Review of TutOHRial

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Hedera Helix
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Review of TutOHRial

Post by Hedera Helix »

This review is of the July 29, 2020 version.

Let's be honest with ourselves: for people new to the OHRRPGCE, starting a file in CUSTOM.EXE can be bewildering. A great number of options are available from the start and have in-engine documentation, allowing for a great deal of experimentation and flexibility... but actually putting something together requires at least some knowledge of what you're doing. HOWTO is meant to guide new users on how to implement a very basic "Hello World" game, but as of this writing, is pretty out of date. TutOHRial is designed to help bring people up to speed, walking them step-by-step through the process of making a simple top-down, 8-bit-style RPG.

Upon starting a fresh copy of the game, the player's unceremoniously thrown into an empty inn, populated by a single fairy. Not-Navi shows the player how to populate maps with NPCs, how to add characters to the party via textboxes, how to have an introduction, designing maps, characters, items, attacks, enemies, vehicles, and bosses. At each step of the way, the player follows the given instructions, with some leeway as to how each lesson is actually implemented.

TutOHRial's graphics are from FnrrfYgmSchich's free asset packs, which are serviceable enough. I particularly liked the faces on the enemy sprites, especially those of the cactus, tortoise, and tree. The (free?) music doesn't fare quite as well, unfortunately, so you'll want to bring something else to listen to while you tinker around.

So, what does a game made using TutOHRial look like? I ended up hewing pretty closely to the basic suggestions given, with four characters having no new attacks, items, or stat changes from their baseline. The Warrior, Wizard, and Thief were assigned sprites and palettes, given the pen names of a few classic JRPG designers, and sent out into the world. Using the inn as their base, they wandered the forests and deserts on the first island fighting monsters, raising money to buy equipment and items for everyone. Once the money grind was completed, they moved to the swamps, to grind enough experience to bring everyone up to levels 9+. Hundreds of Potions and Candies were bought, they took a ship to Skull Island, ran from all encounters in the cave dungeon, and finally reached the boss fight: "Original Character, Do Not Steal" versions of Princess Bubblegum and Marceline from Adventure Time. No plotscripting was used, since that lesson was optional.

While I like how TutOHRial was put together and think it's got great potential as a learning tool, there are some things I'd recommend be changed in a future version. For starters, a lesson about saving the game and implementing save points could be brought in much earlier than the cave dungeon. I suppose the player's meant to save in the inn, but this isn't explained; instead, I made it so you could save on the world map, only later running into the "vehicles don't remember where they are" bug. I ended up just putting empty boat NPCs on each landmass.

No mention's made about how changing a tile changes the wallmap, how to double-check for it, and how to turn off that feature in the editor. Harm tiles aren't mentioned, even though harm tiles are a part of the cave dungeon tileset. Invisible NPCs to prevent NPCs blocking doorways and narrow paths are used in the inn, but why aren't they pointed out for later reference? Why isn't there mention of characters' differing experience curves and stat growth? Why isn't there anything about how Protect and Empower are stackable, or how their formula works for making the effect less potent with each application? Why aren't players advised to make new attacks reset the stun register, so they wake sleeping targets up, like all the other attacks? Why isn't the lesson on changing the title screen sooner in the game?

The text could use a good editor, particularly given how much reading the player needs to do. There are a few spelling and grammatical errors, but more to the point is how much unnecessary filler there is. The frequent asides about pre-modern weaponry and first-edition Dungeons and Dragons could easily be given to NPCs instead of the fairy you talk to, in order to not clutter up the lessons. Admit it, labryschat would be so much cooler if it's coming from a diesel butch.

There were a couple instances where I accidentally overwrote an NPC or a graphic meant to be used by a later lesson, namely when I turned what was meant to be the Thief into an invisible NPC, so the armorer could stand behind the counter. The enemies section lists slots where things are reserved for use in specific formations; perhaps a later update could do the same thing for NPCs and items, by having their walkabout sprites say "RESERVED" or something like that?

Finally, a lot of the design philosophy of Nathan Karr's games is present, which if his other game for the HOTOR 2020 contest is any indication, should be ignored by the player. Not being able to escape from sea monsters sucks, as does paying hefty sums for equipment and potions in the starting area. Even for people making 8-bit style JRPGs, there are plenty of lessons learned in the past three-and-a-half decades about how to make the experience less painful for the player. It's okay to develop away from those, but they really ought to be used as the starting point for how the game's designed, so that it's less of a chore to play.

With all of these criticisms, I do have one thing in particular I'd like to thank Nathan Karr for mentioning: placing a dummy door in front of the "real" one, for when the party enters a map. I wish more games did that.

All in all, I think TutOHRial's an inspired project. I'm quite interested to see where it goes, in future updates, and/or if other people take up the torch of making tutorial games you edit as you play.
As such, everyone gets an axe.
As such, everyone gets an axe.
TutOHRial SCREENSHOT 02.png (1.49 KiB) Viewed 326 times
I agree, labryses are pretty great.
I agree, labryses are pretty great.
TutOHRial SCREENSHOT 01.png (4.82 KiB) Viewed 326 times
Especially bassists.
Especially bassists.
TutOHRial SCREENSHOT 03.png (5.48 KiB) Viewed 327 times
Last edited by Hedera Helix on Tue May 11, 2021 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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