Demo Feedback and the Future
Sunday, 26 August 2012 17:20

So it's been couple of days now since the alpha demo was released. People had time to play it and provide lots of feedback. So now is a good time to start addressing that feedback.

I'm happy to say that the impressions were very positive overall, but there are certain aspects that a lot of people felt could use some improvement. Here I will try to summarize the commonly recurring complaints that I gathered from forums (the official one and some others), direct feedback and from just watching other people play live and on the internet.

Technical problems:

  • Game crashes on starting a new game - The problem here is that during the development it was easier for me to just store the save games and other user data in the working directory of the game. This is bad practice because of the User Account Control feature of the newer operating systems prevents you from writing in the Program Files unless you explicitly run the application as an administrator. I completely missed this because every computer I tested it prior to the release had UAC disabled. I will definitely change this so that the future builds use My Games folder or whatever is the appropriate location on the three operating systems I'll be supporting (XP, Vista, 7). Currently, the workaround is to just run the game with explicit administrator rights.
  • Sometimes game would crash on transitions in the lake area - This is a semi-rare bug that can be fixed by applying this patch - http://www.indiedb.com/games/underrail/downloads/underrail-alpha-demo-v0141-patch.
Gameplay feedback:
  • You can get rich easily - With the exception of the very start of the game, money and other resources very quickly become a non-issue. This is mostly due to the fact that you can sell the stuff you scavenged at a very high cost. Also, some resources, such as ammunition, are currently too cheap and abundant. Resource management is an important aspect of the game, so be sure that I will be re-balancing the economy to make the players poor again.
  • There is no running option - The main problem here I think is that backtracking through the areas you already explored, as well as moving through the non-hostile areas, such as the SGS, is too slow. I'm not quite sure yet how I'll address it. Just adding a running option is not that easy as there's a lot of stuff to be consider there and it would also need new animation on all those character models, etc. I'll have to think on how to address this one.
  • Item usage issues - It was not clear enough on how grenades, special bolts and other utility items are equipped and used. I did add a quick tutorial screenshot that could be accessed from the upper right menu (or by pressing F1), but that usually got overlooked as well. I'll be sure to make it more clear what goes where in the next release (highlighting the equipment slots where you need to equip it when you mouse over an item, or something similar).
  • Object highlighting - You can press TAB or Z to highlight all usable objects on screens so you can pickup loot  or open containers obscured by walls, but some people missed this. As with the previous point, it's somewhat an issue of not having a proper tutorial. However, I'll also attempt to make this stuff a bit more intuitive, probably by having the loot show behind walls even without pressing TAB and such stuff.
  • Selecting NPCs - It's usually overlooked that you can actually select someone by right-clicking on them. this allows you to see their exact health and what buffs/debuffs they currently have. I'll see what I can do to make this more apparent.
  • Lack of melee feats - Sorry. There will be more in the future.
  • A way to regenerate health and psi points - Because of the imbalanced economy in the demo, this wasn't too much of an issue. Once I fix the economy, I reconsider adding something of the kind. However, keep in mind that resource management is an important aspect of the game, so don't expect to just be able to rest and heal after every encounter or some such.
  • Bartering interface - "Auto" option needs a bit more work. People didn't like it using their ammo as currency, for example, so I'll do something about that.
  • Same items with different qualities - It's not really obvious before you start reading the stats on different weapon/armor items that you can actually have, say, two "5mm Hawker" pistols that do different damage, or two "Rathound leather armors" that have different resistances. So I'll probably be adding a quality indicator of some sort to the item to make this more obvious.
  • Murdering - In games, people want to murder people and get away with it if no one is there to report the crime. I'm one of such people, so I'll definitely make this possible. Actually, there will be optional assassination quests that will require just that. Stay tuned to the development log to learn more about how this will work.
  • Pickpocketing - This skill needs rebalancing. It's way too hard to pickpocket right now.
Quest feedback:
  • Shooting range quest - This quest needs to be redesigned. It's one of the quests I made quite a while back when the game wasn't yet turn-based.
  • Retaking outposts quest - Doesn't specify the total number of outposts there are. Will fix this.

There's probably more stuff that I can't remember right now, but it'll pop up eventually, don't worry.

*  *  *  *  *

Another thing I wanted to briefly touch on is the prospect of the game being crowd-funded. Some may remember that back in June when the demo video was released, and after being pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive feedback it received I said that a crowd-funding campaign is likely to follow the playable demo release. Unfortunately, things got a bit complicated. Because of where I live, a lot of crowd-funding features are not available to me which limits the kind of campaign I'm able to launch.

I'm currently looking into other forms of crowd-funding, such as alpha funding on Desura.

No need to freak out, though, Underrail is still due to be released in the second half of 2013. even if I have to self-fund it all the way. It's just the matter that being able to secure some form of funding at this stage would really help me make the game as big and as diverse as I would like;and I guess that's something that a lot of you would like as well.

In any case, I'll get back to you guys soon to let you know how it all worked out.