Making this game has been quite a trip. It started with a very short, very simple Twine game made for my first game jam, the Cyberpunk Jam from… last year. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot: more about how RPG Maker works (and how much I’ve already learned from making She Who Fights Monsters), more about the design process (short version: I probably need one), more about myself, and definitely more about the infamous “feature creep.” I had so many BIG IDEAS for this game that, in the end, it didn’t actually need — and getting wrapped up in all that stuff only made me want to work on it less.
Technically, I could’ve stuck with my original idea of just expanding on the Twine I made. But what I have now is very, VERY different from what that would have been and I have to say I’m proud of the results. A few small details about the upcoming game:
I am indeed on track to get this done by the end of the year. Yay!
There is no karma system, but you can make choices sometimes. They just might not have the effect you’d expect.
Somewhere along the way, Glitch became more than a player stand-in and developed a personality. So s/he got to keep the name Glitch.
Veering from the original plan, Glitch’s gender affects the ending and some small things along the way. But their capabilities are identical and their personalities extremely similar.
There isn’t much combat in the game (and no random battles), but there is some towards the end.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve written about this game. I apologize for the lack of updates; hopefully, this will help make things better.
First and most important, progress IS being made. It’s slow to the point of glacial sometimes (sometimes for lack of energy; sometimes for lack of time; sometimes for lack of having Clue One how to proceed and wishing upon wishing I had thoroughly planned this out beforehand, but this game was supposed to be soooo simple… funny how that works), but it is still progress. Optimistically, I’d like to get this done by mid-November. Realistically, I’d say “By the end of the year” at the point. But I really like how the game is shaping up, even if it’s grown into something of a hydra compared to the short, easy affair I thought it would be at first. (And it’s actually less complicated than some of the crazy stuff I’ve left on the cutting room floor. I want to get this cool-game-I-never-really-planned-on-making knocked out before the turn of the decade.)
And second… here’s some fun process type stuff on how it’s getting made.
Just to emphasize: I want this thing finished. I want it finished; I want to move on. I also want it to be good enough to meet its basic potential. So, I had to figure out how to just get it done without sacrificing stuff that was genuinely essential. The biggest essential in Raziel is what the realm of Otherworld means to the people who go there. Not the fancy gameplay whatsits I’d thought up early on: the people, plain and simple. So, the most important thing was to give these people stories.
Those stories will be kept pretty straightforward since it’s not going to be a long game. But I hope the way I tell them will get the point across. Also, Otherworld itself is a living, breathing entity — a character in its own right. I’m trying to make its identity (as well as its creepy subconscious of Etherworld) as certain as anyone else’s through its visual design and the soundtracks that I’ve chosen. I want it to be understandable why some people want to stay there forever and why they would fight for that… which is probably asking a lot from a game made by in RPG Maker by a no-name weekend designer on a budget of about $60.00. :p
Nonetheless, as much as I want to wrap up this project for good, I really like what I’ve come up with so far and I’m still enjoying the process of bringing it to life. I plan to have a short trailer(!) posted by the 28th.
When I was reading the proof for Videogames for Humans, there was one point I understood, but wanted to elaborate on: why certain things in Eden that seem like common decency earn Achievements and why other things simply are Achievements at all. In a nutshell, it goes back to What’s in a Name?, Eden’s spiritual predecessor.
What’s in a Name? was a game/story about biphobia–and how being bisexual can sometimes leave you feeling like a person without a country. It contained a single Achievement. An Achievement that, if you earn it, will probably leave you feeling depressed and uncomfortable instead of accomplished. In other words, I was playing with the idea of Achievements and what people expect from them.
Eden is exactly the thematic opposite of What’s in a Name? As such, I found it fitting to include several achievements, all of which would probably make the player smile when they got them. “Bi the Way” is an achievement as a direct nod to What’s in a Name? and how far removed Eden is from its mindset: in Eden, bisexuality is celebrated (and often an advantage if you want a certain ending) instead of a mark of shame.
As for why some Achievements come just from being a decent person, the main reason is… it’s fun. And, again, I like playing with the idea of Achievements. If other games dole out Achievements for killing entire populations or running over hookers, why can’t this one offer them for treating a potential romantic partner with decency and respect?
It can take a while for me to process things, especially when they’re good, and even moreso when they seem to come out of nowhere. It’s as if my brain can’t quite accept what’s going on and wants to make absolutely sure that there hasn’t been some mistake.
Recently, a few things have happened that kept making me want to ask “Are you sure you have the right person?” For one thing, besides mentioning my stuff a lot on Twitter, Soha Kareem wrote an article for Motherboard that included some of my work. Which resulted in quite an influx of new visitors and Twitter followers. Fengxii also mentioned me in a tweet about black game developers worth knowing, which resulted in further influx. And… something else quite interesting happened that’s actually been in progress for a while, but definitely falls under “Is this really a thing?”
Recently, the book Videogames for Humans (edited by merritt kopas) was released to the public. It’s basically an anthology of Twine games, played through by various games journalists and critics. It’s a really neat project… and merritt chose Eden as one of the games she included in the book. Considering the caliber of the other creators included, I’m still having trouble believing there wasn’t some mistake. But I’m definitely thankful she asked to include my work, not to mention very surprised she even knew I existed.
So… yeah. A lot of stuff has happened. And I have a bunch of new Twitter followers now who think I make games. Normally, this would probably be the part where I flee in terror because it feels incredibly weird that people are paying attention, but I think I’ll stay put this time and see what happens. Which means more gamestuff is forthcoming. 🙂
I know it’s been a while since I posted anything. The main reason has been, well, a lack of stuff to post. For really ling time I just hadn’t been in a game-creating place. Or, really, a place to make anything except in brief moments. But first, the game stuff.
The more I work on Raziel, the more it reveals to me. At first, Etherworld was simply a realm of junk data. And it was all one thing. But since it draws on not only the thoughts of people who enter the virtual reality of Otherworld, but the code of Otherworld, too, it made sense to me that parts of it would look like part of Otherworld Glitch visits. The upper layer, being closest to Otherworld proper, would look and act the most like it. But as you go deeper (and progress to further stages of the game), things get stranger, darker and more chaotic. Basically, you get closer and closer to what Etherworld really is: not just junk data, but collective subconscious in data form that wants to tell a story.
And now for some personal crap.
Full-time work and some personal issues (as well as taking time to have *GASP!* something that resembles a social life) made it seem like I never had time to do anything creative or just for fun. Especially the “just for fun” part since that seemed like wasting time which could be better spent. Often, I would sit at my desk and try to MAKE myself [try to] work on this game or work on some writing, telling myself I could do something fun once I’d achieved X or Y. Long story short, it never seemed to happen.
Then I realized: I was out of fuel. I can’t create very much if I’m not taking in anything creative — namely via stuff like playing games and reading books, a.k.a. the very things I kept telling myself I didn’t have enough time for. To tie it in with Raziel, new realms aren’t going to form in my head without all the tasty junk data those things tend to leave behind.
So I’m going to focus on that for a while: refilling the junk data pool. Ironically, it’s quite possible that that’ll help me find the energy and inspiration to work on my own creative stuff.
It seems like the more I work with this game, the more there is to work with. Not just for story and character, but in terms of the game world itself.
While I was sorting out the best way to set up Otherworld, I realized it needed an overworld of sorts. Unlike the Real World, it’s not a city made to scale; it’s a bunch of miniatures that, once you step inside them, take you to the real thing. In other words, it’s set up like a world map in an RPG. I think that fits what Otherworld is: a place that’s essentially fiction, despite how real it seems.
But Etherworld (a.k.a. the “junk code” world) is what’s undergone the most changes since I first imagined it. At first, it was just one thing, a single world “beneath” Otherworld with a singular set of traits. But over time, it’s turned into something more complex. There are three different layers to it, starting off with glitches and ending in nightmare fuel. The deepest realm uses parts of Etherworld’s original design concept plus a few… surprises. I’ll supply new screenshots of Etherworld when things are a bit a established.
More to come as more progress is made. In the meantime, enjoy the new screenshots. 🙂
I think I’ve finally settled into my new day job, more or less. Enough so that I’ve been making steady progress on Raziel, even if I haven’t posted it here as often as I probably should.
I’ve basically finished designing the Real World. It’s suitable for wandering around in, though I still need to finish the interior of Raziel’s Tower. But the one thing I’ve spent the most time poking at (and probably will keep poking at until the game is near-finished) is Glitch’s apartment. Not just because it’s where the game starts, but because I want it to reveal certain things about Glitch’s character.
For comparison, here’s the current version Glitch’s apartment next to Jenny’s room from She Who Fights Monsters:
Glitch lives in a one-room apartment. So, basically, her (or his if you play as the male version) room or “space” is everywhere. Little Jenny’s room has all sorts of personal touches — flowers, a rug and general pretty things — that give it life and color. In contrast, Glitch’s place is pretty Spartan and looks a bit empty. The only rug is a bath mat and there’s not so much as a picture on the wall. Then, there are clues in the furniture: a single twin-size bed; a kitchen table with one chair. From the looks of things, she lives alone and probably doesn’t have guests.
There’s also a custom computer console that probably cost more than everything in her home put together, plus the nice laptop she keeps near her bed. Which probably says something about where she really “lives.” (There’s actually more to it than that, but I have to leave some stuff for players to sort out on their own.)
I want to have those kinds of things woven throughout game. Small details that, if you’re looking for them, can tell you a lot about the game’s world and/or the people in it.
I am still working on Raziel. It’s just that over the last month or so, my life has been quite something. First, there was meeting my long-distance boyfriend in person for the first time — and the mad scramble in the days prior to make my apartment properly presentable. (He was with me for a week and yes, it was quite lovely. He also introduced me to Doctor Who, which explains my Twitter lately.) When he left, I missed him terribly. I also had to look for a new job, which I somehow got fairly quickly. I started work last week. So basically, lots of stuff going on. Good stuff mostly, but certainly stuff that takes time and adjustment.
But back to Raziel.
The biggest challenge of making this game isn’t (yet) anything technical. It’s having So Many Ideas and so much planning to do, definitely more planning than I’ve ever had to do before. The snags I run into are things like locations and story details and exact battle mechanics and figuring out how to use those mechanics to help tell the story, especially when I’m not totally sure of all the story yet, especially the parts that happen between the beginning and the ending. Which is basically “most of it”. Then, on top of that, I have kind of a perfectionist streak. I want this game to be as cool as what I see in my head and I’m prone to tripping myself up with fears that it won’t.
The thing with Raziel is that unlike every single other game I’ve made before, there isn’t just one story. It’s a bunch of little stories combining into a whole. So instead of figuring out how to tell one story, I have to build a bunch of them and tie them all together in a way that best represents the whole. And I have to plan locations, themes, visuals, etc. to do all that instead of just words and a few pictures.
And until I have all that stuff planned out with some degree of certainty, it’s going to be rather difficult to set up much else.
I know deep down I’m up to it; I’m going to make it work. But when there’s so much you can do, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out what you should do.
Short version: Yep, still working on this! There’s a long way to go, but progress is being made. Oh, and there are some new screenshots at the end of this — including your first look at the game’s main character.
Long Version: I’m making slow-but-stead progress on Raziel. A lot of the slowness comes from the fact I still haven’t totally figured out the combat system yet, which makes it difficult to design the UI or put certain other elements in place. There are also certain story details I need to work out before getting too far into making maps and such. But the visual stuff? Yeah, that’s coming along. Especially now that I have a nifty sprite creation tool called (appropriately enough) Game Character Hub. I helped me quite a bit in customizing the main character. Game Character Hub isn’t just for making RPG Maker sprites, either, so it’ll probably come in handy for the future.
I’ve also decided that this game’s protagonist won’t be a total blank slate. Certain things can still determine their “morality rating”, but they’ll also have a certain degree of set background and personality. The reason I say “they” is because you pick the character’s gender at the start of the game. Whether you pick the male or the female version makes no difference in terms of gameplay; the character’s nickname is always Glitch, their basic history will always be essentially the same, and other characters will mostly react to them in the same way. They even have near-identical costumes and similar hair. I decided to do this because I thought it would be neat to have which gender you choose be purely a matter of preference — and to not have the female version be “extra-sexified”.
The new screenshots are below. The first is of a new tile test, this time the interior of a building in Etherworld. Yes, the entire place is weird and glitchy like that with the exception of a few important places I may or may not talk about later. ;p And if you think this is weird, wait until I start introducing what lives there.
The screenshots after that are Glitch’s sprites and portraits. Female version first; male version second. I might make some minor tweaks to the sprites later for visibility purposes, but I’m pretty satisfied with these overall.