Category Archives: Games

The appreciation that comes with small moments of progress

Sometimes you get stuck on things. In my case, this week it was stuck dealing with an issue in one of the final scenes in my game not functioning the way I thought it would as I originally pieced it all together. It took a lot of trial and error and testing, but I finally got it figured out, and now the scene that was previously broken is functioning as I originally had intended for it to.

Even though I can’t really say I got very much “done” this week, I’m grateful I was able to take something moderately complex that was “broken” and get it functioning properly again. It was a relief in a sense, knowing it is now working properly. Even amidst my feelings of frustration for a perceived lack of overall productivity, there was still a sense of gratitude for making this sort of “little progress” on an unexpected hurdle.

My Patreon Page is Live!

You can check it out here! https://www.patreon.com/jayrayhawk

This is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now, but I wasn’t really sure how to go about it.

Most of the time I see folks who are artists, or doing the kinds of things where they are able to produce a lot of tangible content frequently (videos or music etc.), who are using Patreon to its best effect. I believe those are the sorts of things that it fits best in general.

As an indie game developer and self-publishing indie author solo act, it took some extra consideration on how exactly I could put one together and still give people something worth subscribing for, without necessarily having to devote a huge amount of time into creating additional content beyond what I’m already working on just to appease the expectations of patrons.

I felt like whatever I did with Patreon rewards, it needed to be as a natural extension or result of what I already am producing for the most part, rather than adding a bunch of extra stuff to my workload. That was the challenge that I faced in trying to think of a way to provide rewards to folks who were generous enough to help support me financially.

But after awhile of considering what I could do and what I had to offer others in this regard, I did manage to come up with enough ideas to launch a Patreon page of my own starting today, which you can check out here: https://www.patreon.com/jayrayhawk

For now I have settled on two tiers with content that I believe I will be able to add fairly regularly, at least a couple times a month. My goal is an average of one post or update a week, with a minimum I’ve set myself for at least one update a month. This is my first time trying something like this, so I kept my commitments to it on the low side, that way I don’t get in over my head early on and end up feeling overwhelmed by it.

We’ll see how it goes though! I appreciate everyone who takes the time out of their day to check it out, and spreading the word about it would really help me out!

Updated Game Info: New Release Window, Non-violent Design Philosophy

After the better part of a year, I’ve updated the page on my site regarding my game in development Death? Preposterous! with new information and images.

There is a new target release window for the game, and additional insight into some of my design philosophies and goals that I have had throughout the creation and development process.

I plan to update the page even further after the game has released as well, so you can look forward to that.

You can check it out here: https://jayrayhawk.com/games/death-preposterous/

New Banner Images

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been active here, but that’s because my focus has been on working more on Death? Preposterous! until I can complete it.

In the meantime, I have taken a number of screenshots of the game, and I’ve updated the banner images you see at the top of my site using these new images.

They’ll randomly be chosen from the pool of 30 images as you navigate this website, but you can check them all out below in this post too.

For those of you following along with my twitter account or my facebook page, you’ll notice that I’ve also updated to a new image there as well.

 

My Recent Game Development Progress

As I mentioned in the previous post, and as followers have no doubt noticed, it has been quite awhile since I’ve last posted anything of substance here.

During this time period I have still been working on my indie RPG Maker game “Death? Preposterous!”, but the progress hasn’t been totally steady over the past 4 months. There was a good solid stretch of time for about 2 months where I was in a really bad productivity/life slump that started back in February and ran through most of April as well.

This was a long stretch of time where I was unable to motivate myself to do much of anything, even the things I normally would enjoy working on, like my game project, I felt pretty lackluster overall and was unable to make much progress.

However in the past few weeks that feeling has finally subsided and I have begun working on it in earnest again. There is no such thing as “making up for lost time” really, but I also realize now how much longer it is taking to bring the ideas from my mind into reality in the game itself. Everything takes an excessively longer period of time to implement than I imagine it will. It’s simple to think of an idea, but takes much more time and effort to actually bring it into existence.

For example, recently I have been adding wildlife into the game to help the maps feel less empty and barren. I feel like it has been an excellent addition to the game and helps bring the game world to life. I originally thought this would be a simple thing to do that I could have finished in a few days at worst, and it has taken me weeks instead of days, and I am still not quite done adding wildlife to all of the maps.

Many setbacks like these, unrealistic visions of the ideas in my head vs. the actual time and effort required to implement them the way I imagined them, end up taking the scope of the project and throwing it out the window.

Two things I have definitely learned from this experience making this game off, and mostly on, over the past 9 months are:

  1. An RPG is too much time consuming work for a single person to complete in any sort of reasonable amount of time on their own, and
  2. I am apparently not a person who is going to be able to accurately estimate when a project will be “done” ahead of time… not even remotely close. I was terrible at it in the office job I held for 7 years before I quit that and started this (risky? insane? wonderful?) period of self-employment, and I’m terrible at guessing how long it’ll take even when I’m in full control of the project as is the case with creating this RPG Maker game.

So… I’m not even going to try and guess anymore “when it will be done” because I’ve learned I cannot imagine anything close to the realistic truth of it, as far as how long something will actually take to complete. Even when I grossly over-estimate in my head to “be sure I’ll make it by then”, even that ends up being not enough time to meet the reality of it all.

All that said… I am at a point in the development where I know I’m getting close to the end (relatively speaking) of the project, and what I originally envisioned for the game is not impossibly distant anymore. In other words the game is far enough along at this point that it is feeling like an actual game now. Things are coming together, and it’s no longer just a bunch of random bits and pieces shoved together but rather feeling like a cohesive whole “thing”….or at least like it’s getting there.

In other words it’s far enough along at this point that I am going to continue to see it through until it is finished, even if that takes a lot longer than I thought it would (it always seems to) to reach that point, I’m going to reach it.

It’s exciting knowing that I’ve made it far enough to where it is really starting to come together and be a real thing. I can definitely see the “light at the end of the tunnel” as the saying goes….it’s still a ways off, so don’t get too excited, but it no longer feels like I’m just bumbling about in the darkness. There really is an end to it all and I can see it off in the distance at this point.

So if you were to ask me today, when will the game finally be out? I don’t know and I’m tired of pretending like I have a reasonable idea when the real answer is “It’s done when it’s finished and I’m satisfied with it.” Maybe this summer? Maybe in the fall? Maybe later than I can imagine? Regardless of the time it does end up taking me to finish though, I am confident that there is enough of a game here now that I will see it through to completion in any case. It wants to be born into this world and I’m doing my best within my limited means to create it. Just finishing it and getting it out to the world is my goal at this point, and I feel that will be accomplishment enough.

As a final thought for this post, you may have noticed that the banner images on my site redesign are different than they used to be. Did you notice they also change from time to time? They all feature recent screenshots from some of the maps and characters in Death? Preposterous! and I thought it would be a nice idea to show you the full versions of those screenshots here in this post, since you can only get so much of an idea from a banner sized image.

You can click on the images below to see them in their larger original sizes. Please keep in mind that these are technically still screenshots of a game currently in development and do not necessarily represent the final version of the game… though to be honest they are pretty far along and at this point I don’t imagine there will be too many other changes to how these areas look other than perhaps a few cosmetic tweaks or additions, so this should be a pretty solid look at these areas.

I will have some more updates in the future (at some point) with more details about the game’s story and characters and features etc., and the storefront page on itch.io is slowly coming together too. I’ll probably share that with everyone when I get it looking a bit better finalized, and fill it with more information about the game as well, so you can look forward to that at some undetermined point in the future. In the meanwhile I’m getting back to work on finishing up the parts of the game I still need to do. However long that takes is however long that takes, but hopefully not too terribly much longer now. We’ll see how it goes. Just keep moving forward. Progress is progress yes?

Developments #03 – Death? Preposterous!

In last week’s developments post, I discussed the importance of doing things differently, and gave an example of how I am structuring some of the NPC dialog in my upcoming game Death? Preposterous!

Today I’ll be continuing that sort of theme by taking a look at another place you can innovate: the encounter system in the game. Now, you’ll notice I didn’t say “the battle system” and instead chose to use the word “encounter” to describe it. This was intentional and in and of itself is an important distinction.

You see, in my game I have chosen for there to not be “battles” strictly speaking. You aren’t going to walk around, gain money from defeating monsters, buy equipment from the weapon or armor shops, find treasure chests randomly in the forest or dungeons, beat the boss monsters, or in general going around slaying everything you come in contact with.

I thought long and hard about how I could bring the general RPG experience to the player but without falling victim to all the tropes and stereotypes often seen in the genre. There will be encounters in the game, as you can see in the following teaser images for example, however they will not play out in the way you might expect.

Screenshot from 2017-11-28 13-24-53

Familiar looking, yet different. Similar to what you have seen before, yet done in a somewhat unorthodox way. The encounter system is another area where many games will innovate, and Death? Preposterous! is no exception. The direction I have taken things is quite unorthodox, and while I can’t quite call it completely unique or never-before-seen, I do hope it will capture your interest with its unusual presentation nonetheless.

Screenshot from 2017-11-28 13-25-40

Put simply, the encounters in Death? Preposterous! are going to be more puzzle oriented. Simply mashing the “Attack” option and buying 99 potions from the item shop will not be getting you through the encounters in this game. In fact, potions or item shops aren’t even going to feature in the game. For that matter, neither will an “Attack” command.

These aren’t battles, they are encounters. Meetings with strange creatures. Rather than instantly resorting to mindless hostility that is never questioned in the average RPG, here you will be using some more basic principles to make your way through each encounter in the game.

Screenshot from 2017-11-28 13-26-08

As you may have already deduced from these screenshots, one such action you will be utilizing frequently in the game is observation. What are these things you find yourself facing? What do they look like? What are they doing? How do they seem to behave towards you? How do they react to your actions? These are some of the kinds of things you can observe in the game.

This idea came to me from taking a quote from Toby Fox, developer of the now famous and wonderfully successful indie game Undertale, to heart. The game is one of my favorites, and there is a lot of inspiration I took away from it as well as many other sources from my long history of having video games for a life passion.

The specific quote I am talking about is this one from an interview he did with Escapist Magazine:

I feel that it’s important to make every monster feel like an individual. If you think about it basically all monsters in RPGs like Final Fantasy are the same, save for the graphics. They attack you, you heal, you attack them, they die. There’s no meaning to that. – Toby Fox

This really struck a chord with me. I’ve played countless RPGs over my 3 decades of life, ever since I was a small child I’ve enjoyed them immensely, and so having been exposed to so many over the years, I can recognize the truth and wisdom of this statement.

As I was still coming up with exactly what I wanted my game to do differently, and how to go about doing it, this idea of making the encounters appear to have more meaning was a driving factor behind what I ended up deciding on.

In Death? Preposterous! as you identify certain aspects of whatever you come in contact with, future encounters with similar creatures will reflect what you have already discovered about them.

Screenshot from 2017-11-28 13-27-23

The idea I had for it in my head is similar to what you might do when studying animal behavior. Part of the game will be about studying the behavior of the… whatever they are… that you end up meeting, and learning a little about them as you do. My hope is that this will take something mundane and otherwise forgettable that you would easily overlook in a typical RPG, and give it enough meaning that a player might enjoy discovering more about the things they face in the game.

I will further divulge some details on these unique puzzle style encounters that you will be able to experience in the game in a future development post. For now though, you should begin to get a small idea of what is in store for the game.

Developments #02: Death? Preposterous!

I believe it is of a paramount importance to attempt to create an experience for players that offers something unique, or at least uncommon.

Many would argue that everything has been done already regardless of your medium or genre at this point, and I will acknowledge that it becomes difficult to create something completely new.

However, even if you are creating something that has “already been done before” by many others, I believe it is important to look for ways you can do things differently, something about your creation that makes it stand out from the crowd in a way that is not seen very often. Aspire to have something that “makes it your own” in the sense that it is at least a little bit innovative.

Sometimes that can be a simple thing. Taking a look at game development in particular (though this concept applies to any sort of creative field) for example you might have a unique and custom battle system in your Role Playing Game. Sometimes it can be the art style that is unique. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything about the entire experience needs to be original for something to be considered interesting or unique. In fact, some familiarity can be beneficial too.

One way that I am endeavoring to bring uniqueness to the experience in my indie RPG Death? Preposterous! is by making dialog with NPCs a bit more robust than you usually find. (For those who don’t know, NPC is short for Non-Player Characters, meaning characters that the player isn’t in control of.)

If you look at the way the average Role Playing Game tends to handle NPC dialog, you’ll find that most characters will have one or two things to say to the player, at which point if they try to speak with them further, they’ll just repeat themselves.

Often what will happen in a game is the player will talk to a few NPCs in the game, and maybe they’ll go around and talk to all of them in a given area once or twice. Many times though the many NPCs will go ignored, especially if the player already has a good idea of where to go and what to do next. This is because when NPCs are used generically and without creativity, they simply exist as  guides for the player to progress that, once conditions have been fulfilled, often times NPCs no longer hold any value to the player.

This creates very static and uninteresting NPC characters for the most part. Sure you might have a few memorable ones here and there if their lines are interesting enough and filled with enough personality, but that’s rarely the case.

Expecting the player to interact and engage with NPC characters that don’t add much to the experience is like expecting someone to re-read an operations manual when they are already well versed in operating a device.

The other thing you don’t see too often with NPCs is movement. NPC characters are almost always just hanging out in the same place, saying the same things, their sole purpose in life seems to be waiting around for the player to come find them so they can deliver their one or two lines and then fade away from relevance and memory.

For my game I have attempted to find ways to make NPCs a bit more interesting to engage with than the typical fare. Instead of just saying one or two things, they have a larger pool of dialog to select from at random, giving some variety to the conversations the player will get to engage with even from the unessential NPC characters. There will still be some characters that have more scripted dialog that are central to the story, but even these I endeavor to have that dialog change as the events in the game progress and unfold, giving them a bit more dynamic substance and expression.

Screenshot from 2017-11-21 10-50-59

And the other point I touched on was quite simple, a lack of movement. In Death? Preposterous! there will be times where you will meet the same NPC but in different areas, and there are also times where they will not always appear in areas where you have seen them previously. This is a very small thing, but it has a pretty important impact. What it does is this allows the NPCs a sense of purpose and makes it feel like they are living their lives in this place they inhabit. It adds an element of realism to the experience and makes these characters a bit more believable . They aren’t always going to be standing right in the town square saying the same two things they said 10 hours of game play time ago, long after the events they are talking about have been resolved.

It’s my belief that it is important to make these characters you encounter feel a bit more like actual people, and these are a few of the ways that I hope to give the player some sense of that. While eventually they will still succumb to the inevitable repetition in dialog, it will be more unpredictable in that sense. Between the deeper pool of dialog possibilities, and changes in conversations that reflect events as they transpire, my hope is that this should prove to make my game feel a little different than what you see in your average, generic, uninspired RPG.