Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Gamedesign from Pyhtää

I seem to be a proud owner of an iPad2 - device. I had one of these in the spring, and I didn't like it then. However, that device was school's, not mine, so I didn't dare to abuse it in the ways I'm known to abuse my computing devices usually. I'll do some iOS games-market research with this thing, and explore if I'm able to combine it, its physical keyboard and one of my raspberry pis into an ultimate computing experience. The keyboard feels bloody awful, but unlike last time, it's physical.

But, iPad's not what I'm here to talk about today. Last week I spent in the Pyhtää, trying to shape the MERPG into a profitable form. Boy how it formed: the current idea in my head is to ditch the old manuscript from the http://merpg.webs.com completely, maybe recycle a few of the character designs. I'd still keep the story of Rajol, the one of the two discrete stories I've written into the world of Kanariffa I actually like, unpublished to the masses until I decide it's ready, and the fancier Clojure-techdesigns for a more artsy game in the future, and make this game-designed-for-CambridgeVC to have it's own story, own world, and a set of monsters one can team with to uncover the story.

Why? Because I fear if I go to Cambridge to pitch an interactive movie/technical wankery I've designed the game to be, I'll be laughed out of the island.

But this new game, which is called in-team 'Pröng', but due obvious reasons, is from now on called 'The Game' in-blog. Until someone comes up with a better one, of course. It's very limited visual designs still apply: the style of the graphics is still 2D-highly saturated-pixel or vector -art. How do the mechanics of this game work?

Single player

You begin by customizing your character's sprite, name and base-type. I think it's best to win the secondary type through lottery, but I can imagine implementing the secondary types through Dragon Ageish specialization system. You meet some new team member or NPC that knows this specialization, you ask if they can teach it to you too, and presto, you've become a grass-assassin or something as insane.

Anyway, you start your game, with one or two friends following you. You run around the world, finding and doing quests, uncovering the story. The world is open as in Pokemon, and the difference between in-fight and out-fight is not as huge as in Pokemon. In neutral territory, sometimes based on randomness, sometimes because the maker has decided to put a trigger there, you're attacked by Dragon Ageish wave(s) of enemy. The fighting system is also inspired by DA. You ran around freely in pixel-space (instead of 20px*20px tile-space), use moves (that autolock to the nearest target if you don't pick a target with mouse/touch) and can pause the game as conveniently as in DA. I guess if it will seem better, implementing a Pokemon MDish turn- and tile-based system is a possibility, as the reasons I originally ditched that idea for are unbelievably underspecified.

As I said, the world is open like in Pokemon. There are also closed, randomly generated dungeons, from where you try to find your way through with as little casualties as possible. I'll try to come up with a good generation algorithm, but as I haven't done this kind of a thing ever, I'm open to suggestions of material to learn the theory from.

Not only can you fight NPCs, you can discuss with them, answer their questions in different ways (because, you know, RPG, even though I don't have time to write a true multithreaded story in the week before the Kotka's Warming Game jam), bring items to and from them. They can be led through the random-dungeons, you can fetch items from these dungeons for them, save their friends... there are a million possibilities I'm too tired to come up with currently.

I like the idea of generating monsters teammates randomly, but in Pyhtää I was told that evolution of the teammates is a crucial element in this kind of game. I agree, but it makes the random-generation a bit harder. An idea I've played in my head is to have every monster share the generic baby-teenager-grownup - evolution stages, and do some magic to customize the pre-rendered animations according to a die.

Training teammates can be done outside the storymode too. There will be a random quest generator in the game, a sort of like the pelipper post office in Pokemon MD.

You can save the game any time you want in single player mode. If in a fight, just pause the game and save. You will resume from the exactly same circumstances.

Multiplayer

You can trade teammates with your friends, you can fight in a PvP setting against them, there's possibly some sort of chat for those in the game just for the sociality. You can play multiplayer quests co-operatively with your friends too. I don't know wheter these quests form a parallel storyline or are just a series of randomly generated quests.

Differentiation

The game differentiates from the Pokemon games through much better storyline, and at least from the older games, through a better multiplayer. I haven't extensively researched the Wifi-properties of the games >=Diamond. The real time combat is also a differences, but it will probably be disliked by as many pokemon-addicts as liked. One plus for us is that if you haven't yet bought a 3DS and X/Y, and are considering between that and our game, there's a high chance you'd rather buy ours because you don't need another device for it. Statistically speaking, you probably already have one of the following: PC/Mac/iOS/Android/Windows Phone.

How does it differentiate from the Pokemon MD? The combat system isn't turn based, and most of the flaws in the original MDs (friend abandons you after finishing the story, random generated quests are boring, story progresses way too randomly) will be averted. The evolution system is better also, but that doesn't mean it's a good system in our game. It just means evolution is mostly fucked in all MD-games.

How does it diff from the DA games? I dunno, 2D-graphics, happy-happy graphics, a bigger team, more diverse (pokemonish) type/class system... to name a few.

These are the most obvious differences, but why would someone pay for this game? I have no idea! The singleplayer will be free-to-play, because I've been told that's better than selling it for 8€ in app stores. It's possible that I'll publish both ad-crippled, free version, and 8€ ad-free version. I've also toyed with the idea of having a subscription fee to the multiplayer, because running heroku servers isn't exactly free, and it'd be a bit more expensive for those playing the otherwise free game.

Does this sound cool? Am I speaking crazytalk?

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