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Default Meriwether - Preview @ IndieStatik

December 11th, 2012, 16:50
IndieStatic takes a look at the Kickstarter game Meriwether, which takes us back to the America during the days of Thomas Jefferson.
You know how thereís games that just look good sometimes, and then you read into them and then they sound good? Well, Meriweather does both of those things, and then it makes me feel good. Thatís because itís trying to teach me about a history of a country Iíve never cared to look into much, for I am an ignorant Brit who tends to look to the right and below me at my European chums rather than to the left over at that massive place they call ĎMerica (fuck, yeah!). Iím fond of games that want to teach me about history, especially if itís an actual real place. It will be no surprise to anyone that I know more about fictional locales and their cultures than anything on this real planet. Oh, the shame! Meriweather, please turn me into an educated soul and please do it in a way I can bear Ė with gratifying gameplay and an immersive verisimilitude.
Trekking across America is a bit of a daunting task, even if itís upon a virtual field Ė I donít know my way around here. On top of that, this Jefferson toff wants me to find an all-water route across the entire north continent, if one should exist, while drawing accurate maps of my journey. Well, bloody hell, mate, thereís only so much one guy can do, you know? Oh, and you think establishing peaceful relations with as many Native American nations as I can is going to help focus things a little. Well, screw you, Jefferson, Iím having none of your orders! Do you know what Iím going to do? Iím heading out there and finding as many animals and plants as I can so that the scientists are kept busy, because science is something I can believe in, and not an idealistic mare of a man.
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December 11th, 2012, 16:50
1. I've said that during this month I won't pledge on any kickstarter project

2. This game's kickstarter continues after 01.01.2013


Now I really don't care about history much because historians preach fairy tales (the most bizzare one is that highly evolved cultures didn't use the wheel).
Also I couldn't care less about american history (we can talk about genocide anyday though, but anything else like slavery and independance, spare me please).

The game is about a certain figure from american history. Because of lack of data and facts, we'll probably never know for sure if the person we'll roleplay here was a versatile superman, or he just knew how to use available assets, or perhaps he was the biggest con artist ever. We can't rewrite history either. But the game promises making a (possible) story about certain historic adventurer that could fit into things known about him.

The choice of graphics in this game looks very interesting, for other technicalities can't say because they're not there.

But I got hooked on the melancholy stat that exists in the game, usually the "default" answer if unskilled is not marked like that in RPGs.
I'll definetly support this game in about 20 days.

P.S. I really want to add York who has no bonus skill to the "party" and if possible will instantly kick out the dog.

Toka Koka
Last edited by joxer; December 11th, 2012 at 20:42.
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December 12th, 2012, 01:35
Looks interesting to me. I like games in a historical setting. Wish there were more historical RPGs. Backed.
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December 12th, 2012, 10:36
Just watched the video. This one seems so refreshingly different in setting and ideas that I feel I need to support it (although I feel a bit Kickstartered out at the moment). I need to dig a little deeper with regards to the actual gameplay though. Still, I just love how KS brings these new ideas out of hiding.
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December 12th, 2012, 16:41
I'm also feeling Kickstarter burnout…and some financial burnout, due to Christmas….but, like you said, this one seems so refreshingly different I dug out another $14.
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December 12th, 2012, 21:52
Hey everyone, I'm Josh, one of the designers of Meriwether. Thanks for your interest in the game! I found this site because Kickstarter tells me that several of our backers came from here. So thank you all!

You're not the only ones asking for more details on gameplay. We have added some details via updates, and will continue to post more updates with further details. However, in the meantime if you have any specific questions, just ask! I'm happy to share anything.
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December 12th, 2012, 22:43
Hi, welcome to the Watch! I just backed you although at a low level for now. If you are willing to answer a few questions then:
- how are Lewis and Travel levels intertwined? Is it always back and forth between the two? Or are they entirely separate game modes?
- Do I control any of the "main characters"or always Lewis? Direct or indirect control (i.e. am I commander using their skills or roleplaying each of them in turn)? What kind of commands/control do I have over the other corps members?
- To what extent is fighting/combat part of the game? A main feature, a regular occurrence, or a side aspect?
- My main worry right now is that I get the impression of vast, rather empty levels from the footage and screenshot shown. How will you populate levels to keep things interesting? Whats the density of content you strive for?
- survival, also against forces of nature seems to be a feature here. What can we expect? Which skills come into play?

All the best with the project, and thanks in advance for any answers!
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December 12th, 2012, 23:58
Thanks for the back GhanBuriGhan! Let me answer those one at a time.
- how are Lewis and Travel levels intertwined? Is it always back and forth between the two? Or are they entirely separate game modes?
Lewis levels tend to be larger and longer, because they are based on specific places and events, and are handcrafted. In between each Lewis level, you play through 1-3 Travel levels, depending on the distance. The travel levels are smaller and more replayable because they are procedurally generated. We expect an average player to play most travel levels once or twice. The controls and interface for both types of levels are almost identical, except that in travel levels you can control characters other than Lewis, and you are managing resources (like food) that are less critical in Lewis levels. One thing we're trying to do as the game takes shape is to integrate these levels as tightly as possible, while still retaining a distinct feel for each.
- Do I control any of the "main characters"or always Lewis? Direct or indirect control (i.e. am I commander using their skills or roleplaying each of them in turn)? What kind of commands/control do I have over the other corps members?
In Travel levels you have direct control over most of the Main Characters, although only a couple at a time. You will choose which to send out from the main party, depending on which skillset you need, their health, and their stamina. The main characters you can control are Clark, York, Sacagawea, Charbonneau, Drouillard, Colter, and the three sergeants. These characters can explore, hunt, trade, gather food, chop wood, fight animals, clear hazards for the fleet and other characters, and interact with the world in just about every way that Lewis can. (The main exception is dialogue, since you play them in non-narrative levels.) Other minor characters join them as "redshirts", over which you have very indirect control (basically, they are resources.)

- To what extent is fighting/combat part of the game? A main feature, a regular occurrence, or a side aspect?
Fighting is part of the game, but it is minimal. While the Corps was a military expedition, they only had one conflict that ended in human bloodshed, and a couple others that came close. We want to mimic this history, so armed conflict is fairly rare. You can play it more peacefully or more aggressively than Lewis, but you cannot go around fighting everyone. Many animals are also dangerous, including rattlesnakes, wolves, bison, and especially grizzly bears. You have inventory slots for 1 gun (generally a rifle, musket, or air rifle), and 1 hand weapon (a sword, tomahawk, or espontoonóthe polearm you see him fighting the bear with in the video).
- My main worry right now is that I get the impression of vast, rather empty levels from the footage and screenshot shown. How will you populate levels to keep things interesting? Whats the density of content you strive for?
The levels are a little more sparse than many other games. This is partially an aesthetic choiceówe want you to feel like you are exploring the American West, and partially an artifact of the style of game. Your concern is valid, and it's something we're working hard to address. We want the levels to feel large, but at the same time interesting. If you notice in the video, Lewis walks fairly fast. He really did walk fast, but this is also a deliberate choice so that you can cover a large area in a short amount of time.

One mechanic we haven't discussed much yet is the observation mechanic, which is how Lewis discovers new animals and especially plants. We are going to post an update in the next few days with some video of this in action, but essentially it keeps the player on the lookout for new plants (distinct 3D models) that he has not yet seen, or has only found a few samples of. Alternately, you may collect the plants for food or medicine. You're also always on the lookout for animals to hunt or observe, and have to be careful not to spook them.

There is another mechanic which helps to address this as well, that is your faithful companion, Seaman. He is a Newfoundland dog who is with you most of the time. He helps defend you in combat, but he also acts as a scout. He will go off on his own, or you can control him through a "fetch" mechanic. If he finds something of interest, he will bark and stay put for a few seconds, to alert you that you might want to check something out.

- survival, also against forces of nature seems to be a feature here. What can we expect? Which skills come into play?
Survival is definitely a large element of the game, especially in travel levels. It may be tempting to stay in an area with a buffalo herd for a while so you can rest and feed your men. But you also must stay on schedule, lest you might get trapped in the mountains for winter. Also, while you're traveling through an area, mere survival isn't enough. In order to accomplish your mission, you also need to map out the area and observe the new plants and animals in the area. Balancing these tasks with resources, morale and stamina is critical.

Wow. Those were great questions! I hope I've answered in enough detail. This game is still in development, and we are constantly trying to improve it, so your feedback, concerns, and requests are invaluable to us.
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December 13th, 2012, 08:57
Thanks for the answers! So combat will be relatively marginal, and I don't expect you will spend too much time on making it particularly interesting, since it will not be a major gameplay element. That is quite interesting by the way, in almost all RPGs combat is the major challenge and gameplay element, so it will be very interesting to see how you fill the void so to speak. While I see it as a bit of a risk, I also think that's exactly what makes projects like yours so interesting, it forces the developement of new ideas.

So I take it survival is mostly about resource gathering? Food against hunger, furs and building shelters against cold? "trapped in the mountains" - How would that work, mechanically, what would keep me from moving on, in gameplay terms?

Another question regarding Travel mode - so I take it we are in charge of scouting missions with a small "party", and the fleet moves by itself in the meantime? Can we observe them doing so / get reinforcements? Will it be a challenge to find them again?

Regarding the levels, I guess the key would be to strengthen the exploration aspect as much as you possibly can within your historical setting. If you have lot's lof hidden things (at least some of which should have an effect on gameplay), little "stories" to discover (NPCs, deserted indian villages), hidden caves, canyons, landmarks to map, rewards for complete mapping of an area, etc., that will hopefully keep things interesting. I would recommend to err on the gamey side in this respect than on the historically correct side.
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December 14th, 2012, 17:19
You said it well. Because combat is a minor aspect, we want to keep it simple and straightforward, but still interesting. The minimal combat is one reason we chose to make Travel levels so systemic and "gamey". Those levels let you focus on stats and strategies the way that combat does in most RPGs. It has been a challenge but I think we have succeeded, and we are continuing to improve the game.

Survival is about gathering resources, as well as judging how quickly to expend them, and how hard to push the men. Each Travel level must be completed within a specific number of days in order to stay on schedule so you don't get "trapped in the mountains" or other similar situations. If you don't move fast enough, you'll have to replay that level.

You control the fleet, although most of the time you are just moving up or down rivers, so it's more of a matter of how fast you want to travel, as well as being cautions of things like rapids, logs and rocks in the river, and accidents. Occasionally the fleet has multiple ways to go. Also, while you are crossing the Rocky Mountains you are on foot (and horses) and the "fleet" has a little more flexibility.

I totally agree with your recommendations on the levels. Our goal is to use the history not to hamper the gameplay, but rather as a constraint to help us find new and interesting gameplay.
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December 14th, 2012, 19:45
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Now I really don't care about history much because historians preach fairy tales (the most bizzare one is that highly evolved cultures didn't use the wheel).
Out of curiosity, what cultures are you referring to?
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December 14th, 2012, 20:12
Mayan for example.
The problem stroke me when I got an F (not really that letter as it's not used here, but the lowest grade possible) at school for stating that it's just an idiotic assumption. And then I got series of books of art where inside one about american cultures that covered mayan one is a pic of so called child toy that is in fact a figure of a person with wheelbarrow. I think I still have those books, if I manage to find it I'll (finally make an use of the crappy iPhone) make a shot and upload it here. Wait a few mins pls till I check it.

EDIT:
Sorry the book ain't here, probably my brother took it after our dad died (they're both into art, I'm, well, not). But I'm also not the only one who finds it controversial, check this site for example (the pic there is not the one I wanted to show, but nevertheless it's still good):
http://www.theteamw.com/2010/04/10/s…-to-steal-one/

The Mayans had wheeled toys, but not wheeled tools – I’m listening to a Financial Markets course by Robert Shiller from Yale. In one of the lectures, Professor Shiller talks about the Mayan culture. When the Spanish came to the New World in the 16th century they were impressed with the Mayan culture, for example, the buildings of the Mayans, and the Mayan calendar, which was more accurate than the calendar used in Europe at the time. But they noticed that the Mayans did not have any wheeled tools — no carts, no wagons, not even a potter’s wheel. Interestingly, the Mayans did know about wheels. Archeologists have found many wheeled pull toys, for example, animals made of fired clay that stand on a platform with four wheels, and a string around the neck. So the wheel existed, but not for a utilitarian purpose.
So… Since all those criminals and mass murderers who's job was a destruction and genocide didn't left a wheeled cart unburned, when a normal and not bloodthirsty person came there didn't find anything on wheels except toys - it was widely accepted as a fact that mayans did not use a wheel. If you dare to say this to a history teacher, your arse is nailed. At least was in my case. Your teacher of course couldn't explain how they built all those spectacular things without a wheel, and since telekinesis is sci fi, yet you got another F for provoking.

And of course, another slap to my face decades after the school, and "genociding" already "genocided" culture - the movie Apocalypto. Luckily for Gibson, there are no more mayans to sue him for that travesty.

- - - -

But let's not talk more about it in this thread, let's return to Meriwether. As I've said, although I'm not happy with thematics, the whole thing looks so interesting I'm definetly gonna support it in the new year.

Sortasoft, thanks for coming here and answering our questions!
Last edited by joxer; December 14th, 2012 at 20:44.
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December 14th, 2012, 20:37
Ah great, you read something and now you of course know better than the scientists. That the Maya used wheels in childrens toys is well known. There is plenty of other evidence that their use of the wheel didn't go much beyond that. There are a couple of good reasons for that: They had no beasts of burden that would have been suitable to pull carts. The Yucatan is flat, but rough terrain (Karst), not terribly well suited for wheeled transport. Maybe that F was deserved after all?
Incidentally this is also not so unusual - the egyptians didn't acquire the wheel unitl well after they had built the pyramids. (And they picked up the tech from neighboring nomadic peoples, instead of inventing it themselves).
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December 14th, 2012, 20:54
Actually I did not read something and then knew better, I just found a pic in a book. And then I started to ask questions. Y'know, something like those things when a child asks a priest stuff about the religion and the priest starts sweating but can't give an F to a child.
I asked if we killed mayans, and we did, how can we say they didn't use wheel. We could say that if those mayans told us they didn't use it. But there was noone alive to ask.

I deserved an F my arse. Too bad all those mayan structures were impossible to destroy otherwise they'd probably end as a worthless culture in history and my teacher would say they did not have a single building worth of notice. But in that case I wouldn't be able to see a pic in an art book, right?

And if you really believe all those structures can be made without a wheel, make one. Please do make one. Or perhaps mayans used robots, exoskeletons or something?
As for egyptians… Please. I'll never believe in that theory of yours. Sorry. Nomadic ppl have a sci fi technology and are not making a country of their own but are - nomadic. In fact even worse, I don't believe pyramids in Egypt were built by egyptians. Prove me wrong. Or perhaps we should make an entry to the crappy show "myth busters"?
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December 15th, 2012, 00:12
Sortasoft, a question… Will I be able to kick the dog out of the party and have a human tracker instead at a certain game point? I'm aware he's a great asset in unexplored terrain, but I don't like pets. Generally, not just in games.
Nothing wrong if it's not an option however, I'll adapt.
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December 16th, 2012, 19:57
Joxer, you can't kick the dog out completely, but you can give him a command to "stay" at the beginning of each level, and leave him behind. There is a point at which the dog is stolen, and you could choose not to rescue him (or fail in your attempt.)

To get technical, Lewis didn't really see him as a pet. He was a working dog, and seen more like a horse. Also, there are three different dogs you can choose from at the beginning, with different colors and stats.
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December 16th, 2012, 20:37
Man, out of mere dog you've made some serious roleplay stuff! And I love it, hell I'm already seeing myself replaying the game just to see what happens if I rescue the dog and how it turns out if I choose to "forget" it.

Honestly, can't wait to play that game, thanks for answering. I'll probably have some more questions soon.
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December 26th, 2012, 17:58
Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know we have now announced our stretch goals. They're all really cool, but one that I think y'all might be really into is a dream sequence level that shows some of the things Lewis thought he might encounter, but of course he didn't, such as the great salt mountain, mammoths, giant ground sloths, and Welsh-speaking Indians. Check it out:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/…-american-epic
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