Tag Archives: Memories

A Postmortem for Of Pieces and Memories

of pieces and memories cover photo

When Game Developer Magazine (GDM) was still around, I used to love reading the postmortems that they published for different games by their developers.  So with Of Pieces and Memories (the game I’ve been calling Memories here on this blog) finished and available to play on itch.io, I wanted to write one as well, to think back on what went right and what went wrong during the game’s development.

What Went Right:

  1. The size of the game.  I started Of Pieces and Memories at a time when I was getting overwhelmed with making Tears of the King.  That game is so much bigger than I imagined it would be, and was taking so much more time to make than I ever would have expected (it’s still not done).  Knowing it is important to actually finish projects, I decided to make a game that takes place in a much more limited space: a mansion.  While this game itself took far longer to finish than I expected (I started it in March 2017), its small scale meant the maps were built very quickly (and for the most part have remained the same).  It has also made playtesting the game far easier because all the locations you have to go to are relatively close together.
  2. The scale of the story.  The story isn’t big either.  I liked the idea of giving Memories a fairy-tale like feel.  While I don’t know if I succeeded with that, that idea helped me keep the story more tightly focussed.  It also made it much easier to write and edit the dialogue (which I appreciated because, as far as I know, you can’t easily pull the dialogue out of RPG Maker VX Ace and put it into a word processor, or put it back into the game without resorting to copying and pasting every individual bit).  This also made it easier to playtest the dialogue than it otherwise could have been, as game dialogue can very easily balloon to large sizes (for example, I wrote over 50,000 words while working on Black Chicken Studios‘ unreleased game Bell Book and Candle, Attorneys at Law, which doesn’t count the romance scenes I had to go back and rewrite because I was assigned one of the romances that could go to either the female or male player character; this was only one of six romances that were being written for that game.  There were also minor cases being developed as well).
  3. Not adding combat.  When I think of RPG games, I generally think of games like Secret of Mana, or even Pokemon, which involves travelling around and levelling characters up through fights.  But I didn’t really want that out of Memories; combat always felt so out of place for this story.  Thanks to playing through Oneshot (a game I highly recommend), I realized I could stay true to my vision for Memories and keep it combat free.  This decision also helped me finish the game sooner than I otherwise would have, as balancing combat within a game is definitely not one of my strong points.
  4. Adding different dialogue choices.  When I first had the ideas for the game, I thought it would be really neat to have new dialogue choices open up for the player as you unlock new memories and emotions.  I abandoned that idea as I did the initial development of the game, thinking it would be really hard to implement.  But after I finally figured out an ending to the game, I was worried that Memories was going to be too boring to play, and so decided to put those dialogue choices in.  I’m really glad I decided to do this; it makes the game more interesting to play though (my playtesting friend, Darryl, even said he “liked that you kept getting more emotional ways to respond to people as you went on,” so I’m very glad I added this in). 🙂
  5. Sticking with RPG Maker VX Ace.  RPG Maker has a newer version (MV) available.  I’ve been tempted to get it because it has some great features (like the ability to release your games to mobile devices).  But having purchased VX Ace, I really wanted to finish something with it before I even entertained the idea of upgrading.  While I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, I’m really glad I stayed with VX Ace because upgrading would have meant a large learning curve for the new program.  That would have delayed me finishing Memories all the more.  And having stayed with VX Ace means I’m getting much more comfortable with it, which in my mind is a big plus.  It’s getting easier to implement things, and I’m able to implement more complicated things than I originally thought I’d be able to without scripts.

What Went Wrong:

  1. Lack of story planning.  This was, hands down, the biggest problem in developing Memories.  Pretty much all of the major issues I had came back to not sitting down and figuring out the story (and have proven to me that I am very much a planner, not a pantser!)  I had a vague idea of a story and just sort of went with it, not even stopping to put thought into the people inhabiting this world.  And so, once the house was finished and my vague story implemented, I had no idea what anything was leading to.  I was further trapped because I liked what I had made so far (and a lot of time had gone into making things like the individual memories with the tinting screens) and I didn’t want to get rid of any of that.  So how do you make a half-baked story with cool game mechanics work?  It took me years (and a lot of space from the game itself) to finally find an answer to that question.
  2. Character issues. I remember, after deciding that Memories was going to take place in a giant house, thinking that the house would need staff.  So I researched what kinds of staff a large house might have (I don’t honestly know if I would have even thought this far if not for watching Downton Abbey with friends).  I narrowed that staff down to a number I felt I could work with, lumped them together into families, and, for the most part, done!  I put no real thought into what most of these people were like (not even the main character, Briana) until I had the game built and needed to differentiate their voices.  Briana at least was easy because, as the main character, I got to know her just through the process of making the game.  Same with Godric, the wizard, and Bella, Briana’s twin sister.  But I had big issues with some of the other characters, like Wulfric, the huntsman, who I needed in the game, but had no idea what he was like.  I also spent time developing the character of Alexis, who ended up cut from the game literally a few days afterwards because I realized she wasn’t actually needed at all.  I hope, in the end, that I did an alright job with the characters.  But there was a lot of time wasted because I didn’t put more thought into them earlier in development.
  3. The ending.  Yes, this ultimately stems from failing to plan the story, but it deserves its own point because this single-handedly held up the game for years.  My problem with finding a satisfactory ending  stemmed from Godric the wizard, and Bella, Briana’s twin sister.  When I first started making Memories, I made Godric the evil wizard who was taking hearts because he’s evil (again, my inspiration was from fairy tales).  But then I started to wonder why exactly he was taking those hearts.  I read Naomi Novik’s Uprooted around that time, which also led me to question Godric’s motives: was he really just evil, plain and simple?  Or could there be more going on with him (and if so, what?)  I also struggled because Bella gave her heart to Godric.  Does saving her negate that choice?  I struggled with these issues for a very long time; it wasn’t until I finally came up with an ending that I felt worked for all of these characters that I was finally able to finish the game.
  4. The title.  I’m not very good at naming things.  So it’s not surprising that I struggled while trying to come up with one for this game.  It also didn’t help that I’ve been calling it Memories forever, so it’s hard to think of it as anything else (note to self – don’t use working titles because you get too attached to them!)  I didn’t think that just Memories was a good name for it though (and when I did a bit of research into coming up with titles, people discouraged a one word title because it’ll get lost in definitions for that word when people search online for it).  I’ve been agonizing over this for months now (I started actually thinking about this when I finally came up with the ending).  All things considered, I managed to decide on one fairly quickly (and I hope Of Pieces and Memories is a fitting title for the game), but this was still super tough for me.

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Memories is Done!!!!

of pieces and memories cover photo

My photo altered with BeFunky. 🙂

Of Pieces and Memories (the official name of the game I’ve been referring to as Memories) is now available on itch.io!

I’ve been playtesting it all week.  By about Thursday I noticed that I was getting really fiddly with the game (I’d make a change, play through one more time, then change it back).  That was the point that I knew I was pretty much done, that this game is the best I can make it right now.  Since most of the playtesting this week was devoted solely to checking all the dialogue options, I had a little more playtesting to do after I reached that point, but by Friday I was done.

From there, I had the unexpected problem of developing a page for the game on itch.io.  I’ve never released a game on the platform before, and so hadn’t really thought about this part of the release.  The biggest problem was that the page needed a cover picture and I had no idea what to use.  I considered using the title page of the game, but that has art I got from the RPG Maker store (which I wasn’t sure if I could use as a cover picture).  In the end, I decided to use one of my photos, which I altered using BeFunky to make it a bit more cartoonish-looking (and to add the game’s title).  A bunch of purple flowers play a role in the game, so I thought this photo was fitting. 🙂

Now that it’s done, I’m going to take the weekend off to celebrate (I’m opening a special wine I’ve been saving).  I also won’t be posting a #WriteTuesday post this week; instead I’m going to write a postmortem for Of Pieces of Memories, which will look at what went right and what went wrong as I developed the game. 🙂

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A New Name for Edric

Edric/Godric sprite and face graphic

Edric/Godric

About a month ago, I noticed that my wizard character, Edric, had a name that started with an “e” like two of my other characters (Eireen and Ena).  When I originally came up with the names for everyone, I tried to have all the people who were related to each other share a first letter (so, as mentioned, Eireen and Ena are related, while Alea, Adalyn, and Albert, etc).  So I’m not quite sure how I messed this up originally and made Edric’s name start with an “e” too.  When I discovered this back in April, I spent some time trying to come up with new names, either for Eireen and Ena, or for Edric.  Unfortunately nothing seemed to fit (and all of their names have been set in my head for so long) so I resigned myself to that mix-up.

And then I discovered that I HAD renamed Edric some time ago.  I still have the map I’ve called “test room” with all the characters standing around in it (it’s the map I used to take the picture of all the Memories characters). And if you talk to Edric, his dialogue said “I was Edric but now my name is Godric.”

😲

I checked out the meanings of both “Edric” and “Godric” on Behind the Name (I love that site for helping me find names for characters).  “Edric” means “wealth, fortune” and “ruler” while “Godric” means “God’s ruler” (the “ric” in both names means “ruler”).  From that alone, “Godric” seemed like the better name for the character, since he is a wizard who has power over the fortunes of humans, while also an admired or influential person (two of the definitions provided by Oxford).  So I went into Memories and officially changed his name within the game to Godric.  Thinking of him as Godric does feel weird though since he’s been Edric for so long, but I know I’ll get used to it.

(While looking back through this blog’s archives for the game, I actually found when I renamed him.  But I guess that information never made it into my paper notes, and I didn’t correct the picture with all the characters’ names, so when I started working on the game again, he just became Edric).

Other than the name difficulties, EdricGodric has been one of the easiest characters out of the whole game to find a voice for.  Like Alexis, Alea, Albert, and Wulfric, Godric is one of the pre-made RPG Maker VX Ace characters.  And from the moment I looked at his portrait, I just knew what he would sound like.  Yes, I have made some changes to his dialogue here and there (especially when certain words and phrases end up claimed by other characters), but I’ve always been able to find a way for him to say things that sounds authentically “him” (lol, at least I hope I have!)  Which is a really good thing, since he’s the antagonist, and his voice really matters! 🙂

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#WriteTuesday – Playtesting!

I’m almost done Memories!

After doing my best to find voices for my characters (Wulfric and a few others are still giving me some trouble, but I *hope* I’ve done well enough with them), I started doing some final playtesting before I plan on releasing the game on itch.io. I thought the playtesting would just be a few playthroughs to mainly check all the dialogue as a complete whole (thanks to implementing different dialogue choices within the game, it does mean I’ll have to do at least 4 different playthroughs for dialogue alone).  But I ended up finding quite a few little bugs, as well as a few bigger ones, that need to be fixed.  So I’ve been making my way through all of that (with a break to finish reading Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy).  Playtesting will be continuing this week (along with some more editing work by the looks of things).

Oh, I’m also really excited to finally have a proper name for Memories!  I think I’m going to call it Of Pieces and Memories.  When I gave it to my friend to try, I’d tentatively called it Hearts and Memories, but that didn’t sound right to me, even though it is, at it’s very essence, what the game is about.  I considered several lines of dialogue as possible titles (like “Just trust your heart,” which resonates with me every time I read it during a playthrough), but nothing seemed right.  Then over the weekend, I realized that a lot of the dialogue revolves around pieces of hearts, which is how I decided on the title.  I ran it by my friend, too, and he approved as well. 🙂

How about you? How’s everything going? Stay safe! 🙂

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Finding a Voice for Wulfric

Wulfric sprite and face graphics

Wulfric

Meet Wulfric, the huntsman from Memories.  Wulfric was unique out of the whole cast of Memories characters because I just couldn’t get a feel for his character.  Like Alexis, Alea, and Albert, Wulfric was one of the pre-made RPG Maker VX Ace characters (he’s the one I always seem to use for huntsmen-type characters).

When I was originally choosing the characters for Memories, I decided that there should be a huntsman character of some sort.  My reasoning was that Memories is fairy-tale like in many ways, and fairy tales often have a huntsman in them.  And that was it; like so much of Memories, I really didn’t have much of a plan and just kind of went with everything that came to mind.

Wulfric was always one of the first characters that the player got to see, but that was pretty much the extent of his role in the game.  He’s the one who found the avatar (player character) wandering around and brought her to the house where everything takes place.  Once he did that, he disappeared from the game entirely.  When I figured out an ending for Memories, I added him into it, just to make him more present in the game (plus it seemed fitting that he was at both the beginning and the end of the game).  But I was never sure if it was fitting that he was there, rather than someone else.  But it did put him into the game more, so I figured I might as well leave it as him for now.

Once I started working on the characters’ voices though, I knew I had a big problem with Wulfric.  I couldn’t get a feel for him.  His role was more important than Alexis, so I didn’t think I should cut him from the game (and if I did, I don’t know who could have replaced him.  So I needed to figure out what his character was like, including why he is here (and why Edric would have hired him since he has no family connections to any of the other characters).  I found this article on A Writer’s Perspective that talked about the importance of medieval huntsmen; while I admit that this was the extent of my research, it sounded good enough for my purposes, and underscored how Wulfric would have been an important part of the household.

But it still didn’t help me with his voice.  I started thinking more about what his character might be like.  I came up with some ideas, like how he’s a loner, and how he butts heads with Albert, the butler (Albert doesn’t like that Wulfric is able to do whatever he wants outside of the house; Albert likes to think of himself as in charge of everyone).  But that didn’t really help me in terms of how he sounded.

And then I stumbled on this graphic thanks to Pinterest, which talks about minor character development.  In the point about character voice, it mentioned that some characters talk in short sentences; that ended up being the key to finding Wulfric’s voice!

Once I had a tentative feel for what his dialogue would be like, I started implementing it, playing around with it until it sounded right to me.  I also added him to the game a bit more; in one of the rooms there were wood piles that were supposed to increase as time went on, implying his presence.  Instead I explicitly put him either in the entrance way or around the wood piles in the house to show that he’s actually bringing stacks of wood in.  This also helped with another problem: I realized that there was nothing happening at the front door when you went  there (originally there was supposed to be a small scene with the wizard, but it wasn’t triggering). Now Wulfric and his piles of wood block the way so you can’t get to the doors to leave.

With that done, I then had to decide if he was the one who should show up at the end or not.  I ultimately decided that job should fall to someone else, and so Adalyn (Lyn, the housekeeper) took over from him.  I’m happy with this change; it seems like a much more fitting role for Lyn. 🙂

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#WriteTuesday – Still Working on Character Dialogue

Hey everyone, just a quick update.  I’m still plugging along on Memories.  I’ve still got one minor character who is giving me a hard time, but hopefully I’ll be able to get him sorted out soon.  I also still need to come up with a better title for the game (which will be tough – titles and naming things is not easy for me).

But in other (non writing news), I finished reading Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle last night.  It feels so good to be done (especially since those books are huge! I could have read 2 to 3 regular sized books instead).  I’m looking forward to switching to another genre now (I’ve got a science fiction series that I need to reread a few books before reading the final book, so that’s probably what I’ll be reading next).

How about you? How’s everything going?  Stay safe everyone. 🙂

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Goodbye Alexis :(

Last night, while I was working on Memories, I came to the realization that the character Alexis wasn’t needed.

Alexis sprite and face graphic

Alexis

Alexis was the daughter of Albert (the butler), and Adalyn (or Lyn, the housekeeper), as well as the sister of Alea (the cook).  I used one of the pre-made characters within RPG Maker for her (as well as Albert and Alea; Lyn was made using RPG Maker VX Ace’s character generator).  Her character was created when I was trying to round out the number of servants within the house, and at the time it made sense for her to be related to the servant family.

But when I was really thinking about Memories yesterday (and specifically what character from the servants should be in the final cutscene), I realized that there’s no real reason for Alexis to be in the game at all.  She served as someone that you brought an item to partway through the game, but that was all she actually did; that function could very easily go to someone else, and probably should, as the other characters do far more for the story.  I was sad about this; I had just figured out her character and how she would speak over the last few days (and I liked her – she  was upbeat and friendly).  But she had to go in service to the overall story and game.

Removing her actually helped me with another character too (her mother, Lyn), who just disappears through most the game. I always assumed Lyn was offscreen in one of the areas you unlock later, which works but seems kind of weak.  Having Lyn take over for Alexis makes her far more present within the game.

Thankfully removing Alexis from Memories was relatively easy.  All I had to do was change up a few bits of dialogue, and a spot where Lyn appeared in the kitchen, which ended up easier than I expected (I just used Alea for that part instead, which also strengthens the cook’s role within the game). And done!  That further cemented that removing Alexis from the game was the right thing to do; the other characters (and the game itself) are now stronger as a result.

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