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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:12 pm 
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Yeah, I agree. I feel like I have to give the TSL composer a lot of credit, though, because I think it's the music (along with the cinematic camera angles in the cutscenes) that is almost entirely responsible for whatever drama or excitement I feel while playing the short Episode 1. Having said that, I admit that I, even just minutes after playing, can't remember any of the music from TSL. I particularly like it when games have different musical themes (in addition to a main theme) for particular characters, subplots, etc. and I think it's a lot of fun when variations of the themes resurface intermittently at appropriate times throughout gameplay.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:36 pm 
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Patents / Parents... whatever. Got to love typing on an iPhone. ;)

I'm surprised that there is so much negative talk about the game. You guys have to remember that this is a fan game and it was made with no budget and released for free. I think they've done an excellent job for what they had to work with. I'll admit that some areas seem a bit rough, but overall the game is great. I'm sure as future episodes are released, some of the things that seem off now will grow on you. Many people hated Al Emmo's voice, but by the end of the game they felt it fit him perfectly. This narrator is no where near as annoying as Al, so I think she'll grow on most people.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:44 pm 
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That didn't stop the hoards of people bombarding IA because of all of KQ3 V1's problems. The bottom line, free or not, if people don't have fun playing a game then something is wrong. I had a reasonable amount of fun playing the game so that's not my issue. I just wish they would take constructive criticism and apply it instead of explaining it away and ignoring the problem. Yes, the game is free. I'm tired of hearing that. But it still needs to be a good game. Especially with how they've been flaunting and advertising it for the past 8 years. I can accept its faults. I really can. If they'd just take the constructive criticism its received to heart and improve on future episodes. Which they're not gonna do, unfortunately. And that seems rather snobbish to me...especially when they've never released a finished game before now.

I never said I had a problem with the narrator (I said she was slightly annoying, but I could accept it). My problem was with the long-winded descriptions written for her which makes listening to her unbearable. I'm happy you can turn off the narrator voice in this way. My problem is with the writing. Not necessarily the story or plot (yet), but just the writing of the descriptions mostly.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:42 pm 
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navynuke04 wrote:
Patents / Parents... whatever. Got to love typing on an iPhone. ;)

I'm surprised that there is so much negative talk about the game. You guys have to remember that this is a fan game and it was made with no budget and released for free. I think they've done an excellent job for what they had to work with. I'll admit that some areas seem a bit rough, but overall the game is great. I'm sure as future episodes are released, some of the things that seem off now will grow on you. Many people hated Al Emmo's voice, but by the end of the game they felt it fit him perfectly. This narrator is no where near as annoying as Al, so I think she'll grow on most people.
I think that the voice actor for Al Emmo got the voice right after reading so many lines of text, and that the first recorded sentences aren't as good as the later ones, which is why they feel annoying at the start of the game.

I have yet to play this game, but the list of games I've to play is also pretty large and just started my short vacations this week. I'll download it in a few weeks to join the group fun. :D

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:44 pm 
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How can anyone be surprised by all the criticism? It's their own fault for hyping themselves up as much as they did. I mean seriously, they're constantly billing themselves as the official last word on the King's Quest series and that really bothers a lot of people, I think, particularly if those people aren't 100% convinced that what they're being presented is a worthy successor to the series.

The attitude towards constructive criticism on their forums is also very irksome. I hope they make changes before the next episode; I really do, and for what it's worth, I also had a decent time playing this first episode, despite its shortcomings. As a King's Quest fan, there's a lot to love there, but there's also a lot of things that raise an eyebrow. And so far, they haven't given much indication that they're listening to critiques, other than an occasional "thanks for the feedback, it was our choice to do it that way, don't forget episode 2 will have puzzles!" Most of the issues people are having were brought up ages ago when the demo came out, and none of them were corrected. So I have to agree with MI's assessment.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:08 pm 
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I have to admit that I don't read their forums, so I don't know how they are responding to criticism. I'll agree that incorporationg feedback from the fans would be ideal, but I also understand that if you've worked on something for years and it is close to completion, you are going to be very unwilling to go back and change things.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:42 pm 
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Sean's thoughts mirror my own. The TSL team said they were about 90% done with the rest of the episodes. (and you know what they say...the first 90% takes 10% of your time, the last 10% takes 90% of your time) They still have their work cut out for them in order to make their release schedule, which is already a tough thing even if you had a budget. I think they'll spend the little bit of additional time they have to fix up stuff that undebatably detracts from the game (i.e. bugs/crashes) and won't spend any time reversing design decisions that might have drawn flack, but aren't universally considered bad.

Unlike bugs, those more subjective issues aren't easy to change. People don't like the narrator? There's already an option to turn her off and I don't need to be a rocket scientist to predict the odds of the team ditching the current narrator and completely rerecording every background comment in every episode with a new narrator who'll no doubt get a share of criticism as well. Too much flowery prose or silly jokes in the background descriptions? I can't see the team throwing a major part of the game's script into the trash can before anyone ever got to play it and have someone write a new stuff for all hotspots in all episodes and then have all that stuff recorded, split and normalised to boot. People don't like the models? I can see it as viable to tweak a model a little if a lot of people complain about a very specific part of one specific model. But if people simply say "the characters look odd", I wouldn't know where to begin.

When you release a game and people post negative feedback, every team makes decisions on what's worth changing at the last minute and what should be left alone. Bugs and glitches are no-brainers, but as a rule, people don't like messing the inner foundations of their projects after a certain point in development.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:59 pm 
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There's an awful lot of defending going on against constructive criticism.

Basically my standpoint is, they've been hyping this and hyping this for 8 years as the last great King's Quest title. They've even expressed their intentions on creating games commercially and making deals with Activision to re-vitalise the franchises. And all based on the work done for TSL. And then when the game finally comes out they go "Come on, guys, it's just a free fangame." That's crap. If this is supposed to be an example of the work they want to do commercially it's not a good start. And not listening to constructive criticism is the worst possible step you could make. If they're going to be that snobby on their first game I'll never buy anything from them if they get to the point of developing games for a living.

Based on their goals and intentions with TSL, the fans have every right to point out flaws in their game design and contribute advice to improving their craft. Notice I never said "bash". I never once bashed them. I'm just disappointed. Mostly in the writing. I'll still play the game, but the flaws aren't excusable just because it's a free game. They've put too much time, energy, care, and PR advertising into it to be excused as a simple "free fangame." And for the last time, I don't mind the narrator. It's the writing of the narrator's dialogue that bothers me.

All this TSL butt-kissing is getting annoying and is unwarranted.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:52 am 
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navynuke04 wrote:
I'm surprised that there is so much negative talk about the game. You guys have to remember that this is a fan game and it was made with no budget and released for free. I think they've done an excellent job for what they had to work with. I'll admit that some areas seem a bit rough, but overall the game is great. I'm sure as future episodes are released, some of the things that seem off now will grow on you. Many people hated Al Emmo's voice, but by the end of the game they felt it fit him perfectly. This narrator is no where near as annoying as Al, so I think she'll grow on most people.


The game being free isn't a reason for not being honest and straightforward with constructive criticism. A review of a game for example is usually about the artistic, gameplay and entertainment qualities only, not about the money you pay for it. What good will it do to pretend you don't think anything negative about the game? If you make a new King's Quest game, you're going to have a lot of people who have been fans for many years eager to play it and have an opinion about it. I take it that is what they were aiming for. I'm not asking them to change anything (I'm not even part of their forums), but the effort is just so fantastic that I feel they deserve that everyone be honest.

I would really hate it if I was working for many years on such a project, and everybody saying they like everything about it just because I was working hard and for free. I would want people to like everything because they all like everything! And since that is impossible, it's important to listen to feedback so that they can do with it whatever they want. I see it as the least we can do for people who have been working so hard for so long and (from what I gather) want everything to be as perfect as possible.



Oh and I actually like TSL's narrator.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:18 am 
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I also like the sound of the voice and the quality of acting of the actress playing the narrator. She and Graham are actually probably my two favorite voice actors in the game so far. My issue, like MI's, is with a lot of the writing, which I quite frankly see as too amateurish and fanboyish to be used as a valid stepping stone to making commercial titles that are meant to continue these classic franchises. I also don't think that the level of sarcastic humor is appropriate for a King's Quest game, especially one that seems to be taking such a serious tone. If watching the Star Wars Prequels has taught me anything, it's that even a good actor can't always salvage a bad script. I hold no unrealistic hope that it's something that will actually get changed, because I agree, the things that would be first priority to fix would be actual bugs and technical issues, not matters of taste. I just don't like how so many people are acting like it's a non-issue, when clearly it bothers a LOT of fans. And the ones who are speaking up about it are getting lambasted for "bashing" the game, when they're just being honest.

I also agree that with the level of PR and hype that POS has propagated for themselves, it's clear that they want to be elevated above the standard free fangames, which is an admirable goal, but it naturally means fans are going to look at them with a harsher critical eye than other fan ventures. But even so, they're still getting an appropriate amount of leeway, even from the vocal critics; nobody's complaining about the graphics, for example, which are certainly dated by modern gaming standards, but undeniably beautiful in their own right, and downright astonishing considering they were done by amateurs for free.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:24 am 
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Lambonius wrote:
... I mean seriously, they're constantly billing themselves as the official last word on the King's Quest series and that really bothers a lot of people, I think, particularly if those people aren't 100% convinced that what they're being presented is a worthy successor to the series.


Yes, that's exactly how I have felt. Well put. Years ago didn't they have a flash website announcing "KQ9: Every Cloak has a Silver Lining" or something along those lines? I remember the flash animation giving the distinct impression that theirs was to be the game to resurrect and continue the KQ series right where KQ7 left off (KQ: MoE was treated as a pariah, of course). This claim to be KQ9 struck me as a bit presumptuous at the time. I like the idea of resurrecting the spirit of classic games, the characters or locations of those games, remaking games, and even retelling particular classic games (as with AGDI's KQ2, which I loved, and which also made no pretense of being the "real" KQ2). For me, problems arise when the new games declare themselves on the same plane as the original, classic games. Yes, Roberta Williams was gracious enough to provide the TSL team with a quote, basically giving TSL her blessing. However, I hope she wasn't ASKED by them to provide it. Unless I'm mistaken, I think I remember reading that they had to drop the "KQ9" part of the title in order to avoid giving the impression that the game would officially be the next in the series.

But now they're basically at it again. It seems like the team WANTS the game to be seen as the next KQ. In the lead up to the release, they had pages giving summaries of the previous KQ games, with the strong insinuation (at least that's how I took it... and I may have missed something) that this game was to be the next KQ in the series. Instead, why not just announce the game as "a new adventure inspired by and set in the King's Quest world?"

Is TSL good for the KQ series? Good for adventure gaming? Well, I have seen this game receive a good deal of attention as a result of the hype leading up to the release. Does the game deliver on its promise? So far, does it appear to be a worthy successor to the earlier KQ games? I'm leaning more towards "no" at the moment. (As I wrote earlier, my biggest problem is with the lack of imagination and the disappointing writing that I've seen so far. But it's not all bad: the 3D animation is wonderful, the music is effective, the interface is straightforward, and I haven't encountered any bugs.) News coverage with the easy angle "KQ is Back!" has helped TSL get noticed, it appears. The TSL team appears to be shrewdly feeding that angle of news reporting.

I am kind of sad to see THIS be the game that has captured the attention of so many interested in seeing a classic adventure series (or even the spirit of adventure games) revived and pumped full of new life. I feel like publishers, after seeing a stale product like TSL Ep. 1, might be less likely to once again become involved with adventure games. I hope that doesn't happen, though. If only another, potentially more worthy game (like Gray Matter, for example) could have grabbed the attention of so many in the way that TSL at least appears to have done. It can still happen, I suppose.

I had a lot of anticipation and excitement before starting the gameplay in Ep. 1 (I thought the dialogue-less intro was strong, by the way), thinking to myself as I started playing for a few minutes, "It's...it's... it's...<sigh> essentially the demo that I played months ago and that unfortunately left me underwhelmed." I wonder how many others had similar reactions. I also wonder how many non-adventure game fans approached TSL with a curious, open mind, interested to learn what all the fuss is about regarding KQ and similar games. Unfortunately, I don't think TSL is going to create a large number of new adventure game fans. I also wonder if TSL will actually lessen the chance (not that it seemed like a big chance to begin with) that we'll ever see another official, big budget KQ title again.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:20 am 
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that theirs was to be the game to resurrect and continue the KQ series right where KQ7 left off (KQ: MoE was treated as a pariah, of course)


If I understood correctly, the Mask of Eternity was to play a fair role in the original story, so the game was definitely acknowledged although most of that got cut when the story was compressed for the episodic release. (this originally surprised me, since their forum filters didn't even allow you to acknowledge the game as the 8th KQ game)

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But now they're basically at it again. It seems like the team WANTS the game to be seen as the next KQ. In the lead up to the release, they had pages giving summaries of the previous KQ games, with the strong insinuation (at least that's how I took it... and I may have missed something) that this game was to be the next KQ in the series. Instead, why not just announce the game as "a new adventure inspired by and set in the King's Quest world?"


Um...this has been public knowledge for nearly 8 years. The idea behind the project was that the official KQ games left a lot of loose ends hanging and the goal was to tie those up. Of course you're gonna promote it as the next game in the series. That's the whole point of the project. Certain this hasn't come as a revelation while playing the first episode?

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I also wonder how many non-adventure game fans approached TSL with a curious, open mind, interested to learn what all the fuss is about KQ and similar games. Unfortunately, I don't think TSL is going to create a large number of new adventure game fans.


Episode 1 certainly won't, but perhaps later episodes will. At the same time, the game is so chockful of references, you'd have to be a KQ fan in order to enjoy it to the fullest anyway, hence all the background story added to the site.

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I also wonder if TSL will actually lessen the chance (not that it seemed like a big chance to begin with) that we'll ever see another official, big budget KQ title again.


No, I don't think it will. You could argue that with a game that ties up all the loose ends from the previous games, there's no point in having an official sequel, since fans already got their conclusion to the story. That's not an unfair point, but take a look at franchises that have been given a new chapter after being in the fridge for a long time. (like a decade) Prince of Persia comes to mind, which didn't follow where PoP3D left off, but made a reboot instead with a completely new protagonist, so new players wouldn't feel like they were missing something. Likewise, Magna Cum Laude contained a lot of easter eggs, but didn't aim to pick up where LSL7 left off. Software companies probably realize that when you're trying to revive a franchise, you'll need to be more inclusive and not rely on only the die-hard fanatics who know the previous games inside-out. If Activision were to announce another official KQ game, it wouldn't closely follow the rest of the series because they'd be forcing all potential buyers to first play through 8 other games before being able to enjoy the new game to the fullest. (it doesn't help that some of those games have very primitive mechanics and have been out of print for a while) But while a reboot would allow new players to jump in without needing to study up first, it might alienate hardcore fans of the series who feel there's still loose ends from the original games. (Mask of Eternity already provoked this kind of reaction with people) So how do you have your cake and eat it too? Let a team of fans develop a game to tie all that loose stuff up, hope the fans in general adopt it as canon and then start a commercial reboot without having to worry about the baggage from the past. That said, I doubt KQ is of great interest to Activision.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:53 am 
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Erpy wrote:
If I understood correctly, the Mask of Eternity was to play a fair role in the original story, so the game was definitely acknowledged although most of that got cut when the story was compressed for the episodic release. (this originally surprised me, since their forum filters didn't even allow you to acknowledge the game as the 8th KQ game)


That's interesting. I don't know any of the behind-the-scenes stuff. I was referring to part of the old flash animation (which I can only vaguely remember now) that seemed to diss MoE. At least, that was my interpretation.

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I also wonder if TSL will actually lessen the chance (not that it seemed like a big chance to begin with) that we'll ever see another official, big budget KQ title again.


No, I don't think it will. You could argue that with a game that ties up all the loose ends from the previous games, there's no point in having an official sequel, since fans already got their conclusion to the story.


I was thinking more in terms of TSL reinforcing or perpetuating negative stereotypes (stale, stagnant, slow, unexciting) about KQ or adventure gaming in general. I'm not much of a stickler when it comes to nitty gritty story details. More than anything, I just want a good game. Anyway, I wouldn't go so far as to say that TSL gives today's adventure gaming a bad name, but it definitely doesn't do it any favors. Let's just say that I wouldn't choose TSL (at least from the small bit I've played) to be seen as the representative of the potential of today's adventure games/interactive fiction. That's why I have mixed feelings when I see TSL's profile apparently raised; I'm happy to see a new adventure game get some extra attention from sources that aren't adventure game niche sites, but a little sad that TSL is that game.

I also think the game is oversold on the new website and in a couple trailers I saw. Now, this isn't the fault of the website, which does its job brilliantly and is absolutely beautiful in every way, but rather is the fault of the disappointing game (at least from the looks of Episode 1). In other words, the high quality of the website might lead one to think the game is of a higher quality before they actually play it. It almost seems like polishing a turd, to paraphrase an old saying. I'm not saying the game is a turd, exactly, since in many respects it is a very accomplished work, but you guys hopefully get what I mean...

The experience of following the game launch countdown, visiting the website and downloading Episode 1 also reminded me of a scene in SQ4 (which I'm sure many of you are familiar with) after you enter the wrong travel code into the time pod's controls. The music builds and builds before a big letdown while the narrator says:

Time and space bend under the fibrillations of the time rip trans-fluxers. Your adrenaline (and stomach) reel with the hyperbolic hyperbole...! And, finally... FINALLY... .... nothing happens.

Do you all like the song in the new TSL trailer currently on the TSL website? Sigh. A bit of a misfire, IMO. Sorry, I wish I could say more nice things here, but it doesn't even sound like the vocals blend with the music. It was a tiny bit painful to listen to. At least the title animation is beautiful.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:34 pm 
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pbpb33 wrote:
Time and space bend under the fibrillations of the time rip trans-fluxers. Your adrenaline (and stomach) reel with the hyperbolic hyperbole...! And, finally... FINALLY... .... nothing happens.


:rollin

EDIT: I remember that song from when it was initially posted on their site years ago. Seems like it's produced and mixed alright, but musically--yeah, it's really not my taste. But music is so subjective, I can't take the fact that I don't personally like it as an indicator that it's bad, per se.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:33 pm 
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I was thinking more in terms of TSL reinforcing or perpetuating negative stereotypes (stale, stagnant, slow, unexciting) about KQ or adventure gaming in general.


I've read several accounts of people who felt games like KQ5 (which had awesome graphics for its time and still awesome music and atmosphere) symbolized just about everything that was wrong with adventure gameplay, such as:

- Subpar voices
- Pixel hunts. (a great deal of important objects are miniscule glints on the screen)
- Mazes that had to be navigated through save-restore methods. (the desert and the ocean)
- Unexpected (ooh, a bottle, let's open it...Hey, wha???) or unfair (crossing the frozen waterfall) deaths.
- Dead ends up the wazoo. (failed to save the rat in that split-second moment or ate the pie? You'll be stuck)
- Illogical puzzles (putting cheese in a machine to get it working)
- Jar-Jar Binks with feathers

Even if you enjoyed KQ5, you gotta admit some of those points ring pretty true. There's a good deal of negative stereotypes around KQ already and I really don't think TSL will lower the standard.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:44 pm 
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I don't think that either.

But, as you pointed out some negative points of KQ5, I think the KQ fanbase largely consists of people who really like King's Quest 5. No high focus on graphics (though KQ5 surely was impressive for it's time, I never felt improvement was needed from that point on: it merely set a standard), but high focus on story, characters, puzzle solving and partly music as well. I'll just wait for a next episode and see in what directions TSL has grown. :)

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:38 am 
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Erpy wrote:
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I was thinking more in terms of TSL reinforcing or perpetuating negative stereotypes (stale, stagnant, slow, unexciting) about KQ or adventure gaming in general.

I've read several accounts of people who felt games like KQ5 (which had awesome graphics for its time and still awesome music and atmosphere) symbolized just about everything that was wrong with adventure gameplay...


Yes, absolutely! But I think Sierra kind of righted itself with KQ6 in several of those areas, tacitly acknowledging the shortcomings of KQ5. (professional voice actors hired, better puzzles, Jane Jensen brought onboard for much of the writing, etc.) KQ5 was one of the first true multimedia adventures, wasn't it? Showcasing the new technology was a big part of its appeal, too, right? I still found it incredibly fun. KQ5 also has a special charm that's hard to describe. It was the first computer game I ever bought, FYI. But what was acceptable for 1990 may not be forgiveable in 2010, though, at least not in a product that sees itself as the heir to the KQ crown. I'm left feeling that TSL could have been a lot better; unfortunately, there is almost no puzzle-solving gameplay in TSL Ep. 1. Still, I suppose I should reserve judgement a bit more about TSL's gameplay until I see the other TSL episodes, but I will admit that my expectations are definitely lowered from where they were before Ep. 1's release. (P.S. - The voice acting in TSL does not concern me as much as the so-so writing and the lack of puzzles.)


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:38 am 
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The thing that I can't believe about the TSL is they released episode 1 when they knew people would find it short on both content and puzzles. After waiting 8 years why wouldn't you wait 6th months more and release a combined episode 1 and 2? I can't believe they released it and said "don't worry something better is coming in 3 months". For me this decisions was a marketing disaster. They actually managed to get reviews from some pretty big gaming sites, but how many of them will bother reviewing episode 2? They had a golden opportunity to get some awesome publicity for their games but missed it cos they wouldn't wait 6 months.


Overall I really enjoyed the episode though and agree with Erpy that many fans seem to view KQ through rose tinted glasses as if all the games were perfect. While I love KQ they certainly wern't pefect, I believe that kq5 had some pretty major design faults.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:35 am 
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Yes, I agree that they shot themselves in the foot there. PO is not going to get a second chance at a first impression and all the publicity that comes with the initial rollout.

here are some things similar to what I had posted on the PO forums:

I have been playing the game a bit more lately, and I want to amend some of the things I said earlier. I have been most unhappy with the character dialogue and annoying narration. Still, after finishing the episode a second time and spending more time with the cutscenes, I think small parts of the character dialogue are done alright. I had originally written here that I found the dialogue horrendous... I still think plenty of it is inexcusably lacking, and unfortunately a lot of that is at the beginning of the episode. The first scene with speaking, for example, is corny with too much blah, cliched, unnatural conversation. If ever there was a scene to not get wrong, it is the first scene right out of the gate! Also, when Graham is talking to that green woman in the courtyard, he states, somewhat matter-of-factly, how he wishes he knew what happened to his children... well, duh! Most of the dialogue isn't exactly horrendous (I think that was a hasty overstatement on my part), but a lot of it is lifeless and in need of editing and style improvements. I think the way the narrator operates within the game, however, needs a serious rethink by the TSL team.

Much of the the narration's apparent intended purpose is legitimate, but I believe it could have been accomplished with A LOT more brevity. This is one of those times when less is more. Sometimes a few words are all that are necessary. An experienced fiction editor needs to be brought in to clean things up, strengthen the impact of the passages by condensing the bloated descriptions and trimming the unnecessary verbiage.

Think of LucasArts games and how brief thoughts expressed by the main character outloud can be so effective in fleshing out the personality or providing bits of background here and there. Also, the fact that the narrator comments pause the action is a serious problem. Why was this pausing of the action necessary? If the narrator descriptions had been shorter, and if the player had been allowed to continue playing while the narrator spoke, then I think you would have had a lot less complaints.

I think the TSL team needs to think harder about what voice the narrator is supposed to bring. As it stands now, the narration is too many things: expository, jokester, telling Graham's inner thoughts, self-aware narrator acknowledging the fact that it's just a game. It's a bit of a mess. You know what the TSL narrator reminds me of? A nagging wife, particularly when she scolds or mocks the player for simply trying to explore the game. I hope no one takes that as a sexist remark, because that's not how it's meant. But it's true... it's like the game comes with a built-in nagging wife to constantly tell you how stupid you are. Comparing TSL's sarcastic, mocking narrator to original KQ narrators might not be the most appropriate analogy. Due to the TSL narrator's ability to get under the player's skin and provide a distracting and sometimes unnecessary presence, I think a comparison to Cedric "A Pooooiiisonous Snake!" Owl is more apt. It's like TSL's narrator is the new Cedric. If they were going for a darker, more serious tone, then why in the world would they include such an often nonchalant style of narration. PO should pick a voice and stick with it. Myself, I think it would be cool and less disjointed if the narrator was Graham's own voice as he thought to himself.

Also, it would be great if the narrator spoke more quickly as one would in normal conversation, and less like the reader of an audio book. I also would like a narrator with a voice and way of speaking that seems authentic. Some of TSL narrator's lines sound like she is "putting on" a more formal way of speaking. It sounds artificial, in the way a teacher might read a story to her class, with all kinds of inflections added to her voice. Not sure how much can be changed this point, but they would do well to find a trained actor, particularly one who sounds a bit older than TSL's narrator, and who has an authentic-sounding way of speaking that better fits the game.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:22 am 
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I agree on the first impression-thing and I haven't heard any valid counterarguments from the TSL team other than "it seemed a really good idea at the time", so I assume they're aware of this too. But that djinni is out of the bottle now.

I wonder, what is it that makes people want to be able to move while the narrator is speaking while nobody ever complained about that in older Sierra games or in KQ1VGA and KQ2+.

It's a shame people feel discontent with the narrator. It's not an easy thing to get right and people'll be hearing A LOT from him/her, so they easily get annoyed if they're unhappy with the choice to begin with. From that POV, it's already a good thing you can mute the narrator without muting the other voices. A lot of the things you mentioned about the narrator was already true for other KQ narrators. They're naturally expository and telling the player about the feelings of the protagonist is part of that, like when the KQ6 narrator mentions to the player how Alexander feels filled with rage after hearing of the vizier's plans for Cassima. (I guess the difference is that TSL occasionally does this feelings-thingie when the situation doesn't directly warrant it, like with the already-infamous tree line) The only thing that was kinda new was the fact that the new narrator interacts with Graham directly and breaks the fourth wall on occasion...I can see how that can seem off when the game in question is not a comedy adventure.

I'm kinda surprised how quickly people feel offended by a narrator who delivers lines that sound like "Of all pixels, you had to click on this one, didn't you?". A few people complained about that in Al Emmo as well (even though most of the time the narrator's speaking to the protagonist) and my first reaction was that they were taking things way too seriously.

However, I think hoping for a new narrator to be chosen (even if the current one gets on your nerves) is unrealistic. Considering how much time it took to record all the narrator lines in KQ1VGA, KQ2+ and Al Emmo (and we have a very dedicated actor with his own recording studio at home doing this), I think a change of narrator is unfeasable. I'm trying to look at this from my own experience in dealing with requests for changes just before or just after the release and if I were in PO's position, I'd immediately shoot down the idea of redoing all the messages myself as well.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:13 pm 
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Having been a pretty vocal critic over on their forums initially (and elsewhere), I'll throw in my two cents here, too. I definitely understand and agree that recording narrator dialog is the bane of most voice actors' existence, and takes an inordinately long time in games like this. In fact, finishing the recording of SQ2's narrations is one of the things that has been delaying the game's release for some time (though Zeek is doing a phenomenal job there chipping away at the monumental task whenever he can.) Anyway, I honestly have no problem at all with the narrator's voice in TSL. Quite the contrary, I actually like it quite a lot, and think it's one of the better acted parts in the game. I think a lot of the criticisms of the sound of her voice are coming from people who are put off by the melodramatic tone of the writing and the failed out-of-place attempts at humor but don't quite know how to (or are afraid to) vocalize that, and are looking for something to pinpoint as the problem, and then are arriving at the conclusion that it must be the narrator's voice that's the issue, when in reality, it's the words themselves.

I don't think redoing all the dialog or exposition is feasible at this point either, but this is why the group should have had an experienced editor in the first place, which it sounds like they didn't have. With every other aspect of the game apparently getting so much TLC, it's just really surprising that the writing was the one area that doesn't seem to have gotten that extra layer of polish. And unfortunately, judging from the responses on their forums and elsewhere, it seems like this lack of editing was a matter of pride and ego. Bringing in an editor at this point would allow them to at least sift through and remove some of the most poorly written lines and descriptions, and the most inappropriate jokes. Though rewriting and rerecording the dialog is understandably a huge pain in the ass, redoing at least a small portion of the biggest offenders doesn't seem totally unreasonable.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:46 pm 
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Lambonius wrote:
I think a lot of the criticisms of the sound of her voice are coming from people who are put off by the melodramatic tone of the writing and the failed out-of-place attempts at humor but don't quite know how to (or are afraid to) vocalize that, and are looking for something to pinpoint as the problem, and then are arriving at the conclusion that it must be the narrator's voice that is the problem, when in reality, it's the words themselves.


Yes! I think I have been guilty of that, though I guess I'd still kind of prefer an older voice doing the narration in an epic-style adventure. I expect to hear a voice that sounds like it's from someone with a lot of experience if that voice is going to be commenting on grand quests and the like. Also, during my second time going through parts of the episode, I began to see that some of the actors did seem quite capable, but that the material they had to work with wasn't as good as it could have been. In particular, I thought the guy doing Graham's voice actually did a pretty good job, despite his many dull lines. Definitely a better actor than Josh Mandel. No offense to Mr. Mandel, who is a great talent in many other ways.

Do any of you remember Conquests of Camelot? I thought that game cleverly handled the narration by making it the voice of Merlin. That narrator stayed in character the whole time, never "breaking the fourth wall."

And, Erpy, one reason why I think the narration in KQ1VGA and KQ2VGA didn't bother me as much when it stopped character movement is because it was well-written and in a style that didn't seem out of place. I never felt like there was too much of it. Perhaps if I were to revisit those games now, maybe I would think that a different way of presenting the narration (or less narration, perhaps) would have improved the experience, but I don't know. I can honestly say that almost nothing annoyed me or disappointed me about KQ2VGA... and I can ASSURE you that I would not hold back if there had been things that did. It seems to me like something was done right there. With TSL, the setting is somber, it's raining, the music is moody, etc. ... so many pieces are in place to establish a mood... then along comes a sometimes sarcastic voice to make light of the whole thing, undercutting the work of all the other elements that created the mood. Also, Graham walked slowly in TSL... and anything that slowed him down getting from one side of the screen to the other kind of irritated me at times. After awhile I didn't want to click on things because I knew I'd just have to sit and listen for a while, not doing anything else.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:04 pm 
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Erpy wrote:
I wonder, what is it that makes people want to be able to move while the narrator is speaking while nobody ever complained about that in older Sierra games or in KQ1VGA and KQ2+.


In the Sierra and AGDI games, there's usually a voice+text mode. In that mode, every line of dialogue or narration is accompanied by a text message box in the middle of the screen. It's to be expected that you can't do anything while that message is there.

TSL doesn't have these message boxes. Instead, there's a tiny subtitle at the bottom of the screen. It's apparently doesn't scale with the resolution, so if you have a high resolution, it's so small that it's a strain to read along with the voice. It's also at the very bottom, leaving the rest of the screen open and unobstructed.


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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:07 pm 
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Some games like KQ6 don't have this, though. Or rather, it does but most people don't realise its existence. What they could have done was trigger a separate animation for Graham to look like he's doing something besides just standing there so it would feel natural that you can't move while the narrations is being dictated. Such as Alexander reading a book and the narrator reading it aloud in the book shop. Perhaps Graham could have a contemplative stance during such narrations? I guess that would get old too if it happened too much, though.

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 Post subject: Re: The Silver Lining Lives!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:36 pm 
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I think you've hit the nail on the head here, adyeke. This, coupled with the fact that there are often multiple, lengthy text blocks, one after the other, tends to make players antsy and impatient. Even though KQ6 had an option for narrator voice and no textboxes, his messages were usually kept short, and they could be clicked away with a single click.

The best approach for TSL, I think, is to centralize those textboxes on the screen (if using voice & text mode) and make the fonts much bigger so they're easier to read. And if you must include a very lengthy narrator message, try to fit it all into a single textbox, so that players can click it away with a single click if they don't want to listen to it all. Using a single mouse click to get rid of something on-screen is always better than multiple clicks.

Quest for Glory 5 had a similarly positioned text window at the bottom of the screen to TSL. The difference was that in QFG5 there was no narrator voice at all, so walking and performing actions while the narrator text was being displayed was possible. However, as a side-effect of this, I didn't bother reading many of the narrator descriptions in QFG5, as I wasn't accustomed to moving my eyes down to that lower portion of the screen and deciphering very fine text. QFG5 required me to make a special effort to even acknowledge that a narrator existed. But I believe that a narrator's purpose is to tell the player a story without any 'effort' on said player's part.

For me, game designers really need to emphasize the presence of their narrator if they're bothering to include one. It's not something that should be added just for the sake of it. They should make the narrator prominent to show the player that this narrator is an eternal presence that accompanies them over the course of the game. But if narration text is tucked away in some corner of the screen, then it seems merely optional and like the designers are almost apologizing for "annoying" the player with the presence of a narrator that they assume is antiquated or gets in the way of gameplay somehow -- so they try to make the game more 'elegant' by de-emphasizing it. Well, if that's the case, why include a narrator at all? In QFG5, it was more appealing for me to carry on playing the game, rather than enduring ocular torture by trying to read all those tiny narrator lines, regardless of how well-written they were. Due to this, QFG5's narrator didn't play a very integral role, and that game almost seemed narratorless as a result; far removed from John Rhys Davies' prominent and most enjoyable narration lines in QFG4. TSL goes one step up from this by making the narrator a prominent feature (with voice mode enabled anyway) but the long, non-centered messages displayed in a small font, and spanned over multiple textboxes are the problem.

In narrated Sierra-style adventure games, I think the action *should* pause. (A camera displaying a close-up of the occasional item being examined is more than acceptable too). I also believe that the narrator text needs to display prominently in the central screen area so that players know it's there, drawing attention to the fact that the game's meant to be a narrated experience. If the narrator text & speech is well-written and well-organized (ie. without multiple narrator text blocks popping up in succession) then the designer has done their job correctly and players won't be complaining, bored, or impatient because they'll be enjoying the narrations too much. The narrator windows will also be easy to dismiss with a single click if the player's in a hurry and wants to read ahead. One caveat: some Sierra games were guilty of over-narrating (including KQ6 and yes, even our own remakes at times). They use too much exposition or just redundancy: "Alexander does this", "Alexander does that." In most cases we can see what he's doing with an animation, so it's not necessary and can become annoying if the player becomes aware of it.

In conclusion, a vocal narrator needs to: be prominent, keep their lines short and sweet, tell a story, speak without much emotion or involvement that seems jarring (i.e. misplaced humour, breaking the 4th wall too often), and be careful not to over-narrate things. The game interface should compliment these aspects by making narrator textboxes central on-screen, containing large fonts, being dismissible with a single mouse-click, and not having multiple textboxes in succession (unless absolutely necessary).


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