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Krss
admin



While waiting on Gray Matter, how about a classic adventure game designed by our very own Marion and programmed by yours truly among others? :smile: Some of you must remember this from a long time ago. It's been in production forever, and it was finally released on Nov 9th.

http://themarionette.game-host.org

"Martin is a bachelor and sculptor struggling to make a living in the city. He specializes in modelling human figures, and often hires people to pose for him in his studio. To him, they are just models, and his interest in them is solely for the purpose of his art. One evening, he receives an envelope in the mail. The envelope is unmarked except for the numbers 1011 scribbled in a corner. Inside is a strange photo. Soon after, Martin finds himself in a different world, where time and space mean nothing, and ghosts from the past will not die..."

The Marionette is a free downloadable point-and-click adventure game. It is created using the Adventure Game Studio (AGS) software and features a 2D interface similar to that of old Sierra adventure games such as the King's Quest and Gabriel Knight series. The Marionette began production in September 2006. It was released on 09 November 2009.

Here is the awesome trailer made by Khyle, another member of Team Effigy.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 8:05 am on Nov. 10, 2009 | Link to this post
Thaumaturge
Recurring Arch-Villain



Note first: I have attempted a form of spoiler tag using black text, having failed thus far to find a better means, it seems.  I do apologise if this fails, and am willing to cut the spoiler-text if called for, I believe. ^^;

That was a wonderful game, Krss: touching, bittersweet; short, but neither too brief nor drawn out.  The graphics are lovely (and this is, I think, a case in which the graphic-novel-esque cutscene style works particularly well), the music often appropriate (that used in the hotel room was probably the most affecting: I remember it as sad, with something of the quality of an old memory, one not unhappy, but perhaps lent sadness by later events (Appropriately enough :wink:).  It was, however, the characterisation that most impressed, immersed and made an affecting experience of the game, I think: tragic, sad and sympathetic I found both of the central characters, and even those on the sides had the feel of reality to them, I think.

Finally - appropriately - I have enjoyed all of the endings that I have thus far found - I enjoyed, I believe, that there was more than one ending, and that one's path, while pretty much linear, seems to yet offer some degree of freedom in what the player notices and solves.

Overall, very well done, I say, and thank you very much for sharing it - I very much enjoyed playing, I believe. ^_^

If you want, I have a few thoughts further, on the (hopefully-)constructive crititicm side; if not, just say so. ^_^

I do have two gameplay-related questions (highlight to view):
I have, I believe, found one good ending, by giving to Eshana Martin's journal after showing her evidence of her mother caring about her, the other artist having noticed her vandalism and of her caring about that artist's feelings.  However, given the torn sketchbook (which I have managed to piece together, I believe) and the second four-digit number found with the second sketchbook piece, I find myself wondering whether I haven't missed something.  The second number doesn't seem to work as a combination for the prison lock, and I don't seem to have found a way to take the sketchbook with me, or to mention it to Eshana.

Have I missed something? :/


PS: I looked up the name taken by the lady in the game - very appropriate, I believe. :wink:

(Edited by Thaumaturge at 10:52 pm on Nov. 13, 2009)

-----
... World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams: ...

Total Posts: 82 | Joined Dec. 2008 | Posted on: 8:52 pm on Nov. 13, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



Thanks Thaumaturge. :smile: I think I'll have to answer your questions, being the one who inserted those little puzzles in the game.

(Spoilers: highlight to view)
There are indeed four different endings, so if you've gotten four - congratulations, you're done! :smile:

The torn sketchbook was never meant to be kept by Martin or shared with Eshana. It was just to let the player know why Eshana was so confident of Martin's love, and also Eshana's way of throwing Martin's words in his face. There was no need for him to give her the sketchbook page in the end.

The second number you found, I believe would have been 2307 - the number on the back of the photograph. Taken with 1011, and the date at the beginning of the game - Martin was writing in his journal on Monday the 9th of November when he found the envelope in his mail - I'm hoping the player would come to the conclusion that 1011 was 10 November, the date Eshana died a year ago, and 2307 would therefore be 23rd July - the date of the art exhibition. The launch date of the game was also chosen to coincide with Monday 9th November, 2009.


Do share your constructive criticism. It should serve to deflate our overinflated egos.:tongue:

Also, I think you're the first person to notice the significance of the name. :smile: Give yourself a pat on the back!

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 11:56 am on Nov. 14, 2009 | Link to this post
Krss
admin



Ooohhh, so that's why she had that name. :smile:

So glad you enjoyed it, Thaumaturge! Please share all your thoughts!

Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 6:25 pm on Nov. 14, 2009 | Link to this post
Thaumaturge
Recurring Arch-Villain



Thank you for your explanations. ^_^

If I may add, thinking further about the game has shown me that there are a variety of, to my mind, lovely and effective elements throughout the game.  Again I echo: very well done all, I believe. ^_^

As to endings, I seem to recall that I found three by myself, and read about the fourth - the "purgatory" ending, I believe on the Marionette forum.  From what I've watched and read, I think that the "purgatory" ending is perhaps the most appropriate to the game, having, to go by the description, a quality appropriately bittersweet to the game's overall tone. ^_^

As to constructive criticism, I'm not sure that I recall all of my thoughts of last night, but here is what does come to mind, I think:

Perhaps most salient to me are some of the horror elements, in particular the more, well, horrific.  To me, some of these felt perhaps a little forced and out of place in this game; while I don't dispute that The Marionette is indeed a horror game, I think that for the most part it was a fairly subtle one, and one that was perhaps more a story of mind and heart than one of fear, producing overall, for me, at least, a particularly engaging and touching experience, as well as an unsettling one.  

Given that, some elements seemed to me to work rather well: Eshana's reflection in black paint, or the dressmaker's dummy in the study, for example.  On the other hand, others, such as the dummy in the hotel closet, or the puppet advancing down the chess hallway seemed to me to be overly horrific for the otherwise tone of the game, and, I think, actually hurt the experience a little for me.  (For that matter, why does Eshana - presumably - seemingly attempt to kill Martin before he's reached the cell?)

On the gameplay side, I think that I began to find myself a little reluctant to go through doors, having been trained from fairly early in the game that a door may prove to be a one-way portal, potentially leaving uncompleted elements behind.  For example, in the bathroom, I recall that I found myself looking around over and over, since there appeared to be something to do (the writing on the shower door), no apparent means of doing so, and a closed door that could, potentially, have left me with an unsolved puzzle behind.  Of course, in retrospect I think that most "portal-doors" were in some way "locked" in the game, but I don't think that this was clear to me at the time.

I'm a little in two minds about potential solutions to the above.  To me the obvious thought is to somehow mark the doors as different, but I suspect that that runs the risk of reducing the immersion produced, by introducing a potentially-obvious "game" element or making the constructed nature of the world in which Martin finds himself too apparent.

Another thought might be to have the opening of such a door present only darkness (as I recall that it did, in two cases), and to then allow the player to step through in a second action, hopefully reducing the danger of unwittingly stepping through a "portal-door".  This, however, seems to me to potentially damage the flow or feel of the game; it might work, but I think that I'm inclined to recommend testing before adoption of that (if, hypothetically, you were to change the game at this point, which I'm not asking ;P).  Other than those, however, I'm not sure at the moment, I think.

Finally, despite Martin's protestations, I don't think that it was terribly clear that there was, as I now understand it, no way to take the sketchbook page.  While Martin did, as I recall, point out that he had no way of gluing the page, I seem to recall thinking that I may have simply missed such an item, or that another item might have been used to carry it.  Perhaps it might have helped to have him mention that, for example, there didn't seem to be much reason to carry them onward.  A physical problem in carrying an item - lack of glue, for example - may appear to be a potential puzzle, while a lack of motivation, or motivation away from carriage, may perhaps better indicate that an item is not intended to be carried. :wink:

Also, I think you're the first person to notice the significance of the name. :smile: Give yourself a pat on the back!

Thank you. ^_^

If I recall correctly, it was sufficiently unusual for me to suspect that it might have some significance, and so I performed a search for it. :wink:

If I may ask, do you have any plans for further games?

-----
... World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams: ...

Total Posts: 82 | Joined Dec. 2008 | Posted on: 12:12 am on Nov. 15, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



Very interesting feedback, Thaumaturge. I don't believe I've seen the points you've raised before. Most other people tend to find fault with the controls, etc., but I find your angle very interesting. :smile:

To address some of your points then:

(Spoilers: highlight to read, because I'm lazy to hide individual phrases:tongue: )
To me, Eshana is a conflicted character. There is a sweet childlike side to her, and there is a destructive side of her who is raging to kill. The mannequin that Martin finds in the closet and which later comes for him in the chess room is a personification of that desire to destroy and kill. It's the same side of her personality that drove her to destroy all of Robert's paintings when she couldn't get him by any other way. It's the vengeful side of her that brought Martin to the otherworld and the side that finally kills him (if you get the bad endings - I originally had the thought of placing the mannequin behind Eshana to show her split personality, but that wouldn't make sense if you've just killed it:tongue: ) But anyway, that's the reason for the decision to include the horror element of the mannequin. I agree that it may be a little over the top for some, hence the mature warning, but I personally feel that it was necessary to show that Eshana wasn't just some sweet helpless girl all along.

As for why the mannequin tried to kill Martin - I think of it as Eshana having second thoughts and not wanting to face him. So she decided to kill him right there before he got to where she was. But she didn't count on Giuseppe's help, so Martin does indeed survive to confront her. I didn't spell this out in the game, as I didn't spell many things out, because I wanted the player to have their own conclusions. I've always enjoyed thinking about games that don't give you all the answers, so that you try to think of reasons to fill in the blanks. It makes the gaming experience more personal, I feel.

It's interesting that you were afraid to go through doors after being trapped in the gallery. I imagine Martin would have been feeling the exact same way. I'm not sure it was a problem then, since the point of this other universe is to cause discomfort. I agree that to mark portal doors would have been artificial, especially since in many of the cases I went to great trouble to disguise the actual exits.:tongue:

The idea is to never really know where you will end up next or whether you can go back, so that the player will be encouraged to really explore the area before moving on. The game is deliberately designed to have no dead ends, and you can finish the game without finishing all puzzles. I'm aware that this might annoy seasoned adventure game players who must finish all puzzles they find, but that's a sacrifice to make for discomfort :wink:

You're absolutely right about how it's not obvious that you're not meant to pick up the pieced-together letter. I didn't realise it at the time, of course. Well, it's something to keep in mind for the future. :smile:


I do have plans for further games, and my wish is to go on to make commercial games. It all depends. :smile:

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 12:41 am on Nov. 15, 2009 | Link to this post
Thaumaturge
Recurring Arch-Villain



Fair enough, and thank you for your explanations. ^_^

As to the doors, I think that there may be a difference between the internal discomfort generated by the story and setting elements and the meta-discomfort produced by a gameplay element, of which, to me, this is the latter.  It's something that I think made the game slightly less enjoyable to play for me, rather than enhancing the atmosphere.  I think that it prompted me to worry about something regarding the game itself ("If I go through this door I may be leaving puzzles or items behind!"), rather than matters internal to the game, which, I think, can reduce immersion a little.

I think that I can, however, see your perspective on the matter; I'm just not sure of how to produce the effect that I think that you want (of the character being somewhat railroaded and pushed onward by Eshana, and of uncertainty of what lies beyond any given door) without producing the issue that I encountered.  A part of the problem is that for me I think that it actually discouraged a little my exploration of the area, because I didn't know the bounds of the area.

I realise that, if I understand you correctly, you don't want players to be able to tell the difference, but as I mentioned, I think that this potentially has unfortunate meta-game side-effects - or at least, seems to have done so for me at least once.

(Come to think of it, I'm not sure that this applied beyond that one occasion, so perhaps it's not as great an issue as I thought; it may be that one fairly negative instance is clouding my perception.  If so, then I apologise. ^^; )

As to the horror elements, I have no problem with elements of such intensity, I don't think; it's just that they seemed to me to be out of place in the atmosphere created by the rest of the game.  Perhaps a little more between one end and the other, so that the more intense elements didn't seem to come a little out of nowhere, might have helped?

As to the killer mannequin towards the end, fair enough - but then perhaps a little more set-up might have been called for to convey this.  Again, I think that I can see your perspective, wanting players to come up with their own interpretations and impressions, but I suspect that it calls for care that things don't appear to come out of the blue.  Perhaps a little more set-up to Eshana's conflicted intentions might have helped; I honestly don't think that I detected the hostile intent directly towards Martin - yes, she dragged him into an otherworld, but I think that my impression was more that she wanted him to understand her, at the least before killing him, rather than having much desire to kill him before he reached her.  I suppose that the damaged paintings just didn't seem to me to be of the same order as those other elements.

Hmm... Perhaps some elements a little more directly showing Eshana's more murderous impulses towards Martin might have helped... but then, I'm not sure that such might not have hurt the Purgatory ending... :hmm:

For what it's worth, I don't think that I saw Eshana as being nothing but a "sweet helpless girl", even without connecting the more horrific elements to her murderous impulses; for example, I don't think that that the bad endings seemed to me to come out of nowhere.

-----
... World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams: ...

Total Posts: 82 | Joined Dec. 2008 | Posted on: 5:24 pm on Nov. 15, 2009 | Link to this post
Krss
admin



I see what you mean about the area bounds, Thaumaturge. I agree the gameplay uncertainty can reduce the exploration rather than enhance it. I can even see how one might feel compelled to save the game before going through every door, just in case one can't come back.

Maybe we could have used move icons for "area doors" and interaction for "portal doors". I think that would have made a difference.

Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 1:11 am on Nov. 16, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



Noted indeed. I agree with you that many things could have been done better, and some concepts didn't quite come across the way I intended. Well, this is only our first try. Things will hopefully improve on our next venture, with the input of people like yourself. :smile:

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 3:33 am on Nov. 16, 2009 | Link to this post
Thaumaturge
Recurring Arch-Villain



Originally posted by Marion
Well, this is only our first try.

If I may say, for a first try I consider this to be excellent.  Narg, it's a very good game in and of itself, I think, first try or not. ^_^

Originally posted by Krss
Maybe we could have used move icons for "area doors" and interaction for "portal doors". I think that would have made a difference.

Honestly, having perhaps thought about it further, mayhap it might have been better to simply leave the bathroom door slightly ajar.  This seems to me to perhaps have the potential benefit of informing the player that that particular door is safe, allowing them more time to learn the rules that govern doors - in particular, that "portal" doors are (if I recall correctly) generally locked before one finds the means to unlock them.  That should also avoid the potential reduction in immersion that I fear from such means as icons.

For that matter, overall I think that I rather liked the interface...  Hmm... you know, perhaps an even more minimalist interface might have worked for this game?  A simple "left-click to act, right-click to look" system, perhaps?  I'm afraid that I don't recall offhand whether there were interactions that terribly called for more; if not, then the minimalism could perhaps have increased immersion in a game of this type - that is, one that, I imagine, seeks to present itself less as an artificial game, a thing of rules and play, and more as an experience, or narrative work.

(Edited by Thaumaturge at 11:38 pm on Nov. 16, 2009)

(Edited by Thaumaturge at 11:39 pm on Nov. 16, 2009)

-----
... World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams: ...

Total Posts: 82 | Joined Dec. 2008 | Posted on: 9:36 pm on Nov. 16, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



The idea of leaving the door ajar is a fantastic one. I'll pay more attention to such things in future. :smile:

I agree that a minimalistic interface is ideal, but I'll admit that the interface for The Marionette was originally much more complicated and redundant. It was refined only after detailed feedback was given to me on the AGS forums. I think I was too much influenced by the Sierra games of old and was slavishly copying their interface without much thought as to WHY I was doing that.:tongue: In future I'll definitely think twice about that!

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 8:10 am on Nov. 17, 2009 | Link to this post
Tsolaelia
White Matter



(double post)

(Edited by Tsolaelia at 11:43 am on Nov. 20, 2009)

Total Posts: 460 | Joined Sep. 2006 | Posted on: 12:55 am on Nov. 20, 2009 | Link to this post
Tsolaelia
White Matter



I just played through this last night - Marion and Team Effigy, congratulations! I really enjoyed playing through this - the atmosphere was excellent; I felt tense the whole time and quite scared towards the end!

The art is gorgeous - the game's most outstanding feature, I feel, especially the quality of the cutscenes. My favourite screen was when Martin realises he is dangling from the ropes and you can only see his shadow and his hands in the foreground - beautifully done; it gave me shivers, especially because that's the moment you realise, "oh god, that's what they're for". Out of curiosity, how many still drawings did you have to make for the game?

I also thought the puzzles were really elegant. I especially loved the mannequin revealing the number combination near the beginning of the game, and the instructions for destroying the sculpture in the gallery. Very clever and well-integrated.

Congratulations on the scripting, guys! I didn't encounter a single bug, and the AI near the end was very nicely done.

If you're interested in some constructive criticism for your next attempt (?? :smile: ), I found the dialogue/written letters a little weaker than the rest of the game, especially Giuseppe's lines and Alice's diary - both came across as a little clichéd, but I'm not sure if this wasn't in part intentional. At any rate, it made it difficult for me to sympathise with any character other than Martin, who I liked.

Total Posts: 460 | Joined Sep. 2006 | Posted on: 1:43 am on Nov. 20, 2009 | Link to this post
Krss
admin



I'm glad you didn't find any bug!:tongue: Also glad you played it and liked it so much. :smile:

Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 4:18 am on Nov. 25, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



Thank you so much for playing it :smile: I'm also very pleased that you liked Martin, because if you popped over to TM's forums you'd find he's not too popular there with the Eshana-sympathisers.:tongue:

The AI near the end was Krss's idea, and she implemented it too. :smile:

As for how many still drawings - gee. Including characters, objects, and cutscenes? I've never counted, but the rooms alone border on 100, and I think it would be safe to estimate another 100 for the cutscenes. I have no idea how to even start counting.:tongue:

Thanks too for the criticism. I'll keep it in mind. :smile: The characters made it hard to do away with the cliches though. I wasn't trying too hard to un-cliche them.

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 9:16 am on Nov. 25, 2009 | Link to this post
Krss
admin



I wouldn't call it an AI, it's more like a survival instinct.:tongue:

Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 1:13 am on Nov. 26, 2009 | Link to this post
Tsolaelia
White Matter



I really did like Martin. :smile: I enjoyed all his comments at the art gallery - I thought it was a very clever way of revealing his history. As for Eshana... I sympathised with the way he acted towards her. Perhaps he was brusque, but I find it hard to put much blame on him for hurting her feelings - she brought it upon herself. I felt kind of sick during the "good" ending when she hugged him - I thought: ugh, get away from him! Not much love for her from me.:tongue:

The sheer amount of art is incredible, and it's all such wonderful quality. Very, very impressive. You should be really proud of your achievement. :smile: I've been wanting to make a game in AGS for a long time, now, and I think if I ever get around to it I'll be using stick figures. :laugh:

Krss: Fine, AI = Artificial Instinct.:tongue:

(Edited by Tsolaelia at 8:54 pm on Nov. 26, 2009)

Total Posts: 460 | Joined Sep. 2006 | Posted on: 10:53 am on Nov. 26, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



Aww! Martin appreciates your concern and sympathy.:biggrin: He doesn't get much love, so it's nice to see your perspective. :smile:

The art took the longest time, and was the sole reason why such a short game took such a long time to make. Don't worry about using stick figures - I almost regretted not using stick figures myself several times during the production process.:tongue:

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 11:22 am on Nov. 26, 2009 | Link to this post
Krss
admin



:lol: Artificial Instinct is a good phrase.

I was on Martin's side too!

Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 7:02 pm on Nov. 26, 2009 | Link to this post
Marion
forebrain



I'm beginning to see a pattern here. I believe the Eshana-supporters were guys. Hmm...:tongue:

Total Posts: 624 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 11:18 pm on Nov. 26, 2009 | Link to this post
 

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