Monday, December 8, 2008

Spirit Engine 2 (demo)

I have been too busy keeping the household running this week to get any programming done.

I did manage to play the demo for The Spirit Engine 2, a largely-solo development effort. Mark Pay did the coding, design, and art, with Josh Whelchel composing three hours of music for the game. The game is a side-scrolling role-playing game set in a fairly novel universe (to my eyes, anyway) reminiscent of some of Miyazaki's movies. The production values are excellent. The writing could stand tightening in places but is nonetheless quite readable. Having not played the entire game I can't judge the overarching storylines although there appears to be some fairly heavy foreshadowing. If the mysterious overlords who manage the affairs of men don't turn out to be evil I will be stupefied with astonishment.

My main gripe is that the battle system is not explained in enough detail. It involves building chains of actions for each party member (prior to battle) and then selecting chains of actions dynamically. I don't have a good handle on how to do this, though; the tutorial didn't go into it very well. The interface for building action chains could stand to be improved as well; you can't examine the details of actions while you are assembling chains.

Another problem is that the keyboard interface seems to be an afterthought. I played mostly with the keyboard and it took me a while to figure out that I could open treasure chests, for instance, since they have to be clicked with the mouse. This wasn't explained.

Basically, the game could stand to have more focus-testing on new users to ensure that the ramp-up is smooth. Otherwise, it appears that once you are familiar with the game mechanics it will be a delightful experience.


syndicatedragon said...

Just wanted to say that I've been following your blog for a while now and I've really missed reading it the past month or so. I hope all is well and we'll hear more from you soon.

James McNeill said...

Thanks! All is well. I am working night and day to finish the game I've been developing at my day job for the last 3.5 years.

I've started doing some Roguelike development again and aim to release something to coincide with this year's Seven-day Roguelike Development Challenge (although I won't have developed it in seven days; my work schedule doesn't permit that). It involves shooting monsters in a derelict starship under zero gravity.

Mark Sachs said...

Glad to hear you're not dead. :)

Shooting monsters in a derelict starship under zero gravity is one of my favorite things! Which reminds me, I really should play Dead Space one of these days.