271 - Broken Age

Developer diaries about creating Neverending Nightmares.
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matt
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271 - Broken Age

Postby matt » Fri May 08, 2015 2:04 pm

I loved Broken Age, but playing act 1 and 2 with a year in between them illustrated some differences in what I had been anticipating from the game based on my experience with act 1. I talk about the challenges of delivering a game in two pieces and kickstarted games in general.

-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 271 - Broken Age

Postby RightClickSaveAs » Fri May 08, 2015 6:14 pm

Did you replay the first Act before doing Act 2? I ended up doing that even though I remembered a lot of the first act, and it helped out a lot; the game really does feel like it's meant to be played as one game, and there is definitely some knowledge you need to carry over.

I'm with you, overall I think the game is great. I'm maybe a bit harder on the second act though, I thought the story had a drop in quality. Part of this may be due to the long wait in between letting me build it up in my head, like you mentioned, but it seemed like a lot of the more nuanced plot undertones were gone. For example, and spoilers to follow, making Shay's parents actual people instead of AI seemed like a strange direction. I was convinced in the first act that the spaceships were kidnapping girls, marrying one to the boy, then as they got old and died uploading their consciousness into an AI of some kind. Also, it really seemed in Act I like Shay's parents were computers who were just pretending not to know what was going on with Marek, as part of that bigger plan to encourage his rebellious streak, but Act II completely drops all that and it appears his Mom actually had no idea there was a creature in a wolf suit living on the ship, and WAS actually fooled by a big blow-up mannequin in the bed that barely looks like Shay? It just seems like Tim rewrote a lot in between Acts, maybe the subject matter was getting too dark for the tone of the game. Or this could all just be made up conjecture in my head, from all that time thinking about it between Acts!

The puzzles I didn't care for much either. There were a few that were kinda fun to solve and involved some good logic, but I don't play adventure games for the puzzles anymore, and I'm pretty sure I went on record for the first act in saying the difficulty for that was about perfect. Act I I was able to figure out on my own and enjoyed it, it never felt frustrating, but I hit that awful wall a few times in Act II where you just go back through all the screens clicking on everything until you give up and look up a walkthrough. So hopefully I wasn't part of the problem!

Also the puzzles break some logical rules. Like the wiring puzzle you mentioned, that one was one of the hardest for me as well, and it needs information you can only get from the other character, which is also sort of hidden in one of the background pictures.

I think it was a small but vocal minority that were calling for more puzzles and more difficulty maybe? And also people saying they wanted puzzles, but not really knowing what they wanted, like you discussed in the other thread.

So I hope they don't get the wrong message from this, that adventure games are actually dead... I consider this an overall big win for adventure games, even if the sales numbers don't end up bearing that out. I hope they continue using the tech to make something similar in the future. I'm looking forward to the next and final part of the documentary, where hopefully they get into sales numbers and overall reception of the game.

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matt
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Re: 271 - Broken Age

Postby matt » Mon May 11, 2015 5:32 pm

I didn’t replay through act 1 because I was too anxious to see what would happen in part 2! :)
I would agree that the story had a drop in quality but partially because the first was so good. I thought there would be more of a character arc, but instead it was just focused on getting all the widgets in place. Rock Paper Shotgun had an article that was super harsh on the game but I thought had some really insightful points.
It is tough to say how much changed between the acts, but one would think that he had an overall story arc planned before they started on the game. It wasn’t originally supposed to be split into two acts, so I suspect that he had the overall picture first. It could have gone through rewrites as you suspected though.
I really liked the fake AI parents, so I was sad to see them become “real”, but I think it is an interesting commentary on being a teenager, and the way you treat your family. It is so easy to take your family to granted and forget that they are their own individuals with hopes and dreams for themselves as well as you.
It is tough to say what Double Fine will do next because they wanted to create a blockbuster hit that would mean they could never take publisher money again. Did it make its cost of development back? I imagine so and then some. The sales numbers in the documentary were pretty good considering the size of the team. It definitely can’t support all 60 Double Fine employees or however many they had,
If you assume that it sold for an average of $20 on Steam (it is $25 but they did a discount and games in Russia sell for cheaper) and Steamspy is right (and it is pretty darn accurate) Then they made around $2.5 million from sales on Steam alone (you have to subtract out the backers). With the mobile and PlayStation ports, they probably made another million – maybe $2. Combine with the fact that they haven’t begun to do the discount thing, I suspect when all is said and done, they’ll get at least $6 million off of sales plus the money the got from kickstarter. I think that’ll be a nice profit, and hopefully they’ll do another Double Fine Adventure kickstarter. I’m definitely in!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 271 - Broken Age

Postby RightClickSaveAs » Mon May 11, 2015 5:46 pm

Good points, maybe that ending was the plan all along and it just seemed like rewrites because of the time in between.

I hope they do another Kickstarter, I'd be all over it especially if they'd do a documentary again, but I'm not sure if they could be as successful with one again. Spacebase got them a lot of negativity online, I didn't back it so I don't know much about it, but it seems like they got a lot of pushback. Still plenty of people seem to be big fans and loved Broken Age and the documentary process, so here's hoping!

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matt
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Re: 271 - Broken Age

Postby matt » Wed May 13, 2015 11:27 am

Spacebase was actually early access, and the controversy was that they walked away from it before people felt it was "done". I would agree that it hurt Double Fine's PR, but it seemed like it targeted a different audience than Broken Age.

Early Access is a tough thing. Massive Chalice is their other kickstarter project, and I didn't back it either. I haven't read any negativity about it in the press, but it seems like it's kind of low profile. I was wondering when it came out, and it turns out that it's been in Early Access for like 6 months...

Zero Punctuation reviewed the game and criticized the story shortcomings but was strangely lenient on the puzzles.

He did complain about a puzzle where you had to do nothing. I assume he was talking about the snake thing, and I failed that too. I waited a long while but then figured because Shay was saying "Okay, let's stop this", that it was just a gag, so I gave up. I waited a while though, but not quite long enough....
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games


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