Report on Transcendence Design

Post ideas & suggestions you have pertaining to the game here.
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Shaman
Commonwealth Pilot
Commonwealth Pilot
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Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:03 pm

Someone on IRC:

Okay, where to start...
Let's start with the beginning of the game
Not the beginning beginning, but the first thing the player experiences when double-clicking on the EXE
They see the nice menu screen.
The combat happening front and center is a nice grab, and definitely is an eye-catcher
One of the issues with it is the lack of intuitive interactivity with it
Not to mention the fact that you can't really see what's happening with it
The first-time Transcendence player is going to see some pretty lights, and upon staring at it for an excessive amount of time (10 seconds or so), they'll slowly begin to realize that it's a battle
Starting zoomed out, showing the two ships in combat would greatly help with this effect
It's a rather easy implementation, and has a disproportionately large effect on improvement of user experience
Also, having the controls for this background on a corner of the screen would add in that "intuitive control" aspect, despite the controls not having to be intuitive
In order to do it properly, the battle would have to have sound effects on, have a little legend on the side of the menu screen showing where the Mute key is, and also a way for users to zoom in/out of the battle
This forces the majority of users to pay attention to the pretty light show, despite the annoyance of having to mute the thing
After that, comes the music
With the current level of music development, it's sad to say, but leaving the game with no music is probably best
Many games with music usually have proper scores for each level, area, and/or a menu BGM theme, at the least
Games without music don't have any music, at all
A game that plays a single track when you turn it on, but doesn't loop it just seems sloppy to most modern gamers
As much as I love the Transcendence music, its implementation will take more work, and shouldn't be emphasized until it's ready for initial rollout

Once of the major things about indie developers these days is the increasing appearance of big-name competence and skill
Many indie devs are not only making themselves look professional, but are actually becoming big names in the industry
Supergiant, Klei, and Doublefine have become part of the million-dollar revenue club
Although most indie developers lose interest and fail, most of them are trying to make their games look polished from the get-go
Even the original Flappy Bird looked like it was polished enough to be made by a professional company
Until you play the game, and find out it's a simplistic piece of crap
The majority of revenue comes not from making a good game, like Okami or Thief, but from the game feeling totally awesome before you even payed money for it, like Halo 4
That portion of the revenue isn't nearly as affected by how good the game is, as the Smurfs 2 game and Superman 64 sales can attest to
The lesser, but still significant portion of the revenue comes from people who actually bothered to play the game
Halo 4 was a success because Halo 2 and Halo Reach were good games. Yes, they were pretty much copies of the original Halo in design, feel, and overall player experience, but they were good and designed fairly
Making a game that looks and feels nice right out of the gate, reels players in with its first hours of gameplay, and keeps the hardcore gamers going is the holy grail of games
Angry Birds did this with casual gamers and "hardcore" casual gamers
Skyrim leapfrogged off of a combination of Fallout 3 sales and Elder Scrolls Morrowind and Oblivion fans
The majority of players among the "lower" gamers bought the game because of the hype. The casual gamers played the game for a while, but heard about how awesome it was, so they continued playing.
And the hardcore 99-hr players played through enough of the game to find out that it was totally awesome, and bought the DLCs that were released after their hardcore 99-hour binge-gaming sprees were finished

The mod community also keeps the game in a perpetual state of relevance, much like Minecraft, and much like what Chucklefish is doing
One of the new things that Chucklefish has done is to actively look for mods, then take the developer and get them to have the mod put into the vanilla game
Alot of the mechs and turret ideas are simply exact ports of the mod into the vanilla code
And the community is absolutely loving it
As far as specifics for Transcendence,
I'll just skip to the final (first) point that I'll make in regards to the gameplay design
Most successful games that didn't rely on hype or previous iterations of its franchise to become successful relied on the first impression effect
The menu design was good, but the first/tutorial level was downright awesome
Megaman X was made at a time when the SNES was still reaching out to new gamers
The first level didn't have much dialogue to guide the player, but taught the player how to play the game from the beginning
egoraptor does an excellent job of detailing this level
Most modern games made by major, AAA developers will have an opening or tutorial level designed to blow peoples' socks off
They mostly do it with expensive, but gameplay-design-cheap methods, like great cinematic visuals as you walk around and expensive, orchestral music
Indie developers don't have that option
Instead, going with great narrative, like with Bastion, or not-quite, but still in-your-face introduction to gameplay elements, like with
Great, I can't remember it
I want to default to System Shock 2, Megaman X, or Metroid for SNES, but they were done by major developers
Well, moving on
The Eridani System should have some of the best gameplay elements the game has to offer
When I first heard that Heretic had minigames and an entire series of time-based combat portions, I thought that it was a mod, and I wanted to download it so bad
Much to my surprise, it was actually part of what George put into the vanilla
All of that needs to be in the Eridani portion of the game
Even if Eridani was the only area of the game to have these novel and interesting gameplay mechanics, it would reel in revenue from hype-followers, impulse buyers, and casual 3hr-then-drop-it players
Most developers know to take that money, then put it into the rest of the game so that the high-level reviewers and PewDiePies give the game good reviews that will draw the hypers and hipster crowd-followers back to the developer's subsequent releases
Revenue from the hardcore crowd is actually very little, and is almost never enough to keep a game alive
Psychonauts is one of the many examples of that
One of the biggest things that George has to do to make the game succeed is make the beginning awesome, and maybe put alot more effort into the beginning and milk initial players for cash and/or popularity
Does that sound bad? Of course it does
But in this gaming market, if you try and make a great game, you won't get anywhere if you don't have a portion of that great game there for the purpose of gaining the resources you need to get forward
I had alot to say on Dwarf Fortress, but I think I'll end my essay there.

[Continue]
Transcendence, much like Dwarf Fortress are free games, ignoring recent efforts to sell Transcendence expansions
Dwarf Fortress' revenue comes entirely from donations
Since around 2011 or so, these donations have increased to the point of giving Tarn Adams a six-figure yearly income (USD)
Most game developers will note that Dwarf Fortress' success comes almost entirely from the completely hardcore gamer market
The control scheme is crap, the sound effects were almost non-existent for most of its history, visuals are almost entirely incomprehensible to all newcomers, and the game even has bugs in it that only the most devoted of players would be capable of noticing due to the ridiculous complexity of the game
The entire popularity of the game is from its userbase and the lengths that they've gone to to popularize Slaves of Armok II
Any self-respecting graduate from an accredited gaming school wouldn't dare try to do something like Dwarf Fortress unless they were stupid, or they were the same kind of supergenious Tarn is
The game was one of the first of its kind to feature such calculational complexity that it required almost a top-of-the-line desktop PC just to run it, and it wasn't because of the graphics
It was featured in the New York Times as an "Art Game"
The procedurally generated world was one of the first to effectively create not only the places that you'll visit, but also the history and lore that the game's important names, places, and cultures are based off of
Many of the game's initial userbase was and still is based off of tabletop RPG fans
If you can get tabletop RPG fans to become part of your core playerbase, you've got a never-ending support structure that will be extremely difficult to let go
Or throw out
Or smack in the face repeatedly while calling them your little bitch.
Dwarf Fortress is known for being exceedingly harsh to its players
From what I could tell, this seems to be by design
Tarn's previous installment of Slaves of Armok was a 3D game that was pretty much Slaves of Armok II's Adventure Mode
There's even an entire forum thread devoted to problems that the game has and has had for years that's almost entirely ignored
I didn't believe the idea at first, especially since the user that showed it to me got banned for complaining
I forget his name
But the fact that Dwarf Fortress is successful is due to its reliance on a very specific and very deeply passionate userbase
So passionate that the game's design seems to be based around kicking out the small-fry and casual gamers.
Even hardcore gamers that aren't hardcore enough get kick out
The tastes of those who legitimately like the game are extraordinarily specific, but it's these players that not only keep the game going, but also cause it to thrive
"Hardcore gamer" is a rather general term
If you want in on the hardcore gamer market, you can't aim for hardcore gamers
You have to find a niche in the market, and cater your product to them
Tynan Sylvester did a fairly good job in marketing his game to disenfranchised Firefly fanatics
Bethesda took a huge bet on Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 fans and won massively
As for Transcendence,
I'm not sure what kind of hardcore gamer niche it'd fit into
*End speech*
george moromisato
Developer
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I think this is quite insightful. Please thank him/her for the feedback [or, if they're reading this, please accept my thanks!]

I agree that the first impression, and Eridani in particular, is the key. Eridani should basically be a trailer for the rest of the game, hinting at all the cool things you can do. In fact, every system should entice you to go further.
FourFire
Militia Captain
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Joined: Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:56 pm

I agree, and think that eridani can be a lot more fleshed out (I am still wondering the relevance of that special ROM, located in Arco's station... every time I hang onto it, in the futile hope that it's required in some sidequest far along which I've somehow missed every playthrough.)

I look forward to whatever you come up with.
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Tshark9999
Miner
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Joined: Sat Dec 01, 2012 8:22 pm

(I am still wondering the relevance of that special ROM, located in Arco's station... every time I hang onto it, in the futile hope that it's required in some sidequest far along which I've somehow missed every playthrough.)
This. And also the little scene with the CommonWealth Residentials. I feel that there's something deeper that I've missed on my (short) playthroughs, and it leaves something to be desired. Because of how Transcendence plays, every event I find I hang onto because I hope that there's something deeper to it. That, and I saw that you can apparently get some of your event wing mates to fall in love :P.
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