Tag Archives: video games

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.


Developments #01: Death? Preposterous!

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.

Screenshot from 2017-11-14 18-25-39

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.

Screenshot from 2017-11-14 18-27-58

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.

Death? Preposterous! Reveal

Have you ever wondered what happens when we die? What if we have it all wrong? What if there is no death, but only more life? What if there is no hell, only a heaven, even for those who did questionable or cruel deeds during their life?

These are some of the questions and ideas that I was determined to create and explore in game form. My game currently in development Death? Preposterous! takes a look at these sorts of ideas from a story and also a gameplay perspective.

I’ll be posting updates here periodically throughout the remainder of development, so you can follow along with progress updates by subscribing to my blog on this site or following me on Twitter or my Facebook page.

For now, click on through to the Death? Preposterous! page on my site for more info about the game including additional development screenshots, and a bit more on my vision for the title, aspirations, and a loose estimate for a release timeframe.

If you like old video games, check out my new e-book!

cover image for website

Do you like old videogames? If so, check out my new e-book: 20 Games Worth Playing for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Inside you’ll learn a little about each game, what makes them great, the most affordable way to get your hands on a copy of them today, some trivia and helpful secrets, and more!

From classics like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario World, to obscure games nobody has heard of before like First Samurai, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So what are you waiting for? It’s a no-brainer! Just ask Zombies Ate My Neighbors!

You can buy it on Amazon today or take advantage of the Kindle Unlimited service and read it for free! If you like it, be sure to leave a review and tell a friend!

Splatoon 2 – Splatfest World Premiere

The Splatoon 2 Nintendo Direct video was posted today, containing all sorts of fun new information for the game. The game arrives in just a few weeks.

Among other announcements in the video, there is going to be a Splatfest demo event that anyone who has a Nintendo Switch console is free to download and play on July 15th from 3pm to 7pm pacific time, and you can play during the 4 hour period to see what you think of the game. Splatoon 2 comes out on July 21st, so it precedes the release of the full game.


These events are always a lot of fun, and everyone who has a Nintendo Switch console is encouraged to check out the demo event if they will be available during the 4 hours that it will be running.

I am #teamcream for this one for sure, myself! (Also #TeamMarina while we’re at it!) Hope to see you squids and kids out there on the splattlefield for some fun friendly turf inking! Win or lose, it’s all about having fun!

Steam Direct Pricing and Launch Date Details Announced Today

Valve made some important new blog posts for game developers over the past few weeks, with perhaps the most noteworthy one appearing today on their Steam news blog.

There was much debate over the past few months when Valve first announced they were changing the previous game submission system called Steam Greenlight, to a new system they are calling Steam Direct. The main question on my mind was how much the fee was going to be to submit a game to Steam.

Under the old Steam Greenlight system, there was a one-time $100 USD fee per account, and from there you could submit as many games as you had made. The main difficulty with Greenlight however was that a game relied on getting a sufficient number of positive votes from users who engaged with the Greenlight voting system before it was allowed a shot at appearing on Steam.

What that sometimes meant was that your game you submitted could be stuck waiting for user votes that never came along. Greenlight “limbo” if you will. Also a few less-than-scrupulous developers had reportedly been abusing the system to get their game on Steam, even if it did not reflect what the actual Greenlight community had an interest in playing.

Now under the new Steam Direct, Valve said that the voting system from Greenlight was being done away with, and like its name suggests, developers are able to pay a fee to get their game on the Steam platform directly. However the fee is no longer going to be account based, but rather submission based per game.

When they originally announced this earlier in the year, Valve said they were considering fees anywhere from $100 to $5000 per game submission. Steam Direct was thus a cause for much discussion, especially debating a reasonable fee to be charging developers for each game they submitted to the platform.

Today Valve announced that they will be charging the minimum fee that they were originally looking at: $100 per game submission.

As an aspiring indie game developer myself, and I’m sure I can speak for a lot of other indie developers out there too, this news comes as a welcome relief. Had the price been set too high, it would have meant that smaller groups or single person dev teams might not have been able to afford to get their game on the Steam platform. Since they decided to go with the lowest fee of $100 per game, this makes it more accessible to more developers. That’s great news for developers on a budget, and in my opinion this is in Valve’s best interest to do too. It makes it so they don’t drive away or shut out any potential developers from bringing their games to Steam.

The Steam Direct service will be launching on June 13th.

Things That Bring Me Joy: Undertale

As it is important in life to indulge in things that bring you joy, I decided that I would begin also writing blog posts where I talk about some of my favorite video games.

Anyone who knows me knows that video games are a big part of my life. I have called them not just a hobby, but one of my life’s passions in the past, and I believe that still holds true today. Even though I am changing more and more every day, there are still some aspects of the me of yesterday that bring me joy that I can still look fondly to, and good video games are one of them.

As an important side note: I will endeavor to keep this and future such posts free from spoilers for their content. I would not want to rob you of the joy and mystery that accompanies the experience of the game for yourself. There are plenty of other websites out there that will give you every last detail of a game’s content if that’s what you are looking for.

So, with those explanations out of the way, today I’ll start my first such post by talking a bit about the game Undertale. If any of you reading this are familiar with video games, you’ve probably at least heard this name tossed around the internet in recent years, and for good reason too. It is a very popular and successful “indie game”.


But why? What makes it stand out from the crowd?

Here you can see the game’s launch trailer if you are curious to learn more about it.

Now in my opinion, even that trailer only gives you a small glimpse of the charm and humor that the game contains. It’s not really enough on its own to get across the magnitude of just what makes Undertale a standout title and good game.

I think if I had to sum it up in a single concept it would be this:
Undertale invites players to empathize, and does so with a smile.
What the heck is that supposed to mean in the context of a video game? Well… allow me to explain my thoughts.

It makes you smile, or even laugh.

First up is the game’s humor. The dialog in the game often puts a smile on my face. Sometimes it is very quirky and unexpected, and that only adds to the game’s charm.

The characters you meet along the journey are a big part of it too. Each of them really does have a personality of their own that is expressed quite well, and it is through the characters you encounter as you are playing that the game’s story is driven. You feel like you really get to know them during the adventure.

Some of them are comical, others are a bit mysterious, some are all business. It is the mix of these personalities and the humorous dialog and scenarios that really gets people interested and engaged and wanting to see what else happens in the game. But that’s not the only ace Undertale is hiding up its sleeves.

It challenges convention.

Another very strong theme throughout the game is challenging convention. While it’s true that Undertale has a lot of aspects to it that are what you would call conventional game elements for a Role-Playing Game (RPG), it also takes a lot of conventions and tosses them out the window, or spins them on their heads. This is done throughout the entire experience with purpose and sometimes in very subtle ways, but also in very noticeable ones too.

For example let’s take a look at this image from the game.


This is a screenshot from an early part in the game, and it shows the character that the player controls at a “Save Point” which is something that is familiar to all RPG fans, allowing the player to record their progress in the game and resume play from this point.

And yet even here in something as simple and commonplace as a save point, Undertale shows its uniqueness. Not only does the game describe an action taken by the character to the player, it explains the character’s feelings as well. This is highly unorthodox for an interaction with a save point, but it’s the things like this which subtly add depth to the experience.

Here is another example image, this time a very obvious departure from convention, and it illustrates one of Undertale’s strongest standout features.


This is an image of the game’s encounter screen.

Traditionally in an RPG the player would be tasked with fighting monsters, creatures, people, ghosts, machines, and all manner of things you could imagine in order to progress through the game and experience the story and the various features it has to offer. You’ll notice the first icon on the bottom left menu says “Fight” and in this way Undertale retains that classic RPG aspect we have all come to expect and take for granted as “just the way things are done” in the genre. And yet here again Undertale really shines because it simultaneously breaks this convention by including the “Act” option.

Undertale touts itself as “The RPG game where you don’t have to destroy anyone.” Now, if you think about it, this in and of itself is very novel. As I mentioned before, the convention has always been that there are battles in an RPG, that you are expected to fight an opposing force.

While not all RPGs depict gruesome deaths upon defeating these enemies, and some RPGs have even gone out of their way to ensure the player that the enemies are simply knocked unconscious rather than killed, it is generally understood that the player fights the enemy using their party of characters, the enemies are defeated, and then new stronger enemies appear in your path, so on and so forth.

With Undertale’s “Act” menu, all of that convention is challenged. It essentially offers players a way to progress through the encounters with the game’s monsters in a non-violent way, if the player so chooses. In the image above for example the choices the player can utilize in the Act menu are shown to be “Check”, “Criticize”, “Encourage”, and “Hug”.

These options change in the game depending on the monster that you encounter, and each one has a unique set of interactions and often humorous dialog to go along with it. You can see an example of the dialog that goes along with one such encounter in the image below, where the player faces a pair of monsters that are prone to wiggling.


It’s important that the game gives players a choice too, because those who wish to play the game more like a traditional RPG are able to do so without necessarily being forced into playing it in a way that is foreign or unconventional. In other words it accommodates both traditional and revolutionary gameplay styles. And not only that, but the game was designed around these options in different ways, which you especially will see in the encounters with monsters. Choosing the “Fight” option gives you a different set of gameplay mechanics to work with than when you choose the “Act” option, and in this way the game offers a lot of variety in the overall experience.

It has an excellent soundtrack.

The game’s music score is another strong point and definitely adds a noteworthy element of cohesion to the experience. I will admit to being ignorant to much of the music world, but to my untrained ears the soundtrack is quite fantastic, harkening back to the earlier years of gaming. It offers up a variety of tones and moods that are fitting to the scenes of the game itself, and in my opinion they are catchy and memorable enough to enjoy all on their own. As I understand it, there is a concept called leitmotif that is at work on much of the game’s soundtrack, which in practical terms boils down to having parts of key songs on the soundtrack repeated in subsequent songs, such as parts of the main theme being repeated elsewhere in later songs during climactic moments for example. I believe use of this particular concept is part of what allows the score to be so memorable to the player throughout the adventure.

It is a rare class of RPG, offering meaningful non-violence.

I could go on and on about why this game brings me joy, even further than I already have with this article. But to sum things up, I think the real charm that Undertale offers truly lies in the way that it dares to be different. It brought the gaming world a completely non-violent way to progress through an RPG, a genre so often associated with and defined by its battles, and it also offers player choices that have meaningful impact on the events in the game.

Undertale takes a look at the conventions of the genre and shows the world another way it can be done with a little outside-of-the-box thinking applied. It even pokes fun at itself sometimes, with plenty of humor and interesting characters, plot twists and a great sense of mystery about it. It allows the player to empathize and sympathize with the characters and events in the story, and if you choose to do otherwise, it accommodates that approach too. It helps us all think and reflect a little bit more than we normally might during this particular activity, and I believe that’s of the utmost importance even during times of entertainment.

Undertale is full of imagination, clever design, humorous characters, and meaningful choices. It is a well-crafted and fun game to play that makes you think a little bit about challenging conventions.

Image credits: igdb.com and undertale.com