Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Cycle Begins Again #1: What the hell am I getting myself into?

The original purpose of this blog, I must admit, has long since been abandoned. The idea was to write blogs on the current metagame (read "strategy") of Starcraft 2, to help both myself in understanding and hopefully my less experienced audience understand what what happening in the professional scene. Since then, I have written a few of those blogs, along with a top 5 list of my favorite games and a long-winded true story of my awkward wing-manning friends.
Today, we start something new in this blog.
For anyone who may not know, I am a computer sciences major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). Every CS major must choose a specific focus for them to pursue their junior / senior year, and while I am not to the point of having to choose yet, I decided to dabble in a little bit of video game design. This led me to taking Adobe Flash Development, a class that mainly focuses on using Adobe Flash (and similar products) to create sprites and write the code to make them function. The class is based around studying different games and styles, finding focal points of games, what they do right and wrong, and the class ends with creating a (hopefully) fully functional flash game.
Awesome! So far this class has been great, I'm having a great time and learni--- Wait. What was that last part?
Okay, let's start with the very first thought I know we all had; Yes!, you all thought. I have to make a video game! This is a dream come true! Yup, it sure is! I'll have support to get the project done, a couple assignments to help me focus and get everything done on a timeline and... Oh shit... I have to make a video game...
Let that sink in for a moment. Think of all the work that goes into something as complicated as a simple flash game. You have the sprites for your character, the baddies, the items, the bushes, and that damn tree you keep running in to. Want your character to move at a standard 25 frames per second? Don't worry, you don't need 25 different frames, just 4 or 5. But how many different bad guys do you want? Do you want them to all move as well? You've got to create different scenes for different areas: night vs day, or forest vs cave. Once you create all the sprites (most likely by yourself), you've got to start thinking about the mechanics in the background. How smooth do you want this game to look? When you cast a fireball, should you quickly add and remove 5 different sprites to give the look of the fireball growing from your Player Character's hands, or should it just appear full size and zoom across the screen? Are spells more powerful than melee weapons, or should the PC have some incentive to run up and beat the crap out of some hapless bad guy?
I could keep rambling there, but I'll stop- I think you understand what I'm getting at. I'm not even certain that I understand all the challenges that I am going to face yet. I'm not complaining. On the contrary, I am beyond excited to begin this project, and I will add in the vague pieces I've got whipped up so far below. Before going into that, I just wanted to state that this a a sort of a not-so-serious developers blog. This is a place for me to bounce ideas, and I would love your feedback on them! I encourage anyone reading this to leave comments if you've got an idea, or maybe don't like something that I have come up with- I promise to take everything you guys say into consideration!

Alright, that's all aside now. Let's talk a little bit about the game.
Title: The Cycle Begins Again
Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Focus: To tell the story of events that repeat every five years. The game will be a fast-paced linear experience. The story will be delivered in text segments, which will be kept short (no player likes to read a book of text for every plot advancement.)
Plot: Please keep in mind this is a basic and bare bones, and has yet to really be fleshed out. The lives of every being is predetermined, and the kingdom repeatedly falls under demon control, reverts back after five years to the reign of the monarchy, and again is conquered in the same pattern of events. The opening scene will be short. A bloodied creature in a room with the Player Character. The creature is caught mid-dialogue. "failed again. The Cycle begins again." After a short selection / introduction screen, the player will begin in a field on a quest to gather the three Items of Truth that are rumored to contain the knowledge that will break The Cycle. Over the years, the player searches and collects the items while the kingdom is conquered yet again by the demons.
Leveling / Progression: Not yet fully determined. Progression will be marked by gaining the Items of Truth, each of which will also give the PC a small buff or new ability. The PC will choose at the game start whether to specialize in Speed, Magic, Attack, or Vitality. This will give him a slight bonus in its respective category. Perhaps at the end of each stage of the game there will be a leveling aspect?
Concept Art: It isn't much, but below is the basic idea of what the game will look like, and a little bit of progression I have made since starting the project. I am sticking with a block / pixel theme as is popular in the indie-scene due to its simplicity. Furthermore, I am simplifying it to three different block sizes: 4x4 pixels, 3x3 pixels, and 2x2 pixels. I want to keep the design as simple as possible to ensure I can focus more time into the coding aspect of the game, which I expect to be far more difficult. The way I am working on sprite creation is by zooming in 800% and creating sprites by the pixel blocks listed above, then zooming out and changing. Originally there was more in-between steps between the basic concept and draft 1, but I corrupted the file and had to start over at the basic concept.
I will probably update again in 2-3 days after finishing some more sprites and getting more information on the project itself. In the mean time, please comment below with some ideas and general thoughts, and please share this with your friends! I would love to use all the input I can from everyone : )