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Feedback on 5 minutes from last LiveStream: Giant Pile of Gushing Praise

AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
So, I like game design. I like narrative design. I have strong opinions.

Sometimes I keep them to myself or just tell them to my group. Today I'm gushing. About just five minutes. Five minutes from the last LiveStream. I counted first 15, then 18, then 22 separate specific perfect things that make me think this game is the best thing I have seen in so long.

Many of them are little things. Many of them are complex things. Many are personal opinion things. If I haven't managed to dissuade you from continuing reading by now, you were warned!

It begins at the 16:00 mark...

#1 - The Gateway
The concept of this gateway is such a great design point. It's large, it's glowy, it's visible from far away. A new player is immediately given a feeling of verticality, scale, and color design. If they get lost wandering around, they'll be able to easily recognize from practically full distance, where they started. If one friend logs in later than the other, or confused new players want to meet somewhere, it's unmistakable. The ruins' state immediately sets the tone, meaning that even people who don't read the story or try to play the game unlocalized have a vague idea. Perfect.

#2 - The Derailing Foxes
It only takes 20 seconds before we see an eye-catching mount. I dunno about anyone else but I don't expect to be able to ride large two-tailed foxes. I don't expect them to be able to sit. If you know even a little bit about the game, you want more. You want to understand. But the information is immediate and visceral. Love 'em or hate 'em, you won't forget them easily.

#3 - The Twin Arch Vista
I don't think environment teams do this by accident. Some of the best in the business here for sure. It might be a Tad Erlich to say this, but I do anyway. The setup of the twin arches down the first set of stairs grabs the attention immediately and landmarks the spot, and the vista that follows, points the player down a perfectly straight road, that is itself wide, clear and beautiful (I'll gush more about lighting in general later). A new player just has to walk forward. Nothing more. The fiddly type of person like me will poke themselves into everything, but the absolute, immediate, without any need for an NPC, direction given, is so good.

#4 - The Left Branch
At the bottom of those stairs you can turn left to go down a lonely looking road. You'd think there's nothing much to say about it, right? But if it is intentional, it's still glorious. Nothing to distract, nothing to make confusing, but still a perfect immediate sense of the scope of the world really early without actually going any further. That said, it only works for that specific feeling because of the contrast with...

#5 - The Right Branch
The tents to the right, immediate feeling of settlement, of something. Of a place that a healer or social person, even if they were alone, would wander off to find some noncombat quest or information. Lore. Resources. So many options. It's hard to explain why just those few white tents are so immersive in context, but at least for me and everyone I know, they are brilliant.

#6 - The Grass is Greener
I watched this video first, didn't actually see the first time this area was shown off, until later, and I am so glad, since the grass is darker green. I don't think the lighting is the specific solution to what was bothering me ever so slightly before, but rather, it matters that the grass is slightly darker green and desaturated and shorter. It's not really that everywhere has to be like that, but it's so easy to just use generic grass that I'm sick of seeing it in certain games I won't name here. Personal preference maybe. Certainly not a dealbreaker, but somehow, to me, an immersion breaker. Super glad to see this.

#7 - Diffuse Daytime Lighting? Can it be?!
Please please please keep it. I'm so tired of mistuned tonal mapping, of indistinct lighting issues at the wrong times of day in-game, of every shadow being sharp or dark as if someone is trying to show off their ray-tracing too much. This isn't my department to speak on, I'll leave it to another member of my team, but please assume I am making sad kitty eyes which beg that we please get to keep the current lighting model...

#8 - Banner Flagpoles
This one's really subtle. The feeling that someone 'owns' this place. The reminder that guilds are a thing and they will own places. The feeling that you might one day see your own guild's banner up on a pole like this in your Node. The general 'feeling of life' they give by not being just put on a building facade (which is why I didn't mention them prior, they're still great but the effect is different there, to me). More perfection, even for such a small thing.

#9 - The Placement Of The Roast
Another subtle one. This gives a new player an immediate sense of 'context' that isn't shown before. You know that there are pigs of about this size. You know that they are defeatable. You know that they are edible. You can imagine someone eating it. You can imagine being able to eat it. Not to mention all of the psychological effects of just 'seeing food'. It grounds the player in the world in a subconscious way that is literally *chef's kiss*.

#10 - The Stall-like Wagons
More immersion, but much less subtle. The slightly haphazard placement of these, combined with their size, also causes a lot of 'context' and subconscious effects that I really like. Though it's less subtle, it isn't any easier to explain. A feeling of 'mobility'. Of the fact that people move into this area, probably not from wherever the new player has come from, but from out in the world already. It causes the mind to simulate 'beyond what it has already seen' in some cases, without a single word.

#11 - Landry's Position
Standing next to the brazier. The feeling of possibly seeking warmth while still being serious. The player being able to imagine the warmth. Standing near to him instead of having him behind a desk or in a tent. A sensible place for him to be, and (currently) the first green name you see after the initial entrance area, if you just walk straight. I'm the type that talks to everyone, but I appreciate the directness of having this position for this character, for MCTD people (Mash Confirm Through Dialog).

#12 - Landry's Dialogue
I could write a whole post, longer than this one, about the beautiful subtleties, subconscious nudges, and emotional triggers contained in the dialogue. If it's all of this quality, I will weep for joy, it might even be better than mine (which means nothing to anyone who doesn't know who I really am but whatever). The part I will gush about here, therefore, is the 'giving you an option for a response that tells you what to think of your own character as', and the sense of immediacy without being overblown. I really could write about just 'subtleties of dialogue' all day, so I'll stop myself... maybe another time...except for...

#13 - The Quest Target
This has to be the most immersively believable early quest hook and target enemy I have ever seen and I am so jealous that I haven't thought of this one first. Animated armors? No feelings about hurting a living creature? Realistic reasons why they are humanoid, to save assets? Saving assets outright while still being threatening? Realistic reason why they probably drop armor? Immediate feeling of combat against something probably the same size as your character? I could rant forever here too.

#14 - The Quest Acceptance Dialogue
"I'll fight for as long as I can."
So. Perfect.
Granted it isn't actually just 'kill one and then come back if you find it really difficult' but the feeling of 'I am helping by just defeating these until I can't anymore' is so raw, so good for those players who just want to hit stuff. Subconscious poking is so important to good MMO writing... ahem (~glares at certain games~). This stuck with me so much that, despite rewatching the three minutes to put these in proper order, I didn't even have to play this part back to check it while I wrote this, it's been paused since they arrived at Landry. Time to unpause...

#15 - Jeffers the Half-Cloaked Prince
That gearpiece is wonderful. I hope it's early. Because it doesn't look like it is terribly strong, but still has so much character, showing off animations, cloth physics, it looks like, being distinct from what the others are wearing, good color balance, showing it off in the lighting... if that was chosen without some form of intention behind it, I'll be surprised. Not terribly so, but it's the sort of thing I expect them to think about.

#16 - The Roll Animation
Not specifically the roll animation itself, but actually the moment where you can tell that Jeff is locked onto someone because of how exactly the end of the roll animates, with him rising into still looking at the target. Another thing I considered praising in its own right is just the 'feeling' of speed of drawing the weapons, yet still sorta looking like they are actually 'drawn' and don't just appear. Pretty standard stuff for games these days, but the fluidity is what I'm looking at here, not the animations themselves. Sense of timing and such.

#17 - The Incline
That little incline at the end of the road, phasing into grass, is a perfect transition. Verticality, sense of separation, and an example of a 'negative space landmark'. A player who is looking for someone else can give 'I'm on the little incline' as a location and another person can know, based on the fact that they have not yet seen an incline, that they should keep going. Not every landmark can actually be spoken about like this, so having one in a 'starter area' (rather, multiple of them), is super helpful. It also has a view on either side of mountains that give the player even more sense of scale, to wonder 'can I just wander up there?'. And I bet they can.

#18 - The Road Width
It's not really just the width of the roads, it's the coloration and texture and integration, but the width definitely helps. Again, an issue of scale. You can imagine a small platoon actually marching along this. You can imagine a large caravan, or two passing by each other with people and animals still having space. This is no wilderness trail. That's important because now when you see a smaller road, you're going to think of it as a smaller road. As a less developed path. There's other reasons why thin roads as a default are less immersive, but this post is already dissertation-level.

#19 - The Minimap
Bet you didn't notice it, did you? Exactly! The minimap is so perfectly unobtrusive (probably customizable) that it can't get in the way of all these cool things in the environment to look at, whereas you can still use it to see your party members clearly. Remember, not everything I'm gushing about is necessarily groundbreaking or revolutionary, in fact, probably none of it is. It's just so nice to see it all done correctly in one place.

#20 - Tree Height
Another verticality trigger, one that comes into play at the moment you leave, and can still see the top of a tree over the wall top, breaking up the skyline and having another nice subtle subconscious effect that nudges you away from the feeling that you're playing 'just a game'.

#21 - The Snow Bits
I like snow. Besides breaking up the silhouette of the mountain, it gives the player at least a slight sense of temperature around them, if they hadn't picked up a hint from anywhere else, again conveying environment and 'lore' through just the surroundings. If this area is going to be subject to seasons later, even more impressive, not because every new player will see the snow, but because you can know that the area won't look the same, and that's a bigger effect than even the snow always being there.

#22 - The Sundered Wall
It's hard to tell, for me, if this wall by the exit arch is cracked by just earth movements, but given the context of every other aspect of the place, and the shapes, I'm going to assume it's moreso been cleaved by some attack (other explanations being that the shape and the textures are just early). If it has, though, what an attack... Immediately gives the player the feeling that something, man or Other, probably has the power to do that specific type of damage to a wall. Even without knowing any of the Lore of Verra, just 'someone gifted you the game and told you to come play', when you see that wall in that condition, you know you're in for something big...

My deepest respect to the entire team, from those who nudge our minds with roast pork, to those who subtly give us tiny tidbits with all they choose to show in videos, to those who keep us from falling through the world normally. Trust that I know how hard you work, and I believe in you. So truly, thank you all. Looking forward to writing another overwhelmingly long appreciation post after the next one (don't get me started on the next five minutes of this one).

Sorry, my native language is Erlang.


  • maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    And to think we're barely in alpha!

    I hope Intrepid keeps lots of secrets from us. So we can discover more of this stuff ourselves!

    I also feel sad for the tech side of the team - their work undergirds these things and we have no idea what iterations they've been through. Or if they've spent a day hunting a missing brace. Or maybe that's something only rookies do, hahaha.
    I wish I were deep and tragic
  • Azherae wrote: »
    (which means nothing to anyone who doesn't know who I really am but whatever)

    Do share...!
    This link may help you:
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