Author Topic: Kathy Rain - Winner of "Best Game Created with AGS" 2016!  (Read 6558 times)  Share 

JSH

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Re: Kathy Rain - Soundtrack released!
« Reply #40 on: 10 Feb 2017, 17:10 »
Hey guys, as you probably know, Kathy Rain was nominated in eleven(!) categories in the AGS Awards!

The voting is now open, so if you enjoyed the game, I'd be very grateful for your support! :)

KyriakosCH

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A very stylish game, with interesting story and a lot of characters. Very professional-looking 8-)

Galen

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For those of you with Twitch Prime (free if you have Amazon Prime already), Kathy Rain is now one of the month's freebies until the 13th.

Congrats on getting in there, devs.

Re: Kathy Rain - Soundtrack released!
« Reply #43 on: 12 Feb 2017, 12:05 »
Hey guys, as you probably know, Kathy Rain was nominated in eleven(!) categories in the AGS Awards!

The voting is now open, so if you enjoyed the game, I'd be very grateful for your support! :)

I am very glad that Kathy Rain made it into the nominees! Such a nice adventure game. Looking forward to seeing more of this author.

JSH

  • Founder of Clifftop Games
  • JSH worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!JSH worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
A very stylish game, with interesting story and a lot of characters. Very professional-looking 8-)

I am very glad that Kathy Rain made it into the nominees! Such a nice adventure game. Looking forward to seeing more of this author.

Thanks guys, glad you like it :)

For those of you with Twitch Prime (free if you have Amazon Prime already), Kathy Rain is now one of the month's freebies until the 13th.

Congrats on getting in there, devs.

Thanks! All the credit goes out to Raw Fury games for scoring this deal :)

Btw, speaking of awards, don't forget to vote for Kathy Rain in the 2016 Aggie Awards, too!
http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/32151
« Last Edit: 15 Feb 2017, 12:53 by JSH »

Snarky

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Re: Kathy Rain - Winner of "Best Game Created with AGS" 2016!
« Reply #45 on: 15 Mar 2017, 20:30 »
Congratulations on Best Game and all the other AGS Awards, as well as on all the Adventure Gamers Aggies and Readers' Choice wins!

I finally got around to playing Kathy Rain yesterday (it's the first time in years that I don't have any huge deadlines hanging over my head, so I hope to catch up on some AGS games over the next few weeks), and I thought I would offer some feedback, hoping that it can prove helpful. I should say up front that I'm going to be fairly critical, because while there was a lot I liked about the game, I also have significant reservations. If the game wasn't so critically acclaimed and award-winning I might go easier on it, but in the midst of all the praise I hope the complaints of one player won't be too tough to stomach.

Positives
Still, to put it in perspective, let me start off with some of the things I really liked about the game. The main strength IMO was the dialogue writing, which is snappy and feels natural. In particular, the repartee between Kathy and Eileen was a high point for me, and I really liked their dynamic as friends and partners in investigation. The voice acting also contributed to this, as the actors for the two main parts were (fortunately!) particularly good.

One of the things that makes Eileen a good character is the way she builds on but transcends stereotype, and there were a number of moments like that in the game, where the world comes alive a little bit more by going against expectations. Nice!

In terms of gameplay, there were a few quite clever puzzles. I particularly liked the hacking sequence, as well as the image and audio analysis mini-games. That these were just one-offs felt like a bit of a missed opportunity (while on the other hand the fact that everyone recorded voice notes onto mini-cassette tapes feels a bit too convenient). I think a bit more puzzle brainstorming around these tools could have led to several more creative puzzles; for example, what if you found a tape that seemingly contains static, but if you load it into the computer and rename the file from .wav to .bmp, it turns out to actually be a picture file which you then have to enhance and analyze? Still, a nice bit of variety.

Finally, overall I think it's a very solid, professional product. I encountered no bugs or serious glitches (the only thing I noticed was a walkbehind issue with Kathy's bike, where she phases through it as she gets off, and with the "fourth wall exit" in some rooms, where she's hidden behind the "cutaway" blackness), no typos or misspellings, no names that were incorrectly or inconsistently pronounced (though I was a little puzzled by the mix of accents, a very common phenomenon in games VO)... Everything seems to work as designed. Little touches like the sprite font (with gradient shading), dynamic weather, parallax scrolling in the motorcycle screen, etc. adds to the sense of polish.

OK, so those stand out as positives in my mind. Now let's move on to the negatives. (Actually, let's put it behind a spoiler tag so people who aren't interested can just skip it.)

Gameplay and Puzzles
First of all: Yup, I still hate the verb coin UI! I won't rehash all the problems I have with it, just note that I see no reason whatsoever why this game couldn't have used a two-button UI. "Look" and "Think about" don't need to be separate actions (if needed, you can just trigger one on the second/repeated clicks), and apart from that were there any things at all in the game that used more than one action? The inventory was also particularly clunky because of this: I can't tell you how many times I clicked on an item to try to combine it with something else, forgetting that I had to then choose "Use" from the verb coin. >:( >:( >:( On top of that, having to open/close the satchel (even during conversations) to bring up/hide the inventory was unnecessarily fiddly (why not just have it pop up when you move the mouse down to the edge of the screen?), and having the inventory scroll-right button on the left makes no sense. Also annoying: that missing a click or trying an unsupported action would de-select an inventory item. All in all, I felt like the UI got in my way a lot, adding a significant frustration and probably a noticeable length of time to my playthrough. Something like this might be necessary for touch screens, but for desktop please give me a sensible, well-optimized UI.

On the other hand, the way the game would close off dialog options after you had asked about them once often made me worry that I might have missed or forgotten something. Strangely, this wasn't consistent, allowing me to repeat some topics over and over for no discernible reason. However, since I didn't apparently miss anything essential, I think this made the game both quicker and easier, in a way that I'm not sure was for the better. It did ensure that conversations were never inconsistent with the progress of your investigation (e.g. asking who someone is after you've already met them), but on balance, I would rather want to be able to rehear the conversations, or some summary/paraphrase of them.

Overall the puzzles were very easy, and not anything very exciting: they felt like puzzles I've solved before in other games (or sometimes in this game, as a couple of puzzles were repeated verbatim, e.g. distracting the cop). In fact, several puzzles are obviously lifted from other games (the image analysis from Blade Runner, the tape manipulation from Gabriel Knight 2, the interrogation of the psychic from one of the Discworld games, etc.). I got the sense that they were there more out of obligation than genuine enthusiasm. To some extent it's fine to focus more on the story, but with the "A Detective Is Born" subtitle I think players are entitled to expect a bit more in terms of detecting. One thing I did like was that the game seemed to be a bit lenient in the exact actions it would accept as solving the puzzle, as long as they clearly indicated that players had grasped the general idea. At least that was the impression I got, since there were a couple of occasions where I expected to have to be a bit more specific in my actions before I could proceed.

Writing
I'll double-spoiler this section to discuss the plot freely:

That sense of "seen it before" extends to the story, which I'm afraid struck me as quite derivative. Obviously of Gabriel Knight and Twin Peaks, but also the Blackwell series and other Wadjet Eye titles (e.g. some bits of Resonance). Some of the character details and story beats (aspiring journalist, mother in an asylum, story is kicked off by the death of a relative, visiting a bizarre, hallucinatory other plane of existence...) almost made it feel like a Blackwell-knockoff.

I also don't think Kathy Rain herself is a very strong character. The snarky attitude to hide vulnerability has been done a lot at this point, and I don't get a clear sense of her personality beyond "a mix of April Ryan and Rosa Blackwell" or about a hundred other female adventure game protagonists, not to mention heroines like Veronica Mars. While there is some specificity to some elements of her character (e.g. her being a biker), it doesn't really go anywhere, and feels fairly arbitrary and superficial. I'm not sure to what extent this is intentional, since it seems clear that much of her attitude is a pose, but if so I think there should be a stronger contrast as that mask is lifted. In Full Throttle, I know why Ben is a biker: it’s a fundamental part of his character and of the story. Here, I don't know that it would have made any real difference at all to her characterization if she wasn't a biker, wasn't a smoker, didn't have purple hair and a piercing...

It also doesn’t seem to inform how other characters relate to her, apart from the priest and maybe Mrs. Myers out by the lake. Everyone seems to judge her more as “the little Rain girl” than based on her style (the only one who seems prejudiced against her at first only talks with her over the phone, so that's unrelated), which raises the question: if her being a punk biker chick doesn’t make a difference to the story or her character, why make her a punk biker chick? (Along similar lines, the 90s setting also seems fairly arbitrary. One suspects that the only real reason for it is to exclude cell phones and Internet searches.)

Her background also gives me a bit of trouble: She was raised by a mentally ill, likely substance-dependent, small-time-criminal single mother who's now institutionalized, without contact with the rest of her family, and she's currently a journalism student. How did she end up there? Was she exceptionally driven to become a journalist? (Apparently not. She just parties and then skips class for a whole week.) How can she afford it? Does she have a job? (Clearly not.) It doesn't seem to add up. Why is she studying to be a journalist? What does she want to do? Does it motivate her investigation in any way? I don’t feel I can answer those questions, and that’s a problem IMO.

Her unclear motivation also leads to a lack of stakes for the story. There’s quite a lot of digging she has to do before it’s even apparent that there’s anything interesting going on at all. Then for a while it seems like there’s going to be some big dark secret: You have hints of links to the military, a powerful rich man with possible skeletons in the closet, a family history that may be darker than imagined, a girl whose suicide might not have been a suicide… but: The military link comes to nothing, the rich guy turns out to be on the up-and-up, there isn’t much more to the family history than what we knew, and the girl really did commit suicide (though she tricked her mentally challenged brother into helping her, which… not cool, Lily!). What are we left with? A crazy preacher who I guess has been drugging random people (none of whom are individually identified or appear in the story apart from Eileen) – which is SOOO rote – and a bunch of freaky ghosts (or whatever) goofing around being all cryptic and shit. It doesn’t feel very consequential.

Much as I wasn’t quite sold on the The Samaritan Paradox [SPOILER!] twist; at least it adhered to the convention of the modern “socially aware” mystery that the investigation should shine a light on the dark underbelly of society: peek behind the facade. I also think it’s part of what makes the weirdness of Twin Peaks work: the Black Lodge is a reflection of the evil and madness that is found under the surface o “normal” small-town America. Here it's basically picket fences all the way down, and without that thematic link, the machinations of supernatural forces don’t have much weight, particularly when they’re so obscure that you can’t tell which side you should be rooting for.

I’m frankly wondering whether the “almost everything is more or less what it seems”-nature of the story is because it was cut down from a longer draft where we learned more about Joseph Rain’s dark side, Charles Wade’s shady links to the Lily Myers drowning, and so on. There are a lot of loose ends and things that seem underdeveloped, such as Joseph Rain's interest in mathematics, the relationship between Joseph, Charles and Cocky, what the hell was going on with Lily, and the whole "glowing orbs"/Crimson One thing in general. I’m particularly curious about Charles Wade, because he’s the focus of so much of the early part of the investigation and backstory, but then you just talk to him once, and he disappears completely out of the case. As it stands, he’s something of a dead end or red herring, story-wise, and I can’t help but wonder if the story wouldn’t have been better served by focusing more on the Rain family instead, since that has a direct impact on Kathy but is only dealt with very obliquely.

I wanted more about that; about Kathy’s childhood, about why she never went back to Conwell Springs; about her grandmother’s reaction – her uncomplicated “nice to have you back” without any reservations or conflict whatsoever is a bit pat, and after their reunion you don’t really get any sense at all that they’ve been estranged for 15 years. (In general, the grandmother’s character doesn’t seem to go deeper than “nice grandma who only gets up from the couch once in the entire game”. She'd be much more interesting if there was anything more to her than that, like how Eileen isn't just "chipper Christian goody-goody". E.g. if she still spoke to Kathy like a little girl, or if she was grieving more openly, or if she was addicted to soap operas, or if she was carrying on an affair with a neighbor – or hey, maybe with Charles Wade – that would explain why he is still in town, which is otherwise awfully contrived... Anything!) Since the family stuff is what ends up being the climax of the game, I think you need to lay more of the foundation earlier.

Finally, I don’t think Conwell Springs provides a good sense of place. Even just in physical terms, I don’t have a good sense of what it looks like. We only see a few exteriors (some silhouettes on the horizon in the graveyard, an empty field while riding the bike, a dingy street outside the clinic, and the lake house), which all seem rather different. The presence of an air force base and a very wealthy family (living… somewhere around there) are referenced, but don’t seem to have any impact on what we see. The church doesn’t seem like it really fits. It doesn’t all come together as a real place. A few more exteriors, a map screen, or let’s say a cutscene showing Kathy riding into town, would do wonders to tie the whole thing together.

On the sociological side, I feel like the mix of so many things (snooty rich folks, biker gang, weird church, middle-class stability, air force, magic trips in the forest) makes it hard to get a bead on what kind of town this is. Like I said, the general lack of reaction to Kathy’s style is surprising, and not really in line of what you might expect from a small town. A couple of touches (e.g. the cop who knew Kathy as a child) do try to make the town seem like a community, but for example, if Joseph Rain was such a beloved figure in town, why isn’t there any kind of wake for him, or people coming by to pay their respects to his widow? IMO the best indie adventures are informed by a strong sense of place (the Blackwell games are very much set in New York, The Samaritan Paradox makes good use of Gothenburg, etc.), but here it all seems a bit thrown together.
Graphics
You’ve put together a talented team of artists, but I’m not convinced Kathy Rain represents their finest work. The bit I think works best is the character portraits, which are very appealing. But when it comes to the character sprites, it often seemed like they didn’t match the portraits (or vice versa, I suppose). Take Eileen:


From the character sprite, I would think she looks something like:



Or Charles Wade:


Again, to me the character sprite looks more like this than like his portrait:



And finally, Kathy’s grandmother:


Who, judging only from the character sprite, looks something like:



It’s… disconcerting.

As for the backgrounds, I found the downscaling artifacts (fringes around edges) pretty distracting, and the look was often more photo-collage or 3D render with some Photoshop filters than true pixel art. I don't mind that so much, though.

I understand that you had budget constraints and stuff like that. However, in my view these compromises do compromise the game experience. Perhaps the game is a little bit more ambitious in terms of scope than you were quite able to carry out.
Let me finally say again that I’m being critical because the game has been getting so much praise, and I think its flaws are being overlooked in the general enthusiasm. This is not a balanced review: I wouldn’t devote so many words to the problems and so few to its strengths if that was my goal. Because as a first game, this is really good. The fact that you were able to finish such an ambitious project at all, basically all by yourself, is astounding to me, and that it comes together as well as it does is impressive. However, as a commercial release, Kathy Rain needs to be evaluated as a professional product, against the classics of yesteryear and the best commercial indie titles of today. And I think it falls just a little bit short. But apparently my opinion is the outlier, since people have been calling it the best adventure game in ten years, a triumph, etc. So once again congratulations! And when the time comes for a Kathy Rain sequel, maybe you'll consider some of my comments. I want to love the next game in the series!
« Last Edit: 15 Mar 2017, 20:39 by Snarky »

KyriakosCH

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Re: Kathy Rain - Winner of "Best Game Created with AGS" 2016!
« Reply #46 on: 16 Mar 2017, 12:45 »
Well done for the win!
A very stylish game, looking much like older classics ^^

Re: Kathy Rain - Winner of "Best Game Created with AGS" 2016!
« Reply #47 on: 20 Mar 2017, 21:48 »
A wonderful game, which will stay with me a long time.  A well-deserved award winner.

MiteWiseacreLives!

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Re: Kathy Rain - Winner of "Best Game Created with AGS" 2016!
« Reply #48 on: 22 Mar 2017, 06:06 »
Oh Snarky.. your so damn snarky...
In light of your notes I have decided to get in there and see for myself, a little conflict is a healthy thing  ;)
From what I did get to play in beta, I can assure this title is a labour of love and had every right to be in the company of Game of the Year.
Now to get to seriously playing [and paying] for this title...