Friday, October 17, 2014

Battle Systems

Despite the lack of updates lately, I have been working away, though not in the way of finishing the game.  This time off time was spent well.  I was playing other games around the genre I'm working on.  (And also looking at similar genres for ideas.)  It helped me to not go down the road of several ideas I had for revamping a current battle system I'm working on.  I realized a lot of those systems would create games I would dislike.

You see, I'm a very specific type of video game lover.  I like a battle system that either a) doesn't make me think or b) that doesn't make me think too hard or c) rewards me if I do think hard about something.

Translation:  I'm a lazy game player when it comes to battle systems.  I loved all the older games partially because repetitively grinding levels in old RPGs was a terrible chore.  But I often found I had great zen moments while doing so.  Older games made it rewarding to grind.  Newer games rarely get the ability to grind right.

Etrian Odyssey, for example.  A great game, made for people who loved the old first person maze-runing RPGs, like the long-running Wizardry series.  But not for people like me. The only thing I ever got out of the NES Wizardy is that you should have a party of ninjas, and that you should run if you're ever attacked by a band of ninjas.

Ninjas don't like girls named Daniela

A battle system has a lot to do with whether you are trying to create an immersive gaming experience (which means an immersive battle system, in most cases) or an immersive story.  Immersive battle system games don't often have very good stories. Or rather, they aren't scored equally with the story.

On the other hand, story based games also always get lower marks in everything but the story.  And it's sad to say that more people want an immersive system, rather than an immersive story.  To me, this translates as a) the gamer market is changing and b) video game developers are doing a bad job of presenting story elements c) not enough energy is being put into story elements and the writing of video games.

I am trying to create an immersive story experience, that plays like a game.  Partially because that's my preference, and partially because I think it's a fun genre to attempt for my first game.  (How foolish I was to think I could finish it so easily, without any help whatsoever.  Alas.)

So, in summation, when creating video games, think about first and foremost what kind of gamer you're building a game for.  The FPS gamer (ie. you better have good graphics) or the story gamer (ie. you better pull them in and make them believe it.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

MS Word now tells you how long you've worked on a document

I've spent 10,000 minutes with this story path document open.


That's around 7 days.

That's a long time! 

I have found that part of the problem with the story is that it's grown too big.  I'm trying to capture large 'legs' of the journey of the game in one document.  I have now decided to parcel out the game into smaller documents after reading a short post about Garth Nix and how he revises and edits.

I'm hoping this will speed up the writing process, since I spend a copious amount of time scrolling through documents looking for certain items.

I tried out Scrivener again, but I still don't like the format, and it still doesn't work quite right for what I am making.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Programming woes

I have just started seriously putting time into the programming side of things.

It's going to be tough.  I have to resize, and remove the backgrounds from all the sprites.  There's almost 30 of those. 

The backgrounds aren't quite fitting the screen the way I like, and I need to figure out the function to scroll the backgrounds properly so I can zoom the camera in-out the way I want.

After all the image sizing is done and all the basic commands are done, I can start inputting text.

I'm hoping the image sizing takes me two weeks, which means I would have about two weeks to work on the text portion.

if I can keep ythat schedule, I should have a MVP by...January?

That's not incredibly realistic, but still is a good goal for me.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Redirecting Game Direction

So after much thought, I have decided on a (potential) new direction.

I'm going to code the game in Ren'Py, and release it to Android.  Once that's done, I'm going to have someone recode the game into iOS.  I still have a lot of what the original programmer gave me and that could be used as a basis to recode the game into iOS.

This comes after a lot of hard thinking and I am not happy to make this decision, but it's the best financial and strategic decision I can make at this point.

Here is why I'm going this route (at least for now):

  • Ren'Py was based for text/graphic adventures.  It's made to make my life easier.
  • I looked over some of the code, and it inherently makes sense to how I want to code the game.  All of the text shortcuts that exist in Ren'Py right now are all the kinds of things I wish were available in my iOS build.  They're not.  (Or rather, they are, but they're in a crashy, unstable format)
  • Ren'Py games are relatively stable.  I can't think of one release of a Ren'Py game that's crashed.
  • I looked over my game script, which is organized almost to a tee in structure to how the coding is structured.  I have no idea how I did that, but I'm not sad about it.  With a little tinkering, I may very well copy past the entire document. (Which would be.  AMAZING.)
  • Ren'Py can be ported to Android 'relatively' easily.  Whether it will work well, might require a 'real' programmer at that point.  
  • I'm kind of annoyed that I decided I wanted to go the mobile route, after looking over Ren'Py more carefully than the first time I thought about it.  I could have saved myself a lot of time, money, and energy.

This is also because of these challenges I see I have with the code as is:

  • No matter who I get to program for iOS using Cocos2d, I need someone with a design eye for these details.  The best person to do that right now is me.  (Or someone else with equivalent knowledge of games and design)  The problem with hiring a programmer is that they can't read your mind.  Sometimes the best way to show them would be with a finished product that I've made.  Probably much easier than doing comparisons to games I enjoy already on iOS.
  • The text boxes are a mess in the demo, there are many nagging details that I'm having issues with, and frankly the whole thing is just a mess.  It looks ok, it plays ok, but that's the problem.  It's just ok.  And just ok doesn't justify money and time spent, nor does it give me what I wanted, which is a really fun game that speaks to the kind of audience that likes these kind of games.  Namely, me.  I wanted it to at least be fun for me to play, and not be thinking about little details while I play it.
  • I can potentially make bigger, better pieces of art because of the extra screen size (at least on PC/Mac)
  • The current code is still bug written and apt to crash.  Not to mention, a lot of small design details are nagging.  I would need to be much more involved in the coding process from the design side for things to work out the way they should.

And that's that.

I'm now going to go look at a couple other Ren'Py games (Yay, fun research) but basically I'm going to start the coding, if not tonight (I'm exhausted) then tomorrow night,

Monday, October 8, 2012


After spending some time with the source material today, decided to have a rethink.

I may pivot on the direction of this project.

When I started, I wanted to create a dating sim.  (I still want to create a dating sim, but that's for later.)

What this game morphed into was a choose-your-own-adventure style game with a battle system, achievements, and and a bunch of other stuff.  Up until today, I was contemplating adding a world map system, maybe some walking around, some mini-games, etc. 

In essence, I was going to create an A-level game. 

But reviewing everything, it doesn't look like an A-level game.  And for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why.

The answer is simple.  It's not fun to read the text

And any text-based adventure, where the activity of reading, the font, the size, everything....if that's not good enough, I'm failing at what I'm doing, which is trying to provide an interactive, immersive story.  What I have is a collection of game elements that could work together, but don't speak to that immersive quality I'm searching for, that addictive feeling that would make a player, no, a reader, come back for more, while on the train, while at home, etc.

What I have decided, after reviewing the game material, the art and sound assets, is that this is nice for me, it's very mainstream, but it neglects that fact that this is slowly becoming a game I don't like, and this wasn't the game I set out to make.  This isn't the kind of game my core audience would like.  Namely, me.  And people like me.

I wanted to create a story-based game.  Ie.  the story 'is' the game.  Interactive fiction, but with just a few small bells and whistles to make it more appealing to rpg fans.  Basically, I want to turn an rpg on its head, and put the story back in the middle again, with the player, where it should be.  Battles are nice, puzzles are fine, but a game should be a game, and nothing else.  Not a 'concept' not a 'piece of art,' but something made for the player's benefit.  (And, maybe, if we're lucky, also for the creator's benefit as well.)

I'm going to continue this rethink throughout this week, and report back.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Character

It's been forever since I posted here, mainly because at work I've been working 12 hour days again, and I moved, and I have a couple minor emergenecies that forced me to deal with them before I worked on this game.  Not to mention the programmer has gone MIA.  Again.

Needless to say, 'life' has gotten in the way.  But just for a short period of time.  Now I can get back to working at work, and then coming home, and then working like a crazy person on this project.  I'm getting pumped again for it, which is a good thing.

I guess I'll have to scout out a new programmer. I think if I get someone really good, it's going to be a benefit, not a loss.  I have a lot of ideas that I'd like to implement with the right person.  Either way, I need a programmer by November 1st if I want programming to resume so that this project doesn't take 2 years.

I'm hoping, now that I've spent serious time establishing contacts, bank accounts, hiring, doing all the business stuff that I'll be able to focus on the game.  75% of my time somedays when doing game stuff is taken up by the marketing, research and task management aspects.  Who knew? Though that's really all stuff I love, so I'm grateful for it, in a way.