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Yet Another Update

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Trapper Zoid


It is probably unclear exactly what is happening with my project at the moment, which is hardly surprising given that I've been brainstorming so many different concepts over the last few weeks. It's probably a good time now to fix a few things by posting them in this update.

What is Project Jack?

For those confused with all the weird things I've been putting in my journal in the last week or so, my present project is codenamed Project Jack. I'm intending this to be the first step towards my grand ultimate goal of building an RPG-esque game with fully implemented procedural interactive storytelling (which I won't expound on here, as it will take too much space).

I have now decided that Project Jack will be (for the most part) a top-down 2D Rogue-like dungeon crawler, however with gameplay more akin to The Legend of Zelda than to Nethack or Diablo; designed to be somewhat light-hearted and fun. I have also decided that rather than just use this as a prototype, I will try my best to make this a full, polished game. To that end, I've put coding on hold for a bit while I do all the proper planning that a software engineer should; write up design documents, story overviews, software architecture plans, functionality requirements specs etc. until I have a really solid idea of what to do. If I feel the strong urge to jump into code I'll prototype libraries; I'd like to see what FMOD (or OpenAL) and SDL/OpenGL can do.

This means I'll be cluttering up my journal and the design forum with lots of questions in the next few weeks. I've got a good feeling that this game idea could be a lot of fun if handled the right way, and unlike many of my other ideas is actually completable, so I don't particularly want to screw this one up. The biggest danger so far is that because this game idea is so central to my ultimate goals, many of my other game ideas I've had fall on similar lines and are very easy to merge into the design. This is leading to a tendency for the design concept to balloon out and fork into a myriad of massive projects. Keeping the game both feasible to complete and entertaining will be key.

Well, that's probably enough overview of the project for now. Now up to the regular update!

Jack: "What's my motivation?" - Shaping the Storyworld

So far this week, my game dev. time has been spent mostly writing up the design document, sketching more concept art, and trying to determine the story elements. The design write-up is slow but steady at the moment. I had decided to try using a "proper" word processor for once, but OpenOffice seemed to have a nasty habit of rebooting my machine at random intervals (which isn't that great at inspiring creativity). So now I'm back to LaTeX, which I find easier to write drafts with in any case.

However the one thing I really need to nail down is the "storyworld"; the hero, environment and general theme of the game. I've already decided the bulk of the game will be a top-down dungeon quest, and I've got a good feel of what I'd like the gameplay to be like; comic enemies, avoiding traps, solving puzzles etc. However this leaves a lot of room for different storyworlds. To be specific, here's some of the questions I'm asking myself:

  • What should the setting be? I've decided on some sort of fantasy element (so I can throw in what I like into the gameworld). But should I stick with a standard "medieval" fantasy dungeons, or go with a more contemporary, "Indiana Jones" style temples of doom? This choice will affect all the other gameworld decisions.
  • What should the hero be like? What they look like is not the main problem: the graphic style means that he/she needs to be simply drawn, and probably wielding large weaponry of some kind (to be easy to see). But what is their reason for being in the dungeon? Are they just hunting treasure or seeking adventure? Classic hero out to save the world? Or maybe they just got stuck and have to find their way back out?
  • What kind of dungeons should I include? I'm fairly sure I want a "standard" dungeon type of stone floors and walls, with an array of interesting traps. However exactly what style I do this in depends a lot on the setting and the motivation of the hero (as well as what I can physically draw!) Should I include more than one dungeon type for more variety, at the cost of longer development time?
  • What should the gameworld be like? Should the dungeon be all there is, like in Nethack? Or should I have some sort of basecamp for a dungeon, like in Diablo? Or should I put the time in developing an overworld, like in The Legend of Zelda? Or maybe I could abstract away the overworld to some sort of mission briefing management screens, like is provided in many other game genres?
  • What should the story be like? I'm not really that keen on providing a heavy story for this game, as it's not really that appropriate. I'd also like the game to be readily replayable, as that's a key feature of all Rogue-likes. But do I need a story beyond the hero's motivation? I'm not sure whether the game will be weaker for the lack of a plot or not (I suppose this one depends a lot on the other decisions).

There's a whole heap of other things I've got to consider, however the decisions for those aren't quite as important yet as deciding on those questions above. There's pros and cons to every decision, but I have to somehow find a balance between development time and providing a rich balance. I don't want the game to be too bland, however I also don't want to be in development forever.

If you've managed to read all that, then congratulations! I suppose I'm mostly posting to sort things out in my own mind, but it certainly helps for other people to impart their wisdom and point out the glaring flaws and obvious solutions to my plans and problems. So as usual, any advice, comments or questions will be appreciated.

Oh, and gold stars to everyone who coloured in a hero. [teacher]You all should be very proud of yourselves! Good job![/teacher]
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You eat the canned kobald corpse. It tastes bad. You get food poisoning. You are confused.

* click up. goes down *

You fall into a pit. There are spikes in the pit. The spikes are poisoned. You step on a landmine. You die of foodpoisoning. Identify valuables? [Y/N]

That was the last time I played Nethack.

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As someone who has never had the patience to get below level 6 in Nethack, rest assured that my game will play nothing at all like that [grin].

Actually come to think of it, I think exactly the same thing happened to me the last time I played Nethack. Stupid spike traps...

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Shit, Mushu. You have a really thin skin. You should see what IVAN can throw at you.

From a "Most Gruesome Death" forum thread:
Shadax was making his way through hordes of monsters with his faithful ally, Ivan.

They had caught Golgor Dhan in a pincer, and Ivan swung, severing Golgor's arm.

Unfortunately, arms seem to not like to let go of their weapons after being severed, and perhaps by a stroke of luck, had severed Shadax's head as it flew down the hallway.

It's cruel and sadistic and I'm sure it has code built in it just to toy with you. But it's insanely tough. One guy got eaten by a pair of pants as he was trying to equip them.

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A sadistic rogue-like game that's called Ivan (same as my interactive storytelling project name)? Now I'll have to try that out [grin].

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