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Wadjet Eye Primordia - A Point and Click Adventure - Now Available

Discussion in 'Adventure Gaming' started by Victor Pflug, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    There are a lot of reasons to like AGS, and a fair number of reasons not to like it. Having spent the last year doing support for Primordia, and having gone through the process of making Primordia, the following reasons not to use it stand out the most for me:

    (1) AGS patches horribly. For whatever bizarre reason, a patch is invariably almost as large as the game. Because AGS also compresses horribly, that means that a patch that fixing a couple of scripting errors would be, for Primordia, upwards of a gigabyte. This, however, is not the biggest AGS patch problem. The biggest problem is that aside from the most superficial fixes possible -- typos, essentially -- patches render older saves unusable. Thus, for example, adding a missing sound effect, fixing a graphical glitch, tweaking a puzzle, correcting a flaw in dialogue logic -- all of these things "break" old saves. What that meant for Primordia was a huge pressure not to do post-release bugfixes / quality improvements in a quick "hotfix" kind of way, but instead to consolidate them into one or two huge patches. That, coupled with the coder having to serve a year of compulsory military duty, meant that some bugs never got fixed and others took months to get fixed.

    While I deeply believe in aspiring toward a bug-free, perfect release, Primordia made clear to me that even with a crack team of testers -- and we really did have some of the best testers I've ever seen -- you are invariably going to miss stuff, both from a glitch standpoint and from a user-friendliness standpoint. Our next project is hugely more complex in "logic" than Primordia -- it's much more open, both in terms of order and in terms of puzzle solutions* -- which means that bugs are even more likely. We really need an engine that can accommodate regular patching, and AGS ain't that.

    (* At least, at this aspirational pre-production stage it is.)

    (2) AGS suffers from a variety of user-unfriendly legacy aspects, including (off the top of my head): (a) an external configuration executable that baffles everyone on Steam and, even off Steam, almost anyone who didn't grow up with DOS-era software; (b) poor portability across platforms; (c) poor interaction with Steam overlay; (d) poor interaction with a variety of OSes, graphics cards, and mouse and sound-card drivers; (e) poor interaction with various anti-virus programs; (f) poor support for non-Roman alphabets**; (g) inconsistent sprite resolution when scaling sprites on D3D mode but poor performance (or non-performance) in DDraw mode on many video cards. Some of these things just constitute annoyances for users who are still willing to buy the game (I've probably personally walked a dozen people through how to shut off Logitech software, switch graphics modes, disable anti-virus and Steam overlay, etc.), some of them cut us off totally from certain markets, but all of them were a pain to deal with.

    (** Notwithstanding this, an amazing team of Russian hacker/translators did an unofficial Russian translation by hacking the EXE. :salute:)

    (3) In general, AGS has a very non-modular environment that makes for difficult distribute development (jargon FTW!). Put in plain English, AGS creates a coder-level (or code-level) chokepoint. All the writing has to be manually put into the source code. All the cutscenes have to be scripted within the engine. All the dialogue trees are written in the engine. All the sprite animations are handled in the engine. This puts a lot of strain on the coder or, alternatively, runs the risk of parallel "branches" of development that then need to somehow be reconciled. As a writer, what I found very frustrating was that there was no particularly good way to spit out the text to proof and then reinsert. Which made finding typos, or doing silly things like determining the total words of writing, tough to do.


    To me, AGS still feels very much like a piece of DOS-era game-making software. As someone who grew up making games in DOS -- including using things like SPX for Turbo Pascal or Logowriter or Unlimited Adventures -- there is a strong, positive nostalgia factor that makes me want to stick with AGS, but even as a non-coder, it strikes me as a pretty kludgework kind of engine. The community is amazing, and the huge corpus of games means that there are exemplars for any number of things you'd want to do. It's a great system for picking up and just making something -- as those old DOS engines were. But from the standpoint of trying to build an on-going commercial operation, I don't think it's a particularly viable option. It's telling that the only company that has been able to make an economic go of AGS is WEG, but the overwhelming majority of WEG's game comes from its publishing operations, not Dave's own development. In other words, AGS works for WEG not because it is viable for a small team to produce AGS games for a living but because it's viable for a publisher to take a cut of a large number of small teams' AGS games. And, even then, Dave has indicated that he's moving on from AGS. I think the system's built-in user-base and sturdy features make it a great jumping off point -- we benefited enormously from using it for Primordia -- but its limitations wind up outweighing its benefits.

    Well, that's what I think at the moment, anyway. Could turn out we were total idiots for going this route. Wouldn't be the first time I've made a bad decision of this magnitude!
     
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  2. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    :retarded:
     
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  3. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    It is true, I started to make a very short CYOA kind of game on AGS studio a couple of years ago, and the on the coder was one of the reasons I never finished it... my brother started college and I couldn't abuse him anymore. :roll:
     
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  4. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    That's only because you're not using other programmer localization tools like property files (eh never mind, i read the rest about cutscenes/script files having to be compiled inside the engine for testing). You got a point with the patching, but it should be fairly easy to patch the AGS engine itself to use a compressed format that is amenable to patches.

    AGS has had a very recent push for crossplatform support recently (wadget eye games pushed for it):
    https://github.com/adventuregamestudio/ags/commits/master

    runs on linux 'fine' (there are still sound latency issues on some games due to large pipeline of Midi emulation, pulse, alsa, pulse stuff but it works.

    I feel making a new engine is a mistake at this point. Improving the current one would benefit all ags games (for instance, differential patching support for the setup files would be great)
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
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  5. Pyke The Brotherhood Developer

    Pyke
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    Pretty much all of those reasons are why I veered away from AGS. When I first looked at it (a good few years ago) a big problem for me was that AGS doesn't read external files for graphics. Im not sure if thats still the case, but with Stasis I can literally render directly out of After Effects and run the game to see the changes.

    It also builds the game in a way that allows for really easy patching.

    Reading external files also means that the actual build time for testing is a few seconds (if that).

    Are you guys building your own engine, or using an existing one? Unity seems to be the weapon of choice and I've seen some really amazing stuff done with it with adventure games (Daedelic specifically).
    I personally would hate for you guys to move too far from that beautiful style you have!
     
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  6. trustno1code Prophet

    trustno1code
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    Which of Daedalics adventures are done in Unity? I though they only used that for the RPG Blackguards, but their adventures were made in the same engine you're using, Visionaire Studio?
     
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  7. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Perhaps Pyke meant the Whispered World 2 trailer? That game is being developed in Unity, I believe.

    But yeah, prior to Blackguards Daedalic used Visionaire and not Unity. They seem to be switching over to Unity now, though.
     
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  8. Pyke The Brotherhood Developer

    Pyke
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    Yeah - The Whispered World 2 is being done in Unity.

    They haven't publicly released any 'official' game play footage, but this is a pretty good look at the game:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqO5lmK1zK0

    And as Crooked Bee mentioned, the game trailer was done 'in game' (although I believe the particle effects were added in afterwards).
     
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  9. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    @ Pyke / Crooked Bee: I looked into Visionaire, but several things were offputting to me, including (1) the fact that almost all the support and community is German -- I'm sure they speak English, but it's still much harder to Google stuff and so forth; and (2) the license terms (perhaps due to poor English translation) were extremely vague and hard to understand. We looked at Unity, but in some respects it was both more and less than what we were hoping for. We're using Love2D as the low-level engine and building on top of it. Since the game is entirely 2D, it's a good foundation for us.

    @ SCO: While I'm generally a "public good" kind of person, trying to make AGS into something that would suit our needs would be much more difficult than building what we need, and would make it that much less likely that we'd finish the game. The foundational stuff in AGS is simply not very good[*] -- it's not just the stuff I mentioned, it's other things like pathfinding, saving, etc. Each time a new layer is added on top of it -- like platform portability -- that, in my view, simply makes the whole edifice more rickety.

    In building our engine, our hope is that it will be something that we can share with other developers so they can use it in lieu of AGS if they want. I doubt it will be like that in the first instance -- at the moment, we're making it to suit our needs, not to be super user friendly. But, for example, we have a functional dialogue editor that works more or less like the Neverwinter Nights editor. Anyone would be able to pick that up and figure it out.

    [EDIT:

    * "Not very good" was a poor choice of words. AGS is an amazing piece of work, all the more amazing given that it was developed for free, first by one guy and then by an international community. I guess I meant, "has too many legacy problems that would be too much to fix."]
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
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  10. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator Patron

    Jaesun
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    MRY have you heard or or ever tried the http://dead-code.org/home/ the Wintermute engine? I don't know if it also suffers from that terrible patching problem that the AGS engine has though.
     
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  11. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I looked at Wintermute years ago -- well before working on Primordia. I looked into it again about a year ago. My impression both times was that the small number of games (and lack of any familiar commercial titles) suggested shortcomings that might not be obvious on the face of it. ("The White Chamber" may be the only one I've heard of.) In addition, it looks like development of Wintermute is dead (last release 4+ years old, last beta almost 2 years old), which is never a good sign.

    Just FWIW, our engine has been in development for months, so it's not likely that we're going to scrap it at this point, unless something happens like our coder becomes ill or we hit an insurmountable barrier. The big-picture perspective I have here is that we'd like to have an engine that will be useful for a number of titles down the road if we're successful with our next one. Primordia established that we can make a commercial title, now we just want to work on building the pipeline that will enable us to make commercial titles with enough efficiency and profitability that we can sustain full-time employment for team members who want it (like Vic).

    [BTW: I definitely appreciate the crowd-sourced efforts to help us on this!]
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
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  12. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Cross-posting this from our FB page:

    Over time, I've bought (or Kickstarted) a bunch of interesting, beautiful games that I'll never get around to playing, which has led to me having a large quantity of unused Steam keys going to waste. As a way of thanking people for their support, and of releasing the keys "into the wild" as it were, I'd like to give them out to Wormwood Studios fans.

    I have not, however, been able to come up with a great approach for this. I don't want it to be a "first come, first served" type thing because that encourages neurotic behavior. On the other hand, I don't want it to be totally random because that increases the likelihood of it being gamed by bots. The approach I was thinking of pursuing was this:

    I will list the keys. If people are interested, they can (1) email me and (2) follow us on Twitter (the latter being a way of limiting it to one per person). Every day, until the keys run out, I'll do a drawing. The winner can pick one of the remaining game keys. I'll then remove the winner's name from the "bowl" and remove the game from the list. That way everyone can only win once.

    That way has the downside of requiring people to follow us on Twitter. That seems especially annoying in that I myself don't use Twitter for anything other than promoting Wormwood Studios, so it seems silly to require other people to use Twitter for the competition. Perhaps an alternative would be that they could email with some other way of confirming they aren't a bot / clone (I guess I could use Codex user names). But it seems like the basic approach would work pretty well. Is there a better one I'm missing?
     
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  13. Cowboy Moment Arcane

    Cowboy Moment
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    I think you'll be fine so long as you don't have a key for Secret of the Magic Crystals.
     
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  14. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Obviously if you were doing this on the Codex only, you could ask people to PM you and that would be your proof. But since you aren't, email+Twitter is as good a method as any.

    As for bots and clones, people CAN create fake email and Twitter accounts, or use additional ones if they have any, so that's not foolproof. For maximum security you could use the NeoGAF method of not allowing free email accounts, but that would shut out a large portion of your audience.

    In any case, you might want to inform people about this here: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...beg-beg-beg-beg-beg-beg-beg-beg-thread.78755/
     
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  15. agentorange Arcane Patron

    agentorange
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    do a contest
     
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  16. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I dunno, I don't want to put people out too much. Plus running a contest would be a lot more complicated.
     
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  17. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    [Cross-posted from our site.]

    Over the past few years, I've assembled a modest number of Steam, GOG, and Desura keys that I'm never going to use. Basically, when games go on sale, if they're games that I really liked, or are simply super cheap, I'll pick up copies, and then give them away to friends or, occasionally, to unsatisfied purchasers of Primordia. Also, I've backed a number of Kickstarter projects that have by now come to fruition, but which I'll never have time to play.

    Anyway, I wanted to find a way to give copies out in a fair way to people who played Primordia or otherwise have supported Wormwood Studios. But after much agonizing and deliberation, I couldn't find an easy way to do it: running even a basic giveaway would take time I don't have, and my various means of trying to screen out bots/duplicates seemed like a pain to everyone involved.

    So, alas, what I'm going to do is just post the keys at irregular intervals on our Twitter feed @WWSGames. This is perhaps the most inequitable way to distribute something, since one compulsive fast typist may get them all, but it's the easiest way to do this, and at least I'll be releasing the games "to the wild" rather than keeping them penned up in a text file.

    [Not cross-posted]

    I realize this is a totally non-ideal way to do things and that people hate Twitter, but it seemed the least bad option.
     
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  18. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    You're giving out free stuff bro, you could be doing by hiding it beneath stones on the desert and you would still be a bro.
     
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  19. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    :) I've taken rudimentary steps to discourage that.
     
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  20. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    For those who are curious, I've posted a brief postmortem for the stillborn follow-up to Primordia, Cloudscape: http://www.wormwoodstudios.com/2014/09/eulogy-for-stillborn-cloudscape.html

    Still hopeful we'll make it someday, but in the meanwhile I figured I'd show some of our work. Also, gearing up to give away some more random keys, but they're almost all from rather crappy recent bundles/sales.
     
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  21. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    I love that art of the miner, complete with a caged bird :D

    But one thing,

    Please don't do this. I don't think I can name any book, movie or game that wouldn't suffer in various degrees from being "planned as the first in a trilogy" from the get-go.
     
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  22. Alex betthurt

    Alex
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    Well, I already told you to play Ultima 7...
     
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  23. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    You should read The Demon Princes! That was planned as a five-book series and it's fantastico! In fact, the trilogy structure is pretty standard in science fiction. But each game would be self-contained, thematically and narratively; it wouldn't end on a cliff-hanger or anything.
     
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  24. MicoSelva Prestigious Gentleman Monstroterratum Furiosum Patron

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    Codex 2012 Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Cloudscape really looks like it had tons of potential which makes this, for me, the most depressing gaming news since cancellation of Chaos Chronicles.

    Now I am rooting for Fallen Gods even more. Put it on Kickstarter if you have to, I will pledge. :)

    By the way, did you consider crowd-funding Cloudscape before making the final decision to can it?
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2014
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  25. Rake Arcane

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    ?
     
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