Astonished as I am to say this, She Who Fights Monsters is almost complete. As long as no truly catastrophic bugs show up during playtesting, I should be releasing the game on May 31st. Not a new demo; the full game. I’ll be offering it as donationware so that anyone who wants to play it can. (And if anyone DOES find a game-breaking bug once the game is out there, please feel free to tell me so I can fix it.)
Making this game was and still is quite an experience. And no, I don’t mean the aggravation of dealing with RPG Maker’s idiosyncrasies. I’ve taken this from a shaky alpha demo created on a whim all the way up to (at least to me) something rather special that I hope a lot of people will find value in, even those who didn’t grow up with alcoholic parents.
Over the course of the game’s creation, I’ve smiled, I’ve cried, and I’ve screamed in frustration over game creation software that doesn’t always function in what I see as a logical way. And as things came together in the final stretch, I’ve sat back and marveled and thought, “I’m really going to finish this.”
As I tested certain phases, I’ve felt the joy of nostalgia. Or mood whiplash I didn’t expect to happen as it did. With other parts, I’ve felt surprise at exactly how dark they came across when fully assembled, surprised to the point I thought of changing it so it might be less controversial. Then I decided to leave it alone because as it was, it was honest.
Overall, I’m proud of this game. I know I’m too close to both the project and the subject to be subjective, but… I’m proud of it. This is my first non-Twine game. And I think I did good.
I’m going to finish She Who Fights Monsters. I’ve been tethered to this game for a while and I want it done so I can move on to other things without having to think about it so much anymore. I’m also doing the best I can to do its ideas some justice given what I planned it to be and what I have to work with. I think it’ll turn out well for a first game that wasn’t made in Twine, but I wish I had started–and followed through with it–differently.
The game began as a submission for the Experimental Gameplay Workshop. To no one’s surprise, it didn’t get in (the alpha version was extremely rough), but I mostly just used that as an excuse to jump into an idea I’d been toying with for a while. And when I’d never touched RPG Maker before and everything in it was new, it seemed like the perfect dev tool.
Then I started running intoits limitations. Having come in from the freedom of Twine, those limits became really frustrating. That feeling of frustration makes working with the thing seem like a drudge or a wrestling match sometimes; I wish that I had started off in Unity instead of, in some ways, wasting my time with a program I’ll quickly outgrow.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad I’m making this game even if the means and results aren’t everything I expected. It’s the sort of thing I would’ve eventually done anyway and even might redo once I have more skills. I just hate feeling trapped by it, knowing that if I do something else I really want to do, I might not get back to this game for a long, long time. And in the meantime, I’d feel bad for leaving it neglected.
Though I often enjoy working on it, I think the main reason I’ll finish the game within the next few weeks is because I’m tired of looking at it and want to move on, and I’ve delayed the release month already. I think the main thing I’ve learned from this is not to give games release dates or definite timeframes until I’m fairly sure I’ll want to finish them by then.
Due to life circumstances (namely a new day job and… well… dealing with stage fright), it’s unlikely I’ll have She Who Fights Monsters done by the end of this month. I probably could if I rushed through it, but I want to give myself the time I need to make this game decent and the emotional space I need to stop freaking out over what may or may not happen when I release the finished game to the wild. But I’m pretty sure I can have it done my the end of May.
Once I’ve settled into my new schedule and a new life in general, I have plans for other games, too. The first thing on my mind is a much-expanded version of the game I made for the Cyberpunk Jam. Next up? Getting friendly with Unity so I can try other stuff.
Or, depending on how things go, maybe I could do both at once.
(Also, I’ve made some little changes to the demo. It now has the current sprites for Jenny and her father as well as a more obvious path to a certain semi-hidden feature. You can get the latest version here.)
After dealing with some personal issues, I’m finally back to working on She Who Fights Monsters in earnest. I’m mainly focusing on the art assets right now since, for me, those are the hardest to focus on. I like drawing sometimes, but I generally don’t LOVE it; I actually have more fun sorting through the technical stuff and making new things work. But art/design is very important in determining how well things work from a gameplay experience standpoint, and I’d rather have the real thing there when possible instead of just placeholders. (And, of course, I also want to just get it out of the way.)
One of my favorite things from the game is the Memory Bloom. Right now, I’m mainly taking care of some art associated with that. It’s not new; it’s in the demo if you look for it. In the final version, it will still be semi-hidden, but hopefully, it’ll be easy to find as long as you’re paying attention to certain visual clues.
The Memory Bloom has a major role in determining which ending you get. The game will have a total of three: a default and two others that only become accessible via the Memory Bloom. The Bloom lets you view some of Jennifer’s hidden memories–ones that don’t appear during the main part of the game. What you do with what you find decides who Jennifer becomes.
Sort of like dealing with memories made in the course of real life.
The offline versions of Eden and Shadow of a Soul are free now. You can donate if you like, but it’s not required to access the games any more than it is to play them online.
I made them free because I want people to play and share my games–and I’ve found that if you’re new or unknown, not offering them for free shuts you out of being able to promote them in quite a few venues. Moreover, almost no one pays anyway, and what little I might get doesn’t offset that lack of publicity. So… yeah. Just chalking that up to a failed experiment. But I do enjoy making games, and it always makes my day when someone tells me they like my work. Whatever increases the chances of that is a step I’m willing to take.
To people who have donated or purchased or might in the future, I really appreciate it. Not only is it encouraging; I definitely need the money.
So I’ve been working with RPG Maker VX Ace for almost three months now. In that time, I’ve gotten fairly used to how it works and what it can do–and certain things it does poorly. In the interest of other folks out there who might want to use it in their game-making endeavors, here’s my take on the thing.
RPG Maker VX Ace is… okay. If I only wanted to make typical JRPG-style games that only run on Windows, I’d likely think it was awesome. But since I want to do more than that, for me, it’s just okay and often kind of frustrating when I run into its limits.
Short Version: Read this article by TJ Thomas. It’s titled “EXPANDING THE TALK, pt. 1: How sales are used to exploit indie developers”, and it’s definitely something to think about. While you’re there, also check out Joylancer, a cool-looking game he has in development.
Long Version: I’ve decided that every now and then, I’m going to draw attention to a game or gaming-related article I find interesting, especially if it’s made/written by someone who (relatively speaking) isn’t in the spotlight. It kinda goes back to my thoughts when I wrote about the Queer Games Community, where I basically concluded 1)there isn’t one and 2)more should be done to promote and welcome talented people who… well… aren’t already popular or well-connected and/or who don’t necessarily fit a given mold.
Later, though, I reached another conclusion: there’s no real need for a “queer games” community per se, at least not the way I thought of it when I thought it might be more than a preformed social group. (Please note that I’m not putting down the folks in that particular group. I even owe one person my thanks for having indirectly gotten me started designing games in the first place, and it’s silly to say that people don’t have a right to choose their own friends.) What’s needed is for indie devs in general–especially those of us who are typically underrepresented such as women, people of color, and LGBT folks–to look out for each other more, and for games journalists to give a little more attention to devs they’re not already close to/familiar with. The last thing I would want is for anyone to be shut out, and since I want to be successful myself, I certainly don’t want people to be penalized purely for being visible or successful. What I do want is for everyone who has a good idea to have a reasonable chance of seeing that idea succeed, and a big part of that is exposure.
Here, I’m doing my small part to help things along, starting with bringing attention to this article by TJ Thomas — who is also developing a neat-looking game called Joylancer. (You get to name your own price on the demo, though a $10.00 donation lets you pre-purchase the game.) It’s a thought-provoking look at how Steam sales and such can affect the earnings/lives of indie game developers as well as some other issues endemic to the game dev community. To whet your appetite, here’s a taste of what he wrote:
sales entice a wider audience, because the wider audience doesn’t actually care. sales are a temporary veil of success– and even that isn’t a guarantee. putting a game on sale lowers its value, and when that value goes back up, people tend to not give a shit, or deem the game “not worth full price.” and this leads full circle into the problem: we don’t value indie games anymore.
a history of needing sales to survive, Humble Bundle cannibalizing indie developers and severely lowering the worth of multiple games in the process, poor support from publishers and digital distribution networks (itch.io has been the only one that’s been consistently reliable in my experience), and indies making it big and forgetting about everyone under them have essentially created an ecosystem where people like us cannot survive without constantly risking our (mental AND physical) health.
Note: To learn more about how this one happened and the thought process that went into it, please read this post. Basically, it’s the product of my first game jam.
This is the original version of Raziel, the Twine game I created for the Cyberpunk Jam. It’s simple. It’s quick. It’s something that eventually got an RPG Maker version, and even that has at least some chance of evolving into something else just because for that version’s clearly experimental nature, there’s something about it I really like.
Last night, I finished my first game that I made as part of a game jam. Well, not finished, exactly; more like managed to put together something serviceable that kind of makes sense, even if I didn’t get to do nearly as much I wanted to with it. Anyway, the game jam in question was the Cyberpunk Jam. All the games are listed here. And I have to say it was an interesting experience.
I wasn’t even sure I’d participate until it was half over. I didn’t have any ideas and, frankly, I just didn’t think I could do anything worthwhile. But as I was taking a shower one day, a weird question popped into my mind:
“Use the Augment? Y/N”
That question plus another wouldn’t leave my thoughts. I had to do SOMETHING with them, and they were definitely inspired thanks to the Cyberpunk Jam. I decided 1)yes, I’d participate and 2)since I needed to put this together very quickly, I’d go back to my old friend Twine.
There were so many ideas I had for what I wanted to do. But first, I had to figure out the basic details of the story. That took my a day or two. Then came the real obstacle: there was so much I wanted to do and not nearly enough time for me to do it right. It’s like my creativity was cannibalizing itself as every thought led to what I couldn’t do and how little time there was and what’s the point and it’s gonna suck and what were you thinking etc. I really started hating the time limit and feeling so confined.
Then, with mere hours left to go, I faced my nagging inner critic and asked, “So, what do you want me to do?” The critic had no answer and (surprisingly) shut up.
From that point on, the project was fun. Once I accepted the limits (for now; I WILL work more with this game later) and worked with them instead of against them, it was much easier than expected to get something done. No, it isn’t nearly what I wanted it to be. But I survived and I did make something I wouldn’t have made otherwise. Something that I’m sure I’ll sculpt into something much better one day.
A week or so ago on As the Pixie Turns, my demo for She Who Fights Monsters was delayed for a couple of days due to a technical mishap. What happened is since there’s no “Save As” feature in RPG Maker, I copy-and-pasted my game project files into another project directory, and I planned to edit THAT project to make the demo.
For reasons that I now forget (probably wanting to tweak the map data in the master project and use the improved versions in the demo), I decided to delete the maps in the demo project. Which, in case you missed it, was a completely separate entity from the project I copied it from. So I did the deletions, saved the project, closed it and opened the master project… only to find that all the maps were suddenly gone from there, too.
Now, if you haven’t used RPG Maker, maps are where the program stores ALL your layout data: where things are positioned, what events/scripts are triggered and where, what areas look like, etc. Basically, if a map is deleted, the area is gone forever. If all your maps are gone and they’re not supposed to be, well…. That’s a freak out-worthy event. And somehow, messing with a completely separate project did this to the main one. My best guess is it happened because the master project and the would-be demo were stored in the same directory at the same level, even though they were in different folders. Don’t try to make sense of it. It’s just what the program does.
How to Copy and Backup RGP Maker Files Safely
First off, a usage note. If you delete a map from your RPG Maker VX Ace Project, you can’t undo it. The menu’s Undo option will be greyed out. So when the dialogue box asks you if you’re sure you want to delete it, it’s being completely serious.
Now on to the copy and backup stuff. Here’s the safest way to copy a project: (more…)