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C-Blog CRPG Update: Perlenspiel

I'll probably have more of an elaborate Perlenspiel blog later. But for now I'm just going to jump right into this. I usually adhere to my own rule of one blog a week, but I wanted to get a lot of this stuff out there. My brain has been on overdrive lately.

For a while now I've been talking about making a game for you guys to play. I struggled a lot to keep my motivation for this project and it was going pretty well actually until I sort of just hit a point where something was... well... just wrong. I needed to go back to the drawing board and start making something that was truly going to make sense for the amount of time I had, and the amount of skill I have as a programmer, game designer, musician, audio recording artist, concept artist, and animator. Point is: I needed to either do all these things, get a team of people to help me, or bring the scope of the project down a bit.

I'm not sure why, but I do like the idea of doing everything. I've had an art background and I used to play piano as a young boy, soft, supple, and full of beans. My favorite drink was Surge. I was one of those people who was good at a lot of things and couldn't pick one. Not only that, I was in love with a lot of things, and couldn't focus my passionate side. I did eventually pick 'video games'. And when someone ultimately picks that, I feel like they are actually just wanting to design. However, the only real tangible job I could get (back in the day) was an engineering position where I could code all the live long day.

Let me get right to the point though. Perlenspiel is a software development kit of sorts. I am going to be making a game with that. And I'm going to take you with me on that journey just like I wanted to do earlier when I started that original project (the one that was going to be made with Unity). It is still hard to say what happened there. I actually didn't even have a computer that would play my game in Unity, for one thing.

One of the things that keeps me going is that I know a lot of you believe in me. I've learned that I don't need anyone to help with the project, other than casual advice and general video game design conversation. You all contribute whether you know it or not. I get a lot of that reading all your blogs, so to all the c-blog bloggers thank you. You have all affected my taste in games and have often change what I think of video games in general. You all have introduced me to new and different things. Many thanks to all of you.

There were a few things that I wanted to accomplish when I made a new RPG, but when it comes down to it there is only one thing I really want to express. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.

I was a bit shocked when google showed me "Tifa and Aerith" images.

I wanted to have an RPG that focused on tangible benefits of having relationships with NPC characters. I've always wanted games like Final Fantasy to have a dating simulator inside the game so that I can choose Tifa or Aerith. I want to interact more with the NPC characters that I like, much like Planescape: Torment. An example of what I don't want is something like Diablo, where you hardly interact with the characters at all. I don't just want sound bites. The question was: How do I make a relationship system in a game that is very simple?

So, I set out with this goal in mind. I wanted an RPG for sure, and I wanted it to at least have some focus on having NPC relationships in there. The first thing to do was get an idea of what the space looked like.

Any Perlenspiel game is going to be on a board like this. A grid of squares (or 'beads') that sort of resemble a normal chess, checkers, or go board. If my RPG was going to be on this board, I simply had to start with my character in the center, and give him the ability to walk around. So I did that pretty quickly. Switching to Javascript wasn't too bad, and I quite like it actually.

So there I am, a blue dot in the middle of a board, ready for the rest of the RPG to be laid down and constructed around me. That's where things got a little fuzzy. I tried thinking of what the map would look like. Should it be randomly generated? Should the map be larger than the grid that you see on the screen? Should I have a scrolling map where it scrolls with every step or a Zelda map where it only scrolls when you are at the edge of the screen? Should there be an unlimited amount of space for you to explore? Or should... Anyway, there were a lot of questions. And at this point I stopped programming for a while and had to draw up some concepts in my brain for what this game was supposed to look like.

The first thing that came to mind was that I could have one tile have a monster in it. That is, I could have any tile on the board be a creature that you could attack for experience points. I liked this idea more when I started trimming it down and making things very simple. One tile could be seen as an 'event' area. So when you think of a whole screen of Zelda monsters, I can boil that scene down to one square on this map. It is basically just a monster encounter tile.

If I was to have encounter tiles, I thought it would be good to have some other encounters. I thought treasure tiles would be good. So now we have a way to fight monsters in combat, find items that can boost my attack, and a way for us to gain levels. For anyone who has played a game called 'Munchkin' before this is sounding a lot like their leveling system.

The monster encounters will be like traditional monsters with maximum hit points and an attack power, like a damage per turn. A monster, for example, will be able to hit you for 3 to 7 damage. I'm not sure how many hit points the player will have right now, but I can guess that we will have around 10 hit points on level one. So you can hit a monster encounter tile as many times as it will take you to kill the monster, and then when it happens, you move into that square.

The treasure tiles were simple. You could move to a treasure tile, and you randomly get a value from 1 to 10 where the number is how strong that item is. The items could be called anything. I'm thinking about just having one slot for a power item. Let's say it is a sword though. If you already have a +4 sword and you get a +3 roll on the treasure square, the game will tell you that the item you found wasn't good enough, so it's trash. It's really just a thing where you have to get lucky and find a higher random number than what you already have. Pretty simple.

Now, after deciding all of these things about the events, I realized that I had played this game before sort of. Has anyone played Desktop Dungeons? If you haven't, go download the demo I highly recommend it.

But I had to make something different than Desktop Dungeons. I still liked the ideas that I had come up with so far, so my next few ideas strayed a little bit. And so I had to really hammer down a decision about what the environment was going to look like.

The environment is going to be totally encapsulated inside the grid you see, just like Desktop Dungeons. The difference is: My map is going to keep randomly generating the environment for every step you take. So if you destroy a monster in one direction, your last position can be filled with another event, like another monster. And so every step you take, you are changing your environment. I thought that was pretty neat.

I also thought of Dragon Warrior. The old Dragon Warrior maps had harder monsters when you traveled farther from the original town. I wanted that. And I even thought maybe an ending boss would be a good idea to put out on the edge of the map for people to actually have a goal. What this does is promotes activity in the middle of the map until you have experience to travel outward. Small beasts that you can kill easily will take a few hit points from you, but I didn't want the player to feel like they weren't getting anything from it. It may not be the best idea, but if we put a 'hunger' mechanic into the game where you can only move a few spaces before you have to kill a creature and eat them then players might not want to risk walking on treasure squares nearly as much before they search for easy prey. Also, the farther from the center you are, the better treasure you can find.

Also, I feel like healing the player 1 hit point per turn might add some depth too. Without any way to heal, I feel like people will get killed too often. We basically just want the player to be able to have a nice safe time in the middle of the map, and get more punishment when taking risky paths away from the center.

The game, so far, is to make the right moves traveling out from the center in an attempt to survive and grow to the point where you can challenge the end boss and win.

Wait a minute. I have NOTHING about NPC relationships in here right now. Shit. I have built absolutely nothing innovative into this. It's just combat and loot! Something has to give.

This blog is getting a little long so next time I'll go into how I decided to add NPC characters into the mix and hopefully get to a part where I can rant about the difference between game and simulator. Until next time! Thanks for listening!

P.S. I have the game coded up and will have a playable game on the web soon!
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About Fame Designerone of us since 7:47 PM on 01.31.2010

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.