My Little Game Dev

Full Version: If I Started Over Now... (Unicorn Quest)
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]


My first Adventures in Equica title isn't even out yet and I can already see some missteps that I would have approached differently. I'm too far in to do much about them now but I will keep these ideas in mind if/when I do a sequel years from now.



[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]


The biggest thing bugging me is the perspective. I can't keep a game taking place mostly outside at a top down view using sideways sprites. If you look at Clover's side view it's fit for a sidescroller (which matches the image she was inspired from). The same goes for the trees and other objects clashing with the perfectly square grass tiles. I really should have went with a more roguelike tilted view of the characters and objects but I'm way too far along to turn around and remake all the sprites from scratch unless I want to delay the game for a few more months (No).


[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]


I tried to cope with it and made sure that you could see the back wall when indoors and other tricks like that but this stuff still bugs me a little. Next time around I'll aim for something more like this picture here. Use angles to make the floors feel tilted, have objects & characters be more three dimensional, and try different ways to hide the existence of the sky. Pokemon does it right so why not emulate those techniques?


I also noticed similar things with games like Earthbound where the sprites look off but you don't care because the feel is right. That's what I'm hoping unicorn Quest can achieve. Nobody will notice the visual flaws if the rest of the game runs smoothly. It'll just make the graphics of the sequel seem like a dramatic improvement (like Mother to Mother 3 or Super Mario Bros to Super Mario Bros 3).


[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F1.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]
My current plans for a world map. Labeled boss encounters, towns, and dungeons.

Another thing I'd change is the scope. Admittedly I'm still altering this now. I want to shrink it to a point where it's really feasible, but I also want there to be so many colorful set pieces. The point of this project was to have a big RPG adventure under my belt so I can prove to myself and the world that I can make one. Setting the stage so I can shoot for even greater heights with my next few titles. that would give me the confidence in my ability I'll need to make it own my own as an indie developer.


I think that if I keep the game rooms small and minimize cinematic sequences (telling most of the story through optional text) I can still have the huge world I see in my head but still be able to make it by Christmas. At the most dire, if I cut content too much I'll lower my asking price and put the game up for $1. I think even with a 4 hour campaign you can play multiple times it'd be worth at least that much.


If I could advise my former self I'd tell him to try to make an extremely small scope with high replay value instead. Maybe something like this:


[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F1.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]


"You play as Clover, the young apprentice of the greatest sorcerer who ever lived. You are tasked with developing your magic by navigating through dungeons your mentor has constructed for you. At the end of the dungeon you will encounter a boss monster and by defeating it you will learn a new spell and increase your health by one heart.


If you master the dungeon 10 times you will have learned every spell and can re-enter the dungeon again to see randomized layouts using rooms you've visited before (now with higher level enemies to keep up with you). In-between dungeon runs you can explore a small overworld with shops (to give you an edge), speak with townsfolk (to give the feeling of this being an actual world), fight respawning monsters unique to the dangerous forest (to level up before the next dungeon run), and find loot in the wilderness (equips to make yourself stronger).


To top it all off the game could end with some big shadowy evil attacking your home town as you are tasked with saving everyone using the magic you got to defeat the minions and their final boss leader."


[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]


That's a vague idea pitch that could be fleshed out further and executed on. I could still use everything I've made so far but feel so much closer to a final build. If I could just focus on the left chunk of the map and focus on developing a hub world with a surrounding forest the game's feasibility could benefit greatly.


I might be able to keep the varied environments I desire by having the dungeons be color coded & themed to match the boss' type of magic. The only standing sacrifice would be to the story that I developed (but haven't shared with anyone yet). At the end of the day, I want t make a good game more than I want to make a good story so I might just have to come up with something new or make the old work with the new. Maybe even just save that world map for a sequel where you travel the continent.


I actually feel like something like this would work out better and be done faster (and with more polish). A more feasible version of my first big RPG... As of writing this I'm seriously considering changing the game's sprawling world with a cinematic story and 5 dungeon/16 boss structure to the idea written above.


I could really use some outside opinions on this.
Which would you rather see? Which do you think I should do?
I'd rather have a game be a game not a movie. Although cinematic are awe inspiring, if the gameplay isn't good enough most people won't bother to see all of them. I don't mind at all the 2D sprites on a 2.5D lay out (Primarily because I do it myself.) Other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything here.
(07-04-2014, 10:23 AM)Dark_X Wrote: [ -> ]I'd rather have a game be a game not a movie. Although cinematic are awe inspiring, if the gameplay isn't good enough most people won't bother to see all of them. I don't mind at all the 2D sprites on a 2.5D lay out (Primarily because I do it myself.) Other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything here.

Thanks. I'm feeling the same way about gameplay over story.
After a lot of thinking, writing, sketching, and general reorganization of the mind I've settled on a game plan. I will rename my current project and call it Unicorn Training and call it's sequel Unicorn Quest. This first game will act as a prologue to my original idea.

Making this smaller scale version of the game frees up a lot of possibilities for me while fulfilling the reason I wanted Unicorn Quest to exist in the first place. I'll have a cool RPG under my belt, I'll set the stage for a sequel that expands on the world I want to build, and I'll be able to make said sequel as my graduation project (hopefully with a budget allowing for a collaboration with a certain pixel artist I know of).

The dragon RPG demo that was going to be my senior capstone project can now get pushed back so I can start it right after Unicorn Training (I can't start my other pony RPG until the first day of mobile gaming class). Then I'll have 2 really cool games to my name (and hopefully an income above my current zero) before starting the two biggest RPGs in my head.

See everything I wrote in my messy design document so far below.


Shrink Scope

"You play as Clover, the young apprentice of the greatest sorcerer who ever lived. You are tasked with developing your magic by navigating through dungeons your mentor has constructed for you. At the end of the dungeon you will encounter a boss monster and by defeating it you will learn a new spell and increase your health by one heart.

If you master the dungeon 10 times you will have learned every spell and can re-enter the dungeon again to see randomized layouts using rooms you've visited before (now with higher level enemies to keep up with you). In-between dungeon runs you can explore a small overworld with shops (to give you an edge), speak with townsfolk (to give the feeling of this being an actual world), fight respawning monsters unique to the dangerous forest (to level up before the next dungeon run), and find loot in the wilderness (items to make yourself stronger)."


Shrink the game’s scope to make it easier to build. Retain important elements from original plan.

- A $1 Adventure
- Just focus on challenging dungeons and the surrounding forest where you can optionally grow stronger.
- 10 set dungeons, later playthroughs mix & match rooms and bosses. Enemies scale post-game.
- Forest enemies scale and swap out to more powerful foes.
- Swirllock has ventured beyond the Lurkwood for mysterious reasons. He warns to be ready for a quest upon his return, or whatever evil comes in his place. He left a newborn pixie and several notes to assist you.
- You live among the few Unicorns settled within the forest. Mostly researchers studying the forest’s magic at the risk of imminent monster attacks. You are disconnected from the rest of Equica because of the dangerous living conditions. Swirllock moved here to study the power life giving magic here in order to find a means of maintaining a permanent ecosystem on the floating island. A small few followed him.
- You live on the floating continent of Equica and are curious of life beyond the forest. Dreaming of seeing the legendary world’s edge where you can see the swirling clouds below. To see the great city of Prominence, to see dried ocean desert and Glittershine mines. To see Bright Valley, where your parents once lived…
- Instill that longing to see the world in the player as well (To be satisfied in the sequel).
- Parax has the ability to warp back to the observatory at any time.
- Some items are guarded by really tough enemies you’ll need to level up to beat.
- No dreamscape arena. The mixed dungeon satisfies replay.
- Don’t go showing this to IGN just yet. Wait for Pony RPG.
- Demo goes to end of 1st dungeon, one cave, and a few forest areas to explore. Block off the gem cave and other regions with NPCs and rocks.
- Theming with the dungeons. Fire is aggressive and rooms grow in size. Shield is about staying alive. Water uses the environment. Frost is about avoiding trouble.
- Plaques in dungeons near door explaining the room’s purpose. “A strong mind is a Unicorn’s greatest strength. You’ll find that outsmarting foes and resolving situations is more effective than immense magical strength.”
- You can replay old dungeons or mix rooms based on ones you've beaten.
- Multiple ways to solve rooms based on the magic you have.
- Choose which dungeon to go into. Random dungeon is unlocked after beating at least 2.
- Gem Cave is the easiest way to dig for gems, but you have to fight gem stealing rat monsters that vanish through walls.
- Outside enemies are nature based. Swirllock’s conjured things are mechanical and abstract. The gem eye is a common feature.

Sequel
[Image: proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com...=image%2F*]
Graphics more like this.
- Call sequel Unicorn Journey? How About Calling This Unicorn Training and the Sequel Unicorn Quest? For $2.99 multiplatform.
- Make Unicorn Quest after Dragon RPG using top down adjusted perspective sprites with rougelike elements and defeat the Zephyr who mastered a specific magic you have.
- Journey beyond the forest and into the Equica mainland in search of your missing mentor.
- Gives time to get feedback on combat & spell improvements.
- With Dragon RPG done you’ll have that action RPG experience to fall back on. Make Unicorn Quest more tactical. Maybe even turn based?
- Free movement in overworld but grid based in battles. Attacks have different behaviors and the combat is strategic. Different combat system in every sequel or make this one a staple?
- Portrait. Tiny, detailed sprites. Work with Pix3M if possible (If budget available).
- Think of Fire emblem, FF Tactics, and more.
- A year after first game’s ending; you get news that Swirllock has gone missing. Reported by the princess herself! She demands a meeting with Clover regarding protection of the kingdom in Swirllock’s place. On your way over you get ambushed by Zephyr and are taken to bright valley by strangers who nurse you. The search for your master and audience with the princess begins.
- Much more cinematic (using experience from Pony RPG & Dragon RPG).
- A lot more time to develop it (demo for graduation, then take time to finish afterwards).
- A PvP mode if possible?
- All about fighting (combat puzzles) rather than dungeons.
- Randomized battle maps for average encounters.
- Make this my grad game.
Don't throw out what you've done because it's not close enough to perfect, otherwise you'll never finish anything!
No way I'd throw out anything this far in. I'm just shifting course to a closer island. Everything that's not just a written idea will be in the final release.

Unicorn Training suddenly holds more meaning now. Thanks to the latest Sequelitis Video I've been thinking more about aligning player goals/desires with that of the in-game avatar. When the story matches with what the player wants to do there is an immediate connection. You can relate at least on that level to the character you're playing as and immersion is key to a good experience.

With my new plan of spreading the game into 2 parts I can create a story that matches my feelings as the creator, the player's desire to explore and fight, and Clover's desire to grow stronger and see the world.

The story needs to be brief and impactful. I want the game to start with something that makes players think "I like Clover. I'm excited to play this game!" so I wrote this in the design document to help give me an idea of how the game should begin:
  • Start game with Clover’s thoughts as white text over blackness.
  • “Forest scenery. Magic studies. And the same old town.”
  • “I wasn't around when he founded the place, but I find myself wishing Swirllock picked a place with a view to do his research.”
  • “Same old food… Trees for miles… Nopony is my age...”
  • “It hasn't been too long since we moved here. I can still remember living in Bright Valley.”
  • “Why did we have to shut out the outside world? It’s like he has us hiding from something…”
  • “But what does the greatest sorcerer of all time need to hide from?”
  • “He won’t tell me anything. It’s always ‘When you’re further along…’ as he scratches his lengthy beard.”
  • “I think I need a change of pace. Maybe if I practice harder Swirllock will see how good I am with magic and let me explore!”
  • Fade to Clover in her room at the observatory. Game start. Mute for the rest of the game. Never explain outright in-game that it was Clover’s thoughts.
  • Like Link or Red, the player is Clover so the rest of her personality is built by player imagination. Is her strongest desire to become more powerful, explore, or live up to her master's name as savior? It's whatever the player wants most. The goals of the game match what the player is playing for.

I made sure to squeeze in some world building things in this opening monologue too. Phrases like "nopony" and "everypony" will be used frequently. I also put in a few words to build up Swirllock's reputation and mental image (you'll hear a lot about him from NPCs). Plus I made sure that for this instance Clover has a voice that makes her seem young and yearning to escape boredom (which is exactly what she is). I think this will successfully set the mood for the game and let players who like story have something to start with while letting players who don't care get to the action quickly (hopefully with a bit of curiosity to make them care more later).

The game is about preparing for something big that is to come. Sort of like the buildup to the beast in Infamous 2. Your mysterious mentor (who is busy doing something important in that place you want to go to) is gearing you up for something dangerous. This game is about becoming the strong heroine you will be in Unicorn Quest.

Another thing I realized when writing this was how the altered story perspective matches my ideals as the creator. Like Clover I'm not yet ready for big adventure to come. Sure I'm eager and can see I have the talent, but it's still not time. I need this last spurt of practice which will teach me so much more that will better prepare me for a large adventure.

When Unicorn Quest comes out it'll be a year post-game and Clover will have grown into an adept mage who can take on the world and I will have grown by a year in real life as a developer proven capable of delivering huge promises. Clover will have grown from some off-screen training and I will have grown from making another small RPG and one huge RPG (for my mobile games class).

I suddenly see the game world in a whole new light. This series means the world to me now. This is my first RPG. I care about the world of Equica. I can see myself making bigger and better sequels ten years from now. And it all starts here.

Clover and I are connected in that we are preparing for greatness by seeing what Unicorn Training has left to teach us. First I'll deliver a good RPG, then I'll take that experience and deliver great ones.