Really disappointed in the second part (spoilers)

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#1 Edited by Pfhorlol (35 posts) -

I really need to get this out, I am not a backer of this game but I did buy Act 1 and loved it. I am also a huge fan of older adventure games like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandago, and unlike some of the Giant Bombcast folks I am "sure" I liked them.

Man, Act 1 was so good, it sets up so much great stuff and has a perfect mix of puzzle solving and exploring new areas. It seemed to understand the general adventure game hook, where puzzles are a vehicle to unlock more areas to explore and more dialog options. Being only one act of the story, it did all this on a small scale, but was still paced pretty well for what it was. Combined with some great characters and funny dialog, really seemed like Double Fine was hitting its stride.

Act 2 is a mess. As fun as it is to explore Vella's areas as Shay, and Shay's ship as Vella, these segments really should have been much shorter and lead to brand new parts of the world. This is not the case, almost the entirety of Act 2 takes place in the same areas as Act 1. What's more, all of the areas Shay explores are unlocked already, and Vella has to do puzzles to unlock the same areas you already explored as Shay in Act 1. It cannot be understated how much this hurts the game, despite almost everything else about it being relatively well done. Even though Broken Age has puzzle design that's about on par with older adventure games, the lack of pacing between puzzles and new environments as rewards just makes everything seem like work after a while. It just gets worse in the latter parts of the game, where the game has ridiculously contrived reasons to keep Vella on Mog Chogthra and Shay on Alex's ship (where he gets to explore the only 4 completely new screens in act 2) during the game's climax. It would be like if the entirety of Monkey Island took place on the ship, no matter how much the ship changed to create new puzzles it would still get old fast.

Going beyond the lack of new exploration, the story doesn't go anywhere very interesting, and the weird subconcious bond between Vella and Shay doesn't get too much explanation or closure. The dialog remains funny and strong, and the overall themes of the story are great, which by itself might make it worth playing for some. I don't regret playing it, but it did seem like a wasted opportunity considering the potential from Act 1.

Thanks for reading this rant.

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#2 Edited by rethla (3725 posts) -

Well i dont think the lack of new backgrounds was as bad and it made sense for the story which i thought was great but the concept of "revisit these exact same places and click on everything again to get the new set of puzzlepieces for Shay" wasnt super great. And as you say it doesnt matter that Shay got new fun stuff to say about the things he click on, that segment should be shorter and it would have been fine. On the spaceship it worked much better as with all reshuffeling it kinda was a new area even if it used the same art assets. As with all adventure games like these my beef is always with puzzles that has both arbitrary and unexplained mechanics. "Should i just brute force the wireing puzzle on this robot or should i go out on yet another pixelhunt sweep of the entire gameworld becose theres something i miss?" or even worse "is there some line of dialog that has been added somewhere becouse i picked up this random piece of junk?".

Edit: for the record i mostly enjoyed the game but this is a rant thread so there you go ;)

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#3 Edited by ThunderSlash (2605 posts) -

Broken Age Spoiler Warning for the people in my follower feed!

I really liked it, but I get what you are saying here. I actually agree that the pacing was off because of the area reuse. I really wanted to explore Sugar Bunting. And the story gets a bit weird near the end, plot holes aside. Like did the game ever explain why Shay's parents physically avoided him for a vast majority of his life? And what the fuck was that with the old lady being bad? I wasn't too miffed with the metagaming aspects of the puzzles, but I was expecting them to address it in the story. What I find funny is that Shay and Vella had zero conversations with each other throughout the whole game.

The new dialog and puzzles were fun though. Dutch for President!

tl;dr Characters are classic Tim Schafer characters, puzzles are fun, story and environments are iffy.

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#4 Posted by Jthom252 (113 posts) -

I think I had a fair amount of disappointment too, but I still came away mostly enjoying the game. I do think though that in retrospect the entire story really falls flat and it makes the twists at the end of Act 1 and all the setup they build towards feel less meaningful. I really wonder how much of it is due to their constrained budget, it feels like a fair number of decisions about Act 1 were made before they had to make the split and figure out how to fund it themselves. Stuff like Shays parents not actually being computers though just felt wrong, the logic to make it work just doesn't seem right and having this parental AI that might be in on the whole plot seemed really cool in a messed up way. I think the only other really big downside was that they never explore the Plague Dam or Loruna, both of which seemed like they had a ton of interesting potential.

That said I think the game still had really good art, writing, voice acting, and music. I thought the puzzles were fine too, even if the game should be more liberal with hints. I actually enjoyed playing it, the different set pieces and characters were all really enjoyable too, but there's a level of substance that stops the game from really feeling meaningful.

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#5 Posted by T_wester (839 posts) -

I think the lack of new areas hurts the game, you don't really learn much more about the areas when you go through the areas as Shay of the spaceship as Vella. I did not care for the last puzzle at all, timing based and filled with busy work that only are in the game there because Tim has a hard on for writing things down as he states in the manual:

I’m just so excited to be writing inside a manual again. It has been years since I’ve done that. I miss manuals. I hope we have a lot of blank pages that say “Notes:” at the top. I used to think those were stupid, and that they only put those in manuals because they had to have an even number of pages or something. But in the case of Broken Age, you’re going to need it. Especially in Act 2. And that’s just because I loved writing stuff down in Zork. And we’re going to teach you to like writing stuff down whether you like it or not!

he also says:

But I hope you love the game! We put three years of our life into it, telling the story of Vella and Shay. I hope you like the story and enjoy the puzzles. Well, actually I hope you are confused by the puzzles at first, and then hate the puzzles, and then hate us, and then hate life, and then suddenly solve the puzzle and then love everything again, more than before. That is what adventure games are all about.

So the part were I was spending a frustrating hour brute-forcing the rewiring puzzle (because in played though as Shay first) was intended and I should love anything, but I just felt like I wasted my time when I found the solution playing Vellas part.

I thought is was an ok game not great in any way, I think I only liked adventure games because that's what games were back then.

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#6 Posted by Warmachine (140 posts) -

@t_wester: Yeah, I felt this way about a lot of the puzzles in the game. I rarely found myself falling in love with everything again after completing a puzzle. I just felt slighted and betrayed by the poor design.

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#7 Posted by StarvingGamer (11518 posts) -

I didn't mind the repeated areas because it was interesting to get this alternate take on everything the two characters were seeing. My only complaint was on the sudden reliance on information across characters. There's nothing wrong with that in theory, but it went completely against the expectations formed while playing through Act 1. Because I wasn't prepared for it my mind simply never went there which caused me no shortage of problems.

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#8 Edited by BisonHero (11579 posts) -

I wish the nature of the world had been explained a little bit better.

The Plague Dam is just a wall keeping the simple villagers in places like Sugar Bunting away from the fancy technological people. So I think beyond the "Plague Dam", is where the advanced technological society is, which has a mixture of Thrush (some higher class/race that genetically modifies themselves) and humans. Hundreds of years ago, some humans left this big city and settled the villages. Somehow the Thrush are able to dupe humans (from the technological city) to go on suicide missions "into space" when really their goal is to collect human girls (from the villages) who are maybe made of tougher stuff than the Thrush? Somehow no human in this unnamed technological city is aware that the Thrush are duping all of them and just sending flying robots out to a bunch of villages. Also somehow nobody in the villages is aware there is a city beyond the Plague Dam with humans and Thrush in it. I just don't get how the city humans and the village humans could both be so oblivious (for 300+ years, judging by Alex and his ship) about something that is seemingly only happening like a couple hundred kilometers away.

Also, I think it's weird that the reason they need young human boys to pilot the ship and collect the human girl sacrifices, because they have "good intuition" was kinda crazy. Also I wish they had explained the random telepathic link between Shay and Vella whatsoever (they help each other with puzzle solutions, and defend each others' actions in the finale).

Overall, I didn't mind the area reuse as much as you guys, and I though Shay's section in Act 2 was actually really good, and recontextualizes those areas well. Vella's section in Act 2 was a little iffier for me. Also, if you had told me a month ago that the finale of that game would largely be about rewiring 2-feet-tall robots, I probably wouldn't have believed you.

Also, I really appreciated that Shay has the spoon for the entire game, and it's only involved in one puzzle ever. Credit to Double Fine for writing in so many reactions to using the spoon on a variety of objects, and a lot of them are pretty funny.

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#9 Posted by Getz (3764 posts) -

The puzzles in act 2 are trash. The solutions are either incredibly obtuse (like how to solve the snake puzzle as Shay) or tedious like the knot puzzle. They tried to make things harder but perhaps they went too far.

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#10 Edited by TheAdmin (973 posts) -

I agree 100% with the assessment that Act 2 is just not the same as act 1, in a number of ways. Act 1 set up so much great stuff. So much potential!

Here are the bullet points of what I thought:

Shay's parents should have stayed as robots. By having his parents be real people it makes the entire ship's decor seem pointless and the parents look like complete idiots. What on earth would the parents need to be doing all day? The entire ship is self-maintained. How would they, as adults, not start to get suspicious? If adults are on-board, why make the ship look like it's built by fisher-price?

Why would the alien guy in the ship want to be there in person and not just use a simulation or something else? We're expected to believe he just has been waiting for 14 years to finally be able to move to phase 2 of the mission - and get Shay to be "heroic, brave" etc? Having the main alien be on a monitor, reveal their evil plan and then show the little old lady as one of them? c'mon.

We never got to see inside the major city! What's in there? The game should have practically started in there!

You end the game with Shay and Vella meeting again - but that should have been about an hour or so into the game - with the rest of it taking place beyond the plague dams (new screens please) and finding out what's going on and stopping it. The entire act 2 should have been done in a few hours and moved on. It's like there's a missing 3rd act of broken age.

Why were the characters able to transfer information or coordinate events so well when they never said anything to each other? It would have been so much better if they had been able to communicate together, learn something about each other, and help with puzzles. At worst it could have been a chron-o-john like device - sending small objects back and forth - better yet, if the majority of act 2 was spent inside the plague dams working together, it would have been way better.

I think this article sums up my thoughts:

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/04/29/broken-age-plot/

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#11 Posted by ASilentProtagonist (738 posts) -

Tim Schafer is a shell of his former self. A big liar, failed promises, and the guy just can't make great games anymore. He's been on this downward spiral for a long time. Grim Fandango, an Psychonauts are some of my favorite games regardless.

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#12 Posted by SpunkyHePanda (2226 posts) -

I guess I'm in the minority here, but I really enjoyed the puzzles. A few questionable solutions aside, I thought they were really clever and rewarding. I was totally into hunkering down and taking some damn notes, but I get that that's not for everyone. And if you were there mostly for the story, I could see that getting in the way. The plot was definitely a bit messy, but I thought the characters and overall charm helped it along for me. It might be because I chose to wait for the full game to be out, but I didn't really mind revisiting the same locations.

My one big disappointment is that Shay and Vella never really interacted, at least not directly. Oh well, that's something for the sequel. That's right, I want a sequel please! Hopefully it doesn't have to be Kickstarted, because a lot of people who didn't back the game were real assholes about the whole thing, and it really bummed me out.

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#13 Edited by gaminghooligan (1831 posts) -

I felt like the story went nowhere. There wasn't much closure other than the drawings during the credits. Also the puzzles in act two involving the wiring of the robots were MADDENING.

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#14 Posted by Slag (8157 posts) -

I feel ambivalent about it. On one hand I enjoyed it, because as usual the art direction and characters in a Tim Schafer game are still great.

That being said, this was a game that despite being really late still felt slapped together and pushed out the door.

there were just too many Plot and narrative headscratchers in part 2 for me to feel great about it such as...

Spoilers

  • The whole "oh yeah my parents are real I just forgot thing". What?
  • What heck are the Thrush? Why do their heads look like that? And is Marek 300+ years old?
  • The whole ickiness BS of the chosen one boy who knows how to hand select maidens thing to "true" the bloodline. What?
  • Shay and Vella have zero character development in Act 2. They just go into unthinking hero mode and just seem to accept whatever is thrown at them without question.
  • The unmentioned and completely unexplained mental connection (I'm guessing?) that Shay and Vella seem to have that allow them to solve the final puzzle in a way that seems incredibly implausible even for the world Schafer created.

Yeah I dunno, I hate to say but I'm guessing Schafer needed even more time and money to finish this one properly. I hope this isn't the last adventure game we see from him, his stuff is still among the best there is.

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#15 Posted by Humanity (18804 posts) -

@slag: I keep wondering if Schafer wouldn't be better off directing an animated movie or saturday morning cartoon. The Double Fine titles have always been incredibly endearing and charismatic, but also consistently really underwhelming games. During the era of Full Throttle or Day of the Tentacle the sort of jankiness found in their games was commonplace. Now the times have brutally caught up with them and it doesn't seem like they changed much. All their stuff is still full of colorful characters and funny dialog but also lackluster game design. Which makes me think they as a studio would do better in trying to tell fun stories without being held back by the necessity to somehow cram a "game" into those stories.

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#16 Edited by Avanzato (162 posts) -

At some point they got obsessed about the (few?) people complaining about the easy puzzles in part one. Tim confuses hard for obscure/impossible and part 2 just went down the toilet. I had the solution for the snake puzzle but the scene was padded out for so long I decided that couldn't be it and used the horn (eventually looked it up). There are places where you can't progress in one side of the story without brute forcing the wiring puzzles or swapping sides and finding some clue there. There's a point in one of the documentary episodes where they realise on a play test that some action required information that the character shouldn't have, I guess they just left it in and said sod it.

Add in the disjointed story and sudden revelations that don't make sense and I'm really disappointed in how this ended up after really liking part 1.

Having bought the disaster that was Spacebase and being slightly concerned about how Massive Chalice will play. Also having paid for Blu-ray for Amnesia fortnight 2014 that still hasn't been released over a year after the event ended. Double Fine are a company I won't touch for a while.

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#17 Edited by Kevino13 (204 posts) -

I thought the robot rewiring puzzle was kinda fun until I got to the last puzzle. At that point, even with taking screenshots of the correct wires, it was tedious. If they let you label the pegs, or added a list of correct layouts once you found them, I think that would've turned out a lot better. It was like that in Monkey Island 4; once you figured the right combination of sounds to change stances in Monkey Kombat, they filled out a diagram for you, and you could just pick which stance to change to.

I think the issue of omnipresent information, that some puzzles are only solvable because the player learned the answer from the other character, could've been solved if they jokingly addressed it somehow in game. Just poke at the fourth wall a little bit: When Vella knows Shay's toy's name, have her joke about what a lucky guess it was and how that's a stupid name. Or when you fail at charging the robot, have Shay say he should've paid attention when his father tried to teach him the correct wiring combination when he was a kid. Or have a short cutscene play out where it's implied that he spent hours manually trying every possible combination when you solve the puzzle. As it is in game, these characters don't even comment on the fact that they somehow know these things, and I think that's the most jarring way to handle it.

And the ending was just disappointing. We barely get to see anything about Loruna, even during the credits epilogue, when that seemed like a great place to have a final showdown (I guess DF didn't want to build any new environments). Instead, we get a standstill between the two Mog ships, where Vella decides to blow them up for some reason, and Shay is forced to unknowingly go along with it? At first, I didn't even know that was the goal until I found that Shay can make his ship grab Alex's. I was just thinking "Why? Why do these two characters want to destroy the ships they're currently in?" All the dialogue points that you should look for a way around the other ship, or to stop the Loruna people from attacking you. You're given no reason to destroy these ships, aside from the fact that it's the only action you're capable of doing. And we're supposed to believe that a highly insular society will open the wall they've built to keep "the foreign plague" out and accept outside visitors, just because there's a bridge? A bridge made out of their last gene-pool saving ships after one of the visitors had just blown up their production factory? And everyone lives happily ever after. At least they didn't have Shay and Vella instantly fall in love.

And why was the grandma evil? How did she get from Sugar Bunting to Loruna before any of the other characters?

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#18 Posted by BisonHero (11579 posts) -

@slag: So some of the lack of payoff and/or plot holes in act 2, I could write off as Tim fumbling the execution (which I don't buy, but it's technically possible). The one thing that I think falls squarely not in that category is the mom and dad turning out to be real instead of AI. That just smacks of a major rewrite, either because Tim changed his mind or because his original plot line required too many new scenes and areas and the art budget was severely reduced for act 2. There's just no inkling that the parents are real in act 1, it makes way more sense that the mom is an AI gone haywire that is TOO overprotective, and it makes no sense that for the past 2-3 years Shay has started referring to his mom as computer (there's like a single throwaway line from the mom or dad where they say Shay started doing that a couple years ago.

So maybe Tim felt Shay wasn't relatable with AI parents, or they had to significantly rewrite act 2 and scrap whatever storyline originally involved the AI parents. Other than a cheap gag in the moment where you discover the dad is real, there's really no other benefit to making them real. The mom delivers some exposition but she could've done that as an AI as well. Also, Shay was born on the ship and lacks enough familiarity with the outside world to tell when he is being duped, but it makes no sense that the parents wouldn't figure it out.

The whole thing with act 2 reminds me of how everything went after the first episode of The Wolf Among Us. TWAU had a really promising first episode, then went in a totally different direction. Telltale is never going to say on the record why they changed it or what the original storyline was. I suspect for Broken Age act 2, lack of budget after low sales of act 1 meant they could have the budget for puzzle programmers or artists but not both, and since everyone bitched about puzzles in act 1 they decided to hunker down on programmers at the cost of new art. Less new art seems like it might've cause Tim to reel in the story scope quite a bit. But after the Spacebase debacle, it would be a PR nightmare for Double Fine to admit they had to compromise their vision on Broken Age and just kinda ship whatever they could. So I don't wanna bash Tim's weird plot writing in act 2 too much, because I honestly can't imagine this is the full extent of what his original story outline entailed. The dialogue is still witty and funny, but the plot just doesn't match with the quality of writing from act 1.

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#19 Posted by BananasFoster (570 posts) -

@pfhorlol said:

I really need to get this out, I am not a backer of this game but I did buy Act 1 and loved it. I am also a huge fan of older adventure games like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandago, and unlike some of the Giant Bombcast folks I am "sure" I liked them.

Man, Act 1 was so good, it sets up so much great stuff and has a perfect mix of puzzle solving and exploring new areas. It seemed to understand the general adventure game hook, where puzzles are a vehicle to unlock more areas to explore and more dialog options. Being only one act of the story, it did all this on a small scale, but was still paced pretty well for what it was. Combined with some great characters and funny dialog, really seemed like Double Fine was hitting its stride.

Act 2 is a mess. As fun as it is to explore Vella's areas as Shay, and Shay's ship as Vella, these segments really should have been much shorter and lead to brand new parts of the world. This is not the case, almost the entirety of Act 2 takes place in the same areas as Act 1. What's more, all of the areas Shay explores are unlocked already, and Vella has to do puzzles to unlock the same areas you already explored as Shay in Act 1. It cannot be understated how much this hurts the game, despite almost everything else about it being relatively well done. Even though Broken Age has puzzle design that's about on par with older adventure games, the lack of pacing between puzzles and new environments as rewards just makes everything seem like work after a while. It just gets worse in the latter parts of the game, where the game has ridiculously contrived reasons to keep Vella on Mog Chogthra and Shay on Alex's ship (where he gets to explore the only 4 completely new screens in act 2) during the game's climax. It would be like if the entirety of Monkey Island took place on the ship, no matter how much the ship changed to create new puzzles it would still get old fast.

Going beyond the lack of new exploration, the story doesn't go anywhere very interesting, and the weird subconcious bond between Vella and Shay doesn't get too much explanation or closure. The dialog remains funny and strong, and the overall themes of the story are great, which by itself might make it worth playing for some. I don't regret playing it, but it did seem like a wasted opportunity considering the potential from Act 1.

Thanks for reading this rant.

It's weird. I completely disagree.

While I haven't played Act 2 yet, I found it frustrating in act 1 that the game covered SO much territory

Exploring and "meeting new characters" isn't fun to me AT ALL in adventure games. Inevitably, the characters have absolutely nothing to do with my character's immediate predicament and I wind up clicking through their dialog saying to myself "What does this have to do with me? what does this have to do with me?". The fun in adventure games comes from using what is available to you to solve problems. Heck, I think one of the best adventure games of all times was Sierra's Gobliins (which was adapted stylistically in Machinarium) where each "level" was a single screen. You used what was available on that particular screen to solve the problems on that particular screen. This was great because you were never left wondering if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if you had somehow missed a screen with something you needed on it. (Remember the old adventure games that were unbeatable because you didn't realize that the blog of dark blue in the corner was actually an alley you could go down?)

A game's value is hardly measured in how many screens it has.

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#20 Posted by Yesiamaduck (2554 posts) -

The 2nd part is littered with terrible design, the sense of adventure is gone and the incredible story premise ends with a Hollywood ending g cliche. I haven't finished the game. I can't. Why? Because I didn't have the foresight to make a note of the solution to the first wiring puzzle. Act 2 is bad, straight up bad, I am do bitterly disappointed with this... Act 1 I enjoyed so much... Even on the 2nd playthrough. Way to drop the ball double fine

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#21 Posted by SASnake (612 posts) -

Didnt like Part 1 so I wasent dissapointed.

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#22 Posted by Slag (8157 posts) -

@humanity said:

@slag: I keep wondering if Schafer wouldn't be better off directing an animated movie or saturday morning cartoon. ...Which makes me think they as a studio would do better in trying to tell fun stories without being held back by the necessity to somehow cram a "game" into those stories.

I dunno man, I think many of their games are alright mechanically (Brutal Legend was ambitious at least). And I didn't think the puzzles, however goofy or old school they were, were the core problem of Act 2. I thought it was the story.

I suspect their real problem is budgeting, scoping and time management all of which are necessary skills for cartoons too. Perhaps even more so as networks are more rigid about adhering to strict release schedules.

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#23 Posted by Slag (8157 posts) -

@slag: ...The one thing that I think falls squarely not in that category is the mom and dad turning out to be real instead of AI. That just smacks of a major rewrite, either because Tim changed his mind or because his original plot line required too many new scenes and areas and the art budget was severely reduced for act 2. ..

I suspect for Broken Age act 2, lack of budget after low sales of act 1 meant they could have the budget for puzzle programmers or artists but not both, and since everyone bitched about puzzles in act 1 they decided to hunker down on programmers at the cost of new art. Less new art seems like it might've cause Tim to reel in the story scope quite a bit. But after the Spacebase debacle, it would be a PR nightmare for Double Fine to admit they had to compromise their vision on Broken Age and just kinda ship whatever they could. So I don't wanna bash Tim's weird plot writing in act 2 too much, because I honestly can't imagine this is the full extent of what his original story outline entailed. The dialogue is still witty and funny, but the plot just doesn't match with the quality of writing from act 1.

Your're right there's a lot we don't know (btw did Act 1 actually sell poorly? I hadn't heard that. I hope not anyway) that might explain why certain odd creative choices were made. Wouldn't be the first game to jam square narrative pegs into round plot holes due to budget shortfalls.

I suspect you're right, the parent/computer thing may have been a rewrite. I wonder if that sort of decision will be in the documentary?

I think what gets me is not so much the direction they took the story, but just how little they did with these revelations. Shay being totally fine and functional in the new world he's dumped into ontop of the discovery he apparently has somehow forgotten he has parents was the most jarring thing of all to me. For being 100% isolated his whole life, that kid sure seemed totally at home navigating an unfamiliar world and chatting up random strangers at ease. That just seems totally implausible for the character.

Or even say the headfake from Act 1 with Alex, who is fact not future Shay but some random dude. It doesn't bother me that is the way he/they took the story. What bothers me is that they didn't do anything with it or do it very well.

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#24 Posted by BisonHero (11579 posts) -

@slag: I think Act 1 sold...modestly. Like, it wasn't awful, but it wasn't like "Woohoo, it's like a second Kickstarter! We got another 3 million!" And I believe in one of the documentary episodes, Justin Bailey straight up admits that the bulk of the sales of the game will be when it launched with Act 1. So even though there is going to be a little Steam popup saying "Act 2 now available for Broken Age", the business reality is that when Act 2 launched it probably didn't generate huge sales, so the Act 2 launch wasn't likely to recoup the costs of Act 2 itself, meaning they had to get by on whatever revenue Act 1 generated and also whatever cash reserves Double Fine has.

If I may wildly speculate based on the incomplete information in the documentary: early on, Tim went on and on about how he'd been thinking about doing a game that showcased Nathan "Bagel" Stapely's art. Which turned out to be difficult to turn into an art "pipeline" since there isn't a cohesive style to it necessarily, so they had to have Nathan concept out a lot of stuff. While I think Tim always envisioned the game having the switcheroo where you revisit the world but as the other character, I have to imagine there were either going to be new areas in each world, or a longer third act in the Plague Dam. Neither happened, and there is no new Bagel art like the iconic train going into a sleeping mountain (which is weird even for a holodeck) or a town made entirely of little ceramic pots that hold sugar and baking materials, or a sandcastle village, etc. It's just some bland scenes inside Alex's ship, and then a kinda heavy metal Plague Dam. I can't imagine they intended to "blow their load" in Act 1 and not really have any new memorable locales based on Bagel concepts in Act 2.

I believe Lee Petty was originally art lead or something on the project, but Tim says in one of the later episodes that he had to leave to work on an unannounced Double Fine project. I don't remember him really being in very many post-Act-1 documentary episodes. Levi Ryken was another main artist that was moved to another project. As much as the project still had people on VFX and animations and that sorta stuff, those two were the heavy hitters (at least as far as I could tell from the documentary) in adding a lot of the art art to the game. The credits do list some art people that never feature prominently in the documentary that were likely responsible for the new backgrounds and what little we see of the Plague Dam and Thrush city and whatever, but thinking back, their art team seems like a ship without a captain after Act 1 finished. So it kinda makes sense that so little prominent new art is in Act 2.

So Act 1 took 2 years, because first they had to concept it, then they had to find a way to actually turn that into a pipeline instead of Bagel just being a bottleneck because he was having to do every background himself, then they got a bunch of tools in place to actually start generating content, then they actually implemented content. All that being said, how did Act 2 take a year, when basically all of the tools are in place, 90% of the background art is already done aside from some modified ship scenes, and 90% of the character models already exist and are fully rigged and everything? They literally just needed some dialogue from Tim, and the puzzle designs, and then let Anna Kipnis and Oliver Franzke just bang out the implementation of those puzzles in the actual game. Other than that, there are a few cutscenes showing the Plague Dam and Thrush city or whatever, but nothing major and nothing requiring player interaction. I'm not trying to piece together some grand conspiracy, but I just think for how little new stuff is in Act 2, for it to take basically a full year, it seems like a lot of people must've shifted to other projects, and having reduced employees on the team kinda protracted the dev cycle. For business reasons, I think it made sense to move people off the Broken Age team when development of Act 2 was kind of a money pit, but I wonder if they hadn't done that, maybe it would've at least shipped in the same year (maybe December) as Act 1.

Building up people's expectations for those few extra months (and the split into two acts in general) probably hurt the game overall, because that cliffhanger was really good, but the payoff just wasn't there in the plot, and even the themes (Vella rebelling against the life path her parents want for her, Shay rebelling against his mother's overprotective nature and wanting to be independent) kind of never come up at all in Act 2 and the characters don't progress in any way other than "Yay! We saved the day!" Act 1 took kind of a long time to make, but it shows, because I think it's pretty well crafted, has all kinds of crazy original art in there, and the characters were interesting. I really wonder if the documentary downplayed how much they had to rush Tim to finish the script for Act 2. It's like he had a bunch of clever zingers for the spoon and knife and Curtis written down in his notebook, ready to go, but maybe not enough time to consider good ways for Shay and Vella to have character moments so the game just doesn't have them in the same way that Act 1 did.

I guess this sums up video game development in general, but I have to imagine that all sorts of compromises led to Act 2 coming out the way it did, and frankly I think the puzzle design is the least of its problems.

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#25 Posted by Slag (8157 posts) -

@slag: I think Act 1 sold...modestly. Like, it wasn't awful, but it wasn't like "Woohoo, it's like a second Kickstarter! We got another 3 million!" And I believe in one of the documentary episodes, Justin Bailey straight up admits that the bulk of the sales of the game will be when it launched with Act 1. So even though there is going to be a little Steam popup saying "Act 2 now available for Broken Age", the business reality is that when Act 2 launched it probably didn't generate huge sales, so the Act 2 launch wasn't likely to recoup the costs of Act 2 itself, meaning they had to get by on whatever revenue Act 1 generated and also whatever cash reserves Double Fine has.

If I may wildly speculate based on the incomplete information in the documentary: early on, Tim went on and on about how he'd been thinking about doing a game that showcased Nathan "Bagel" Stapely's art. Which turned out to be difficult to turn into an art "pipeline" since there isn't a cohesive style to it necessarily, so they had to have Nathan concept out a lot of stuff. While I think Tim always envisioned the game having the switcheroo where you revisit the world but as the other character, I have to imagine there were either going to be new areas in each world, or a longer third act in the Plague Dam. Neither happened, and there is no new Bagel art like the iconic train going into a sleeping mountain (which is weird even for a holodeck) or a town made entirely of little ceramic pots that hold sugar and baking materials, or a sandcastle village, etc. It's just some bland scenes inside Alex's ship, and then a kinda heavy metal Plague Dam. I can't imagine they intended to "blow their load" in Act 1 and not really have any new memorable locales based on Bagel concepts in Act 2.

I believe Lee Petty was originally art lead or something on the project, but Tim says in one of the later episodes that he had to leave to work on an unannounced Double Fine project. I don't remember him really being in very many post-Act-1 documentary episodes. Levi Ryken was another main artist that was moved to another project. As much as the project still had people on VFX and animations and that sorta stuff, those two were the heavy hitters (at least as far as I could tell from the documentary) in adding a lot of the art art to the game. The credits do list some art people that never feature prominently in the documentary that were likely responsible for the new backgrounds and what little we see of the Plague Dam and Thrush city and whatever, but thinking back, their art team seems like a ship without a captain after Act 1 finished. So it kinda makes sense that so little prominent new art is in Act 2.

So Act 1 took 2 years, because first they had to concept it, then they had to find a way to actually turn that into a pipeline instead of Bagel just being a bottleneck because he was having to do every background himself, then they got a bunch of tools in place to actually start generating content, then they actually implemented content. All that being said, how did Act 2 take a year, when basically all of the tools are in place, 90% of the background art is already done aside from some modified ship scenes, and 90% of the character models already exist and are fully rigged and everything? They literally just needed some dialogue from Tim, and the puzzle designs, and then let Anna Kipnis and Oliver Franzke just bang out the implementation of those puzzles in the actual game. Other than that, there are a few cutscenes showing the Plague Dam and Thrush city or whatever, but nothing major and nothing requiring player interaction. I'm not trying to piece together some grand conspiracy, but I just think for how little new stuff is in Act 2, for it to take basically a full year, it seems like a lot of people must've shifted to other projects, and having reduced employees on the team kinda protracted the dev cycle. For business reasons, I think it made sense to move people off the Broken Age team when development of Act 2 was kind of a money pit, but I wonder if they hadn't done that, maybe it would've at least shipped in the same year (maybe December) as Act 1.

Building up people's expectations for those few extra months (and the split into two acts in general) probably hurt the game overall, because that cliffhanger was really good, but the payoff just wasn't there in the plot, and even the themes (Vella rebelling against the life path her parents want for her, Shay rebelling against his mother's overprotective nature and wanting to be independent) kind of never come up at all in Act 2 and the characters don't progress in any way other than "Yay! We saved the day!" Act 1 took kind of a long time to make, but it shows, because I think it's pretty well crafted, has all kinds of crazy original art in there, and the characters were interesting. I really wonder if the documentary downplayed how much they had to rush Tim to finish the script for Act 2. It's like he had a bunch of clever zingers for the spoon and knife and Curtis written down in his notebook, ready to go, but maybe not enough time to consider good ways for Shay and Vella to have character moments so the game just doesn't have them in the same way that Act 1 did.

I guess this sums up video game development in general, but I have to imagine that all sorts of compromises led to Act 2 coming out the way it did, and frankly I think the puzzle design is the least of its problems.

Thanks for sharing all that! I haven't seen any of the documentary so that was all fascinating to read. I agree with all the points you made, makes complete sense on what you know and saw. The way you describe videogame sales jives with everything I've ever heard about the business. And your speculation about original design intent sounds very plausible to me, although of course impossible to verify.

fwiw this is perhaps the only time where I'm very glad I played a game episodically, especially in light of what you shared. I don't think Act 1 has anywhere near the same impact when the game is played straight through. If nothing else Act 1's buildup & cliffhanger made the whole game worthwhile for me. If I had waited to play Act 1 till Act 2 was out, I think I would have missed out on the best part of the whole experience.

I'm with you on the puzzles, although I did think the achievement design was pretty poor (which is something I haven't seen mentioned here yet). And for me at least hunting for them actually got in the way of my enjoyment of the game several times. Now granted that's my fault to a large degree for even caring about them to not let them go, but I also figure achievements shouldn't ask you to do something that more or less encourages you play the game in an un-fun way (I don't consider save scumming to cheevo chase a good time) or even worse look up solutions online.

A lot of them seemed to be missable tasks in game that oddly had limited save slots (I'm guessing because it had to accommodate Vita? I dunno)and then worst one was a speedrun achievement. I'm all for speed running and skill based achievements, but to me there is something antithetical about speedrunning an adventure game and skipping all the dialog, cutscenes etc. It's kinda like watching a movie on fast forward. What's the point? What are you really even playing if you play Broken Age that way? And I also never think of adventure games being something where you need to "perform" well to complete the game. Again just something that doesn't seem appropriate for this particular genre.

Still glad I played it though, even if the aftertaste of the experience leaves a lot to be desired.

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#26 Posted by Mirado (2557 posts) -

I'm amazed that Tim can write such wonderful dialog and such a woeful story. Act 2 is a train wreck, top to bottom, tossing away all of Act 1's promise and adding in frustrating puzzles on top of that. If you apply even a tiny amount of critical thinking to the plot, it turns to dust and blows away:

  • Shae forgot his parents were real? What?
  • Shae just knows which girls to pick? How?
  • The return trip past the dam takes less than a day, so what was the ship doing for fourteen years?
  • What were the parents doing that they never physically interacted with their own son? The ship is full of automation!
  • What was Marek doing for those fourteen years?
  • Not even a little insight as to what the Thrush are, how they fit into society, their relationship with normal humans in their society, or anything to do with their society for that matter. Shae's parents seem real in the dark for people that presumably grew up in Loruna.

I could write pages on how busted this whole thing is. It's not about plot holes or nit-picking, but how Act 2 destroys the worldbuilding that Act 1 set up. It no longer makes sense, physically or otherwise, and lacks even the decency to try and glue the pieces back together. It just...ends. "Welp, our monster-machines made a weird melty bridge, guess we did it!"

On top of that, both Shae and Vella have zero character development in Act 2. None, zip, nada. They either have the exact same attitude carried over from Act 1 (Vella still wants to blow stuff up and isn't at all concerned about how her whole society's understanding of the world is a lie) or literally have no reaction at all (for a boy who spent his whole life secluded from the world with just two computer/parents and hug robots, Shae has zero trouble interacting with new people, adapting to outside life, accepting that entire themed societies exist, and so on). No one freaks out, Dead Eye God style or otherwise, that Shae is amongst them, and Vella is real accepting of Hope's innocence in the whole grand scheme of things.

Furthermore, it's totally fixable! Keep Shae's parents as robots, programmed to be in the dark, have Sugar Bunting switch back to Steel Bunting mode after the discovery of the robots, team up with Shae to rebuild the pyramid Mog and charge over the Plague Dam (instead of the frankly dumb ship headbut ending), keep Vella's story with the bomb (but change the gameplay layout to be less garbage), Shae and her family can burst in, they blow up the factory, take out the Thrushmaster or save the real humans or whatever, and all live happily ever after. You'd get some extra gameplay in Loruna to make up for Shae's shortened time in Vella's area as a nice bonus, and Vella can explore the factory instead of the ship, or split it like 80/20 with the new area.

It doesn't fix every problem with the ending, but that's a hell of a lot better than what we were given, and it only took me like five minutes to type out. There's a lot more potential for character development when you move into new areas, and I think Act 2's reliance on previous locations was a major contributing flaw in that regard.

Maybe they ran out of cash, because it certainly feels like something critical was changed mid development, and the busted story reflects this. Honestly, I'm not even sure an Act 3 could iron this out; the elements in place just make so little sense that I have a feeling Tim got caught and had to scramble to give us anything at. If he didn't, then I'd love to know what his excuse is, because this is one of the more disappointing conclusions I've played through.

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#27 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3229 posts) -

Wait, Double Fine running out of money on this thing is a possibility? Didn't they get a fucking absurd amount of cash from the original kickstarter? I was under the impression that even if they fucked around for a year having gold coins with Schafer's face molded they'd still have enough left to finish both parts of the game.

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#28 Edited by BisonHero (11579 posts) -

@make_me_mad: You can watch the documentary on Youtube now, regardless of whether you backed the game or not. I recommend you do it.

In short, with the original $400,000 goal, $100K was going to go to the documentary team to pay for them for about 6 months, and the $300K was going to go to the devs to make a small game over 6 months. The game hadn't actually been designed or planned out yet (or maybe it was, but whatever idea Tim had for an hour-long, $300K game got scrapped and never really talked about). Keep in mind that before this project, plenty of Kickstarter projects got pretty underwhelming funding. Instead of their goal, they got a surprising 3.3 million, and it makes no sense to do that same $300K project and then just pocket the rest. Also, keep in mind that producing and shipping out thousands and thousands of backer rewards costs money, so they estimated that their actual budget was more like $3 million or just slightly less than that. So they scoped the project to be a bigger idea, to better utilize that larger amount of funding (3 million instead of 300K). While most devs since have opted for the model of "I want to make a $500,000 game or whatever, and any extra money I get will just be for stretch goals but ultimately the $500K project will be the $500K project", Double Fine's model for the Kickstarter was to just scope the game according to whatever funding they received, and not really nickel and dime people for largely inconsequential stretch goals.

Ultimately, the project didn't move at quite the pace needed to finish the game, as planned, for the initial Kickstarter money. Lots of video games get delayed internally for various reasons and since delays mean "paying people's salaries for more months on this project", the budget of the game expands, and publishers often have to foot the bill, or if they really don't think it's worth it they kill the project. Double Fine had no publisher on this one, so they started diverting their profits (company-wide) into the project as well (when in other cases those profits might either be banked away for a rainy day, or used to grow the company by hiring more people). Ultimately, this was enough to pay for the first half of the planned game (which at this moment it was decided their only option was to split it into two acts), so Act 1 got out the door, but that was pretty much the end of the Kickstarter money. At the time, there was a minor uproar about Double Fine being "out of money" in the press, based on reports from the documentary. More accurately, the whole company was not on the verge of being out of money; they had cash flow, everyone had their jobs, it was fine. But the Broken Age project was largely out of any lump sum of money, and was kinda just being funded month-to-month by company profits.

And then actually paying all of the overhead and salaries required to continue development of Act 2 was basically done with "what little profits were gotten from selling Broken Age Act 1" and/or "they probably still diverted a lot of their company-wide profits into justifying the continuation of the project because the only other option would be just canning Act 2 which would be disastrous." There was no more lump sum of Kickstarter money, and though the documentary never says it directly, I suspect the team size (and possibly overall scope) for Act 2 was somewhat reduced because they couldn't afford to pay that same number of people to finish Act 2 when at the end of the day "sales of Broken Age Act 2" probably wasn't going to be a major revenue stream for the company, so some of those people's salaries were better spent paying them to work on other Double Fine projects.

So I'm speculating that they probably had lower resources to work with on the second act, and shipped the best thing they could, but I question whether it's all that close to Tim's original vision for how the second half of the story would go.

I really do recommend you watch the documentary.

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#29 Posted by thatdudeguy (332 posts) -

I generally enjoyed the story and puzzles in Part Two. They were definitely harder, but I felt like this episode really constrained the amount of things you were working with during each puzzle. My only disappointments tended to be in the details of a couple of puzzles. When choosing between looser and stricter answer requirements, they chose stricter every time. For example, the rewiring puzzles would have been much easier if the wire order and terminal order didn't matter (and it's not obvious that they should, even with a cursory amount of circuits knowledge). But they matter. Other than that, I really enjoyed everything and didn't mind the plot holes.

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#30 Edited by Sweetz (1172 posts) -

Just finished part 2...and yeah, I wouldn't even call it ok, let alone good. Rock, Paper, Shotgun's review and followup article succinctly cover part 2's myriad problems.

Regarding the notion that Tim Schafer has "lost it", I think the problem is attributing the success of a collaborative work to one person in the first place - yet that's what we all tend to do. Same with George Lucas and Star Wars (and it's downfall).

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