Saturday, March 30, 2013

Resolution Smesolution: Adventurers University Part 1

Last month's RPG was a resounding failure on nearly every level, and I haven't posted anything here about the current month's RPG so it must be going equally terribly and will miss its end of month release as well, right? The answer here is yes and no.

Character creation courtesy Neon Black's composite character script!

First let's talk about the current month's RPG. In my last post I mused about maybe making an episodic game which would let me reuse certain assets like maps and characters between games and ideally help me to put out better games on a more timely schedule. Specifically when I said this I was thinking about Adventurers University (abbreviated afterwards as A.U.).

I should mention that all the dialogue you see in this post is first draft.

A.U. is an old idea a friend of mine had when we were running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign together. It was a school dedicated to crafting the finest adventurers and attracted all the best talent. The curriculum wasn't stuffed with boring lectures, but was hands on and mission oriented. Each student was matched up with a team of three other students and managed by a mentor (an experienced adventurer who had proven themselves and likely retired from full time adventuring). When I ran my first quest with my group in this setting one of the players called it "the best session I've had in years." So after February's crushing failure, I think it's not unreasonable for me to want to revisit something that had previously gone so well.

In this month's game, you are a new student at A.U. after being forced to leave your hometown. Luckily, you were recruited by a teacher at A.U. who was passing through your village at the time. The game begins with you arriving at the university and meeting your teammates. Then you're quickly whisked away on your first mission to the once great town of Loamhurst where all you have to do is deliver a package. However, trouble is afoot in Loamhurst and the task may not be as easy as you first think...

I feel like choices are really important in RPGs and JRPGs are usually lacking in them. I'd like to change that.

I lost all my notes from the first time I ran this game back in college, but it's stuck with me and I recall pretty much all of the important details. The challenge is in adapting this all to a computer RPG. In my original run of the game time management was an important part of the adventure as was a bit of code breaking. These are easily adapted (or discarded as in the case of the code breaking aspect) the challenge is replicating the feeling of having a living world for the player to interact with. In Dungeons and Dragons the person running the game just needs to adapt to whatever the players decide to try, but in a computer RPG you have to plan all the contingencies and all the things that the player wants to try in advance. In short, you need to offer a convincing number of choices.
Choices should always matter! Even the small ones.

The problem here is that doing this game right means a lot of choices and a lot of choices means a lot of dialog. I can do this, but the chances of me getting it done by the end of March is slim. There's just too much to write, balance, playtest and fix before the end of the month. So this game will probably miss its end of March release date.

There will be a lot of recurring characters in future months. If all goes well...

At the same time, this is going too well to just get abandoned. Also, I really will be able to reuse assets from this game and that will be a big help. So what I'm saying is that while it'd be really cool to release one game each month, I can't always do that, but if I keep abandoning unfinished projects at the end of each month, I won't ever release anything (also I'll just get burned out). This month gets a pass then, and if I don't release this game by the end of this month, then it will be released by the end of next month.