So, last time I left you, I told you about my ideas for new projects to pursue now that I’ve ceased development on Life’s Impetus. Now, I’ll be telling you a bit more about the first game I plan to work on, the Narrative Project, and explain how I plan to organize my development from now on.
The Narrative Project, as you can guess, is a game focused on the narrative. It’ll be a visual novel/puzzle game about changing memories. I came up with this idea not too long ago after watching the brilliant time-travel movie Primer and wondering if I could make a videogame equivalent to it. I came up with the idea of memory changing, inspired by the story of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but temporarily gave up on the idea since I couldn’t think of any good way to make a game around it that wasn’t either too complex or too simple (coughremembermecough).
But, I got thinking about the idea once again when I quit LI. I was talking to @RPGgrenade and explained him the idea. Then, for some reason, he mentioned Phoenix Wright and it hit me; this idea would work great as a visual novel! My main problem with the idea was that I didn’t know how to make a good “game” out of it, but as a visual novel, the main focus would be on the story and I could just pop in puzzles when they felt right.
My idea for the story so far is this: it follows a professional memory changer who decides to retire; but, to do so, he must erase himself from the mind of everybody he’s worked with. I originally wanted to go with something like Primer, where some people discovered memory changing, but things just went to hell from there. Ultimately, I decided that the “professional memory changer” idea was more practical, since it could be adapted to a quick and short story (since I wanna do this in 3 months) while the “some people discover memory changing” idea had to be done slowly and carefully if I wanted to illustrate how their lives deteoriated. The “professional memory changer” idea was more original too (and people liked it more).
So, first things first, the important thing is to set my goals for the project. As I mentioned earlier, one of the goals is to make a game where the focus is the narrative. But, for these projects, there are two kinds of goals I always want to set: a learning goal (to learn something I’ve never tried before) and a practice goal (something I know how to do but haven’t praticed much). For the Narrative Project, I want to learn Ren’Py, a popular visual novel engine (not hard but that makes it a good place to start), and I want to practice character art (I used to draw people a lot but haven’t done it much lately).
With this set, I can move onto the process.
- The Prototype: Something quick and dirty made to answer the question “Is this worth working on?”. It usually shouldn’t take very long unless you’re making a content heavy game (like a puzzle game…). I’m currently finishing up the prototype for the Narrative Project, and will post it here when I’m done.
- The Imaginary Slice: Once I’ve decided that the idea is in fact worth working on, the next important thing to answer is “Can I finish this game in a reasonable time frame?”. It’s a variation on the idea of a “vertical slice” (a mostly complete level or world of the game that gives you an idea of how the rest of the game will be like), where the idea is simply to make one of eveything (so it’s shorter to make than a vertical slice) and measure how long I take.
- Based on this I’ll be able to estimate how long it’ll take and how big I can make the game. Of course, these times won’t be accurate since I’ll get faster as I develop the actual game, but it’s a good base. This phase of the process is something new I’m trying out to avoid the mistakes I made in Life’s Impetus from happening all over again…
- Preproduction/Planning: So, I’m making the game? Great! Now, the question is “What’s the overview of the game like?”. I should’ve already decided on most of the essential aspects of the game in the imaginary slice (like whether the game 2D/3D, type of gameplay and art, etc) so now I’m basically just planning out the scope of the game, like the mindmap below. I’ll also try to define certain aspects that must stay consistent during the whole game like the art style, gameplay conventions, etc.
- Production: Now comes the fun part where I just finish the game. I’ll probably try to set some milestones along the way, like “first vertical slice/demo”, “50% done”, and “all that’s left is polish and testing”. And finally…
- Release!: Don’t have much to say about this, but for at least this project, I’m planning to get on itch.io (so I can set up donations…).
And that’s it! If you have any quesitons, don’t be afraid to ask them. During the week I hope to upload the protoype and start on the imaginary slice, so look forward to bits and pieces I’ll be showing!