Yet another missed opportunity for Bandit Keith...
This is the Member of the Month; an interview that I do at the end of each month. It's a fun way of finding out about respected members of the community.
I personally select each month's Member of the Month. People are picked based on their contributions to the community, whether they are: making excellent trials, providing comic relief or just being a brilliant person. The next Member of the Month could be you!
If you have any questions about the Member of the Month system, please PM me.
Our next member is someone who was pretty obvious, of course I didn't really put any effort into the "clue"... Yes, the next Member of the Month is none other than Enthalpy, and in the interest of getting to the interview, I'll cut this segment short.
Tap: Hello, and welcome to the thirty-something Member of the Month interview.
Enthalpy: It's the thirty-ninth by my count, and I'm glad to be here. Rather surprised, but glad.
Tap: Tell us about how you found AAO, and what made you want to join.
Enthalpy: We'll be starting out with something interesting, then? Like a lot of users, I liked the Ace Attorney series, searched for fanprojects, and found AAO. I liked the idea of case-making and decided to join. Where my story diverges, to borrow a certain phrase, is that I joined on another account way back in 2008. The AAO of 2008 was radically different, compared to now. For one, the community was a lot smaller. In the Your Trials section, quality was radically different. To give reference, Virtual wasn't released until 2010, and by far the best thing to come out of 2008 was Turnabout Nightmare by Ghaleon. Back then, even things like 4-liners weren't considered too terrible!
My original idea when coming to AAO the first time was to make a case series about how Manfred von Karma became evil. In other words, there'd be a trial for the sake of a trial, except you'd play like a defense attorney, and in the next case, von Karma would seem meaner. No other plans. Thankfully, I abandoned that idea pretty quickly due to feelings that the editor was "too hard." After a brief and embarassing stint in AAO Mafia that ended with (false) accusations of me cheating due to an unlikely and amusing set of coincidences, I left.
I kept an eye on PyWright cases, and the idea of making one still lingered in the back of my mind. Around 2012, I resolved to do it, starting on AAO. And... Actually, I should stop here, as this leads in to the next question.
Tap: And how did that lead to you creating your first case -- Turnabout Proxy?
Enthalpy: When I came to AAO, the idea I had was fairly straightforward. I'd make two cases. Turnabout Proxy to get me acquainted with the editor for the next case, and then the Platinum Turnabout to build up a reputation. Then I'd leave and make an Apollo Justice series on PyWright. (I've dashed this idea to pieces, before you ask.) This shows up in a lot of the design decisions. For instance, I included things like "press-all-to-continue," multiple contradictions, and the famous "press-and-then-select-what-to-question-the-witness-on" testimonies to show that I could code them more than anything else! That was also the reason why I had trial first, then investigation. I didn't want to bombard myself with variables. All of those elements managed to create a fairly good case, in my opinion.
Tap: You've recently announced that The Platinum Turnabout is no longer in development, but there is a possibility for an overhaul. Myself having had to announce the retirement of popular projects before, what made you come to said decision?
Enthalpy: I'd like to clarify that statement. I fully intend to overhaul it, but there are two other projects that I feel need to be done before I can even begin to try and fix the mess that turned out to be. And I will talk about those two. Patience.
As for the question, it's impossible to answer without giving some necessary information about The Platinum Turnabout. The original design was rather peculiar. I wanted some very specific elements, but I wanted them to obtain some extremely ill-defined effect. I wanted the crime, and I wanted the trial to be "hard," but I had little sense of what they meant. I very much liked the villain and the central conflict, but I hadn't thought at all about how to execute it. That's the central theme for Platinum, really. I had idea that I thought would work out great, but I made some design decisions that seemed quite natural at the time due to how other people were making their trials, and it turned out to make things fall apart. The difficulty levels were absurd because I hadn't put much thought into the reasoning. The game felt painfully slow because the testimonies, and even some of the contradictions, were pointless. The story... I'd rather not talk about that in detail, but suffice it to say that it's impossible to know just how catastrophic that was.
After thinking about that for quite a while, I came to the conclusion that the design was fundamentally flawed. The central ideas I had, conscious and unconscious, were incompatible, or flat-out bad. Like I said, I consciously wanted fairness but subconsciously made it completely and unfixably unfair. I unconsciously went with a massive non-stop trial segment, which was a terrible idea. When a project is in such a state that it's structurally unsound, there's no choice but to cancel it. It was certainly not what I had hoped for, but there was nothing else to be done about the matter.
Tap: What would be the best advice, based on your trial-developing experience, to those members who feel a bit daunted by the task, or er... struggle with certain elements (i.e. - logic, contradictions and so forth)
Enthalpy: Feeling daunted and having trouble with design elements are fairly different problems, so I'll be addressing them separately. Get ready for a Wall of Text. If you feel intimidated, it's going to be about designing, writing or publishing the case and responding to feedback. There were two ideas that I found helpful here. The first is that you don't exactly have a time limit, unless you're in a case competition. You can take time to think things over instead of rushing into the editor and being expected to figure it out in five minutes. (And if you ever are stuck, there's a very nice Help and Support forum.) The other idea is that of treating the designing, writing, and publishing process as exploring or experimenting. In the absolute worst-case scenario, you learn about a problem that you have and get to fixing it. Your reputation on AAO isn't even at stake. The community isn't judgmental, and if you try to improve, your earlier mess-ups will be forgotten quickly. Isn't that right, Tap?
Struggling with certain elements is a more complicated fix. This sounds cliche, but recognizing you have a problem is the first step to recovery. That there's something wrong in your case means nothing more than that there's a way to improve it. It's not a reflection on you personally. It doesn't mean you're an awful trialmaker. It means you have a problem, and if at all possible, it should be fixed. Nothing more.
Once you acknowledge that there is a problem, you should figure out what exactly that problem is. Reading over reviews (especially the negative ones) can be extremely helpful for this. Look over past cases to see if the problem still seems to be there, and throw a bunch of possibilities at it until you find something that defines the possibility. Make observations, take notes, and have a good idea of what you want from the case. To give an example, let's say that you have a lot of complaints about the difficulty level in your case. That in itself doesn't tell you that much playing the game and reading the reports, you can eventually get it to something more and more specific. You might next find, "The difficulty is too high," and then have that go to "The difficulty is too high, but only in certain contradictions, which are usually in the middle or late stages." Looking at those specific contradictions, you might then find the problem: "I tend to write contradictions that require the player to remember tiny details that aren't in the Court Record, which makes them too difficult." Not every problem will be this specific. Sometimes, it will be "I don't explain contradictions," "My trial doesn't explain a number of obviously important things about the setting," or in the case of Platinum, "I withheld so much information in the investigation phase that even with the in-court explanations, several key details of the case felt extremely abstract and convoluted." (There were other facts, but that's beside the point.) If you find it necessary, don't hesitate to ask people for review or ask questions in Help and Support that are as simple as, "How do you write a good contradiction?"
Once you have the problem solidified, fixing it isn't as hard. Create a new rule or two for yourself that is going to fix that problem. What I've learned from Platinum is that I should work out the major elements that I want the player to learn during investigation, the major elements that I want the player to learn during trial, and to justify why each one is where. I've also learned that I should ask myself what the point of contradictions I write are. Bear in mind that different problems require different rules. For instance, the fixes here won't help with plot holes. For that, you would be better off asking beta-testers to pay special attention to that, or waiting a week after finishing scripting to play your case and go plot hole hunting.
Tap: I think it's time to ask one of the most anticipated questions of this interview. Do you happen to have a favourite fan trial?
Enthalpy: Turnabout Substitution on PyWright. Although some of the presentation aspects are in need of improvement compared to the cases of today, I cannot think of a single AAO case that blends the mystery game and story elements together on levels anywhere close to how Substitution did it. It's that combination, in my opinion, that makes for a fantastic case.
It's rather hard to talk about this in detail without spoiling anything, but in Turnabout Substitution, the two work together infinitely better than almost anything else I've seen. And of course, I love everything about the villain, from confrontation to character. Turnabout Scapegoat (PyWright) and Turnabout Pairs (AAO) also score honorable mention. Scapegoat is a close second for reasons similar to Substitution, but I preferred Substitution's villain reveal. As for Pairs, it's the logic elements, masterfully done.
Tap: Now let's talk about your personal life. What was your childhood like?
Enthalpy: As for my childhood... I was born in the United States, but my family moved to England for a time. We moved back when I was four, if I recall, so I remember almost nothing from it. We returned to the same city of the United States, which was nice, but socializing was fairly difficult. I went to a private school about half an hour away, and I didn't have much interest in sports, so most of the social venues were made unfeasible from that alone. My only sibling was a younger sister, so that didn't afford much socially either... I think it would be safe to say I spent a lot of time reading.
Tap: That brings me to my next question. What is your average day like?
Enthalpy: I'm still in the process of figuring that out myself, courtesy of having moved to college within the last month. I'm still in the process of getting adjusted, although it's mostly over now. Also because of college, my average day depends a fair bit on what day it is, and if there's anything of particular interest on campus. For instance, I'll be extremely busy with classes on Wednesday but have nothing on Thursday, and how I spend my Fridays can vary drastically... So, school commitments and activities are a fairly large part. I can't be much more specific than that.
Tap: What are your plans for the future?
Enthalpy: That's a rather broad question, so I'll start with real life and then go to AAO. At this point, I'm planning on a major on chemistry, and possibly a double major with mathematics. I'm also very strongly leaning to post-graduate studies, although I'm not sure where exactly I want to go into. I'd rather leave that decision until I'm sufficiently acquainted with the fields to make them.
Not-as-real-life, I definitely plan to finish reading the Dangan Ronpa Roleplay, and the Super Dangan Ronpa 2 translation, as well as playing Dual Destinies and Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney when they come out. (Come to think of it, there's only one MOTM, if any, before Dual Destinies comes out. That'll be interesting.) As far as cases go, I've been going back-and-forth on what exactly I want to do next. Up until recently, I had planned on making a five-part case, followed by a project of undetermined length, and then the Platinum revamp, but I've bene second-guessing that lately. I hope to have a better idea of what I'll be doing soon.
Tap: Here's my question about politics. In your view, why are politicians, generally speaking, uneasy? You ask them what they had for breakfast, and they say, "Well, I had a cheesesteak for lunch..." instead.
Enthalpy: There are three general cases I can think of. Perhaps they're trying to ward off a threat they suspect, but don't know well. (I don't have anything to gain from saying what I had for breakfast, but that somebody is asking has me concerned.) Maybe they're trying to hide something they they did out of self-interest. (I went out to that expensive restaurant using siphoned government funds... I should probably keep that secret.) Other times, they think they're doing something in the public interest, but are worried about it being unpopular. (I had crepes, and I want to make a law forcing people to eat crepes becuase they're the best breakfast, but I had best avoid that entire topic.) That's my theory, at any rate.
Tap: Which is your favourite Ace Attorney game?
Enthalpy: I can't safely answer that, as Dual Destinies is imminent, Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney is also soon, and I haven't played through the translated two cases of GK2. (Random thought: have provisions about the spoiler rules been made yet?) Anyways, of the games that I have played, I would say Trials and Tribulations. That and Apollo Justice got the mystery game-story combination the most right, I feel, and the villain confrontation in Apollo Justice was nowhere near as satisfying as in Trials and Tribulations.
Tap: About the spoiler rules... I see the fan translation videos as the best way to experience GK2, and I'm all in favour for the spoiler rules being slowly phased out, but some members of the staff want to keep them in place until an actual physical release of GK2 by Capcom has been out for a couple of months, so...
Tap: What other games do you really like?
Enthalpy: I don't play terribly many games. I believe I've alluded to Dangan Ronpa and the Professor Layton series. I also enjoy Trauma Center, but I think that's it. I have also tried Pokemon and Animal Crossing, but they just haven't been holding my interest lately. So no, I don't have New Leaf, and I'm not planning on X or Y. (Although if it turns out that this generation is secretly about Cartesian space, I might reconsider.)
Tap: What was the first video game you ever played?
Enthalpy: The original Gamecube version of Animal Crossing with my cousins. Ah, nostalgia.
Tap: Last question, now. Do you have any other interests?
Enthalpy: Reading and case-making take up quite a lot of my time, so no, not very many. I do sometimes look at mathematics problems that I find interesting. I fully expect to find myself looking at delta-epsilon limits again, though extending them beyond the second-dimension.
Tap: Before we conclude this interview, do you have anything else you'd like to say?
Enthalpy: I fully expect the following questions to show up somewhere: how did you choose your username, why do you hate Umineko, can you give more details on your next project, what were you thinking with Endless Nineteen, and why haven't you bought New Leaf. I wonder how long it'll take for those to show up.
Oh, and if you're reading this, you need to review more trials. Now let the questioning begin.