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Lessons learned for WIP RPG

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by danzibr, Jan 17, 2020.

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  1. danzibr

    danzibr Member

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    I've been working on the above game for quite some time now. Couple years (huge hiatus in the middle, plus I don't have a lot of free time). I'm quite certain I'm going to give it up permanently, but hey, ya never know. This is only the third game I ever started (one using a guide from Heartbeast, another partially using a guide from Heartbeast, and this one I did from scratch).

    It was my desire to make an RPG with a lot of party composition options. Reminiscent of the original Final Fantasy, or the more recent Artifact Adventure, or Icewind Dale, etc. So shoot, I got to it.

    Which was my first mistake. I essentially started my game with no plan. I should've planned out sooooooo much more before I did any programming or art. I just started making classes, 10 in fact. I had almost no plot, very nebulous battle mechanics, didn't know how level ups were going to work, equipped weapons and armor, stats, status effects, elemental damage, inventory, etc.

    Also, my art was a mess. I wish I would've used a palette. More specifically, gotten a color palette, then make a bit darker and a bit lighter versions. I did a bit of spriting per night, first made all the classes, then a bunch of tiles, then like a monster per night. But what I did was make a few of new colors pretty much every time I made a sprite. As a result, I have a *ton* of colors that are very similar, and there's little cohesion. (Actually, for a game with multiple distinct areas, like Chrono Trigger or something, one palette per zone would be appropriate.)

    In line with the lack of planning, I should've planned my coding more thoroughly. I have one object called Controller, which has almost all of the Draw GUI coding, but not all of it. Some of my menus are spread out over several rooms, some aren't. I'm getting some issues with Step Events, should've split certain things into Beginning Step Event (like getting inputs and collision checking), Step Event (bulk of the code), End Step Event (actual movement). Even then, I'm still not certain about this. A lot of this is due to my lack of experience; I figured things out as I went, and some parts of my code became much more streamlined.

    And hoo boy, my maps are a mess. I should've made drafts of those. My world map is so huge GM:S has a difficult time compiling it. It's hella empty. I was just like hmm let's make a couple continents, one'll be mostly desert, one kinda icy, let's slap an island in the middle of the ocean here. And the building interiors are a bit sloppy.

    A lot of this is salvageable, but... a real big issue, my game lacks focus. I have a bunch of neat ideas I want to implement, but it all feels fragmented. Lots of party combinations, each class has primary and secondary focuses, have passives, have activity abilities (which I haven't coded yet), they can acquire magic (not coded), use kits (not coded). There's a lot of redundancy. And right, the focus, I don't know where I wantn to take it. Just beat some temples, unlock magic, beat the big bad guy. Also in this paragraph I can say my game lacks innovation. There's really nothing new or exciting. On the one hand, more of the same can be okay, but on the other hand, the more I think about it, it's just kinda meh.

    Anyway. I'll gladly take feedback, but I really came here to say... plan plan plan, and I suggest using a palette.
     
    Desert Dog and YanBG like this.
  2. YanBG

    YanBG Member

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    Keep it up! Also title your videos with words, so we know the changes in each version. Is it even the same game? And record in widescreen, if you can.
     
  3. danzibr

    danzibr Member

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    Why, thanks! Huh, here I'm thinking I should give up on this because of my noobishness, and here you're telling me to keep it up. Or maybe keep it up in general, not for this particular game? I do have a real good idea for a game... but then again, I do everything solo, and the above video does a pretty good job demonstrating my capabilities, probably can't make anything of real quality.

    And thanks for the video pointers!
     
    YanBG likes this.
  4. YanBG

    YanBG Member

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    I don't know your life but i wouldn't give up(i started my game from scratch couple times though). You are right that it would be ideal to begin development with a good plan but most of us aren't geniuses. We have to make a lot of crappy stuff(grind) until we get experience, for example you learned and next time you won't have the step event issues. I also think that my game is not innovative or much fun but it's important to go through all of the technical part and mechanics, so that when you finally get a good idea it'd be doable for you. Now if you lack good game design, that also can be improved by just doing whatever you like for a few years(book, movies), that way you'll get some stories in the back of your mind. It's not completely original but it will dawn on you.

    Other option is to join a dev studio and start doing the dull tasks, while learning from the team and receiving a salary. Sometimes working alone is a roadblock.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
  5. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    Some feedback:
    • Sounds like you hardcoded every menu instead of having a generic "menu" object which you can put different contents in. Easy beginner's mistake, but it adds a lot of work later on (since menus are harder to change and bug fix if every menu is a different object).
    • The moment you start the game, there's instantly recognizable Kevin MacLeod stock music. This just hurts the first impression (since his music sounds "stock" to anyone that's familiar with indie games) and as good as a lot of his tracks are quality-wise, a lot of them just kinda sound generic. I'd scourge Freesound and OpenGameArt for some good music that's less recognizable.
    • Also, both the music and the graphics mixes 8-bit and 16-bit styles, so neither fits together very well. I'd say, pick either and stick with it, so the game feels more coherent. This is the most noticeable with the player-character sprites that have grating intense colors and black outlines while all the tiles are more muted and lack outlines. I'd rework whichever of them you have the least of (make backups first of course), and if you have 50-50 characters and overworld graphics, rework the characters (you can probably draw better sprites these days if you did those first).
    • There's no "whoosh" when the battles start, and it just kinda makes it feel... unimpactful. Some sort of sudden "oh crap" visual effect followed by a more intense screen transition than a slow fade. For instance, you can rotate the view with view_angle while lowering view_wview and view_hview each step to make the view zoom in while rotating.
    You can combat lack of innovation with clever writing easily, just look at how famous and popular the Earthbound / Mother series is. Have people make fun of RPG tropes and not take themselves too seriously. Maybe you don't need to collect the 4 elements to beat the bad guy, but since you're government-employed heroes you need to collect them because otherwise you need to do a lot more paperwork after saving the world. Stuff like that.

    For skills, you could code them really quickly if you just pick an easy way to store the skill info. What if every skill has a power, accuracy, animation, side effect and MP cost? Make one system to take all those into account, and just have skills use that data from an array. To keep things really simple, have side effects be objects so you can spawn poison instances etc and then use event_user() in the main battle control object to call upon their effects once per turn (using parenting so you won't need to call each object separately) (and obviously they need a "target" as well).
     
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  6. HeWhoShallNotBeNamed

    HeWhoShallNotBeNamed Member

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    I was guilty of a lot of the things you mentioned when I was first starting out (the oversized map thing being a major one) and I'm still guilty of a lot of it. One of the things you have going for you is an ability to address the shortcomings honestly. The first step is admitting you have a problem, ha! If anything, you might be a little too hard on yourself. Just because your game has a few specific issues, doesn't mean you can't or aren't already making something of "real quality." No game, whether by a solo developer or a triple A studio, starts out flawlessly. The fact that you're even thinking about these issues puts you ahead of a lot of people.

    If you're serious about this game, I'd look at all of those "fragmented" ideas. Find ways to bring them together if you can, cut them or save them for another project if you can't. Once I figured out the "core" elements of the project I'm working on now, I sort of made it a rule that any new idea I had for the game had to in some way feed into at least two of those core elements. I would have loved to had a Triple Triad or Gwent style collectible minigame, for example, but it would serve no purpose other than to give myself extra work. It seems that in your case, for example, magic and abilities could be combined into a single system. Also, look at your character classes. Are there any with similar functions that can be combined and/or eliminated?

    As for making your game unique, take a look at the game's world. Its easy to go, "Hey, I want a water temple" or "Let's make a fire level." But its important, especially in a story heavy genre like RPGs, for it to feel like your dungeons or towns are a connected part of the larger world and not something that's there just for the sake of it. Building atmosphere can do a lot to overcome shortcomings in terms of innovation. There are plenty of games (especially those that are part of a series) that are practically the same as things that have come before. On a functional level, the Red Dead Redemption series IS Grand Theft Auto. Atmosphere, setting, and tone make it something completely new. Don't worry about not being new or exciting: if this is your first major project without some sort of tutorial or guide, it would probably be best to keep things basic.

    You already know what's wrong and, more importantly, what could be done about it. Don't be afraid to throw things out and rebuild them. Any flaw or problem along the way isn't indicative of your inability to make something good. Take it as a lesson for next time.
     
  7. danzibr

    danzibr Member

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    Thanks again! Very inspirational. I'm thinking to put this particular project on the backburner, but yeah, I'm feeling inspired to start something else I'm excited about.
    Holy smokes. So much wisdom. A couple responses.
    • (menu object) Why did I never think of this!?
    • (music) Aww dang, I really like Kevin MacLeod. But... the more I play indie games and peruse YouTube, I am finding I hear a lot of his stuff.
    • (art) Admittedly... I know next to nothing about the differences. Need to get on researching that. In time. Yeah, I'm thinking for my next project to go all 16-bit style. Side note: my last project became "too much" because I had so much art in it. Went with a minimal approach this time, but as a result I don't like some of the animations, like walking forward/back in combat. Probably have to buckle and do 1 extra image.
    • (combat open) I like it! Might not do this exact thing, but yeah, need to do something.
    • (lack of innovation) I like it again! This game is sorta like that. The video I did doesn't show it, but a lot of the game is making fun of older games.
    • (active abilities) I did have an idea like this. In fact, the beginnings are coded into the damage formulae. I did not, however, think of the side effects-object thing. Man... I should post here more often.
    Thanks a ton!
    Yeah... I think about the really good indie games (or shoot, just games in general) I've played, and things do seem purposeful. Like, not having a water temple for the sake of having a water temple. Need to go back to the drawing board, streamlines things (systems, locations, etc.), give them purpose. Or cull them.

    And thanks for the insight/words of motivation!
     
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  8. YanBG

    YanBG Member

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    It's good and bad, because new projects can also hit the same old wall. I've done it, learned just a bit more but that's it.
     

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