Dec 202013
 

I need to go back and change some of Nia’s dialogue.  It was originally my intention to make her more of a “blank-slate” character whose primary purpose is to serve as the player’s avatar.  As I’ve been writing, she has developed more of her own personality, so now I need to make sure all the dialogue options are consistent.

I think it’s better to narrow down the choices to things that are “in-character” for her, rather than try to guess what the player would want to do or say.  Honestly, it’s more fun to write this way, and I think it will be more fun to play too.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this story turns out!

Jan 182013
 

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?

Dec 292012
 

Hey folks,

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:

short fro 1

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.

short fro 2

The “trick” to this is in the next step.   Continue reading »

Dec 202012
 

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.

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?

Oct 072012
 

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.

Sep 272012
 

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.

Aug 272012
 

Manyara in her adventuring outfit.

Manyara has gone through a redesign since she last appeared on this blog.  As her character has evolved her style has changed as well.  Character design is one of my favorite parts of working on this project.  I expect this process to continue throughout development, as I’ll need to make all the aspects of the character, from visual design, to writing, to gameplay all fit together into a believable whole.  This includes thinking about how characters will change depending on their experiences during a particular playthrough.

Story-wise, I think we all prefer characters with some level of mystery or hidden depth.  Still, I appreciate the value of using visual design sometimes to make it easier to identify a character’s role in gameplay.  For example, I intentionally gave Nia a more “neutral” look as she will have different development paths depending on the player’s choices.

Manyara, on the other hand, hopefully now looks like the swashbuckler she is at heart.  I originally envisioned her as someone who was bored with her life and didn’t feel sufficiently challenged being a small-town guard.  Of course, people who don’t like their job tend to move on given the opportunity…

Special thanks to Fuzzimo for the leather texture!