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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Battle Gem Ponies DevLog #195 (Inspiration Manifestation)

     My entire past week revolved around a game that wasn't mine for once. I took the time to play the newly released followup to my favorite indie game of all-time (Undertale, in case you didn't know) and it was time well spent.

     I came out the other side of those credits re-energized, inspired to work harder, and pumped up on well-designed RPGs and quirky/interesting fantasy worlds. Overall, a nice reminder of why I love gaming so much.

See what notable new design elements are coming (without getting too specific) along with some Earth-Shaking indie dev news down below.

Wouldja look at that, I made it after all!
     Straight up, I'm overjoyed but really heartsore at the same time about this. Because I know I can't afford this trip. I thought I'd be settled into my new situation by now with a couple months of dedicated BGP time to get a new demo ready for January, but now I know I'm cutting things super close and would probably have to resort to just using the same demo that's up on right now. And that's not what I intended for the Magfest folk to see. I want a more polished and stable version before shelling out $2,000 on equipment and travel to go promote this thing. 

     And with me not having moved out yet, and pinching pennies to get my life together by January 1st of 2019, every bone in my body is shaking to tell me it's not worth jumping in just yet... Too risky financially and too risky for reputation if I want BGP to come across as competent compared to all the finished and polished games it'll be sitting next to.

     I'm glad to know I could make it, but looks like I'm actually going to have to miss a Magfest for the first time since I started attending... A real shame because it's pretty much my favorite convention ever and I was planning to drag all my best friends along this time. But I guess we'll have to make up for this tenfold in 2020. A complete version of BGP to display with a much more spectacular booth that I'll start touring around. 

     But maybe I'm overreacting and the current demo's fine as long as I explain that it's an early build. I've seen other games there still in development. It's not too late to print up and what's another month's worth of debt to finally get my game out there in front of people and hear what they think? Plus, I'll get to party to with friends I only see once a year (and with all the great games this past year, the music is sure to be pure FIRE this time around).

     Don't wanna reject this awesome opportunity immediately and then change my mind and regret this deeply later. I have about a week to think about it more. And out of respect for their time, I should definitely decide well before the 20th. This is all kindof happening at once during a pretty revolutionary & emotional (and just overall life-changing) week for me for reasons you'll see down below. 

  • I Voted
  • BGP Notes Collected & Transcribed
  • Played Deltarune for Inspiration
  • Got My Act Together (picked out & reserved a car & apartment, also practiced following a detailed budget all October)
  • Calculated Out Worst Case Scenario, How Long til I'm Debt-Free (April 2021 at the latest)
  • Accepted Into the Magfest Indie Showcase (but should I go...?)
     Lessons Learned:
  • A replenishing shared pool for turn actions could be the secret to tying BGP's mechanics together. Fill that one hole that's been bugging me.
  • I outta have more confidence in my stuff. I'm always striving to be bigger and better at the cost of seeing my past works as failures when they're really not. They're impressive stepping stones to a bright future.
  • I was really down on myself last night thinking about how ALL of FNAF and both Undertales have come and gone in the time it took me to NOT finish BGP. That's kinda depressing considering how certain I was of the future about 3 years ago.
  • But that kind of thinking isn't doing me any favors. Gotta stop comparing my actual self to the fantasy and focus entirely on what I can accomplish day-to-day.
     Onto the lighter news! I felt a super-exciting rush of creativity this past week after playing a video game for the first time in months. Got the ol' brain juices flowing and I felt like changing up BGP's mechanics a bit more!

     I want to use a variant of Paper Mario's FP system in BGP. I think it's the missing link that makes the full regeneration after each battle work. It also gives a natural limit to the number of times a combatant can use rapid switching, possibly lessening the complete randomness feel of rock/paper/scissors and adding a layer of strategy that's calculable instead of endless mind games and guessing.

     See, the new idea is that Gem Points (GP) would regenerate a bit each turn and you'd have a set maximum amount correlating to your current level. Each move would use up a different amount of that total, and switching ponies out mid-battle would use a nice chunk of that. Enough so that maybe you'd be unable to switch ponies more than 2-3 turns in a row before basically becoming a sitting duck for at least a turn. 

     I could also add another Battle Action to relate to that, in that combatants could spend a turn focusing/recovering twice as much GP and sort of serve as a "skip turn" function for certain strategies. If a pony runs out of GP they can choose to either rest & recover, or fight on & tackle (with recoil damage).

     Seems like a nice way to mix up and balance the Rock/Paper/Scissors RPG formula.

Deltarune has raised the bar once again.
Fired up my imagination for making RPGs that entertain the whole way through.
     I wanna get some cool moments in there that makes the BGP world feel more alive too. Mainly to make the battles feel less like grinding or filler and more like the most exciting/engaging part of the game. Which they should be.

     Trainers should say something to get a reaction from the player, and have carefully considered teams to demonstrate or test some mechanic the player needs to see in action or find a counter to. Then to make them interesting as throwaway characters, they can each come with their own deal to work out. Whether it be a little gag, piece of environmental storytelling, or interesting bit of lore. Bonus points for nailing all 3 at once. Wild ponies with fun quirks about em outta be a thing too. The game was already planned to have mid-battle story moments, so here's just my thoughts on how to get the most outta that.

     The overworld should be more lively too. More sprite animations & expressions. More fun interactions with NPCs and objects of interest. All things simple enough to do with features I'll have to program anyway. Might as well get some extra milage out of em with some flavor text and edited sprites here and there.

      You know what? Paper Mario badges were cool. Most fun I ever had with a passive buff system. Maybe there's a secret sauce within combining these things with the way Pokemon items and abilities work. Something to stew over the coming week while I'm daydreaming about game development constantly.

     One more thing that really made Paper Mario super replayable for me as a kid was the level up options allowing me to go for different kinds of runs. With each new game I felt so much smarter and able to choose "the optimal path to most powerfulness" and it gave me something to look forward to every level up. You get to cover a weakness that's been bugging you the past few battles or inch closer to being able to use a super special attack/item. 

     It's just awesome, and I don't think it's common enough in RPGs, so why not bring it over? I can have the player choose to upgrade either the pony's stats a bit more with Bonus Values. Or perhaps separate health into its own thing so it grows by a notable chunk instead of just a few points alongside everything else. Maybe give an option to upgrade the number of items/trainer buffs/augments or grant access to more powerful ones.

     Maybe even toss in the augment idea as an upgradable option (like up to 5 slots for passive effects, or straight up steal the Badge Points system and have some items be more powerful but expensive, or something). But that's just if I go through with it. All depends on what turns out most fun. I'll give it some more thought, prototype them all, and see what sticks.

     I feel like all this stuff together could really make this game feel like so much more than another mobile Pokemon clone. And that's what I've always been aiming for. If I'm basically starting the game over from scratch, I might as well revamp the major design components too.


If you didn't know, Yotes Games is on Patreon!

     These guys are helping keep me alive and I probably don't deserve this much generosity. Bless them for blessing me, and I'll try to do right by working hard over the next year to create a game worth the half-decade wait.

         November, man... And I really wanted to launch around this time too. What a wacky timeline we ended up in, huh? Oh well. Getting my thoughts in order and prepping to go HARD on this thing. Got lots of scattered notes laying around that never got organized into a design doc, and now's a pretty good time to sort through them all. Make sure the best ideas get implemented and added to the development schedule.

    The bar gets higher each passing year, and I won't let BGP fall behind. I want to finally release something to be extremely proud of. Something worthy to stand out as the best RPG on mobile devices. Full Stop.

And hey... You know that Magfest thing I was talking about earlier?

     A pep-talk with friends convinced me I have more to lose by not going than shooting for it. So I'm probably just gonna. Still probably gonna wait til Friday to be super sure I'm not just flip-flopping, but I think getting my name out there is worth the $2000 and risk of embarrassment at not being up to par. The game probably looks straight awesome to pretty much to anybody but me. And getting feedback here could be even more quantitative than what I got from the Orlando Overdrive event this past year. (Which also has an appearance in video form now, check it out!)

     So it'll probably go over just as well as that demo did. Which was mostly positive and surprisingly popular. And even the only negative reactions came from scoffing at the concept of "ponies" or distaste from the reputation of bronies. When pressed about it even those people think the game at least looks nice.

     So I think I can find a place for myself here. Same deal as before. It's a work-in-progress game, I'll briefly walkthrough the tale of creating it and try to leave an impression that gets em to follow the game's development after they get home. 

     No time to wuss out. Need to get the name "Yotes Games" out there and show that I'm a developer worth keeping an eye on. 

(Plus, it'll be tons of fun and I can meet other devs!)

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