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@Everyone who's making their own game (Laxan, mariomguy, me)
Posted: Posted June 24th
Edited June 24th by Xhin
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What kind of game are you making? How does it compare to similar games? What makes it interesting and different? What kind of pitfalls have you come across while making it?

Also I guess general discussion about game design would be good!



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Yes! Two games, one for personal project, another that might be for a museum.

Museum game is easier to explain, shoot-em-up. They want a game that shows how growing populations of lionfish are getting out of control. Their natural predator is groupers, but there aren't enough to control the invasive species. I have 8 groupers aligned at the bottom of the screen, and in an arcade console 8 buttons to launch them forward. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble preventing this from becoming a button masher. I can put obstacles, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to mash every other button. And if I slow them down, the game becomes way to cerebral, having to keep track of way too much way too fast. Finding a balance is HARD...

My personal game, the Jake project, is a lot more difficult. The game I WANT to make (which I don't think I can do on my own) is an action RPG/platform game. You and your brother are both children of Poseiden and demigods with supernatural powers: Jake represents water, his brother fire. Posieden broke off a crystal and scattered 100 pieces on an island. The tricky thing is you and your brother are doing this at the same time, and he's a pretty powerful jerk/straight up bully. Throughout the game you'll have encounters with him that lead to boss battles and stuff. Sometimes you have the option to help him, or steal his pieces. Other times he'll have the option to do the same to you. The choices you make have lasting consequences: how friendly he acts towards you, what fights you have to face, who becomes your friend, and who sides with him, instead.

I haven't even gotten to writing the multiple choice parts yet... The sheer amount of dialogue and options with dialogue for one small character is insanely daunting, let alone an entire game. Miyamoto took on the role of writing all the dialogue for SM64 and it ended up being 2000 lines, way more than he thought. My game would easily have hundreds of thousands if I'm not careful.

Also, controls are hard! Sure, I can make a good, clean, complex walking/jumping system now, but the instant you add climbing, hanging, swimming, pushing objects, carrying objects, etc. I'm lost as hell. And RPGs need to be a hell of a lot more complex than SM64. UGH...

Posted June 24th by mariomguy
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I guess I'll start, even though I have a whole post for it elsewhere.


What kind of game are you making?


It's called Shatterloop. It's a 2d (top-down) hybrid between an open-world RPG and a roguelike, with some Zelda 1 and survival-like elements as well.

How does it compare to similar games?


Compared to other roguelikes, it doesn't have permadeath. The combat is also highly tactical and instead of having fixed items or enemies you get a pretty large range of procedurally generated ones.

Compared to other RPGs, obviously the combat is different (tactical turn-based, one person rather than several). The leveling system is also based around the armor/weapons you're carrying, a bit like how monster hunter handles leveling I guess.

The zelda 1 and survival elements are padded in on top of those; it's not really meant to be a zelda 1 or minecraft clone.

What makes it interesting and different?


The biggest one is definitely the large amount of procedural generation -- everything from towns to weapons to animals to trees. You're not just shooting lasers at trees to collect carbon either, the very materials you get are different.

There's also a very unique crafting system that lets you freely mix things together to make new materials, as well as do things like melt down old items.

Something else that's pretty unique is the ability to switch to a different dimension at any time for any reason. Dimensions affect the procedural generation a lot -- they're not just palette swaps.

What kind of pitfalls have you come across while making it?


My biggest issues have been with design, rather than programming -- I'm trying to make the game as fun as possible and create some rewarding gameplay loops. With procedurally generated games, there seem to be two huge pitfalls to fall into:

  • "Palette swap" content -- Basically, when your variations aren't actually interesting in any way so you end up getting the same kind of thing over and over. My strategy here is to just create as much content as possible and mix it all up. I've learned that procedural generation can't really create content, what it *can* do is make your content more interesting.

  • Throwing too much at the player -- on the opposite side of the spectrum, you don't want to have *too much* randomness or the player will just start guessing and doing random things. To combat this, I've carefully designed limits into things so players get the chance to learn and apply that knowledge. I've also got various systems working towards progression as well -- you don't just easily stumble into interesting lore or valuable items, you have to work towards them.

    Balancing the game around these pitfalls is quite tricky and basically just involves a lot of work in all directions.

  • Edited June 24th by Xhin
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    Xhin
    Sky's the limit

    @mariomguy:

    I can put obstacles, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to mash every other button. And if I slow them down, the game becomes way to cerebral, having to keep track of way too much way too fast. Finding a balance is HARD...


    Could you maybe do it more tactically and launch each of the 8 groupers individually?

    You and your brother are both children of Poseiden and demigods with supernatural powers: Jake represents water, his brother fire.


    Is the misspelling of Poseidon intentional?

    an action RPG/platform game.


    What are the action/RPG elements like?

    Miyamoto took on the role of writing all the dialogue for SM64 and it ended up being 2000 lines


    SM64 has 1000 lines of dialogue?! that's crazy. I wonder what OOT had.

    Sure, I can make a good, clean, complex walking/jumping system now, but the instant you add climbing, hanging, swimming, pushing objects, carrying objects, etc. I'm lost as hell.


    Are you using Unity? IIRC, you can prebuild a lot of that kind of thing in it.

    And RPGs need to be a hell of a lot more complex than SM64.


    Not necessarily; tales of symphonia had you basically shooting stuff out your ring and maybe pushing blocks but that was about it.

    Posted June 24th by Xhin
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    Xhin
    Sky's the limit

    I assume you just mean video games, and not board or card games?

    Posted June 24th by Jet Presto
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    I assume you just mean video games, and not board or card games?


    That'll work too! I was working on a couple of those recently and the same rules kinda apply.

    Posted June 24th by Xhin
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    Xhin
    Sky's the limit

    Compared to other roguelikes, it doesn't have permadeath. The combat is also highly tactical and instead of having fixed items or enemies you get a pretty large range of procedurally generated ones.

    This has the potential to get out of hand really fast!

    My strategy here is to just create as much content as possible and mix it all up.

    Sounds like you're really just trying to plow through it. You can't have everything in the game be that complex. Some things need to stay simple.

    Balancing the game around these pitfalls is quite tricky and basically just involves a lot of work in all directions.

    Balance is really tough. The simpler you keep things, the more balanced they will be. Most amazing games understand this and take it to heart. Throwing too much in a complicated system just makes it worse.

    Posted June 24th by mariomguy
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    Could you maybe do it more tactically and launch each of the 8 groupers individually?

    Yeah, but that's the problem: you'll just want to button mash everything!

    Is the misspelling of Poseidon intentional?

    No.

    What are the action/RPG elements like?

    Really simple. You can purchase and equip items to affect your speed and jump height. The main jump mechanics are really nice, though. You have a double jump that bounces higher the farther you fall, a fast fall, a parkour-like wall-jump, and a mid-air double jump. I have other mechanics that basically break the game, so I don't want to do a Metroid-vania thing, being more fluid could be more fun. I want good boss fights, too.

    But most of the game is spent exploring, talking to NPCs, making choices, and dealing with the consequences. One example I've been thinking of is a fork in the road, one leading to a trap, the other leading to a very powerful item, and a loose sign. You get directions from NPCs on the right way to go, and you know your brother is having trouble finding this thing, but when you arrive at the fork the sign is loose and tilted down. You have the option to leave it there, put it up in the right direction, or put it up in the wrong direction, so your brother has to deal with the trap. But the outcome can branch many ways: one of your friends can probably fall in the trap. I also have a cave, and I think it'd be interesting to have your brother block you in, or you getting the option to block him in, first. I want most of these scenarios to play both ways so when players share their experience with the game they can compare how things went down a completely different route.

    Are you using Unity? IIRC, you can prebuild a lot of that kind of thing in it.

    Doing any one of these things on its own is easy. Adding all of them together is NOT easy.

    Not necessarily; tales of symphonia had you basically shooting stuff out your ring and maybe pushing blocks but that was about it.

    Makes me feel better. I just look at games like SMG, Skyrim, and GTA and shrivel up into a ball. I, obviously, can't do all that. Also, I don't really have NPC battles. There are boss battles, but that's it.

    Posted June 24th by mariomguy
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    I've been working on a board game tentatively called "Social Anxiety: The Board Game." I've been pretty into the idea of games that utilize mechanics to generate an emotional experience or cultivate some kind of understanding of a real life experience that might be hard to really "get" if you don't experience it yourself. I've got a lifetime of social anxiety/depression, so I've been trying to play around with that.

    The board is essentially a calendar of the year (substantially smaller, of course: there's maybe 80 spaces with 20 each representing a season. It's an RPG that's essentially resource management. I'm still futzing with the stats and whatnot, but right now the way I have it set up, players have a certain number of "energy points" that dictates their turn. One energy point is required to advance in the day (players can spend all their points just to get through the days, but doing so without an additional action comes at a cost).

    There are five "friends" that players need to manage their energy points on, too. Avoiding actions for, say, friend "Max" too much will cost points to that stat on the player card, and when it gets to 0, you've lost that friend. Energy points can be used to reach out to specific friends to regain lost points, but you can't reach out to all your friends in a turn, so gaining points for one friend might cost points from another.

    In addition, most spaces have a special card that players will draw. On it will be some event or invitation. Players need a certain number of energy points to participate in the social event. Participating in an event will generally bolster Friend points, but will cost "Self Points." (In essence, the socializing is exhausting and affecting one's health. So there is a need to balance the Friend points with the Self Points.)

    Seasons also affect things. For example, in the Summer, everything essentially gets a boost. Friend and Self points increase by one during the season. In Winter, everything costs an additional Energy Point, while Friend Points remain the same and Self Points decrease by 1 (so if you avoid an event that says if you don't go, you gain 4 Self Points, you only gain 2 in Winter).

    It's basically just a lot of balancing things out. Every action comes with a cost, as well as a gain. Building Friend points can cost Self points. Going to an event can burn you out, but build friendships. Going to one Friend's birthday but not another Friend's can cost you Friend points of that latter friend. It's a delicate balance of managing your energy to find the equilibrium of friendships and self-care. If it sounds tedious, strenuous, and complicated, well, that's generally been my experience with social anxiety and depression. I kind of wanted to show that overcoming it isn't as simple as just willing it. Every event comes with a choice, too. So if you draw a card that says, like, "Max invited you out to drinks with him, Joe, and Jess," it will have two options: Go and Don't Go. Go will require a certain number of Energy Points, will boost Max, Joe, and Jess points (each Friend has their own Friend Points slot), but depending on the event or the season, could cost Self Points. Don't Go would cost maybe Max and Jess points, but increase Self Points. Players sometimes will have the choice, if they have enough Energy Points. But sometimes they won't. You could land on a space and draw a card that requires 3 Energy Points, but you only have 2 Energy Points, which means you can't go. (This was to simulate how, often, if I don't attend a party, it's usually because I just don't feel it in me. I suppose technically I am making a choice, but my body feels so fatigued with depression and anxiety sometimes that it really doesn't feel like choice at all. Like there have been events that I have actively wanted to attend, but I didn't because my body just wasn't feeling up to it.)

    It's easily the most complicated game I've tried to work on. I'm still futzing around. My principle to games has generally been the simpler the better. I tend to prefer games that take about ten minutes to read the rules and set up, and people can figure it out. But I've been really thinking about things like mechanics as metaphor, or utilizing play to generate sympathy and understanding. I'm not sure I'll ever get the mechanics quite right for this thing, but I mean, it's really just a creative project for me and - if they're interested - my friends to test.

    I *did* recently finished a board game called Bar Hopping: The Board game - a non-linear board game in which players must collect tokens representing a beer or a shot from every bar in town and make it home without getting too drunk or stopped by the police. My family played that one and really liked it. (They've all suggested I try to produce it, but I really don't even know how I would do that if I even wanted to.) It's definitely a simpler game that's easy to pick up.

    Posted June 24th by Jet Presto
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    This has the potential to get out of hand really fast!


    It works very well so far. I think part of why is that I've sort of been designing a game like this for several years now.

    You can't have everything in the game be that complex. Some things need to stay simple.


    Well, with my game, it's the kind of thing where the mechanics are simple but the things you can do with it are quite complex. If you look at my other post, you're basically just harvesting plants and rocks at first, making tools to harvest plants and rocks better. Then you move on to fish and animals. Then you move on to metals and crystals. The resource collecting and crafting systems are very simple -- the complexity is in the variations of each material and trying to find the best way to combine them towards whatever your goals are.

    Similarly, combat is simple -- there's a handful of moves you can do. What's complicated is finding the best strategies in a variety of situations depending on enemy formations and terrain. Having a limited amount of enemies to work with in each dimension really gives you the opportunity to learn and adapt your strategies accordingly.

    Also, if you want you can just blaze through the game without doing any of this -- optimizing things isn't essential to the game, but it definitely adds another layer of engagement for people who enjoy overthinking things.


    Posted June 24th by Xhin
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    Xhin
    Sky's the limit

    You have a double jump that bounces higher the farther you fall


    A rebound jump!

    a fast fall


    Useful mostly for fast-paced combat I'm guessing?

    You have the option to leave it there, put it up in the right direction, or put it up in the wrong direction, so your brother has to deal with the trap. But the outcome can branch many ways: one of your friends can probably fall in the trap.


    That does sound interesting. Are those all things that can happen in the game?

    I want most of these scenarios to play both ways so when players share their experience with the game they can compare how things went down a completely different route.


    I like the concept of this a lot. It's almost like an interactive fiction game rather than an action platformer, which tend to have more linear storylines.

    Doing any one of these things on its own is easy. Adding all of them together is NOT easy.


    Fair enough.

    I just look at games like SMG, Skyrim, and GTA and shrivel up into a ball. I, obviously, can't do all that


    Yeah but those games are huge open worlds where you're supposed to be able to do almost anything. You don't need a ton of stuff, in fact you said it yourself in response to my post that the simpler you keep things, the more balanced they'll be.

    One thing I run across all the time with my game (because it pulls from a bunch of different genres) is a nagging thought to add something or the other to make it more like the game it's drawing inspiration from. However all this really does is creates more work and makes your game less geared towards whatever its own personal goals are.

    In the end that's what you have to do -- figure out what your actual goals are and build your game towards that. Maybe add some other elements in for flavor, but don't worry if your jumps aren't perfect or your character can't climb or w/e. Fun games are focused experiences, they may not be perfect in an objective sense, but they do whatever they're good at very well.

    Also, I don't really have NPC battles. There are boss battles, but that's it.


    That's not a huge deal either. I like to think about Shadow of the Collosus -- such a great game, and all it had were boss battles.


    Posted June 24th by Xhin
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    Xhin
    Sky's the limit
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