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joebarnin

Request for beta testers: The Mercantile Association

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This is my first mission and I'd like to make it available for beta testing. My original plan was for a larger, more complex mission but I decided to keep it simple, since it was my first try. It's pretty straight-forward, nothing very innovative. After beta testing, I may decide to release it as is, or complete the full mission. What I've implemented so far is basically the middle third of the full mission. So I'm likely to take any feedback and use it to improve this part of the mission, and then expand it to the full mission. But we'll see.

 

Anyway, I would appreciate any feedback. Here it is: https://drive.google...dit?usp=sharing

 

Thanks,

 

Jeff

Edited by joebarnin
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Hey there, if you don't already have access to the beta testing section, try sending Springheel a PM, so you can create a beta testing thread there for testers to leave feedback in (as feedback will 99% likely have spoilers).

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Yeah, I just downloaded it but can't play until I get off work. I'll happily compile feedback and the like once I'm home. If there's no beta testing thread by then I'll just post in here with spoiler tags.

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Been trying your beta map and there were a couple of problems I encountered in the 20 minutes i played (have not finished the mission yet). First one was the plant in the courtyard, it acts funny. I cant jump while inside the center of the plantation, and when i do happen to jump, something really funny is happening, like I'm floating at jump level. Also the barrels in the attic are a pain, I got stuck in them so bad i had to load.

Edited by Cookeh

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I'm all done and have a little write-up. Don't expand the spoilers if you don't want it... y'know, spoiled. I'll delete and move it once there's a thread in the beta testing forum if need be.

 

 

Here's a video of my first playthrough, so you can see how the mission flows to somebody playing without your knowledge of the place:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY24qH5LkEw&feature=youtu.be

 

First of all, a couple of minor technical issues:

 

Texture orientation is off on the bottom of some of these supports:

 

http://puu.sh/6BFlr.png

 

All these plaques are showing the same error. There's no xdata for them in the mission file so I'm assuming that's the issue but I haven't used these signs before, I take it they do use xdata?

 

http://puu.sh/6BFrj.png

 

Inconsistencies with the grain of the skirting boards all over the house, also they look very flat; maybe drag them out a bit?

 

http://puu.sh/6BFQU.png

 

Texture orientation issue on the attic door and the front door, on the top bar of the doorframes:

 

http://puu.sh/6BG40.png

 

Lots of floating objects on the desks around the place. Some are fine but some are noticeably not:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGcr.png

 

This light doesn't reach as far as it should below it. I assume it's for gameplay reasons, but in that case it should be uniform as the others are all different shades and intensities too:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGlj.png

http://puu.sh/6BGyN.png

 

I could pick this key up without moving the plant pot, and did so by accident just idly frobbing it:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGDZ.png

 

This key doesn't highlight when I mouse over it:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGJs.png

 

The contents of these chests are clipping a lot with the material inside:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGMF.png

http://puu.sh/6BGOT.png

 

Z-fighting on a door in the attic:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGSi.png

 

This chair started off inside the floor, and got sucked down when I bumped into it:

 

http://puu.sh/6BGVE.png

 

10th line of this readable reads "conversions" rather than 'conversations' (also on the other page, slightly-higher wouldn't be hyphenated as you don't hyphenate words ending in -ly, but that hardly matters):

 

http://puu.sh/6BH2N.png

 

This is the only movable barrel out of tons of identical ones:

 

http://puu.sh/6BHgm.png

 

I forgot to take a screenshot but I apparently have '0' of everything in my inventory when I actually have one of each. I assume they're placeholders but I'm letting you know just in case.

 

So that's all the technical issues I found after sweeping back through. I'm sure I missed some but I'm only a mediocre human.

 

My main concern with the mission is its scale: it's all way too big, dwarfing the player and the AI. I'd recommend compacting everything, using the AI models in the editor to get an idea of the scale. That should remedy the other main design issue, which is all the unused space. There's plenty of table and floor-space that's left spotless. You could stand to add a bit more loot to give every room a purpose, as well as make it feel a bit more rewarding to explore the place. Deck the walls with what you can and stick down some more furniture and desktop ornaments as currently it's all very empty-feeling.

 

Performance-wise it ran fine. The worst performance was my FPS being halved in the hallway, which would be fixed with visportals in the bends were it not for the windows. I'm sure somebody who knows more about optimization than I (*coughBikerdudecough*) could suggest a way to work around it and if not, removing one of the windows would do the job.

 

The attic could do with a few more beams to remove the slightly boxy aesthetic, as could some of the larger rooms, and the skirting boards could do with being extruded to easily add depth to the corridors. I found the wooden floor was a bit punishing given the tiny carpets and the AI's ability to hear through the floors but I was a bit more reckless than usual to give them a run for their money and test their pathing.

 

The hidden room was something I only found by sheer luck as the little ramekin caught my eye on the way out, and I thought it was loot. It's very well-hidden, but I find it hard to believe that a man who's successfully stolen from the house he spends his days in would hide the button like that. The hidden way out was good, but felt redundant. If I were you I'd dream up a reason as to why the player can't leave the way they came and force them to find that instead. Also, the readable relating to said exit was a bit contrived, sounding very pantomime and fourth-wall-breaking in tone. Maybe an alternative would be to say he saw a servant disappear around the front door's hallway, and come back later in the day covered in sewer muck, something like that.

 

Aside from all that, it was fun and traditional to play. It had a good atmosphere to it and played well. The back-and-forth around the place looking for keys is a direction I'm pretty fond of as it encourages exploration and use of readables, and it was executed well here. Once the technical issues are fixed, my only complaint would be the scale, and as it stands it's something of a deal-breaker. I tried to ignore it but it's very immersion-breaking. Just compact everything down and you've got a good mission ready to go!

 

Edited by Airship Ballet

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I'm all done and have a little write-up. Don't expand the spoilers if you don't want it... y'know, spoiled. I'll delete and move it once there's a thread in the beta testing forum if need be.

 

....

 

 

Thanks, that is just what I'm looking for! I really appreciate the detail.

 

As for the

scale, are you talking about all 3 dimensions? Or is the height okay, and it's just the width and depth of the rooms and hallways?

 

 

Thanks again,

 

Jeff

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It's mostly height, come to think of it. All the ceilings are about 1/3 higher than they should be, roughly speaking. Some rooms still have way too much un-used floor space though. Once you've lowered the ceiling you could just use coffee tables or the like in the middle of a room to make it feel smaller. Too-high ceilings and unused floor/desk space are the main problems. The outside was fine, but some rooms are just unnecessarily large and the furniture all looks tiny in comparison. They should really just be as big as they need to be to fit stuff inside, so it may help to think up what you want in a room and then bring the walls in to fit, rather than blindly making a room and trying to fill it afterwards.

 

 

 

Don't mention it; I should be thanking you for giving me something to do =P

Edited by Airship Ballet

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In my effort to take a look (admittedly, somewhat tired, not the most critical at this moment)...I basically just played on the middle "medium/hard" setting. I don't have access to the beta section, so my spoilers will be here. ;-)

 

I must say, I like it. I would encourage to you develop further! Yes, this map may be released as a small one (I'm more of a fan of small regular releases that getting overwhelmed with a big project) with some tweaks, but dang impressive first time out!

 

 

Inventory on "hard" had 0 mines, 0 holy water, 0 breath potion, my guess would be you have the start item quantity set to zero instead of inventory_map_start set to 0?

 

Before even beginning I was surprised the FPS was so low given the lack of "stuff". I immediately checked for proper visportals, which there nicely were. There's not much being rendered yet a significant performance hit. The drawcall and tris are low even. It seems to me the answer is in the lights. There are tons and tons of overlapping lights, within the same spaces as well as between floors and through walls. :-( The performance in a closed off room is normal, but open that door and ouch, less than half the performance it should be for what is being rendered. (r_showlights 1 for info, r_showlights 2 draws their borders in game.)

 

There was also a recent forum thread demonstrating how to not have lights bleed between floors. It might be easier to move more to exterior walls in the rooms, and reduce the number in hallways.

 

I went in through the front door. The write-up mention had me thinking there might be an alternate way, but the patrolling guard was predictable, and the one in front of the door I had no problems moving behind. If you don't want people going in through the front, I'd suggest tightening it up. (I didn't notice the windows until I'd worked my way upstairs, kudos to you for providing options for the player, also multiple routes into the important office room.)

 

May I offer a suggestion about pathing? Do you know you can add additional targets to path entities which get randomly selected between? In other words, the circling guard at the start could randomly turn around and go back the other way instead of letting the player simply follow him around never having a chance of being discovered.

 

Similarly I just waited for the guards in halls to walk past, then felt I had free reign of the place even though I was frequently lit. If the guards might have turned back, or gone into a different room, or not entered a room but turned around looking back down the hallway, there would have been more sneaking gameplay for me as a player perhaps?

 

The room that contains the hidden room (which I never found the catch to properly enter) curiously the desk open top wasn't casting a shadow, but the items on it were! IE, there are shadows on the floor of items sitting on the desk as if the desk is glass! If there's not an easy remedy, I might turn shadows off on those two items.

 

The attic key I frobbed without seeing from where, under plant perhaps? In plant? Is that intentional? I don't usually randomly frob, so that was rare for me. If the plant is supposed to be moved, a simple solution is change the frob_distance on both (set frob_distance bigger on plant, smaller on key). (A more complex solution is to setup a stim/response with frob off for the key initially, such that frobbing the plant (if that's what is supposed to happen) enables frob on for the key.)

 

The candle on the table in the room with the note falls into the table when frobbed (next to the Chairman's office key). There was another object like that which I unfortunately didn't note. (I tend to snap to grid after flooring stuff like that.)

 

One thought about readables, those that should give info for the player they might want later, might want to go into inventory instead of being fixed in place so they have it when they forget.

 

Subjectively, most of the lighting seemed relatively uniformly illuminated. I had no problems moving between pools of brightness, but sometimes I had to dash as I was fully lit--but there were no AI around so it didn't matter. It might give it more dimension (and higher performance) to reduce the size of some of the lights so there are bright spots surrounded by gloom. IE, more contrast instead of such flat, even lighting.

 

However don't get me wrong, there were corners to tuck into and catch your breath/feel safe, in fact, plenty of them given the few AI.

 

The only part that felt out of place in that regard was the guard room with the candle you can't just douse. Everything else I was able to ghost around, but there I ended up using a gas arrow since he wasn't readily able to be blackjacked and relit the candle. His positioning was FAR more challenging than the front door guard. I felt kind of cheap using the arrow. But I couldn't figure out another way around it offhand, and that light was again rather large/bright, just stepping into the doorway you were lit up, no opportunity to sneak there.

 

I loved the layout of the map, and there was room to move instead of feeling cramped, but many rooms felt like they needed someone to move in and add some "color". They all had bookcases and lots of empty horizontal surfaces just waiting for someone to come and give them that lived in feeling. A ramification of that, I couldn't keep track of where I was or what room I was in. They all felt the same to me. Many looked similar, were lit in a similar fashion, had no occupants, and were a similar size. Some rooms did stand out as unique thought in comparison. But I did feel I was running through a lot, not finding/seeing much. I did like the variety to waste baskets though, and the carrot remains in one. :-)

 

I've poked around over an hour, and have not found the key that opens the desk, the hint readable points to three places, but randomly frobbing around the office, and that entire attic (large/lotsa' room) and a couple different rooms that might be "lounge" didn't result in anything. This is the point I'd give up and start reading a web forum thread for spoilers where the key is, instead of playing the game/having fun I'm afraid. I feel like I have no info to work with, and searching around the same places yet again doesn't feel challenging/rewarding. (Which clues me in to improve a hint in my own current WIP actually.)

 

Current loot is 382, some of that rather challenging to find/lucky to stumble across.

 

Oh! I also noticed the banner in the upstairs hall moves with a door noise of it's own. But could not detect if it affected anything... (No nearby door seemed affected.)

 

I love your use of physical objects to obscure things in a natural way, as if the inhabitants have done so, something I try to do as well. One catch is then it's nearly impossible for the player to perceive something out of the ordinary. Something that might help, rotate the texture on the trapdoor panel, it's already obscured by a physical object, and even if it weren't covered by anything would be tricky for players to find, even when seeking it after having read there's something to discover up there!

 

All in all I like it, it's a fine mission that's generally well executed, kudos! Resolving some technical issues, if others find gameplay as hard as I did, more pointers in the right direction there, and adjusting lights to improve both mood, visual dimension, and performance, and it would be golden in my opinion. If you are motivated to dress up the rooms more, with more fluff stuff, that will give it all a more lived in feel (I know, this is beta test, to evaluate whether to spend time moving forward, my vote is yes.)

 

 

 

It also already has a bit of a feel of a potential continuing mission, so perhaps make it a chapter in a series? (The prequel could be done later, and etc.)

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I agree with most everything Airship Ballet said. Instead of condensing the rooms, I'd rather they be filled with more furniture / decor to give more eye candy. The rooms / hallways feel a bit empty, and adding to them will help close off dead space. Hang up some more paintings, add some more tables, desks, etc. Given that it's a place for book keeping, stack some books on a desk or the floor next to a desk. The largescale actually reminded me a bit of T1/T2 and less of T3, as I found that game a bit confined compared to the openess of the first two.

 

FPS were fine on my run through as well.

 

The plant in the courtyard I would make so the player can pass through it, as the ledge is still accessible by jumping to climb up. Also, random non-movable items throughout the mission scattered on tables I would also make so you can pass through them and don't have to "climb over a loaf of bread and apples".

 

I'm sure the rooms themselves will be easier to identify once the plaques have the proper image on them.

 

A couple more readables would also be nice, even if they don't specifically add new information to the mission, it adds depth and humanizes the environment more. I took the note about Symons going to sleep in the other room as a joke and nothing more until I used show loot in the console and realized there was something behind the painting.

 

The Chairman's room seemed to alert guards if they saw the door left open. Good touch.

 

The desk key was a bit hard to find.

 

Those large statues I thought were out of place. Maybe leave a readable near them explaining why they're just sitting up the attic? Maybe waiting on some kind of repair before being placed in the yard or something?

 

One candle in the room at the top of the staircase on the second floor I was not able to pick up and douse.

 

 

 

 

Looking forward to the tidied up version. If this is a 1/3 of the size of the mission you have an idea for, it should make a very good one once it's all finished. Good work Joebarnin!

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RJFerret - Thanks for the incredibly detailed write-up. It's going to take me a while to digest all of this. At least let me answer one question

 

 

The desk key can be found...

 

 

 

Easy: In the trash can in the Chairman's room

Medium: Behind the bookcase in the Lounge (the room next to the Chairman's room)

Hard: In the attic, in the pile of wood as you approach the "break room" (the room with sleeping guard).

 

The Lounge would have been easier to find if the text on the plaques was working - sorry about that.

 

 

Between your comments and Airship Ballet's, I've got lots to think about and work on. Thanks again!

 

Jeff

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yw!

 

I agree with the sentiment to add more clutter rather than changing geometry size (the latter being laborious, also extra ceiling height eases light overlaps). Extra space is safer for AI to have plenty of room to maneuver, tightening up spaces can make it trickier, especially when there's more than one AI.

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extra ceiling height eases light overlaps

 

Granted, but I think the door handles being at the regular height yet 3/4 of the way down the door suggests they may be a tad too tall.

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So I played it yesterday: good job! I spent maybe an hour or so on it and had a lot of fun.

A couple points:

 

 

1. It's probably a good idea to double the number of AI on the first floor (I mean the thing above the grounnd floor, where the lounge is). It was way too easy just to blackjack the one guy patrolling, giving me free reign. Likewise with the ground floor, inside the building.

2. The candle in the Captain's Office is inextinguishable by hand, and way too bright. I had to use a water arrow. Now that wasn't a problem as there were plenty (and I didn't use them much), but it's not very fitting.

3. From the thread it seems I'm not the only one with the nameplates not showing. Are these going to be added?

4. How the hell do you get into that stash room? I ended up noclipping in there after I was finished. I knew something was up with that little office room and looked everywhere. Didn't find a switch or anything.

 

 

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So I played it yesterday: good job! I spent maybe an hour or so on it and had a lot of fun.

A couple points:

 

Thanks for the feedback - it matches with what others have said, which tells me where I need to make changes.

 

To answer your question...

 

There is a switch on the desk in Symon's office (not the archive room). There's a movable cup hiding the switch - just move the cup and you'll see the switch (upper right corner of the desk).

 

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So, here's my plan. I'm going to clean up the existing mission, based on the excellent feedback I've received. I'm leaning toward not releasing this shorter mission, but instead expanding it to the "full length" mission I had originally planned. Should be fun to do - fine tuning the existing stuff, and creating some new bits.

 

Thanks again for all the feedback.

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http://wiki.thedarkmod.com/index.php?title=Mission_Design_Tips

 

As you move forward, there's some great suggestions and nuggets of info in there, but it doesn't talk about the dynamic tension of shadowy corners versus lit areas, or carpeted versus noisy floors. That's where the challenge/fun is, that grey area between lit areas and sanctuary/breathers.

 

(Although it seems players have become trained to rely on readables for blatant hints instead of visual clues, per the article's suggestion.)

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(Although it seems players have become trained to rely on readables for blatant hints instead of visual clues, per the article's suggestion.)

 

... You know what, you might be on to something there.

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One other thing I forgot to mention is the background ambient music. I don't remember hearing any. :-)

 

There's a lot of atmosphere to be added with an ambient track or two.

 

 

 

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