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gnostalgia

gotta be honest with you, guys: this needs work. (detailed feedback)

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(note: this was waaaay too long and I had to split it up into another comment. sorry about that.)

 

Full disclosure: We Happy Few was my most anticipated game for 2016/17. I found out about it shortly after the Gamescom trailer was released last year, and ever since then, I've been lurking the forums and following Compulsion's twitter for updates. I've watched gameplay vids of earlier builds, I've done all of my homework on the game. I knew what I was in for beforehand.

 

Do I hate the game? No, far from it. Am I having fun, though? Not really. I know Early Access isn't indicative of a game's final quality because there are a lot of unfinished elements, but I don't think the same can be said for the core ones that make up the foundation of what we're playing. And as it stands right now, the foundation of WFH is really unsteady. What the team said in the menu screen message wasn't an exaggeration; the game is definitely unfinished and unpolished. I'm not completely discouraged by this, though, because you guys have a terrific community. I love how receptive Compulsion has been to criticism and suggestions for how to make the game better. I have faith in WHF, I have faith in the concept, faith in the team, and faith that they can put the worst of this behind them and make an amazing game out of this.

 

Basically, I love this game's concept to death and want to see it succeed with all my heart, so if I sound painfully blunt with the feedback I'm about to give next, just know that's it's not out of meanness. I'm going to be as honest and forthright as possible.

 

I've been playing the game for several hours, and so far I've noticed three huge problems with the game that revolve around its core mechanics: the conformity/drug mechanic, the RNG with the procedurally generated world and how that affects the sidequests, and the survival mechanics (thirst/hunger/sleep). There are a lot of other smaller issues too, and I'll branch off to them as I go, but those are the three big ones.

 

Survival

The survival mechanics so far are very unbalanced. You start starving/dehydrating way too quickly and way too often. You can eat up half of your inventory just to fill the hunger meter up, go walk around for several minutes or sleep for an hour or two just to get the sleep meter to a more manageable state, and then find yourself back at square one before you can even get comfortable with the idea that you're playing a guy who doesn't need constant babysitting. It's way too excessive and it makes the game incredibly tedious because you constantly have to take yourself out of doing a sidequest for materials (more on that later) just to start scavenging around for something to shove down Arthur's throat so he won't die from hunger. Like, I get that the whole point of this is to offer a challenge to players that combat/stealthcentric games don't normally give, and to have you interact with the game's environment in a unique way, but the irony is that it's working AGAINST it. This is the kind of game where I want to take my time and explore the world. There are so many lovely, small details to take in and so much to admire, but I can't do any of that because I'm constantly being rushed and paying more attention to how my hunger/thirst/sleep meter keeps popping up and ticking down. Those Uncle Jack episodes? Amazing. I want to watch each of them and enjoy the fruits of everyone's Kickstarter money, but I can't because I can literally starve to death if I'm not paying attention and choose to watch the episode instead of babysitting my status bar.

 

It's also bleeding into other aspects of the gameplay too, especially the stealth-based ones. Isn't the entire point of stealth to be patient and plan your attack meticulously? You can't really do that if you're babying the meters constantly. At one point, I couldn't help but think that the time I was wasting — yep, wasting — trying to sneak into a sidequest important house would be better spent scavenging for rotten food because by the time I finished up here I wouldn't have enough time for food-searching so death would be pretty much inevitable.

 

I'm not able to enjoy myself because I'm always being pressured to hurry up and find something to get rid of status effect #10934, and I can't help but feel like it's a transparent attempt to pad the game out or make it artificially difficult. It's discouraging, tedious and unpleasant.

 

How to fix it: Just scale it back or increase the potency of food. Either have the meters take longer to appear/tick down, or make it so that only one consumable or two at the most will fill it back up again.

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Conformity

This one branches off into AI problems, so I guess you could say they're mostly the same. I'll be straight with you on this: I have no idea what sets these NPCs off. I understand that wearing the right clothes is a necessary part of it and I'm cool with that, but it seems like just breathing on them will put them in a frenzy. If you stick around in one place for too long, they freak out. If you search for something on a corpse or look into a trashcan, they freak out. If you do any of this on Joy, they still freak out.

 

Here's a good example: I'm doing the sidequest with the NPC old lady who wants lily bulbs. She has a little tea party with consumable cups of tea laying around and explicitly offers Arthur some in her dialogue. I'm starting to get dehydrated and I don't have any water left so of course I take it. The NPC proceeds to lose her shit and call the Bobbies over. Why? The game is flat out handing me these items, from a friendly NPC no less, and it punishes me for taking them. It does the same thing when you find a sidequest that requires you to loot a Downer corpse on the street, or when you go to this weird fetish club that has a suit and weapon in the adjacent locker room that you need for the club's dress code so you can enter. When I tried to take the items both times, an NPC saw, flipped out, and called a mob over.

 

Taking Joy doesn't matter much either; the only consistent effect it seems to have is allowing you to get through security checkpoints. Example: I'm doing the fetish club sidequest at night, because the club only opens after a certain hour. There are Bobbies on the street, but there are also other Wellies just meandering around too. I don't feel like sneaking through a large group, so I pop a Joy so I can just walk through the front doors. But I can't even get that far because I get ganged up on before I can make it to the building. The Bobbies attack me if they see me on sight at night even though there are other Wellies walking around on the street to the club doing the same thing. How? I'm playing by the game's rules and I'm not doing anything to stick out, but it's still not enough. I've cleared out entire houses, deactivated the security systems, killed the inhabitants and locked the doors just so I can get some sleep, and sometimes I'll wake up to find a mob waiting for me. Interacting with the NPCs just seems like random guesswork most of the time.

 

How to fix this: Have it so that taking Joy makes it impossible for them to tell you're a Downer because, well, you really aren't if you're on the drug. I should be able to loot trashcans or take an item from a body without having to worry about them finding out, because there's really no logical reason why they should if you're high off your ass like the rest of them. I don't mind that taking Joy makes you crash and raises your thirst meter because it gives you an incentive not to abuse the drug constantly, and isn't that one of the main points of the game's narrative?

 

RNG Shit

I don't have any better way to describe this. The procedurally generated world is a pain in the ass to deal with because all of the sidequests that I've seen so far are a chain of neverending fetch quests, fetch quests that require you to craft certain items, items that need materials that depend entirely on whether or not the RNG feels nice enough to spawn them. Everyone keeps bringing up the lack of tough linen for the padded suit needed for the beehive quest, but I ran into this roadblock even before that on my playthrough with the sidequest where you needed to craft antiseptic for a wounded Wastrel. I still haven't beaten the quest because I haven't been able to find alcohol in the garden district. Seriously, I've turned that entire map over and I haven't found one bottle, and apparently I'm not alone. A lot of these quests are so reliant on the crafting mechanic, and the ones that aren't require you to go all over the map fetching random drops. I don't know if RNG affects what sidequests appear either, but if it does, yikes.

 

How to fix this: Have the game detect what sidequests have spawned and have the RNG spawn an abundance of materials associated with them. Granted, I don't know if the quests themselves are procedurally generated along with the world, but even if they aren't, the RNG for certain items should be higher.

 

There are a lot of other little irritations and glitches. Having to pull open the map screen every five seconds just to see where you're going is frustrating; having one at the bottom of the screen would be more useful. Sometimes triggering quests ingame won't have their markers appear on the map. The doll quest with the dude in the treehouse wasn't activating on the map after I found it, so going back to his house was a pain in the ass because I kept getting lost. I've glitched through the map once or twice, too. That checkpoint with the doctor NPC was a pain because I ended up clipping through the building after I got through the first time and I couldn't get out so I had to close and restart the game. The glitches are to be expected, though, because it's an early build. I'm less accepting of everything else.

 

In summary: the game isn't horrible or unplayable in its present build, but the unbalanced survival elements, unpredictable AI and wholly random whims of the procedural world are greatly hindering any enjoyment I can take from it. I'm all for challenges — believe it or not, I really like the inventory management because it reminds me of similarly paced games like old school Resident Evil. I like having to strategize on what I should take with me and what I should leave behind. What I don't like is being thrown into things with no indication of how certain elements work, being led to believe that a certain approach is the way to go and then having the game pull the rug out from under me and saying “nope, can't do that or you'll get fucked up by the Bobbie mob”, and having to constantly take myself out of the game just to find something to keep Arthur from dying of thirst/hunger.

 

If you guys need anything clarified, hit me up. I'll be playing the game again today so maybe I'll find more to comment on.

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Hey @gnostalgia, This is all very well worded and thought out, thanks for writing this out.

 

There does seem to be some consistent feedback that hunger and thirst are too fast. Perhaps we've just gotten used to it on our end, especially given how easy it is to cheese hunger by just wolfing down rotten food and a neximide pill. I personally feel that it might also be a question of feedback -- the icon reappears at a fairly high threshold, and even though I know it doesn't really mean anything until I hit 20% in a given need, it does put pressure to get rid of the icon somehow.

 

Watching Uncle Jack, like anything else in the game, is supposed to be a tradeoff decision that you make. As a Downer without the pleasant embrace of Joy to make you forget to eat and drink, it is supposed to be harder to justify sitting down to watch the telly. But we also want players to be able to enjoy the shows without gameplay pressure, the simplest solution for which would be to just add them to some theatre menu. This'll come later as we'll also need to provide higher definition versions of the videos currently used in-game.

 

As for RNG, getting hit by the occasional bad roll is supposed to be a part of roguelikes. But well balanced roguelikes will have alternate ways of getting what you need. In some aspects, I feel we're going in the right direction but I agree there are still lots of places where the player is being funneled through a single route with no alternatives.

 

 

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Agree with pretty much all of this.

 

The day/hunger/thirst cycle is WAY too fast. Just as I'm getting into exploring and finding new things : You're hungry! You're Thirsty! You're Tired! Please significantly increase these as I feel I'm babysitting bars more than I am enjoying the world. I'm only about 3 hours in but my experience has been more frustrating than fun and this is the primary reason.

 

Attack AI does seem a bit fickle. I've been attacked twice; once when I slept in a bed which was apparently a murderable offense and a second when I attacked a guy who was throwing rocks at people.

 

Also too many quests so far that are basically "Find this thing" which seems to rely on RNG. I've taken to knocking people out just in the hope that I can get lucky anf find one of these items (battery, parts for bee coat, etc.) I also didn't have the doll location marked on my map for the Secret Agent quest, at least as far as I could tell.

 

It's not a terrible game but, as the OP mentioned, not fun either. I'm hoping things change up a bit once I get out of the "slums" area.

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@Camille I really like the idea of a theater mode. Maybe have it so that only one video from Jack is available at the get-go, but completing certain achievements or finding items in the game (maybe film reels or something similar) unlocks the others. You could also put dev diaries in there, too. I know I'm not the only one who likes seeing the process behind making a game, and finding these sorts of unlockables is a great way to extend replayability.

 

I know it seems like I'm only focusing on the negatives here, but look — I can't stop stressing how much this game means to me. You guys are a small team with a huge, amazing idea — literally one of those brilliant ideas that most AAA studios would kill for — and the ambition necessary to make it work. This is a beautifully rendered game. The environments are lush and colorful, the character models give me this super eerie stopmotion meets American McGee's Alice vibe, the world it's set in isn't one we see very often in games, and the idea of taking what other games would treat as a sanity meter ala Eternal Darkness and turning it into a vital mechanic that needs to be exploited to win is so clever. When I was playing last night walking through an abandoned foresty park area outside of Hamlyn, Uncle Jack was narrating a Red Riding Hood story through nearby loudspeakers. It was dark, no other NPCs were around, and you had this really talented voiceover saying something along the lines of “And so, the wolf crept down an unseen path through the forest, a path no one else would take because the road was winding and dark, and he was alone”. Something like that. It was a completely stunning, creepy, weirdly poignant experience that left such an impression on me, and it made me realize that, yeah, while the game's not perfect in some areas, it completely nails it in others and it's absolutely worth fighting for.

 

Like I said before, I believe in you guys and I believe in this game. This has the potential to be something wonderful. I just think you still have a lot of mechanics that need thoroughly polished so that it can rest on a threshold that's more enticingly challenging instead of frustrating.

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"There does seem to be some consistent feedback that hunger and thirst are too fast. Perhaps we've just gotten used to it on our end, especially given how easy it is to cheese hunger by just wolfing down rotten food and a neximide pill. I personally feel that it might also be a question of feedback -- the icon reappears at a fairly high threshold, and even though I know it doesn't really mean anything until I hit 20% in a given need, it does put pressure to get rid of the icon somehow. "

 

@Camille I think that you are right, that the warnings pop up too quickly. I am starting to feel that hunger and thirst are more manageable than initially it seemed. Whether that's to do with the availability of food or not I don't know. Also I have noticed that if you eat small amounts of rotten food the food poisoning indicator appears white, which means you don't need a Neximide pill. Maybe people don't realise this and are feeling the pressure of eating rotten food and finding a neximide pill when they don't need to.

 

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