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Am I onto anything here, or am I talking rubbish?
good ideas. 33%  33%  [ 1 ]
meh. 33%  33%  [ 1 ]
balderdash! 33%  33%  [ 1 ]
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 6:23 pm 
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Er'cana, as it stands, is a beautiful age which, with its sunny, rocky environ and heavy machinery, reminds me a lot of Riven's factory island, which is also simply excellent.

However, it seems to me that there are some parts of the pellet factory that simply don't make any sense, and could benefit enormously from modification. Some of that modification might be extremely easy, since it's just a bit of tweaking of the what I suspect to be buggy scripting/logic; other parts would probably require laborious fresh content creation. Let me remark at this point that I am aware that some content does exist but was only semi-functional and cut for one reason or another, without speculation, and also that a few others have remarked on a certain unfinished feel to parts of Er'cana.

I think the factory is very obviously supposed to take fresh water (from the lake just visible from the roof of the last room) and some form of harvested grain, grind the grain into something like flour with the stones under the windmill, mix the powder produced with water in the mixing tanks and bake it into the feed pellets.

Here are what appear, to me, to be the level's current problems:

First, there's no grain anywhere. The hoppers are empty, and since there are no plants and the harvester doesn't work, there's no way to fill them up. I believe I read somewhere that the harvester code was written but cut from release because it wasn't finished or working properly (hence the one lever that cannot be pulled under any circumstances); I think someone also remarked that even a full plant growth cycle was planned for the canyon. It would, I assume, be a colossal amount of work to re-implement this, but a quick stopgap measure until then might simply be to have a visibly full hopper of grain in the facility left over from before, sufficiently large that players could convince themselves that no reasonable amount of pellets they made would empty it. I know it's unrealistic to expect two hundred year old grain to be usable, but I think you'll agree it's even less realistic to expect the factory to bake pellets without any feedstock at all, which is what it apparently does at the moment.

Second, there's no obvious way to convey grain either from the hoppers to the grinder, or from the grinder to the mixing tanks. There are pipes leading from the harvester dock which vanish into the floors of the rooms beyond, but the grinding wheels don't have any obvious connection to or from anywhere else - even the schematic doesn't show anything of that sort. The addition of some suitable pipework to the level geometry would be the easiest way to remedy this with minimum extra work; an even simpler fix might simply be to add some extra lines representing these to the schematic graphics, and let players assume that since they can't see them outside, they must be hidden inside the rest of the machinery, perhaps beneath the floor. One could animate the conveyor schematics with grain coloured dots flowing to and from the wheels, in the same manner as the rotating paddles in the mixers, and perhaps add suitable sound effects for the hidden machinery.

Third, though there is the means to drain the mixing tanks (huge great obvious pipes), there's no way of filling them with fresh water again (no filling pipes, cisterns or pumps). Again, a little extra static geometry and a rising and falling water level in the tanks might be sufficient here. Some texturing of the surface to represent a dough mixture when fed with grain would be trickier, but also an improvement (and would also presumably require the addition of grain feed buttons in the control room).

Fourth, it's fairly obvious from the control room schematics and the physical arrangement of the pipework that each of the four mixing tanks supplies one of the four ovens with ingredients. None of the tanks has any flour in it, however, and only one has any water, yet you need to turn on all four ovens to make pellets. This just seems daft; if only one oven is being fed anything at all, you should be able to make the pellets just by turning that one on; turning on all four ovens and their corresponding mixers should either make more pellets, or the same number but faster. I'm pretty sure the original intention was something like this, because each oven has separate controls and a separate start button, which can surely only mean that each one is supposed to be able to work independently of the others, at different settings - for some reason, at present, pressing the start button on any one oven starts all of them (the other three with a noticeable delay), and even that only works when all of them are powered and configured. If it's really supposed to work this way, I cannot imagine why, and would be grateful for any explanation, as it just seems like an exercise in frustration programming all four ovens to the same settings every time you want to try a new recipe. This would probably be the easiest to fix of the lot, since it's purely a game logic issue. If all else were to remain unchanged, by all appearances only oven No. 4 should need to be turned on or be capable of producing pellets if it were, since it's the only one connected to a mixer that has anything at all in it (Mixer No. 1, and that's only got water).

Finally, though there are four ovens and four mixers, the machine at the end delivers five pellets. I have no idea where the fifth pellet comes from.

Please don't read this as a demand, or a gripe, because it is not intended to be either. I'm simply giving my impression of the level and the apparent intentions of its designer, and suggesting what might improve it, in the hope that it will be useful should anyone ever have the time, means and inclination to do so.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 6:34 pm 
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Call me odd...but the age makes sense to me. But then, look at my sig.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:08 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:48 pm
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IMO, alot of the ages in MOULa don't make sense. Most of them are unfinished including Er'Cana, though Er'Cana is fortunately, along with the ABM ages, one of the few ages that has a back-story that links with the game-play. The events in the Pod Age, Eder Delin and Eder Tsogal don't make sense. The back-story for them hasn't been developed so why does the portal appear in the pods and why is there a Bahro door in the two garden ages. Er'Cana's back-story we know, it was used by Guild Master Kadish to produce pellets that would cause the D'ni Lake to grow, thus proving he was the grower as it was prophesied that the Grower would bring light to the cavern (or something like that).

Clefrin wrote:
First, there's no grain anywhere. The hoppers are empty, and since there are no plants and the harvester doesn't work, there's no way to fill them up. I believe I read somewhere that the harvester code was written but cut from release because it wasn't finished or working properly (hence the one lever that cannot be pulled under any circumstances); I think someone also remarked that even a full plant growth cycle was planned for the canyon. It would, I assume, be a colossal amount of work to re-implement this, but a quick stopgap measure until then might simply be to have a visibly full hopper of grain in the facility left over from before, sufficiently large that players could convince themselves that no reasonable amount of pellets they made would empty it. I know it's unrealistic to expect two hundred year old grain to be usable, but I think you'll agree it's even less realistic to expect the factory to bake pellets without any feedstock at all, which is what it apparently does at the moment.


The idea that we could use the harvester to grow plants in Er'Cana would be a great idea, especially if a change in the chemicals of the grain would result in different plants. This could help improve player interactivity in the game's environment. However it would take quite alot of time, people and resources to achieve this.


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