Play-Testing: City of Phire (Prologue)

Here is my first StoryNexus creation for your examination. I would be very welcome for any thoughts, impressions, questions, recommendations you may have.

>> Play City of Phire by clicking this link. <<

At this time there a couple of features missing, such as one Nex-limited branch and high-menace events (eg death and other colourful consequences)

I have also considered including some explanatory scenes with major NPCs giving the basics of the world, but that may be a bad idea and wisely omitted. Do you agree?

Immediately I click Welcome -

{“Data”:{“RootEventId”:0,“Event”:{“Urgency”:“Normal”,“Setting”:{“Name”:“City of Phire default setting”,“OwnerName”:“lilylayer4”,“ItemsUsableHere”:false,“Description”:"Ci

  • all I could grab, then freezes.
    edited by The Root Of All Evil on 8/9/2012

Oh, fiddle sticks. Well that’s never happened before.

Chrome displayed the full message for me, which I’ve uploaded to Pastebin. - HERE

Now looks to be fixed. Do we thank the gremlins or the tech team that never sleeps?

Impressions so far:

Overall you’ve done a very nice job here. I do have a couple of suggestions…

  • The lead-in is either too long or too short, I can’t decide which. Basically what I’m saying is I seem to do an awful lot of clicking through single-choice cards for awfully little payoff in terms of feel for the setting, the story, the tone, etc. However, that’s opinion, and I’m a setting fanatic so take it with a grain of salt.
  • Typo on the “Fungus Farm” card: “He offers six tips for a your time.”
  • Having complained about too little, I’ll now complain about too much. :) Once we get to the stage with four cards the pacing seems a bit… off. It really feels like you mean people to see the “Finding Your Feet” card first, in which case you should make sure they do. The hotel, on the other hand, doesn’t do much, although I admit that despite dedicated trying I couldn’t fail the Martial challenge, so I may just be missing something. :P And the “Where There’s Smoke” card just plays weird if you play from left to right as I did – you’re only in town one turn, suddenly there’s raiders, and then the card is replaced with a bunch of stuff about abilities I haven’t yet seen a way to change.

My personal preference – please note this is preference and opinion! – would be to see the Finding Your Feet Card first, and then have the other cards introduced.

Overall, though, it seems interesting and well-planned. Good luck.

I’m getting the same thing when starting with that first card.

I liked it. I’ll enjoy seeing the setting fleshed out. But there were a few typos here and there. I may play through again, if you’d like me to note any grammatical errors I find.

I liked the overall feel of it. I haven’t gotten far to obsessed with getting my stats up high. So far it reminds me of Dark Tower. I find that a lot of things remind me of Dark Tower.

P.S. Trusty Felix had a typo. “it certainly felt like a content.” I assume that was supposed to read contest?

Liking the Descriptions a lot, and having “Words to Player” in Blue really helps separate them from the main voice.

Is there a way of having some of the Qualities set before start though? “Awake” introduces 5 which seem to be basic stats?

I think “Gods be merciful!” should be morelike “Gods; Be Merciful!”

“Who is this”

  • “Oh, I’m Francis.” He explains how he found you unconscious out in the desert, how he carried you back to his hovel and has been looking after you since. “Welcome to Ketai,” he adds with pride.

This jarred with me - the dagger icon suggests you threaten him - but you take no part in his reply. He just says he dragged you out of the desert, waited on you for weeks and would you like some breakfast.
Shouldn’t he be saying:
“YOU’RE ALIVE!” “Thank the Gods that my effort wasn’t in vain.” - He hugs you far too tightly before releasing you. “Oh, I’m Francis” he says sheepishly “Welcome to Ketai”

(Just doesn’t seem to be a realistic interaction between you and Francis at this moment)

Actually, I’m pretty sure the former is correct. I’ve seen it used that way in other fantasy stories, and it does make sense as an exclamation, since you’d be gasping it out all at once, no room for pauses.

I definitely do think that the prologue feels a bit rushed. There’s not a whole lot of text explaining things, I’m just saddled with a bunch of qualities right off the bat, then I’m told to explore the city without much explanation. I do think that being introduced to a few of the NPCs or even just having Felix explain where I am and what’s going on would help me to orient myself a bit more.

Also, in the “Sunlight” card, I do think that the dagger image is misplaced. Especially combined with the branch text, it looks like you’re going to threaten him.

(Hm, you’re using feet instead of meters?)

The prologue cards are set up nicely – they give you a sense of freedom without swamping you, and each has a clearly-defined purpose. I do find it strange that the failure for survival training involves already knowing what Francis is talking about, though – logically, wouldn’t the chance of that increase the higher your Survival got? Yet, the way the mechanics work, it’s the opposite…

You also have an awful lot of grammar errors:

-In the “Awake” card: “… impossibly high, everyone knew none ever returned who attempted the journey but you had found a way.” There should be a comma after “journey”.
-In the “Awake” card: “A sandstorm set in, you remember that clearly, and then, what?” That last comma shouldn’t be there, I think.
-In the “Awake” card: “Today, at last, you can think clearly though your head still throbs blindingly with each breath.” Should be a comma after “clearly”.
-In the “Awake” card: “You do not remember that being so painful, but you are now standing at least.” That last part sounds a bit awkward – I think it should be “standing now” instead of “now standing”.
-In the “Sunlight” card: “The sun burns hot and bright overhead and here is not a cloud in the sky”
-In the “Sunlight” card: “He has frozen, staring at you, while running a wetstone” That should be “whetstone”.
-In the “Running the streets” branch of the “Finding your feet” card: “It is hard going at first but soon you settle into your stride as your body remembers how to move.” Should be a comma after “first”.
-In the “Trusty Felix” branch of the “Finding your feet” card: “[…]but it certainly felt like a content.” Also, the title is buggy; there are a bunch of commas at the beginning.
-In the “Prepare the Defences” card: “The town militia are few in number but they are doubly certain to station lookouts on the wall.” There should be a comma after “number”.
-In the “Prepare the Defences” card: “If you could find out what the raiders have done before, maybe you can pre-empt them and better prepare yourselves?” Is that question mark supposed to be there? I think a period makes more sense.
-In the “Prepare the Defences” card: “The town wall is a formidable barrier but the gatehouse doors are brittle from age and decades of near continuous sandblasting.” There should be a comma after “barrier”.

And I’m out of actions.

Anyway, this looks interesting. Fantasy is my favourite genre, so I look forward to finding out more. However, I do notice that the branches for the “Prepare the Defences” card lock if the quality is above 6, correct? Since I doubt there is a way to cap qualities yet, wouldn’t that mean that players could theoretically lock themselves out of advancing the story if they stat grind too much?

See, that’s how I see it. Francis drags someone out of a desert, looks after them for days and then they get up and stumble out…Maybe it’s just how it appears.

Thanks everyone for the feedback and typo/grammar fail reports. They’ve been sorted now.

It seems the general consensus is you’re not getting enough of an understanding of the world and people. I’ll see what I can do with that, perhaps an optional introductory tour of the town… maybe. Of course, I don’t want to give everything away. Angelic look.

Very good point. I’ve just tried to chance the order around to put Finding Your Feet first but to no effect. Still, I’ll continue to try and sort this out.

While I can be quite precious when it comes to typo/grammar criticism, please do. This is what comes from me opening up beta with doing a proper editor pass >< Doy.

You know, I always did mean to read those.

[quote=The Root Of All Evil]Is there a way of having some of the Qualities set before start though? “Awake” introduces 5 which seem to be basic stats?[/quote]

Sadly not, as far as I know. It’s a bit clunky but unavoidable since I want players to start with their abilities at least visible.

As for the whole meeting Francis/knife/unnatural conversation, agreed on all points. Don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that. Now it’s a candle, not a dagger, and the dialogue has been redone.

There is logic to it. Maybe it’s just me, but metric feels cold and clean and technological while imperial feel warm, old and wooly (while being more accessible than chains etc as measurement). Since this is a fantasy story (one originating in D&D, which uses feet itself) it seems appropriate to me.

Yeah, it’s odd. I think the arguments could be made for either a success or failure to represent already knowing/not learning much. The system works better when you are trying to achieve something.

I have a niggling feeling I had a good reason for that… but can’t remember what it might have been, so that limit is gone. Being locked out of the next step was theoretically possible, but highly unlikely. Now it’s impossible. Huzzah.

Lily, if I can add a certain thing that helps me write - if you can get yourself a YouTube/Pandora/LastFM mix of theme music while you write, it can often spur you to great things.

Ennio Morricone or Javier Navarrete would seem to suit this perfectly.

I usually have repeating videos of 'ancient egyptian’ music and desert winds playing when writing City of Phire. That sets the mood delightfully. In fact, should be recommended listening for at least Ketai and the desert itself.

Javier Navarrete… now, I have the Pan’s Labyrinth OST. It’s certainly creepy enough, but we’ve not reached the creepy parts of Rael yet.

I’d prefer not to have a tour. I really like Fallen London’s way of giving you bits and pieces at a time, plus I just really hate infodumps.

Hm, just realized that the player character is addressed very highly, as “lord” or “lady”. Is our character some kind of nobility?

Though I like that you are taking a pinned-card approach to level grinding instead of an opportunity-based one, I am rather annoyed that the battle itself ultimately comes down to random chance. I had 5 in all my qualities, which meant that every time, the challenge is “modest”…50/50, correct? I do not like the outcome of the battle I’ve spent 20 actions grinding for decided based on a coin flip.

I also notice that the stat cap weirdness also appears on “The Battle for Ketai” – 8, this time. Again, this means it is theoretically possible for someone to lock themselves in an unwinnable state.

Also, the “‘We’re all gonna die.’” branch of “The Battle for Ketai” has a broken image link.


-In the “Pant…pant…pant” branch of “The Battle for Ketai”: “Maybe you are not as fit as you though.”
-In the “‘We’re all gonna die.’” branch of “The Battle for Ketai”: “One mutters 'This is it… the end.” There should be a comma after “mutters”, as per the rules of dialogue.

…And that’s the end! Interesting.

The battle scene was very well written, and I felt a real sense of danger and tension. However, as I said, the problem arises from the fact that you’re writing it in StoryNexus. The random chance challenges that I could not retry gave me the feeling that I had no control over anything, and that I was just clicking to advance the story, without being able to change anything. As I said, the outcome of the battle comes down to random chance. Same goes for the challenge at the end – whether or not you defeat the bandit leader is a pure gamble. I didn’t take it, for roleplaying reasons as well as prudence, but it’s still rather bothersome.

I don’t really know how you might be able to fix such a thing, but I would recommend you try something to give the player a bit more agency, instead of making them feel like the story is completely at the whim of the random number god. That said, this does look quite promising (firearms in a fantasy setting) and I look forward to seeing how the rest of the story will play out.

When I said ‘tour’, it was with a touch of flippancy. Or possibly desperation. Either way, I’ve got a better solution in mind now. :) For the ‘finding your feet’ period at least.

M’lord/m’lady - Characters aren’t necessarily nobility (it’s possible, nothing to stop a player deciding so), it’s just that the ‘lord’ and ‘lady’ pairing is one of the few sensible gender-dependent title pairs. Mister/Miss isn’t appropriate to the setting and… and… and I only just this second thought of ‘sir’ and ‘my lady’. That works, doesn’t it?

Regardless, the occasions when a character will be addressed so politely and with such respect are likely to be few.

Broken image fixed. ‘Skull’ sometimes works in the editor, displaying the grinning skull from FL, but there isn’t a matching image in the SN gallery yet. Changed it to a noose.

Thanks again, Little The, for your diligent feedback. Those errors have been rectified too. The points about player agency, or lack thereof, are well taken. I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon and night, and will continue to think until I find a solution. (EDIT: That having been said, the lack of agency in the prologue isn’t indicative of the rest of City of Phire, which should be much more open-world and player directed, including how ‘dungeons’ are approached and completed. Here ends weasle-y excuses.)

The rest of the story isn’t likely to continue until after the World of the Season competition, given it the competition requires the story to come to some sort of end. I’ll see what I can do about extra content before then though.
edited by lily on 8/11/2012

Well, the thing is, titles and courtesy in medieval society were absurdly important. People would never address someone improperly. If people are calling me “m’lord”, it means I’m a lord. If people are calling me “sir”, it means I’m a knight or some other form of lower aristocrat. That’s simply the way titles work in those societies; they wouldn’t be using them if they didn’t apply.

Alright, I’m running through the game now and I’ll note anything I notice, good or bad, below.

  1. Oh, ‘what gender your character appears to be’ is nice. Neatly skips all question of what gender your character actually is, which can be complicated.
  2. In the ‘Yes, Ma’am’ card it says ‘Your character will be address as such:’ and I think you mean ‘addressed’. (Also, I liked goodwoman. And m’lady - I seem to remember someone calling Cooper that, in the Tamora Pierce Terrier series.)
  3. Haha, I like the dry sarcasm of ‘an explanation would be appreciated’. At least, I took it as dry sarcasm.
  4. Francis is adorable.
  5. Liara’s story is interesting enough, but I think you could spice it up. Add some tradegy maybe - someone went out and they only found a body? A relative of hers was killed or fell in love unwisely during the building? You know? 'Cause I admit I kinda skimmed it.
  6. The smoke and fire thing is much better - all drama, action.
  7. Felix is cool - the jeweled eye patch is a nice touch.
  8. Martha could use some spark (dry wit combined with really dirty fighting and a weirdly motherly approach, I’m thinking), unless you want her to be the only sane one. In which case, she’s great.
  9. I like the cryptic warning about food grown close to the old places.
  10. The Lost in the storm card offers ‘Run until her find her kid’ as an option, which simply…doesn’t make sense to me.

Alright, starting on the raiders plot line.
12. If this town is raided often, why don’t the people know how to fight? Also, how come they know they’re gonna be raided a week or so before it happens? (The Train with the militia card suggests night has fallen when you’re done, so to me that suggests there’s at least a day in between noticing the raiders and the attack.) Maybe this’ll be explained later, but as of right now I’m confused, since I always thought you got ten minutes warning from raiders and that’s if you were lucky.
13. I like the mention of the dead brother, his qualities and the nephew in the militia. It makes things feel a little more real - and so does the end where the speaker asks your character to help out and calls her m’lady - makes me wonder…
14. Oh, I like how you lose Wounds but gain Corruption. Lesser of evils choice there.

And now we’re into the battle.
15. Well, this is certainly fun. First time I’ve gotten a choice of what my character could do the entire game, as well.
16. The ‘We’re all gonna die’ is a bit much, I’d say, though Gwen is a nice touch.
17. Okay - how did all this happen again? I’m kinda curious as to what would’ve happened if I fought the raiders’ leader now. Hmm. May play again.

Alright, I’ve finished one run around and can give some general comments. The first is that I like how nicely you avoid mentioning the character’s past. It’s well done. I do find it a little strange how easily the villagers accept and appear to care about you - and continuing on that theme, how easily and quickly you become their hero in battle. It feels like there should be a legend about someone from over the mountains being a hero or something…I don’t know. I just know I was wondering why my character kept doing these things, 'cause I’d probably be hiding in a corner. Speaking of that, our characters don’t really get very many choices of what to do. I think you really just need some more depth in the town itself and the choices offered to the player to fix these things though - if I knew who Gwen was, I’d understand encouraging the people much more. I enjoyed the hints towards strange things (don’t eat the food and Corruption) and would love more of those to be included and I also liked the quaint notion of the villagers fighting off the raiders - it’s always a nice image. So all in all, I think you have a nice set up here, but that it could use a little more realism (these are the people that took you in when you had nothing and saved your life and loved you; character’s heroism makes more sense if this is played up. And speaking of which, where was Francis in that battle?) and some more depth, both of which ought to come with time.

And m’lady is still my favourite thing.

Just finished my second play through. These are the only typos I noticed this time around:

From the lost in the storm card: “Lost in the storm - Run until her find her kid”
From the battle for Ketai, How do you fight that?! "Its reckless and insane but it’s the only way. " (first it’s needs an apostrophe)