Last night I dreamt that I had gotten a lot of concept artwork done. Waking up this morning, I wasn't disappointed; even though there was no artwork, I now had a lot of designs in my head. In a way, I had still made some progress even while sleeping. It was rather exciting and it got me thinking about something.
In high school, my mom got me a book called "The Encyclopedia of 20,000 Dreams." Now, it was mostly quackery in its interpretations since the meaning of the dream has a lot to do with the person experiencing it, but it had an instructional section that I found very intriguing. It was a guide to lucid dreaming, and the steps were very simple: every day, think of what you want to dream about and write a few key words on a piece of paper. Fold this paper and place it in your pocket, or someplace you'll notice it several times during the day. Then, no matter what you dream, write it down in a notebook. I followed these instructions every day for 2 weeks, noting even the most minute details of my dreams in my journal. I experienced a lot of the typical tellers, such as repeated episodes of sleep paralysis--which can be terrifying even if you do know what you're experiencing--and increasingly vivid and memorable dreams. I was fortunate not to have any serious nightmares, which is always a concern for people attempting this. Ultimately, I found success.
To tie this into my interest in game design, I must first explain what about lucid dreaming was so appealing to me: the promise of real-life escapism. I grew up in a broken home and my choice activity for ignoring the stress around me was gaming. I was playing games before I could read. Still, my immersion was constantly interrupted by the limitations of the game itself. People game for a lot of reasons, and there was no one game that could really meet all of my needs at once. In a way, my drive to play games always came from the feeling that something was missing. The closest a game ever got to feeling like a complete experience was Rune Factory 4. All of the RF games were good, but 4 had almost everything. Unfortunately, being a console game, it, too, was limited in the level of creativity that a player could achieve. There were only so many recipes for crafting, only so many story updates, etc. So the reason lucid dreaming was such an attractive idea was because I could break those limitations.
It worked, but not in the way you'd expect. I don't dream myself into Super Mario levels or Legend of Zelda fanfiction. At its heart, lucid dreaming is best used as a tool for processing problems. I dream about my problems as well possible solutions to them, whether the issue is my home life, my job, or just a creative block. It really changed my life. It wouldn't necessarily change everybody's life, but it certainly changed mine. I suppose I was uniquely suited to it in some ways. It's really interesting to think about how even simple things like that can cause us to have a slow epiphany.
Anyway, I'm tired of hearing myself talk and I said I would elaborate more on the concept of Solstice, so let me delve into that. Note that, at the moment, nothing is set in stone because my team and I just began working on this, even though we've been tossing the idea around for years.
As I've stated before, Solstice is intended to be a life simulator. That means that at least most of the things you do in real life should be available to do in this game, as well as things you could only really dream of doing because of health or financial limitations in real life. To some extent, all games simulate a few facets of life, but Solstice is an attempt for me to reach a greater level of this complete life experience. After all, I'm of the opinion that even if you can only experience something in a game, it's better than never having experienced it at all. I will never really know what it's like to skydive, or climb a mountain, or save a city, but I can have an approximate experience through games, and with AR/VR gaining more and more traction in gaming, the approximation of such experiences may become quite close to the real thing.
So here are the basics my team has agreed on:
Solstice takes place in an era of moderate technological advancement. People have some modern appliances such as televisions and microwaves, but there are no phones or computers.
Character customization is a must and it must provide enough options to accommodate most, if not all, kinds of players.
The protagonist is going to come from a mysterious background where it is implied that some tragic event occurred which caused the protagonist to move. There is debate on whether we should explain just what it was in game or leave it ambiguous. I'm in favor of leaving it ambiguous.
The player will have a choice of three towns to start in, and the story elements will change somewhat depending on where they started.
Each town will have a general store and a mail courier service, as well as several unique facilities such as a boutique or a diner.
The towns are surrounded by areas called "wilderness", where they can explore the world, fight monsters, farm materials, and progress the story.
Combat will be done in real time.
NPCs will have a stat that indicates their relationship to the player. The status of the relationship will be displayed when speaking to the NPC.
Certain actions and behaviors will increase or decrease points in the relationship with one or more NPCs.
Certain events will occur with characters whose relationship status with the player is either very high or very low.
The relationship level with one character may affect the level of another, making it either easier or more difficult to befriend certain characters.
Romantic options are a must. Each town will have its own eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, but proposing will only become an option once the relationship level becomes maxed out.
Reverse proposals will also be a possibility.
The player will gain levels and experience from combat, but also by crafting, cooking, fishing, playing mini games, and bonding with the NPCs.
The farming simulator is going to be robust, with a plethora of options for crops as well as opportunities to expand your plot. It will not be a mandatory aspect of the game.
You will be able to keep pets and livestock.
You may also be able to befriend certain monsters or form alliances with some groups.
The Day/Night cycle is integral to this game, as it is linked to how often you can increase/decrease your relationship level with an NPC, how the crops grow, and when certain events and locations are accessible. The Day/Night cycle will have abridged time, not real time.
The player's objective is to become a good friend, citizen, partner, and ultimately a local hero.
I don't want to spoil the game's plot so I can't give too much away, but that's the gist of it. If I've left anything out, I'll address it in future entries.
I didn't make a ton of progress today outside of a few sketches, but I did investigate the viability of Unreal Engine for this project. I began by looking for attempts to make Harvest Moon in UE and found a project in progress doing just that here. It is called "Project Harvest" and unfortunately, there don't seem to be many updates on progress with the most recent being in November 2018, and the devs only managed to implement the barest basics of the game so far. I did find a very promising set of tutorials by AngryDome on Youtube for building a farming simulator in UE, and I've added them to my library for future reference.
The farming simulator and social system will likely be the easiest, if most tedious, parts of this game to program. The only thing I am still having trouble with is the passage of time in game, which is integral to many features I want to include. The game must reference time for a lot of things, including the locations and activities of the NPCs, the appearance and music of daytime versus nighttime, the passage of minutes, hours, days, seasons, and years, the growth of crops, and more. The game cannot happen without that, but it's more complicated than you'd think and frankly I've been stumped about how to do it, until I found this tutorial for doing just that in UE. There is also a Youtube video here by user TheFaceGrabber which makes the process look like a breeze, so it looks like we'll be using UE after all unless I suddenly encounter a great reason not to.
In the meantime, we're still discussing 2D versus 3D only because I feel like with 2D, I'll need less help with the sprites. There seems to be a UE tutorial for making every sort of object you could think of, so maybe that won't be so much of a hassle. If I can at least make some object templates, I could ask my teammates to help me without risking too much stylistic diversity.
I think perhaps I've gone on a lot longer here than I meant to, so forgive me for this great wall of text here, but I do feel like I'm making some important headway here. I'll try to keep my entries a little more brief in the future, barring major updates. Thanks for staying with me so far!
A couple of new things today. First, I have been thinking for a while about starting a Youtube channel where people could actually watch me go through the candid process of designing and producing a game, both for education purposes and potentially for some small, additional revenue purposes, but this video by The Game Theorists has given me some pause about this because apparently the way that whole things works is broken. That doesn't mean I wouldn't do it purely for entertainment purposes, but maybe Twitch would be more effective? Either way, if you'd be interested to watch me and my pals fumble around a project, give me your two cents in the comments.
Second, my husband is insistent that we use Unreal Engine and 3D models for this game. I'm on the fence about this because, frankly, tile-based graphics are easier to do. If we do 3D models, I don't want to use the ones that are standard with UE which means somebody is going to have to learn digital 3D-modeling. While I do have the technical knowledge to do this, it's one of my least favorite things to do because it is extremely tedious. I also don't think this game would benefit particularly well from the 3D aspect, and I have never used UE before so that would be a new experience for me.
Actually, note to self: Let's spend some time this weekend doing some research on UE. I'm open to anything that could make my job easier.
I had a few thoughts on the drive into work this morning while discussing the mechanics of Solstice with my husband (he's the "Toll" of T&S Productions). I want to recount them here for my own reference and also to get some input:
For one: I loved Rune Factory's skill system where the player's stats increased when they performed certain actions as well as when they leveled up. For example, throwing objects in the game would increase your Strength by just a little bit whereas increasing a level would push it up a whole point. Taking physical damage would contribute to your Defense, and striking monsters would increase your Attack. I would like to implement this feature, as I believe it provides opportunities to level up and grow stronger without requiring a tedious grind.
And two: A stylistic feature I'd like to implement is actually something I picked up from Undertale; mainly, the tone of the dialogue. I love the way the Undertale and its sequel, Deltarune, maintain a minimalist and slightly humorous tone both in actual speech and in the descriptions of objects and observations. It's charming and I would like to replicate that.
Anyway, that's all I've got for today. As usual, I got a migraine around 3:00 p.m. and I've been nursing it ever since.
My name is Samm. My development group so far loosely consists of myself, my younger sister, and my husband.
The truth is that we're all wildly inexperienced. All 3 of us have taken programming and game design/development in the past, but we haven't had good luck with teachers. We're largely self-taught. I have the most experience in almost every area, but mostly our skills overlap. While I consider myself the main source of the programming, the music, and the graphics, my sister is a great painter and a programmer and my husband is also a great artist and has some experience programming too. We're all novelists too, so everybody has experience writing science fiction and fantasy tales. We're all really intelligent too, although I have a hard time focusing much of the time because I have so much to keep track. I'm a VIP at my day job and when I'm not working my family and pets demand my attention, plus I'm always in the middle of a bunch of creative projects. Honestly, I have no idea when or if we'll ever finish this game, but dammit we're going to try.
My hope for this game is to make something that is educational and promotes mental health and well-being as well as good habits, while still being a fun destressor. I want to make a game that keeps players emotionally engaged with enough meat in the content that it's tough to really get bored.
At the moment I'm in the early planning stage. I'm making a list of features I want to include, maps that will need to be drawn/painted (I'd love to do watercolor backgrounds, I love beautiful watercolors), music tracks that will be needed, sprites that will need to be drawn, etc. I'm having trouble deciding whether I want this game to be 3-D modeled or tile-based, but I think for the first iteration of this game it might be easier to just do tile-based. It's what I have the most experience with.
I started an account here just read some tutorials and lurk through the forums, but please feel free to interact with me! I love to hear about other folks' projects and if you've got any advice or things you wish you had known when you began your own major project, I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, you'll be seeing more from me in the future.