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Exploration 2: Puzzle Pirates

Name(s) Andrew Fons, Brian Rockwell
Net ID(s) afons, brockwel
Exploration 2

Major Strengths / Weaknesses

Discuss two strengths and two weaknesses of the exploration application. Note that there may be less than two strengths or weaknesses.

  • Strength 1: Strengths? What strengths?

  • Weakness 1: The movement system. Why can't I move with the arrow keys? Why do I have to click everywhere? If the game is going to force me to click to move, it should at least have the decency to respond snappily when I do.

  • Weakness 2: Unintuitive user interface. The menus are poorly laid out, and it is unclear which menu I need to click to actually take me somewhere. The minigame controls don't make sense and don't respond the way I want them to. Some of the minigames are incredibly frustrating, and don't have certain basic functionality that should be mind-numbingly simple to implement and would be very useful, e.g. the ability to swap two blocks VERTICALLY in the bilge-pumping minigame.

  • Weakness 3: Flow. There isn't any flow to this game. It is totally un-immersive because of some utterly asinine choices in the game design. The biggest, most apparent, and most aggravating of these flow-breakers is the "Duty Report". Every so often in a puzzle, for no reason I can discern, the game will force you to stop playing for some amount of time (it doesn't tell you how much), and give you a rating for whatever minigame you're playing, before resuming. I cannot fathom why the game would do this! If you want to give me an evaluation of my performance for a five minute minigame, just do it at the end!

Major Sub-Function: Minigames

The minigames in Puzzle Pirates are extremely weak, considering the fact that they are supposed to be a core part of the gameplay. Their controls are lousy, their objectives are unclear, and, most importantly, considering this is a game, is that they aren't fun!

When on a mission with an AI crew, the captain ordered me to switch to a different minigame. Lo and behold! There's no labeled way to do this. I just had to hunt for buttons to click, hoping that one would take me to the deck, all the while getting messages about how the AI was unhappy with me because I wasn't responding quickly enough to the captain's orders. Buzz off, game! If you want me to respond promptly, show me how to!

Specific Evaluations

  • New player experience: Most of you should be a novice to this game. Pay attention to how the MMO guides you into starting the game. Does it seem straightforward? Are you sure of what step to do next?

The game has a little bit of information in the beginning to guide you to a safe haven, but doesn't give much direction after that. It is unclear what this world is, how big it is, where I am now, or why I should care. Also, it doesn't seem an MMO. All of the puzzles that I tried seemed to be populated only by NPCs.

Why do I need the safe haven in the first place? There's nothing at stake! All of the fighting I encountered could have 0 pieces of eight wagered on it, so they didn't matter!

  • Core combat: The game has two key combat mechanisms, rumble and swordfighting. Pick one aspect to explore.

The rumble feature is quite poor. The "charged" punches aren't explained well and I couldn't get them to do anything for me. After playing some more, I have a better idea what to do, but the aiming is dodgy, and each time I played I got frustrated and deliberately lost before completing it.

  • Non-combat puzzles / games: The game has various other puzzles regarding the various industrial aspects of the game. Pick one of the games on its free day to explore.

Blacksmithing: It is unclear what the effects of the pieces are; I only learned by experience. The fact that a piece's number may change when hit frustrates planning and the yellow squares highlighting which pieces may be hit next are dim against the bright orange of pieces not-yet-hit.

  • Social aspects: Join one of the crews sailing in the game via the Jobbing board. Sail briefly (5-10 min) and comment on the experience.

For a game touting itself as a MMO, Puzzle Pirates felt and played similar when I had AI crewmates as when I played with actual people. I joined up with a random ship at the beginning that had posted a desire for a position to be filled. Once there, everyone was standing around randomly on the ship, maybe saying a generic statement or two to another person, but no great social interaction came from the time spent waiting before the ship started sailing. There were no directions from the captain, either, as the crew received a message to take a post so we could go. I walked around for a while, then took a sailing post and played the minigame until our ship started grappling another, at which point the minigame changed to the swordfight. Once again, a terse 'try to work well together' from the captain was all we received before being thrust into battle, which we proceeded to lose. Not once did I get the impression that I was playing with anything more than sophisticated computers that would occasionally output generic statements.

JAR File Exploration

I extracted and opened up the "yohoho-puzzle-crafting-apoth" JAR file and found first that the supported languages are Dutch, English, and Spanish, and these are only used for logos and buttons, however, the latter which uses a sequence of three images in order to show the animation. Spritebatch images are in PNG format while non-animated 'help' images use JPEG format. Image quality is high, and images are drawn at the size they will appear on screen. Simple animations use three to four sprites while more complex ones use five to eight. Sounds all use OGG format. None of the sounds are more than five seconds long, which leads to the ~44kHz sampling used. This rate is fast enough to ensure quality, but not fast enough to satisfy audophiles.

Ratings

On the following items, give a score from 0 to 10 where 0 is abysmal and 10 is perfect. We will refine this list as we cover more topics in the class.

Score Area Discussion
0 General Interface: General ease of use, quality of interface Difficult to use, unintuitive, frustrating.
5 Aesthetics: General polish of application It looks fine.
2 Responsiveness: Speed of response, "feel" of app Please, please, PLEASE make my character move faster and make the screen shift faster when I click somewhere.
2 Consistency: The controls vary from minigame to minigame.
0 Clarity: State of the application or what it is doing is clearly recognizable I have no idea what this lousy program is trying to do, or is trying to get me to do.
4 Fallback: Ability to easily undo or roll back mistakes Well, there's a "return home" button, but if you've lost money on a minigame or something, to my knowledge you can't get it back.

-- AndrewFons - 25 Sep 2011

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Topic revision: r3 - 2011-09-25 - AndrewFons
 
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