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Black Lake - Prototype Reactions
Posted: 16 December 2012 01:01 PM
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DF Levi - 16 December 2012 12:27 PM
AwesomeOcelot - 16 December 2012 12:15 PM

The mouse control method is great, I don’t remember coming across it before. I first used a gamepad, but I’d probably choose mouse and keyboard if I had to pick.

I’m happy the mouse controls turned out the way they did. For a game about moving through and sensing the world around you I felt like WASD tank controls would have been the first major fail. Mainly because Senses are analogue. My favorite movement control is on the controller but thats just because it centers back to stand still on release. I do like the Accordion on the Keys better though.

Thanks for all the feed back Everyone!
It’s so kick ass that people are actually playing this game!

Levi

You could use Diablo style click to move and centre the cursor on release of the mouse button to get a similar result to the release on a controller. Using WASD with A and D to rotate worked in the original Tomb Raider, I think because the run and walk were so different, you could turn more rapidly while walking, and you couldn’t turn fast while running like in real life. The other option is C&C style movement, but that takes away the direct control and immersion you have.

[ Edited: 16 December 2012 01:18 PM by AwesomeOcelot ]
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Posted: 16 December 2012 05:40 PM
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Have to say I was really surprised by this and totally got sucked in by the atmosphere.  The gameplay is a lot more enjoyable than what it was described as on the video, probably because of the sense of danger you get from the bramble foxes running around.

Got a little lost but that’s part of the fun.

I totally agree with the comment on pacing a full game like Okami where there’s a big task to do in each area along with some little side tasks.

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Posted: 16 December 2012 07:52 PM
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I have no choice but to join the others in saying that Black Lake was a truly pleasant surprise for me and was a magnificent experience to play through.
I’ll admit I did not vote for it based on the pitch, since I saw a whole lot of art but did not get a very good idea about the gameplay. But man, did it come together. Watching the pitch again, I now clearly understand what you’ve been referring to.
The best thing about Black Lake, which sets it apart from all the other prototypes with the possible exception of Autonomous, is its atmosphere. Nearly everything fits, so well in fact that it’s crazy, especially considering you guys had only two weeks to make it.
The Black Lake forest theme may only be less than a minute long, but it is the most awesome piece of music in the entire AF soundtrack. It does an incredible job with setting the mood. But there’s more to the atmosphere than that: the trees, the branches, the stones, the enemies, the protagonist, everything has an incredible level of polish to it. Perhaps Black Lake is the game which looks the least “prototype-ish” of the five, and by least, I mean “not at all”. It’s like a demo level to an actual game you could buy at the DF store.
I loved the controls too. Been playing it with a mouse and a keyboard, and found this “sparkle-chasing control scheme” very intuitive, and quite usable for sneaking around at just the pace I wanted. Flipping the more widely employed method on its head (“click-to-stop-and-look-around” instead of “click-to-move”) also conveyed a sense of always being in motion, which I found fitting - after all, the protagonist is in the middle of a dark forest with dangers around, so staying too long in one spot would be unwise.
If I could offer one piece of criticism, it’s the lamp. To be honest, after a while I only used it for flavor, to “confirm” the tracks I’ve found, since there seemed to be little else I could use it for. Also, while the lighting of the “dark version” of the forest was awesome, when the lamp was on, the lighting became a bit strange, it felt as if the sun came up all of a sudden. But since I kept the lamp off most of the time, this luckily didn’t affect my playing experience much, if at all.
All in all, a huge thank you to Levi and the team for turning my initial skepticism around, and giving me the chance to experience Black Lake. Should the possibility arise, I’ll be definitely coming back for more. smile

EDIT: After seeing some screenshots, maybe the lamp lighting strangeness is actually a bug specific to my graphics card. Hmm…

[ Edited: 16 December 2012 08:02 PM by pip25 ]
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Posted: 16 December 2012 08:29 PM
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I was really excited about this project from the outset as it seemed to be a spiritual successor to Psychonauts in some ways. (The fact that the protagonist’s model is based off of Razputin helps the link in my mind.) The earliest peeks at it didn’t make it seem all that interesting, but upon playing the prototype my fears were completely blown away.

Specific comments:

+ Amazing atmosphere and tension and aesthetics right away and until the end. Games with a slower pace like this can risk falling into the boring/uneventful category, but I felt the huge focus on environmental details and maintaining a feeling of tension throughout did wonders to keep the prototype engaging despite the fact that there’s very little of traditional game goals and such. Not that it necessarily needs it, but it seems like the atmosphere is among this prototype’s biggest strengths, which is great because it’s also the thing that probably is where most of the potential for engagement and immersion comes from.

+ The look around feature was great. Also, in general, everything with the controls was very good, though I wish there was an option to run a bit faster, with the consequence being much stronger sound emanations to hinder stealth when it’s necessary.

+ Really liked the birch tree easter egg. In a game as tense as this, a little levity like that (that didn’t really break the fourth wall) is appreciated and also all the more effective due to its juxtaposition.

- The “main path” was fairly easy to follow without being too literal most of the time, which isn’t a problem in an of itself, but I found myself getting completely lost when the fox “takes a bath”. I searched for quite some time, and it wasn’t at all clear to me what the fox’s actual path was. I had to look it up to proceed, and once I did I realized that I felt the trail hint immediately before the “bath” is insufficient and maybe even downright misleading. Things like this could probably be sorted out with more time and playtesting though.

- It’s difficult to put my finger on it, but the dream repairing didn’t seem quite right to me. I liked pretty much everything about the accordion once I saw how it was implemented, but the actual mending didn’t really feel engaging enough. As per my initial thoughts, I thought this was going to have a decent amount of stuff similar to Psychonauts, but what I actually saw with the fox’s dream sequence was a bit bland in comparison to the rest of the goods bits about the prototype. It’s certainly something that could be worked on more if there was enough time.

Ashhh - 15 December 2012 03:12 AM

I didn’t like the animation of the fox talking though.  I wish the foxes mouth stayed closed and left it a little more ambiguous as to whether the fox was speaking directly to her.

- I agree with that. In a lot of ways, I think leaving the fox’s mouth closed and implying some kind of telepathy would be more interesting and perhaps even thematically consistent. Since the protagonist just dealt with a manifestation of the fox’s dreams, why would physical talking be necessary? Remaining within the realm of the psychological and mental for that part seems more interesting in my opinion.

[ Edited: 16 December 2012 08:43 PM by RJ815 ]
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Posted: 16 December 2012 08:49 PM
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An update to my previous initial impressions, now that I’ve played through the game:

—Movement speed isn’t a problem, just took more experimenting than my previous two minutes smile
—Loved the atmosphere, graphics and the sound. Even for a prototype the foliage was extraordinary.
—The hat was awesome(but there needs to be more shopka!)
—The accordion holds a lot of promise, it would be interesting to use to create the dream state instead of it already having been willed into existence.
—I’d love to see that as you heal creatures it unlocks certain powers, like adding smell and sound.

—I think along with others I had a problem with the game in that the lantern wasn’t needed, and ended up making you a hazard for bramble foxes.
—Dream sequences are a little confusing, as it appears just the background parts of the dreams were damaged(and I thought looked quite normal within the dream), so having the damage standing out a little more, and having some of the foreground damaged as well could help.
—No Baba Yaga :(

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Posted: 17 December 2012 04:38 PM
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At first I would like to say that it is an awesome job to put these prototypes out in two weeks and all the results are amazing.That said I have to say that even though I liked it as a small game I’m not sure if this works for a big one. So far its only following hints and tracks and solving some dream problems then.  I mean its cool, but I didn’t feel the desire of playing something similar with other animals for hours. The nicest thing in it was the freedom and exploration part. Just walking in the woods and finding things was awesome even though there wasn’t much to find because of the prototype stage.

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Posted: 17 December 2012 09:14 PM
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RJ815 - 16 December 2012 08:29 PM

- I agree with that. In a lot of ways, I think leaving the fox’s mouth closed and implying some kind of telepathy would be more interesting and perhaps even thematically consistent. Since the protagonist just dealt with a manifestation of the fox’s dreams, why would physical talking be necessary? Remaining within the realm of the psychological and mental for that part seems more interesting in my opinion.

I hadn’t really thought about that when I played it, but now that I read it and think about it, having the mouth stay closed actually does sound pretty cool. =]

(Also means less work! Just saying!)

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Posted: 17 December 2012 09:33 PM
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AnAnemoneInAnonymity - 17 December 2012 09:14 PM

I hadn’t really thought about that when I played it, but now that I read it and think about it, having the mouth stay closed actually does sound pretty cool. =]

(Also means less work! Just saying!)

Yeah, the fact that you might be able to get a better result whilst simultaneously reducing the work load on lip synching sounds like a win-win to me. The only difficulty would be how to properly convey the fact that it’s telepathy and not a failure in lip synching! IIRC, Psychonauts had some sort of solution for this with Milla and Sasha, right? Either way, the simplest solution to the conveyance problem would be to have different speech bubbles for thoughts and regular physical speech. The common format in comics would probably work fine.

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Posted: 17 December 2012 11:29 PM
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RJ815 - 17 December 2012 09:33 PM
AnAnemoneInAnonymity - 17 December 2012 09:14 PM

I hadn’t really thought about that when I played it, but now that I read it and think about it, having the mouth stay closed actually does sound pretty cool. =]

(Also means less work! Just saying!)

Yeah, the fact that you might be able to get a better result whilst simultaneously reducing the work load on lip synching sounds like a win-win to me. The only difficulty would be how to properly convey the fact that it’s telepathy and not a failure in lip synching! IIRC, Psychonauts had some sort of solution for this with Milla and Sasha, right? Either way, the simplest solution to the conveyance problem would be to have different speech bubbles for thoughts and regular physical speech. The common format in comics would probably work fine.

I think it would be fine either way. Okami didn’t do mouth animations most of the time, although they did do a lot of head-bobbling with the human characters. And pretty much ZERO old school games had mouth animations, and that didn’t really create confusion.

Plus, I like the idea of the fox being more of a Homeward Bound kind of fox as opposed to a Babe kind of fox. Homeward Bound had animals talking all over the place, and it wasn’t even telepathy. Worked just fine! =D

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Posted: 18 December 2012 01:58 AM
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this was the only prototype I played more than once

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Posted: 18 December 2012 08:27 AM
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Let me just echo that Black Lake definitely stole the show. I didn’t really know what to expect of it, but I was completely blown away by how many neat ideas there were and how beautifully they all fit together. It would be a shame not to make a full game out of this.

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Posted: 18 December 2012 01:52 PM
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AnAnemoneInAnonymity - 17 December 2012 11:29 PM

I think it would be fine either way. Okami didn’t do mouth animations most of the time, although they did do a lot of head-bobbling with the human characters. And pretty much ZERO old school games had mouth animations, and that didn’t really create confusion.

While it’s true that Okami didn’t have mouth animations for talking, I think that was because they used a kind of mumble speech similar to Banjo Kazooie. If they (or another game) used actual human speech, it probably would’ve been weird since the general trend in games nowadays is to associate human speech with lip synching.

And though old games might not have flapped gums, remember that a lot of old games were purely 2D (not 3D like Black Lake), where either there wasn’t enough pixels to show mouth animation in a reasonable way or where talking could often be done by moving mouth pixels up and down a few spaces.

In any case, I feel that the real reason for the weird talking animation with the fox was the time constraint. Whether they did telepathy or something else, I imagine the end result would look better than the prototype since they’d have more time to polish things.

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Posted: 19 December 2012 03:20 AM
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Impressive work. I love the mechanics of this, the new kind of mouse controls work so good once you get used to them.
So *much* more immersive than a point and click system! Beautiful art and mood and I just love to play it.
The camera work is so good, considering we’re dealing with a lush forest here. I always dreadmed of a Zelda game featuring such a
satisfying forest level as this game has. It never came. Now - although not a Zelda game - there it is. Thank you!

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Posted: 21 December 2012 12:52 AM
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This is it! This it the one I want made into a real game! It was so much fun and so well polished! I love the art, I love the mechanics. everyone on this team take a bow because you did such an amazing job. I ran into ZERO bugs, everything was very clear really good direction techniques. I still cannot believe the level of polish that was done in just 2 weeks.

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Posted: 21 December 2012 08:55 PM
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Black Lake was a real joy to play! The character design of the nightmare fox is fantastic. Simple yet so threatening. Exploring was very interesting thanks to the excellent atmosphere. The music as phenomenal (I’m looking at you accordion melodies). The most impressive thing about this prototype is the fact that it doesn’t feel like a prototype. This feels like a game. I am quite impressed at the polish this application shows with only 2 weeks of development.

Love it!

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Posted: 22 December 2012 10:26 AM
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Thanks for all the great feedback everyone!

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Posted: 22 December 2012 01:24 PM
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Unfortunately I’ve only got my work laptop with me, and it can’t seem to handle the graphics all that well.


Smiles

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Posted: 23 December 2012 11:04 AM
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I loved this prototype. Obviously the atmosphere and mood were fantastic but I really enjoyed the exploration gameplay a lot more than I thought I would. Watching the pitches and the first episode I was probably least interested in this one but after trying the game I am all for it.  I think it would definitely make for a great full game. I really like the idea of telling a story through exploration gameplay. In a full game more pieces(songs and abilities) could be added to flesh it out but keeping the spotlight on the exploration of this strange world stands out from games where all the focus is on combat or puzzles. I hope this gets made eventually.

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Posted: 24 December 2012 02:04 PM
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Played through it again to see if I missed anything. found if you press up on the D pad you get a hat lol and pressing the back button puts you to sleep. Not sure what its for though. Still really enjoy it and hope we see a real game out of this one.

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Posted: 24 December 2012 05:14 PM
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Heyasuki - 24 December 2012 02:04 PM

and pressing the back button puts you to sleep. Not sure what its for though.

IIRC, going to sleep is like “dying”, and you just go back to the last main clue you saw text at, as those function like checkpoints.

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Posted: 10 January 2013 04:08 AM
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I just wanted to say that I thought that The Black Lake was beautiful and full of charm.

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Posted: 15 January 2013 05:03 AM
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Hi.

Just wanted to say that this was the best prototype of this AF. The only problem I had was to actually understand what to do (after a few meters, I had trouble finding where the trail was going and was not too sure about what I needed to do to continue).

Great atmosphere, design and music. Of course, it lacks a lot to make a full game but it is a really great prototype.

The other one I really enjoyed was Hack & Slash (though I did not originally vote for it) and The White Birch (but it was a lot more buggy and lacked something).

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Posted: 23 January 2013 12:05 PM
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I must say this game was epic. I loved the music and atmosphere. Like many others, I wasn’t sure waht to do but I caught on quickly. I got lost like a sh-tload of times (apparently, died less than getting lost. oh the irony). Camera angle is spiffy but It’s fine.

My favorite part?  The credits. xDD keep it up.

- Emiifire.

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Posted: 23 January 2013 12:34 PM
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Emiifire - 23 January 2013 12:05 PM

Camera angle is spiffy but It’s fine.

I always thought ‘spiffy’ meant something like cool\suave\neat. What did you mean regarding the camera angle?

Oh and if I haven’t already said it, I really love this prototype smile

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Posted: 09 February 2013 11:08 PM
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(repost for correct thread!)

This was definitely my favourite prototype. So much about it that I thought was excellent! Visuals were great, audio was great, I enjoyed exploring the world, the game mechanics all worked really well together. The way the art/world reacted to the lantern on/off mechanic. The storybook / fable type feel to it all. The narrative itself. Was all just spot on.

The only one thing for me was that I didn’t read the instructions beforehand and didn’t realise you could camp at the last clue as a way of backtracking if you got lost. But, as you were put back at the last clue when you die (thank you for doing that!), it didn’t take me long to pick up the trail again and finish the demo.

Having said that, I didn’t mind being lost! So much pretty stuff to look at. I especially appreciated that the little waterfall actually made a waterfall noise. :D Attention to detail!

Really hoping this is the one that comes out on top, as I’d definitely play through this one.

Well done to the Black Lake team! smile

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