Piece by Piece (Episode One)
||The Conquerors 1.0c
||Role Playing Strategy
This is the second AoK Heaven Scenario Design Forum Community project.
Completed between February and September 2007, Piece by Piece (Episode 1) is the work of 23 individual designers. Each was given four days to showcase their work.
newidea, who co-orinated the original project, said:
"The idea for this map is to have a scenario completely influenced by AoKH. The goal is not to make the prettiest looking map, nor to make the most intricate triggers. The goal is to see how a community, like ours, can work together to achieve a goal. It is actually more of an experiment in this way. The goal I speak of, is to make a scenario that has map design and triggers from many different designers."
Although completed after Piece by Piece, it is a prequel, set shortly before the events that occurred in the original.
The story is set long ago, in a land far away, when magic and sorcery abounded. It tells the tale of a young man, Charles, who is plunged into an adventure seemingly beyond his control...
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This is the 2nd installment of the piece by piece series by the scenario design community. Chronologically, it is a prequel to the first piece by piece. It was designed in a similar way and the end result is better than the original.
This game makes some significant improvements over the first Piece by Piece but also has the same difficult to overcome shortfalls. One of these is the structure of the gameplay. While it is still set up as a series of tasks or obstacles, they are now relevant and connected to the bigger picture and the main story. Also, this time around you make some progress towards your goal throughout the game instead of just going through the motions to reach the final square.
While the focus of the gameplay and relevance to the story did improve, the quality of the individual tasks is still lacking. Some of them are frustrating, most of them are mediocre, and a few are good. Basically, some of the tasks are chores, most are filler, while others are fun. There was a lot of looking around and waiting while nothing important or exciting happened such as when Henry enjoys his meal and when the villagers chop the tree. Although it is fine to cut a path or to wait for someone, try keeping the player away from boredom during that waiting period.
Although this doesn't hurt the score, I personally would have preferred more strategy, combat, and choice. Instead of feeling like Charles, I felt like an observer watching him or telling him to perform the necessary actions. The only option I remember having in the game (to fight the slavers or to pay them) did not even work. (When i click the militia it executes the paying sequence, and when I click the skirmisher nothing happened.) Basically there was a lot of watching and walking, but not enough doing (meaning my brain was actively engaged in performing an interesting action).
Although there were no random explosions and hard-to-avoid deaths this time (which is a good thing), there were still some frustrating parts. I had a simple task of getting berries, but I touched six or seven different bushes before I came back to the first one and struggled to actually reach it. I think that is an example of the wrong type of difficulty.
Much of the game was also too straightforward and easy. One of the supposedly powerful monsters (the monkey-like evil spirit that gives you the "S") just stands there while you shoot arrows at him. On the other hand, I thought the tomb and the sneaking past the guards were two well balanced parts - a little challenging but easy once you logically figured out what to do.
This does not affect the score, but I would have enjoyed some non-frustrating challenge in the non-combat portions. Basically, I would appreciate something to make me think.
23 minds working instead of 1 makes creativity much easier to achieve. The humor, while not laugh out loud funny in most cases, was a welcome touch. There were some things I had never seen before, and combining different styles into one piece makes it creative.
Although getting a good score (according to these guidelines) in this category should not be too hard for a project like this, there is still significant room for improvement. Moving in a linear snake-like path is no longer original or exciting, and it would be more creative if this was changed in the future. (Or you could just change the name to a more appropriate Serpentine ;))
Map Design: 4
Just in terms of visuals, the map is fine. It is not amazingly atmospheric, but the standard for visuals is not that high. Some squares are better than others, but I do not complain that they should be prettier or more detailed. However, the map design's contribution to the game extends beyond visuals and it has the same issues as the first Piece by Piece.
The trouble area for this map is its relationship to the gameplay. The game is primarily an adventure, but it is very obvious where you have to go. The player feels very restricted and has no control over his or her actions. Solid walls of trees (or cliffs or mountains) channel him in one direction only.
This could have used some hints to relieve some of the frustration and make some parts easier for those that had difficulty. Although I do not care much for English errors, the guidelines do. Any of the team members could aid with proofreading and helping those who either are not experts at English or just do not care about the mistakes.
Content-wise the story is of comparable quality to its sequel. I found it interesting and mysterious. An area in which Episode One made significant improvement is the story's presentation. For the most part, it was developed well throughout the story. There are still unanswered questions, and several pieces are missing. Also, the six letters seemed to be the crux of the mystery, but I had the word guessed as soon as I knew how long it was. Knowing what was coming way ahead of time reduced the suspense much more than it increased my satisfaction that I "solved" a mystery.
Working together can be a lot more than arranging individual work in a sequence. This game is a much better example of that and a much better game than the original. Both ventures were successful in that they achieved their goals which did not include a particular blacksmith score. My review is restricted to my experience with the final product as a game (which has much room for improvement), not as a community project. The words of a gamer and reviewer only try to capture and judge the quality of the game.
My words as a designer are that my comments (both for this game and the first) may be insignificant. Some things that may result in a better game might be too troublesome to achieve and may detract from your goal of enjoying designing and working as a team. We are all here to have fun, and the reality is that there are no longer 25,000 people who can have fun playing your game. Decide whether it is more important to have fun designing and cater to your needs or to satisfy an unnamed reviewer's desire to play a masterpiece. When the reviews for both projects say "fix this" or "change that" I am not personally advocating that it is the best course of action. I believe that advice would result in a better game, but it might not be a better project. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I realize my reviews sound harsh and am just saying that the score or game quality are not necessarily the important things. Have fun and keep up the good work.