Sunday, July 15, 2012

Contemplating My Next Game

So I've been wanting to start a new project, something simple and small I can do during breaks from Battle High 2.  I've been contemplating, hence the title, what to do.  Here's a simple list of goals I'd like to accomplish:
A checklist image for a checklist.  APPROPRIATE!
  • Unity3D:  I bought a license for this engine forever ago, and they are nearing the release of the fourth iteration.  Before this happens though, I'd like to finish at least one game.
  • Publish on the PC:  There are so many sites now to release indie games on:  IndieCity, IndiePub, Desura, and -- if I feel confident enough -- at least submit it for Steam approval.
  • Narrative:  I'm no Hemingway, but I enjoy writing.  Most of my games have very simple, open-ended stories; however, I'd like to do something with a strong plot and, more importantly, deliver said narrative in a way that isn't overly distracting but hopefully not completely ignored by the player.


I feel a bit silly referencing this movie; I've yet to see it :\
Platformers are a popular indie genre; Indie Game:  The Movie showcases mostly platformers -- Super Meatboy, Fez, and Braid.  I can see why they are so popular.  For one, they are easy to implement and there are tons of tutorials out there for how to develop them.  Also, they work well for PC regardless if they player is using a keyboard or a plugged in controller.  Finally, I've made one already but only in college and never released it.  An issue I have with doing a platformer is that I don't think they work well as story delivery vehicles.  Because the platforming is a key element to the game, I feel like any story given through text or cutscenes -- unless riddled with clues on how to complete future puzzles -- is just a distraction that'll fall victim to being ignored.  Apparently this didn't happen in Braid or Limbo though, so maybe there is hope for me to insert a story into my game without.  Another issue is that there are so many already, and even if I try to do something different, there's a good chance it's already been done.


You're a fighter?  I'm skeptical...but still super excited for DOA5!  Don't judge me! >_<
I've already done a fighting game, but it is my favorite genre by far.  I find them fast-paced and fun requiring a unique mixture of dexterity and prediction.  Sadly, fighters are probably even worse at delivering story than platformers.  Ending cutscenes are really they only way to deliver story; most other attempts are usually intrusive -- like BlazBlue story mode -- or ignored -- bio pages in games like Soul Calibur II.  Also, I'm currently working on Battle High 2 and just wrapped up Turquoise Mars -- my yet-to-be-released mobile fighting game -- so doing another fighter could possibly burn me out on the genre, which is something I don't want.
Another problem is that I prefer fighters with a controller and most people prefer them with joystick both of which are not the default control for PC games, and I can't help but feel that if you release a game that requires players to plug something in, most people will roll their eyes and pass, not wanting to deal with a new peripheral.
A thing I've been learning too is that I like fighting gameplay more than I like fighting games.  Soul Calibur V is a great example of this.  It's fun to player, but once you get through Quick Battle's 250 battles there's not much else to do, particularly for me since I'm not into netplay that much.  I would have loved a more in-depth Story Mode or some mode involving earning levels to progress -- something to make fighting opponents feel more than training or collecting a new, pointless badge.


Odin Sphere:  a great brawler and RPG combo but was just a little boring and too time-consuming for my taste.
Brawlers like Castle Crashes and Final Fight are very similar to fighting games, but they have enough unique aspects that I feel I should mention them.  As much as I would want to do a brawler, the fact that many of them require more than one player is problematic.  Four people can't share a keyboard, and I'm no network programming guru.  I will say, however, that delivering story through simple cutscenes between stages could work well for this genre, even if it is just textbox conversations.  This is one I want to think about more and see if I could make it more of a single-player experience similar to Odin Sphere, which, like the captioned image above is a great example of a single player brawler that combines RPG elements and brawler elements, but it required a lot of grinding and had a harsh difficulty curve that ultimately made it an unsatisfying experience for me.

RPG (Role-Playing Games)
Heh, the first image you find when you search "RPG"
I enjoyed RPGs when I was in high school.  I even attempted to make several using RPGMaker for Playstation One (or whatever you call it nowadays).  One issue I have with them though is that they take forever to finish, at least the epic ones; I can't fathom how that converts to development time, especially since I usually work on games by myself.  My other issue is that they tend to be boring, especially if they require to player to grind for hours on end.  Also, searching through menus to do an attack gets old quickly no matter how cool the attacks look in my opinion.  Quite possibly my favorite RPG of all time is Namco X Capcom.  Battles were strategic like Final Fantasy Tactics, but there was no grinding involved.  Attacking opponents was quick and required focus and timing.  The story delivery wasn't great, but it was all in Japanese.  If I were to replay a translated version, maybe my reaction to it would change.
Another aspects of RPGs that is intimidating is that they are very asset heavy.  You need to make the characters and dozens upon dozens of enemies as well as environments for your party to explore and those seen during battles.  This large amount of required assets intimidates me from every making one on my own.


Why did this come up when searching the word "conclusion?"  I don't know, but I like it!
In conclusion, I want to making something that will fulfill the above checklist, but that isn't the most complex checklist.  I think what I want to make is a single-player experience with controls and gameplay that is similar to a fighting game but with the story delivery of an RPG experience.  It gets very risky when one starts throwing different genres and pulling bits and pieces from them.  Often, a real lame game ends up being the result, which is definitely something I don't want.
For now, I just wanted to get some thoughts written down, thoughts that I will probably return to by August.  Hopefully by that time, I will have made up my mind and started production on something I feel will really showcase my abilities as a programmer, artist, designer, and maybe even writer.

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