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!

Aug 162012
 

I just got back from the “Business of Africana in the Popular Arts” panel at Onyxcon!  It was great to learn from more experienced artists. Even though they didn’t have someone who worked in video games, I found that most of what was said applies to me as well.  This was also my first experience doing any real marketing for Nia’s Journey, although I actually hadn’t planned on it at all.  Next time I’ll have to bring flyers!

One of the biggest questions I left thinking about was how I define success?  Each of the panelists had their own perspective on this topic, and now that this game is moving forward more rapidly, it’s something I need to consider.

For Nia’s Journey, my goal is for players to feel like they are part of the adventure.  I want to make a world that feels real, regardless of the technical limitations of the RPG Maker engine.  When I first started working on this, my motivation was to make a game where people of color, and especially women of color could see themselves represented as leaders and heroes, instead of as sidekicks, token characters, or most commonly, not at all.  Representation is still important to me.  But somewhere along the way, I realized that I’m capable of doing much more.  When it’s done, Nia’s Journey won’t be known for being a “Black” or “Afrocentric” RPG.  It will be known for having pushed the genre forward.

Aug 122012
 

Nia, with a mischievous expression.

Nia’s Journey wouldn’t be the same without its “star” Nia.  I can’t tell you too much about her yet — her story is still being written.  Her journey begins when a simple errand takes an unexpected turn.  She will soon find that sometimes a single decision can change everything.

As with many RPGs, making choices will be an important aspect of how you play the game.  However, in Nia’s Journey, it won’t be only your own choices that matter.  Nia’s actions also have the potential to influence others, who in turn can influence one another.  There will be many times when Nia has to anticipate or respond to the consequences of her friends’ choices as well.  Does that sound interesting to you?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Apr 252012
 

I’ve been thinking lately about random encounters.  I might be dating myself here, but I remember when they used to be a pretty common “feature” of RPGs.  In case you’re not familiar with the concept, the way random encounters worked was that whenever you were walking around outside of town, every time you took a step there was a chance that enemies would attack, initiating a battle scene.  These battles would just be a collection of random enemies, often completely irrelevant to the context of the story.  It was just as annoying as it sounds.

In general, these encounters interrupt the flow of exploration and story to provide players with the “opportunity” to earn some gold, items, and experience by winning a battle.  Most recent RPGs no longer include random encounters, in favor of clearly visible enemies that can be avoided.  For Nia’s Journey, I’ve been thinking it would be great to bring back random encounters.  Why would I do that?  Well, there are several reasons:

Continue reading »

Apr 192012
 

Alright, I think I’ve got it!

Manyara with coily-textured hair.

My best effort at a coily-textured afro.

The following explanation will probably only make sense to more experienced Inkscape users, but this style is a bit too complex for me to do a full tutorial at this point.  This texture can be achieved using a combination of several Live Path Effects. Continue reading »