Author Topic: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux  (Read 3439 times)

Offline Ben J

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REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« on: March 01, 2010, 03:07:51 PM »
*contains spoilers, especially for one of the puzzles and the ending*

This is the second entry from the 2009 Design Competition that I played.

And I'm impressed!

Olivier does some spectacular things with sound here (the site freesounds.com seems to be great, I'll definetly take a look at it).

The atmosphere is chilling, even at times when not much seems to be happening. The tension keeps on building from the moment you approach the mansion for the first time (in which the player goes looking for a mad killer), right up to the game's abrupt conclusion.

Here's a little Zen riddle, though: If no time passes as long as the player remains inactive, how can there be the continuous sound of howling wind? 
Makes one think...

Back to the game: For the most part, it plays like one of the old 80s/90s graphic adventures (which I love); The player is picking up objects and solving puzzles with them (none of which are very hard to figure out). There's only one combat in the game (at least I only fought one).

The option to examine the items in your inventory is also great, and something that's sorely missing from FRUA (along with the Automap and the Journal, these are the functions that I like very much about DC and that would have made FRUA perfect).

One of the puzzles suffers a bit from what I like to call "adventure game syndrome": Like in the LucasArts classic Zak McKracken, where you had to fly from Lima to San Francisco to pick up a loaf of old bread (which presumably doesn't exist in Peru), you have to pick up a book from under some floorboards in "The Lesson", to put it into a bookshelf, yet that library has about a dozen other bookshelves from which you could have easily taken a book of the right size, but the game doesn't allow for it.
But this is just a tiny flaw in an otherwise well thought-out game.

Another thing I liked was that the party was given the option to just leave the mansion and abandon the quest (effectively ending the game).
This is also something that I have put into the remake of "The Sect": The option for the player to deliberately screw up the game, provided that he is given ample warning about it.
In the old version, the player simply couldn't do some things, the game would make the decision for you, for example: "You cannot leave now, because you haven't found object X yet".
But I now prefer to give the player as much freedom as possible, and that includes the freedom to maneuver into a dead end (again, provided that the true objective was made clear, and that the game warns the player beforehand).
I was even thinking about starting a thread about this very thing some days ago, because I wondered what other designers might think about it.

On a side note, this was also a characteristic that I disliked about later LucasArts games: They wouldn't allow the player to fail, they even prevented the player from ever dying (the other extreme were the Sierra adventures, where you could die from simply crossing the street or entering the wrong screen).

Finally: The ending. I've already written about it in the other thread; there is something about that last scene that I found very unsettling.
Though in essence, it is a form of lampshading the fact that the deadline for the contest was reached, the feeling of being trapped inside that cellar, combined with the shock effect and the sudden truncation of the story left me with an eerie feeling.
You want to know how the story ends, but screw you... it's the end of the line! .....It's like... death!  :o



Though the game hints at a sequel... So maybe the story does continue, after all.





« Last Edit: March 01, 2010, 03:39:08 PM by Ben J »
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Offline manikus

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2010, 03:44:17 PM »
Nice review, Ben. :)

I had similar thoughts about the books; but then for each of the other shelves it was something like "the books are jammed in tight", which I ttok to mean I couldn't remove one without causing some kind of trouble, or maybe they were magically fastened in place. :)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2010, 06:08:17 PM »
* SPOILERS *

One of the puzzles suffers a bit from what I like to call "adventure game syndrome": Like in the LucasArts classic Zak McKracken, where you had to fly from Lima to San Francisco to pick up a loaf of old bread (which presumably doesn't exist in Peru), you have to pick up a book from under some floorboards in "The Lesson", to put it into a bookshelf, yet that library has about a dozen other bookshelves from which you could have easily taken a book of the right size, but the game doesn't allow for it.

What?! NO! You... you don't get it! You... argh! It was a very SPECIAL book, designed for that very SPECIAL slot, no other book would fit! No other book would have the same weight! And... er... it was magical! There!  >:(

But this is just a tiny flaw in an otherwise well thought-out game.

Nah, actually there's nothing well thought-out about this demo.  :D It was very hastily put together and the book thing definitely suffers from that. I just had to cram some secret door mechanism into the mod when all I wanted was play around with sound. Blame it on manikus and Dinonykos! ;)

Another thing I liked was that the party was given the option to just leave the mansion and abandon the quest (effectively ending the game).

Ah, so you learned your Lesson! :)


On a side note, this was also a characteristic that I disliked about later LucasArts games: They wouldn't allow the player to fail, they even prevented the player from ever dying (the other extreme were the Sierra adventures, where you could die from simply crossing the street or entering the wrong screen).

This is where our opinion on adventure games differs. I actually thought that LucasArts policy a step in the right direction. I didn't mind dying in Sierra games all that much, it can be aggravating but at least it's over very quickly. But I HATE running into dead ends without being told so and wasting my time on badly programmed computer games. It happens often enough in adventure games that you get stuck and have to search for a solution. In these situations you've got to concentrate on what's there, in the present. I don't want to be forced to question each and every step I did in the past, always fearing I overlooked something, did something wrong and have to start over now. That takes a lot of the fun out of puzzle and adventure games for me.

But, that being said, I love stories where a complex plan falls flat because of something so trivial that noone even thought of it for a minute.  :D


Though the game hints at a sequel... So maybe the story does continue, after all.

I'd like to see a sequel as well. But I didn't promise I would be the one who'll write it.  :P

Thanks for taking the time to write a review, I appreciate your kind words and agree with the criticsm! :)

Offline Ben J

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2010, 11:10:55 AM »
Nah, actually there's nothing well thought-out about this demo.  :D It was very hastily put together and the book thing definitely suffers from that.

If that was "hastily thrown together", I'd really like to see a well thought-out DC game from you. That can only be amazing. :D

Quote
This is where our opinion on adventure games differs. I actually thought that LucasArts policy a step in the right direction. I didn't mind dying in Sierra games all that much, it can be aggravating but at least it's over very quickly. But I HATE running into dead ends without being told so and wasting my time on badly programmed computer games. It happens often enough in adventure games that you get stuck and have to search for a solution. In these situations you've got to concentrate on what's there, in the present. I don't want to be forced to question each and every step I did in the past, always fearing I overlooked something, did something wrong and have to start over now. That takes a lot of the fun out of puzzle and adventure games for me.

If a game lets the player run into dead ends without a warning, then it's a bad game.
I was thinking more about games like Maniac Mansion, where you could devise elaborate methods to kill your characters* (same in Zak McKracken), though the player knew that all characters were needed to finish the game. Also in Zak McKracken you had to pay attention to your credit card, so you wouldn't run out of money. Stuff like that.

And I would not put options into a FRUA game that are specifically designed to let the player fail, for example: "You have found the Magic Diamond of Gruh, which you need to save the world. Do you want to destroy it?"  ;D


*My favorite method was to let the radioactive water from the pool evaporate in the microwave oven and then open the oven door...


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Offline nologgie

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2010, 11:37:34 AM »
And I would not put options into a FRUA game that are specifically designed to let the player fail, for example: "You have found the Magic Diamond of Gruh, which you need to save the world. Do you want to destroy it?"  ;D

  I differ on this one. It's a free will thing. I like to give options to do the wrong thing (or at least not do the right thing) once in a while. Then I waste a lot of time and events programming the consequences. This may be why I've never finished anything.
  I don't necessarily advocate everyone doing this. The game environment is constrained, and the options are always limited, so perhaps their free will is mostly illusory.
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Offline Dinonykos

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2010, 12:26:51 PM »
One of the puzzles suffers a bit from what I like to call "adventure game syndrome": Like in the LucasArts classic Zak McKracken, where you had to fly from Lima to San Francisco to pick up a loaf of old bread (which presumably doesn't exist in Peru), you have to pick up a book from under some floorboards in "The Lesson", to put it into a bookshelf, yet that library has about a dozen other bookshelves from which you could have easily taken a book of the right size, but the game doesn't allow for it.

What?! NO! You... you don't get it! You... argh! It was a very SPECIAL book, designed for that very SPECIAL slot, no other book would fit! No other book would have the same weight! And... er... it was magical! There!  >:(

No reason to get excited, Olivier, I at least understood that this was a special book!  ;)
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Offline Ben J

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2010, 01:36:34 PM »
  I differ on this one. It's a free will thing. I like to give options to do the wrong thing (or at least not do the right thing) once in a while. Then I waste a lot of time and events programming the consequences. This may be why I've never finished anything.
  I don't necessarily advocate everyone doing this. The game environment is constrained, and the options are always limited, so perhaps their free will is mostly illusory.

I'm all for free will in a game. But as you said, the designer has to limit the different paths the story can go, or it will quickly blow the game out of proportion. For example, I have deliberately avoided including any option in my game that would make the party into wanted criminals in the civilized parts of the world, because that would mean I'd have to program the whole 40+ dungeon game twice.

Due to the way FRUA works, all the options the player gets to choose from have to be set up by the designer. If there's an event like "You meet an unarmed guy on the street. Wanna kill him?", the designer has to set that up, unlike Ultima, where the engine is designed in a way that you can basically attack everyone in sight and steal everything you see.

If there is a FRUA game where the player has the option to attack everyone he meets, then that's fine, but if the option is only included for that one guy who would otherwise give you your next quest, then that's malice on the part of the designer (it would also be inconsistent with the rest of the game).

I did include some choices that could potentially lead the player into a dead end, but those are achieved through options that the game would reasonably give the player in any similar situation: Leaving a dungeon before you finished a quest, giving important plot items away to shady characters because they ask for them, or spending money that you know you will need for a very specific purpose on something else entirely.
And there will always be some kind of warning beforehand.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2010, 02:27:05 PM by Ben J »
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Offline manikus

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2010, 04:24:38 PM »
One of the puzzles suffers a bit from what I like to call "adventure game syndrome": Like in the LucasArts classic Zak McKracken, where you had to fly from Lima to San Francisco to pick up a loaf of old bread (which presumably doesn't exist in Peru), you have to pick up a book from under some floorboards in "The Lesson", to put it into a bookshelf, yet that library has about a dozen other bookshelves from which you could have easily taken a book of the right size, but the game doesn't allow for it.

What?! NO! You... you don't get it! You... argh! It was a very SPECIAL book, designed for that very SPECIAL slot, no other book would fit! No other book would have the same weight! And... er... it was magical! There!  >:(

No reason to get excited, Olivier, I at least understood that this was a special book!  ;)

I knew it was the work of a 'special' designer. :D :D :D

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2010, 04:34:11 PM »
If that was "hastily thrown together", I'd really like to see a well thought-out DC game from you. That can only be amazing. :D

Well, okay, it was not hastily put together, on the technical side I tried to pay attention to details and keep a good level of polish. But the story was a hoax. I didn't go about this mod very differently from what what I did in 2cities: I just start and do whatever comes into my mind, there was no storyboard. For that reason it can happen easily that I incorporate something that wasn't well thought out and just go along with it before I notice or start to care that it's flawed.


And I would not put options into a FRUA game that are specifically designed to let the player fail, for example: "You have found the Magic Diamond of Gruh, which you need to save the world. Do you want to destroy it?"  ;D

Why not?  :D

It all depends on how it's done. I just don't like dead ends. Why dead ends? Make it a bad end and I'm happy.  ;) I'm perfectly okay with bad decisions if there are immediate (and funny) consequences; hence my defense of Sierra games. If there are no immediate consequences, then, as you already stated, things get complicated. Either the designer has to take this bad decision into consideration all the time or it just leads to the game not functioning properly anymore and endless frustration on the part of the players.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2010, 04:35:44 PM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline Ben J

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2010, 05:01:42 AM »
It all depends on how it's done. I just don't like dead ends. Why dead ends? Make it a bad end and I'm happy.  ;) I'm perfectly okay with bad decisions if there are immediate (and funny) consequences

Well, there's at least one alternative ending to my game. The player can bring it about through such a bad decision. It is part of the most bizarre of all the side-quests, but it's a logical outcome.

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Offline nologgie

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2010, 06:25:14 AM »
It all depends on how it's done. I just don't like dead ends. Why dead ends? Make it a bad end and I'm happy.  ;) I'm perfectly okay with bad decisions if there are immediate (and funny) consequences

Well, there's at least one alternative ending to my game. The player can bring it about through such a bad decision. It is part of the most bizarre of all the side-quests, but it's a logical outcome.

Funny is good if it fits, but I'm a big fan of logical. People die from bad decisions every day. Non-lethal consequences I've played with include everything from a single lost opportunity to being barred from every city in a region. Many won't end an adventure, but will limit it. Absolution may also be an option.

I really need to work on my quick and funny.
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Offline Uatu

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2010, 09:50:29 AM »
Here are some screenshots for this one, too!
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Offline manikus

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2010, 03:16:26 PM »
Were these screenshots from before or after you got lost? :P

Offline Uatu

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2010, 08:39:37 PM »
Afterwards!  ;)  (I took the shots after I cleared the game!)
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Offline manikus

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Re: REVIEW: "The Lesson" by Olivier Leroux
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2010, 03:47:48 PM »
So these are staged and not candid? ;)