For the next few months I’ll be focusing on writing. Now that I have the right tool for the job, I should be able to get the story done relatively quickly. In the meantime, I have a slight backlog of character designs that don’t have their character written yet. So, you can still look forward to a few character design posts as I get those done.
One of the big struggles for me in working on this project has been organization. While RPG Maker is a great tool for RPG development, Nia’s Journey has some particular challenges that have made writing within the RPG Maker editor difficult. On a basic level it’s pretty straightforward to add dialogue, but since I’m planning to include a lot of branching in the story, it can be difficult to keep track of what has or has not happened in previous scenes.
I just recently learned about a great writing tool called Ywriter that I hope will make it much easier to write more consistently without having to stop so often to try to remember everything that may or may not have happened in the past that would be relevant to each scene.
Although Ywriter is designed primarily for writing novels, not games, the ability to organize the story by scenes, chapters, and sections fits perfectly with what I need to write more effectively for this project. In Ywriter, I can quickly see who was in a prior scene, what items were relevant, where it took place, as well as a summary of what happened. It even allows me to import images such as character portraits.
Going forward, I’d like to try focusing more on writing outside of RPG Maker, so that I can import the dialogue and script characters’ behavior with a clear understanding of how the scene should play out. Hopefully this approach will allow me to work more efficiently on this aspect of the project.
If you’ve been following for a while, you probably already know this, but I just want to say that I really appreciate feedback from my readers. Even though I have a specific vision for what I want to create, your feedback helps me achieve that vision in the best way possible. Just as an example, in one of my earlier posts I discussed my plans for random encounters and I learned that I could create the experience I was looking for using on map encounters (which most people seem to prefer.)
Please do keep it coming…and thanks your support!
Lately I’ve been thinking about how to handle defeat. Traditionally in RPGs, a lost battle means everybody dies and it’s game over. You can either load a save or start over from the beginning.
My thought was that it might be cool to make losing part of the gameplay as well. For example, if you lose a battle, you might still have a chance to talk your way out of being killed. I don’t think I’d do this for every battle though, since it would take too much time to add dialogue for so many scenes that players won’t even see most of the time.
Unscripted defeats would probably be best limited to boss fights or other especially difficult encounters. I have some ideas for how the story could continue after an unscripted defeat, or at least offer a chance to retreat and try again.
What do you think of this idea? If you lost a battle but were able to continue playing (with consequences), would you reload your last save, or keep moving forward?
Now that I’ve done the character design for Chinyelu (for now, it could always change), I thought it might be nice to post a quick tutorial on how to make a short fro like hers in Inkscape.
When I first tried making a short fro, I used the method in my previous Afro tutorial, and it didn’t work very well at all. For very short styles, the individual curls aren’t as visible, so it’s better to just give an impression of how they look rather than actually drawing each hair.
Ok here’s how Chinyelu looks with no hair:
To start all we need to do is add the basic shape of the hair, closely following the contours of her head. Note that I have also added a slight blur (about 1.5). I also set the opacity to about 75% so her skin still shows through slightly. This can be adjusted depending on how long the hair is and what works for the image background and skin tone.
The “trick” to this is in the next step.
I am going to try to start posting smaller, more frequent updates as Nia’s Journey continues to progress. Today’s update includes a sprite for Chinyelu.
If the armor looks a bit familiar, it’s a heavily modified version of the default hero’s armor from RPG Maker XP. How do you think it works for her?
The character page is up! Stop by for brief descriptions of Nia and a few of the supporting cast members.
One of the things many people find disturbing about some video games is the amount of violence and how it is represented. Nia’s Journey takes place in world where violence is an every day fact of life. Nearly everyone carries a weapon of some kind and knows how to use it. Nonetheless, I’d like Nia’s Journey to handle violence a differently than is the norm in videogames.
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the random encounters question, and based on those suggestions I’ve decided to use visible encounters instead. As a result, I’ve been thinking about how to represent violence, and the after-effects of violence. One of the things I’ve found problematic in many games is the way that human enemies are treated merely as fungible obstacles to be killed by the protagonist without a second thought.
As with other NPCs, I would like to humanize sentient enemies as much as possible. One way of doing that is by including unique dialogue and behavior for human enemies, just as I would for friendly NPCs in town. When threatened, they will do their best to preserve their lives whether by escape, negotiation, or a shift in combat tactics.
The second difference is how Nia’s Journey handles death. In many games, enemies who are killed will reappear after a set of amount of time only to be killed again. The implication is that their deaths are meaningless. In Nia’s Journey, human enemies (unlike animals and non-sentient creatures) will remain dead if they are killed.
Lastly, I want acts of violence to have a long-term effect on Nia and her friends. Nia may spend a lot of time in places with little or no law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences. Each party member will react to violence (and non-violence) differently, both in the short and long term. I’m still thinking about the implementation, but my goal is to allow the consequences of violence to be felt.
Last week I saw Angela Davis speak at Spelman College, and it really got me thinking about how to deal with the relationship between art and reality.
In the world of Nia’s Journey, I don’t want to reproduce the same forms of oppression that exist in reality because I would like people to be able to play and have fun without going through the same issues they experience every day. So, in that sense it’s an escapist fantasy, but at the same time I do want to explore the idea of oppression and particularly linked oppression.
Linked oppression was a central theme in Dr. Davis’ talk–she tied in the U.S. Prison-Industrial complex, the Palestinian-Isreali conflict, and racism in the women’s suffrage movement as fundamentally similar, and in fact, connected.
To my knowledge, linked oppression hasn’t been explored much in video games, and it seems like a relatively uncommon theme in other media as well. Too often we only “see” oppression when it’s explicitly directed against ourselves. I would like for Nia’s Journey to help make that connectedness a little more visible, even if only in “fantasy” form.