ThunderPeel2001

Broken Age - Double Fine Adventure!

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maybe you forgot how to adventure

 

I don't think I ever knew how. Grim Fandango presented me with the same problems and I quit Machinarium when even the hint system couldn't help me solve a puzzle. I beat Broken Age Act 1, but apparently that was "too easy." I wish this one was more like that.

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I think the documentary is the best part of the whole process that created Broken Age. I enjoyed Broken Age, it was a fun adventure, but to me its the window into its creation that is fascinating and will hopefully persist for as long as the game itself does. I would pay to have a running series on games production from Double Fine that basically continued the documentary, but from Tim's comments in the last episode it seems like he wants a break from that openness, which I'm not that surprised about.

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I've been making my way through the documentary series and while it definitely feels like a really valuable document (that will only get more valuable as time goes on) I think as an exploration of the creative process it's a bit hampered by the fact that they don't want to spoil everything. Which is a problem that I don't really think would be solvable, considering the circumstances under which it was produced. But I always feel at an arm's length from the creative process because the specificity of choices people are making are often hidden away.

 

I will also say that it is an incredible piece of marketing because even as a non-backer I feel like I have so much emotion invested in Broken Age right now that it'd be ridiculous for me to not buy it.

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Now that I've finished Pillars of Eternity I picked Broken Age back up.  I think I played it wrong!

 

I have been playing as Vella—I'm vaguely aware that there are two characters and suspect that the portrait on the inventory screen is intended to switch to the other character, a boy in space.  But I never touched it.

 

In my playthrough, Vella just awoke a middle-aged man who has been in suspended animation since his spaceship crashed—and I can only imagine that this is the other playable character, and I've ruined my playthrough by not switching to him to see his story.

 

So is that a problem?  Can you ruin the narrative for Broken Age for yourself?

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You're fine, and you have not been playing it wrong. Any further explanations would be spoilers.

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I'll have to review this full thread later but I'm surprised just how miserable some of the Act II puzzles are.  After solely playing as Vella, then Shay for Act I, I am playing as Shay in Act II and not switching to Vella until Shay is done.

 

The knot puzzle wasn't hard, but it was harsh and made me feel dumb even when I made a right choice.

 

The wire puzzle is impossible based on the rules I have imposed on myself.  I almost want to quit the game instead of muddle the storytelling.

 

Overall, the structure for Act II is really disappointing:

 

It's just Act I with the other character and absolutely no new areas or characters.  It seems unnecessarily confining.  It also doesn't resonate; Shay doesn't seem guilty enough about his (seeming) murder spree, and other than that he's a blank slate character in this land.

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The wire puzzle is impossible based on the rules I have imposed on myself.  I almost want to quit the game instead of muddle the storytelling.

 

I have some problems with the initial clues for the wire puzzle, but I don't know if it's really fair to blame this one on the game. You artificially limited yourself so that you can't do something the game requires you to do. That's kind of on you, dude.

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Yeah, the rules of the game are that you cannot play through the entirety of the game with one character and only then switch to the other character. If you don't like those rules, don't play that game. I don't play LOMAs because I don't like their rules.

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To be fair, I don't remember the game giving any indication that you needed to look at the other story for the solution. It's especially weird given that A) the first half of the game never requires you to do that and B) there isn't any narrative justification for why the characters would know these things.

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Right, the game set an expectation in Act I that Act II later subverted in a way that left many players confused or (temporarily) stuck. In retrospect, I see what they were going for thematically, but the shift felt clumsy and could have been supported more strongly in the writing or puzzle structure.

 

Full game + ending spoilers:

Act I establishes a baseline where each protagonist can succeed by acting independently. The end of Act I reveals that their two worlds are inextricably linked. Act II sets up the idea that Shay and Vella are learning about each other from a distance. Shay through talking with Vella's family and showing the poster around. Vella through seeing where Shay grew up, being quizzed on his childhood, and talking with his mom. This culminates in an endgame that has Shay and Vella work together by trusting in each other's actions in the absence of explicit in-world communication.

 

Each character hits at least one roadblock in Act II that, as designed, requires breaking the fourth wall and using information from the other character's environment. Shay begins in an open, nonlinear section with multiple short-term goals, only one of which (Hexipal wiring) requires information not found in his section. Vella begins Act II with a relatively linear series of puzzles that only substantially opens up after answering the quiz about Shay's childhood. Vella can find two of the three answers in the museum, but the player cannot know the name of Shay's favorite toy without information found in his area.

 

Crucially, failing that question takes Vella back to the museum and the game seems to strongly hint in dialogue that the information she needs in found there. And it's partially true -- the museum does establish that Shay had a toy snake, which is necessary for the player to eventually solve the puzzle the "right way" -- but it's entirely possible that the player will just get the name through brute force and not learn the lesson that cross-character collaboration is now necessary. (This doesn't apply as much to the Hexipal wiring puzzles and Vella's later coordinate puzzle, each having magnitudes more wrong answers.)

 

The player might also have trouble definitively concluding that the name isn't anywhere on the ship, that there isn't just some tiny hotspot in the museum or elsewhere that they're missing. This also holds true for Shay's roadblock, his side starting with even more screens full of unsolved puzzles and untried interactions, any of which could potentially be something that results in learning the proper Hexipal wiring.

 

This also raises design questions of how to lead the player to understand that the rules have changed and whether the specific narrative beats of "Vella guesses the name of Shay's favorite toy and the coordinates to the beach town" and "Shay and Vella guess wiring configurations that only the other saw" are good or necessary ways to force the player to switch between the characters to demonstrate a growing understanding and bond and dependency between them, but ehhhh. :fart:  

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I tossed off my self-imposed restriction and switched to Vella, but even now the game doesn't seem to encourage that.  Shay and Vella are not working together to solve puzzles.  Clicking on their portrait feels like an "I give up" button.

 

And I guess I should spoiler this even though it's vague:

 

Vella has actual motivation, new characters (sort of), and new areas!  Why even have Shay be playable?

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Honestly, I don't understand why Double Fine thought it was important that the two leads never communicate with each other when both the story and the puzzles would make more sense if, say, Vella found Shay's radio on the ship.

 

Was the implication supposed to be that they had some sort of psychic connection? The final puzzle kind of implied that, but not strongly enough that I'm convinced it was on purpose.The documentary didn't really go into the writing process or anything of that sort, so it's hard to tell what their intention even was regardless of what actually made it onto the screen.

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I finished Broken Age!  It was miserable!  It was a self-loathing slog that ran out of ideas halfway though and replaced them all with tying wires blindly on the backs of robots.  It felt bad to play it.

 

But here are some good points!  I loved the relationship between Vella and the knife; he had some of the best dialogue in Act II.  I liked Vella in general.

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For me it was the adventure game I had the most fun with. And I was positively surprised by the variety and intricacy of the puzzle design. Adventure games are weird. ;P

I played with a friend, though.

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For me it was the adventure game I had the most fun with. And I was positively surprised by the variety and intricacy of the puzzle design. Adventure games are weird. ;P

I played with a friend, though.

 

Yeah, Ozzie I was re-reading the thread before I posted and thought, "Did anyone have fun solving these puzzles?"  And you did!

 

Some of the harder Act II puzzles were OK; there were "Kitty Hat Day" aspects to the snake puzzle and the boots puzzle.  But to make the end of the game all wire puzzles really killed me.

 

I replayed the last puzzle of Full Throttle over and over again, too, unable to figure out how to escape the back of that truck trailer.  When I finally figured it out, I felt a little dumb, but it led to a cool moment.  Broken Age had already shown half of its ending, so the results of finally figuring it out weren't as exciting.  Tim Schafer should take tips from whoever did Full Throttle!

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Said this before, but the wire puzzles were my favourite in Act II, because they had the most consistent logic. I hated the snake puzzle, the knot puzzle, the joke puzzle and the opening of the wire puzzle with the picture, because they all relied on random guesswork.

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I've been rewatching this and it's got me incredibly nostalgic for 2012/13, when I moved to Chicago and discovered Idle Thumbs which got me back into games, etc. I really miss Idle Thumbs, for sure.

On 7/20/2015 at 11:31 PM, Patrick R said:

I've been making my way through the documentary series and while it definitely feels like a really valuable document (that will only get more valuable as time goes on) I think as an exploration of the creative process it's a bit hampered by the fact that they don't want to spoil everything. Which is a problem that I don't really think would be solvable, considering the circumstances under which it was produced. But I always feel at an arm's length from the creative process because the specificity of choices people are making are often hidden away.

 

I still agree with the first bolded statement, no longer with the second. I think I was just looking at the creative process through a limited scope of "individual artistic decisions people make" (which are in fact part of the documentary as well) when what this series is actually is an incredible macro look at the creative process of massive collaborative projects, how all the parts fit together and, more importantly, create bottlenecks for each other. You really walk away with a thorough understanding of how bizarre and unintuitive the game development process can be. It is wild to me that Two Player Productions would go on to make nothing else like this. Are they even still a thing? Their Twitter is active but the link to their official site is broken and this is the last project of theirs listed on Wikipedia.

 

When they refer to "sprints" they're talking about crunch, right?

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On 9/6/2019 at 3:49 PM, Patrick R said:

When they refer to "sprints" they're talking about crunch, right?

 

'Sprints' is a concept that comes out of a software design/programming/implementation methodology called 'agile.' The idea is that you think about the work you can complete in the amount of time that's in a sprint (2 weeks in many cases) and then have larger goals to accomplish over the course of larger amounts of times, usually called releases (4 to 5 releases per year, so roughly quarterly). So you break down features you want to implement (a map system, a specific menu, music, etc) into accomplishable tasks: make a proof of concept, estimate the amount of work things will take, debug a problem, implement part of a feature, etc. The idea is that you can mark your progress toward implementing features by breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones and it facilitates collaboration with your teammates when you can point to a specific task that you're 'blocked' on, or that you can't make progress on without help/feedback with someone else.

 

For the record I think the agile methodology is a really good way to think about problems and breaking them down into smaller pieces that you can deliver on in reasonable amounts of time. It is unfortunately applied to lots of non-software work and it doesn't work as well there. This is a very inside baseball thing.

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