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Friday, July 4, 2014

If I Started Over Now... (Unicorn Quest)

     My first Adventures in Equica title isn't even out yet and I can already see some missteps that I would have approached differently. I'm too far in to do much about them now but I will keep these ideas in mind if/when I do a sequel years from now. However, a new idea for the game's structure came to mind and I think I might shrink the game's scope quite a bit to devote more time to polish. I'll need to sleep on it and get some outside opinions (especially yours!) but catch what I have in mind below the break.

   The biggest thing bugging me is the perspective. I can't keep a game taking place mostly outside at a top down view using sideways sprites. If you look at Clover's side view it's fit for a sidescroller (which matches the image she was inspired from). The same goes for the trees and other objects clashing with the perfectly square grass tiles. I really should have went with a more roguelike tilted view of the characters and objects but I'm way too far along to turn around and remake all the sprites from scratch unless I want to delay the game for a few more months (No).

     I tried to cope with it and made sure that you could see the back wall when indoors and other tricks like that but this stuff still bugs me a little. Next time around I'll aim for something more like this picture here. Use angles to make the floors feel tilted, have objects & characters be more three dimensional, and try different ways to hide the existence of the sky. Pokemon does it right so why not emulate those techniques?

     I also noticed similar things with games like Earthbound where the sprites look off but you don't care because the feel is right. That's what I'm hoping unicorn Quest can achieve. Nobody will notice the visual flaws if the rest of the game runs smoothly. It'll just make the graphics of the sequel seem like a dramatic improvement (like Mother to Mother 3 or Super Mario Bros to Super Mario Bros 3).

My current plans for a world map. Labeled boss encounters, towns, and dungeons.
     Another thing I'd change is the scope. Admittedly I'm still altering this now. I want to shrink it to a point where it's really feasible, but I also want there to be so many colorful set pieces. The point of this project was to have a big RPG adventure under my belt so I can prove to myself and the world that I can make one. Setting the stage so I can shoot for even greater heights with my next few titles. that would give me the confidence in my ability I'll need to make it own my own as an indie developer.

    I think that if I keep the game rooms small and minimize cinematic sequences (telling most of the story through optional text) I can still have the huge world I see in my head but still be able to make it by Christmas. At the most dire, if I cut content too much I'll lower my asking price and put the game up for $1. I think even with a 4 hour campaign you can play multiple times it'd be worth at least that much.

   If I could advise my former self I'd tell him to try to make an extremely small scope with high replay value instead. Maybe something like this:

"You play as Clover, the young apprentice of the greatest sorcerer who ever lived. You are tasked with developing your magic by navigating through dungeons your mentor has constructed for you. At the end of the dungeon you will encounter a boss monster and by defeating it you will learn a new spell and increase your health by one heart.

 If you master the dungeon 10 times you will have learned every spell and can re-enter the dungeon again to see randomized layouts using rooms you've visited before (now with higher level enemies to keep up with you). In-between dungeon runs you can explore a small overworld with shops (to give you an edge), speak with townsfolk (to give the feeling of this being an actual world), fight respawning monsters unique to the dangerous forest (to level up before the next dungeon run), and find loot in the wilderness (equips to make yourself stronger).

To top it all off the game could end with some big shadowy evil attacking your home town as you are tasked with saving everyone using the magic you got to defeat the minions and their final boss leader."

    That's a vague idea pitch that could be fleshed out further and executed on. I could still use everything I've made so far but feel so much closer to a final build. If I could just focus on the left chunk of the map and focus on developing a hub world with a surrounding forest the game's feasibility could benefit greatly.

    I might be able to keep the varied environments I desire by having the dungeons be color coded & themed to match the boss' type of magic. The only standing sacrifice would be to the story that I developed (but haven't shared with anyone yet). At the end of the day, I want t make a good game more than I want to make a good story so I might just have to come up with something new or make the old work with the new. Maybe even just save that world map for a sequel where you travel the continent.

    I actually feel like something like this would work out better and be done faster (and with more polish). A more feasible version of my first big RPG... As of writing this I'm seriously considering changing the game's sprawling world with a cinematic story and 5 dungeon/16 boss structure to the idea written above.

   I could really use some outside opinions on this.

   Which would you rather see? Which do you think I should do?  Let me know in the comments.

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