Hero Mages
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Author Topic: Independent Games Festival 2010 Feedback  (Read 3432 times)
Ross Przybylski
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D20Studios, LLC


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« on: February 06, 2010, 09:17:58 AM MT »

Greetings Hero Mages fans!

The Independent Games Festival is an organization created by Think Services (producer of Game Developer Magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers.

Hero Mages was an official entry of the 2010 12th Annual IGF.  While my game did not make finalist in the contest, the game received very positive feedback and, more importantly, some excellent ideas on how to improve the game, which I personally consider the greatest reward of all.

Below I have posted the judges complete evaluation for your reading pleasure.  My hope is that this will encourage discussion in the community Ė What are your own likes/dislikes?  What can I do to make the game better for you?

As an indie developer, I take player feedback very seriously.  My goal is to hone Hero Mages to perfection so that it offers you, our players, the most satisfying and enjoyable gaming experience possible!  So please, speak your minds.  I canít wait to hear what you have to say!

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Hero Mages scored best in:    Technical
Hero Mages scored worst in:  Visual Art
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This game is right up my alley. Turn-based, cards, great stuff. I love the idea of paying cards in order to use guardian abilities! That's a great idea.

The UI is really impressive. The tooltips work well to explain the game and the functions of things. The help web pages are some of the best I've seen for an indie game.

The biggest stumbling blocks for this game will be the art and the critical mass of players. I hate to say it, but the art is just adequate. New players to the game will have to get past the art.

Some minor suggestions:
  • Assign hot keys to the different actions, like 'm' for Move.
  • Make passive abilities round instead of square? Distinguishes vs. active-but-unearned. Or draw the "Passive" text in a slightly different color.
  • Dice that hit could glow--either the number or the entire die.
  • Assign different colors or icons to the different factions during the selection phase, so that when I'm choosing a hero mage & guardians I get an idea of which sets are of the same ilk. I realize they're ordered right now, but this isn't obvious to first-time players.
  • Make the not-yet-purchased heroes & champions visible but grayed out on the hero selection screen. That could encourage drooling.
  • It would be nice to know what the hero mage & champion abilities are while I'm choosing them in the setup. There isn't much screen real estate for this, but maybe a tooltip could show something--even just seeing their headshots would help.
  • The units could move a lot faster. Maybe I'm supposed to enjoy the line-of-sight subtleties with slow unit movement, but it just seems like they're dragging. Maybe make it a user setting?

I really hope this game takes off!

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The implementation of Hero Mages is impressive. I was delighted to see how nicely put together the user experience is.

The game itself was a bit too slow for me. In a four player game I could wait up to 6 minutes between being able to make a decision. Watching the other players move and attack wasn't particularly exciting.

I also felt that the game was tuned to be too defensive. At times entire turns would pass with every attack blocked (without the use of any additional defensive spells even). It made for a game that felt less exciting and moved the strategy to trying to stay away and hit the opponents units with the big spells.

My overall experience with the game was definitely positive but something is still missing to take it from its current level to the "oh my god this is awesome" point.

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This is a nice modern board game implemented coherently.

I like that the design is simplified from what could have been a very complicated D&D-style RPG to something that is easy to pick up and play. It is fairly straightforward but the abilities and cards allow for some amazing tide-turning gambits. It was fun.

What was frustrating was the speed of the movement animations and spell casting animations. It was nice to see them - I didn't want to disable them - but it would be cool if they could be sped up.

The music became repetitive - it could be good to have the music selector somewhere more prominent, or randomly switch it if that's not already happening. If so, more tracks would be cool. Games can take a long time even with a two minute timer.

Use of popups and tooltips was really well done, I never had to wonder what was going on or why something had happened. The logging was great too. There were no connection issues that I could see, but I Was sorely disappointed when my connection was interrupted, and I dropped out of the game I was winning. I was not allowed to reconnect - it would be marvellous if a way around this could be found. This was my main problem with the game. People tend to have erratic internet connections.

The eyesight tool was very useful - how about making it so that you don't have to place the eye icon but the game just shows you visibility from wherever the mouse cursor is?

All in all it's fun and a good implementation of board game rules in an easy to use web interface. Good work, I say.

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Alright, this was a fun one to test.  On the surface, the game is very promising.  I am a pen-and-paper RPG enthusiast, so you can imagine my excitement at hearing about this game!  However, several problems with the game kept me from enjoying it to the degree to which I wanted to.

First of all, let's talk about the good.  First and foremost is your tech, polish, and attention to detail.  The menus are well-organized (very Warcraft III), clear, and well-implemented.  Match-making was painless and straightforward.  My friend and I got into a game with little trouble.  The UI was straightforward and relatively self-explanatory.  The tooltips were clear and I was rarely left wondering how something worked.  All-in-all, this has been the most polished game I've played in the IGF this year, and it's clear you had to work hard to smooth out all the edges.

The music and sound were effective and suitable to the milieu.  The music controls were hidden in a menu, which was generally unfortunate, but not a big deal.  Overall good audio work.

The map editor was a nice touch, and easy-to-use and well-implemented.

Some aspects were passable, but not great.  I liked your character art, and (again) the polish you put into them was not missed.  The way they look up at you when you highlight them, the idle animations, etc... all add to the immersion factor.  The world art also was effective.  I think that both of them felt lower-fidelity than the rest of the game, and might have benefitted from more detail.  Still, they served their purposes and did no detract from the game experience noticeably.

So, getting down to what I did not like.  First of all, the game advertises itself as being fast.  Yes, it is faster than your average D&D session (4-12 hours), but it still takes a lot of time to do simple things.  While technically far more complicated, it would be wonderful to be able to do multiple actions at once.  Also, walking animations, attack animations, etc... each add more and more time to the play time.  Most of these took about twice as long as I would have liked.

The time investment issue would not have been as big a deal, though, if I had more fun with the game.  To start with, the mana/cards system was hard to understand and work with.  A tutorial might have helped, but also an ability to discard cards at will (which I was not able to find, though perhaps I just missed it).  Otherwise, you waste your surplus mana (casting no spells and cycling no cards).  I found myself casting heal spells on myself that I didn't need, just to cycle for cards that gave me permanent stat boosts.  Part of this might be that I wasn't able to customize my deck (that I could find), which I found myself wanting to do.  The core mechanic of D&D + M:tG is cool, and I think could be a lot of fun.  However, as it was, I felt like I was playing a sealed deck game.

The biggest problem I had with the game, though, is balance.  It's easy to deal a lot of damage in a very short time, such that the Assassin game was generally a letdown because you would lose suddenly in a single round if you strayed even slightly into a dangerous position.  Healing didn't really work, because the players tended to get killed in single rounds, before I could even get a chance to heal them.  The rogue, in particular, was this way.  So, elimination was the only place we had much fun.  And, even then, the games played slower than we wanted.  There was a lot of waiting for animations to complete while we hovered over the thing we wanted to do next.  The truth is that the game involved too much waiting, not enough doing, and then dying in ways that have little to do with your careful planning.  It might be enough to give each player more life, or more guardians, but the crux of it is that I felt the balance of the game wasn't close to optimal.  Some spells seemed to cost too much, others too little, etc...

Regarding the mana/cards system, I suspect it would be more fun and clear if you just had a "draw cards" button that let you draw cards at a mana cost when you clicked it.  Add in a discard button as well, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't more fun.  Also, it would then allow you to do things like give the players 6 mana a turn and draw cards for 2.  This would give more resolution of costing with which you could balance the spells.  Obviously, you are the expert on the design of this game, but my experience playing it was hampered by balance, and I wasn't having fun when everything indicated that I should be.

I think you have a great product here, and I have given you high marks in most categories.  I also think, however, that you need to take a hard look at what is and is not fun, and work hard at optimizing it along the axis of fun and replayability.  Get some in-person testing going on, and watch new players play.  Carefully note where they are confused and frustrated after 5 or so games.  After 3-4 people have tested it in this way, I bet you'll see a pattern or two, and that you will be able to fix it appropriately.

Great work on the game, and I wish you the best of luck! Smiley

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Game actions are executed with too many clicks. Makes it frustrating as time limit (although adjustable) is there to help players not wait too long but is not enough to execute actions. The animations are too slow in my opinion and it should be easier to perform actions with less clicks.

Overall design is good with the spells but is flawed once hero mage dies. Maybe the game should end if hero mage dies as there is not much point playing further.

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As a turn-based strategy card/dice game, this performs adequately. The art in the game is just okay and the game design feels very straight forward and doesn't seem to push the genre forward. While this doesn't make it a bad game, it does make it feel fairly unremarkable.

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For more information on the Independent Games Festival and a list of the 2010 finalists, visit their website at www.igf.com.

« Last Edit: February 06, 2010, 10:04:17 AM MT by Ross Przybylski » Logged

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