July 15, 2009

Lessons from Telepath Psy Arena

I was just playing through a little bit of the original Telepath Psy Arena, and I was struck by some of the areas where it was lacking.

  • Controls. I kept reflexively trying to control the characters (attacking, rotating, and ending turns) using the keyboard, and nothing happened. I had to keep reminding myself that I hadn’t put in keyboard shortcuts yet when this was released. It’s amazing how much more cumbersome it makes the play experience when you’re forced to use the GUI for everything.
  • Attacks. Some of the playable characters are seriously lacking in terms of the variety of moves they can use (most notably the bowman, swordsman, and assassin). I was seriously missing the Split Shot, Slash, and Leap attacks.
  • Customizability. I remember lack of customizability being a fairly frequent complaint about this game, and it rings true to me now. It’s hard to get too invested in a team you don’t build yourself. I think it’s interesting how much more I like the characters on my team in Telepath Psy Arena 2, where I cobble the team together myself. (I think this may also be partly due to the fact that in Psy Arena 2, the characters all have their own names and portraits.)
  • Progression. Psy Arena had no real ending; advancing a league simply upped the difficulty of the existing battles. There was no way to win the game, either: beating every battle on Brutal simply invites the player to keep playing or start a brand new game. While this makes it great for casual battle selection and play, the upshot is that the player’s sense of progression depends entirely on their increasing reserves of gold and the increasing stats of their team as they train them.

I’m not repeating these mistakes in Telepath Psy Arena 2–there is going to be a proper ending to this game, with a proper final battle of appropriate difficulty. I hope to have the game finished within a few months–keep an eye out for it!