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amok Jul 27, 2013 @ 2:59pm
After playing the demo a few months back and subscribing to this forum ever since, this week I finally got around to playing (and finishing) Primordia.

I've now completed 7 adventures published by Wadjet Eye (all their major titles to date), and only Primordia really captured my imagination and made me keep thinking about it afterwards, because its world feels so alive and in depth. In particular the history (told throughout the art, dialogue, kiosk machines, and "Fallen" novella) helped bring about this sense, as did the concept of robot generations complete with offspring naming convention! :)

While Primordia resembles Beneath a Steel Sky and also Machinarium to a certain extent, it has some very original aspects to offer. I enjoyed its relatively deep philosophical themes and logic dilemmas, and found a unique balance of the technical and the artistic. I felt a strong attention to detail in this game; every line must have been fussed over because none felt too terse nor redundant. I got a definite sense that the creators have put a lot of themselves into this game, like they were working on it before they had even conceived it. It's a true labour of love.

I love the name "Primordia", as it brings a whole new dimension beyond the hopeless dystopia it presents on the surface. I love that even in the absence of humans, these robots continue to evolve and carry their own hopes, dreams, love and humour. Humanity is very much alive within them, which is consoling yet also casts ambiguity as to what is "right" (see Fallen). It was refreshing to see such a story from the machines point of view, including contrasting views among them.

Another originality was the way religion was presented. This new religion, although marginalised, is known to the player as fact, so it had me taking a different perspective to the subject, which is always a good thing.

I also appreciated that even the main antagonist makes some compelling arguments and there's no black & white morality. You can empathise with every major character. There's a puzzle at the courthouse which has no "wrong" answer as far as the game is concerned. The emphasis is that you gave something fair consideration, rather than your conclusion.

I've talked a lot about the philosophical components of Primordia, but the art, writing and music were also much enjoyed, and it was very rare to pick a fault in the voice acting. I'm very much looking forward to any future works which may eventuate from Wormwood Studios.

What could have been done better? It feels like nitpicking, but my feedback for any future projects:
  • Horatio and Clarity's walk animation could have been better. You might say "well they're robots and they should walk like it" but I don't really buy that.
  • It took me about 10 hours, but trying to get the achievements messed me around a bit. After seeing the achievement list, I tried to get the tower code early and thought I had the required info. A part of this was that Memorious appeared to give their part of the code in the correct order, but a greater extent was the numbers earlier on DID fit together in two ways which expanded to 48 combinations! I'm now the proud owner of a .txt file containing 54 sixteen digit numbers, which I entered multiple times because I was sure one would work, and I'm now slightly bitter about it :D: As someone previously mentioned on this forum, I also wish there was a hint that using the decrypter in a certain spot wouldn't have locked out two achievements.
  • I know you're limited by AGS, but I feel high resolution and portability would allow me to share the experience with more friends, as well as make you more money which could in turn make better games! I hope Primordia at least gets to tablets eventually.

Questions for Mark:
  • Have you studied philosophy academically?
  • Why isn't Fallen linked on the website?
  • Do you have any works outside of Wormwood Studios?
  • What is the significance of the clock stopping at 1:55?
  • What was the significance of the whole Sad Robot area? Just a Marvin cameo?
Last edited by amok; Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:18pm
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Showing 1-9 of 9 comments
Milky Coffee Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:16pm 
I am so following this thread! It's a very nice review and I think I have very similar feelings for this game. I'm also looking forward to seeing the answers.
Mark Y.  [developer] Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:22pm 
Thanks for the thorough and generous evaluation of the game! What you liked in experiencing the game resonates with what I liked (and what I think the rest of the team liked) in creating it. I think you were especially astute to say that we'd "been working on it before [we] had even conceived it"; the special thing about first projects is that they represent an entire lifetime of creative energy. Later stuff will always be more polished and better assembled, I think, but Primordia was, for me, the product of almost two decades of wanting to do a graphical adventure game, and -- having seen Vic's portfolio of artwork -- it's also, if not the culmination, at least a major milestone in a style he's been honing for years. A lot of the clever coding tricks and puzzle tweaks that James came up with also had that flavor to them.

Your criticisms are all fair, and I know Vic never was quite satisfied with the animations. As for achievements, while I realize how important they are from a sales standpoint, I think they distorted the game a fair bit; without the achievements, how you solve puzzles has a light effect at the end, whereas with them, there's quite a bit more pressure for a "perfect" playthrough. I'm not precisely sure what messed you up on the door code puzzle (which I think is one of only a few really good puzzles in the game; perhaps none of them is that good, though!). :/

As for your specific questions:

(1) I was a political theory major. I probably took eight or nine philosophy courses as an undergraduate (mostly in political philosophy and ethics, as opposed to the "hard" philosophical disciplines), and then a couple more legal philosophy courses in law school.

(2) The website is hopelessly dated. I'll see if Vic can add it, though. It's on our Facebook, at least.

(3) I wrote the stories for Kohan II: Kings of War, Axis & Allies, Savage 2, and Heroes of Newerth. I wouldn't recommend any of them. I also worked for Bioware on Dragon Age: Origins, but as far as I know, nothing I wrote made it into the final game. (It's a long story, the short version is that they reasonably wanted me to work full-time on site, I wanted to have my cake and eat it too by following a legal career and doing my writing in the margins, and ultimately the latter approach didn't work for their needs.) I've written a number of published short stories, some of which are decent enough. A few ones I like are available online: "But A Walking Shadow," "Mere Potential," and "Mind's Eye." I also wrote some game design articles for The Escapist under the pen-name Marty O'Hale. Finally, I've got plenty of unpublished stuff, some of which I like a lot, much of which I don't care for.

(4) I don't think there's any significance to the clock's time; that's just how Vic drew it.

(5) Marvin? (Just Googled; I don't think he had much role in the inspiration, though I did read HHGTTG and its sequels as a kid.) The stupid answer is that Vic drew a cool sprite that I fell in love with, and also drew this random cul-de-sac that he didn't want involved in any puzzles, and I wanted to dramatize Metropol's inability to even keep the public transit running on time (which, notably, Mussolini couldn't do either). So it all got hodge-podged together. The after-the-fact theory I've given is that it helps show that you can't save everyone or fix everyone's problems.
Last edited by Mark Y.; Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:26pm
Milky Coffee Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:36pm 
Originally posted by Mark Yohalem:
The after-the-fact theory I've given is that it helps show that you can't save everyone or fix everyone's problems.
This is exactly how I felt about that. It also makes you wonder for the rest of the game, it's some kind of a cool uncertainty and maybe even a separate story. It shows how the city lives on its own, without Horatio doing stuff around and, just like you said, that he can't save everyone. I loved it.
amok Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:40pm 
Thanks for your replies. I laughed at "I wouldn't recommend any of them".

I expanded on why I messed up on the door code thing (seems I can't get away with after-the-fact edits in this forum). I do have a tendency to overcomplicate such puzzles though.

I agree about achievements. In the end, they're fairly irrelevant and perhaps I should not look at them until I've finished. They are somehow fun though, especially if you have Steam friends who can compare them with their own.

(4) That's weird because 1:55 actually got put into the datapouch, making me think it had to have a deeper meaning. Perhaps your programmer was just trying to throw us off track :)

(5) I was thinking Marvin the depressed robot from the 1981 tv adaption of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. See It was an odd cul-de-sac. I'm just glad there weren't many hotspots there or I would have done an extra hour of clicking!
My favourite robot was the cat-like one with a bushy tail. The really tiny one had a similar effect on me. beeboo!
Mark Y.  [developer] Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:59pm 
1:55 goes into the datapouch because the datapouch isn't a hint system, it's a record equivalent to what a careful player would jot down in a notepad while playing an 80s/90s Sierra game like Codename Iceman. Horatio has no way of knowing whether it's an important number (just like he jots down "5 primordial stewards"). From a design standpoint, that helps keep the pouch from solving puzzles for you.

On Marvin -- Vic might've been thinking of him. He basically has references of every robot ever to appear in reality or art, so I'm sure he's seen it.

On the door code -- Interesting. Never thought of the problem that way, but I can see how it could trip you up.
amok Jul 27, 2013 @ 4:10pm 
Re: The datapouch, that makes more sense from that perspective. I don't know whether I should admit this, but I actually did write down all those things before even realising well into the game I could go left-right to switch between notes in the datapouch :D:

Door code:

I had parts:
03067 440 26
0248 102

which could form either:
03067 440 0248 1026
03067 440248 102 26

which fit into 24 combos each!

All part of the fun though.

Perhaps the main thing achievements add to the experience is letting you know there are multiple endings. It would be a shame for one to be disappointed with the ending, unaware it wasn't the only one. This makes me realise that achievements themselves aren't bad, but achievement design is important.

For anyone wanting to read Marks' aforementioned short stories, I found them linked from
Arator Jul 27, 2013 @ 4:56pm 
i'm glad that i'm not the only one who felt the need to write his opinion about primordia here. Nice to see that we think alike about primordia and adventure games in general. I hope mark doesn't forget to inform the team about the forum feedback from time to time. Everyone likes to hear nice words about their work :).
Mark Y.  [developer] Jul 27, 2013 @ 7:00pm 
Vic reads the forums, but I do pass it along whenever I can!
Pinback Aug 4, 2013 @ 7:02am 
There probably was some significance to the clock time, although right now it escapes me. I put a lot of stuff in Primordia that only I or the inner circle of Wormwood know about. For instance, that car in the Underworks you pull an engine from is actually my Nissan 300zx '83. :D
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Primordia > General Discussions > Topic Details