Super Post-Mortem BLOWOUT: Part II

This is Part 2 in a three part series. For Part 1, go here.  For Part 3, go here. For Part 4, go here.

For those of you just joining us, I urge you to go check out Part 1. For those who are too lazy, I’ll give you the quick gist: I’m doing a mini post-mortem of each of my 50+ games, which will culminate in a conclusion of what I’ve learned over four years.

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:

PART 1:

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

PART 2:

The Platformers

  • Run & Jump
  • Jump It!
  • Ninja Story
  • Blocky

The Era of Cancelled Games

  • Cielo Adventure
  • 2D Space Shooter
  • The Legend of Melody
  • Hack & Slash
  • Jayde
  • Carry On
  • Sonata of the Twilight Sky
  • Castle Story
  • Crystal Heroes
  • Adventure of the Seven Realms

PART 3:

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

  • Viravani
  • Silicon Savior Sasha
  • Super Rope War
  • The Bravest Four

The School Projects
Misc. Games
Conclusion: Everything I’ve learned over the years

Note: before anyone asks, none of the art assets were created by me in a good deal of the first and second parts. 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 continue on!
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Before we go on to 2011, in my haste, I forgot about a few other games made in 2010. So let’s get those out of the way first.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Misadventures
Late 2010

Another fangame. Ugh. This one is special, though! It was based off of the titular webseries, LoZ: Four Swords Misadventures. If you haven’t watched it, I urge you to do so. If you’re a Zelda fan, you’re sure to enjoy it. Anyway, I asked the creator for permission to do a game based on the series and he said it was fine. After working on it on and off between other games, I scrapped it due to the lost interest, with very little show for my work other than the above screenshot and a dungeon concept. The creator didn’t seem to care.

The final attempted fangame I can remember was a Mario based one…

Paper Mario Bros. VX
Late 2010

Yeah, a Mario fangame had to come sooner or later. It was basically a “platformer” that started out as an RPG. Notice the quotes in between “platformer”.

Yeah, the game was a complete joke. Back then, I couldn’t even implement basic jumping mechanics. I only made three levels of the first world, and needless to say, they’re terrible. Not to mention the graphics from Mario RPG and the default RTP graphics constantly clash with each other.

Fun fact: There was apparently a huge argument over RPG Maker devs who created Mario fangames on YouTube. There was a CRAP ton of Mario fangames being made, with only two that were actually completed. It was basically a bunch of users arguing over who created certain graphics – or rather, who ripped them and put them in RMVX’s sprite format.

It was pretty damn funny.

Takeaways from these games:

  • Just because you may have lost interest in a game, you should still keeping working on it. There are days when you don’t even want to look at your game, but you’ve gotta keep working. Inspiration doesn’t come as easily as one thinks.
  • Fangames still suck. Don’t do ’em.

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Laury & Chloe
Late 2010

The sequel/remake of Laury & Chloe’s Awesome Adventure. It took place a few years after Crystal Fantasy, and shows Laury and Chloe finding  a giant pet city underground.

…It didn’t really go anywhere.

Sniper VX
December 2010

Inspired my those stick-figure assassin flash games and Metal Gear Solid, Sniper VX follows an assassin named Jet doing various missions for his firm to try and find the murderer of his wife.

It had a lot of potential. There were three acts, with six missions each. The missions ranged from stealthing around areas, to sniping a target, interrogating them, driving missions, etc. It sounded really fun on paper! It still kinda does!

So why was it cancelled? Well, I was just interested in other projects. I still kinda want to do this project, actually. Maybe one day…

Twins of Ellone
Late 2010

This game was based on a strange dream I had. It was about two twin guys, and one of them is taken captive by a band of thieves after their town is destroyed. The captured twin has to adjust to life at the thief camp, while the other goes out searching for him. The captive twin also gets a case of Stockholm Syndrome, and falls in love with his female captor. Yeah…

The game switched between the two characters at certain points, with the searching twin’s gameplay being more action and combat-oriented, and the captive twin’s gameplay being more story and puzzle-oriented. It didn’t really go anywhere past the concept stage because I didn’t think I was capable of doing it. I still want to make the story in a novella form, as crazy as it sounds.

Takeaways from these games:

  • If you don’t think you’re ready to make a certain game, or the scope is too large, trim it down or put it off ’till another time. Don’t push yourself too far past your own boundaries.
  • Ideas can always be revisted in some way, whether it’d be making a story in a different format, re-using characters and mechanics, or trying the game again all together.
  • Come up with an outline for the game as a whole. I did this (somewhat) successfully for the gameplay of Sniper VX,  and the story of Twins of Ellone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.
  • Know what you’re getting in to.

Now, without further ado, on to 2011’s games!

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Run & Jump
January 2011

This was made in a day when my school was out during a snow day, and as the title suggests, you run and jump. And as the title screen spells out, it takes less than five minutes to complete.

You go through five levels…running and jumping. Yeah. Simple, right? Nooooo. Somehow, I screwed this up. You have to press the jump button at a very specific time before you get to the edge, otherwise, you have to step two tiles back and try again. It’s ridiculous.

There are also obstacles you have to jump over, otherwise you have to restart the entire level. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the start of the level or a second before the goal, you hit the obstacle, you restart. And it follows the same awkward, busted controls as normal jumping. Yuck.

Yeah, it’s pretty terrible. There was also a pseudo -leaderboard element to it as well. At the end of the game, you’re shown the lives you lost and the time it was completed it, and are instructed to screenshot it and post it to the game’s forum thread. If I can remember correctly, only 3 people made it onto the leaderboard. It’s bad, but for a game made in a few hours, it could be worse. Maybe.

Before it was taken down, it wad downloaded 151 times.

Takeaways from this game:

  • So you can make a game in a few hours. Great! Is it a good game? …Yeah, that’s what I thought. (though some people can pull it off) My point is, take your time while developing a game (if you’re not doing a jam). Trust me, it’s worth it.
  • Don’t have your users do so much to get onto a meaningless leaderboard.

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The Girl Named Clarity
January/February 2011

Around this time, a movie/machinima made entirely in RPG Maker VX called Slimey came out and was extremely popular amongst the community. It had a really heartwarming and funny plot, and was definitely memorable. I decided to try my hand at this, seeing as filmmaking is the 2nd thing I want to major in college and do as a career.

The story was your standard boy-meets-girl scenario. Nothing new or interesting. It was a fun experience, though, since it was my first ‘feature-length’ film endeavor. (note: you need around a 40 min. running time to be considered feature length) It was also my first time using the technique called Parallax Mapping – basically, you create a base in the RPG Maker engine, screenshot it, then add more detailed elements within Photoshop or some other photo editor – at least, that’s how I did it. It allowed you to break from the rather limited grid of the engine, and let you add a plethora of extra detail to the map. I still use this technique from time to time. (Tower Road, the first/tutorial area in The Bravest Four is partially parallaxed) I couldn’t get enough of using it, and ended up having all of the maps/sets being parallaxed.

I stopped working on it because I was tired of game making, and needed a break. I didn’t end up working with the engine or a game for two months, and instead relaxed and worked on my filmmaking abilities. I probably wouldn’t do try this again in RPG Maker, but I wouldn’t mind trying the story again with some new twists, and having it animated or live-action.

One of the sets.

Takeaways from this game-movie:

  • Feel free to take a break from time to time. We’re human, after all, and sometimes you just may suffer from burnout. Whether it’s two days or two months, take a break. Trust me, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to work when you come back.
  • Parallax mapping is great. Use it whenever you can/think it’s appropriate. It takes a lot more time and effort than normal mapping, but it’s worth it. (I may make an extended post on this later)
  • Again, don’t go too far past your limits. I tried to make a feature-length film in RPG Maker. I should’ve done a short film instead.

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Jump It!
April 2011

This was created in one week during my Spring Break, and was delayed an extra week for polish and bug-fixing. It’s a platformer that valued gameplay more than story – so much so that there really is no story! You’re given the choice between two genders (which is purely cosmetic), the option to choose your own name, a quick rundown of the story (Demon steals your girlfriend/boyfriend. Find him, kick his butt, and get ya bae back.), and you’re off!

There are four worlds that can be completed in any order, with varying amounts of levels each. After the final battle is done, you unlock “Game Land”, which houses 14 secret levels. But to unlock said levels, you have to find Red Rings, meaning you have to replay the levels to find them all (though not necessarily beat them).

Sounds like a pretty basic, yet fun platformer right? Ehh…no. The controls are crap beyond belief. Moving isn’t a problem, jumping is. You jump way too high, and stay in the air way too long. Seriously, you’re up there for at least 3 seconds, which means sometimes you can skip sections of the level, and makes others EXTREMELY frustrating because of the level design, seen here:

Yes, those are single platforms. They are all over the game. They are hell. People making platformers, DON’T DO THIS. Somehow, this actually represents an improvement in my level design, albeit not very much. There are some parts of the game that I find worked really well and are still fun, mainly the “Snow Cross” area. Two out of four levels are vertical scrolling, and one of them simply has you falling down while collecting coins and powerups. It’s simple, but fun, and the music (which I have to say, I had some pretty good taste) makes it even better. Most of it is from Sonic games, specifically Sonic Colors, Sonic 2006, and Sonic Adventure 2. Yeah, it’s stolen from other games, but dammit, it sounds fantastic.

When it came to designing boss battles, I really fell short here. Every boss is the exact same thing save for a location switch, and requires no strategy at all. The bosses are the only threat in the game save for bottomless pits. I’m not saying a platformer needs enemies to be considered good, but their  absence was felt here. It something I think I really should’ve added and worked on.

This was also my first time working with actual beta testers. I recruited forum members to help me test the game for bugs and other things. I remember one of them commenting on the floaty jump, and I told him I couldn’t fix it because it would change the level design drastically, and I didn’t have time for it. In hindsight, I really should’ve heeded his advice. Overall though, I had a REALLY fun time creating the game – in fact, it’s probably the most fun experience I’ve had, alongside the development of Last Fantasy, Crystal Fantasy, and Fireheart.

It also represents the peak of stupidity in my game-making career. How? Well, I implemented an ARTIFICIAL LOADING SCREEN FOR EACH LEVEL. The game doesn’t need to load, I thought it looked cool. IT DOESN’T. DON’T DO IT. WORK ON SOMETHING ELSE.

Takeaways from this game:

  • Again, controls are important, especially for this time of game. Crappy controls can ruin the entire experience.
  • Level design needs work, but it’s getting there. Look at other games for how they did it in addition to researching articles on the interwebz.
  • Gameplay comes before story. This game got that ideal right.
  • Don’t be afraid to delay a game if it’ll make the experience better. It’s worth it in the end, and your players will thank you.
  • No artificial loading screens. Nobody likes them. They are unneeded. Don’t DO IT.

Before I decided to take it down, the game got 172 downloads. 

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Ninja Story
May 2011

The next two games were some more attempted platformers. The first is Ninja Story, an exploration based game. It centered around a ninja in training named Miro who is going after the deadly Wu Clan.

…It didn’t go anywhere. Well, mostly. It turned into a game called Cielo Adventure, which was similar to something like Kid Icarus. (this was the around the time more info on Uprising came out) I lost the source code to that and never took any screenshots, so I have nothing to show for it. Except…it turned into another game.

Blocky
May 2011

The second of the attempted platformers. It was a 2D minimalist platformer that again focused on gameplay over story. It had the same story as Jump It!, except with, y’know, blocks.

It had a bunch of problems. The most obvious one off the bat are the graphics? There’s nothing wrong with minimalism, but you’ve really gotta do it well. The tiles were made in MS Paint, and despite being a simple square, Blocky’s sprite was hard to get down just right because of his eyes. It’s hard to explain, but if I were to make a minimalist game in the future, I would pay attention those areas a lot more.

Next is the gameplay itself. Remember how in Jump It!, I said the jump was too floaty and it needed to fixed? Well, I ‘fixed’ here! Instead of being really floaty, it’s VERY heavy! So instead of spending five seconds in the air, you spend only a millisecond! The player’s speed was increased to, so you would end up speeding all over the place like a maniac. There was also a combat element to it, but the collision detection was wonky and ultimately dragged down the gameplay (not that it was very good in the first place).

That screen you see up there? That’s all there is to show. Again, it didn’t get very far. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thomas Was Alone did it a lot better than I possibly could have.

Takeaways and legacy from these games:

  • Again, plan before you work. This, at the very least, lessens the chance of it being canned prematurely.
  • Blocky was somewhat revived, but we’ll get to that in Part 3…
  • Don’t rush into projects.

As I continue to write this, I realize I forgot even more games! Apparently I’ve worked on more than 49 games…

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Sonic RPG
Early 2011

Ugh.

You know the drill. Fangame based on Sonic, didn’t get very far, ultimately a waste of time and not a very good idea.

Takeaways from this game:

  • Fangames still suck, moving on…

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The Enchanted Forest
Early 2011

To be honest, I can’t remember the purpose of this game at all! If I can recall correctly, it was supposed to be my commercial outing, and was started a few days after the earthquake in Japan, with the proceeds from the game’s sales were meant to go to relief efforts. Other than that, I don’t remember anything else from the game other than it was supposed to be an adventure/puzzle game, a loose adaption of Little Red Riding Hood, and I only got 0.01% progress made on it. I can’t find the game’s project file, so I can’t really confirm anything else. (note: I have at five folders scattered around my hard drive that contain a CRAP TON of more folders of my games, misc. files, script demos, and other people’s games)

Takeaways from this game:

  • Don’t rush into selling a game for the first time, even if it’s for charity. If I actually finished and sold it back then, I’m pretty positive I would’ve gotten into some legal trouble. In general, research before you sell your first game. It took me awhile, but I’m now in the place (well, almost) where I can safely sell The Bravest Four.
  • Organize your files. Seriously, I have hundreds of various RPG Maker project/game folders (not including games in other engines or other/Steam games). Make sure to label them too, so you can easily locate them.
  • Backup your files too! And backup the backups! It’s not necessarily related to this game, but it’s just a friendly reminder. 🙂

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Adventure 2011
May 2011

This was a remake of the old, revolutionary Atari game Adventure. Originally, it was meant to just update the graphics, but it grew to include dungeons, an extended overworld and boss battles.

So why was it cancelled? Well…it wasn’t. It grew into it’s own game, which we’ll get into momentarily…

Takeaways from this game:

  • If you’re trying to remake a game, study the original closely to see what made it so great and how to replicate that.
  • Also, try not to change the original game. This could’ve been a simple graphics update, but it ended up including a crap ton of new stuff that would most likely anger fans of the original. YMMV, though.

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The Legend of Melody
Mid 2011

This is what Adventure 2011 ballooned into. It was about a woman named Melody (who could renamed) who lived in the Sky Sanctuary going to the Earth’s surface to restore the four sage’s powers. It was heavily influenced by Zelda and Adventure, both intentionally and unintentionally.

The player’s central hub was the Sky Sanctuary, where they could restock on items, chat with NPC’s, accept missions, etc. On the surface, there was a large overworld represented in single maps, with four main dungeons at the end of a direction, with smaller dungeons scattered throughout. There were also three towns the player could randomly encounter. The player also (originally) differed from Zelda in that you got all of your items, such as the boomerang, bow, etc. all at once. You could transform into different animals forms at will to solve puzzles and find secret entrances, such as a mouse or an eagle. Any of this sound familiar?

Yup. I had no clue of Skyward Sword’s Skyloft area before it came out later that year, and A Link Between Worlds with it’s ‘getting all your items at once’ wasn’t even announced until two years later! Ah, well.

Development hit some roadblocks. As I continued my exploits in game development, I slowly realized the importance of planning. None of the game’s story or level design was planned except the dungeons and the general theme of them, and the game’s final dungeon (which was back at the Sky Sanctuary). With an open-world game such as this, it’s important to plan out exactly how it all is gonna work out, and I think it was this, as well as general lack of interest and burnout that contributed to its cancellation.

The work from the game didn’t go to waste though. A lot the maps were reused in Crystal Heroes (coming up), and The Legend of Ace: Trial Adventure (in Part 3), with the remainder most likely being used in The Bravest Four. In a way, I still want to make this game, since I really love the transformation mechanic, but I would have to find a way to implement it better. The mechanic somewhat lives on in The Bravest Four, as one of the characters, Kylie, as able to transform at certain sections of the game (more details on that later). It’s more stripped down than the intended version, but hey, what can ya do?

Takeaways from this game:

  • Again, PLAN OUT YOUR GAME! 
  • It’s fine for your game to be similar in mechanics to other games, but have something else to make it unique and worth playing from the others.
  • Don’t be afraid to look to your past game ideas for inspiration.

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2D Space Shooter
Mid 2011

All in the title. It’s a shoot-em-up. Set in space. And it’s 2D. Revolutionary, huh? Not much to say or show, I just had a hard time coding this, but it was mainly because I tried to do it in RPG Maker. A better choice of engine probably would’ve helped. I still want to make this eventually, since I LOVE a good shmup. (Seriously, get me in front of a Galaga machine and you can kiss me goodbye for the next few hours) If I had the chance, I’d love to make a 2D/3D shooter ala Star Fox. Maybe one day…

Takeaways from this game:

  • Choose the right engine for your game. As seen in some of the other games, RPG Maker, while meant for actual RPG’s, can be used to make other genres – though, some work better than others, and usually takes more time than is worth it.

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Eternia Island/Cielo Adventure
June 2011

The retool of Cielo Adventure. It was yet another action RPG, this time channeling The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures mixed in with Castle Crashers and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. It revolved around a soldier and a royal servant-turned-cat going through the titular island to rescue Princess Sasha from the stereotypically evil Malvagio.

It was structured similarly to Four Swords Adventures, in that you went in a rather linear fashion through a set of areas, with a set of missions or “Acts” in each. After completing each area, you played as Princess Sasha as she steadily fought her way through Malvagio’s Tower. When the player finally entered Malvagio’s Tower, he would’ve bumped into Sasha as she was exiting. Weird.

While I liked the premise and gameplay structure (as FSA is one my favorite Zelda games and is criminally underrated), it hit a few snags in development. Mainly, I took way too long developing simple sections. For example, the intro cutscene, usually taking a day or two to make, took THREE WEEKS.

Okay, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Game development takes time, and sometimes more than you think. But the long development time was really my fault. In May of that year, I had signed up as a beta tester for Microsoft’s new disc format, and they sent me a copy of Halo: Reach on the new disc, on the house.

Lemme tell ya: that game is FAN. FRIGGIN. TASTIC. Seriously, I spent pretty much 90% attached to my Xbox playing that game. Multiplayer, CTF, Big Team Battle, custom Forge maps in MP, custom games with a bunch of new Xbox friends and new friendships…ah, good times. I put that experience on par with Halo 3’s multiplayer. It’s one of the best times I’ve had in my long gaming history.

…What was I talking about again?

Oh right, the game. Anyway, it was because of my obsession with Halo, slow development time, aforementioned lack of planning and vision, and me going through a slight depression contributed to ultimate lack of interest. It took me another few weeks before I got to work on another game…

The game lives on in The Bravest Four, though. Kylie, the character mention before, has the ability to transform into a cat, similar to the servant Sierra. (the difference being Sierra isn’t transformed back until the ending) The maps are also going to be reskinned and reused. The character of Malvagio has been used a bunch of my games since this one in multiple forms. He appears again in Sonata of the Twilight Sky and Castle Story (later) as a male, and The Legend of Ace: Trial Adventure and Viravani as a female.

Takeaways from this game:

  • Game development takes more time than you imagine. Plan out a reasonable development time, and then add a few more weeks/months to it. Unexpected things happen.
  • Focus on the actual game. Playing other games is nice, but sometimes you have to buckle down and force yourself to work.

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Jayde
July 2011

A combat/puzzle game. I forget the exact story, but it was something along the lines of being trapped in an alternate dimension and collecting some stuff to escape. It had 10 environment themed zones, with 10 levels each for a total of 100 levels.

You could choose a name and your gender, but the difference was purely cosmetic. Again, failed due to lack of planning and a large scope. For some reason, I don’t think it would’ve worked on PC, but that may just be my own self-doubts. I want to try something like this again as a free game on iOS devices. Note: free game. Not ‘free-to-play’, I mean completely free with no transactions or anything like that at all.

Takeaways from this game:

  • Plan. I know I’m beating you guys over the head at this point, but I seriously can’t stress this enough.
  • Work within your scope, especially if you’re a solo developer like me.

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Carry On
2011

These next two games are action RPG’s. Again. This one was a meant to be a short tech demo for a custom battle system I created. It was about a soldier named Adam escaping from prison and restoring things back to normal in a high-tech city after a corrupt leader takes over. I used a method that didn’t require much actual coding, instead using RPG Maker’s ‘Events’. That was a bad idea.

The battle system was extremely buggy, and either made the game really easy or borderline unplayable. You used Q to attack, but had to be not only standing, but facing and nearly touching the enemy to actually attack. All enemies would go down in one hit, but most of the times, you’d end up getting hit yourself. It was a bad system, and it was a terrible idea to make it via eventing. At least I know now.

Hack & Slash
2011

This one produced much better results, as the combat coding was done via a script creator who put it out for public use. It was another ‘gameplay-over-story’ game, and was more similar to Diablo than anything else.

You had a crap ton of skills, items, and weapons to use and customize as you please as you fought through four large areas. In each area, you got a special item which was required to solve puzzles, and allowed you to find hidden passage in another area. I didn’t get very far in development other than finishing all of the weapons, items, and combat testing. Fortunately, though, I actually started PLANNING! Not much, but hey, it was a start, right?

If I were to start something like this again, I’d probably add randomly generated dungeons, local co-op, more areas, etc. Oh wait, I did plan that out! It was called Triumph, and I still want to do it. Eventually. Maybe.

Takeaways from these games:

  • Don’t be afraid to use public resources. They’re there for a reason. Trust me, they save you time, bug fixing, and headaches…for me, anyways. YMMV, though.
  • You can always put off a game idea until later if you don’t think you’re ready to do it just yet. Again, YMMV.

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Sonata of the Twilight Sky (Sister #1)
July 2011

Yes, Sister #1. Meaning, this was the first of three titles originally named “Sister”. They all have different names now, but I would never use them if I were to release them (except for the third, which is in Part 3). This one is about a boy named Clyde attempting to find his sister was mysteriously taken away.

Compared to Eternia Island, development of this went a lot more smoothly. A very rough outline of the story and locations were actually planned, but everything else was made up on the spot as I was developing. There was one main problem that plagued the project as soon I started working on it: it was too generic.

Ultimately, the general tone and dialogue of the plot was very lighthearted and satirical, but it didn’t really kick in until the prologue was finished. Because of that, the plot started out really cliche and generic, and was sure to turn off players. The gameplay didn’t fare too well, either. It was boring and required no strategy whatsoever. I really should’ve had something to set the game apart from other RPG’s, in both the plot and the gameplay.

So the game never came to be. I think it’s for the best, since it most likely it would’ve been a failure anyway. Out of all of my canned games, this one has been the most beneficial and lives on because of that! How? Well:

  • The starting town of Tatilly Village is reused in Adventure of the Seven Realms, Starlight Adventure, Castle Story, The Legend of Melody, and The Bravest Four, usually with the same layout, but changed to fit the setting.
  • The forest leading into Tatilly Village, Sanata Forest has been reused in multiple games, and is either extended in shortened. It’s been in Castle Story, Starlight Adventure (massively extended), Crystal Heroes, Jenny Mallone vs. The Demon Child, and The Bravest Four (both as a beach and a forest).
  • The main character, Clyde, while not having the same personality or design, reappears in The Bravest Four as a playable character.

Takeaways from this game:

  • Again, find something that sets your game apart from others and use it!
  • If you’re writing a story-heavy game, try to write an actual script for it. And don’t be afraid to rewrite dialogue. Shigesato Itoi did this with the MOTHER series, and look how those turned out!
  • Plan plan plan~
  • Don’t be afraid to look to your past ideas! They can save time, offer new inspiration, etc.

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Castle Story
August 2011

A game where you play as a bounty hunter named Sera, who’s been commissioned to enter a castle to investigate the disappearance of innocent people, possibly including her own brother… It’s heavily inspired by Kingdom Hearts, Castlevania, and Mega Man.

Unlike the other RPG’s I’ve created, you only play as one character (Sera) in a front-view, turn based battle system, similar to the very first Dragon Quest. You go through ten floors of the castle, each with their own environmental themed areas, with towns and dungeons located inside them. It was meant to be difficult, but without requiring the need to grind and level up your character.

I really felt like I nailed the aesthetics in this game. I (personally) really felt as if I was in a dark forest where the rain never stops, or in a mysterious, empty castle with lots of secrets. I think out of all my canned games, the story had the most potential, mainly due to me actually making a rough outline of it and the locations, as well as a detailed synopsis of the intro, ending, and the characters.

I think the battle mechanics could’ve used a little bit more work and fine-tuning, though. I wanted to implement a Class Change system which you could change mid-battle. (kind of like the paradigms from Final Fantasy XIII, or the Schemata system from Lightning Returns). Unfortunately, I had no idea how to program this correctly, so it had to be axed. I also wanted to have battles move at a faster pace, but again, my skill level wasn’t up for it. It was ultimately canned because of the next games, which took my interests away.

Out of all of the canned games I ‘eventually want to do’, this is the 2nd one I want to do the most (the first being the 2D shooter). I still believe it has a lot of potential to be a great game and is well-within my skill level now. Maybe after my current game is done…

Takeaways from this game:

  • Again, you’re free to try again with your failed games. I plan on doing so.
  • Keep on the aesthetics! They can truly immerse your player in the game world and enhance their experience.
  • Be the man with the master plan~
  • Make sure you get all of your game mechanics down before starting. If something you implemented isn’t working out, and you can’t fix it/bogs down the experience/whatever, cut it or strip it down. You don’t want it to ruin the game experience.

___________________________________________________________

Crystal Heroes
October 2011

Ah, yes. This game. The first game that I publically released for a contest after Jump It! It’s also the one that was published on Halloween (the contest deadline), which forced me to miss the first day of tech week for a play I was in. Heh, the director was super pissed, but what can you do?

It’s another game that values gameplay over story, and is about four randomly ‘chosen’ heroes forced to save a princess. The dialogue is character-driven, and is witty and satirical. This was one of the strong points of the game, as it was both funny and didn’t interfere with the gameplay. (one of the reviewers gave the story a 10/10 because of it)

The posse rollin’ together.

The gameplay is teamwork based, with four playable characters, each with different skills and traits. Adam is the jack of all trades, Miranda is the strongest, Josh is the healer, and Charlie is main magic user. One character is controlled at a time, with the rest being AI controlled. The player goes through five levels, and three boss fights, and must use each of the character’s respective powers to solve puzzles.

While the gameplay is enjoyable, some of the enemies are a pain in the ass, even on the normal difficulty. (there a four in total) I had trouble beating the game while testing it, but I didn’t have time to test it further. I replayed it the other day, and fought it wasn’t as hard as I thought on Suicide (the highest difficulty), but that may be due to me being a more seasoned gamer. I had also planned on more strategic gameplay and puzzles that actually required you to switch characters, but the coding got messed up, so the player could use any character in those situations and I didn’t have time to make it more strategic. The AI also had some pathfinding problems, and would often get stuck behind a tree or a rock. Again, not enough time to fix it, but some simpler fixes could’ve been implemented, like removing some obstacles so it’s easier for the AI to get through.

Even with all that, the game (in my opinion) is just straight up fun. Is it perfect? Not by a longshot. Do I enjoy it? Absolutely. And seems like others do too. It’s one of the first games that I could say is relatively decent, and that’s why I’ve let it stay up for download. I also had a lot of fun making it, despite the short time I was given. (two weeks, with really only weekends I could spend developing)

It’s still up for download over here! Currently, it’s been downloaded 470 times, making it my most downloaded game. Some of the reviews can be seen in the contest result thread here. It was also Let’s Played by Climhazzard. The first part can be seen here, and the second here.

Takeaways from this game:

  • Have fun while making your game! Seriously.
  • I hate emphasize gameplay over story again, but…gameplay does come before story. In most cases. (YMMV)
  • If you have AI, try not to make them as stupid as I did.
  • Again, put your game out there! A fellow RPG Maker was offering up Let’s Play suggestions, and I offered the game. To be fair, it’s kinda cringe-worthy since it crashes on him at the end of the first part…
  • Have fun with your story if you’re gonna be all lighthearted and humorous! You’re free to use your own technique, but Crystal Heroes and the next game were mainly character dialogue-driven, and I intend The Bravest Four to be so as well.
  • Test, test, test! And when you think you’re done testing…test it some more!
  • …but some bugs come up unpredictably. Remember Murphy’s Law – it’ll always work when you test it, but when it’s presented, everything goes to oblivion.
  • Have fun!
  • PLAN! I finally planned out everything in the game (albeit in the short time) and it worked for me!

___________________________________________________________________

Alright, so there’s one more game in 2011, but I want to end on a positive note, and leave it here. I’ve decided not to do the yearly conclusion I did for Part 1 here, since it’s all reiterated in greater detail at the end of Part 3. So instead…

MAJOR STUFF I LEARNED IN 2011

  • People actually like my games. Go figure. I’m not a perfectionist, but I’m known for critiquing my work too harshly. I’m trying to get better at this, but it’s really hard. Self-critique is good, but there’s a point where you need to stop and just finish. I should take my own advice for this one really, but I still do have doubts about pretty much everything I do. Whether or not I should mellow on this, I have no idea.
  • Games can make you feel better when you’re in a rut!
  • Taking a break and doing other things works wonders for ya.
  • Planning stuff really helps! Took awhile, but I’m getting there (in 2011, at least).
  • Don’t give up. I nearly gave up at the beginning of 2011, and after Jump It! was finished, but the call of game dev was too tempting to resist. I’ll go more in depth with this later.

Well, that’s it for now. Sister #3/Adventure of the Seven Realms, the final game of 2011, will be covered at the start of Part 3, then it’ll head straight into 2012 and 2013! It’ll most likely be the lengthiest post, not because there are more games, but because I learned more and I have a lot more to say and reflect on. So expect Part 3 in a couple of days.

Until then, have a great day/night/whatever. See ya, bradhuskis. ;D

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