Monday, September 30, 2013


Gotta say, I've had a bit of writer's block these days. I guess that's not really accurate. It's more like worker's block. Some people call it being 'burnt out'. So I took about a week break and have been slowly getting back into it. These are the moments that matter most. Working on the game even if I don't really feel up to it. I've started reading manga, watching anime, and I'm set to go play some pathfinder/DnD tonight at a comic bookstore. I have to get my spark back and these things usually help me find that inspiration that sends me out to work on my game into the wee hours of the morning.

Right now I'm working on this mine scene where the team is facing an Ogre. The timing on some of the movements is off and it's hard to WANT to fix it. I mean, I WANT to, but my brain says "how about we just go to sleep? No? Then what about catching up on a tv show? Wanna play pokemon on your cell phone?" and the list goes on and on lol I feel like if I can get past this scene though, it'll all start coming back. I've just been working on it and the next one which is a bar scene for a few weeks now...trying to nail down the dialogue. Changing up events and actions of npcs, adding and taking away npcs, changing up the animations that go into these scenes, timing everything perfectly, adding sound effects and emotes where they need to be, etc etc.

So, here is me setting a reasonable goal for myself. By this time next week, I will be done with version 0.1 of the demo. I will not say that the balance is going to be all that great...but I will give you SOMETHING. I must give you something. So there you have it. I will get you that demo if it kills me. Til next week. May all your dice rolls be higher than 15 :)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Setting Goals and Following Through

Hello readers, it's that time again. Last week I talked about how to stay focused on your project. This week, is about *looks at the title* setting goals and following through. What I do is two fold when it comes to setting goals:

1. I break down the game into sections. Point A to Point B, Point B to Point C, etc etc. When it comes to making rpgs most people are so concerned about having all this extra content, side quests, different ways to do things, and that's all fine n' dandy but if you don't really have a plan or goal a lot of times these side quests and extra content either don't really fit with the story or you get too overwhelmed because you feel like you aren't really getting anywhere in your game development. Example, in Goshiki I was so worried about having every npc or object that the player came in contact with have something to say or increase the character's power some how. My whole "inspiration system". Which was nice, but when you think about it all that extra stuff should have been polish left for after I had finished the critical path. The Critical Path is the main story line or obvious path that the player will take. I've learned that if you want to get anywhere in development, develop the Critical Path first. That way when you play your game you actually have visual progress. "yeah, you can play til the half way point of the game." vs "yeah, you can play for like twenty to thirty seconds and that's about it...but man doesn't it look nice?" or "yeah, you can play but you can't leave the first town or get anywhere in the storyline... but man, doesn't it have tons of extra content everywhere?" some people would argue that having polish before moving on is the way to go and if you can stay completely focused on your game while developing like that be my guest, but the biggest problem with that is when you decide a little later down the line that you need to change things for the story to make sense...some of the polished extra content that you spent hours and hours on might have to get the boot because they simply don't make sense with the new changes. That sort of thing can be discouraging and could make you leave your game on the back burner because you feel like you aren't getting anywhere. It's so important to feel good about what you are doing and always feel like you are moving forward. Those are the games that end up being finished instead of residing in development hell.

2. Next step is to write it all out. After creating every map that I need for the game I start to place the characters all over the place and build the different scenes/events. Start with the introduction first and just continue with that momentum. Tell your whole story. "But mister, what about all the cool animations, effects, movement, artwork, music, sound effects, and everything else that needs to happen?" That stuff is the cherry on top, particularly artwork and music. If it bothers you too much just use placeholders. Artwork and music are powerful means to making your game significantly better but the core to it all is the story and the gameplay, everything else comes later. What I do is type up each characters' and npcs' textbox, add pop up balloons (you know, teardrop...exclamation point...hash tag for angry, etc), and then when some crazy movement or animation is supposed to happen I will write it out as a comment or note to be added in later. This way you've written down everything that you've seen in your head on "paper" and you can just come back to it later to make it look the way you want. Once you run through the entire story, read it over and over and over again. Read it out loud to make sure it sounds right and has a good flow to it. Have someone else read it too. Make the necessary changes, trust me you will do this several times, and then when you feel that everything is good to go with the story...start filling in the blanks. I usually take em one map or scene at a time at that point. When you finish a map it feels like you are checking it off a list and getting that much closer to finishing your game.

The moral of this whole article is this, set small goals for yourself with larger goals in mind. What I've been saying about breaking down the game into sections is setting the larger goals. For example, in Journey to Westshire, I have the game divided into six sections. The beginning to the half way point in the game, which can be done three different ways thus three different sections here, and the half way point to the end of the game, which can also be done three different ways thus three more sections here. Then you break it down into individual scenes which is the small goals. For example, the beginning scene where they face off with a giant ogre or the bar scene after that where they get their next job.

Game making can be overwhelming and intimidating. It takes a long time to finish anything of substance, especially if you are by yourself, working a full time job, and happen to have a girlfriend that wants to go out some times and watch movies/tv shows together :) Having things written out already and being able to have the small victories helps people feel that they are getting somewhere. Little by little the game is getting done and all the while you feel good about it. It's just a lot easier to follow through this way and it's not so overwhelming.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment, critique, or blow me to pieces below. If you have something that you'd like me to go over or give my take on go ahead and drop me a line. Hopefully next week I'll have a demo for you all ;) Have a great week and may all your dice rolls be greater than 15!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Staying focused

Here's a good topic to talk about. I struggle with it all the time. I'm the creative type that writes things down and then moves on to the next idea going back later to maybe go off on the idea. These ideas build and build and before you know it I have a whole new game idea that I want to try out! Then I remember that I already have a game that I'm working on...I've been working on it for 8 months now...I've put money into designing resources for it...and I've written out a complete script with large amounts of notes fixing different storyline/gameplay issues or giving better details about them...and yet when I sit down to work on the game there are times when I can't bring myself to because I can't seem to focus or get excited like I did in the beginning or up until now.

Sound like you? Been there, ALOT. But that mentality doesn't get anything done, it just has a lot of ideas. What helps me focus when I'm feeling like that? I'll give you three things:

1. Pride. Pride in excess is one of the seven deadly sins, but in this case it's a good thing. You need to have pride in yourself and your work. To all you other would-be designers out there reading this, have enough pride in your game to not let yourself down. Maybe you've worked really hard. Days upon days, weeks upon weeks, jotting down notes on your cell phone or notepads, drinking gallons of coffee/espressos from starbucks while using their wifi to listen to music/check your facebook while working on your game, blogging about it, reading game dev threads to the end and books cover to cover, sifting through scripts or working out your own to fit the gameplay mechanics you've designed, and the list goes on. Game making is hard, anyone who tells you different is lying or selling something. But it's fun. And when you are done it feels like you've reached that light at the end of the tunnel! You step back and say "#$@%, i'm good." We all have our reasons for making games but in the end we all want to stand with pride along side our peers and call ourselves game designers. Before that can happen, before we can realize our dreams of starting a game studio or building a portfolio impressive enough to get noticed/hired by a game studio, we have to finish. Don't let yourself down, you've come too far to stop now. It is not a waste a time, trust me.

2. I spent money on this. I don't know about you, but I've spent a bit of money on the resources for my game and will continue to do so. Why? So that I can walk away from my game saying "Wow, isn't she sexy." ;) That and I plan on selling it commercially. Original artwork and audio is kind of a given. Will I make my investment back? Who knows? Probably not, but the experience was more than worth it. The point though, is that I've invested not only my time but also my hard earned money into this project. If I backed out of it now, I would not only be letting myself down but also my wallet. All the coffee/espressos/five hour energy drinks I've bought to make this game happen. All the expensive resources I purchased exclusive rights to. All the game development theory books I've bought and read. If I'm not going to finish the game, what was the point in all that? That money could have gone to something else. It didn't though, it went to making this game happen. So, make it happen otherwise you're just wasting your money.

3. You owe it to the people you've shared the idea with and are rooting for you. I have family and friends that tell me that they believe that I can do this. I can make my dreams come true and this is the first step in that direction. Having people like that in your life to make you accountable is important, especially if you are the creative-write-it-down-go-to-the-next-one type like me. Not only do you want to not let yourself down, touch back on that pride thing, but you don't want to let the people who believe in you down either. Personal experience: I have an ex-gf that told me when breaking up with me that I will never finish anything, I talk and talk and talk but I never do. She believed that, as I was then, I'd never accomplish my dreams. Harsh? Yes, but I needed to hear that. Not only do I have a burning passion to prove to myself that she was wrong about me but now I have this sense of accountability to anyone else I talk about my game with. They may not say it to my face like she did, but if I drop this project to pick up yet another idea I'm sure they will think it and hesitate to believe in me in the future. You don't want that.

In conclusion, stop talking about it or putting it off and do it. Don't give up just because you've lost the excitement you had in the beginning. The idea you had is solid and you owe it to yourself, those who support you, and possibly your wallet to finish what you started. I'll talk next time about setting goals and following through. Thanks for reading. Leave your comments and questions in the section below :)