Well, I’ve got a special for you all today. I’ve been planning on doing this for a few months, but out of randomness, I’ve decided to do it today. I’m going to go down memory lane and describe EVERY SINGLE GAME I’VE CREATED AND WORKED ON and do mini post-mortems of each, culminating in a conclusion of what I’ve learned over the four years I’ve done game development. Each game will have a brief description and rundown, what I’ve learned from it, etc. and at the end will be everything I’ve learned and tips of newbies and veterans alike. This is gonna be a lengthy post, so get comfortable. Get ya tea, popcorn, skittles, whatever your fancy.
Beware, we’re gonna go through a lot of crap games, so…yeah.
To make it easier for those who just want to skim, read a little and come back later, or skip through certain sections, you can use CTRL+F to get to the part you want. They go in order like so:
The Early Games
- Last Fantasy
- Crystal Fantasy
- Laury & Chloe’s Awesome Adventure
- Crystal Fantasy: A Wrinkle in Time & Space
- Fireheart: Chapters I-V
The First Completed Games
- Ralph: The Fail Lover
- The Quest for Black Ops
- The Cave
- Laury & Chloe
- The Christmas Mystery
The Dark Ages aka The FANGAMES
- Shadow the Hedgehog VX
- Sonic the Hedgehog VX
- The Legend of Zelda VX
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight’s End
Takeaways from 2010
- Run & Jump
- Jump It!
- Ninja Story
The Era of Cancelled Games
- Cielo Adventure
- 2D Space Shooter
- The Legend of Melody
- Project Thirteen
- Hack & Slash
- Carry On
- Sonata of the Twilight Sky
- Castle Story
- Crystal Heroes
- Adventure of the Seven Realms
The New Engine Arrives
- Demon Castle
- Starlight Adventure CXVIII
- The Legend of Ace: Trial Adventure
- Super Summer Dash
- Jenny Mallone vs. The Demon Child
- Starlight Adventure
- Leo the Square
The Era of Hope & Bravery
- Silicon Savior Sasha
- Super Rope War
- The Bravest Four
The School Projects
Conclusion: Everything I’ve learned over the years
Note: before anyone asks, none of the art assets were created by me in the first part. They were either a) provided by the engine I used, b) found from a website/user who provided resources for public use, c) generated via a sprite/face generator.
Without further ado, let’s go on the first game!
Technically my second game, as the first was created in Game Maker, but didn’t work. At all. So I consider it the first game I created, in RPG Maker VX. The basic premise is that four heroes chosen by the king are sent to collect the Four Sacred Scrolls in order to stop evil. Or something.
Yeah. The game’s story is extremely cliche, but what can you expect from a sixth grader? (Yeah, I was in sixth grade when I made this. Damn, I feel old.) But believe me, the gameplay is way worse.
The level design is crap, only consisting of short, ugly mazes. The first dungeon can be beaten in two minutes, including the boss battle. The equipment stats are a joke, since you get overpowered armor at the beginning of the game for free, and there’s a shield you get in the first dungeon that somehow lowers your attack stat. THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE ANY SENSE! Anyway, the story is ‘technically’ finished…except not really. I labeled it as “Episode I”, but I never started on the second episode, and never released the first one. (none of the games I worked on would be released ’till a little later, we’ll get to that soon)
Yes, this is supposed to be a town. GOTY quality, amirite?
This is also supposed to be a forest leading into the forest. I’m not even kidding. I think I got lazy by this point…
The game is also really buggy and unfinished. As you can also see here, I had a habit of having the game’s soundtrack be composed of songs from multiple, much better games. Mainly Dragon Quest VIII, Blue Dragon, Paper Mario, and a bunch of Final Fantasy titles.
Takeaways from this game:
- Your first game isn’t going to perfect. Or in this case, it may suck donkey nuts. That’s fine.
- Practice makes perfect.
- Have fun while you’re doing this. I certainly did.
This was my first serious game, and was basically an extended remake of Last Fantasy. It has the same plot with some new characters and different designs. It’s slightly better, but it’s still in no way good. In fact, some parts are so poorly written it’s actually kind of funny. I’m so glad my writing ability has actual gone up since then. Seriously, there was barely any personality other than a few character traits, with some development happening unexpectedly. Hell, in the final boss fight, the villain starts bringing up plot points that were never established or hinted to whatsoever.
The gameplay, while better than LF, is still crap. Instead of going for a front-view, Dragon Quest-esque battle system, it mimics Final Fantasy. Characters level up either insanely quickly or insanely slow, and due to me never really finishing it, some bosses either have 1 HP for testing purposes, or a crap ton…as do normal enemies. Combine this with boring, maze-like dungeons, and you have a game that’s a chore to play through.
Save system similar to Final Fantasy IX.
Still, I had a LOT of fun making this. It was the first time I showed my friends and teachers the game (still in 6th grade), and they were always wowed by it.
The Colte Legion…or something. They’re a group that informs the party of where they need to go next. None of them have ANY personality or defining characteristics. I think this game as a whole made me realize just how much I love smaller casts.
Cozy, isn’t it?
This made me burst into laughter upon replaying it. It leads to another section of the world map, but you can’t get there unless the plot says so. Hey, at least it’s honest and tells you straight up.
This is the main villain, Neville. This is the part I talked about earlier, where he starts a brief spiel about nothing basically. The character appears in another game further down the road, with much better characterization.
The very final battle.
The ending. Immediately after this, Neville and the main character have one final showdown that’s basically a rip-off of the Cloud vs. Sephiroth battle in FFVII, where Sephiroth dies in one hit. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway, the main story was ‘finished’, but literally everything else wasn’t. There were plenty of bugs, there were no NPC’s except where needed by the plot, maps were ugly and boring, etc. Despite this, I started ‘marketing’ it by posting stuff on YouTube and uploading two (radically different) demos. Despite its crappiness, I somehow gained two fans who were eagerly anticipating the game for it’s July release date. Fortunately, it never came to be. The trailer was deleted from both my YouTube account (intentionally) and my computer (unintentionally), so it’s forever long gone.
Takeaways from this game:
- Show the game off and get some feedback, no matter how positive or negative it is!
- …but friends aren’t a good source of feedback. Post it online to get more honest feedback, but don’t flip out like I did here.
- There’s a difference between ripping off something and a homage. Go for the latter.
- DON’T YOU DARE START PLANNING SEQUELS AND/OR DLC BEFORE THE GAME IS BARELY FINISHED. IT MAY SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA. IT’S NOT REALLY. JUST DON’T DO IT.
- Gameplay comes before story. Story is nice, but we’re here to play a game. (not discounting games like Gone Home, The Walking Dead, The Stanely Parable, etc. though)
- Come up with an actual plan for the story via an outline or something. Otherwise you’ll just be fumbling around and creating a crap plot. (unless you’re really skilled at this or have great luck)
- HAVE FUN WHILE DEVELOPING. Seriously.
Laury & Chloe’s Awesome Adventure
Developed in two days as a complement to Crystal Fantasy, L&CAA focuses on two pets of the main characters, Laury and Chloe. They decide to go out on a short adventure as the main party is off on their quest. Along the way, they meet a blob named Blobby who joins them.
It’s a short, ten-minute game that not too offensive, but it’s in no way good. There’s a few easy battle here and there, ending with a final boss…
…who’s a recolored slime. And misses every hit. But somehow has gallons of HP. The game ends with the main character of Crystal Fantasy coming back to the house and calling for the pets.
Yeah, there’s not too much to say about this one. It’s not good, but it’s not offensive either. It’s fully completed, but I never released it. The characters Laury and Chloe live on, though! They were re-used in a RPG Maker VX Halloween-themed contest, with a comic called Laury & Chloe in: Attack of the Killer Poodles. It’s still available for download, but I don’t think it’s that good. It’s certainly held up SLIGHTLY better than the actual games, but the writing is nowhere near my current ability. It’s available for download here if you’re interested in reading it, it’s a 5-10 minute read. Some people give their thoughts on the comic here as well. It ended up in 3rd place in the contest (out of 3 entries, haha)
There was also a sequel/reboot of the game, which we’ll get to later. They’ll also be making cameo appearances in The Bravest Four. Ultimately, I do want to create some kind of series featuring them, but who knows if that’ll actually come to fruition.
Takeaways from this game:
- Making a short game in a short time isn’t a bad thing. (cough gamejams cough)
- Don’t be afraid to reuse characters from time to time (there are exceptions, though).
- I really like make games with humor in them. That’s something I learned from the game and the comic.
Crystal Fantasy: A Wrinkle in Time & Space
Remember when I said not to plan sequels when the first game is a long way from being finished? Yeah, that’s what I did. I had planned, Crystal Fantasy II, Crystal Fantasy Tactics, Crystal Fantasy Online, and a spinoff Crystal Fantasy: AWrinkle in Time & Space.
As you can tell by the title and the pic above, it’s a sci-fi game a few centuries after the first CF. You play as a soldier in a space station that gets destroyed by a man named Vincent, and you have to find him and prevent his evil from spreading. You can choose your gender and your name.
Yes, his name is Jing-Wang. There are some choices I’ve made that I’m not proud of and this is one of them. The choice to make the screen with a deep blood red tint was also not the best idea.
Anyway, it has basically the same gameplay as Crystal Fantasy, but it has more detailed, and less maze-like maps at the cost of being extremely easy. Seriously, every enemy, bosses included, can be beaten by mashing the “Attack” button. It’s a complete joke. I only got 15 minutes of gameplay before I got bored and stopped working on it in the middle of a cutscene. It’s never been shown to anybody, not even friends, until now.
Man, this town is soooooooo detailed! Talk about next-gen!
Anyway, this started the trend of the story never being finished, and would continue for awhile, coming to a peak with a crap ton of games that we’ll get to later. At least with the previous games, the story was finished, but this one didn’t even get 5% done. Meh, it was crap anyway.
Takeaways from this game:
- Sequels/spinoffs suck when you haven’t even finished the first game. So don’t plan them. Don’t. Do it.
- Sci-fi games are cool and all, but they’ve really gotta have some solid gameplay.
- Get game mechanics in place before the story. Again, story is great, but gameplay comes first and foremost.
- At the very least, come up with an outline for the story. It prevents the boredom and aimlesssness when you’re making the game.
- Have fun making the game. I didn’t with this one, which is one of the reasons I stopped working on it.
Fireheart: Chapters I-V
This was based on a short story called FireHeart I wrote in the sixth grade. It was about a school being locked from the outside by a stranger, and the students were grouped into teams and forced to fight each other to the death. It was full of crap. It was also my first foray into swearing within any works of mine, so being in sixth grade, it’s absolutely FILLED with f-bombs and s-bombs in literally every one of the nine chapters. And no, you can’t read it. No one can read it. Ever.
The game was meant to be split in two, with this one being the first five chapters, and the second being the final three. It expanded on the story slightly by adding new characters and events, and three extra subplots featuring one of character’s girlfriend escaping from a prison, one of the antagonist’s searching for the party, and some insight into the stranger.
Gameplay is the same as Crystal Fantasy, except swords were replaced with guns. And again, lots of swearing, some censored and others not. Weirdly, the tone of the story would always vary. One moment it’d be very lighthearted and humorous (as in the above pic) and the next moment, it’d be extremely dark, with mentions of betrayal and murder. And again, swearing. The original story had the same problem, but not as much as this.
One of the examples of the ‘swearing’. Later on in the same scene, fuck would be completely uncensored. Anyway, some ofthe maps were based off Woodbury, my upper elementary school, which made the level design linear, but very wide open and boring to look at. Also, random encounters. Ecch. Add to that, all of the playable characters were exactly the same. Seriously. They all had the same health, used the same weapon (singular), all had exactly ONE skill to use which was the same one for each (Heal, which does exactly what you think), and didn’t have any actual traits beyond that.
Still, the game had some redeeming factors, particularly the aesthetics. This is the game where I really was able to get the aesthetics down, particularly in the Cafe area, which is one of my favorite game making moments, period. It’s a quiet, yet mysterious section where the player is on his own searching for clues, with no real threat around. Combined with the jazzy and detective-esque “Pennington’s Theme” from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and a decent map tint, you’ve got a pretty good atmosphere going.
Other than that, it’s nothing to write home about. It’s a poorly made game that was only half-way completed. And while the gameplay was slightly better than A Wrinkle in Time & Space, it’s still very boring and a chore to play.
Takeaways/legacy of this game:
- The story should have a fairly consistent tone throughout.
- Aesthetics don’t exactly equal graphics. Make sure the aesthetics are well-crafted and complement the gameplay.
- If there are multiple playable characters, all of them MUST be different from one another. Otherwise, there’s no point of having them.
- Find a balanced difficulty when it comes to enemy stats. A lot of enemies had extremely high HP, but were easy to fight otherwise.
- The Cafe section lives on in The Bravest Four, as the map is re-used in an actual cafe in-game, and there is a detective-esque section in the second chapter.
- Team Lightshadow will also be making an appearance in The Bravest Four in the second chapter, and is fought as a boss. I guess you could say the chapter is filled with Fireheart references…
- I really would like to go back to this idea…but it would be too closely related to two certain series that have gained massive popularity. (They rhyme with “Saddle Loyale” and “Dunger Fames”)
Ralph: The Fail Lover
This was a game created for RPG Maker VX.net Summer Love contest. The game’s thread is here with player responses. It’s about a guy named Ralph, who is the default actor in RPG Maker VX in a newly-created project. He’s been seen in a crap ton of RM games so much that he’s a joke nowadays and there’s no possible to have his sprite in a game and be taken seriously. Anyway, he’s trying to get love in the game. Yeah.
Some things never change, do they? Anyway, for the first time ever, it’s not an RPG! There’s no combat at all! And it SUCKS! There’s only real two ‘puzzles/minigames’ – one is a simple, one-question game, and the second is has you collecting five seashells by the seashore in 30 seconds…and it can be done in 15.
While the humor is lazy and largely pokes fun at cliched RPG tropes and cliched RPG Maker community tendecies, it’s still kind of funny, I hate to admit. One of the more popular members of the RM community actually loved it for it’s humor. Anyway, the game can be completed in about five minutes. Not much to say, there’s no real enjoyment out of this. It DOES have an alternate ending that I deemed ‘too dark’…but it really isn’t. It’s more of an unsatisying crap out than anything.
Before it was taken down, it received 273 downloads.
Takeaways from this game:
- Don’t depend on referential humor. It’s lazy. A couple references and fourth-wall breaks are fine once in awhile, but don’t base the entire dialogue around it. (the game doesn’t do that, but 75% of it is)
- WALKING IS NOT GAMEPLAY. IT’S NOT. IF YOU THINK IT IS, YOU. ARE. WRONG.
The Quest for Black Ops
The second completed and released game I made. It’s about a girl named Maria trying to get Call of Duty: Black Ops, but as she’s out of money, she has to do errands to get the money needed. The original goal was to get Halo: Reach, but I missed the release date, but was just in time for BLOPS release. (also, play Halo: Reach. That is a fan-friggin-tastic game.)
(Yes, that’s supposed to be GameStop. Ugh.) Again, this game isn’t an RPG. The next few games won’t be. Remember the sidequest from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time where you had to do all these fetch-quests in exact order to get Biggoron’s Sword? Yeah, that’s pretty much the whole game.
(It also has achievements, btw, and is the only one of my games to have them) Anyway, in order to get Black Ops, Maria has to borrow money from her brother. But her brother will only give her the money if she picks up his beer for his party. But the store owner will only give her the beer and erase his debt if Maria finds him a girlfriend. BUT the girlfriend will only go out with him if he has deodorant. But to get to the deodorant, you have to bribe the guy who got the last stick. BUT to bribe the guy, you have to get his chicken back. BUT to get the chicken back, you have to get another one for the kid who stole it. BUT to get another one-
You see where this is going, yeah?
Ultimately, it’s a boring game, but in a way, the humor makes up for it. Again, it’s nowhere near my ability now, but it’s still kind of funny. Note: the files for this, Ralph, and the next few games were uploaded years ago. Are they still available? Yes. Can the links be shared? Absolutely. Will the links be shared? Ha! You wish.
Before it was taken down, it accumulated 295 downloads, and a mixed player response.
Takeaways from this game:
- Again, I REALLY like humor in my games, and in anything I do really. I’ve created a bunch of stuff throughout my life, and very few of those things are completely serious.
- Fetch quests suck. An entire game made of one is worse. Don’t do it again.
- Achievements are a mixed bag, but ultimately, I wouldn’t do them if I wasn’t forced to. It removes some of the mystery from the game, and instead of the player searching for secrets on their own, it makes them follow the achievement list instead.
- …fetch quests SUCK. Next game.
This was created in three hours out of pure boredom, and is the third completed and released game I made. It’s also the first truly ‘serious’ game I made, with no humor or lightheartedness in sight. It’s a ten-minute game where the player, Adam, has to go inside a cave to find his sister.
Again, it’s not an RPG, but a linear puzzle-based game. However, the puzzles aren’t really puzzles. You find an item in plain sight, and use it to interact with the environment. For instance, you find a hammer, you use it to destroy boulders. You find a key, you use it to unlock a door. Simple and easy.
At the end of the game, you have to escape the collapsing cave with your sister following you. Then you go home and chill. The End. Not much to say, seeing as it was created in three hours. Some people liked it for it’s simplicity, but most were indifferent or didn’t like it. Before I took it down, it had been downloaded 326 times. It was also reviewed by a blogger, who gave it a 2/5, if I can remember correctly, though I can’t find the link to it.
Takeaways from this game:
- Keep up on ‘dem aesthetics. While not as good as Fireheart, the cave certainly feels like a cave and has an air of mysteriousness and urgency to it.
- Puzzles shouldn’t consist of basically pressing ENTER on everything. They also shouldn’t be so obvious and ridiculously simple a cat could solve them.
- Just because it was made in three hours, doesn’t mean it’s a good game. (there are exceptions though)
The Christmas Mystery
This was a forum community game created for the RMVX.net forum. Obviously, it’s Christmas themed.
Not much to say about this one. It’s about Touchfuzzy’s (the forum admin) presents going missing, and a user has to go find them by investigating potential culprits. It included various community members, some in bigger roles than others. It can be completed in about ten minutes.
Yeah. Honestly, this is one of the games I’d rather forget, since there’s not much to it now. The forum regulars, mods and admins included, revolted and left to go to the new RPG Maker forum with the release of the English version of RPG Maker VX Ace, as well as being fed of with the forum provider. The forum provider ended up banning all of the mods and the more popular members who spoke out against them, and temporarily put one of their own in charge. Nowadays it’s more calm, with new mods and users, but it’s not the same, even at the new forum. Ah, memories…
Heh, this user later informed me that he was Jewish and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Whoops.
Before I took it down after the forum revolt, it got 180 downloads.
Sonic the Hedgehog VX
Now we’re getting into some REAL crap! Fangames are a fickle mistress, most of them ending in cancellation. These were no exception. The first I tried was a Sonic fangame, seeing as Sonic and Zelda are some of my favorite series’ of all time. What did it look like, you ask? Well…
…Yeah. It was basically a tech demo with HORRENDOUS control. Thankfully, I canned it, as well as:
Shadow the Hedgehog VX
Okay, lemme set something straight first… I love Shadow the Hedghog. Both the character and the game. The game is a great guilty-pleasure. It has a crap ton of problems, but I still love playing it. And I thought it’d be a great idea making a fangame of it.
Technically, I finished it, but never released it. Because it sucked. Yes, I actually had some form of self-quality control. No screenshots either, since again, it’s crap.
Takeaways from these games:
- Fangames are not a good idea unless you know what you’re doing.
- Control in these games were balls off the walls bad. Get controls and game mechanics down before anything else.
- Again…control is everything. If it’s crap, that can ruin your entire game.
The Legend of Zelda VX
A remake of the original Zelda in RPG Maker VX.
…This is literally how far I got with this before my mind wandered on to something else. BUT, there was another Zelda game that came about…
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight’s End
Another fangame. I deleted the original forum post, and every time I start up the game on my computer, it crashes for some reason, and I don’t have a desire to look into it and fix it. Here are some screenshots of what it looked like though:
WIP Hyrule Castle Town.
TAKEAWAYS FROM 2010:
- One thing that’s made me cringe as I was writing this post was when I looked back at my previous posts from over 3 years ago on the original RMVX.net forum. I remember my intent was to be friendly as I could to everyone, but looking back, I got pissed off quite a bit. It wasn’t that much, but when I did, I could be a bit of an asshole. I guess you can attribute that to being in 6th/7th grade and still learning about myself. I’ve mellowed out and matured a LOT since then, and I know how to respond to questions and criticism much better than years ago. I hate feeling like an asshole and making people feel bad, it’s not me at all, and looking back on these posts, I feel extremely bad about it.
- Gameplay comes before story. This comes into play at the start of 2011.
- Plan out stuff before diving right in. Trust me, it’s worth it.
- HAVE FUN while making your game! Alright, yeah, a good chunk of game development isn’t fun, but the parts that are are REALLY fun! Enjoy it while it lasts! I’ll go more into this at the conclusion.
Well, that’s it for this post. Took me three hours to write, but it was worth it. Stay tuned for Part 2, which details everything made in 2011 (which was a LOT), and Part 3 details everything made in 2012 up to the present and future. 2011 also begins detailing more community involvement, such as some of the games receiving reviews and Let’s Plays on YouTube.
Part 2 will be up later this week.
For now, I’m gonna go study for my final exams tomorrow…eh, who am I kidding? I’m actually gonna go watch more It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That show is fan-friggin-tastic. Watch it. Love it.
‘Till Part 2, peace out, bradhuskis.