The Joy of a Simple Game

in Advice

Ok. So a lot of you, and hey, myself as well, not gonna lie, want to one day make a giant epic game.

You want to make your magnum opus. A giant, sprawling game filled with adventure and meaning and clever gameplay and…

Now that I've traveled the land, explored the 8 dungeons of fate, I discover the evil lord that burned down my village is my own brother, lost in the time warp when we were children, and now, knowing this, I must defeat you, so that I can escape, travel through time, and make sure you never become this! (or some other convoluted storyline.)

Now that I’ve traveled the land, explored the 8 dungeons of fate, I discover the evil lord that burned down my village is my own brother, lost in the time warp when we were children, and now, knowing this, I must defeat you, so that I can escape, travel through time, and make sure you never become this! (or some other convoluted storyline that will take another 20 hours now that we have 20 down.)

Sometimes, though, I think we forget the small games. Games that have small scope, that have simple mechanics, a short story line, and done with existing resources.

That epic game? Maybe you’ll finish it. Maybe you’ll be the minority that actually puts out a massive RM game that is good. And if you do, kudos man, that is amazing! But maybe, before tackling that, let’s look at doing something small first. And here is the thing, small doesn’t have to mean meaningless!

Take part of the game, and make it the games raison d’etre.

Look at a game that has a simple story. Maybe it is about a hero saving a princess. Or a heroine saving her prince. Or a hero saving his prince. Or a heroine saving her princess. (We don’t judge).

Story

Even a simple story can have a twist to make it memorable. Maybe the savee isn’t actually in trouble! Maybe the savee is actually manipulating events. Or maybe, you can hint it throughout the game, but the rescuer isn’t actually that at all, and they are just trying to rekidnap their obsession (“Are we the baddies?”).

The important thing here is that: It doesn’t significantly change the effort needed for the game. It can still be a short, small game, but you have a memorable little twist, something players will remember.

And you can do the same with gameplay. Use the default for the most part, but maybe change it up a bit. Like for instance, get rid of the generic attack command. Doing so would make the game feel a lot different. Every attack costs resources, so now it is about balancing them rather than hitting attack thousands of times.

I mean, I could hit down but it is so much trouble, and attack seems to kill most random encounters.... snooooze.

I mean, I could hit down but it is so much trouble, and attack seems to kill most random encounters…. snooooze.

And of course, you can make a few pieces of custom art to enhance your game. But the main focus should be… try a small game. Just once. See how it goes. You may surprise yourself with how much you like those simple, short games.

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  • Shionkreth

    I couldn’t agree more; many games feel they need to go big and encompass saving the world or something similarly grand when you can just have a good, short game that involves saving a town or something, which many wrpgs did to good effect.