Author Topic: My considered critique:  (Read 1488 times)

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Dearmad

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My considered critique:
« on: November 24, 2014, 11:10:46 AM »
Hi Log,

First off, obviously, I am a backer, so believe me when I say I want this game to work and be great... but you're going to have to face some real criticisms in order to get there:

The game has a lot of flaws. A lot. And I don't mean at the technical level of the program, it runs brilliantly at this stage, with some minor UI issues to fix... the core flaws, as I see them are in the actual design and implementation of the game:

Winning:
Achievable by Prestige, or overcoming trials and the king for the most part.  There is one other way, but I've not explored that one in depth.

The Prestige win is a runaway situation where luck (the royal halbard or whatever, for example) and cheesy tactics (take a village, back off, retake it, repeat ad nauseum, and the geography of the board play too high a role without the player decisions mattering as much. The inherent strategies available to a character for winning by prestige are weak and the situational ones by luck are too strong. It means that the chance for me to make "interesting decisions" is too low.

The king trial: this is a combat and dice rolling end game- the dice rolling endgame would be dependent on building up a deck to get the right combos, and the combat on having enough dice/defense and timing to manage the king. Sounds good so far, except my card hand is swapped out against my will entirely so many times in this game that there is no sense of directionality to which way my deck building is going- in other words, I should be able to slowly, inevitably build up a deck without another player managing, deus ex machina style- to strip that tactic away from me at the last minute. That is sooo cheesy and cheap.  Take a look at how boardgame deckbuilders are designed and notice the limited impact other players are allowed on that mechanic. Some impact is OK, but not TOTAL impact at the last minute as I prepare to march against the king... unless it required some teamwork on my opponent's part to pull that off... 

Really, one card = my entire deck stripped?  No no no... not fun and stripped of real strategy.

Let's cover some of the problematic mechanics to the game:
If I am NOT interested in building up a deck for the endgame, so I'm going for a Prestige win, when other players strip my hand, this is often a great thing as I get to redraw my entire hand? Seems like I'm griping about the deck aspect of the game... it should be a slower more interesting process, not so totally random like it is. I like the three decks idea to help shape your added powers, but you didn't follow up on this and give the player a sense of progress in this mechanic.

Combat:
Ugh. This is way too wobbly a mechanic right now with players killing each other all the time, which is novel the first time, but just... feels, odd after awhile. And the death penalty is pretty much nothing as there is no real area control mechanic to the game, it is more a power drop mechanic to the board that you have going on. So moving back to my home turf is no big deal, who cares. I don't even lose my deck when I die??

Given there is no area control aspect to the game (really- the villages change hands freely), when I once controlled 4 villages it dawned on me that all that money was worthless since I could not also super charge my deck and spend to play cards on players any more rapidly.  So... the one area control mechanic is pretty pointless. Having one settlement is enough.No reward for a player who deviously manages to get a lot.

If a evil guy parks on a village and swipes it, that hurts a little, but... the only interesting area control part of the game that I've seen is when a Royal Guard lands on my village and as a by product protects it from the other players. Nice... but... ultimately random, nothing I controlled (like a card to play to invite them to a party?) or anything...

Again, the limited choices players get to make in the game are not very interesting ultimately, and mostly this is due to no strong game mechanic being affot for a player to say, oh, I'll use this one to work my way toward vicotry: area control? deck building? character development for combat (partial deck building, playing, map tactics- mountains for example, or stealth), etc...

What is the game's mainline vision on the mechanics it wants to have? Right now you have no real focus.  Study some more boardgames and refine the focus, please. As is this game is not going to get a good response by the general public.

Absolutely beautiful art presentation, gorgeous design and  intriguing theme, but ultimately that amounts to the flavor text of a game. Where are the decisions, the plans, the strategy, the use of resources (cards, terrain, character dev.), that ultimately steer a player toward their attempt at victory? Each mechanic should not be locked into each type of victory, but a mechanic should have crossover potential with each victory type so that it isn't lock-in and go without bends in the game's narrative arc.

Thanks for letting us beta this. I really hope it can get its legs, and I hope I can help contribute to that.


Leftcross

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Re: My considered critique:
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2014, 05:35:05 PM »
A bit pointed, sure, but I think everyone here knows you just want the game to be the best it can be.

Some of what you mention is nothing new, and LoG cares about its community too much not to take the clamor seriously. The endgame has got to change, and it will, eventually. Logic would say that they would be tackling the bug fixes first. Also, those decks are nowhere near complete. I am sure there will be some high-cost, gamechanging spells to legitimize caster characters, and more high profile trickeries (like the freaking amazing Game of Thorns).

You did get me thinking about something that has not oft been discussed, and that is character death. It certainly needs to feel more like a penalty to, well...discourage the player from having it happen to them. Got me thinking...if you legitimately slay a hero (i.e. you are standing at the end), it would be sweet if you could choose a penalty to impose on them. Examples...lose some gold, lose prestige, gain rot, be stripped of an item or follower of the victor's choice, or lose your entire hand. Your opponent would be able to gauge which victory path you are going for, and deal you a serious setback. If you have been nearly untouchable with that Royal Shield or have been prestige farming with the Lord's Scepter, strategies might have to change when you die.

And repeating for the 371,292nd time...at least one innate special talent per character is coming, and they will be awesome. -^^-

Anyway, I think most of us feel some of your pain. Most of the single player experience feels like the AI foaming at the mouth while chanting "must...have...settlements!

Snacuum

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Re: My considered critique:
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2014, 05:41:21 PM »
This is some pretty nice feedback, very honest and constructive and that's definitely what is needed in today's gamers.
Of course the feedback section is for discussion, and look out, I've got a reputation for discussing!

First I just want to ask if you're aware of how a Beta works in project planning. A game's Beta phase typically means that the game is 'content complete' (bar expansion material). That means the core elements, gameplay mechanics and systems have been finished to the point that only bug-fixing, tweaking variables etc. can now be done. Sure there's plenty of flaws left in Armello and a smaller indie studio such as the LoG is better equipped to change parts of the game, but I'm concerned that some of the changes you'd like to see are too deep to be achieved at this stage.

That said, all feedback is important, no, vital at these stages - plus I'm sure the devs have had enough of us Alpha guys telling them they're doing the right thing. Hah, if the current state of the game is no-good then well... blame us!

Quote
cheesy tactics (take a village, back off, retake it, repeat ad nauseum, and the geography of the board play too high a role without the player decisions mattering as much.

This is really interesting. It appears the Beta players (not just you) have noticed the deficiency of early and late game settlements gameplay. Players like me didn't notice since a) I didn't play into the above strategy - settlements were just another 'thing' on the board that's good to get, but nothing to worry about losing to another player since I had bigger fish to fry. It is true however, that as the game goes on, the effort to claim settlements has diminishing returns. While I have no problem with the early squabble over settlements, I do have a problem with the late-game.

Quote
The king trial: this is a combat and dice rolling end game- the dice rolling endgame would be dependent on building up a deck to get the right combos, and the combat on having enough dice/defense and timing to manage the king. Sounds good so far, except my card hand is swapped out against my will entirely so many times in this game that there is no sense of directionality to which way my deck building is going- in other words, I should be able to slowly, inevitably build up a deck without another player managing, deus ex machina style- to strip that tactic away from me at the last minute. That is sooo cheesy and cheap.  Take a look at how boardgame deckbuilders are designed and notice the limited impact other players are allowed on that mechanic. Some impact is OK, but not TOTAL impact at the last minute as I prepare to march against the king... unless it required some teamwork on my opponent's part to pull that off... 

Yeah I do think the Palace perils need work and I was never really a fan of on wits/spirit perils change. But hey I've failed now 'cause I've got no idea how to fix this!

I disagree with the points you make about deck-building though. I don't think this is considered a deck-building game and I've never played it as one. I rarely attempt to retain a useful deck and spend my cards as much as possible to make sure I can reap the rewards early. This might be because of the game's in-built end-game timer (King dies) and see no point in patiently waiting for a winning deck. So if that's what you're trying to do then yeah I can see how swiped cards will be irritating.

On that not though, I'll say again that I must play all the wrong board games or something... in the card and board games I've played I would be lucky to hold on to my cards for a few turns. They're either spent as part of regular gameplay, or the swiping/losing of my hand is encouraged by the multiplayer mechanics.

Quote
it should be a slower more interesting process, not so totally random like it is. I like the three decks idea to help shape your added powers, but you didn't follow up on this and give the player a sense of progress in this mechanic.

That's because there is no mechanic. The card system in this game is essentially a move/item system. Beyond Wits stat, holding cards and drawing cards has no inherent climactic feature. Although it's true that while cards are a commodity in Armello, their usefulness is tantamount; players with more wits/cards often have a leading edge.

Slowing down the systems would be quite hard. Not because it can't be done (lol turn-based) but because PC is not the only platform. Matches can't afford to drag on in the tablet versions. Those platforms and their user-base prefer shorter gaming sessions. Right now multiplayer matches average about an hour - which is plenty enough.

Quote
Ugh. This is way too wobbly a mechanic right now with players killing each other all the time, which is novel the first time, but just... feels, odd after awhile. And the death penalty is pretty much nothing as there is no real area control mechanic to the game, it is more a power drop mechanic to the board that you have going on. So moving back to my home turf is no big deal, who cares. I don't even lose my deck when I die??

That's untrue that there's no area control. Perils, swamps, mountains, banes, and King's Guard all heavily affect where and how you can move on the board. You can't own areas of the board a la RISK but I'd say that's because currently the board is so small. Death is an important setback in a game with a time-limit. Whatever progress you've made across the board was lost, and your opponent gets closer to winning don't forget.

Quote
when I once controlled 4 villages it dawned on me that all that money was worthless since I could not also super charge my deck and spend to play cards on players any more rapidly.  So... the one area control mechanic is pretty pointless. Having one settlement is enough.No reward for a player who deviously manages to get a lot.

I'm not sure what you mean with "supercharging your deck and play cards more rapidly". Do you mean to use gold to buy cards or magic? You can already play cards quite freely, I think you can only not play a card on the opponents whose turn it is.

Players mostly get income through settlements, so if you have a bunch then it would actually be pretty good. I've run out of gold constantly.

Quote
If a evil guy parks on a village and swipes it, that hurts a little, but... the only interesting area control part of the game that I've seen is when a Royal Guard lands on my village and as a by product protects it from the other players. Nice... but... ultimately random, nothing I controlled (like a card to play to invite them to a party?) or anything...

That sounds like a really cool idea for a card.

Quote
What is the game's mainline vision on the mechanics it wants to have? Right now you have no real focus.  Study some more boardgames and refine the focus, please. As is this game is not going to get a good response by the general public.

This is why I love discussing this stuff. On one hand the game is unfocused and needs renewal. On the other, it's doing alright sans bugs.

Quote
Where are the decisions, the plans, the strategy, the use of resources (cards, terrain, character dev.), that ultimately steer a player toward their attempt at victory? Each mechanic should not be locked into each type of victory, but a mechanic should have crossover potential with each victory type so that it isn't lock-in and go without bends in the game's narrative arc.

It's interesting you say that since that's exactly what I think Armello is doing. With enough new content in the form of characters, cards, custom goals, quests, tilesets etc. It will provide immersion, variety and strategy hand-in-hand.

------
PS. It may sound like I'm being a high'n'mighty Alpha backer telling you that you're playing the game wrong. But I'm really not since that's a fallacy and there no right way to experience media. Multiple perspectives, communication styles etc. interest me so discussing game mechanics is just kinda neat.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2014, 05:55:59 PM by Snacuum »

Alvorn

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Re: My considered critique:
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2014, 01:26:17 PM »

Of course the feedback section is for discussion, and look out, I've got a reputation for discussing!
And Snacuum’s got nothing on me for long winded responses !
;)
That said, all feedback is important, no, vital at these stages - plus I'm sure the devs have had enough of us Alpha guys telling them they're doing the right thing. Hah, if the current state of the game is no-good then well... blame us!
Yup we are the culprits just as much as the LoG crew  but as Snacuum said, all feedback is vital. I talked with Ty about this at PAX and he said that as Game Dev’s they have to have tough skin and its this sort of robust discussion that helps to “pummel” the game into shape !
The Prestige win is a runaway situation where luck (the royal halbard or whatever, for example) and cheesy tactics (take a village, back off, retake it, repeat ad nauseum, and the geography of the board play too high a role without the player decisions mattering as much.
This is really interesting. It appears the Beta players (not just you) have noticed the deficiency of early and late game settlements gameplay. Players like me didn't notice since a) I didn't play into the above strategy - settlements were just another 'thing' on the board that's good to get, but nothing to worry about losing to another player since I had bigger fish to fry. It is true however, that as the game goes on, the effort to claim settlements has diminishing returns. While I have no problem with the early squabble over settlements, I do have a problem with the late-game.
To gain prestige by taking and then retaking a village, is cheesy but then again the same could be said of farming dungeon (step onto it, step of, step back one etc etc) But it’s far more difficult to farm prestige from a village than it is to farm a dungeon.
You normally don’t gain prestige for taking a village, you only do this if you have a certain item equipped (sorry can’t remember its name, I think it’s the Royal Sceptre). So first of all you need to be lucky enough to get this from the deck. Then secondly you should only get the prestige back if you reclaim the village i.e. someone else needs to take it before you get it back, it shouldn’t just work by walking on and of the village over and over again. In fact if it does work that way, it’s a bug and you should report in the bug thread 
However I think you general point is that its too easy to get a Prestige victory at the moment, this feedback has come up a lot. I agree that it is the easiest of the ways to win BUT I don’t think its to easy. If you keep a track of the other players and who is where in the prestige stakes you can change your tactics to knee cap them.
And I’m sure you have heard it before, there is still a lot of content to come (new cards, hero talents etc) and LoG have acknowledged that the AI is overly simple at the moment and will be overhauled before launch.
I believe that Prestige will ultimately remain a very important resource in the game, but I don’t think that
The inherent strategies available to a character for winning by prestige are weak and the situational ones by luck are too strong. It means that the chance for me to make "interesting decisions" is too low.
Yup I agree, to an extent. Prestige wins are the easiest to achive and as the other game mechanics aren’t fleshed out completely, it’s hard for other strategies to win.
The king trial: this is a combat and dice rolling end game- the dice rolling endgame would be dependent on building up a deck to get the right combos, and the combat on having enough dice/defense and timing to manage the king. Sounds good so far, except my card hand is swapped out against my will entirely so many times in this game that there is no sense of directionality to which way my deck building is going- in other words, I should be able to slowly, inevitably build up a deck without another player managing, deus ex machina style- to strip that tactic away from me at the last minute. That is sooo cheesy and cheap.  Take a look at how boardgame deckbuilders are designed and notice the limited impact other players are allowed on that mechanic. Some impact is OK, but not TOTAL impact at the last minute as I prepare to march against the king... unless it required some teamwork on my opponent's part to pull that off...
Really, one card = my entire deck stripped?  No no no... not fun and stripped of real strategy.
Yeah I do think the Palace perils need work and I was never really a fan of on wits/spirit perils change. But hey I've failed now 'cause I've got no idea how to fix this!
I disagree with the points you make about deck-building though. I don't think this is considered a deck-building game and I've never played it as one. I rarely attempt to retain a useful deck and spend my cards as much as possible to make sure I can reap the rewards early. This might be because of the game's in-built end-game timer (King dies) and see no point in patiently waiting for a winning deck. So if that's what you're trying to do then yeah I can see how swiped cards will be irritating.
On that not though, I'll say again that I must play all the wrong board games or something... in the card and board games I've played I would be lucky to hold on to my cards for a few turns. They're either spent as part of regular gameplay, or the swiping/losing of my hand is encouraged by the multiplayer mechanics.
I don’t see Armello as a deck building game along the lines of Magic. Yes there are cards and yes there are decks, but ultimately these are just resources you burn through. The game is to short and the cards to random to base a while strategy around the off chance you might get the exact cards you are after. More specifically the game has built in “disruption” points which mean that this kind of approach is only made harder. i.e. other players and perils can steal your cards and as you point out there is no way you can stop them. Even equipped items can be stolen. And this is half the fun of multiplayer. Hearing the cries of your foes over Skype (or in future as you all sit around the room on your iPads) as you pinch there relic. Yes it can be frustrating, but its also a hell of a lot of fun.
When I play I like to concentrate on the cards that I have and figure out the best use for them over the next 2-3 turns. Any longer than that and it just doesn’t work. Or in other words I try not to put all my eggs into the one basket.
Let's cover some of the problematic mechanics to the game:
If I am NOT interested in building up a deck for the endgame, so I'm going for a Prestige win, when other players strip my hand, this is often a great thing as I get to redraw my entire hand? Seems like I'm griping about the deck aspect of the game... it should be a slower more interesting process, not so totally random like it is. I like the three decks idea to help shape your added powers, but you didn't follow up on this and give the player a sense of progress in this mechanic.
That's because there is no mechanic. The card system in this game is essentially a move/item system. Beyond Wits stat, holding cards and drawing cards has no inherent climactic feature. Although it's true that while cards are a commodity in Armello, their usefulness is tantamount; players with more wits/cards often have a leading edge.
Slowing down the systems would be quite hard. Not because it can't be done (lol turn-based) but because PC is not the only platform. Matches can't afford to drag on in the tablet versions. Those platforms and their user-base prefer shorter gaming sessions. Right now multiplayer matches average about an hour - which is plenty enough.
I agree with Snaccum. See my points above. There is no deck building mechanic.
Combat:
Ugh. This is way too wobbly a mechanic right now with players killing each other all the time, which is novel the first time, but just... feels, odd after awhile. And the death penalty is pretty much nothing as there is no real area control mechanic to the game, it is more a power drop mechanic to the board that you have going on. So moving back to my home turf is no big deal, who cares. I don't even lose my deck when I die??
At the beginning on the game not so much as you aren’t toi far form your clan grounds and the first couple of quests always seem to be near home. Later in the game, when your quest in on the other side of the board, dieing is  pain in the arse. BUT if your not chasing quests then yes there isn’t  a huge penalty for dieing. If your tactic for a game is to hunt banes, or other players then if you die you just refocus on the one that is closest to your clan grounds. Unllike quests, your not just limited to the one specific tile  There has been discussion before about quest’s closing after certain number of turns and then a new one appearing next turn. Im not sure if that will make it into the game or not, but would be a different twist.
 
Given there is no area control aspect to the game (really- the villages change hands freely), when I once controlled 4 villages it dawned on me that all that money was worthless since I could not also super charge my deck and spend to play cards on players any more rapidly.  So... the one area control mechanic is pretty pointless. Having one settlement is enough.No reward for a player who deviously manages to get a lot.
I'm not sure what you mean with "supercharging your deck and play cards more rapidly". Do you mean to use gold to buy cards or magic? You can already play cards quite freely, I think you can only not play a card on the opponents whose turn it is.
Players mostly get income through settlements, so if you have a bunch then it would actually be pretty good. I've run out of gold constantly.
That's untrue that there's no area control. Perils, swamps, mountains, banes, and King's Guard all heavily affect where and how you can move on the board. You can't own areas of the board a la RISK but I'd say that's because currently the board is so small. Death is an important setback in a game with a time-limit. Whatever progress you've made across the board was lost, and your opponent gets closer to winning don't forget.
Nothing to add here. Snaccum covered it quite well.
If a evil guy parks on a village and swipes it, that hurts a little, but... the only interesting area control part of the game that I've seen is when a Royal Guard lands on my village and as a by product protects it from the other players. Nice... but... ultimately random, nothing I controlled (like a card to play to invite them to a party?) or anything...
That sounds like a really cool idea for a card.
Yup I agree. Check out this post which covers off on some ideas for making the evil guys more evil, by allowing the play to play cards on them. http://leagueofgeeks.com/forums/index.php?topic=412.msg4357#msg4357
Again, the limited choices players get to make in the game are not very interesting ultimately, and mostly this is due to no strong game mechanic being affot for a player to say, oh, I'll use this one to work my way toward vicotry: area control? deck building? character development for combat (partial deck building, playing, map tactics- mountains for example, or stealth), etc...
I can see where your coming from, but the mechanics you have called out aren’t mechanics for this game, thus the reason you may find it so frustrating.
What is the game's mainline vision on the mechanics it wants to have? Right now you have no real focus.  Study some more boardgames and refine the focus, please. As is this game is not going to get a good response by the general public.
This is why I love discussing this stuff. On one hand the game is unfocused and needs renewal. On the other, it's doing alright sans bugs.
From what I know of the LoG Crew I don’t think they need to study more board games  (Trent actually teaches game design). They have a clear vision for mainline mechanics, its just we ar coming in a little early so not all of those mechanics are in place just yet.
 
Absolutely beautiful art presentation, gorgeous design and  intriguing theme, but ultimately that amounts to the flavor text of a game. Where are the decisions, the plans, the strategy, the use of resources (cards, terrain, character dev.), that ultimately steer a player toward their attempt at victory? Each mechanic should not be locked into each type of victory, but a mechanic should have crossover potential with each victory type so that it isn't lock-in and go without bends in the game's narrative arc.
It's interesting you say that since that's exactly what I think Armello is doing. With enough new content in the form of characters, cards, custom goals, quests, tilesets etc. It will provide immersion, variety and strategy hand-in-hand.
Again I agree with Snacum here.
Thanks for letting us beta this. I really hope it can get its legs, and I hope I can help contribute to that.

Snacuum

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Re: My considered critique:
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2014, 05:43:30 PM »
Quote
And Snacuum’s got nothing on me for long winded responses !
;)

C'mon. Lets take this outside.

Alvorn

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Re: My considered critique:
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2014, 09:03:24 PM »
Quote
And Snacuum’s got nothing on me for long winded responses !
;)

C'mon. Lets take this outside.

Ill need that challenge written as at least a 3 page disitation before i would seriously consider it.

 ;)