Delayed again 19

Hi!

 

Unfortunately, the game has to be delayed until tomorrow because I had a QA course in school which took a lot of time. Sorry about that!

 

About that QA course. It lasted two weeks and was held by Paradox Interactive, which is a Swedish video game publisher. The game we tested was the already released DLC Bastard’s Wound for the RPG called Tyranny by the American company Obsidian. Since the game was released quite recently, the developers might make a patch with fixes of the bugs the class found. But it is not certain.

 

 

The bug report worked like this. The first week we divided into teams and in the teams we selected different tasks to focus on while we play-tested the game. Then we reported bugs to a closed reporting site of Paradox. The issues were divided into types, such as “suggestions”, “bugs”, “balancing” etc. And then divided into severity, such as “blocker”, “critical”, “minor issue” etc. Then we wrote a headline, which shortly described the bug, and then a text which described it in more detail. If possible, a list of steps to reproduce it was then also written. Lastly, we added photos, video and/or a save file which showed the bug. The QA manager would then comment on most bugs reported.

 

The second week, the team wrote a full report, giving a hard fail, soft fail, soft pass or clear pass verdict to the game. Each different part of the game got a verdict, such as quests (scripting, text etc.), areas (graphics) and performance. Our verdict landed on clear pass, because although we found many bugs, most of them belonged to the base game and not the DLC we were supposed to test. We also had a separate document where we wrote our subjective feedback on the game. And here is mine.

 

First off, I need to throw in two saving clauses. I haven’t played many western RPGs of this type. Mostly a few Gauntlet games and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun on my beloved Mega Drive. I greatly prefer Japanese RPGs. And we really had to jump quite straight into the DLC using old saves, skipping most of the tutorials held in the beginning of the base game. This may have not been the most optimal way to learn testing, but then again it should bring some understanding to how chaotic the game development business may be, and that you may not always work on what you want to do.

Here is what I wrote for the subjective feedback part, though most of it was cut in the end:

 

I was really impressed with the amount of content the writers have provided the game. It felt overwhelming at first and like a steep uphill slope (especially combined with all the gameplay mechanics you have to learn), but once I got into the game more it grew on me. There are so many subplots and NPCs with their own backstories, all combined into a world which actually feels living. I have to admit I don’t like to be the bad guy, but I would also like to give credit for this unique story set-up. I think I would have preferred if one of the factions (Disfavored or Scarlet Chorus) was more “good” and the other one more “evil”. I realize this isn’t what the game intends to do, but to me, as it is now, I don’t feel any real motivation to side with either faction. It felt quite messy to be able to select options all the time which gave or didn’t give benefit to those factions. They all lead to the same endings anyway. Had a distinction been if you killed people left and right (which gives you advantage in battle) versus diplomacy (which gives you advantage in dialogues), the choice between factions would have been more interesting. Then again, I guess that kind of system is probably done to death in this genre I’m not too familiar with already.

  The writing of the game is detailed and rich, perhaps it even goes overboard with this sometimes. I guess the dark setting didn’t leave much room for humour, but the writers still managed to include some without making it feel unfitting. I’m thinking of the harsh insults (often with sexual overtones) shared between the various characters, giving me some good laughs.

 

The graphics

The graphics are a mixed bag. Looking at things individually, most of them look quite good. But when you put everything together in a complete context, the overall impression is far worse. The reason is there seems to be a lack of art direction and consistency in style. Starting to look at the setting, the developers have stated the world of Tyranny is progressing from the bronze age to the iron age. But the architectural technology feels way too advanced to take place at such an age. Just look at Vendrien’s Well – a massive tower with such complex shapes couldn’t possibly exist at a time where mankind was limited to the extraction of iron ore. With that said, I would prefer if a greater variety of weapons and armours existed along such architectural technology, rather than simplifying the buildings of the world to fit an iron age setting.

  Another problem of consistency is the mix of 2D and 3D art. The backgrounds seem to be pre-rendered 3D art converted to 2D tiles (I might be wrong here, if so, bare with me). And the characters look like actual 3D models. They are mostly gritty and dark, which is just fine and how it should be since it fits the setting and story. An exception worthy of mention are the hair colours of the 3D models, which often have manga style colours such as pink – it goes without saying it doesn’t belong here. The 2D art, handpainted portraits and cutscenes, don’t fit with the gritty setting at all. The portraits look like they are directly lifted from another game, being so colourful, soft and detailed. They give a bad contrast to the too simple looking 3D models. And much worse are the cutscene graphics. They are simple looking, but not in the same way as the 3D models, instead they look like cardboard cutouts. The artstyle is again different to the 3D models and the portraits, and so are the colours, which are way too vivid. Overall, the cutscene style makes it feel like they belong in a Disney movie like Mulan, not in a dark, fantasy RPG for adults.

  I would have had CG rendered cutscenes using the same type of 3D models as used in game for cutscenes (I realize that is probably not a feasible option though, as it would have been way more expensive than simple 2D images with barely any animations). For portraits, the same 3D models could have been used as well, or hand-drawn portraits more similar in style to the in-game models.

  Some thoughts on each part of the graphics (judging them individually for quality, out of context):

  • Backgrounds: These are great for the most part. Lots of detail and variation. The high resolution gives a clean look. One thing I didn’t like was a bridge, which looks really out of place. Low on detail, too bright to be in this dark area. It looks like a 2D artist drew it and slapped it in at the last minute. 
  • Animations: They are good. I really like that many NPCs are doing something and don’t just stand still. Sometimes, text describes actions NPCs are doing, but they don’t happen with animation on the 3D model. I guess I can oversee that, though it breaks the rule “play, don’t tell”. In battle, everything feels fluid and moves nicely.
  • Effects: I like the effects. Well drawn, animated and fitting their descriptions. There was an area support spell which was very clear by having an outline which showed where it gave effect. I like when graphics guide the player like that and not just show off from an aesthetic standpoint.
  • UI and icons: I had some issues in locating characters on screen when the battles were paused in the middle of spell effects. I think stronger visibility and clearer animations of icons when you hover over characters could have solved this issue.
  • Characters (in-game): They look too generic. It often feels as if there is a base model, which all others are edits of. A tattoo, a beard and the haircut is all that differs for the head, the actual face often looks the same. In dialogues, you often see the characters in full body next to the dialogue box, doing body language gestures. I would much have preferred a close-up of the face with face expressions, as face expressions tell me much more than, say, a finger pointed at me.
  • Portraits: I really like these, as they are detailed, varied, plenty and well drawn. Nice shading and lighting, great use of colour. Too bad this style doesn’t fit with the rest of the game, but that’s another issue mentioned elsewhere.
  • Cutscenes: These didn’t appeal to me at all, looking very simple, low budget and, to be frank, ugly. The use of scaling, lighting and wave effects to “simulate” animation is a cheap trick seen far too often.

 

Sound

Music

I’m sorry, but I really didn’t like the music at all. Being some mishmash of classical and ambient styles in a slow tempo with a dark and depressive feel to it, I cannot deny it suits the game, but I still got a feeling it was outsourced and just slapped onto it. I was really bored with the slow tempo and lack of melodies. The amount of themes aren’t that many either, which makes it too repetitive. I would really have liked a few more battle themes, and something more uptempo to bring a more intensive feel to the battles.

 

Voice overs

The voice actors do a decent job, all things considered. It often felt like they were overacting, but that’s OK (much better than underacting). The voice actors most often speak in a very relaxed, story telling type manner, which may not fit the plot, but I can overlook this since it can help the game feel a bit more balanced in its feel, i.e. not completely dark. The one-liners in battle are quite cheesy, but that’s OK and probably unavoidable. One thing which really annoyed me was that the voice overs get interrupted by auto-pauses in battle. 

 

Effects

I didn’t think much about them, but I think they sound fitting and “realistic” (where they can be).

 

Gameplay

This one is hard to judge because of two main reasons. First, I haven’t played more than a handful western RPGs, so knowing what to expect and not in this genre isn’t my thing. Second, since we were supposed to focus on the Bastard’s Wound DLC, we had to skip most of the base game tutorials and move ahead ASAP. This meant it took a bit of time to learn the game mechanics by experiencing them yourself and not by the game showing them to you in a set order. With these saving clauses in mind, I’ll share my thoughts on the most critical part of the game.

 

What struck me at first was the complexity of the gameplay system. There are so many features, so many things you can customize and choices you can make throughout the game. Again, it’s overwhelming. It often felt like it was overdone, as if the complexity was there for just for the sake of it. For example, I picked up countless weapons and armours during my testrun of the game. I checked the inventory and carefully compared each item with what I had equipped. But no item gave any significant benefit for being equipped instead of those I already had.

  One feature was illogical and that is reputations giving you skills in battle. For example, why would you learn how to frighten your enemies when Critically Hitting them just because you did some favors for the Unbroken? Is someone in the Unbroken teaching you this skill? I salute the effort of tying in the gameplay with the story, but things just don’t work this way. A similar issue, was a character gaining a point in Dodge after a quest dialogue was finished. It would be more logical if that happened after a battle, and that you gain Subterfuge after dialogue instead.

 

Despite the huge learning curve and these issues, I find the game impressively complete and enjoyable to play once you get the hang of it. One commendable thing is how informative the game is, and never tries to make it hard for the player to find information. A few examples are the right clickable names in dialogues and moves in battle.

  The game has great replayability thanks to the many customization options and branching plot paths (as well as the many dialogue options) available.

  After trying a few auto-pause options, I finally figured out what fit my playstyle best and started to enjoy the battles. I just wished there were more quick battles instead of just a few long ones. But I guess that would be more to the style of Japanese RPGs I play a lot.

 

The DLC succeeds in what it sets out to do. It gives the overall experience of the base game more meat on the bones, explaining what happens to people when they become refugees, bringing more back story to PCs and manages to integrate itself into the main game without feeling like an afterthought.

 

I had a lot of negative feedback to give in all areas, but a lot of it probably comes from this game not being my type of genre. Still, I really think the game is impressive for how much content and many options it gives the player. Tyranny: Bastard’s Wound has a lot of quality in all areas as well, so my subjective verdict is that it’s a good game worthy of a purchase for fans of the genre, but not newcomers to it.

 

There you have it! It was a fun course. Having had some QA done on Pier Solar prior to this, using a similar reporting system, I got into it quite fast (though not the game itself, as stated before). Perhaps I’ll end up as a QA tester when my education is done, but hopefully not, as I hope to do something more creative. Such as level design. The level design course begins on Monday!

 

About the project. Since the last update, I have made 2/3 of a boss sprite, started on a tileset, 1 enemy, 3 other sprites, updates to old sprites and tilesets which needed them and started work on the last enemies of the game. I should be done tomorrow!

 

Until then, take care!

 

/Zebbe

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