As the other judge for the contest, here are my results. Rather than Shoshon's method, I simply wrote my thoughts up as a narrative, without point values or strict categories.Dreams of Distant Destinations:
This quest... I have many feelings about this quest, some a bit conflicting. While it's definitely a step up from the WWW demo in the expo, it is still clearly a work in progress. With that said, it's clear the finished product could very well be one of the best quests on the site. So rather than going about this the normal way, I wanna talk about what I really like, what needs some tweaking, and what I think needs to happen for this to become the next smash hit.
Let's start with the good. The quest is all about exploring a big, open world. And it's a really cool world. There's a variety of neat locations and you're given total freedom of where to go from the start. Just exploring the map is rewarding in its own right. Despite the "Go places get items" nature of the quest, there is a distinct progression still, with a few major progression items hidden behind bosses, that keeps things feeling a bit structured and veering too far into "Just walk around and do stuff" territory.
The quest also has no shortage of interesting items to find, well over 100. From simple items like swords to crazy magic spells, almost everything is fun or at least serves some basic utility. It also features multiple characters with their own stat distributions and item affinities. This probably comes as no surprise, given my own major releases, but I love the idea!
Now with all that said, let's talk about the shortcomings. In many ways, the quest's strengths are also its weaknesses. I talked about how fun exploring the world and finding items is, but ultimately, there's little goal past that. Ostensibly, the point of the game is to track down the final boss and defeat them, but this task can be done very early in the game. From there, the quest basically becomes an arms race, exploring to find stronger items and using those to find yet stronger items, but with little point to the increasing numbers you can make flash above enemies's heads as you splatter them.
There's also a bit of navigation difficulties at times. Areas connect in strange ways, and there's no world map to bring up to remind yourself where connects to where. Each area has a chest counter to show how many items remain, but you can't quickly glance at the map to check, as the spacebar map does not update to show if a chest has been opened or not. This makes coming back to areas to finish collecting items more difficult than it really ought to be.
Finally, let's talk about dungeons and bosses. In many Metroidvanias, these are the goals you're searching for while exploring the world, the endpoints of your exploration where you use your tools to fight through a challenging area, defeat a boss, and advance the plot or game progression. In DDD, however, something is a bit lost in translation. The dungeons feel just like the overworld areas but in a different tileset, a fact which wasn't lost on Hero of Fire himself
. The bosses themselves are just enemies with more HP and a health bar, and feels pretty unsatisfying to fight.
This complaint probably seems minor, but I find the menus very cumbersome to deal with. Start brings up the standard ZC active subscreen, which shows only the passive upgrades you've collected. The level up menus and the equipment assigning menus are accessed through Ex3 and Ex4. Is there any reason why Start can't pull up one unified menu that you tab through?
Lastly, there's not much of a plot or motivation to the game. You're told that stuff went bad and you've got to fix it, but that's about it. Even the different characters I mentioned earlier aren't really different characters, just different nameless faces with different state distributions. And even there, it's hard to get a good sense of what those stat distributions are, as the starting HP and MP values are all very close together on the character select screen. In the end, it's a cool world to explore, but not a very fleshed out world.
So if I were Hero of Fire, what would I do to make this game truly spectacular? The biggest thing would be to flesh out the world. Create a story. Name the characters and give me a sense of who they are. Give me a reason to explore the world. Make a progression of increasingly difficult boss fights and true dungeons so that I have an incentive to become more and more powerful. Give me a goal I'm striving for. Then give me a map system to aid me in becoming more powerful, and a less clunky menu system.
From how critical I'm being, you might get the impression I disliked the quest, but that's not true at all. DDD toys with a load of fantastic ideas, and there's potential for an unbelievably great quest in here. But while its laid the groundwork and found several of the pieces, it's yet to put them together to form a cohesive whole. With just a bit of work and expansion on the current ideas, this could be utterly spectacular.Go Gollab:
Ho boy, here's another quest I have many conflicting feelings about. Nine different authors contributed, so, as you might expect, the end product is big and impressive while swinging rapidly in terms of design philosophy and occasionally in quality. Before I break down each other's contribution, let's talk about, as a whole, what works and what doesn't.
The good: The quest has a great sense of progression while providing reasons to backtrack. The "overworld", if it can be called that, comes together quite well despite it being mashed together from so many different authors. The quest is consistently beautiful throughout. For the most part, it's fun. I love the different characters and their different special abilities, and I love the charm that permeates the quest.
The bad: Roc's Feather. Roc's Feather. And once again, Roc's Feather. While I have a lot of little complaints, most of them boil down to the inclusion of this item and the strange design constraints this imposed on the quest. Its small jump height, while necessary to prevent the player from cracking open the game, makes lots of jumping puzzles really awkward to navigate. It's used well in a few places, but for the most part, I'd rather the quest have not included it. Moving past that, the story, while starting out goofy and in-joky, veers into nonsense near the end. Bosses are a mixed bag, with the final boss being particular disappointing. Rupee starvation is a bit annoying, especially with Avataro's area (more on that later). The game could've really benefited from dungeon maps. Now, for the individual areas...Shane's
: It's a good starting area and a good starting dungeon. Not too complex, not too simple. It worked great. I understand Shane also made some other minidungeons in the quest, but sadly I'm unsure which are his, so I can't comment in too much more detail than this. I generally liked any minidungeons I found though (especially one in Avataro's area, was that yours Shane?), so I think it's safe to say Shane's contributions were all good. Avataro's
: Ho boy... In one sentence: Cool puzzles, but Jesus Christ the rupoors. The area has a lot of rupoor drops that only exacerbate the money problems the quest has. But that said, the dungeon, while simplistic, had a lot of really cool puzzles based on card suites, and the boss fight was pretty fun. The dialog was less neat, but it can't all be perfect. Eddy's
: This quest loses 2/10 stars for its use of the UK word "maths". God, why do you people pluralize it? It's math! Math! No s! Er, anyways. The concept of the level is interesting, though the overworld wasn't the best. Dungeon had some issues with flow, but was generally fun.Yoshi's
: I love the aesthetics in this place, and it had some interesting puzzles. Overworld was a bit basic, but the dungeon makes up for it.Joel's
: I found the humor here funnier than I probably ought to have. Overworld is small but nice, and the dungeon is simple but fun. I loved going back out to find the four keys; it was a twist that made the whole area feels more interesting. The boss was pretty cool.Moosh's
: This was probably my favorite area overall and favorite dungeon, though obviously I like Moosh's stuff and collab'd with him in the past so I admit to raging bias. But overworld was cool, dungeon was amazing. The tone of the whole thing was fantastic, and made me feel legitimately emotional about freaking Canada. I really enjoyed seeing pieces of the old Canada dungeons in it.Tophat's
: The aesthetic here was great, and the puzzles were generally pretty fun. My biggest complaint comes from the dungeon layout; it's essentially a big straight line where you start in the middle, then run to one end, then all the way back to the other, then all the way back again. I wish the layout were a bit less tedious to backtrack through. But on the whole, it was fun.Matthew's
: This one has the best traditional overworld, in my opinion. It's just really well done, what a Zelda-esque overworld area should be. The dungeon is also pretty good, though has a few issues. Notable, the staircase maze was far too sensitive, and the hookshot room at the top was difficult to find after obtaining the hookshot. One particular puzzle also felt a tad bit obtuse to me. Most of the problems could've been solved with a map which, hey, that one's hardly your fault considering. Dimentio's
: Ho boy... I could write an essay on this, but let's keep it short. The overworld is fantastic. It's far bigger than any of the others, and I like the "Explore it openly and find the stars" thing it's got going on. I also enjoyed the humor. It was pretty fantastic. The dungeon... oh boy. There were some cool puzzle ideas. There were some not so cool puzzle ideas. There were some that would've been cool in a bonus dungeon or with better introduction but just felt laborious here. I really like some of the ideas, but hate some others, and on the whole it felt too much. I probably would've dropped the quest here had Moosh not helped guide me through it. The dungeon item is also really buggy, and the puzzle that requires you to exploit one of those bugs was, frankly, absurd.Overall
: It's a pretty good quest. Some parts are better than others. Dimentio's dungeon is bad and he should feel bad, though, as I understand it, he's since remade it. The quest feels mostly satisfying, though it's a bit rough around the edges in some places and could use a few little additions here and there.
In the end, I agonized for quite a while over which quest to pick for the winner. Things are especially complicated when factoring in that Go Gollab is supposed to be penalized for the tardiness of its submission. Gollab has its frustrations, for sure. And, to be honest, once both quests are polished and fully realized, I feel like DDD will be the better quest. There's more potential for greatness there. But, purely judging the entries in front of me and asking "Which did I have more fun with?", I think I have to give it to Go Gollab.