I've been working on developing video games for a few years now. I put up a blog on here to share what I hope will be sensible and interesting articles about game design. The "Fame Design" name came to me when I thought, "I want to be famous for only one thing: video games".
At the moment I'm developing new games in Flash. So I expect to share experiences in being an indie game developer. I often find myself wondering if I should be working in Flash, HTML5, XNA, or the iPhone/iPad SDK. Time will tell.
Hello Destructoid. A while back I started to tell people that I was going to start working on an RPG game. I said that I would update all of you, so here I am. I wish I could say that I had done more work in the past month. But I canít, and thatís mostly due to soul-searching and not knowing exactly what I am going to do with the RPG. The past month has been hard on my brain and Iíve spent almost the entire time thinking. I have been pissing off my family and irritating my fiancťe. Iím unemployed and looking for work. I would love to get a job, even if it is not in gaming. But, I canít let go of this feeling that I am missing out on my destiny in some way. Maybe itís because of my fear of losing all of my time when I actually do become employed. Maybe itís because I like Reddit, I like playing video games like Xenoblade for over one hundred hours, and I replay Castlevania: Symphony of the Night frequently. Itís enough to feel like I am wasting my time. Sure, Iím having fun surfing the net and playing games. Maybe relieving stress is a good thing Ė so maybe not a waste of time. I just know that when Iím looking at memes on Reddit, I could be working on my RPG instead. So recently it was time for me to be like the Avatar and be decisive.
There are some good things stirring in my mind. I hope you will agree. Plans, plans, and more plans are stacking up on each other and solidifying what it is Iím here to do on Destructoid. Iíd like to think this is going to be somewhat of a big deal even though I know not everyone will care about what it is Iím going to say in this blog. And Iíd just like to say right now: whether or not you believe in me, I believe in this community and I believe we can help each other. In my life there have been many talented people that I have crossed paths with, and a lot of them Iíve met right here on these c-blogs. I hope some of you get involved. I havenít necessarily told you what this project really is yet but please donít go anywhere. Please read on, and I will give you the precious details.
Why here? Why Destructoid? Why the community blogs?
I love it here. This community has plenty of people in it, but not too many. Itís under the radar enough for me to be okay with sharing some bigger ideas, but not so under the radar that a good game would go unnoticed. There is a schedule here, and people sometimes dig that a podcast gets posted every week, and they tune in. If people slip up and add a Monday musing on Thursday Ė no one much complains. People are pretty friendly around here. And we even raise some fuss when people are out of line. These are all good things, and make this the perfect place for me to start a project that will be blogged about weekly.
My ideas have been well received here, even for more of the stranger blogs. Many people here have already said they would help me on the project in one way or another. I will tell you right now that I really want your ideas! Yes, I have a general direction for where the project should go, but you guys have to keep me grounded! I sometimes go too far and give myself too much to do. Baby steps. Baby steps. Oh, and most importantly, thank all of you that commented and kept my motivation up for my c-blog fan fiction. This is yet another reason why my project has to get started here. I finished the c-blog fan fiction in no small part due to reader feedback and comments. In that way, I need your help! I am interested to see where this goes, and I hope you feel the same.
Also Ė there are plenty of people on the Destructoid staff that I am doing this for too. Anthony BurchÖ isnít on staff anymore, but I am a big fan. Anthony really inspired me with his Rev Rant series. I constantly watch anything I can of Jim Sterling Ė troller of trolls. Really I love all of the Destructoid staff, and I hope they are eventually as excited about this as I am.
I hope all of that explains why I have to do this here.
What is the project?
Letís get right to the point with this one. I am making a CRPG (Computer Role-Playing Game). I am going to be providing weekly updates, on Friday morning containing all the things Iíve done on the game that week and all the thoughts in my head about what to do next. I like the idea of people being able to read something over the weekend, or on their last day of work that week where at the end of the day people are starting to relax. It wonít work for everyone, but still Ė thereís the whole weekend left to catch up for people interested. I will try and make the updates exciting, but sometimes only very little will be done on the game. Which brings me to this: I hope this will not only be exciting for people to see this game getting done bit by bit, but also to demystify some of the questions you all might have about developing game software. Yes, programming and developing software can be boring. But dreaming about a new game, throwing around ideas, and seeing your ideas being implemented is satisfying. And maybe, just maybe, we will be doing something in this game that is rare or even totally new and different.
One of the first rules of development (I am making a list of good ones, and feel free to speak up about adding your own rules to the list) is that I have to let you play what I have done. We will be developing this software in something called Unity. I am going to find out how to let you guys play my game in a browser. Because of this, some of you might become testers of a sort, if you keep playing the game throughout the early versions and into the later versions. Letís just say we are in a design phase at the moment, because I actually havenít written any code. Iíve only just started up the project. Later on we can start making an Alpha build, Beta, and even some release candidates. Either way, I look forward to hearing about things that suck, bugs, and potential improvements.
The game will be free to play, and will always be free to play. That will not change. I am only trying to make a bit of a name for myself and get some respect. Not a whole lot of people know that I can program and finish a game, so hopefully by the end more people will at least know that. Also, I would love for this project to grow into something I can put on my resume or my portfolio. I will try and give credit where it is due for people that choose to help out. Just to be clear though, though I do not expect anything from anyone, I do want you all to know that I would love for you to contribute. Please know in advance that I may not be able to implement some ideas, and I am sorry for that. A lot of the game is already designed on paper and in my head. Whether your idea is used or not doesnít have a bearing on if your idea is actually good. It just may not be for this game. I look forward to lots of conversations on game design. I am also looking forward to seeing if this open design will work successfully. Who knows? Maybe the game will suck.
I should stress this too: We canít just talk about game design. You guys will have to introduce me to new kinds of music, art, and stories too. People that know nothing of game design or programming still might contribute by making sure I hear one of their favorite chip tunes. You never know what something like that will inspire.
Okay, thatís the project. But what will the game be like?
Itís a CRPG first and foremost. I am taking a cue from games like Diablo, Fallout, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, and Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. This game is probably going to most resemble Diablo when considering how it plays and how it looks. But I am a big fan of some of the older isometric or top-down CRPGís that had more attention to story, like Baldurís Gate or even Dragon Age: Origins. Dungeon Crawl is a rogue-like, and that genre may make people cringe, but I assure you this game will not be as scary as Dwarf Fortress when it comes to accessibility. There are things I love about Dungeon Crawl though, like the skill system - more on that later. And remember: Diablo was originally a rogue-like. Itís okay to like rogue-likes.
I should mention that I really like the older Zelda games. I still love both the NES and SNES versions. The Legend of Zelda was my favorite though, and when it comes to how the flow of levels will be designed Ė a lot of my thoughts will be with Zelda. I love the over-world and under-world style of level progression. And I would like to see a lot of secrets throughout the game, hidden underneath rocks and bushes even.
Because some people donít know about some of the games I mentioned, Iíll go into specific detail. All of these features are subject to change, but currently are on my TODO list. Here listed are the general features of the game:
Underlying theme - The fear of the unknown
As much as I can, I want to take the player from familiar territory into a nightmare. And I know Diablo does some of this by starting you in Tristram and taking you into the depths of Hell. But I want to start in a place even more familiar, maybe even in a place where you feel kind of good. Maybe youíre taking care of animals in a field enjoying the sun and minding your own business. The farther you go out adventuring, the more of a nightmare the world becomes. I want less of a Hell theme and more of a trippy theme where the outer rim of the over world might feel more like Metroid, than Diablo. One of the reasons I want to do this is that Iíve always wanted to make a game that started out like Silent Hill and turned into Castlevania. Imagine a horror game where in the end you turn the tables so far in your favor that you donít feel afraid anymore. But yeah, Metroid Ė I want the player to feel lost. I want some of you having some nightmares.
The game will probably be mostly randomized for replay value.
There has been a lot of discussion with friends on whether or not this game should be randomly generated. And I think the answer is that it has to be mostly randomized. This is mostly for replay value because there will be multiple ways to finish the game and reach multiple endings. I have a lot of ideas on how to make this feature less of a hassle. I donít want to randomize whole buildings and their architecture. But I do want to make buildings, and randomize their position on the map. That said: A lot of the time story ends up taking a backseat when a game has randomized elements like this. I want to avoid that. If I donít have a compelling story because of procedurally generated maps, I might have to scrap this feature and just design all the levels.
This will be a single-player game, through and through. I know some people swear by multi-player games and possibly want some sort of social element to the game, but this game will have neither. I enjoy an RPG most when I can sit down and enjoy it alone. Not only will this be easier for me to program, but also easier for me to design and balance.
Like the original Zelda, there may be little to no NPCís to talk to.
One thing that I think is important to mention is: I donít know if I will be including other humans in the game. I do like the idea of having other NPCís (Non-Player Characters) in the game because it gives me the chance to have more drama between human characters. That also gives me the chance to try and have a party system in the game. If I do have a party system, you will still only be responsible for your own character when it comes to equipping yourself with armor, feeding yourself, putting points into attributes/skills, etc. Other party members should be able to interact with you though, and receive armor from you if they like the idea of changing it. Anyhow, there are advantages to not having NPCís or parties at all. I can concentrate on monsters and much less thought would have to go into how to make the NPCís more human. The story would have to come through without NPCís though and would feel more like Shadow of the Colossus or Legend of Zelda Ė very lonely with only a few NPCís scattered about here and there.
The levels will have to be designed with a couple different ways to solve problems.
Iíd like to be able to bash in a door but make a lot of noise doing it, quietly lock pick the door, or melt it with some sort of acid you crafted. Not everything will have this many options, but tasks you donít have enough skill for should be avoided and left for another day. For nimble characters, there should be some elaborate treasure rooms that you should be able to solve with some athletic feats and some smarts. The point is: Characters that are merely trying to force their way through certain treasure rooms will not succeed. These things will be balanced out so that other character types will also have certain types of obstacles that they can easily pass too Ė and they will all have their specific class rewards.
The main character should not be able to learn anything that anyone would call magic until late in the game.
There are a few reasons for this. First, I want to avoid the magic user clichť that plagues most RPGís out there. Second, the D&D magic user generally uses the Intelligence (Int) stat, and I want the Int stat to cover skills that actually display intelligence. Iíll cover the character stats in the section describing characters below. Third, Iíd like to ground the skills in the game in reality as much as possible until the late game. To make the Intelligence stat seem more like real Intelligence, I want to build both a solid crafting system and a memory system. I will explain the memory system in this section, below.
Your character should start classless, as a regular human.
But that doesnít mean you canít be classy. Because of the way I want the skills to be learned by the main character, I want to give the player some initial skills to try and see what play-style they want to use. Are you a rogue that likes to dodge and use finesse rather than bash heads? Are you a barbarian that likes to use large primitive weapons to bash monsters into oblivion? Or are you the type that tries to set traps and use poisons so that you hardly need to even step into combat most times? Any of the combinations of play-styles available should be easily seen by the player. The concept here is: Players should be able to find success with whatever class they choose to be as long as they stay in character. Example: There will be a penalty for using light armor for 99% of the game, and then putting heavy armor on for the last boss. The game will have weapons and armor that will remind people of Diablo, Torchlight, and basically anything with a medieval fantasy theme.
One of the things I canít totally reveal to people is the story.
One of the rules of developing this game is that I canít let you in on its story. The story will be the one thing that I have that I can still surprise people with. I will be able to display how the game will look with some art and a level. And I will give some info about the story from time to time. But I will never let you guys in on something that would spoil it. As of right now, I would say I only have 10% of the story written down. So there is a lot to think about there.
Unobtrusive user interface
An RPG usually has a character sheet of sorts that you can see your stats, equipment, and inventory. Iím going to try and have these things easily accessible, but I will try to give the player enough information on the main screen to spend lots of time away from the menus.
The only three attributes a character has is Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), and Intelligence (Int). There is a philosophy to this, that I will talk about in a later blog. Other skills are familiar except I'm going to be adding an extensive crafting system that may have unfamiliar skills. We rarely have trap-making skills or poison making skills. (Skyrim is a good example of what kind of traditional skills I want, all except for the magic).
The Memory System
For specific use with the Intelligence attribute, I am making a memory system. The player character will remember an amount of memories based on his experience. This lets the character fit more into his mind and combine ideas to 'invent' more complex weapons. A less intelligent craftsman will be able to make a board with a nail through it. The highly intelligent craftsman will be able to set elaborate traps or even make guns and grenades at a high level. Memories are also good for remembering weaknesses for other creatures too. Remembering weaknesses raises critical hits and tells you what kinds of attacks are appropriate (like blunt vs blade weapons). A highly intelligent person will often hoard so much information that he should write his inventions, recipes, and special events in a book to remember later. I'll go into more detail on how this works in a future blog.
I want an ďalways pauseĒ system.
This is probably one of the most polarizing of concepts. You either love it or hate it. I, myself, have been undecided for the longest time on if I should build a turn-based game or a real-time game. So I made up something. I always kind of liked the Dragon Age: Origins battle system because it had all the benefits of a real time combat system and added the option to pause the game when you needed to think. I also got used to playing rogue-like games and loved the automatic search button. It would always stop when you encounter something that could be dangerous. I wanted the best of both worlds, so I designed an ďalways pauseĒ system. The game will move as fast and as fluid as any real time system Ė just like Diablo. However, when youíre done with an action, the game will be paused. Itís like playing Diablo but you get to think about everything you do. It makes for good planning and strategy and makes sure that you are using all your potential power for defeating enemies wisely. This is not a twitch action game. You get to think about all the moves you make. I will try to keep the game in full motion when you are not in danger Ė but Iím not sure if that will be necessary. We will see.
I want monsters to have a purpose.
I donít want them to just be things in the game that you kill. There will be that definite traditional feel to the game when it comes to combat. You can kill monsters all the time in this game. But there will be a few differences. I want you to be able to run away. I want the monster to go back to where they were if you werenít that threatening. I want them to go find food elsewhere or basically just get back to what they were doing. Not every fight with a monster will be a fight to the death. Isnít that refreshing? Also, not all animals will try to harm you. They will also run away when they are afraid of you. Something they did in Ultima was they gave their creatures a hierarchy of needs. Dragons would actually collect gold and things and sit on it. I donít know the extent of what happened with that feature, but it gives me so many ideas for how creatures should work. I would love to do a giant spider that hangs out and tries to catch people.
There should be little to no customization needed for your character at the beginning of the game. People that love to customize their characters should have options during the game to do this. Armor and weapons should be somewhat customizable so that you can at least get a look that suits you. The look of your character will also depend a bit on what class you choose to focus on later in the game. You may be restricted to using light armor instead of heavy armor. In that case you will look less beefy, but you will also look like you can move around pretty well. Youíd be more like a hunter than a knight. Iím thinking of having male/female options as well as skin color. Hair style and color might be a good thing too.
I want genders to be well represented.
Iíll tell you right now that I donít know how to do this. Though, I know that one thing Iím going to do first is make sure there are male and female options along with some things to customize your character. But since you are going to be the average human when you start, I want to have as little customization as possible in the beginning.
Music will be a little different. It will probably have a little more flow.
I know this is kind of a weird thing, but I am a big fan of the way Lumines handles music. There are a few more games from that developer that have used music in so many awesome ways. And I always thought it would be a shame to not pay attention to music in an RPG. My fond memories of Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Secret of Evermore, and Illusion of Gaia have left their permanent marks on me. I think my choice of music will be a little different from traditional RPGís. That might be because I think orchestrated music is clichť, and is typical for games like Skyrim or anything that is trying to be like Lord of the Rings. Itís not that I donít like it. I just want to go against the urge to compose all the music like John Williams would. What that means isÖ WellÖ A lot of strange sounding music will probably be in this game. Anyway, thatís not the point. The point is: Lumines music has a flow to it. And I want to see if I can achieve that in this game. Iíll go into that more in another blog.
Rules of Development: 1. Every blog update must be accompanied with an updated demo.
2. I cannot give away the story to anyone.
3. Players must be able to achieve success with ANY class.
4. The game will always be free.
So, I have a lot of work to do. You guys seriously know just about everything about how I want the game to work. We do still have some other things to talk about, for sure. This project could very well take usÖ years! But I am not a quitter (except for smoking). And there are some people helping me on this that could help the momentum.
Also, I know about Kickstarter. Kickstarter will be on my mind, but I am still going to start this without any funding. If we are ever going to have a successful campaign for it, we will have to gain trust. Iíd like to gain trust by making something awesome. So Iíll concentrate on the product first. Even getting a prototype ready will take a while.
Still - I know itís coming someday. The game will be feature complete. And at that time I will spin a story for you all to remember.
I do not fear the monsters and demons I fear that I am awake. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, No way out, and I am alone.