The Breakthrough of Less

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When I decided to make a smaller version of Dungeon University, I knew every aspect had to be smaller and simpler. I thought it would take away from my game’s depth. But in at least one way, it’ll actually be better.

One change was to stop work on two planned characters, to end up with 4 instead of 6. Turns out, there’s a funny thing about 4. Remember how each one gets paired up with another for bonuses and scenes? Now, if you determine who is paired with the first character, only two are left, so they’re necessarily paired up.

This means that there are only 3 meaningful combinations for this system with 4 characters! (6 party members makes for more like 45 combinations – or is it 90? I’m not much good with this area of math.)  

That opens up a lot of doors. I can design each of the 3 combinations to be very different from the others, so players can organize for different strengths in different situations. If the player could switch during battle, it would make for a core feature that makes combat more interesting.

I would never have stumbled on an idea like this – which could make my game truly fun to play – if I wasn’t working on this small prototype. It begs the question, should I ever scale it up at all? Or am I already getting to the sweet spot? We’ll see! 

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Dungeon University: January 2017 Update

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So, as I mentioned before, I decided to ditch Unity and go back to RPG Maker. This has been pretty helpful, since a lot of functions were already out there. As I said before, I just had to do some tweaking to make them how I wanted. So here’s what is currently possible in the build:

  • There’s a big, randomly generated dungeon for the player to explore. It’s full of empty chests and super-weak enemies for now.
  • A basic menu lets you choose a subject for each character to “study.” Currently that means there’s one skill that character will learn after gaining enough experience. The funny thing is, after going to the trouble of making this work, I realized that it might not actually be best for my game. Yes, I might actually take the university aspect out of Dungeon University.
  • Experience also increases relationship levels with the character next to them in the party order. That results in the character’s own levels increasing, and also offers bonuses in stats.
  • I have a “support” menu that branches off to each pair of characters. There isn’t much in the way of conversations yet, but as this is just a feature demo I won’t make it too big anyway.

So what’s next? Well, the support conversations need to detect the characters’ relationship level and whether they’ve already been done, so the player can progress through each one. After that, I want to implement “partner bursts,” special skills that take advantage of each pair’s bond. They weren’t a huge deal before, but cutting back on this game’s scale, ironically, gave me an idea that can make it so much better.

What do I mean? Well, you know me. I like to save a little for my next post. See you then!

New Perspective

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I never really thought about it before, but for the last couple of years, I’ve more or less been hiding my first book, The Third Face. I don’t mean that I stowed every copy away and took down the listings. But out of the people I’ve met since it came out, only a few know it exists. 

Recently, some of my coworkers have discovered it on their own. I’m not sure how, but the information is spreading fast. And most of them ask me something like, “If you have this other talent, why are you working here instead of using it?”

There are basically three answers:

  • It would be a bad idea to quit my day job just to work on a project that’s not even making money.
  • The more I pushed myself to write, the less fun it got, until I hardly liked it.
  • Making video games is more interesting to me right now.

All of these were good reasons to put less emphasis on writing. But were they good reasons to put it off indefinitely? To quit? I don’t know.

Right now, though, it’s a topic worth thinking about. After all, I’m ahead of this year’s schedule for Dungeon University, which gives me some time. (I should probably say more on my progress there, but… Next time!) 

Starting Early

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Yesterday in the morning, I decided to start doing a little work on the small Dungeon University build and, well, I didn’t stop.

Turns out most of the main features of my game have more or less been done before–I just had to tweak them a little bit. Characters with relationship levels? Pretty common, though using it to affect the character levels took a bit of work. Choosing what skills to go after was just a matter of disguising an existing system.

Let me be clear: I have a timeline that involves me trying to improve my habits for the rest of January before I get to work, then mostly design and research in February. But isn’t that silly? If I want to cultivate a good habit, it should be getting to work on my goals, not finding new ways to procrastinate. So I’m not going to require myself to keep going, but if any more of these feverish workdays come up, I won’t complain.

 

Dis-Unify

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So my priority right now is getting this house cleaned and arranged in a new way, so that it’ll be easier to keep it clean. That said, the task is probably too big for me to do in just one week unless I get some extra help.

Therefore, I’m giving myself a little break this weekend, and trying to recall my previous experience with RPG Maker VX Ace. If you’ve been following me for a long, long time, you may know that that’s where I was originally going to create Dungeon University. When I asked another programmer to help me, I made the decision to switch to Unity, mainly because it was faster, had less issues, and was more familiar to my partner.

Here’s the thing, though: RPG Maker VX Ace probably has at least 10,000 lines of code in it, all working together to make a full turn-based RPG system. Which is what Dungeon University really consists of, plus or minus a couple of extra features. What a whole company did in a few years, I was hoping to have two of us amateurs take care of, and then add in the actual content. Was I out of my mind or what?

Besides, commercial success isn’t really a goal of Dungeon University anymore. I just want the game I envisioned to get made! And if that means a few sacrifices in terms of power, I’m okay with that.

2017

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This is going to be a very ambitious year. Shelby and I are trying to get healthier, and I’m hoping to keep our house in better shape, too. But that’s just part of it. 

In early February, I want to plant the seeds to make small versions of the projects I had put on the back burner. Dungeon University is getting a mechanics and features demo in RPG Maker, and I want to draft something for The Demon’s Guardian as well.

This will take most of the year, and I’m not worried about production value either. In other words, I want to make expectations so low that I almost can’t help but finish it. Even if a lot more things keep me busy besides my wedding, I’ll still have more than enough time to get things done on this schedule.

Anyway, like I said, that will start later. First I have to clean my house. I’ll keep you posted (in case my whole plan suddenly changes again).