Soul Echoes

Discussion in '2014 Indie Game Maker Contest' started by Tenchizard, Jun 29, 2014.

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  1. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    Hi everyone! 

    I'm one of the developers from Kybele Studio for SOUL ECHOES, our entry into the 2014 Indie Game Maker Contest. I thought to get some exposure as well as feedback from the community now that our work is done.

    We have been so busy with this, our first RPG Maker finished project, that we didn't really have time to get into the forum before, so this will have to serve as my introduction too ;)

    And so, without further ado... Here it is:

    [​IMG]

    SOUL ECHOES is the story of Sigmund, a powerful Paladin of justice, who works for a godlike being known as "The Great Entity". When hordes of undead start rising near the peaceful city of Fairdragon, the Great Entity has no choice but to send his greatest hero to solve the problem.

    Join Sigmund on his travels to save the city... and maybe, something more. It all depends on you.

    FEATURES:

    • Join Sigmund and his party of heroic souls: you can change party composition at any time -even during combat!
    • As high level heroes, there's no grinding at all - most encounters are bosses and other powerful creatures.
    • Each character has unique skills, but many of them offer different synergies and possible combination. 
    • Mix and match your equipment from a varied selection, and customize how you want to face your enemies.
    • Multiple endings - Sigmund's journey can end soon... or go on, depending on your choices. But don't expect just "yes or no" choices along the way. Sometimes you just have to act to have an impact.
    Here is the link to the entry contest, with some more screenshots, and the download link as well:

    http://contest.rpgmakerweb.com/game/view/id/259#.U69Ke_lv7WE

    So there it is. I hope some of you will take a look at it and at least have some fun playing it. And I'd be really grateful if all of you more accomplished developers could give us some feedback. I'm also open to discuss the design decisions taken, the writing style, and anything that could cross your minds ^_^

    Thanks everyone in advance,

    Julio (Tenchizard)
     
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  2. Ultim

    Ultim Kartoffel. Veteran

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    Sounds great.I liked the Multiple Endings and "Customize how you face your enemies" parts.Good luck in the contest !
     
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  3. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    Thanks a lot for your comment! We tried to do our best :)
     
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  4. BlackMage

    BlackMage The Warlock of Darkness Veteran

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    Finaly, managed to beat this game.

    Let me start with the battle system. It was interesting to have 6 party members with different skills and combinations to chose. But lack of MP healing kinda set the system off. It's like in one battle, there are party member that already run out of MP and your only choice is to change them with another party member that available. I know that this might because I don't know that there are options to change party, and since I found it after played it for some times, I got my mind thinking that changing party in the middle of the battle wouldn't make any difference at all because it will only interfere with some tactic that I've come with. If only I found this early, maybe it'll be different. Perhaps you should introduce some battle againts small fry to explain how the battle works.

    Next, I'll go on the bosses. The demon and the last boss is a pain in the ass. Damage from the demon can kill almost all of my party if they're not in full health. Not to mention the last boss that seems like can kill anything in sight. You need luck after strategy when you up againts these two bosses. Most of casual player will give up at this time. I think you need to balance the bosses since I doubt that even with all party at full you can manage to beat the last boss with ease.

    Lets move on, it's about exploring. The game until we go and beat the bosses in the mountain is well. But after that, it's getting harder to find where to go. I was wandering in complete loss until I accidentaly teleported into the forest. Also, the hidden basement need more than just an average rpg player skill to found it. Most of people won't event think that there's something on it. I think you need to put more hint about this two place because a lot of people will just miss it.

    Lastly, the story. I like the story. I think it's executed well enough, though it can be much more better with some improvment here and there.

    I think that's all from me. Make sure you give your game to people outside of your team to do some testing before you release it to public. It could give you some clues about where to improve. :)
     
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  5. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    Thanks a lot for both playing and reviewing the game! I'll take the chance to explain our reasoning for some of the things you commented, as most of them were conscious design choices:

    There's no heavy MP regeneration because one of the points of the game is that as it's quite short, trying to cope with a limited pool of resources is an important part of it. There are ways to refill your MP (vitality's sonnet from the bard and some accesories), so there are ways to work around all of that. Also, most gameplays consist on just a couple of bosses, so MP shouldn't be a problem unless you don't care at all about it and waste it. Or at least that's what we thought ^_^

    If we didn't introduce those "small fry battles" was because we thought it was against the very core of the game, about being powerful heroes at the end of their power growth. The first battles against skeletons and wraiths were precisely put to help players see what the combat is about (that's why there are some tutorials before them, and they're fairly easy if you take some time to read what each of your characters can do).

    Changing party members during combat seemed to be quite useful during our test runs: there are some configurations specially good for being defensive, and there are lots of ways to exploit enemy weaknesses. It just takes a bit of thinking. Maybe the problem is that people is not acustomed to having a big pool of skills to choose from, or even thinking that some encounters are just thought to be that hard. I can tell you that all the bosses have a certain strategy, and finding it is important if you want to win them with ease. For example, the big Demon you mentioned is easy once you understand how it works:

    The Demon starts combat with a powerful buff, as if enraged. The main character even comments this to help the player understand he must go defensive. Just take the cleric and the rogue out, and bot buff your party (with protect and defense up), and debuff the enemy (with attack down), and survive its damage output for some turns. Then, the demon will get tired and weaken heavily, so you can just finish him off in 3 rounds with your most heavy hitters (like the warrior and the mage).
    About the exploration... I know the forest part is hard, but I'll sincerely tell you that I didn't find a better way to do what we wanted. And about the basement, I can tell you that

    before we started developing the game we had a concept we wanted to use: the game has everything it has to offer from the start, but the player won't find it because he doesn't know he can "find" something. The basement is accesible from the beginning, but until the player is appointed to do so, by speaking to the necromancer before going to the cemetery, they just won't do it... and actually, the shouldn't, as the story progresses in a certain way. There's a big heavy jump in lateral thought to find the true ending too, and that's a nother flaw I couldn't just find a better solution neither. Actually, I don't know if you did manage to get the true ending, where you get to see a real The End.
    I'm glad you liked the story. It's the first time that I'm in charge of a full script as I did in this game, so I hope to get better at it from now on :)
     
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  6. BlackMage

    BlackMage The Warlock of Darkness Veteran

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    Yeah, I thought it would be different if I do the strategy using the party change command. Too bad that I just found it when fighting the big demon. It's already too late. :p

    Anyway, if the true ending is where the kid reunites with his parents, I think I got it. :)
    Oh, about the small fry, it not necessarily to be the small fry. The main point is the tutorial. You can put them on the first boss (The element skeletons party).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2014
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  7. Housekeeping

    Housekeeping Veteran Veteran

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    Hey, I was giving this a shot and I might be stuck because of sequence breaking.  Here's what happened:

    I finished the second battle.  Then, instead of checking the body, I went back to town and the townspeople mentioned something about a shadowy figure in the north.  The game wouldn't let me go anywhere but the graveyard, so I returned and noticed that the God-like character is no longer there, but it did allow me to check the body, and my party pointed me back towards the village.  When I return to the village, though, there doesn't seem to be any further direction from the villagers, and the game won't let me go anywhere but the village and the graveyard.  Am I missing something, or did my sequence breaking mess something up?
     
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  8. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    I'll explain in spoiler below for Housekeeping:

    no, you have done exactly what you were supposed to do. The villagers told you though that there was something happening at the mountains to the north of the cemetery, and I think you didn't explore that place. The only sequence breaking (or something) is that you went to town before examining the body, because that event only happens when you try to leave the cemetery, to try to guide the player towards his next step (that is going to the village and learning about the event at the mountains).
    Thanks a lot for playing the game, knowing about your confusion there is helpful too ^_^

    Oh, and BlackMage, I think you're right about the tutorial. Maybe the game needs a little bit more explaining, so I'll try adding that after the contest. Thanks a lot for the suggestion.
     
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  9. Housekeeping

    Housekeeping Veteran Veteran

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    Alright, finished this one!  There were some interesting little mechanics here.

    -First off, I think my difficulty in finding the mountain area was mainly because of the little paths on the main map that don't go anywhere.  I'm conditioned to assume the game is going to be broken up into areas that those paths lead to, so I would recommend closing them off.  Then you could have some dialogue that makes the location of the mountain place a bit more explicit (something like "we should search along the edges of the northern mountains").  Once I discovered the mountain area, I was clued into your game's logic, so I was able to figure out the rest of it.-One sort of inherent problem with this game is that it forces you to start over, and since you gave me optional equipment, I always optimized it, so there was about two minutes of gameplay that I repeated four or so times, and then I had to kill the basement monsters twice.  I don't really know a way around that, so I think this is probably just the cost of the concept.

    -Otherwise, I liked the central mechanic of this game.  Knowing that it's about the order in which you go to places became the cool draw--it was about figuring out a puzzle.  I still finished the game in the way you intended, so I think you were successful.

    -On the other hand, it feels like this was a game about that concept and nothing else.  The characters were just their roles in making the plot work, and they never elevated beyond that.  I think part of that might be a fault of the concept itself (you can't really show the main character growing if he's never seen the part of the story that you're skipping ahead to, for example). 

    -Your mapping generally needs work.  Rooms tend to be too square and barren.  I'm not the best at mapping, either, so you might want to look for some tutorials on this site or over at rpgmaker.net.

    -I liked the custom faces (at least I think they're custom), but you should have them for all the characters so as to remain consistent--that means the main character's son and the Great Entity, too.

    -I like your party system, but it feels underutilized.  You've got all these different characters that provide different roles in the party, and you've given the player the ability to change their party mid-fight, so try to design the battles around that.  For example, there might be an enemy that switches from being immune to magic to immune to physical, so that would force the player to have to modify their party composition in the middle of battle.  As it stands, I tended to use the same party for the most part.  The final battle was a neat way to use your party system, though; it felt good to use everyone at once.

    -Your elemental weakness system is kind of neat in theory, but in practice it turns into just cycling your spells, so it didn't add much strategy.  It also doesn't have an internal logic: I understand why burning freezing things would be more effective, but why would electrocuting a burning thing be effective?  Just seems a bit odd.

    Overall, I think your central mechanic threw me for a loop in a good way, and your battle system has a lot of potential, but you need to better develop your battles around it and the characters need to be more rounded out and engaging.  The plot should also operate on a different axis other than the concept; high concept stuff gets less engaging once you have a grasp of the concept.
     
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  10. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    Thanks a lot for the detailed analisys! I'll take it all into account for the next games. 

    as you say, the game was all about the concept and the story, as well as fitting into the contest. The game started with the concept of "everything is hiding in plain sight and the player won't look for it until he knows he CAN look for it", and around that the story was built. And after the story was done, the combat system was designed. I always had the "this must fit into 1 hour" in my head, so I discarded many things like heavy character development and interactions. The characters have a bit of personality as they are actually based on the players of my tabletop d&d game, and it can be seen in some bits of dialogue... but I just thought straying too much from the concept would make the game too long for the contest. At least you got caught into the loop system (maybe to finish the game, maybe to find out what was happening), so it worked for you and that's a good thing.

    The thing with custom graphics is that we just didn't have enough time. Or an artist. The faces were done by a friend who compromised to do just that, and we still needed to try to match some of the enemies to some of the faces. As we had no more resources, we had to go with what we had :/ 

    Thanks for the tips for the combats... but I really couldn't do much: this is the first game I design combats and I just was really constrained by RPGmaker vx Ace default combat system. I tried some event scripting, but I just didn't know how to make some things... so I went with what I could do. Also, now I can see that having just 3 party members is a bit limited, specially when one of them is fixed. The final battle was designed to feel more epic with everyone there at once. It's a bit chaotic, but people who have played it have told me they liked to finally go all out.

    Actually, the elemental system is a simple paper-rock-scissors one to make it a little less complex. The cycling elements is so that the player doesn't use always the same spell (there's nothing more boring that a wizard that always uses the same spell because they all do the same). And the theme of fire-ice-lightning is actually kind of inspired by another game (Megaman ZX), where there's a similar concept. As I knew it fel a bit forced, I tried to explain it at the beginning and hoped for the player to just go with it ;)
     
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  11. kartersaint

    kartersaint Ornate Brain Veteran

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    Played your game. I like the idea you varied the monsters. Many of submission made the enemy only seen in default RTP. At least they can change the colour, or add some stuffs (Eye patch will be an example) to the default illustration. It's not a really big deal and can be done easily. And, you did it.

    You structured the level design wonderfully, because your game is the first game that added some points on the enemies. I can't feel boring while playing your game. 

    I won't tell the story, because it's... cliché. But I admire the design of the stages. Get my vote!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2014
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  12. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    Thanks a lot for the feedback! I'll try to work harder on the story and the script next time :)
     
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  13. Indrah

    Indrah Megane Berserker Veteran

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    Here's my very quick and sketchy take on the game (link for info on why it's so short and all that jazz)




    +Nice custom faces.


    -I’ve said this many times but dumping a player in a town from the get go isn’t ideal as it dissipates any tension.


    -There is too much clutter in the combat from the get go. Extra characters, SO many skills each, equipment, etc. It’s TOO MUCH too quickly, it’s impossible to digest it all.


    -Sprites do not match the faces very well, and they are shoddily done (some of the coloring is shoddy).


    -Fire wins over Lighting?


    -Mediocre mapping.


    -No healing after fights? Why? IT seems like all the fights are evented to what’s the point? Do you wan me to haul back to the town after every fight?


    -Got wiped during the consecutive boss fight. Are you going to pull those cheap moves that early in the game?


    To the developer: While mechanically it seems decently polished (even if I don’t like some of the elements and too much stuff to digest) there is no real plot other than “kill the evil” and characters don’t display that much of a personality. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of exploration either, so this game didn’t really hold my attention. Maybe it works better to more fight-focused people, but for me it just does nothing.
     
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  14. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    Thanks a lot for your feedback! I actually had a blast viewing your video, as you went into the game with no knowledge of anything and your reactions are truly genuine. I'd like to comment some things:

    -fire is weak against lightning for the sake of simplicity. We didn't want to put too many elements because there was already too much thrown at the player, as you said.

    -We thought that the intro did already focus the player into what they have to do: there are monsters and you have to kill them. As soon as you appear in the town you're told to talk to the villagers to learn what to do. And they all point you east, where the fights start. There's nothing to do on the town (really, you can't enter houses because they're not part of your mission), and we did it to focus the player into going to the cemetery and start playing. By the way, you missed one of the tutorials at the entrance of it, but I'll take the point that there's too much going on.

    -We had some problems in the graphic department. That's all I'll say about it :/

    -Almost everyone mentioned about the mapping. I'll take it into account for future games.

    -There's no healing between battles because it's one of the points of the game: manage your mana to get through the game. You can go back to town if you want (and you will discover that there's no way to restore your party appart from what your own magic can do), but it's not recommended because the story won't advance.

    -There IS a story. And there's a bit of characterization that will come if you progress. But the story is told as you keep playing, and I'll spoil a bit for you and tell you that "go and destroy evil" is not what the game is about. Even that first "Game Over" screen you found tells you something about the story and the characters, even if doing it subtly.

    -The fights are hard... because that's what the gameplay is about. You're no level 1 random hero (remember, you're the best, pokemon and so on :p ), and so the first 3 fights increase their difficulty because that's what the game is about. There's a story, there's exploration (but not the exploration you have in a Final Fantasy game, but another kind of exploration), and the gameplay consists of Boss Battles where you have to use all of your characters to win. The game has about 10 different fights or so, and each one has different mechanics and different ways to face them. 

    So, anyway, I'm really grateful for your review, and for your video, even if you didn't like the game. It's a pity that you didn't get a bit farther, because I think this game is the kind of game you have to play fully to understand it.

    Gracias por tu tiempo ^_^
     
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  15. Cinnamon

    Cinnamon Veteran Veteran

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    She quit at the same time as me. :') Gosh darn it, I wanted to see what happened after that. Those battles are really too hard too early on with too many skills and too many characters all at once.
     
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  16. Tenchizard

    Tenchizard Veteran Veteran

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    But both your reactions are very interesting. It's really difficult for the developers to make an assessment on the overall difficulty of the game, because as creators they know all the secrets and the way to get through it. The few testers we had before the contest played through the whole game because being friends of mine and knowing me, they just knew how the game was going to be and kept pushing through it.

    In order to make my game more accessible without losing its core concept, I think I should:

    -tone down the difficulty of the first combat. Maybe even introducing a couple of simple ones with scripted messages to point the player some interesting techniques/combos?

    -dilute tutorials a bit more. Right now there are like 3 or 4 tutorials in the first 10 minutes of the game... Maybe leave the equipment tutorial for AFTER some fights in the cemetery, instead of right after you leave the town.

    -try to show some plot earlier. This one is kinda difficult because of the very nature of the plot, hidden under a layer of simplicity that the player must peel off by himself by wondering if what he played is really all that is there to it. But maybe having 3 hard battles on a row before the plot starts to show itself is a bit of a killer. 

    -I still refuse to put an autosave feature (because of plot and mechanics reasons), but how about giving some warnings without breaking the 4th wall? I just didn't want to break inmersion by reminding the player to save before game overs...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2014
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