Brief Thoughts on Video RPG Design

Click on image to see full chart

We’ll get to the above in just a second. First, a few comments.

As I mentioned a little while ago, I’m toying with becoming an indie video Role Playing Game (VRPG) developer.  It all depends upon a.) me actually finishing something and b.) that something interesting anyone enough to buy it.  I’m set to get off on the right foot by picking up the new RPG Maker, RPG Maker VX Ace.  The past week or so I’ve toyed with the old version, RPG Maker VXI’ve even made several game sprites (a sample jiggles to the right).  Work has been done, for the Too Long, Didn’t Read crowd.

The only thing I don’t quite have is a story.  But we’ll come to that by and by.

I have also done a bit more than just “work”.  I’ve done a bit of research.  In doing so, I’ve come to some conclusions on how to handle, say, random monster encounters.  I haven’t decided how I will handle classes and stats and some such, but when I lay hands on the game, I intend to deluge Brother Eric the Game Designer with questions (Sorry in advance, Eric!) I’m determined not to enter this thing blind, but with a purpose.

That said, two of the things I intend to do with the game, set in stone, is provide a.) a tutorial for playing the game (complete with shutting off the tutorial if so desired) and b.) a branching story line, in which giving the player some degree of control over the proceedings.  On this latter point, the story will only branch so far. I can’t do anything like Baldur’s Gate by myself, let alone Skyrim.  I’m.  Just.  One.  Man.

Which brings us back to the flowchart above.  That was to be the prologue of the game.  Not the whole thing, mind (though I managed to fit it on a single page.)

Now why do it like this?  Well, as I seem to understand it, this (or something very much like it) was how Fighting Fantasy game books were (and perhaps still are) written.  Each section connected and following the plot to its final destination.

The same thing goes here.  Each of my programmed events have been plotted out, certain mechanics have been addressed, items the player can get have been mapped out.  To clarify the jumble a little, this is my tutorial in its most basic, abstract form.  It has three narrative branches, two of which that can show players how to play the game with a third that allows players familiar with the game to opt out.  I also intended to have an option where players could go through the two narrative experiences without having a tutorial message pop up routinely.

This bit is very important, for, as a player, there’s nothing I hate more than being unable to skip tutorials once I know how to play the game.  My hope is that my own game is so fun to play that people will go through it again.  Thus it’s important to make the experience as painless as possible.

Now let’s step back a second.  I said this was my prologue.  It isn’t any more.

What changed my mind?  This article on, of all things, Plants V. Zombies.  I read that and decided that instead of “blending the tutorial into the game”, as the article suggest, what I had was too on the nose.  That it didn’t “Spread out the teaching of game mechanics”.  And so on.

Which means I needed to rethink…  everything.

Which I have.  A whole new scenario has crept up.  One that doesn’t branch (yet) but will no doubt be better for the game as a whole.

All of this is, again, vastly entertaining for me.  I hope the process continues to be this way.


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