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Montague's Mount
Psyringe Oct 11, 2013 @ 12:39pm
Good atmosphere, decent puzzles, incomplete and disappointing story
I got this game on GOG.com, played through in 5 hours, and leave the game with the feeling that I have been misinformed about its alleged completeness. I've written a small review that I'll attach as a basis for discussion:

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Montague's Mount (MM) is an atmospheric first person adventure. Graphics are appropriately dark and murky, sound and music accentuate the sadness and isolation, and the few bits of voice acting are well done.

The story could be interesting, but MM ends right in the middle of it, and tells you that you need to buy another (unreleased) game to see the conclusion. There are three story arcs in the game: Who are you? What happened to your family? What happened on the island? None of these receive closure. This is not a complete game that adds a cliffhanger for a sequel - it's a torso of a story that raises some interesting questions, answers none of them, and then tells the player literally that he has to buy the (unreleased) sequel if he wants answers.

The puzzles are decent and not too difficult. However, there's no logical explanation why they would exist and/or work. There are no other characters to interact with. You mostly walk slowly through lifeless environments, looking for clues - but the well-crafted atmosphere makes that more enjoyable than it sounds.

Including Gaeilge parts is a nice idea, but you can't really "promote" a language in a game where no one ever talks, except a few monologues of a narrator - who doesn't even speak the language that the game is supposed to promote. MM just displays some Gaeilge texts, that's all.

There are no volume controls, no way to save (just checkpoints), and no way to access the options without quitting and losing progress. Some options won't stick. It's annoying, but not a showstopper.

MM is enjoyable for its gloomy atmosphere and some interesting puzzles, but be aware that its unfinished story doesn't really lead anywhere. It raises questions which could form an interesting plot, but they all remain unanswered. In its current state, I can't recommend to back it since it's bound to leave players disappointed.
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I would welcome discussion.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 comments
miraqlx Oct 12, 2013 @ 10:35am 
I absolutely agree that the game does not answer any questions apart from what happened to your son.

Originally posted by Product Description:
Where is everyone; is the island really uninhabited; what is lurking within the isolated caves; and what is that building on top of Montague’s Mount?

After playing the game the answers to these questions will be:

1) I have no idea
2) Dunno
3) I didn't see anything but a few hallucinations
4) What building are we talking about?

About the existence of these puzzles - my theory would be that your former self (before whatever made you forget everything) established these things to guide your way, to make you understand (whatever happened). The story could turn out to be comparable to the one in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

I thought the exactly same thing about the promotion of the language. The only spoken word in this language is probably the name of the protagonist's daughter (it sounded female to me, pardon me if I'm mistaken) I'd have really liked someone to pronounce the displayed words as well, but given the nature of this game, I actually wasn't too disappointed as voice acting isn't cheap.

Checkpoints didn't feel unnatural and there was hardly a time I longed for an option to save manually. The problem I had is that some were broken and progress was impossible without returning to a former save. I reported any bugs I had and according to the last email I got, they fixed it (overall or the specific problem I had) and will deliver it via an upcoming patch.
Polypusher Studios  [developer] Oct 12, 2013 @ 1:41pm 
Hi all,

My name is Matt and I am the sole developer on Montague’s Mount.

Firstly, many thanks for the discussion and I would just like to say that I am listening to each of you and will do my best to address any issues.

With regards to the story, as people have mentioned Montague’s Mount sets the scene, introduces the story threads and end at a pivotal point – the future part will tie everything together. As a solo developer who is self-funding a project, it is always a difficult decision as to when to release and what to include into a title. To include everything and make a single title with approx 10hrs gameplay would have taken an additional 9 months. The knock on effect of this could have ultimately doubled the price of the end product. I understand the concerns of splitting the game into two, but this has many positives for a sole developer (getting the product to the players, getting feedback on additional functionality, generating an income to help further development). I understand that the game’s description text may not have made this clear; this is currently being amended and will be updated on stores just as soon as they can implement the description changes. The main character of the game is himself not Irish, hence the narration (the voices in his head) being in the localised languages.

Over the coming weeks we will be releasing updates to address issues that have been raised, plus including additional requests made by players (i.e. inverted mouse, disabling Achievement text etc). I am also working very hard implementing the Oculus Rift into the game; this too will be coming in the upcoming weeks.

I would like to re-iterate that I am listening to the players out there, and will do my best over the coming weeks to address issues.

Regards,
Matt (Developer)
Polypusher Studios.
Psyringe Oct 12, 2013 @ 4:22pm 
Hello Matt

Thanks for taking the time to reply, and for clarifying the question about the completeness of the game. I can certainly understand the difficulties of funding, and I agree that splitting a product into parts can be a viable way to generate income while development is still ongoing. My main concern is that customers ought to have accurate and comprehensive information about what they are buying, and in case of "Montague's Mount", the description/presentation and the actual content simply did not match with regard to the game's completeness.

This was especially awkward for a game sold on GOG.com. This shop does usually not sell episodic content, even popular games like "Cognition" or "The Raven" were only sold there after all parts had been delivered, so this is the expectation with which the customers approach the products there. Furthermore, some customers explicitly inquired about the completeness of the game, and were told that "the episodic structure had been dropped" and "this is the full game", similar to what your publisher (I suppose?) is saying here in the forum. You can imagine how people feel when they approach the game with this expectation, and are then confronted with an ending that leaves all questions open and just advertises the next part of the game.

Anyway, if the game's description gets amended (as you say), then I don't see a need to further dwell on this. Four or five days of having a somewhat misleading description should not overshadow an entire project after the matter got fixed.

I would like to address two more points (one about the story arcs, and one about the implementation of Gaeilge), but am too tired right now, so I'll probably do this tomorrow. Thanks again for addressing my concerns in a frank and open-minded manner.
Last edited by Psyringe; Oct 12, 2013 @ 4:23pm
Psyringe Oct 13, 2013 @ 1:39pm 
Okay, time to address the two points I didn't get to yesterday. :)


1. Story Arcs (Note: contains mild spoilers)

As said earlier, the main problem with the story is not that it's episodic, it's that all questions remain unanswered and all story arcs remain dangling, leading to a rather disappointing ending.

Basically, when you tell a story in an episodic game, you want the player to leave the episode with a feeling of "Wow, that was great! And look, there will be more of it - let's keep an eye on that!". Make the player feel good and satisfied, and _then_ present him the hook for the next episode. But Montague's Mount leaves players confused and disappointed. To put it another way, it feels like your concern at the end of the game was 95% pitching the sequel, and perhaps 5% providing the player with a rewarding experience. And that leads to the feeling of "It's not worth looking for the sequel" that you can see in the Polygon review and in some of the player feedback.

How could it have worked better? Well, I think to make episodic storytelling work, you need to provide at least some sense of closure at the end of an episode. Not to all story arcs, but at the very least to one of them. In MM, the obvious candidate (imho) for that is the story of Peter. Currently, the basis for a good story is there, but the player doesn't really grow attached to it, there aren't enough hooks for that. Peter is just a hallucination that appears sometimes while the player is solving arbitrary puzzles. The story of Peter, the gameplay (puzzle solving), and the development of the main character (monologues) are all completely detached from each other. When they finally, finally start to come together, to game is over mere minutes later.

Why not _integrate_ these parts into a coherent experience? Why not design puzzles that have relevance for Peter and which, step by step, allow the protagonist to regain memories? Examples:

- Let the player fix a broken toy that Peter loved, then show a still photo of Peter with the toy, and play a voice-over of the protagonist regaining a memory of what the toy meant to Peter. Instead of such a puzzle that would mean something to the story, you let the player decode Morse signals and color codes. That coding puzzle wasn't bad if seen by itself, but it's completely detached and meaningless for everything else.

- Let the player discover a "secret passage" in a cave where Peter liked to hide, then let the player regain a memory of Peters emotions. Why did Peter like to be there? Was he frightened by the world outside, or was he curious and daring when exploring the caves? Either approach would provide another emotional hook for the player. But none of the many "gate" puzzles in the game have any relevance for Peter.

- Give Peter a "hobby". You have several puzzles with electricity in the game - tell the player that Peter was fascinated by it, let these puzzles mean something for him and his past. Or, different approach: Let Peter have a weird fascination with Irish mythology, build a puzzle based on Gaeilge, and give Peter's character an affinity to the supernatural that would mesh well with the way in which he appears in the game. That would not only give Peter personality and allow you (as the designer) to toy with the player's uncertainty about Peter and his appearances and motives, it would also encourage the player to actually _do_ something with the Gaeilge you want to promote.

I believe that such an approach would have allowed the player to become emotionally invested, to wonder about Peter and what he wants, and to feel a sense of closure about the revelation at the end of the game. Heck, you could have implemented Peter as character who guides or lures the player forward (while his motives and morals remain unclear), or who needs the player to remove obstacles so that he (Peter) can reach the building where the game ends, to reveal then that Peter _wanted_ the player to open that safe and remember his past.

There could have been so much potential in this setting, but when I look at the actual content of MM, it's so (sorry) bland. What could have been an engaging story, just falls apart into a sequence of arbitrary puzzles and meaningless hallucinations. The well-done atmosphere still made it enjoyable for me to play, but there are so many obvious missed chances and design flaws that I can't feel much else than disappointment.


2. Gaeilge

You said that the voice acting is in English because the protagonist isn't Irish. I know that (though, oddly enough, I don't know it from the game - nothing about the protagonist's origin or profession is ever revealed in the game, I have that information from an interview you gave in July). And I understand that. But _why_ did you go with a non-Irish protagonist in a game that you advertise as "promoting the Irish language"? The protagonist is one of the very few tools in the story that would have allowed to actually do that - but not if he's only talking English.

Like mirqQlx, I understand that voice acting is difficult to get with limited funding. So, Gaeilge voice-overs were probably not feasible. But if you want to _promote_ Gaeilge, why not integrate it into the game and the story? Why not build a puzzle or two around it? Why not make it a part of the story? Why not give the player an actual motivation to explore and learn the bits of language that you include in the game?

The main problem I see here, is that you wanted to promote a language, and then chose a narrative structure that made it very hard to include that language as anything else but an afterthought. And while there _were_ still opportunities to promote the language (through puzzles or storytelling), the game completely ignores those. As a result, the inclusion of Gaeilge is merely another detached element in a game where puzzles, story, and characters, are already disjointed.


3. Apology

After writing all this, I would like to apologize. I know I can be blunt, and as someone who does some creative work himself, I know that this is hardly the feedback you hoped for. On the other hand, I prefer to give honest accounts of my thoughts and feelings, and I hope to have done so in a way that is not offensive, even if it might hurt.

What irks me most is that all my suggestions - even if you'd completely agree with them - are most probably coming too late in the process to be of much actual use. I can show you where I see the flaws, but they are so fundamental that it's probably too late to fix them. :(

In case you get to work on that planned sequel, I would suggest to perhaps obtain more critical feedback in the early stages of design, when changes are still easy to make. Also, it wouldn't hurt to team up with a few people who can balance out your weaknesses - though I understand that that's hard to do with an already small budget. But if you got some help with the storytelling, and some coherent creative direction that makes sure that the different aspects of the game enhance each other and form a whole, instead of dangling around detached from each other, then you could focus better on the points where you really _do_ seem to be able to excel: creating an immersive atmosphere through cinematic visuals and audio.
Last edited by Psyringe; Oct 13, 2013 @ 2:17pm
miraqlx Oct 18, 2013 @ 1:40am 
Is there anything planned to appease those who bought the game in its current state? Especially considering the fact it's moving to Steam in the future?

Personally, I would offer a refund to everyone and call it a day, but I guess that's not financially possible (crowd funding, personal assets etc.) in this case. If it comes to Steam (even with minor fixes) I see it as a trade for a little more money at the price of a lot of reputation.
Polypusher Studios  [developer] Oct 18, 2013 @ 7:31am 
@miraQlx - I am currently working on fixes that will roll out to all stores shortly. I am sorry you didn't enjoy the game, and if you really do require a refund, please contact the store you bought it from.

Kindest Regards,
Matt.
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