So Caster's Trap makes me want to dropkick a dingo.
RPGmaker in its multiple incarnations presents a tookit for the aspiring game developer, a toolkit that is simultaneously freeing and crushingly limited. Supporters of the tool might answer that statement with something along the lines of, "RPGmaker is only limited by your creativity," or, "We're still discovering new ways to do things with it!"
Both of those things are true* as it turns out.
Over its years of existence, RPGmaker has spawned a relatively widespread base of support. Based on my perusal of Gamejolt, IndieDB and so forth, it seems the maker community seems largeliy interested in pumping out fan games as opposed to creating original IPs.
That's fine, too. It's just not what I seek.
Thankfully, over time the community has generated a niche branch interested in creating horror games in spite of the engine's sword-and-sorcery-based asset kit. Quality entries including The Crooked Man, Hello Hello and It Moves prove the engine, while incredibly limited mechanically, is capable of delivering eerie, gripping stories that stick with a player like a chainsaw to the ribs.
And then there are entries such as Caster's Trap, a 2014 entry by RPGmaker aficionado TheOdie, which displays a glimpse of the engine's power and a grand command of atmosphere while showing off the supreme limitations of the engine and a thankfully non-contagious case of designer-brain.
As I play through this game, let's have a discussion of what we see.
Entering into the world of Caster's Trap, blind as always, we are greeted with a touch of pre-game narration explaining the situation. It's nothing unusual; we have gone to investigate an intimidating old house on a hill with naught but a flashlight and a newspaper clipping to accompany us.
Then, the narration addresses us directly, wishing for us to have a good time with the game.
We've slammed into the fourth wall coming out of turn three, and it doesn't feel great.
Our newspaper clipping informs us, with several instances of broken grammar, that a boy has gone missing in the area. Missing person, creepy house, dark visuals and a single flashlight at our disposal all prove we're mired deep in gothic horror territory.
The darkness of the visuals creates an opportunity for Caster's Trap to show off its impressive lighting sensibilities, which go beyond the conical flashlight view to some delightfully dynamic candlesticks and lanterns. The downside of that lighting effect is its added drag on the framerate, which at times seems to dip into single digits.
Our mission, while not clearly laid out in-game, seems to be to locate this missing person. At present I have not finished the game, so I can't be certain I'm correct; essentially, the play simply starts exploring as if en media res. Beneath the strains of a nicely atmospheric soundtrack, we begin walking about and examining objects in search of items to use on other items.
Problems begin to mount immediately. To save a bit of time, I'll drop a quick list of the major recurring issues before moving on.
Keep in mind, one cannot judge RPGmaker games the way one judges indie/AAA games of a salable level. A great deal of slack must be allowed, particularly for game length and visual quality.
Over the next few posts we'll talk about Caster's Trap in progress. In the meantime, have a beautiful day!