In the process of writing, the story has changed quite a bit from what I initially expected. Thus the title of the game will also have to change to better fit the story. I’m not quite ready to share the new title yet, but for now let’s consider “Nia’s Journey” a working title until the real title is revealed.
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!
I can see why it takes so long to write novels. I feel like this is the most important part, so I don’t mind taking my time, but at the same time I do wish I could finish it more quickly.
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!
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.
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.
It occured to me that some of the tutorials and other information I post may be useful beyond RPG Maker. Let me know in a comment if you decide to use some of these techniques elsewhere!