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.
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.
Recently I have been working on getting the intro sequences in my upcoming game, Death? Preposterous! implemented in a rudimentary form.
As usual with things in active development, nothing presented here is 100% finalized so don’t be surprised if the look and feel changes between these development progress posts and release time.
With that out of the way, feast your eyes on one of the more prominent features of the introduction in the following image.
This particular piece of dialog is showing part of the protagonist’s inner thoughts during this part of the scene. A lot of times I feel like indie RPG Maker games rely heavily on the visuals to progress though and describe the events and scenes in the game. You will see characters vocalize quite a bit, even exchange banter with each other from time to time in some games.
However, in my opinion I feel like one area where they are commonly lacking a bit is getting inside a character’s head using internal dialog. You see it far more commonly in the visual novel genre of games than you do in RPG Maker games, and I believe that focus on internal thoughts and dialog is also part of what helps books be commonly considered “better” than their movie or TV show counterparts a lot of the time.
Because you get to go inside the characters’ heads more, you get to understand their thought processes better, or at the very least you can get a better idea of why they performed some of their actions or reactions, and their motivations driving them forward. Sometimes you can express that in action sequences, but I feel like action scenes are not always best to rely upon solely. I think a mix of both internal dialog and external actions works well.
Below you can see a later part of this same scene where character dialog is being spoken aloud rather than thought. It’s these little kinds of touches that I have been fleshing out in the intro sequence, and will also be working on in the main dialog where it makes sense to include as well.
By the way, you might have noticed, or perhaps been curious about, that crazy glowing fence in the screenshots above. Well, I’ll just say it will be somewhat important to the proceedings during the game, so you can look forward to finding out what its significance is, and what it might entail during the adventure.
Dear society at large (especially entertainment/media): If you’re going to censor (read: control) anything, try cutting out violence, pain, fear, and trauma from the experience, instead of nudity, sex, or any other such positive expression of natural human beauty and love.
Your holding a fear of something or someone neither justifies nor validates your act of causing them willful harm.
You can tell if you’ve made a sound choice, given sound advice, or done right by yourself and others in any given situation. There are some tricks to it that you need to be conscious of.
The first and most important thing is always trust your intuition. Lead with your first, most positive thought or idea.
Here’s an example the majority of us can relate to:
You drive to the store to buy some groceries or sundries or whatever, and as you’re leaving the parking lot on your way out, you see a person holding a sign that’s asking for assistance, be it money or food or a drink, etc.
What do you think when you see this?
How many thoughts run through your mind in those few moments of time between your stop at the traffic light and even after you drive away from that person?
If you’re anything like me, you probably get a half dozen or more different thoughts running through your head during those scant few seconds. Not all of them “good” ones either.
First tend to be the more positive, empathetic ones:
- That poor person.
- I wish I could help.
- Can I help?
- Do I have any money with me right now?
- Can I afford it?
- If things went differently, that might be me out there holding that sign.
- I wonder when the last time was they ate?
Then, next come the more doubtful, limiting ones:
- I only have a few coins in change, that person would probably be insulted if that was all I gave them.
- I don’t have the money to spare right now.
- What if this person is lying?
- Are they really poor at all or is it a scam?
- I don’t have time to stop.
- The people in the cars behind me will get mad if I do.
- Maybe next time.
These thoughts and more might spiral around in your head in a quick and dizzying fashion.
But here’s the trick to situations like this: stop thinking, start acting.
Your instinct, that very first intuitive impulse that you had to empathize with and be charitable towards this person. That’s all you need. Act on that. Give to that person and don’t think twice about it (literally, just keep the first positive thought you had, then act.)
If for some reason your first thought is not a charitable one, then it means you are afraid. You are afraid of something or someone about that situation to the point that you are letting it control you. Acknowledge this fact, and examine your fears. What is it that you are afraid of?
Once you’ve discovered why you are afraid, ask yourself why you are letting that fear hold you back from demonstrating your truth. Then the next time you are in that situation, remember how your first reaction was one of fear. Be conscious of it. Focus on your thoughts of empathy towards that person or situation, compassion, love. Let those positive thoughts be stronger than the fearful ones.
For you see, the secret to truly knowing you have made the right decision in any given moment, is when you feel at peace with your actions, words, or choices, even despite your fears. If you want to find that inner peace, act more out of your first, highest, intuitive positive thought.