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.

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!

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:

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