A Deadly Understanding

Nuclear Mosquito

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Hey guys. So I've completed my game for the 2014 Indie Game Maker contest. I've made this thread for discussion of the game, so please feel free to post a review. You could also just say what you liked about it or didn't like about it. (No need to vote for the game on the contest) As it was my first game I really want to use this as a learning opportunity to better myself as a game designer. I've added the game's description here for your convenience.

The game can be found here: http://contest.rpgmakerweb.com/game/view/id/608#.U8o5QPmSz94

A Deadly Understanding is an adventure game written in the RPG Maker engine.

You play as Conor, a private detective. Conor must solve the mystery of a looming threat on a doomed household.

The game is very narrative based and is a fun experiment to see what you can accomplish with the RPG Maker engine, even when you're not making an RPG game.

I hope you enjoy this game.

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kartersaint

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Glad you came here, I'm planning some review for you. 
 

Housekeeping

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Hey, glad to see you make a thread on this forum!  This is a good place to learn the ropes--rpgmaker.net is another bastion of information that you might want to check out.  It's been a few days since I've played A Deadly Understanding, so I might have forgotten a few minor details, but here you go:

-I felt like I began to get an understanding of Conor, which is good, but I also felt like his character was a bit stock.  He had a Sherlock Holmes vibe and didn't do enough to distinguish him from that.  He did make a lot of jokes, but that felt more like it was coming from you rather than the character.  Mentioning the portal behind the cabinet, for example, is what I assume is a reference to the Simpsons episode where Homer enters the third dimension (or it's a similar reference that I'm not getting).  Considering Conor's age, his references might generally be older than that.  Another example was when he checks the mounted deer head and says that he's fighting off a pun, but that pun isn't really clear to the audience (or maybe it's a more common pun outside of Texas that I'm not familiar with).  Again, it felt more like it was coming from you rather than the character.

-This is a smaller issue, but Conor is a name that I associate with kids, so it was a bizarre choice for your protagonist.  I'd also consider giving him a last name since you're dealing in a more realistic setting, and that fits with the history of the genre you're working with.

-Part of the problem with this game is that you don't telegraph the goals to the player very consistently.  Getting into the butler's room was pretty well done, I think, but, after that, it was more about just checking things for the sake of checking them.

-The worst offender was checking the axes.  The fact that you could check them earlier and see that they're askew, but check them again with no extra knowledge that would change how your character would react to them was pretty problematic.  There should be a reason why Conor knows he can check those again.

-The dog was a smart idea, but I think he could have done more to relay hints to the player.  Having Conor say something like, "You look just like a ghost!" when the dog was coated in flour would have worked, for example.

-I think that a big issue is that you're at the mercy of the RTP.  Because of this, you can't really have things catch the players' eyes as the RTP is designed to mesh really well.  If you dip into the adventure genre, you'll need to find a way to show areas of interest to the player so they're not just checking everything.  You could do that by putting shiny spots on important items, but that's probably going to take the intrigue of the search away. 

-I also would have liked to actually use the items instead of having them used automatically.  Like, I know that I need to use the flour on myself to convince the butler that I'm a ghost, but if I hadn't figured that out and tried to open the door, that feeling of figuring out the puzzle could have been robbed from me.  Getting away from some of the default systems could have helped this, but you're probably still learning the engine.  Look into using pictures to create a basic HUD or an item ring.  I made a horror/adventure game last year that also had automatic item usage, so I'm a bit of a hypocrite, but it's something that I didn't know how to get around at the time.

-This game was definitely way too short.  As a "get your feet wet" kind of game, that's fine, though.  For a full release of something, I'd be really careful with cliffhangers like that.  The possibilities of that cliffhanger could change the entire dynamic of the game, so that was a crazy note to end on.

-It's okay to do a traditional murder/mystery (although the ending could obviously throw a wrench in the works), but, if you do that, your writing needs to make the characters really interesting.  Relying on stock characters like the stuck-up, seductive heiress, for example, aren't going to provide much intrigue.

Anyway, you've already read my review, so you know basically where I stand, but, as a first game, I think this one does show a few bouts of cleverness, but I think you're going to need to familiarize yourself more with what rpg maker can accomplish so that you can bend it to your genre.  After that, writing and graphics are important as well; there's a lot that goes into making a game, and it's better to learn sooner than later that every aspect is important.  Design should be your top priority, but even the best designed game in the universe could get completely ignored if the graphics don't catch someone's attention.
 

kartersaint

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I'm in lost after obtained the spear. Checked every place! lol. But no clue... never mind. I finished it.

Anyway..

I don't like the detective story that everyone just stays in their own room without do something. What if the killer sneaks through their room, and murders secretly? Since it's the large castle with tons of the behind route! I want something new story that everyone gets involved. Because it's... toooooo old cliche in these days. I want smarter victims.
That's all point of my view about the game. But! Your game is really gripping! Although the storyline itself is old, but you motivated the player very well. But as the graphic point Housekeeping indicated... actually it's the limit of RPG Maker games, yeah?
 
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Nuclear Mosquito

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I haven't forgotten you guys. I'm just having a bit of a work crisis. I'll see you at the end of the week; hopefully.
 

kartersaint

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Hope you manage to get fine!
 

Nuclear Mosquito

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Just got back to reading this after a rather rough few weeks. Thanks for the reviews guys. You really helped me spot some important issues and identify the strong points. I've even started to work on some basic ideas for the sequel of this game, but I can only start work in September.
 

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Woop woop. Santa's here! ;)



*downloads*
 

Cinnamon

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Okay, writing as I go along...

I hope this is not a detective / point-and-click game as that's not my cup of tea. If it is I'll stick to an objective review of what I think could be improved, otherwise I might spiral into a negative rant very quickly lol.

Like the little humor here and there in the dialogue, like the reference to adventurers stealing random stuff from houses. That's good.

Exterior screen tint could be a bit better. If it's supposed to be cloudy desaturate the screen and make it a bit more blue. Turning all the colors down doesn't actually make it look darker, it just messes up your sprite shading.

Event speed seems to be off on the main character and butler when you first arrive at the mansion. They move at like speed 5 for a few seconds.

Mapping is overall fine but some areas are a bit lackluster. The dining hall's a bit too big, could use some more details.

Wow did the butler just THROW the pig all the way onto the center of the dining table? Haha.

Okay so this is a point and click detective game. Hmm.

Got flour. No idea what I'm supposed to do. I'm just running around checking every object.

Lots of locked doors... By the way the game could really benefit from cosmetic fogs to up the atmosphere level a bit.

Entering Manfred's room a second time plays the same cutscene. He's telling me to sleep but I don't have the option. Got "Neil's" clothes.

Equpped magnifying glass. Examining everything again. Now going to try using the dog. Just getting a "you're so white" message.

Trying to use a knife on a locked door... Doesn't seem to do anything.

Okay saved & quit. I don't know what to do. D:
 
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Nuclear Mosquito

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Yeah, so I agree with most of what you're saying. I've really messed up on some areas of the game due to rushing it. I actually played it again yesterday and I cringed.

There is a walk-through (I think the link is in the readme file), but most people get stuck there where you get stuck. I also laughed as I read your review as it was going along. Nice to have it in that format. Thanks for playing my game, but I have a single question: "What do you have against point and click detective games?". I know mine isn't a good example, but something like Sam and Max is a very good example of the genre.
 

Cinnamon

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Oooh, sweet! I guess that's my own fault for never reading the ReadMe's. That's actually pretty brilliant. Maybe if there were some more hints pointing to doing that I would've guessed it? There's another "detective" game in the contest called Perspective where the main character offers small hints as to what you're supposed to do when you check items. Like if the character called the dog, he/she could hint something like "Oh you rolled in white? You look like a ghost, haha. Better not let Manfred see you or he'll be scared to death" > implementing the idea into the player's head that it's an option to do. Maybe it's too direct but just an idea.

I'm going to go back to finish the rest of the game today. ^_^ I just had no idea how to proceed, lol.

I'm not a big fan of point and click detective games because I'm an ISFP so I much prefer atmosphere and visuals over dialogue and thinking, and those games rely on the latter. I know that makes me sound dumb but just compare our two games and you'll get what I mean. :p
 

Nuclear Mosquito

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I'm not a big fan of point and click detective games because I'm an ISFP so I much prefer atmosphere and visuals over dialogue and thinking, and those games rely on the latter. I know that makes me sound dumb but just compare our two games and you'll get what I mean. :p
Yeah, I know what you mean. Ultimately it boils down to the kind of experience that the player prefers.
 
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shayoko

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finished the demo(was a bit depressed when it ended its like the game just started and bam!

aside from that i got a good laugh at anyone who was confused or stuck what so ever.

it was just...so...obvious...

cant say much about this

it should of been a few times long at least!

o well :/

disappointment is common in the indie community : (
 

Nuclear Mosquito

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finished the demo(was a bit depressed when it ended its like the game just started and bam!

aside from that i got a good laugh at anyone who was confused or stuck what so ever.

it was just...so...obvious...

cant say much about this

it should of been a few times long at least!

o well :/

disappointment is common in the indie community : (
I'm finding this positive, as it is easier to make a game longer than to make the game more interesting (I hope it was interesting). I realize that the length is a big drawback, so I apologize for ripping the mat from under your feet like that. Thanks for the feedback.
 

nerdvsgame

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First of all: I liked your game a lot during the first half of it but got a little bit frustrated by facing some problems during the last puzzles and the end wasn’t quite my cup of tea. But let’s a have a look at your game in more detail (my English isn’t perfect, I hope you understand everything in this feedback)

I would have loved to see an individual title screen. This one just doesn’t fit very well. The music however is well chosen. But it’s not looped! Most people won’t ever listen to the full song in your menu but I did. I think you didn’t loop other songs during the actual game or did you? You should work on that with audacity. It’s taking some time to loop songs but it’s worth the effort, your game feels much more polished with properly looped songs and a better title screen. Your game deserves it!

MAPPING:

Your maps differ in quality. Some maps are awesome (main hall and living room) but others look strange (most of the bedrooms). And your maps aren’t consistent. Some walls are fading into the background (black top tiles) and others don’t. I prefer the fading ones because rooms don’t look so narrow with them.

And then there are some strange things I noticed. There is a door at the same level as a cabin which looks odd to me (first room). The stairs in the next room look strange (but I know how hard it is to make them look good in RPGM). And then you lose the continuity of space once: After you leave your house to the right side of the screen you arrive at the castle from the down side of the screen. I would always enter a screen the way you left the previously one even if there is a long way passed offscreen in between.

You could improve some maps but you did a good job in general. Especially the sizes of rooms are very well chosen! The Mansion felt like one, good job!

>>> 3/5

SOUND:

As I already said, you have to loop your songs. You should also work with dynamics a little bit. The songs could be quieter in general. And you should really add more atmospheric sounds. I loved the first screen with it’s music, the clock, the knocking on the door and everything. It really worked well together and I expected this quality in the whole game. But as soon as I arrived at the mansion the music started to repeat a lot, bored me at times and I was missing the atmospheric sounds of the beginning.

>>> 3/5

GAMEPLAY:

I like the gameplay. I am into narrative games so this just fits my taste. The tutorial was well executed (and optional!) and that you had the possibility to get some help from the dog was good idea! But I’d love to see more interaction with the dog, during the game I nearly forgot it was there with me.

What stands out in your game is it’s detailed world. You can interact with everything and that is super awesome, great job again! I like most of the monologue and clicked at everything on my way because of this.

You inserted the solutions to problems well into the narrative. That your dog once behaved like a ghost when he was covered in flour was a useful tip during one of the puzzles. But there are some unforgivable mistakes in gameplay that irritated me in the second half of the game. As I said, I clicked at everything because I liked the monologues. But when I had to find the key I thought I missed something important or couldn’t find a room. I only realized that I couldn’t find the key before that point of the story when I read your walkthrough. It doesn’t make sense that I wasn’t able to find it before. I had the same problem with the axes. You should reconsider that. It would even make your game less linear if you find a good way to keep you from progressing too soon. Have a look at Metroid which is still a perfect example for this.  

>>> 4/5 (first half of the game) and 3/5 (second half of the game)

STORY/CHARACTERS:

I think your story is interesting. Conor is a well presented character and has a nice British humor (I like that). But all the other characters felt to be only stereotypes and at times they behaved stupid to get the story going. Maybe you should have added some more dialogue. Especially the sister just disappears after having said one word or so ^^

I know you wanted to have the player get thrilled because of the sudden murder. A first plot point so to say. But it came out of the blue in a bad way – at least in my opinion.

What you should really reconsider is the ending. I read that you’re planning on doing a sequel. But I think the ending is “too big” if you know what I mean? Conor’s story feels very indigenous (can I use that adjective in this context?!?! ^^) but then becomes a big mystery-thriller-conspiracy-thing – I don’t think Conor is a character for that kind of story but maybe your sequel proves me wrong!

But anyways, I liked a lot of stuff about your story. The monologues are hilarious. The line about the ginger parrot, “how to keep wandering adventurers from stealing your stuff” (I like these kind of meta-jokes), “the amount of cheerful flowers in this house depresses me” (great line!!!), the running gag with the depressed table...you have a great sense of humor and you used it wisely. Conor’s statements add perfectly to the retro-trashy-charme of the detective story and your game feels a little bit pythonesk.

You even added some pop-cultural allusions. This is a thing that can backfire but you did not overdo it so I liked that, too.

What I really admire is your ability to add offscreen-dogpornography in a funny way and having made a good joke about broccoli!

>>> 2,5/5 (main story) and 5/5 additional content and monologues

So even if there are a lot of things that need improvement I liked your game. It wasn’t the best one I ever played but it had some very funny lines and a nice atmosphere. If you’re doing a sequel I will definitely play it.  I hope I wasn’t too strict on your game and if you don’t understand what I mean at any point because of my English feel free to ask!
 
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Nuclear Mosquito

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@nerdvsgame: Thanks a lot for the feedback. You've said some things that other people have said already, but you've explained it in fine detail. For this I want to thank you a lot. I'll definitely consider these things for the sequel. I really laughed about your "British humor" comment as I had based Conor on myself. (Made the writing a lot easier) I'll let the forums know as soon as I've got the second Conor game up and running. Thanks again for taking so much time for the feedback.
 

The Boggan King

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Haven't played but I watched Bluebird's LP video and I love that main character. Busting a gut here man. I tell ya. Nyeh heh. He's got hilarious charm. 
 

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