I must admit that it took me a while to calm down so I could write this post. I was upset because as I played Eschalon I felt so close to losing myself in the world and storyline, only to be pulled out time and time again
by the frustrating controls and glitches. I really felt I was beta-testing a product rather than playing a finished game.
Before I continue let me say: Thomas, you do a great job emulating the feel of old school RPGs, but emulating their control schemes should be the last thing in your to-do list
. I'm just going to start with launching the game and go through the list of issues I've encountered so far. These are all for the Mac version of Eschalon, running OSX 10.4.11. If my commentary sounds brash it's because I'm trying to be concise, I offer this feedback with the best intentions.
1. The Launch Menu lacks a "Show at startup" checkbox. There is zero reason to force players to click START each time they want to launch the game. Add a "Show Launch Menu At Start: Yes/No" option in the Settings.
2. The HELP button in the Launch Menu refers me to another file in the installation directory instead of opening it or showing me the actual HELP.
3. "Restore a Saved Adventure" is conventionally called "Load" and should be retitled accordingly.
4. The game's Main Menu needs a "Settings" button
5. It's impossible to delete saved games from the LOAD box accessed via the Main Menu
6. There is zero excuse for only giving players 9 save slots in 2009.
7. It's impossible to skip the animation that plays when you click "Begin New Adventure".
8. As pointed out elsewhere, the F12 key fails to bring up Help in the Character Creation Screen (CCS).
9. When a player selects a skill from the "Available Skill" column, the name of that skill should disappear from that column. It should re-appear in the "Available Skills" column only when the player "takes back his skill points".
10. Ctrl+Left click fails to remove a skill (or decrease its level) in the "Known Skills" column
11. Pressing either Enter key must activate the default selected button in a dialogue windows (most usually the OK button)
12. If a player selects a class, spends all their skill points and then quickly cycles through the various Classes, they end up with negative skill points. Removing all skills except the "Class Granted Skill" still leaves you with less then 20 points
. Negative skill points must be removed from the CCS
13. If a player tries to continue without selecting their class, the warning box tells you to select a "Classification" instead of "Class".
14. The short introductory movie that is shown after the player is done with the CCS must be skippable
15. As mentioned elsewhere, it's impossible to quit the game via +Q (or selecting Quit from the Menu Bar, or from right-clicking the game's icon on the dock). This:
(this is a because of the cross-platform language we use- to maintain compatibility they don't handle very many platform-independent system calls.)
is not an excuse
. Furthermore, the game should at least support +H or +M to Hide or Minimize the Windows or Full Screen version accordingly.
16. The Enter key on the numpad must activate the quick weapon switch.
17. None of the keyboard shortcuts work if CAPS LOCK is on
. The game only recognizes small letters and fails to recognize the same capital letters.
18. The game lacks a Quick Load button.
19. Clicking on an area only moves a character one square towards that point
. The character must walk as far as it can to the location a player clicked.
20. The game must have a shortcut for the green "GET ALL" button that appears when a player is looting.
21. Containers should have more than 8 item slots available.
22. Pressing TAB should keep the "Tactical Overlay" on until the player presses TAB again to turn it off.
23. Keyboard movement controls would be nice. (Can utilize the numpad keys for 8 directional movement).
24. If the game is running in full screen mode, it crashes when the player presses Option+Command+Escape.
25. Customizable controls for the game would be awesome.
-=Random Bugs and Glitches, Unable to Reproduce=-
1. Sometimes the animations would get "stuck" on the "Tactical Overlay". I would go to another area and still see the graphical "ghosts" of NPCs appear when I pressed TAB.
2. Sometimes it becomes impossible to remove skill points from a Class Granted Skill. I believe it's when you raise the CGS to level 6 and then quickly switch among other classes.
3. Sometimes the Options Menu fails to show up. The yellow border around the disk icon would appear, but the window itself fails to generate.
I realize that it's too late to fix any of these issues with Book 1 and that's a shame, because to me (and I imagine other new players), Book 1 speaks of the polish of further product. So far, at least on the Mac, that level of polish leaves me wanting more. I hope there is still time to address the issues I listed above.
Thomas, you said you are employing two testers for Book 2. I hope you will consider a stripped-down beta or a closed beta in order to get a bigger amount of feedback, because I feel that three people are too few to test a game project this ambitious.
I'd like to close on a positive note by saying that the sound effects and music in Eschelon are fantastic: better than many RPGs done by large development houses. As I've said above, the story, characters and world are well crafted and pull you in like nothing else. I dig the combat system that can be as tactical or as hacky-slashy as I want it to be. I also like the step away from RPG pitfalls by allowing the player instant teleports to certain locations and avoiding random encounters (outside of camping).
Overall you have a fantastic property on your hands, Thomas. I will try Book 1 on Windows to see if it's any better, but if the experience is identical then I'll avoid buying the game and just try to finish the demo instead. Still looking forward to Book 2!