breaking line of sight. I would much rather have an option to go slower as part of a personal strategy than to be trapped at that speed.

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I hadn't considered the travel distance relative to the walking speed, but I feel like there are better ways to solve that issue than keeping the walking speed where it is. I think that reducing it adds a lot to the moment-to-moment gameplay, and reducing the short-term travel time makes a lot more sense for a slower-paced game about exploring and sneaking through a location like Wellington Wells. Long-distance travel has plenty of ways to be sped up; fast travel mechanics, a subway system, underground maintenance tunnels, the liberal use of Joy, and so on, you get the idea.

 

Incidentally, I'm not sure where the notion of a time limit was confirmed, but I would like to voice some disagreement with the idea; currently, and traditionally in roguelikes (as I understand it), the main question players have to ask in regards to exploration is 'is it worth the risk'. Adding a time limit means that decision will pretty much always be 'no', especially since item generation is RNG dependent. If the point of such a limit is to create an overall degree of urgency, then I think it's far better to use the hunger/thirst/sleep mechanics. Progress is definitely a good thing to encourage, but there are ways to do that without cutting out players who would like to explore and take their time. Added to that, I've never seen putting a time limit on stealth done well. That doesn't mean it can't be done, just that I've never seen it.

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The walking speed is definitely a matter of personal preference; in my case, though, I find a slow walk to be extremely frustrating, especially if you've traveled the same route several times (for instance, waiting in a shelter/sleeping until it's dark and then making your way to the pawn shop, maintenance hatch, etc because some targets are better handled at night).

 

I could be wrong - I'd swear I heard it somewhere, but in terms of forum-proof I think the only real indication of a time limit is on the fact one of the devs was explaining that you can't just continually OD on Joy and cheese the game because losing a day is "very bad". Since I'm not what I'd characterize as a particularly strong player I actually hope I misinterpreted it. If the game is intended to make you die multiple times then the lack of time to explore would boost replayability, but the random number generator is, as you said, something of a problem. Even knowing exactly what I wanted/needed to do to escape after 2 or 3 failed attempts with the hatch it still took me 12 days on my final try to scrape together the resources.

 

However, it just occurred to me that maybe it's the environment that will change to make the game more difficult over time. For example, Wellie food is pretty generous right now, but if food shortages are introduced it would turn into a matter of early-game prep and resource management. What would happen if by Day 7 there's no food left to scavenge? This would be interesting, since instead of the infuriating "beat the clock" scenario you get pure survival.

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With all the potential storage now available, each shelter alone having a big amount, plus utilizing strategic storage around the world, I have hope the game will need it for good reason :) Why else put so much in?

 

Though I really like stashing what's likely to be at least 20 pounds of bulky stuff into a couple smallish cook pots, I kinda hope storage limits get looked at for realism. Or have the Wastrels squat back in a bit faster. :)

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