Design Ethos & Process
Just wanted to separate my "Design Ethos and Process" section on the store page into it's own Devlog article for my own preference.
While I do think that I have created beautiful drawings and a unique way of representing my game's world, each landscape and character painting having taken between 20-40 hours to complete, I honestly believe the main selling point for Shivering Hearts is it's merging of gameplay and story.
I truly believe a game can be built solely through narrative and branching choices as long as there is substantial enough reactivity from the plot and the game's world. I believe that branching, reactive dialogue choices is a form of gameplay that is unique to the format of videogames. I also liken the process of writing each dialogue choice and providing a balance between banal and meaningful choices to the player equivalent to painting or composing a song. Each dab of the brush, or each note that makes up a song's composition, will in turn inform the next stroke, until the painting or song is composed of hundreds of thousands of brush strokes/musical notes. Thousands of little design decisions that all coalesce into a cohesive piece of art.
I have had experience modding the Infinity Engine for Baldur's Gate 2 through the software WEIDU to create characters and branching narratives, and I believe the reason why other game developers/companies don't prioritize this aspect of game design is because it's incredibly, incredibly difficult to achieve with most game creation tools. Even when designers are able to achieve a substantial level of depth and reactivity in the game's world, it is often extremely difficult to bug-test because of the incredibly bespoke nature of the process. Creating this sort of system means tracking hundreds if not thousands of variables and they all need to be in perfect order and harmony. You can see how major AAA studios release incredibly complex games such as Fallout: New Vegas and Dragon Age: Origins in very buggy states, and would require months of patching and community mods to iron out every bug. Even the original releases of Baldur's Gate, Fallout and Planescape: Torment had plenty of bugs on release because of the complex, branching quest design. This isn't an insult towards the developers of these games. I truly empathize with the soul-crushing amount of work it is to iron out every bug when creating these games with monstrous levels of depth in their writing. That's also why I believe the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, and even the Persona games, streamlined their dialogue systems so much, because this method of game design can easily spiral out of control into madness.
That's why I feel RPG Maker MV, and by extension all RPG Makers, are incredibly powerful at easily and intuitively constructing huge chains of interconnected, complex dialogue trees and interactions in a matter of days, where it would take other game creation software months, even years of work to be able to achieve the same level of complexity and elegance. I don't think the creators of the RPG Maker series at Kadokawa truly realize how serendipitous this aspect of their software is. Because of the speed and efficiency of the process, I'm able to have the player interact with my world and my characters in an almost labyrinthine form. It also gave me very important time to iron out all the bugs as possible, which believe me there were hundreds of bugs which required almost 2 months to fully fix. Especially when fixing the 80+ ending combinations. That was truly a nightmare, and I considered giving up on multiple occasions, but I'm glad I pulled through. I find it beautifully ironic that a game creation software specifically designed for Japanese Console Role-Playing Games turned out to be the best tool to create classically complex, thematically deep Western Computer Role-Playing Games.
I'd also like to thank the creator of LISA: The Painful RPG, Austin Jorgensen, and the creator of Undertale, Toby Fox, for inspiring me. This journey of me wanting to make my own game began 5 years ago in 2015 when playing both games at the same time. After 5 years of equal amounts success and failure, I'm so very happy to have created something. I will never meet either of them in person, but they have profoundly affected my life for the better.
And thank you Kikiyama, creator of Yume Nikki.
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