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Drydocks: A Merchant RPG - Gomie vs. 2015 
 PostWed Jan 27, 2016 7:21 am
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Livin' the dream!
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This is the way the game looks most of the time. There's a clock for the day-night system (Yes, the map dims and brightens) and you can see what all you're carrying.. even though you don't need that info out of town. Only complaint: When you buy food, the
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In-game map! The world is pretty perfectly sized. It's just big enough that you can get a little lost and then wonder to yourself "Heysworth?! How the hell did I miss Bumm City?!"
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There's a few typos.. nothing serious but it does make the game feel less polished
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The title drops down, just like in a real game! They used a sequence of backdrops rather than a slice to do the effect, which makes it a little choppy, but the bitmap compression gives it a little glistening sun effect which is pretty cool
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The pricing menu.. it'd be nice if it told you what good you were pricing on this screen. I had to do a lot of double-checking.
This is a review of Drydocks - A Merchant RPG.

WARNING, SEMI-UNRELATED RAMBLING!
In the description, Dante Dynamite wrote:
Here is a game I've been working on for a while. It's not much, but it's a lot more than nothing. It's not really done. I really just wanted to get this out here and see what other people think. Not much polish. Just the minimal viable product.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is the worst possible thing you can do for your game! A designer knows where he's going with things, knows what's broken and why it's too hard to fix. A player can only see the problems and issues. Nobody ever gets that "Holy slime, this could be awesome!" vindication that they're looking for when they upload a half-finished game. Instead they get a "Jeez, nobody even looked at it!" depression from which most projects never recover.

Not that outside feedback is a horrible thing, it's just not something our community is big enough for. In an ideal feedback situation, you're able to con say.. 3 guys into telling you the stuff REALLY REALLY wrong with your game. You take their advice and then you're able to sucker 5 new guys into telling you stuff REALLY wrong with it. Eventually you reach a place where the game is good enough that you have some repeat customers and can have a relationship of fixing things people hate and adding things people want to see. Those first testers may never want to look at your game again, but that's okay! Pump 'em and dump 'em.

One of the first and easiest things to do: Be enthusiastic about your project! If you can only write two sentences, NEGATIVE SENTENCES, about your game then you're in trouble! Write something that makes people want to see the game, even for a minute. It doesn't even have to be true! You can be humble when you're sleeping on bags of money later.

Since we're laying a trap to get feedback, we need to make sure that feedback is useful. There's going to be a bunch of problems you're already aware of. Fix as many of them as possible! A person will only mention so many things, for fear of seeming nitpicky or from feeling like they're designing the whole game for you. By fixing the obvious stuff, you make sure that the feedback is going to be about new issues, stuff you hadn't thought of.

Fixing the obvious problems also lets people know you're serious about your project, which makes them more likely to give you the time of day. One of the few things DanteDynamite did that's really really wrong is the filename of his RPG: VideoGame.RPG. For one thing, it's so generic it almost feels like a virus. For second thing, it takes maybe.. a whole minute to rename the files to Drydock.rpg.. you know, the actual name of the game? Uploading a few screenshots would also calm any "Is it a virus?" type worries.

I realize all this advice seems hypocritical from a review taking place nearly a year after the game's initial release. In the contest thread, I mentioned feeling like I'd reviewed this game before. Of course, when I went looking for that review I was looking for Drydock.rpg and not Videogame.rpg. After re-downloading and replaying, I was able to figure out why I couldn't find my review: I'd never posted it publicly!

I'd instead sent a private message to the guy explaining my problems and how I thought he could fix them. Since I already replayed the game, I won't post that private message here. New thoughts incoming!
RAMBLING ENDS, COMMENCING REVIEW

First things first, DanteDynamite is selling his game short: I've seen plenty of non-polished products that are minimally viable, and Drydocks isn't one of them. There's actually a lot of polish, some of it that could work better and some of it that slows the game down, but it's all well-intentioned. The game itself lacks almost everything that gives these kind of games depth, but the base system works decently enough even if it isn't very much fun.

If there is a story-goal to Drydocks, I was not able to find it. You'll instead wander from city to city, buying low and selling high. There's plotscripted GUI work to let you know at a glance how many of each commodity you're carrying, and a semi-clunky menu lets you choose a particular good and see what it's selling for across the kingdom. These prices are static, no matter how much hemp you sell them Barge City will always be willing to pay you 52 GP a unit for more. Because the prices are recorded on backdrops, the developer couldn't change them dynamically even if they wanted to.

Furthermore, there's no limit to how much you can carry which limits over-all strategy. Let's do some math! One of the more expensive goods (Let's say Gems) can be purchased in the city of Dow for 502 GP a unit. It can be sold in the nearby town of Valenport for 648 GP a unit, a profit of 146 GP off of our 502 investment. For a little less than that 502 GP you can go to Bedford and buy 12 units of a cheap good (Let's call it Sheep) for 39 GP a unit. Take those sheep to the nearby town of Woodfield and sell them at 54 GP a unit for a 15 GP unit profit per unit, or 180 GP total.

An inventory limit would encourage you to eventually migrate to Dow and go for higher profits per unit. Or encourage you to upgrade your carrying capacity to maximize your sheep trading profits. Or both! The game as it exists now encourages tediously walking from town to town making guaranteed easy money. There's no sense of exploration, progress or anything else.

Every town sells every good which clutters the shop and cramps their sense of style. There's no reason to buy those expensive goods in Valenport.. so why have that option? If the town only sold lumber or low-brow things, it'd give the place a personality. Wing Commander Privateer did a really neat job of having different kinds of towns.. Mining Colonies, Agricultural Worlds, Pleasure Planets.. each of which exported its own particular set of goods and had its own unique set of hungers.

Random events pop up as you wander around the map. I saw a thief make off with some of my gold, I saw countless "travellers walking innocently towards the city", stumbled onto abandoned stockpiles of goods and even had the choice to help, rob, or ignore an old man.. help, in this case, apparently meaning to give him money.. an option that should've been explained a little better. None of the events seem directly harmful, even though there is an RPG style inn and you do have RPG style stats.

Instead, your main (only?) concern is supplies. Run out of them and you apparently die... I never ran out of them. Strangely you can't buy them in town, you can only buy them from seperate supply towns along the road. The one south of the Capital City is broken, and on Very Very Hard mode that almost cost me my life.

You can get a boat, but it's rather anti-climactic. You don't even have to pay for it, just find a dock and climb aboard. The same random events that occur on land can occur at sea which feels a little weird. I guess the thief grabbed my sheep and jumped overboard.. the dirty bastard.

It's clear that the actual gamey bits were the hang-up here, and that's a shame. The map looks pretty nice, the custom menus could use a little work (honestly, if the prices are going to be fixed, they'd might as well be in a manual outside of the game for easy access rather than cooped up in the game. Trading cards with info on each town and its goods would be killer!). The only part of the game that feels entirely broken is this weird white flash at game start and an overly long "DAY 1" title card. It feels like they did all of the hard engine work and art and just.. gave up on filling in the last little bit of content. It's not bad.. there just isn't anything to do. In that regard, the description was very accurate.
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