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Pixel → Tile → World

And I shall walk the streets of Hahdief...

Posted by , in AdventureFar, Design, Story/plot 12 May 2012 - - - - - - · 1,360 views
development, progress, editor and 4 more...
Past week:

I fixed the problems with coloration and blending, and made more progress on the editor.

Here's a screenshot of me just playing around. Until I get multiple layers re-implemented (works in the code, but not hooked to the editor yet), everything looks like junk (Blending isn't useful until you have multiple layers of tiles).

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(Not final appearance of the game! Once blending is in, then everything will be much less square and much more detailed, with blending dirt on to the walls, the pavement blending with the grass, shadowing, and etc...)

The first few days of this week I spent messing around with web hosting and introducing myself to Wordpress, to get a website up for a family member. This was practice for when I get my own websites up and running.

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My goal for the next 5 weeks:

Since development has dragged on for such a long time (year and a half part time, and now almost half a year full-time), I've come up with a timeline and a set of goals to spur on development, marking all the milestones I hope to hit between here and release (which is still quite a ways off).

Anyway, a week ago I gave myself the goal: By June 15th, I will walk the streets of Hahdief. Hahdief, as I've mentioned in a prior post, isn't a really important city plot-wise, but you visit it multiple times during the game (usually travelling past it to get somewhere else, or visiting it for minor plot points).

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"Hahdief, the northern ruling city, is one of the first places you visit. The city itself has no real plot significance, though you return to that general area several times during the course of the game for minor plot reasons."

('Hah' = North(ern), 'dief' = Ruler)

The goal is to get the map editor completed and finalized within 6 weeks (now 5 weeks), and to build and actually be able to walk around within that city (with collision and sound effects and music, but no NPCs or combat yet, and no going inside buildings).

It will be very sweet indeed to finally walk around inside my world, and not just a test map. I chose Hahdief as to first area to make because it's a fairly square city, shouldn't be too complex to make, and I probably have 90% or more of the art it'll need already made. Plus, being one of the first towns you encounter, it would've been in the first 4 or 5 I'd have to make anyway, but also is a fully non-nature city, and I haven't much plants and trees made yet.

I have a list of new features required by the game that I have to implement into the maps themselves, which changes the map format, so I need to get those added ASAP.

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Character concept:

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This is the main character (drawn by one of the artists), how he'll appear in combat. I intend to get all the character concept art properly colored by a skilled artist; initially I was thinking I was going to have to hire some over the 'net, which I may still have to do, but it was suggested to me to just have a friend do so with watercolor... initially hesitant, I recently saw some of the friend's art, and was pretty floored by the quality.
I haven't asked yet - I wont need it done for another few months, and I'm learning not to ask too far ahead of time (*cough* my map makers have been waiting almost two years *cough*) - but when I do ask, and if the artist accepts, then knowing the artist's weakness, I can just pay in Dr Pepper. Posted Image

Just imagine the player facing one of these:

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(I posted this rat as the very first journal post I ever made. A year and a half ago)

If you're interested in more character concept art and haven't already seen them, I posted some a month ago.

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If all goes well, in five weeks I'll have real screenshots to post.

Now I'm off to shower, then I'll pop open a Dr Pepper (edit: Nevermind, I'm all out Posted Image) and crack into those editor features I need to code.

More editor work, interface sketches, and plot

Posted by , in AdventureFar, Design, Story/plot 05 May 2012 - - - - - - · 1,173 views
plot, charactor, concept art and 3 more...
I haven't gotten too much done since I last posted, just chippin' away at the editor piece by piece. I want to have the editor entirely finished by June 15 (6 weeks from now). It's been too long, so I've given myself a set of goals, each 6-weeks apart, to press forward in development.

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Editor work:

I've gotten the placement of tiles working again.

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There seem to be a few problems with coloration and blending (the problems aren't visible in the screenshot above), and I'm not sure when/where they were introduced - it used to work a year and a half ago! - but I'll track those down later.

Here's me just playing around. Final quality of the game will far surpass this, rest assured. (This is without blending, coloration, masks, shading, and multiple layers, and I just grabbed a floor tile for the walls so it all looks like junk... but even junk is nice to see after so long with a broken editor Posted Image)

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Today I added the ability to 'pin' searches in the Tile Explorer, so you can come back to them later.

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I also added a list of "Recent tiles" and "Recent masks" a few days ago (by clicking the 'Show recent' button).

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Interface sketches:

A few weeks ago I did some sketches on the layout of the interface. Here they are:

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I figure the large buttons at the side of the screen would make the game easy to port to iPad and Android (and Win8) tablets, sometime after the initial Windows release.

The release plan is: Windows -> Mac -> Linux -> iPad (not iPhone) -> Android tablets
Who knows? Maybe Xbox Live or something. But it all depends on the initial success of the game on Windows. I don't have a Mac, so with the initial proceeds from Windows I'll buy a Mac and port the game.

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Plot work:
Act 1, Section 2, Event 7 is the first of three Guardian council meetings that occur during the course of the game.
It takes place shortly after a serious battle between the player (alongside a scattering of guards and rangers, and two other guardians) and the main enemies of the game. As the battle is occurring, the town the player and guardians are trying to defend burns down around them and alot of civilians get murdered before their eyes as they fight, finally driving off the enemy, but with not much left remaining of what they were protecting. (The battle takes place in A1,S2,E5, just two events (maybe 20-30 minutes) before the meeting, so it's still fresh in the player's mind)

This section of plot is still very much a work-in-progress, and is partially unfinished towards the end. You'll notice lots of placeholder names ('MentorGuardian', and 'xxxxxx', for example) and missing area names ("[Military Guard Outpost City before the Citadel]") that I still need to fill in.

There's no real spoilers in this (very minor ones only), as it takes place in the first act of the game.
Apologies for posting it as a screenshot! The forum software isn't keeping the formatting, even when I use the "Paste from Microsoft Word" option, and even when I convert to .rtf format and copy+paste from there. Posted Image Too lazy to manually re-highlight the dialog, stitching some screenshots together was the quickest method.

Act 1, Section 2, Event 7 - A meeting of guardians

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I said I'd post some character concept art and descriptions of the character today, but I'll hold off until next week so the journal entry doesn't get too large (read: So I can hold cool content in reserve for weeks when I don't make much progress or don't have screenshots to show Posted Image).

AdventureFar status - Editor and plot work, excel spreadsheets

Posted by , in AdventureFar, Design, Story/plot 26 April 2012 - - - - - - · 1,589 views
design, editor, plot, excel and 1 more...
Hey, it has been two weeks since my last update - unexpected distractions reared their head.

Primarily, I've spent the past two weeks getting a little work done on the plot, and spent alot of time (primarily just in the past three or four days) on the editor. Pieces of code are starting to fit back into place - I haven't touched the editor in maybe a year and a half, but it's coming back together piece by piece.
It seems to be coming into shape as a real solid tool - which is good, as I've mentioned before I hope to use this same editor/engine for my next three projects (AdventureFar and probably two after it). It's also good, because my supporting map maker needs to be able to use it without hassle when it's time to build maps.

Latested editor screenshot:
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Before other things were distracting me, I spent some time organizing my plot into separate Excel and Word documents.

I've been self-learning some Excel and a little VBA, and made a neat spreadsheet to measure and keep track of how far along the game is coming. It also has space to calculate how long each section takes to play through (though there's nothing yet available to play through) by calculating the average playtime per area for each play-session.

Anyway, I have a 'Master index' Excel document with links and completion amounts to the plot documents. Here's what it looks like:

Master index - Screenshot 1
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If you click the clock icon, it expands giving locations for putting in playtimes of the game testers (whenever I get to that point), and calculates the average playtime for each section:

Master index - Screenshot 2
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It also continues downward, for sidequests:

Master index - Screenshot 3
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Honestly, these Excel spreadsheets didn't take long to make. A day's work maybe (with some adjustments here and there as I get ideas), and that from someone relatively inexperienced with Excel. Excel is much more powerful than I've imagined, and you can get things knocked together very rapidly.

Anyway, I've been working on the plot some since my co-author had to take an extended leave of absence. My desired play-time is about 6 hours of main plot and 2 hours of sidequests per Act, and about two hours of player exploration per act.

(6 + 2 + 2 = 10 hours per act, 4 acts = ~40 hours if new to the game, ~25 hours if running through)

Act 1, Section 2 - Event Index document
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A snippet of 'Act 1, Section 1, Event 3, Scene 2'
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I was previously wanting to release the game by the end of September, but if I can't reach that goal (which seems likely), I'd rather hold onto it until after the Christmas rush of triple-A game releases, maybe releasing it in early February. This will give me more time to polish the game anyway. When I get closer to release, I'm going to need to hire a good pixel artist for the NPC avatars, as the concept art is more for combat enemies (which are in a different art style). I'm waiting before finding a pixel artist, however. It's not a high priority at this point in time.

I can handle all the tile art on my own, I think, but AdventureFar will have alot of burned down villages in it, as part of the flow of the plot. This will cause me some art troubles, as my current tiles I made don't have any piles of ashes or smoke smears or burned buildings in it - but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Another issue that was a problem is trees. The nation the game takes place in is heavily forested - and my trees just weren't really looking that great. But I figured out a neat trick in Paint Shop Pro using effects that greatly assist in helping me make great looking trees.

Pine trees - WIP:

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They still need alot of work (these were just proof-of-concepts basically), but I think they'll turn out pretty good in-game. Until I can actually see them in-game next to and working with the other art, I don't want to invest too much work on them that might need to be discarded.

I'll post some more character concepts from one of the artists next week, if I remember. I've also spent some time sketching some in-game interface designs, which I'll also post some examples of.

Before I go, I've fixed a bug or two, and added a few things to my name-indexing tool for writers: Nomen Rationarium.
At a family member's request! First ever support request I've received. Posted Image Well, it's the first ever tool I've made that other people actually find useful. Posted Image

Character concept art, eccentricities, plot, and infrastructure work

Posted by , in AdventureFar, Design, Story/plot 03 April 2012 - - - - - - · 1,736 views
character design, design and 3 more...
I've been doing work to add alot of data-driven functionality to AdventureFar's engine.
I thought of a clean and efficient way to allow each page of a menu to be configurable by files... and to move around and create and edit the menu elements from within the game itself while it is running. Nothing that hasn't been done before by other programs in the past, but I realized how I can leverage some of what I already wrote in ways I hadn't thought of with a bit of extra work (prior to this, I was just going to hard-code the menus, with only minor maneuverability from config files).

Right now I'm still working on it, and there's still alot to be done, but here's some screenshots of the first piece working:

Drag and drop: (completely functional)

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Positioning by percentages from the left or right of the window: (~80% done)

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Editing object properties and changes being reflected in the object: (60-70% done - 4 days more work, maybe)

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Eventually all the menu buttons (and hopefully the in-game GUI) will be work the same way, but I haven't re-implemented those, because I'm still fine-tuning the base class and property editing windows.

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I wrote down on paper a couple side-quests that came to me while, uh, err.... walking around in circles in the kitchen for three or four hours, waving my hands around in jerky movements. Posted Image
Sometimes, when guests are over at the house, or visitors are staying with us for a few days, they catch me at it and get really confused. After I've been walking around for twenty or thirty minutes they suddenly notice it and look up in surprise, asking what I'm doing. One asked if it's autism or something. Posted Image

Pacing really helps me think, and pacing in circles is nice because it doesn't require conscious thought to move if I don't have to maneuver around obstacles, giving me full mental power (all 5 kilowatts of it) to think, daydream, and explore creative ideas at the fullest.
Going for walks outside is nice too, but I have to focus more on what's around me. Plus, I can walk for an hour and a half before I get tired, because it's 'exercise'. I can walk non-stop in the kitchen for 5 or more hours without feeling any physical difference.

But you don't read my blog to find out about my eccentricities - that's just an added bonus. Onto concept art!

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This is the Right-hand man of the young king. He's very loyal to 'his majesty', and an excellent swordsman. You, as a member of the non-government controlled but government-allied organization known as 'guardians' run into him alot during the game. He helps you on a number of missions, as you help bring law and order to otherwise chaotic situations that arise.

He was in the government military (the 'Guards' branch, explained below) with you the player, and eventually rose to prominence as a favorite of the king. You meanwhile, left the military, having been recruited by the Guardians. Since you know each other from your younger days in training, you are on friendly terms with each other and are very open with each other with concerns about the events occurring during the game.

This favorite of the king is, aside from the king, the most powerful person in the nation, since he speaks with the authority of the king. Even the Head Ranger and Head Guard take orders from him, though the Guardians which you belong to, don't take orders from the government.

None of my characters have names yet... names are very important to me, so it always takes alot of time for me to figure them out. (Hence the entire game still being nameless and simply called 'AdventureFar' as a placeholder). So this character, in the multiple locations he comes up at in the plot, is just referred to KRHM (King's right-hand man).

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There are two main branches of the military in the government. The 'Rangers' and the 'Guards'*. The Guards are the primary military force, securing and upholding the law in cities and towns. Since the nation is land-locked from other nations due to the terrain, they don't really have an army. 'Guards' can be thought of more as policemen.
If 'Guards' are policemen, then the 'Rangers' are the highway patrol. Rangers patrol the main highways and keep them clear of monsters, as well as carry government messages back and forth, and escort merchant caravans or groups of travelers from town to town. They also have small presences in towns and cities as outposts to rest in at the beginning and ends of their patrols.

*Not to be confused with the guardians which you are apart of.

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While the nation goes into deeper and deeper confusion and chaos, and as monster attacks increase and even the Rangers are getting pushed off the highways unless in large numbers, the criminal elements of the nation are thinking up ways to take advantage of the situations to line their pockets with the bloodied gold of the dead and dying. (As a guardian, you'll have plenty of opportunities in the game to choose what punishments to hand out to such criminals (or suspected criminals) who have been captured by yourself or the government)

There are many highway robbers, thieves, and bandits of all sorts - but while organized in the casual way of crime, it's not a cohesive organization. The bandit leader in the picture above is the head of a small group of about twenty ruffians, who have the audacity to hijack a merchant vessel that just arrived at the only major port town of the nation, and attempt to sail it away. Unfortunately for them, the original captain of the ship damages it in such a way that they don't get far from shore and have to dock at a small fishing village only a dozen miles south. Trapped and cornered, the bandits have the crew under the knife, and a hostage situation rapidly develops.

Guess who gets to go 'resolve' it? And guess what you're favorite instrument of negotiation is? Posted Image
In all seriousness, your choices determine the outcome (at least partially) of the situation, and directly effect how many hostages and bandits survive or are killed, as well as the punishment for the bandits.
But you're not alone in this situation, having not only the King's Right Hand Man with you, but also the force of the government, with a handful of Guards and Rangers who came from the nearest fortified city and arrived there before you,

Seeing that the bandits are unarmored and have an assorted collection of knives and swords hoping for a quick getaway and having no intention or desire to go one on with with soldiers, while you and the guards are fully equipped in armor and trained for combat, and the rangers have bows and arrows and leather vests, this shouldn't be too much trouble.

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I've started writing Act 2 of the probably four acts. My brother who was co-writing it had to back out (whether permanently or temporarily, I don't know yet), but I've come up with (while pacing in circles Posted Image) some great scenes for the game that really carry some weight to them, so I'm excited to jump back into it.

As mentioned in a prior post back in January, Act 1 is entirely completed at a macro level, but not at a micro line-for-line level. At a macro level, I expect Act 1 to take 6 hours of gameplay. At the very largest most general level, the entire game is figured out, but that's just a paragraph's framework, not detailed at all, so on it's own it's worthless.

I'm kinda torn about Act 2, because Act 2 begins with a bang and I wanted it to end with a bang which marks a major turning point in the game... but Act 2 looks like it'll burst with the amount of content I'm wanting (in my head, not on paper) to cram in it, so the major turning point must be pushed back into the first half of Act 3... which apparently is what I was planning anyway (?!), looking over my past notes. My subconscious is two months ahead of me. Posted Image

But I'm talking in vagaries, and knowing how annoying that is I'll shut up about the plot and get back to posting pretty pictures next week until I have something more solid to share. Posted Image

Hand-drawn conceptual town maps

Posted by , in AdventureFar, Design, Story/plot 27 March 2012 - - - - - - · 2,127 views
game, world, maps, indie and 2 more...
  • Town names
  • Northern Ruling city
  • Kradenhiem   The castle
  • First destroyed village

Here's the basic world that the game takes place in:

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It's a single nation, land-locked on two sides (north-west and north-east) by mountain ranges, and the ocean to the southwest, and swamps to the south-east. The game takes place solely in that one nation.

It's not a very sea-faring nation, though it does have some limited trade by merchant vessels through it's one major port city ("Viarmhiem") near the capitol.
It has a few fishing villages but with only small vessels not going far from shore.

The structure of the nation is the capitol, Kradenhiem, and three major cities, or 'Lord cities', that control the surrounding towns, and villages on behalf of the king.

The capitol is ruled by the king, which rules...
The cities that are ruled by lords, which rule...
The towns and villages that are ruled by mayors (small villages don't even have a mayor).

The three lord-cities are named after the compass-points.
"Hahdief" - aka "Northering ruler"
"Sahdief" - aka "Southern ruler"
"Lumdief" - aka "Eastern ruler"

The main thicker road that encircles the nation is a well-paved stone road named, "The King's Highway", most other roads are dirt, unless leading to a larger town or city.

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This is the map of the capital city "Kradenhiem", which means "The source/center of honour" (The name was changed to that after becoming the capitol of the nation).

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Note: The city does not actually curve left-ward, that's just my mad drawing skizzels. Posted Image

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The game starts off in the farthest North-eastern part of the nation, in a secluded village named ' Vi ' that just got burned to the ground and everyone in it killed, you (a non-governmental 'guardian') and government soldiers are there to find out what happened and report back to your superiors (you to your fellow guardian peers, the soldiers to the king).

This is a map of Vi pre-destruction:

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Pardon my annotations. Though the map is drawn of the pre-destroyed village, the numbers and the corresponding text refer to locations of the first game scene, as the player is walking through the already-destroyed village, looking at the ruins and talking with the government officials already on-scene.

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Hafdief, the northern ruling city, is one of the first places you visit. The city itself has no real plot significance, though you return to that general area several times during the course of the game for minor plot reasons.

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I hope you enjoyed this look at some areas that don't yet exist map-wise in my game that's not yet released (or even properly named!). Posted Image
Next week I'll post a character concept image or two from one of the artists.

Working on the plot

Posted by , in AdventureFar, Design, Story/plot 20 January 2012 - - - - - - · 1,103 views
design, plot, story
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I've been working on the plot of AdventureFar some more. One of my brothers and I are kinda passing the plot back and forth; I wrote the first general draft, he redacted some, rewrote some, and expanded some, and now I'm redacting, rewriting, and expanding some more, and we'll passing it back and forth several more times before things are finalized.

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The above text is possibly the intro-text of the game.

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Right now, I've broken the plot into Acts, Sections, Events, and Scenes. These show the flow of the linear plot of the game, though there will be sidequests and secrets as well listed elsewhere.

Each Act is broken into two Sections. Each Section is composed of six or so Events, which are detailed by Scenes.
An 'Event' can be described like, "The player goes to the village ________, to deal with xyz" A 'Scene' is something like, "When the player first enters the village, the guard approaches him and says....". An 'Event' is like the chapter title of a book, whereas a 'Scene' is the chapter contents itself.

My loose titles for the acts and sections are:

Act 1 – ‘Village ashes’
  • Investigation
  • A King's Follies
Act 2 – ‘King’s Highway’
  • King’s Highway
  • A Loyal Rebellion
Act 3 – ‘A Kingdom burning’
  • <redacted name for spoilers>
  • A Warrior Risen
Act 4 – ‘Executioner’
  • Council of War
  • The Hunters Released

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Right now I've finished writing the general Events for both Sections of Act 1, and have detailed Scenes for the first Event of Act 1. I also have the general flow of the game's plot in my head, but haven't yet got it down on paper and fleshed out.

I'm still deciding whether I'm going to break up the game into two separate games, or one single game. If each Act ends up being over 8 hours of gameplay (excluding sidequests and exploration), I'll probably package Act 1 & 2 together, and Act 3 & 4 together. As it currently is, I estimate 4 1/2 hours (main plot only) for Act 1, so for now it's a single game.
When I actually am far enough along development to play through Act 1, then I'll have real measurements, and not just guesswork. As of now, not a single area in the game world exists, since I still haven't resumed coding the game itself (still sidetracked on some tools - though I'm almost done).

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One thing I'm doing in this game is, while the guardians, of which the player is a member, defend the people and uphold justice and righteousness in the land, they don't also have the option of doing so in the most morally ideal way. Infact, some of the choices that the guardians and the player make during the flow of the game for the sake of protecting the people from the threats that have arisen will hopefully take the player by surprise.

Another thing I'm planning is having one of the major power pushers of the nation go 'crazy' and kill alot of people... but then I have the guardians argue amonst themselves in favor of the power player, and not making the stereotypical "Oh, he's crazy, let's kill him.", rather, "Oh, it makes sense he'd do that, it's unfortunate what's happening against him, he's to be pitied, I'd probably do the same thing in his place, but we have to defend the people, so let's kill him anyway".

The game will be heavily story-based, though probably at the expense of some replayability (though I often re-read books multiple times even though I know their plot, if they are good enough books).

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