Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why make this game?

Now that we’re through with introductions, let’s get to the game! Our first project is an attempt to make a JRPG that has tighter pacing and is much shorter (target length = 4 hours!), while still maintaining the epic storytelling and sense of adventure that makes these games great.

So let's start with the most important question: Why did you choose to make this game?

Well, there are a couple different reasons:

1. We didn’t think it would be wise to try to compete in genres AAA studios are chasing. Rather, we wanted to try something different and risky enough that big studios aren't willing to throw money at it.

We've both worked at big studios before, so we know first hand the extensive talent and resources they wield, and also the limitations that come with it. Paying all that talent is expensive, and with game budgets upwards of 40 million dollars, a game needs to sell several million copies to be considered a success. As a result, game publishers (looking to a profit) and game developers (looking to keep their jobs) tend to gravitate towards "safer" game decisions, resulting in a lot of sequels and/or games that are minor iterations on a familiar genre. That's not to say I dislike mainstream games, and I can personally attest that if it wasn't for all the painful lessons (and some of the pre-existing code) of previous games, Saints Row: The Third wouldn't have been anywhere near as good as it was. But this does tend to restrict AAA games to somewhat narrow spaces when there's a whole field of crazy ideas out there that could make great games.

2. We liked JRPGs, but find it harder and harder to make time for them.

Part of this has just been growing up and encountering the rigors of college and eventual careers in game development, with all the glorious crunch time it entails. But even beyond those responsibilities, there are too many games to play. In the past half year, I've played (at least) Path of Exile, The Secret World, Monaco, Persona 4, FF7, SolForge, League of Legends, Civ5:BNW, Saints Row 4, Tomb Raider, Dishonored, Shadowrun Returns, and Risk of Rain. That's already a pretty full schedule, and I still feel like I'm missing out on huge games like Last of Us, Tales of Xillia, and Bioshock Infinite.

It’s gotten to the point where a game that promises “over a hundred hours of gameplay” can almost sound like a curse. This problem is especially pronounced with Japanese-style RPGs, which tend to feature multiple-hour tutorials.

But we really enjoyed JRPGs when we were younger and less overwhelmed, so we begun to wonder if there was any way to take that sort of magic and repackage it in a way that didn't require such a huge time commitment. It would be a risky thing to attempt, since game length is such a staple of the genre, and the idea of telling an epic story in a small time period would at first appear ludicrous. But as per point 1, that's exactly the kind of risk we want to be taking as an indie studio.

3. It’s something we were pretty sure we could build.

Perhaps less dramatic than the first two reasons, but going indie forces a broad set of responsibilities, and while I loved being able to fiddle with the physics of vehicle handling for months on end, I can’t justify that sort of technical experimenting when I’m 50% of our workforce. We analyzed how difficult it would be to make this style of game. And even with our untested innovations, we were confident it was something we could program promptly and do a good job.

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