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View Full Version : [Campaing] General Writing Criticism



FluffyOne
01-30-2016, 05:50 PM
Oh boy, you thought we were done with the wall of text? No way buddy, we're just getting started with the whole bloody thing and that's purely because I genuinely like the game, which is why I like to rant and rave about it, hopefully getting people to think the way I do. Before starting off going to clarify that I made this thread here at the suggestion of Starshield, if it's not the proper place let me know and I'll move it to the Lore subforum / Chronicles mega-thread and delete this one, or do it yourselves if you'd rather not wait for my response. Also sorry for being so harsh on you Roost, regarding the second dungeon for the Shin'hare, but I stand by it.

Spoiler warnings below

Now, where to start, where to start. Why not the Castle itself, everybody's favorite, eh? I'll go up from there as far as my memory allows me so do feel free to chime in and correct me where I'm objectively wrong, or anywhere else for that matter, the more the merrier. Ideas themselves can't get better without some stern criticism after all. I'll use the Coyotle starter this time around since it's fresher in my memory.

The entire starter sequence, that is to say, the Coyotle main camp is more or less completely fine as it stands. Even then, it could stand a few bits of improvements here and there that aren't entirely tied to the grand scheme of things, but are more quality of life improvements that will set the players expectations higher and offer him a more enjoyable experience in this whole thing. One thing would be interactivity with the NPC's, and this is honestly an issue that plagues a lot of the conversations from what I've say but we'll get to those in a bit. It feels as if a fair share of what the PC answers in response to conversation pieces is simply there to give the illusion of a conversation instead of actually carrying one out. Many times NPC's would completely ignore what the PC adds into the conversation at that specific point in time and will continue on to ramble about their own thing. I realize Coyotle are supposed to be the mystics that speak in riddles and all that crap, but the writing itself in this cases is not speaking in riddles, its simply ignoring the PC and force feeding more information down his throat.

There's an easy fix for that, really, but I do agree it will be time consuming as in a perfect case scenario it would take into account what the PC said, their gender, and their class, and in fairy-tale land their Achievements as well, such as defeating the WormQueen later on in the campaign. The last bit would be more of a hassle than it's worth in the present, but it's something to keep in mind. Before dropping it completely, let me give an example using the starter town itself. Let's assume it happens later in the act and you somehow managed to defeat the WormQueen. It doesn't have to be spelt out for the player, I found most people generally hate it when it happens, me included, because it feels too forced. It can be acknowledged non-verbally, such as describing a glint of pride and admiration in one's eyes, the rigidity of their posture in front of you denoting their respect, the tone of their voice faltering or being overblown, or even that faint, unmistakable smirk crawling across the corners of their lips now that they are standing in front of a real hero. This would of course constract a more natural predisposition towards the PC if they did NOT defeat the Worm Queen. It may seem hard to pick up without hearing other players were reacted differently to or testing it yourself, but that's a crucial part of the whole thing. When somebody hears that subtle nods and intricacies like that are present within the game, they grow even more immersed within it and more curious as to what else changes depending on your actions, pushing players to obtain a larger repeat value through satisfying this odd curiosity of theirs that simply ticks off the switch in their brain that makes them go :

"I like this. This is good. This is great, actually, and I want to see more of it!"

Going off of that, a lot of stuff requires more descriptions. I may be butchering the quotes here since I'm not an English native speaker, but the phrases:

Actions speak louder than words & A picture tells a thousand words

Are cornerstones of writing as far as I'm aware. One can forcefully make almost everything pass through the lens of dialogue, which in Hex's case is not that desired due to the aforementioned issue, but the whole product would suffer as a result of this. Let's take, as an example, the opening town for Coyotles again, more exactly the opening conversation. If I remember right, the NPC you speak to complains near the end of his pupils messing up their tasks and almost frying him with thunder. This could of been portrayed so, so much better through descriptions instead of mere dialogue. Imagine, if you will, that instead of hearing the NPC telling you to be careful since apparently his students almost zapped him, you had something akin to :

"Swift, resounding crack echo through your quivering ears as every last muscled hidden beneath the coat of fur and flesh tense involuntarily, streaks of white flashing through your fluttering eyes as the man before you hops towards the side. Thin pillars of smoke rise from the smouldering ground beneath as the grass itself was burnt to a cinder, the unbearable stench itself pouring through your twitching nostrils. Quickly glancing towards the side, you see your companion tilting his head to the side to peer into the blinding sky above, the corners of his lips curled upwards into a wry smirk."

Again, forgive my shit English and writing skills, but you get the point I believe? The first part plainly states that something has happened that startled the character, something that shouldn't be a rare occurrence considering lighting itself had struck the ground near them, and one's body reacts independently of your orders when it feels that it is in danger. The second part is supposed to hint at what exactly caused this disturbance, the flash of white before and the burnt out ground beneath you being clear indicators of thunder itself. The stench itself is mainly a bonus that incorporates the characters, and thus the players, sense into it to better help immerse them. The last bit is supposed to help the player feel less threatened, as if their Elder is not panicking or sounding an alarm of sorts, it's to be guessed that it's merely an accident instead of an attack. Of course, mayhaps some players won't figure it out and panic.

And then we get into the next portion. Meaningful decisions, even if ever so slightly. Using the example from before, let's say we give the player the choice of either running, standing their ground near the NPC, panicking, or instantly attack back without a second thought. Each of this can give a different choice of dialogue from the NPC and, in a perfect world, affect how they are going to react to them in the future. But just being able to react more naturally in a situation like that and receive the proper response would both help players be more immersed while also just feeling more natural than just having the NPC shrug it off and the PC not reacting. For reference, I consider the Dryad that one of the gnomes is in love with the pinnacle of the campaign as far as I have played. That's not saying much since she is rather mediocre in a way, from a story perspective, but you've done good! You've done excellently with the route in which you confront her about the gnome's love for her and press the issue that he is truly in love! That is more of what I want to see, because it was good writing, it directly engaged the player and gave them a proper reward for prodding further, and the aftermath with the gnome himself was also great! Sadly its the highlight, but hey, it proves you're on the right track!

Now, it's bloody late here so I'm probably going to start babbling from this point onwards, but bear with me here.

Let's talk about the worst point of the game, story-wise that is, for me. That, my friends, is the bloody Dreamscape. Now don't get me wrong here. The encounters themselves were fun and varied, they made sense, and I personally enjoyed the whole quiz thingy. Answers could of been a bit better but it was overall fun. And then you get to the Dream Mother and it all takes a trip down South like you wouldn't believe. Like, holy hell was that bad. To summarize this whole thing, if you do not agree completely with the Dream Mother, it's the equivalent of spitting in her coffee and she ends up trying to smack the shit-eating grin outta ya' for good. That parts good, don't get me wrong, the next part is utter crap. If you did not agree with her and she tried to fight you for that perceived slight, you are instnatly greeted with the most blatant example of railroading I have ever seen in my life in a game. You might as well have replaced that with :

"Ok now go find the McGuffyn and do thing that I will be obtuse about because I'm a talking dog and that's just how we are, also I won't tell you exactly where to find thing or how to find thing because I don't care enough but you have to find thing either way because we programmed it so it's needed to advance the main story so now you gotta do it and you automatically accept and stuff. Got all that? No? Too bad, cya."

A smaller issue like this can be seen in the Gnome rescue quest. Why I cannot simply save the guy I was after and lead him back to the cave, offer him to his companion, and demand my reward no matter what while leaving the others to die is beyond me. Reasons are aplenty, ranging from couldn't be bothered to the fight was too hard, if not outright impossible so you saved as many as you could. Of course, give a highly reduced reward, if any at all that is, but make it an option. Engage the players, give them agency, make them feel like their decisions matter!

FluffyOne
01-30-2016, 05:50 PM
Now, we come to my favorite part. Oh boy, the bloody Fort. Second dungeon in the game, written by Roost apparently. I already said sorry at the start Roost, I'm gonna say it again, but I regret abso-bloody-lutely nothing in roasting you mate. Now, quick recap, this is from a Shin'hare Warrior playthrough. It starts off innocent enough as is I'd say, pretty decent really. Humans captured a fort from the Necrotic and are holding it with a small, wounded, exhausted task force. You get sent in to scout, hopefully route them out if possible, and retake it for the Underworld. Each fight offers you a reward to use in the "Boss" Fight of this dungeon which I liked, even if they are obligatory, but it's the thought that counts. This one also gets props for properly responding to your dialogue choices, even if they were standard / basic as hell. The first time I got in the command quarters and saw that letter, and noticed the fact it was written in fresh ink, I was like :

"Pfft, nea, sod of ya' lying prick, I bet I'd find ink on your fingers if I bothered, you wrote this crap because I assaulted the stables first."

But then they come. Not one, not two, but THREE of the bloody fricking Lord-Generals! I don't know my Lore well but I'm pretty bloody sure those twats ain't got any freaking reason to be that bloody close to the front-line all bunched up together at a measly freaking fort that's changed hands this past 200 years more than I changed my damn socks this past month! The mechanics of the fight itself is cool but the story aspect is pure, grade A, power-fantasy-fetish-tripping wank material! Which is a damn bloody shame considering how good the first half was all in all! Like, the worst part isn't even that they are all there! It's that one sodding Wabbit holds off an entire division of flying units all by himself and some twenty bloody bows in an archer tower, an entire division of hit-and-run specialist with a couple of cauldrons of boiling oil, and an entire flipping army with a single catapult shot! One rabbit! ONE! UNO! AND THEN A FEW FLIPPING THOUSAND RABBITS RUN OUT OF THE WOODWORK ONCE YOU'RE DONE DEFEATING THEM! WHY COULDN'T THEY COME BEFORE THE ATTACK COMMENCED AND HAVE IT MAKE SOME BLOODY SENSE?!

I'm going on a tangent here and it's late, but bottom line bloody stands. There's potential here, there seriously is, but the main problem is settling for mediocrity. You could do better, you definitely have it in you. Everything about the first half of the fort and the first half of the Dreamscape dungeons shows you can, you just settled for average and hoped it would be enough, thinking the encounters alone will carry this through! Sincerely they don't, but I'll chalk that up as me having a crap deck. Like, Roost, I'm focusing so much on your ass because you showed the most potential in all of this. You had the perfect idea, you knew how to execute it well, but you stumbled and fell down a continuous flight of stairs to the bottom of the abyss with the later half and the ending especially.

I'm fairly certain I'm missing stuff here, especially since I havn't played through all of it yet or with most classes. You know the drill folks, criticize my opinions and talk points, talk about 'em, whatever. Long as the devs take something positive away from this I'm happy.

OH AND BEFORE I BLOODY FORGET! The training fight with the Coyotle is stupid as hell. "Omens are speaking young ooooooone . . . k get your duel disk on sucker, it's dueling time, no bloody fade out-fade in here!"