May 19, 2020 · 11:00 am
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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). 🙂
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
March 24, 2020 · 11:00 am
Hey everyone, how are you holding up amidst this pandemic? I haven’t been feeling well over the week and so have been staying home. I started reading through some old magazines I’ve had sitting around for awhile (more about that on Thursday!) And then I started thinking a little more about Memories.
I started with a bit of brainstorming for the ending on Wednesday. The ending has always been the #1 problem for Memories – how should the game end??? At one point I actually had the avatar character and antagonist saying “What now?” “I don’t know.” Lol, not exactly a good place to end up. Plus the final memory was just kind of there and didn’t really add anything to the story.
My first order of business was to tackle that last memory. I figured if I could make it a little more meaningful, that would help with the ending. So I started working on the game on Saturday afternoon. By the early evening, the final memory was cleaned up and functioning.
So that left the ending. I kept working with the dialogue a bit (I also had to laugh – some of the stuff I brainstormed earlier in the week were already implemented into the game when I last worked on it – I guess they were really good ideas!). For a lot of this I had kind of a vague idea of where to take things. Then by about 10pm I had it: an actual workable idea for an ending implemented into the game! 🙂
From there it took me about two hours to get everything working. I thought everything was okay until I ran through the game and the ending seemed to just freeze with nothing happening. I tried everything to get the new end stuff to trigger. Just when I was about to give up for the night, I realized what was wrong: I had the new events set to “Action Button” (meaning the player had to walk up to them and click on them to activate them) instead of them playing automatically with “Autorun.” Once I switched them to autorun, everything started working properly (which let me run through it a few times to make sure everything actually was running as I intended). From there, I built a short movie for the end credits, and Memories was ready for playtesting!
A friend of mine (who also likes to make games with RPG Maker) agreed to test it on Sunday. So now I’m waiting on his feedback before doing anything more (…although in the meantime I may go back over the dialogue to make sure all the characters sound right…)
March 19, 2019 · 11:00 am
Just a really quick update today. First, for the exciting stuff: one of the author interviews I did for TBPL Off the Shelf was published in a book! It was the Interview with Amor Towles – it was published in Contemporary American Fiction, Volume 3, which was edited by Harold Bloom. Contemporary American Fiction, Volume 3 is published by Bloom’s Literary Criticism, which is an imprint of Chelsea House Publishers and Infobase Learning.
Now for the less exciting stuff: I heard back from Mythic about “A Friend from the Deep” and they rejected it, too. 😦 Now that it’s been rejected again, I’m going to have to sit down with it and look it over. I suspect I need to give it a good edit before sending it out once again.
So now that that’s out of the way, I also spent some time over the weekend play testing a friend’s game. He made it with RPG Maker (and has been working on it a lot over the last while). The game was super fun, and I got quite into it (and then it ended because it’s only a demo!) 😦 I’m quite excited to see how it develops. 🙂
After playing it though, I wanted to get back into working on some of my RPGs. So I’m going to try to power through both my Sustainably North planning and the Make Your Way story so I can get back to one of my RPGs soon. 🙂
How’s your week been? Anything new and exciting? 🙂
January 1, 2019 · 11:00 am
Happy New Year’s! It’s that time of year again – time to look at the goals I set for myself last year and set new goals for this year. Last year, my goals were:
- Read 25 novels. Success! I read over 50 novel-length books this year! I didn’t read many long ones, but that’s okay. Having no pressure to read made it much more enjoyable over 2018.
- Write two polished short stories. Failure. I wrote one, but didn’t finish the second one. 😦
- Finish a bloody RPG! Failure. I didn’t really work on anything at all. 😦
For 2018 I was hoping to work towards freelancing more. Even though I wasn’t really successful with my goals, I think I was somewhat successful thanks to starting my other blog, Sustainably North. Thanks to Sustainably North, I was asked by bUneke Magazine to write a monthly column, which has been a lot of fun and tremendous experience. For my day job I also wrote 9 articles, 7 book reviews, and interviewed 12 authors for TBPL Off the Shelf, so that’s pretty good, too. Oh and I almost forgot that 2018 saw my first published short story, “A Harmony of Soil and Sand,” which was published in Menagerie de Mythique Anthology back in May. So while I didn’t exactly meet all of my goals, I still think 2018 was a pretty good year of writing for me! 🙂
Oh yeah, and I participated in my very first game jam back in January! That was fun, too! 🙂
For 2019 I’d like to do things a little differently, particularly in regards to my writing goals. This year I’d like to set smaller goals every month rather than big overarching goals. My thought is that way I can use the end of the month as a deadline, plus I’ll have more flexibility in case other unexpected projects come my way (like when that big freelance project came my way back in 2017). Plus if something takes longer than planned (like how the story I’m working on for the Make Your Way anthology got bogged down in worldbuilding), I can adjust my scheduled goals accordingly. So here are my goals for 2019 so far:
- Read 25 novel-length books. 25 books worked really well for me last year and I’d like to keep the same goal. Like I said, this took the pressure off of me and made reading more fun. This goal is the only one I’m naming that’s for the whole year.
- Finish the story for the Make Your Way anthology by January 31st. I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to get this story written (and hopefully submitted!)
I’m not going to talk about Sustainably North goals on here right now. At this point I’m kind of just carrying on, trying to get a weekly blog post written plus an article for bUneke Magazine. If that changes, I’ll let you know. 😉
This will be an interesting year – I really hope that setting smaller monthly goals (with deadlines) will work better for me!
So what about you? Have you set any goals for the upcoming year? 🙂
Filed under goals, Updates, Writing
Tagged as blog, bUneke Magazine, game, game development, Game Jam, goals, RPG, RPG Maker, short story, Sustainably North, TBPL Off the Shelf, writing
January 6, 2018 · 12:00 pm
As promised yesterday, here’s some info on my third RPG Maker game I’m working on: Soccrpg! Soccrpg started when I went for lunch with a couple of friends. One of them complained that there was no soccer game made like an old-school RPG. I have no idea what is out there (the other friend started listing games that combine RPGs with sports), but I started thinking to myself that I could make one. And so Soccrpg was born.
This is literally what I have made so far:
It’s a soccer field with the positions in place. The opposing team chases you when you have the ball and you’re in their zones on the field; your team just stands around and will talk to you if you interact with them.
In some ways, this was a stupid project to start. I don’t really know much about soccer, so I’ve had to research like everything. So bear that in mind when I eventually finish it (my friend really wants me to make it playable for others) – I will probably get things wrong!
So with that caveat, Soccrpg has also been a great learning experience because this is my first time heavily changing things in the database. Because this isn’t remotely a traditional fantasy RPG, I’ve had to redefine terms and rename things. For example, I decided that the only weapon will be “cleats;” currently the database lists all the default weaponry as a type of cleat.
January 5, 2018 · 6:04 pm
Happy New Year everyone! It’s that time of year again – time to look at the goals I set for myself last year and set new goals for this year. Last year, my goals were:
- Read 40 novels. Success! I read forty novels, a bunch of graphic novels, and a bunch of comics! 2017 was a great year for reading!
- Write four polished short stories. Yeeeah….partial success I guess? I did write one. But that was it. I did start on a second one, but I discovered that Imezza isn’t in as good shape as I thought; I got a bit bogged down in worldbuilding, and the story ended up really blah as a result.
- Work on Tears of the King. This was nice and vague. I worked on it a bit this year (it’s no where near being finished). So partial success? I don’t know if I built another third, but I did make some progress.
I apparently also set a fourth goal, which I managed to forget about (it was to spend an hour a week on writing). 😦
2017 saw me start two new RPG Maker Games (oops): Memories and a second one I haven’t actually talked about on here yet (oops, I’ll have to remedy that). It also saw me working on a freelance project which I’m still unable to talk about, which was very exciting. It also saw me slowly and unexpectedly move away from my second job. So for 2018, I’m going to work on freelancing a little more than I have.
So with that in mind, here are the goals I’m going to set for 2018:
- Read 25 novels. Well, novel-length books. I know that the 40 novels from last year was my only really successful goal, but I need to back that off. I found that 40 novels was a lot of pressure while I’m trying to accomplish other things. I also found myself shying away from any books longer than around 300 pages, so making this goal less should help me tackle some of the longer books I’ve had for years and have ignored.
- Write two polished short stories. I wrote one, so this year I will aim for two.
- Finish a bloody RPG! Like I said, I currently have THREE RPG Maker games on the go. So this year, I want to get SOMETHING finished! lol I also have to not start another RPG Maker game until I get something finished!
A couple of final notes for the upcoming year:
- next weekend I’m going to be participating in my first ever game jam! I’m really excited for it! I’ll have to blog more about it. 🙂
- I am not going to make a goal for “so much time writing” this year. Instead, I’ve currently got one guaranteed afternoon off from work, so I’m going to try to use that time for working on things, be they writing or researching (although it’s also a time I use for other things like vet appointments, because I know it’s a time I don’t work). Depending on how the year goes, this can change, so I’ll have to be flexible with it.
So that’s it. Hopefully 2018 will be a good and creative year, giving me the flexibility to work on different things (and actually get some stuff finished!)
So what about you? Have you set any goals for the upcoming year? 🙂
Filed under goals, Updates
Tagged as game design, game development, Game Jam, goals, RPG Maker, RPG Maker VX Ace, short stories, short story, Worldbuilding, writing
December 4, 2017 · 3:49 pm
Over the last week, I have created a few new maps for Tears of the King! I’m pretty excited for them – I think they’re the first new maps in a year and a half.
First, here’s a brand new city (the Imperial City):
This map is loosely based off of the Kingdom of Pandora city in Secret of Mana in that it is built on a couple of islands. Plus there will be a castle you can go into (you can see the base of the towers) in the top right of this map, again like the Kingdom of Pandora. That similarity was due to the way I laid everything out (and because I didn’t want the castle to be physically in this map). The castle isn’t built yet, and neither are the insides of the houses.
The Imperial City should be the final city in the game.
Also here’s a dock, complete with a ship! (I had to buy extra tiles to make the ship happen).
You reach the ship through either of the two paths in the right side of the Imperial City.
So what’s next? I have some more maps to build (the castle, the insides of the city houses, and an island where the ship will eventually take you). But I also need to go back over my notes and actually replay the game that I have made so far; it’s been so long that I only vaguely remember what still needs to happen.
There’s still a bunch of work that needs to be done, but I’m rather excited to see that the end (of map building anyway) is in sight! 🙂
November 25, 2017 · 3:13 pm
I’ve been rather quiet on here since talking about refreshing my writing space and submitting that short story (omg I forgot to mention – it was accepted!!!) The reason was that I was working on a big freelance project that came my way. Once it was over, I had to deal with a couple of personal things (and honestly rest my brain!) I read four books over the last week, which was great (I hadn’t read any fiction since early September); one of them, Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker, was absolutely fantastic!
Today was a day spent catching up on email and whatnot. I went through all the Duotrope emails I’ve ignored over the last few months, looking into a few more listings that sounded interesting. I also signed up for my very first game jam, which will happen in mid-January. I don’t have a team yet (as far as I know, I’m the only local person who has signed up so far); I figure I’ll just make a small game on RPG Maker or Twine if no one else signs up (since I do not have the coding know-how to make an engine or anything fancy like that). I’m really excited though – I’ve always wanted to participate in one, and now there’s one being held locally (previously this particular game jam was held only in Sudbury – that’s not too far away, relatively speaking, but the time of year is so iffy with the weather).
So now I’m not quite sure what I want to be working on. I have two RPG Maker projects on the go (both Tears of the King and Memories), so I wouldn’t mind working on one of those. But I also wanted to write four polished short stories this year (and to date I’ve only written one). With just over a month left of the year, it’s looking like I may have to sacrifice one in order to achieve the other. So I’m going to take some time to decide on what exactly I want to be working on through December.
Filed under Game Development, Updates, Writing
Tagged as Brandon Sanderson, Duotrope, freelance project, Game Jam, goals, reading, RPG Maker, short story, Twine, Warbreaker, writing
July 4, 2017 · 2:11 am
I should have written this post a few weeks ago, but I had to put Memories aside for a bit. I’ve thought about it long and hard, but I still don’t know how the game is supposed to end. So on the advice of my brother, I’m putting it aside to work on some other things for a bit. Hopefully with a bit of distance I’ll be able to figure out where the story is supposed to go.
I honestly feel a bit like a failure. I was really hoping to have the game done by now. But that’s not how it’s going, so time to focus on something else!
Life is pretty busy right now (when is it not?) but over the weekend I pulled out a short story I’ve been wanting to edit for quite awhile. The story was written as part of my NaNoWriMo blob. I originally wrote the story for a friend after his dog passed away, but I never felt right giving it to him (and let’s be honest: it was a super rough first draft that was crap – I wouldn’t want anyone to see it until it’s rewritten and edited). I came up with some editing ideas for the story last March, but never got around to implementing them until today. Even if the story doesn’t stay the way it currently is, I’ve added 300 words (it was originally about 600 words and is now over 900), and it is shaping up a bit (it’s definitely stronger than it was!)
I had a pretty fun couple of hours working on it. First I brought a notebook outside with me (it was a beautiful day!) and started writing. But after a page and a bit, I ended up grabbing my laptop and bringing that outside because I needed to be able to move some things around and expand on other things a bit. I took a break to go for a walk, then worked on it a bit more. I’m thinking tomorrow I’m going to print it out so I can do another editing pass on it (I prefer to edit on paper, at least for the first while – it’s satisfying to mark things I need to change up with pen!)
Filed under Game Development, Writing
Tagged as blob, endings, game design, game development, Memories, RPG, RPG Maker, RPG Maker VX Ace, short story, writing
June 9, 2017 · 2:08 am
Just a super quick note – I got the final memory functioning in Memories tonight! I had a couple of weird snags getting it working (and the dialogue is super clunky). But everything seems to be functioning! 🙂
I also found a fantastic piano song that was available to license under the Creative Commons; that song is going to be the song that plays during the game’s menu screen, as well as during the actual memory events.
So the next task is to figure out how the game is going to end. And unfortunately I have no idea. And neither do my characters!
This is literally the last conversation currently in the game!
But that is a problem for another day!