Someone, though it is argued exactly who, once said, that stealing from one person is plagiarism, while stealing from many is research, and though we should strive to do better than steal, it is true that as designers, we are indeed dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.

Just as Sakaguchi stood on the shoulders of Horii, or Horii stood on the shoulders of Greenberg and Woodhead, or they in turn stood on the shoulders of Arneson and Gygax, we too stand atop a plethora of designers who came before us.

For those of you following along at home (and yes, I know there are tons of intermediate steps and other inspirations)

For those of you following along at home (and yes, I know there are tons of intermediate steps and other inspirations)

So its easy to see something in a game and immediately think “Wow, I want to do that!” But where do we cross the line from paying our respects to their brilliance, to outright theft of their ideas.

And with that drawn out intro, I lead you into the topic of this article: Taking inspiration from a mechanic in a game, but making it something of your own, rather than just a pale copy.

Step 1: Knowing Why?

The first thing you should be aware of is WHY. Why are you taking a mechanic from another game. And try not to answer with “because that is the way its done.”

Let’s say that I really really love the Materia system from Final Fantasy VII and want to use it in my upcoming game: The Village of Cakes.

Giants2

So now the question: Why? Let’s take a look at the mechanic and I’ll list what I liked about it:

  • Strong Customization
  • No “Messing Up” with bad builds
  • Can craft unique skillsets for characters
  • Can alter spells and abilities with modifiers

With this knowledge in hand, we know what to try to replicate at when we design our own system.

Step 2: Identifying What You DIDN’T Like

Next, try to think about what parts of the mechanic you didn’t like. I’ll do a list again for the Materia system:

  • Every character could feel “samey”, as all Materia could be used on any character
  • Link system required tons of slots to pull off mediocre combos with regular spells
  • Summon Materia tended to give too much “bang for your buck”, even with limited castings per combat

Now that we know what we DIDN’T like, we know what to try to avoid when making the mechanic our own.

Step 3: Rebuilding

So let’s take the mechanic, and rebuild it, keep the parts we like, but toss the parts we don’t. In the end, the mechanic will still probably resemble the mechanic that inspired it, but it won’t be identical.

So we start with the base system. Equipping cool magic stones to weapons and armor to give us spells and abilities. But first, let’s see if we can deal with some of the problems we had. What if certain magic stones took up more than one slot? This would solve the problem of Summon Materia and the bang for the buck problem.

But let’s take it further! What if different stones took up different amounts of slots depending on WHICH character was equipping it. Maybe the healer type can equip healing magic for less, your strong man can equip big physical swipes for less. You can still pop a weak healing spell on your big guy for an emergency, so it keeps a lot of the customization, but the characters have more individuality.

And now that we have multiple slots for one piece, we’ll need to change from links of 2 slots, to clusters of slots. Now a weak spell can have tons of modifying pieces attached to it, and as a side benefit strong spells can have LESS. So what is better, that HP/MP absorbing doublecasted Fireball, or that MP absorbing Raging Inferno!?

Step 4: Reskinning

Now that you’ve rebuilt the mechanics, you need to reskin them. Keeping the same skin can work sometimes, but really, with things as specific as Materia for instance, it feels very very derivative. So think about how you can make it fit into your world aesthetically that will also change how the mechanic is viewed by the player. The Skin is important for feel.

With my Materia inspired system, I think I’ll go with Runes. I’ve always thought Runic magic was a cool idea, and the idea of mystic runes being scrawled on the weapons and armor of the heroes to be called forth to execute special moves and attacks is a great visual.

Giants3

When reskinning, keep your game world in mind. Think about how the mechanic will integrate with the story you are telling. Why does X mechanic work in Y way?

Conclusion

So as you can see, even though when I say that it was inspired by the Materia system its obvious, would you really see scrawling runes on your equipment with variable size based on character with possible modifiers based on the area available for scrawling and think: Man what a ripoff. Would you have even recognized it had I not said where the idea came from?

Don’t rip things off. Examine, adapt, create, and make it your own. Your mechanic should play and feel different. And never, ever forget the giants whose shoulders you are standing on.

Have a mechanic that is inspired from another game? Want to see if people can identify where its from just from a description? Just want to tell us your thoughts on design inspiration? Join us in the comments section below.

10 comments

STBanner

Plot and Outline

By: Maddie (aka Paladin-Cleric of Awesome)

Because I don't really need an excuse to post a picture of Sean Bean in possibly his best ever role, but it never hurts.

Because I don’t really need an excuse to post a picture of Sean Bean in possibly his best ever role, but it never hurts.

Basic Plot

Now I get to do one of my favourite things, Role Play!

No, I haven’t gone any madder than I was before, it’s just that sometimes, when I’m playing outside of my usual sandbox, I need to move outside of my own headspace to make something like this work.

Bearing in mind that the Heroes Chronicles games are RPG Military Campaigns, and I am more of a meandering storyteller, focusing on my characters and turning a simple story into an Epic tale (or so I like to believe). So to be able to truly get myself in the frame of mind of writing a Campaign styled game plot, I need to get myself into a military headspace (hence the lovely picture above-I told you I had an excuse).

So, with this firmly in mind, I decided that it would be best to stick with a very simple story.
“Lenath, the displaced young king of Lestar, escapes from prison in order to defeat the Warlord who stole his throne had subjugated his people.”

There we go, I have my basic plot. So what do I do now?

This requires some thought… and a lot of hot chocolate.

And marshmallows! Man how I love those little marshmallows!

And marshmallows! Man how I love those little marshmallows!

STBulletObjectives

Going back to the Inspiration for all of this (and replaying some of the levels-I kid you not, this never gets old, it’s so dang addicting!); and making some notes I see that story wise, all the maps have a main objective, not unlike a regular RPG game, with the occasional secondary objective thrown in there.

Simple Objectives like “Defeat the Blue team” or “Find the Vial of Dragons Blood” or “Free the Dragon Mothers”. There’s nothing overly complex in them, and the little bits of story you get as you play are there to give you a bit of a nudge. ie. When you’ve spent a month game time recruiting more troops for your army instead of searching for those Dragon Mothers a little dialogue will pop up with “A spy in the enemy lands comes with word that the Dragon mothers are being held in the hidden valley to the South!”.

So, taking what I’ve learned from the Heroes Chronicles Game I look again at my basic Plot.

Overall Objective
Help Lenath defeat the Warlord who stole his throne and subjugated his people and had him thrown in prison.

Now the question is, how do I get Lenath from the prison and to the Warlord for that final confrontation?

“That’s easy!” you say, “That’s typical RPG stuff, send him on a few missions to fight monsters to level up, let him wander round some towns and collect some companions to help him on his way.”

Ok… so you may have a point. But I have my Military Campaign Hat on, so we’re going to do this a slightly different way. (I did say this already didn’t I? That this wasn’t a typical RPG I was making?

What? He's holding a hat isn't he? *grumble* Fine... but at least I'm being consistent.

What? He’s holding a hat isn’t he? *grumble* Fine… but at least I’m being consistent.

In this game we don’t have random citizens of Town A who will inform us of some quest to kill some goblin riders in the cave near town. We aren’t immersing ourselves in a dialogue focused narrative. We have a bigger plan in mind, a more grand scale plan. We aren’t some fifteen year old child saving the world against impossible odds, accompanied by equally as young companions.

We are simply a young man with one thing in mind. Take back what is his (and free the land and be sort of awesome and stuff). So with this in mind what do I need to do next?

Firstly; What are my military objectives? How do I lead an army to liberate the lands the Warlord has stolen? How do I gather this army? Where can I go? What can I do?

My Main Objectives are:

ST2-4Not very exciting by themselves, and hardly the stuff that will keep people playing the game interested, so I’m going to have to be a tad more specific. So taking each Objective I expand it further.

ST2-5And there we have it, a simple and easy plot (that only took me nearly a week to come up with). Of course, it requires some serious fleshing out, but for now I’m happy enough. More of the story will come out when I focus on the maps and the characters.

STBullet

Objectives from the Clash of the Dragon game... I want mine to look as awesome!... Mine will look as Awesome!

Objectives from the Clash of the Dragon game… I want mine to look as awesome!… Mine will look as Awesome!

So tell me, how do you go about planning your own RPG plot? Are you the kind to dive straight in there and just write whatever strikes your fancy? Do you meticulously plan out every detail before starting anything else? Share your secrets.

Next time on Spiders Thread I get to play with: Game Mechanics

Offered for your amusement by; Maddie aka Paladin Cleric of Awesome:- novelist (in spirit), game developer (in progress) and owner of one too many cats (Though as my family tells it, three too many).

7 comments

dotw-blog_zps17edeb62

Last week, we launched a brand new feature on our website: Deal of the Week.

Our first amazing bundle features Sinister Hollows music pack and Mythos horror graphic pack. Both packs are eerie and spooky in atmosphere, fitting perfectly in that intense horror game. However, they’re also packs with great variety- offering pieces that can be used in more classic fantasy games.

To celebrate the launch of Deal of the Week, we are hosting a giveaway. Buying the deal-of-the-week during this launch week will automatically give you a BIG chance to win any RPG Maker/IGM or any other resource pack of your choice.

More ways to qualify for free packs are by liking and commenting in our announcement thread, sharing on Facebook or Twitter, or by leaving us a blog comment.

Which two products should be the next deal of the week?

Sound off bellow.

18 comments

FallFestival-Banner_zps6d755a3b

Hi everybody! Time to finally announce the winners of the Fall Festival Contest.

First, let me say that there were a good many entries, and thank you for your patience in me finishing them all for judging. Some were excellent, some were less so, but all showed potential, especially with eventing logic. Before I start, I would like people to know that yes, I will be talking about the negatives in games. If I placed your game on this list, I DO think there are more positives than negatives, even if I spend more time discussing what I think was wrong with a game than right.

We’ll start with Third Place and work our way down from there, but first, let’s talk about our…

Honorable Mention – Quincy and Amber: Quest to Autumn by thatbennyguy

QAQA

This game really could have been the winner. Quincy and Amber is a two player puzzle game, which was really neat to see done in RPG Maker. Technically you could play it with one person, and it even told you so, but I opted to get my wife to come play it with me to get a better idea of what I think was the intention of the design.

One player controls Quincy using the arrow keys, and a second controls Amber with the WASD keys. The basic idea is simple, as shown above. Find the way to step on the buttons to lower the appropriate obstacles back and forth between the two characters so that they both can get to the exit. Playing it two player is really the way to go, we spent a lot of time interacting and doing “hey you go there, I’ll go there, etc.”

Its honestly really well done mechanically. This is actually the only game that I bothered opening up to check out the eventing, which was very well done and streamlined.

The only real issue with this game, was unfortunately a sin I couldn’t forgive it for: It really didn’t hook up well into the theme of the contest. Yes, they are traveling to the “Fall Festival” but it was really nothing more than a vague idea (I’m not sure it was an actual Festival), and at the end you don’t even get to see it, just a black screen as the players talk. The ending does state that he will be doing a longer version with more plot and all, and I do look forward to seeing it.

Now on to our…

Third Place Winner: Falling for Autumn by Deveroux

FallingForAutumn

Falling for Autumn is mostly done in the visual novel style. It tells the story of a lawyer returning to his rural hometown to visit his mother during the annual Fall Festival. Apparently, he grew up there wanting to escape to the big city, but while visiting, he meets a girl (Autumn) who reminds him of all the things that were great about his hometown that he had ignored in his desire to escape it.

She is pushy and a bit “crazy” and he is of course the more sensible, hardworking type, it feels very basic, but its a story that works. The visual novel gameplay doesn’t offer as much choice as it could have, really it only offers a “fall for autumn” or “meh” paths, but I understand the time constraints of making a game in a few weeks. There was a single bit of gameplay outside of that, with trying to run a maze and grab items with your vision obscured. It was really really tight time wise and I had to try it multiple times.

My only real complaints are the choice wasn’t broad enough for a Visual Novel, we didn’t get enough gameplay to make it a different type of game, and that things seemed to move really fast storywise*. But overall, it still performed well. The maps were nice, the music was done well, and the story, even cliched, was written competently.

*This last one I understand being an issue of time constraints, but I think this game could be really good rather than “good for a game made in a couple of weeks” if given some polish.

Second Place Winner: Colette’s Fall Festival by Markal Games

Colettes

In this game, we play as Colette, a young girl with a lot of attitude who visits the Fall Festival with her brother. She wants to go to the Haunted House, but gets caught up in trying to win the costume contest. There are quite a few minigames, including hunting for costume patterns and pieces, and having different costumes will unlock different things you can do. Then at the end, you are scored on how you did, and maybe win some tickets to the Haunted House you REALLY wanted to go to.

Sounds easy, right? But there is a catch: You only have 30 minutes to do all this in. I only completely a couple of costumes myself, but I had a few pieces and the patterns to a couple more. The concept and gameplay in this one were great.

There were some negatives, the maps weren’t the best I’ve seen, with lots of wide open spaces, but they were functional. When I first started, I thought the Bobbing for Apples and the shooting game were going to be really similar, but despite similar eventing, they felt different enough.

Overall, I thought this game was just fun, with a good theme and concept. I would have actually sat down and played it again to try to find more of the costume stuff, but I needed to move on the next entry for judging. Tightening up the mapping is the only real thing I would say this game needed, and perhaps a few more minigames. As a side note, the jumping in leaves being a substitute for treasure chests idea was really good.

First Place Winner: Cornucopia Cavern by Dog & Pony

Cornucopia

In this game you take on the role of Ernie, son of a prominent ramen chef, and your father has fallen ill right before the Fall Festival!

With no money, and no ramen chef, Ernie must travel into Cornucopia Caverns to gather ingredients so that he can do his best to to fill in for his father at the Festival. First of all, the story is really cute. I enjoyed playing as Ernie, who is a really humble child who just wants to help out in any way he can.

Second: The gameplay is really fun. Most of the game is dexterity dodging, with a few logic puzzles sprinkled in for flavor, and some parts of it are HARD. I’m really glad for the very very frequent checkpoints, otherwise I might not have even finished this one. Even being a dexterity game primarily, if you don’t think through the paths you are going to use, you are probably not going to make it.

The one major complaint I would have in the gameplay is a later puzzle where you have to create the perfect broth for a troll to let you through a locked door. You do this by picking up a cup, filling it with up with 1-9 of 4 different ingredients and then letting him taste it. He will give you a clue on 1 of the 4 ingredients at random (too much, too little, just right) and then dump it out and make you do it again until you get it right.

The problem is: Even if you have gotten one right, it will continue to randomly pick that clue to tell you. So after I figured out two of them, I would get REALLY tired of him telling me that one of those two were just right and then dumping it without giving more information. My suggestion would have been to have it branch to say which ones were right and then give at LEAST one clue about one that was wrong.

Still a minor nitpick overall to a great game.

The only REAL regret I had about this one, was that it didn’t slowly teach you information you needed throughout your travels to get ingredients, then present you with a cooking minigame at the end. I even memorized the broth recipe just in case! I think it would have been a great little memory puzzle at the end if he had mentioned details about how to cook each part as he found them and you had to remember the information at the end to make the perfect ramen for the Festival.

Even with that regret, this game was really well done and I had a lot of fun playing it.

End Notes

Thank you everyone for competing in this competition. I encourage you all to put your games up on our forums for everyone to play. It was a joy to play through them all, and hopefully everyone enjoyed making their games. If you have won a prize, PM my account (Touchfuzzy) on our forums (if you do not have a forum account, please make one) and if there was a choice on your prize, please state what you would like that choice to be.

Thank you for your patience with these announcements. Congratulations to all the winners, and congratulations to everyone who managed to finish a game for the competition.

4 comments

STBannerMaking a slightly different type of RPG

By: Maddie the Paladin-Cleric of Awesome

Ok, so you’ve heard all this before right? You know how it all works. You’ve read all the tutorials and you know how to make an RPG. Am I right?

I’m not doubting that, there are so many helpful tutorials out there that help you get a handle on how to use RPG maker Ace, that show you how you can make the game you always wanted to.

This is not one of those. I’m not here to tell you how to make a game. I’m not going to explain how the program works. What I am going to do is share my experiences in making a game. If this includes handy tutorials of things I have discovered that I wish to share, then more the better.

And if you find the concept of the game I intend to make interesting enough to want to try it yourself then I will feel very accomplished.

STBulletInspiration

While clearing out the dreaded bottom shelf of my bookshelf, the one stacked with old DVD cases and that Manga I haven’t read since I was 12 (and seriously, what on earth was I reading at 12), populated with dust bunnies of near ferocious size, I uncovered a game.

Heroes Chronicles: Clash of the Dragons

Clash of the Dragons, The most addicting game I have ever played!

Clash of the Dragons, The most addicting game I have ever played!

I had not played this game in nearly 10 years, and feeling a tad whimsical (and nostalgic) I put in my laptop. I was surprised to see it actually worked as the game was so old, and the disk so scratched I was convinced it wouldn’t. And suddenly three days flew by me as I fought my way through 8 maps, and thousands of monsters to beat the game.

Now, if you have never played the Heroes Chronicles, you have been missing out. It is a timeless sort of a game where your decisions influence how hard or easy the game will be, and no matter how many times you play it, nothing is ever exactly the same (that group of monsters that joined your party the first time seems to have taken a dislike to you on your second play through).

It’s all about managing time and resources. Of building an army of numbers, or one of skill, all the while knowing that your enemy was doing the same, that the longer you spend building your forces, the more of them you would need to face.

And I thought (sometime around the middle of my second play-through)… Could I make something like this using Ace?

(There are no words to describe how odd I was at 12... I mean seriously...)

There are no words to describe how odd I was at 12… I mean seriously…

STBulletFirst Steps

Now comes those first few days where my room becomes snowed under with scribbled over paper where I seem to repeat myself a thousand times while trying to work out how I could make a Heroes Chronicles style game in Ace. My new game project becomes bogged down with my attempts at actually eventing what I want to see.

And then, at long last, I managed to put all of my hastily scribbled notes into some semblance of order (after wrestling with my cat for that one piece of paper he has decided makes a better bed than his actual one), and actually sat down and set to work on the game.

Being the super organised person I am (and make no mistake, I am being both very serious and very sarcastic when I say that), I now have myself a basic plot, some basic characters, and the list of all the game-play options I want in the game.

Most people have to bribe their cat off their important sheets of paper with food... my cat wanted something a little different

Most people have to bribe their cat off their important sheets of paper with food… my cat wanted something a little different

STBulletSo, now that I’ve had my bit of a rant and creative craziness, I find myself curious. What is your own inspiration for game making? Have you ever played a game and found yourself thinking “I could totally do that using RPG maker”? And once inspired, how do you turn that inspiration into the beginnings of a game?

Next time on Spiders Thread: Basic Plot

Offered for your amusement by Maddie (aka Paladin Cleric of Awesome): novelist (in spirit), game developer (in progress) and owner of one too many cats (Though as my family tells it, three too many).

3 comments

bannercyber

Get what you really want for the Holidays!

Are you ready for some awesome deals on all our RPG Maker products! Then you’re in luck!

Starting now, receive 50% off all our products, and tune in throughout the day starting at 8am PST for hourly flash sales!

Don’t miss out on any of these great deals, you can check out our Cyber Monday Flash Sales page, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest Flash Sales!

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By: Artbane

Writing about your own project can be difficult for a lot of developers. But writing good copy can be the difference between whether people will download your game or pass it on. So if you’re going to be doing the writing about your game, it’s probably worth investing some time in becoming better at it.

There’s one key principle to understand first… People DO NOT CARE about your game! Your job is to make them care! There are 1000s of games to choose from – both paid and free. Why should they spend their valuable time playing your game?

The goal is to let people know why your game is interesting! You need an angle that sets it apart from all the other games. Think of it this way: If I picked you out of an audience of indies, would you be able to intrigue me in 20 seconds? 10 seconds? If I had to write a news story about your game, then what would the headline be?

Here’s an example of a hook: Labyrinthine Dreams – Written by a professional journalist! Already this makes the game standout. It can be something about one of the developers, a new mechanic or interesting twist on an old narrative trope!

When writing your copy, make sure it’s casual. You’re not a large scale company so don’t act like one. It shouldn’t read like every other press release. You’re an indie – show your passion for your project! Inject some personality. You want to avoid being vague or redundant, sounding fake cool, or like a robot.

Here’s a tip to help you get in the right writing mode. Pretend you’re in a booth with your friend. In your own words, explain to your friend why your game is so amazing! Afterwards, go through it again and try to remove any jokes that are too clever or obscure. You want to be clear, not clever. It’s not necessary to be humorous either. Write for the tone of your game.

If you need help creating a template for your game copy, use the AIDA formula. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. I’ll be using Seita’s project You Are Not The Hero in the examples (referred to as YANTH).

yanthFirst, you get their ATTENTION with your game name or a hook. Make sure the hook isn’t too long. YANTH is a great title. The name grabs your attention as typically in games you ARE the hero. So it instantly comes off as new and novel.

Once you got their attention, you need to capture their INTEREST. This is where you tell them interesting facts about your game. YANTH tells you that you’re not playing the traditional hero bent on saving the world, but an innocent bystander that gets swept up in their affairs.

Now make them DESIRE your game. By now you should have made them want to play your game. Right after explaining the hook of the game, YANTH goes right into the details of what will keep the player entertained. These include sidequests, minigames and an awesome train sequence!

Finally, show them how to take ACTION. Tell them where to download your game or how to support it. Describe it in detail. YANTH has very detailed instructions on how to support their game.

You can see more examples of great copy at work on their Kickstarter page HERE.

Here are a few more tips to get in the right mind space when writing you game copy:

  • Have a beverage nearby like coffee or tea. Nothing gets the mind fueled like caffeine! But if you’re not into caffeine, just a bottle of water can be good.
  • If you’re feeling inspired, WRITE! There are certain times of the day where we just seem to be in more a creative space. Find out when yours is. You probably only have a few hours of “good writing” in you each day.
  • Make note of how you’re feeling. It will affect the tone of your writing.

Got any more tips for writing good game copy? Let us know in the comments!

2 comments
Storyline is Good, But Remember Gameplay thumbnail

Even I’m not immune to it. When describing Nier, one of my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii generation, I’m much more likely to spout off about the deep storyline and amazing characters and dialogue than to describe it as an action RPG primarily focused on melee with ranged magic spells and occasional forays into completely different game genres.

RPGs have historically, especially starting in the early 90s, been known for their strong drama, deep characters, and epic storylines. A lot of us growing up with that legacy, moved to wanting to make video games in the genre, inspired by those features to create the same. Like aspiring authors, we descend on RPG Maker to create games that tell the grand stories that circulate in our heads, dreams of dragons and castles and heroes.

And that is good. There is nothing wrong with that. Very few people will find a strong storyline a detriment to a game, and those that do? Well, I’m pretty sure they weren’t in your target demographic to begin with!

"ZOMG WHY IS THERE SO MUCH WORDS ON THE SCREEN!?" "Why are you playing a Final Fantasy again?"

“ZOMG WHY IS THERE SO MUCH WORDS ON THE SCREEN!?”
“Why are you playing a Final Fantasy again?”

But never forget your medium. Video games aren’t books. Video games aren’t movies. Characters, dialogue, atmosphere, and all those other little tidbits aren’t there just to tell the story, they are also there to provide CONTEXT to the gameplay. And gameplay is what makes a video game, a video game, rather than just a poorly animated cartoon.

If you ever take the time, go to our official forums, which are a great community by the way, and read through some of the project topics. Is there anything you notice? 99% of all the discussion in opening topics are about the same thing: story, story, story. Now, I’m not saying none of these games have good gameplay! A lot of the users designing are still very good gameplay designers, but it shows the emphasis we place. The first thing everyone wants to tell us is “This is the story, this is how cool my writing is” rather than “this is how the game works, THIS IS WHAT YOU DO IN IT.”

Even I'm not immune to it. When describing Nier, one of my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii generation, I'm much more likely to spout off about the deep storyline and amazing characters and dialogue than to describe it as an action RPG primarily focused on melee with ranged magic spells and occasional forays into completely different game genres.

Even I’m not immune to it. When describing Nier, one of my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii generation, I’m much more likely to spout off about the deep storyline and amazing characters and dialogue than to describe it as a 3D action RPG primarily focused on melee with ranged magic spells with aspects of bullet hell games and occasional forays into completely different game genres (One entire section is literally a white text on black screen text adventure).

So what does that really tell us about the RPG Maker community as a whole? We value story over gameplay. And hey, that isn’t the end of the world in and of itself, everyone has their different reasons for liking games, but we can’t forget that story is a cog in the overall machine that is a game, or the games will get stale. So first, let’s talk a little bit about…

…What is Gameplay?

This might seem like a dumb question, but in all honesty, it isn’t as much as people think. So what is gameplay? Gameplay is MEANINGFUL INTERACTION.

So let’s look at it as two parts.

1. Is there interaction?

Can the player do things differently? How does he interact with the game. Can he equip different items to change the playstyle of his characters? Can he choose to do more than one thing at constant junctures in the game? Games are generally filled with choice: Do I attack this turn, do I heal? Do I equip my character with the weapon that does the most damage, or the one that gives the best secondary boost? Should I level a few more times, or go down to beat the boss now?

The thing the game needs to do though, is REACT to the choices, and that is where the second part also comes in:

2. Is that interaction MEANINGFUL?

Does it make a difference in the game? Is the game REACTING to your choice. If I choose to hit attack or use a skill, is there going to be a DIFFERENCE to how the game plays? If I can beat the entire game without doing anything other than the attack command, the entire combat system lacks meaning. There is nothing for me there but a delay while I mash that A button. That isn’t gameplay?

Conversely, if I get to make storyline decisions and nothing in changes to reflect that, then those decisions don’t constitute gameplay.

gameplay03

Persona 3/4 Social links: Gameplay or not?
1. They create interaction between you and the game. You are making choices, both in your reactions and who you hang out with during your limited time allotted.
2. Those choices make differences to the game, both in further story sections of the social links, AND in the bonuses you can receive when fusing personas. And in Persona 4, they can also affect your party member’s personas.
Conclusion: Yes, definitely gameplay!

A bit of Homework

So, what do I think we should do about this? Put some emphasis on the game part of Role Playing Game. As a challenge, instead of thinking of a new story for a project, think of a single mechanic. It doesn’t have to be unique, but bonus points if it is, and then try to think of a hypothetical game project to fit around it. Come back and post yours in the comments, or on our Facebook post linking this blog.

I’ll go first to show you what I mean:

Game Mechanic: Time Manipulation

OK, I want to make time manipulation an important way the player interacts with my world. What if you made a puzzle game, with tons of puzzle rooms, but part of how you solve some of them is to go in them more than once at the same time? What if the goal of the game was to activate 3 spheres, but you had to do it using the same number of “moves” while using time jumping to start the puzzle over to reach each one.

Maybe you get to the 1st sphere in 3 moves, then after you jump back you would need 4 moves to get to the 2nd one, but if you do a 2 move action that unlocks a door at a certain time, you can jump back again and cut getting the 2nd sphere down to 3 moves. And if you did it right, you would unlock a way to get to the 3rd sphere in the same number of moves as well.

The player has to think. The manipulation of time gives him choices that he has to make, and if he doesn’t make them correctly, the game doesn’t move on. Maybe even include multiple solutions, and different tools to be used, allowing the player to approach the same problem in different ways.

How good is this idea? Well, its rough, but I think it could be fun. This portion was literally written off the top of my head, just brainstorming how you could possibly use Time Manipulation as a mechanic in the game.

So why don’t you spitball up a mechanic? How can you make it fit into the game, and how can it be used? Join us in the conversation in the comments section below!

 

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THE PLAN

Hopefully by now you have a stack of notes or text files with ideas for your game. It’s time to start organizing all those ideas into a PLAN.

Why create a plan? Why not just jump into the editor and start hacking away? That’s because if you sit down with the editor open and you don’t know what you’re going to do next, it’s going to be difficult to do anything. You need to create a plan so you know what you’re going to do next. Without structure it’s going to be laborious working on a RPG.

Yay new project! … now what?

Yay new project!
… now what?

So, before you even start developing, you’ll want to create an outline. Some people might refer to this as the GDD or Game Design Document but that’s not what it really is. A GDD is a very descriptive document that is used to coordinate efforts among a large team. This is also often shared with a publisher for approval. You don’t need anything that technical.

So, first, you want to open a new doc. Put a working title at the top of the page. Then, try to imagine different ideas you want to put into your game. Try to get the BIG IDEAS into the outline first: story, characters, gameplay. The order doesn’t really matter now. Just try to get them all on there. Hopefully you have a lot of notes to refer to at this point.

Game outline template.

Game outline template.

Once the major ideas are down, you can start writing supporting ideas. Then, you can clean up the outline and organize it into sections. If sections get too large, you might want to make a separate document. I often have a few documents for a project organized into a folder on Google Docs. It makes it easier to reference something quickly or share it with teammates.

With a plan you’ll be able to develop more in less time because you’ll have structure. At the same time, you don’t want the planning stage to be a bottleneck. While it does help to have an outline, you can find yourself paralyzed trying to plan out your entire game first. You really just want to get the broad strokes of your game down. You don’t need to plan out every map and scene. It’s good to be detailed but it can be taken too far.

And sometimes, ideas that looked good on paper don’t work so well in implementation. Or you might just come up with entirely new ideas organically when working on your game. So don’t feel beholden to your outline. Game development is an iterative process. Consider your outline a living document.

Once you got your plan more or less outlined, it’s time to finally start developing! Hopefully this and the preceding articles prepared you for this. While the title of the articles might be “How to make a RPG in less than a week”, the idea behind the articles is really how to develop more efficiently. If you follow an established process, then you’ll be able to develop more in less time.

Do you find a good outline helps you with your game? Have some questions about how to create an effective one? Join the comments section below! Good luck with developing your game!

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Everyone knows: Playtesting is important. And they are right: Playtesting is one of the most important steps in creating a polished game. Devs everywhere should praise their playtesting teams, but that is a subject for another day.

Today, we are talking about checking your math, both to fix issues before they get to playtesting AND to fix issues that playtesting would never catch. Don’t leave it all to your playtesters to fix your broken mechanics, they will not appreciate it. It turns out your math teacher was right when she said this stuff is important!

Say hi to the bell curve.

Say hi to the bell curve.

Math checking is a pretty simple thing to do. Think about white room examples of how the game should be played (which is a bit easier in video games than say, Tabletop RPGs where expected situations can vary widely) and crunch through the numbers. Let’s look at two examples of odd math quirks that could have been eliminated from popular games from big budget studios had they just run all the math: [click to continue…]

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