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Iceblink Engine => Iceblink Engine - Troubleshooting => Topic started by: Olivier Leroux on September 10, 2013, 01:51:25 PM

Title: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: Olivier Leroux on September 10, 2013, 01:51:25 PM
This thread is where I mean to post any of my observations as a playtester of both the IB engine and toolset. These are my notes from playtesting and I'm not going to mince matters whenever I find something I do not like, but keep in mind that it's only my personal opinion, and I'm aware of that and will try to be as helpful and objective as possible, and hopefully my observations will be of use to the IB team regardless. Just pick whatever you find constructive and ignore the rest if you like. I'll also try to categorize my observations, so that it's easier for you to look through them.
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: Olivier Leroux on September 10, 2013, 01:53:01 PM
Today I had a first look at the IB engine by playing (through?) the Lanterna module, and this is what I found:

Technical issues (related to personal preference, netbook gaming)

- Playing the game on my netbook with integrated graphics, I got an error message saying "Not able to use hardware vertex processing...using software instead" on (1) starting the engine, (2) starting a module, and (3) each time a combat was initiated. I acknowledged this message the first time when I started the engine, but it's kind of annoying to have it pop up all the time even during the game. (Not game-stopping, just a little annoying).

- As I already mentioned in that other thread, the game works fine on my netbook most of the time, but the character creation screen is too wide for its maximum resolution of 1024x600, so that I normally wouldn't have access to the skills and spells windows. In the meantime I've found out that I can move the whole character creation window by clicking and holding its top bar, so that issue is solved, not perfectly but it's serviceable for now. Anyway, if you say the IB engine was not made to be run on a netbook, that's a different matter, I guess I'd just have to live with it. But personally I think this is the kind of game that would be ideal to play on the road and on less powerful rigs like a netbook, where it doesn't have to compete with the likes of NWN, Witcher, Skyrim etc.

Design decisions

- During character creation the differences between the active and the inactive windows are minimal, so that it's not always clear which one is the active one at the moment. Intuitively I wanted to click inside the window where I meant to make changes, but it doesn't work this way, the player has to click on "Next Step" or "Back a Step" first and for that it's crucial that the current, active window is easy to distinguish from the inactive. I also noticed though that on leveling up later in the game, you can just click on the windows to make them active, just like the intuitive way I described above. There is no "Next Step" or "Back a Step" anymore. So why not scrap that altogether and make the character creation screen work just like the leveling up screen works?

- When my character is moving, its icon transforms into a stick figure icon with the numbers 0,1,2,3 displayed in the top right corner (sometimes mirror-inverted, depending on the direction). I assume these are placeholder graphics because the engine allows you to create walking animations for your main character? Can you turn off these walking animations or are they a requirement if you don't want the placeholder graphics to appear? Of course it's cool when you can customize that much, but considering that the NPCs or party members don't have walking animations either, are they really necessary for a game like IB that's essentially static in all other aspects and aimed at old scool audiences used to FRUA? Not that I mind them, I only mind the absence of them, when they're replaced with placeholder graphics, and I doubt every module designer would bother to provide animations for each and every selectable hero icon ...

- Inventory and Stat page don't seem to list the party's gold. I could only see it on the shop's page. Is that correct or did I miss something?

- Item lists in inventory and shop have clickable table headings, but clicking on them does nothing. It would be cool if you could sort items by name or value (like you can sort traits by name in the character creation menu).

- Is there a way to change the order in my party, apart from selecting a leader? I'd have liked to move the weaker party members to the back.

- On the combat screen, the blue and purple text is hard to read on a green background.

- There appears to be no way to cancel the level-up process, if you change your mind and decide to level up later. Even if you don't use your new skill points etc, you don't get a second chance to distribute them before reaching the next level once you've closed the level-up window. I'd have preferred a Cancel button.

- I couldn't use healing potions during battle. That's probably a deliberate design decision, but IMO a questionable one, especially since I could e.g. strip my dead comrades of their armor and don it myself, pick up and wield their weapons etc. without even losing a turn, but I can't quaff a healing potion to save my butt in a critical situation? Outside of battle I can just walk back home and rest, the battle screen is where I'd have the most use for potions.

- During combat you have to use both keyboard and mouse depending on the situation, you can't choose between the two. For example, you can only move with the keyboard, not the mouse, but when you shoot arrows, you can only aim with the mouse, not the keyboard. It's not necessarily a problem, but it strikes me as a little inconvenient, compared to games like FRUA, the GoldBox games, DC or Knights of the Chalice. I also noticed the only way to check the status of a particular opponent seems to be aiming an arrow at them. Unless I'm mistaken, you can't "target" opponents in melee to see how many hp they have, like you can in the similar games mentioned above.

- Can dead heroes be resurrected somehow (in general and in the current version of the Lanterna module)?

Bug or design decision?

- Power Attack and Cleave are pre-selected as traits for a fighter and I can't remove them; the engine tells me I can select one additional trait though. But then none of the available traits are accepted, and I get no message as to why I can't e.g. select Dodge as the third trait (in NWN Dex 13 would suffice as requirement). This seems to be either a bug or a lack of explanation for players unfamiliar with the games' rules.

- Dead party members can still have positive hp when they level up after dying. Not that it changes their "Dead" status during combat, but it's confusing. They also can have negative hp, although that doesn't make any difference to 0. Outside combat, there seems to be no indication about my party members' current state, e.g. that they're dead (except when they have negative hp). This can be confusing, too (see attached screenshot below). If all party members die in combat, nothing particular happens. There seems to be no Death screen. I could only press Run Away to end the combat and then I could still walk around or get into the same fight again, even though noone in your party was still able to fight (is this normal or a bug related to one of my dead companions still having hp above 0 despite being dead?).


- On trying to level up Miki and raising her Concentration skill, I got an error message, something about a parameter "index" being outside the allowed range, that it must not be negative or lower than the 'listing' (the message was in my system's language, German; just in case you understand, the original wording was: "Unbehandelter Fehler [...] Der Index lag au├čerhalb des Bereichs. Er muss nicht negativ und kleiner als die Auflistung sein. Parameter: index"). Same with Balen when I tried to raise his Concentration skill. It didn't cause a crash though, I could click "Ignore" and go on with the game. Raising Fledge's rogue skills worked without issues.

Lanterna - Design (spoilers!)

- Badger says he'll get his sword, I tell him to stick to his bow, but he brings neither. He joins the party without equipment, which makes him rather useless during the first fights since he's low on HP and good equipment is hard to come by. I didn't find any gold in the module, apart from the start-up capital of 40 gp that I had already spent on leather armor and a sword for my hero. And I found a bow only in one of the tougher kobold fights, when at least one member of my party was dead already.

- There's no transition beyond the bridge where I met the rider telling my hero of her brother - is this where the module ends in its current state?

- Why can't my party rest at the abandoned campsite where they found my brother's deck of cards?

Overall impression

The general gameplay and combat mechanics are quite solid already and I can imagine that this could be an engine that's fun to work or play with, especially if it's highly customizable.

My only gripes would be on the one hand the performance, at least on lower end rigs (combat animations and alternating between turn were rather slow on my netbook, playable but not that enjoyable, and windows opening and closing often came with some graphical lag or glitches, too), and on the other hand the rough look of the game, by which I don't mean the placeholder graphics but the GUI design. I'm not so fond of the windows style, and it doesn't look as clean and consistent yet as I like my favorite games to look. It's not so much an issue of graphics as of style, if you know what I mean. A game with very low resolution or very simplistic graphics can look cool, too, if the style's consistent and attractive, and I don't quite get that vibe from IB yet. But of course that's a rather subjective objection. I also don't know to what extent the look of all the GUI elements is modable.
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: Olivier Leroux on September 10, 2013, 05:57:33 PM
Just to clarify what I meant by not liking the "windows style":

I generally prefer fullscreen games to games run in a window, because when I want to get immersed in a game, I don't like to be reminded of my Windows desktop. Maybe it's the same reason I prefer watching a movie in the dark of a cinema to watching it on my small television surrounded by my living room.  ;)

So if I'm forced to play in a window, I prefer the game's borders to be very clear or strict, I want its window to stand out and contrast strongly with the prosaic desktop environment. In the first screenshot sample (see below) the window border is very thin and non-descript, in the second there is no border to speak of, it looks like a picture pasted on top of my desktop. Those are most probably nitpickings of a pedantic perfectionist mind, especially since it's only concerning the start and loading screens even before playing. But they contribute to my overall impression of a rather rough design.

In the third screenshot sample the menu has elements that don't quite fit with the rest of the style and that don't look very clean (no fancy borders, no button shadows etc. around the autosave and movement delay options, just a grey rectangle where the text is, on top of the general background). They'll start to look even messier if you try changing the font and font size.

In the fourth sample I'm not convinced of the combat window with the horizontal and vertical scroll bars. It reminds me too much of simple data base tools or other Windows programs more akin to work than play. It's functional but not pretty at all. At least on my small netbook screen it doesn't show a lot of the combat area and the window does not scroll on its own when the active party members leaves the screen, the view also doesn't center on the next character when the previous character's turn is ended, so you have to use the scroll bars all the time and apart from not being pretty, I also found that rather inconvenient.

In the fifth sample I made use of the option to switch from almost fullscreen to a smaller window, and the result is a distorted view with horizontally clinched and vertically stretched icons.

I don't mean to portray all of this as a major issue and turn-off, I just try to explain what for me personally still keeps the style from looking professional and attractive to more than just the hardcore audience. And I'm always a little worried that my criticisms may sound too harsh, but let me tell you, I certainly wouldn't go to all that trouble of posting them if I didn't think the project had great potential. I'll also try and continue toying around with the IB engine and toolset and post my observations if you think they're helpful, and shut up if you think they're not.  :)
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: slowdive on September 10, 2013, 11:02:12 PM
First, Thank you very much for the time you have spent testing out the engine and then taking the time to share your suggestions and feedback. I do appreciate the feedback and I do find them very help (keep the feedback coming  :) )

Some of the bugs you pointed out are known and on our bug list, but some were not so that is great. We will definitely try and fix and/or implement your suggestions where possible as well. One caveat is that I am not a professional programmer and only know a very little (self taught). That is one of the reasons that I tried to start small and keep the scope small. I have been learning C# and winforms was the easier way to implement a GUI. I started to learn DX more recently and I would like to eventually (after the initial release) convert the engine to a more typical RPG type UI setup (not winforms). I would also love to try and port to more mobile platforms (think tablets) by using either mono or unity. We'll see, that's down the road. Of course, I would want the graphic engine and UI stuff to be compatible with all work that authors are currently working on.

I'll try and answer any question now:
-I need to add party gold to character sheet and inventory sheet as well.
-there currently is no way to change party order, but it is on the todo list.
-to use healing potions in combat, use the "use Item" button on the combat screen...not from the inventory screen. Yes, this needs to be fixed, the inventory screen used to not be accessible in combat.
-I don't think Lanterna has a revive the dead yet. Hearkenwold does.
-properly handling the dead is in the works.
-raising concentration bug was noticed by others and I have fixed it.
-you made it to the end of Lanterna...I'll pick up from the bridge in the next episode
-I forgot to give Fledge his sword and bow, oops

About the "windows style", it is because I am using winforms for all GUI stuff. I have tried to bend winforms as much as I can for now. Eventually I would like to completely abandon the winforms thing and go staight DX with custom controls. It will still need to be easy for builders to make custom UI elements and the engine will still use the same 2D portraits, sprites, maps, etc. So the new engine will still play all currently made modules, but with a nicer more professional looking UI (this will be down the road and hopefully some real programmers join the team to help with this).

Thanks again,
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: Olivier Leroux on September 11, 2013, 03:16:53 AM
That sounds great! I'm glad you can relate to my criticism of the style, and I hope you'll be able to achieve what you're aiming at one day, with the help of another programmer or another self-taught language or engine (even though Unity might mean even less compatibility with low end rigs). I also understand that your options are limited at the moment and will accept the engine as it is for now. Thanks for the nice and quick reply!  :) 

-to use healing potions in combat, use the "use Item" button on the combat screen...not from the inventory screen. Yes, this needs to be fixed, the inventory screen used to not be accessible in combat.

Hm, I thought I had done exactly that - pressing "use Item" on the combat screen, and it opened up the inventory screen where the "use" option was greyed out for healing potions. But maybe I'm wrong, I'll look into it again.

EDIT: Oh, now I get it. The button on the combat screen says "Use (I)tem", and instead of clicking on it, I used what I thought was the shortcut for it, "I". That opened up the inventory while clicking on the button opens up a different menu.
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: ProphetSword on September 11, 2013, 11:02:02 AM
Having some experience building a game with winforms and then porting to Unity, I can tell you that Unity will be like a breath of fresh air.  The things that you struggle to do now will become easy as pie in Unity when it comes to graphics.  Look at the screenshots of my game from the previous engine (using Visual Studio and winforms) and the current versions using Unity and it's a really huge leap.

So, when you're ready to make that leap, let me know.
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: youngneil1 on September 11, 2013, 03:49:54 PM
Very good feedback, Olivier. I added a lot of your points to the task list here:
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: slowdive on September 12, 2013, 12:09:05 AM
So, when you're ready to make that leap, let me know.

Thanks for the offer, I'll probably need to take you up on that and pick your brain when I get to that point. It'll most likely be after release though before I start doing anything crazy like rebuilding the graphics engine and UI parts. IceBlink Engine v2  :P
Title: Re: Olivier Leroux's personal experience with IB (incl. bug reports)
Post by: youngneil1 on September 12, 2013, 12:38:13 AM
[pale, scared look... searching for towel and panic button]

Yes, I think I would mildly appreciate postponing this. Could I have a tea please, now? I think I am slightly shaking or might we have an earth quake by chance? No?