Author Topic: REVIEW: The Ambassador's Letter by Dinonykos  (Read 145 times)

Offline Kaz-Keith

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REVIEW: The Ambassador's Letter by Dinonykos
« on: July 30, 2017, 01:47:46 PM »
(caveats:
 
*(This module was prepared for the March 2017 One-Week Design Challenge for use with the DungeonCraft game engine)
*(This player (myself, kaz-keith) is not too familiar with DungeonCraft nor with Dinonykos' created milieu)

 First of all, DungeonCraft was painless and free to install and run.  I'd had this long-standing fear ever since trying out the game engine several years back that I would have trouble running it and/or any games built using it.  Fallacy!  It could not have been easier - and I say this from a place where even typical day-to-day thinkeries can be a challenge for me :D )

 Dinonykos's game takes place in the world of Helmetlands, wherein certain animal species have developed naturally into the intelligent/dominant variety of life.  The Ambassador's Letter serves as an introductory game experience to the adventure Helmetlands: Snow Tigress, which I have not played nor am familiar with except in the most passing of means.

 The game is played through the experiences and actions of the main character Binjo, a helmettigress of some appeal and noteworthiness.  There is, thankfully, a few gameplay lessons in the guise of formal gameplay that allow new players and veterans alike to become acquainted with Dinonykos' oddly charming method of combat-via-parlance.  Effectively, replies and responses during combat routines gradually force Binjo's assorted foes further and further toward the edge of the combat field, hopefully ending in success for the heroine letter-bearer.  Splendid use of the author's (seemingly-vast) store of gameworld lore and even more-splendid use of his personally-stylized artwork (a mix of manga/comic frame and stillworks, gorgeously coloured) envelops the player from all sides and senses, creating a singular and noteworthy glimpse into this rare and highly-organized sampling of both Dinonykos' milieu and the DungeonCraft engine.

 What seemed to be a straightforward and ordinary deliver-the-letter-and-return mission becomes something altogether unique: Binjo's mission is not going to be a point-a to point-b affair and, though she get's off to a rocky start with a hilarious dilemma regarding uniforms (well before the mission even begins and a tip-of-the-iceberg to the author's probably severely-underrated sense of humour), I was eventually able to reach the location where I was to deliver the letter... and discovered several ways to simply enter after being stymied at the gates.  A very funny comedic break in the action took place in a tavern outside the walls of the city Kanenobikinijo (the name of which, if greek translations are accurate, not only affords a joke in Japanese but in Greek as well), which afforded me an even better glimpse into the author's way of thinking.  The game wrapped in a manner I was not expecting, and I won't spoil it: suffice to say there are many layers and depths to Dinonykos' phrasing, building, and manner of execution game-wise, to say nothing of the man's deft use of DungeonCraft's superior graphical allowances.  Even without actual combat, Dinonykos' version of battle was enjoyable every time, perhaps because of his creative perspective, and definitely due to the care he took with the language and the artwork.  Also, soundwork was notable with music advances and sound effects looped or sounding off at appropriate times and with logical measure: standing next to torches looped fiery snapping sounds, music interludes accompanied certain con-textual events, even the combat sounds were on point.

 Of note: were I not familiar with the mainstays and basis of DungeonCraft (and therefore The Ambassador's Letter's gameplay and logic), I would have been whelmed.  As it is, Dinonykos rises above even those standards and delivers: the game, however short, is a prime example of what a person with an idea and a working computer can accomplish.  He breathes life into his characters, his world, his ideas and quite successfully.  Without being familiar with his world, I was introduced ... coerced and seduced, morelike... with books to read (a completely voluntary but useful and usable throughout the gameplay later on) that built upon what I'd already learned of the world and its intricacies.  Again, I knew nil about the Helmetlands going in, had only seen glimpses of his artwork and his process, and the education was painless and fun.  Amusing, even, with the tales and artwork going well-beyond the gimcrackery typical of our genre and being referential but useful all the same.  For example, I learned how to tell races apart just by glancing at their wardrobe, even from a distance, and at this point could well describe the basics of the cultures of them, including several of the beast races that hardly come into play.  This, in my humble estimation, is a hallmark of a great author and a superb handling of unknown world lore and an ignorant player thereof.  Even my critiques against the game would fall short due to personal biases between FRUA and DC: the most nagging, even when it made admittedly little difference, was that setting the text speed to its fastest didn't affect the game at all and then there was a single spelling error I saw... all in all, a truly great and masterful dip into Dinonykos' personal campaign pool.

 I am set to continue my adventures in the Helmetlands and DungeonCraft both, with Dinonykos to thank personally.  Thank you mate for this earnest and worthwhile exposure to not only DungeonCraft itself but your own fluent imagination.  Bikini-armours for all!

Offline Paul R. Stevens

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Re: REVIEW: The Ambassador's Letter by Dinonykos
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2017, 06:19:07 PM »
Great review.  Thanks.

Offline steve_mcdee

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Re: REVIEW: The Ambassador's Letter by Dinonykos
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2017, 06:23:39 PM »
Yes, great review, thanks Kaz-Keith! And well done Dinonykos.

Offline Dinonykos

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Re: REVIEW: The Ambassador's Letter by Dinonykos
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2017, 04:18:39 AM »
Thank you very much for the detailed review. As written in another thread, I was concerned that DC designs in general and my Helmetland designs in particular might be repelling for the "FRUAites", thus, I am happy that you enjoyed playing the game. This encourages me, as already planned, to try to transfer some of the older DC designs to DC 3.x (so that they can run in Win8 and higher without using additional programs).

I am particularly happy that the combat worked for you, it uses the event loop technique which is relatively new to Dungeon Craft (thanks again to Paul and Manikus to add that option!). And since I am not a native speaker, I was concerned the insult-based aspect might not work. The occasions where you can train/watch combat give you additional options, by the way.

I am set to continue my adventures in the Helmetlands and DungeonCraft both, with Dinonykos to thank personally.
This encourages me to do a short Martens Design for the next one-week-challenge...  :)

Bikini-armours for all!
???  :o I guess now I finally understand what you mean with the greek meaning of Kanenobikinijo! I needed a greek dictionary to get it. :D That was not intended, I think I generated this name with help from Uatu's side, and only Japanese references were intended for the Helmettigers...
But in any case, I would not go that far... :) I developed the whole Martens, Sworks, and Helmettigers background story around 20 years ago. Back then, I planned a direct Jabba (and his Palace) reference, with the Helmettiger emperor as Jabba and one of the marten characters as Leia. But I changed my mind after seeing in a Wiki how many references/homages were already made to Jabba and armour-bikinis during the past years. At the same time, I wanted less pure evil characters in my designs. Thus, I changed the Helmettiger emperor to a combination of Takeda Shingen, Jabba, and Lucullus. Concerning the armour-bikinis, I first considered to remove them, but then decided to "add them with the trowel" instead.

... and discovered several ways to simply enter after being stymied at the gates. 
I had more complex options to enter the Helmetlion City and the Helmettlion Castle in mind, and I had also prepared more insult-based combats, but since I wanted to keep the 7-day-rule (which I almost managed ;D), I finally decided to keep everything simple. In this context, I think the 7-day-idea is really a good one, it prevented me from adding too many side stories - too many side-stories for a short design are probably not good for the balance.


Concerning DC: I think we had a discussion concerning text speed, but if I remember correctly, we were distrected a little by other text related things. I have mentioned this in the DC test section in an extra thread.
Find four contributions to the Pre-Generated Character Mini-Module Design Contest on my homepage.
New: THE AMBASSADOR'S LETTER, my contribution to the 7-day-challenge.
DINONYKOS DUNGEON CRAFT DESIGN HOMEPAGE

Offline Kaz-Keith

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Re: REVIEW: The Ambassador's Letter by Dinonykos
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2017, 01:42:58 PM »
I am particularly happy that the combat worked for you, it uses the event loop technique which is relatively new to Dungeon Craft (thanks again to Paul and Manikus to add that option!). And since I am not a native speaker, I was concerned the insult-based aspect might not work. The occasions where you can train/watch combat give you additional options, by the way.

The routines worked very well.  I've tried non-combat combats myself, so this was particularly piquing and I played through each with a keen eye.  I may sound superlative (thanks, Ray!) much of the time but this was high-deserved: the effort paid off big time, there were no discernible lags or giveaways that they were actually -not- combat scenes and the intro/outro for each was smooth.  Very effective and I would suggest using it again, even sprinkled among actual combats if not replacing them outright.

???  :o I guess now I finally understand what you mean with the greek meaning of Kanenobikinijo! I needed a greek dictionary to get it. :D That was not intended, I think I generated this name with help from Uatu's side, and only Japanese references were intended for the Helmettigers...
But in any case, I would not go that far... :) I developed the whole Martens, Sworks, and Helmettigers background story around 20 years ago. Back then, I planned a direct Jabba (and his Palace) reference, with the Helmettiger emperor as Jabba and one of the marten characters as Leia. But I changed my mind after seeing in a Wiki how many references/homages were already made to Jabba and armour-bikinis during the past years. At the same time, I wanted less pure evil characters in my designs. Thus, I changed the Helmettiger emperor to a combination of Takeda Shingen, Jabba, and Lucullus. Concerning the armour-bikinis, I first considered to remove them, but then decided to "add them with the trowel" instead.

 Heh... and for those wondering, 'bikinis' play a certain part in the beginning and end, especially, through the adventure.  The helmetcats' cultures are liberally referential to our actual Greek history/mythos, so the name Kanenobikinijo has Japanese roots, is worded for a Greek-stylized city, but also translates from our Greek into 'banned', which plays on both the city, the culture and the bikini-portion of the game, coincidentally :D

 I loved how you drew 'inspiration' for the look of many of the helmetcat npcs from various sources... I saw a cameo by a certain swork, and am hoping they play a far more scenic part in the future!  Of course, it hurts not even a bit that there is a Thundercats vibe about your entire universe, which I can appreciate on several levels.  You have a gift for humour and for deeptales that matches your art style, imho, which I can also appreciate via more than one term.  I highly doubt I am alone in your audience in that, either. :)


I had more complex options to enter the Helmetlion City and the Helmettlion Castle in mind, and I had also prepared more insult-based combats, but since I wanted to keep the 7-day-rule (which I almost managed ;D), I finally decided to keep everything simple. In this context, I think the 7-day-idea is really a good one, it prevented me from adding too many side stories - too many side-stories for a short design are probably not good for the balance.

 I'm not really great with timelines, and I honestly did my own best that I deemed appropriate for the 1-week design challenge and the level of polish I was willing to let slide and still keep my project's integrity (as I viewed it).  Heh... it's so modderlike that this is a thing we all must deal with, regardless of engine or experience.  I applaud your use of your talents to showcase your world and the coherency of the taste of it in The Ambassador's Letter.  You very much remind me of the FRUA / OA designer Hans, whom I hold in high regard for various reasons, and our communities are better for your ability to properly plan and manage yourself.  Big cheers mate.  Would have loved to have played more side story stuff, just vibing more on Binjo's curious outlook and... pointed views. ;) You really -really- succeeded here in just the right dosage for your project.

Concerning DC: I think we had a discussion concerning text speed, but if I remember correctly, we were distrected a little by other text related things. I have mentioned this in the DC test section in an extra thread.

I am of the mind that positivity does far more than negativity, however well-meaning or useful in a critique, so it bugged me to feel like I -had- to include that last bit.  A single spelling bug and having to enjoy your texts at a slower rate are nothing in the grand schema, and I have not done complete duty by even looking to see if this was addressed at a later time, etc.  This takes away NOTHING from the quality and respect of your challenge project, nor should it.  In fact, if anything this has made me want to go through and see what other treasures the DC folks have been hoarding over here!  :D  I would be lying if I said I was expecting to be blown away by a DC game, much less a small playable 'side-quest' challenge built in 7 days, but mate I was.  I really was.