We’re about 6 days into development of “Everyone Gets Treasure”, the hilarious tactical combat game show RPG , as I’m loosely calling it. If you missed the first part of the development diary, you check it out here!
So, here’s some advice I want to give to every game developer I know, seasoned veteran or green rookie. Step away from the computer and go for a wander in the woods.
Every morning for the last three days I’ve woken up to this view – tendrils of fog over a trackless forest. You can almost see Tolkien’s misty mountains over there in the distance. In fact, this is the Australian bush – Kangaroo Valley to be precise. A weekend getaway for my girlfriend and I to a remote log cabin has proved to be a true source of inspiration. Surrounded by clean air, birdsongs and beautiful vistas by day and the glow of a thousand stars above, I can honestly say I feel invigorated and excited about the game.
What has this to do with game development? I think the main thing I’ve taken away from my little break is this: being unplugged from technology is a good thing. No phone reception, no Twitter, no Google. Just a pen and paper. I had long, lazy afternoons to just sit there on the grass and sketch out the game in my head. Questions such as “What character classes do I want in my game? What monsters? How would the controls work?” With nothing to reference but my own memories and imagination, the ideas just started flowing.
I’ve written about 5 pages of character and monster notes in my trusty sketchbook, drawing up basic guidelines for what the character archetypes should look like – my artist can then use these and take them further. I worked out the basic combat engine and the all important statistics that govern each character and distinguish one from another. It’s a tactics game, of course – but I think the problem with a lot of RPGs, both desktop and mobile, is they are far too ‘numeric’ and inaccessible to the casual gamer. There are some games that do it right, Knights of Pen And Paper, for one , and of course the much lauded Angry Birds Epic ( which I find a little too far down the other side of the path, generic and a bit forgettable ) but too often I find the average game labelled ‘RPG’ for mobile devices tends to be a fairly dour affair with far too much reading, menus to click through or inventory to manage.
What I’m aiming for in ‘Everyone Gets Treasure’ is to hide some of the of the non-essential number crunching from the player – and for the rest, make it pretty obvious what each stat does and how you can use it to your benefit. A ‘knight’ should feel different to a ‘mage’ when you play. Selecting the right squad, experimenting with, say, 4 mages and a barbarian or a balanced party, should be a fun experience.
To that end, I’m designing each ‘menu’ screen in the game to be very quickly accessible, with not more than two levels deep ( that is, you shouldn’t have to click more than twice to get to access to everything you need to know about any character ) .
I’ve come up with a bunch of generic fantasy monsters for the tower – I’ll add a few more ‘comical’ ones later ( vampire koala anyone? ) but this is a good starter guide for my artist – there’s to be 6 frames of animation per monster ( standing, attack, etc ) so I have to be realistic with how many monsters I can create. The more the better though , as the majority of the game is tactical combat.
The other issue I realised I had to tackle over the weekend was how to break up these tactical combat fights. Even the most fun exercise in a game can become tedious and repetitive if not broken up with some variety of activity. My solution to this is, seeing as it’s a game show, there should be game show elements every few levels.
Perhaps every now and again , instead of seeing monsters, the party of heroes will see four chests and be forced to choose one. Three might contain various amounts of treasure, but the fourth could contain bees… as inspired by this hilarious Conan O’Brien skit.
Anyway, as far as coding goes – I’ve got a main menu, settings/credits pages set up from my game dev template framework and I’ve built the gameshow stage and some spotlights that follow the gameshow host and the characters as they appear on stage. I’ll upload some screenshots next week – they’re using my very rough “MS Paint” quality placeholder art so you may want to avert your eyes.
Next up for this week is to actually code the building blocks for each character object , their DNA, so to speak – dynamic objects that can talk to each other and interact with monsters.
Anyway, to reinforce my first point from this diary entry – get away from your computer for a few days when you can. It doesn’t have to be a forest. Your favourite park, or a stroll along the beach , or just walk around your neighbourhood and get some fresh air. The ideas will come to you, sparks of brilliant inspiration from a place far beyond pixels.
That’s it for this development diary.
Happy journeys! Cheers, Oliver Joyce.