Sunday, February 3, 2013

January in Reflection

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what I learned from January's RPG.

Things That Worked

Random dungeons worked well. They aren't always perfect, but they're fairly flexible and reliable for reproducing the same layout given a seed number. The only downside is that without a large varieties of rooms with a combination of edge types, the dungeons look a bit samey since the same rooms are repeated over and over. Overall though, this was a great success I feel. I'll definitely be looking into using this in the future.

Using default assets was amazing. Not having to worry about making my own art or finding someone else to make art for me was wonderful if not a bit limiting. I'm not an artist even on my best day, so having the RTP at my disposal was a blessing.

RPG Maker VX Ace was fantastic to work with. Despite having messed around with the program for years in my childhood, I had avoided using RPG Maker to make "serious" games. I felt like there was a stigma attached to it and that I would be better off writing my own game engine in XNA or C++ or whatever. However, the engine has turned out to be more than flexible enough for my needs this past month and that was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps even more surprising though was...

Ruby, and specifically RGSS3, the scripting framework that ties RPG Maker VX Ace together. Before January I had no experience with Ruby at all (though I did have some experience with Python) so it was nice to find that Ruby was easy to use. I'm not really clear on a lot of minuta still and my coding style with it is still a bit too Java/C++ judging by the samples I've seen around the web, but I'm getting there.

Cutting content I didn't have time for. More on this below.

Things That Didn't Work

Doing all the balancing on the last day. I was so focused on getting the dungeons generating well that I ignored any semblance of balancing equipment and monster stats against the player. The result was a frantic five hours as February slowly approached. I think I did an okay job in the end, but the difficulty curve is still a bit too steep especially at the beginning of the game. I did my best to compensate for this by letting you easily run past enemies and growing in power very quickly but it's something that should be improved upon later. Ultimately, I think I can improve upon this by planning out my month better.

Bugs. I say that these are prototypes in part because I anticipated not spending as much time on these as I would if I was going to call it a full game (or even think about charging money for it). There's quite a few bugs I noticed while doing a final pass for January. Chests would spawn when they shouldn't, they would spawn on top of each other and a few enemies spawned in walls pretty consistently. But to the best of my knowledge, there aren't any show-stopping bugs. The few story sequences all play out just fine in my testing and the game plays fine. If anything, the game is broken in the player's favor.

Infinite dungeon mode. This was the thing that I really wanted to get in for January. I envisioned the game's real value in being able to get a high score in this mode and then challenge a friend to try to one up you using your password. In my head, the password would seed the RNG so that everything spawned the same way on both playthroughs. Unfortunately, this mode only partly works. It was thrown together at the very last minute, maybe two hours before my self-imposed deadline. There are a couple problems with it, but the two biggest problems are that the monster spawns are always slightly different even given the same password, and the adaptive difficulty is a bit too hard. Unfortunately these were both things that were notice right before midnight so... they got pushed out of the way and I just had to release with them.

Worst of all in Infinite dungeon mode, it doesn't work! Trying it out in the initial release just generated a screenshot of the dungeon generation! Argh! This has since been fixed and anyone who downloads it from the previous blog post after 2/2/13 will get the fixed version. But still: argh!

Cut Content

I wanted to just quickly list a bunch of stuff that I had cut for time constraints:
10 floors instead of just 8
More random floors
More bosses
More room variety
Optional ally partners
Optional rivals
More floors in infinite mode (currently it cycles through three sizes)
More monsters
Better balancing
Generated puzzles (like the room rotation and gate sections)
Different kinds of generation methods on different floors

Looking Ahead

I'm feeling good about February. Aside from some games coming out that are going to eat a lot of my free time, I've got a better handle on my workflow and I have more experience with the tools now. I've even figured out a way around balancing issues for this month (spoiler: no battles). There'll be some new challenges and I'm taking my time this month and will be using today and tomorrow to plan everything out so I don't have to cut as much. Tuesday will see the start of a new game though, and the theme for this month will be "Romance."

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