Dealing with Real Life and Recommended Reading   Leave a comment

Welcome back to another post of Gratuitous JRPG.  As you may have noted, it’s been a while since my last post.  The reasoning for this is simple: progress on the storyboard has been delayed heavily due to a number of factors.  Sadly, it is still not done, and won’t be in the foreseeable next week.  For this reason, I feel the appropriate topic to bring up would be that of how to balance dealing with real life while you are attempting to make your game.

If it’s not your actual job, chances are real life will interfere with game design in one way or another.  Even if it is, it just might.  It’s a rather insidious entity in that way, and the forms of interference it may take are far too variable to accurately list all the possibilities.  Employment, school, family obligations, a relationship, schedule conflicts, and health are the typical culprits in this scenario, but other scenarios may present themselves outside of this.

I can’t give advice on how to live life in such a way to optimize your game design.  If you suddenly have a greatly reduced amount of time due to life getting in the way, you will have to simply go with it, and account for that when you are making your game.  After all, it’s just a game.  It’s not worth failing, getting fired, getting a break-up (though if your significant other breaks up with you simply based on the fact that you are engaging in the pursuit of designing a game, you should re-evaluate your preferences), or getting sick over designing your dream game.  One has more of a lasting effect than the other, after all.

In most circumstances, you can at least keep the process of creation in mind, and think about what needs to be done even while you have to deal with the problems in real life.  And this is an encouraged way to continue.  There is, however, one major exception to this that I would note: If you’re sick, don’t bother.  If an idea comes to you, great, write it down, but you should not be concerned at all with it.  When in poor health, the first and only priority on your mind should be getting back to good health.  Further exertion will only make your problems worse.

One last mention on real life’s interference with game development–while it is a thing, do not use it as an excuse to stop.  It becomes amazingly easy to use any real life problem as an excuse to duck out of development when matters get tough.  While you may need to slow production or take a short break, keep in mind that under most circumstances, quitting is not a result of real-life pressures.  It’s a result of you giving up as a game developer.  Don’t hide it behind your other problems, accept it for what it is, and then push through if you really want to see it completed.

And on that note, I will not be updating this blog for a bit–not until I finish the storyboard and can get that checked, anyway.  Consider it a short hiatus, but most definitely not the end of this blog or the game.  I’ve put too much into it now to stop, but when you have to deal with your father working nights and all of the complications that brings about, it compounds when it turns out storyboarding takes at least three times as long as anticipated.  To tide you over in the meantime, however, I will give my personal recommendations for games to look at for the sake of study.  This isn’t a comprehensive list, nor would I consider it an official one by any means of the word, but for the sake of studying JRPGs in particular, I have a few to recommend nevertheless.

Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior (NES): Yes, it’s grindy by modern standards.  Yes, it’s long and more of busywork for the most part than a game.  Yes, its plot is absent beyond “find the princess and stop the bad guy”.  And yes, it has only one character.  So why am I recommending it?  Simple.  This is the game that started the traditional JRPG.  Ultima and Wizardry may have come first, but this was the start of JRPGs.  And it wasn’t afraid to make you look for your way through.  The GBC remake rebalances things to be more user-friendly, but it deserves a playthrough nevertheless.  Take a look at things like obsolescence and its use of gating–it uses two different types.

Final Fantasy (NES): Another game that came before characterization, this was essentially D&D in console form with the serial numbers filed off.  This is the first JRPG to a generation of people, and establishes (in the west–technically Dragon Quest 2 and 3 came first in Japan, but Final Fantasy was the big name) a large number of gameplay conventions.  It’s grindy and obtuse, and possesses a large number of quirks that there was a manual to explain back in the day, but still widely-loved.  Look at it for how it handles party construction, pathing, and gating.

Phantasy Star 4 (Sega Genesis): This game’s a bit of an odd-case.  A noteworthy game in a series that has largely been received as “okay” to “bad” (depending on the person and installment–Phantasy Star 3 is widely reviled for good reason.  PS2 and PS1 have not aged well by comparison), Phantasy Star 4 has a lot that can be learned from it.  Look at it for how it handles cutscenes compared to other games, its abundance of character interaction, handling of buffs, general integration of flavor into gameplay (try using healing magic on androids), and its use of patterned esoteric naming conventions.

Final Fantasy 6 (Super Nintendo): I’ve given this game a notable amount of grief previously in this blog.  With that in mind, why do I suggest it still?  The first is to demonstrate what I’ve mentioned–while it is the first notable attempt at a partial template system, the template skills do outshine the non-template.  FF6 is also an experiment in using an ensemble cast, and demonstrates what happens to the gameflow when you switch from a linear format to an open-world format with too little direction.

Chrono Trigger (Super Nintendo): Another big game for the Super Nintendo, this game is about a plot subject that few games tackle for good reason: time travel is a giant pain to write well.  Chrono Trigger runs a full innate skillset, and demonstrates the first notable example of onscreen encounters (as opposed to the genre staple of random encounters–though it is notable that not all encounters are avoidable).  Look at it for that, the fact that its writing doesn’t take itself too seriously, and most notably, the gameflow.  There is very little pause in the flow of the game, despite most definitely not having a sequential or fragmented pathing methodology, and it pulls off, in my opinion, what Final Fantasy 6 attempted to do in its endgame but failed.  The major complaint?  Too easy.  Worth a check to see your difficulty preferences anyway.

Final Fantasy Tactics (Sony Playstation): The last FF entry I place in this list, this game is infamous for its abhorrent translation, and well-known for its story and legion of options available to any player who ventures into its depths.  When looking at tempate systems, this is one of the games that absolutely must be given a look at.  Just mind the learning cliff.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1&2 (Sony Playstation 2): Say what you will about this game, it oozes style and is particularly unique in its storytelling.  It possesses two takes on a Full Template system, and deserves a look for how it handles its writing–and as a check on difficulty preferences on the high end.  This series is notable for being harder than the genre average, -especially- on DDS2’s Hard Mode.

Wild ARMs 4 (Sony Playstation 2): Many people will out and out deride the game for its writing, and to be fair it’s not one of the best in the world on that front.  That is because the majority of the game’s merit, presentation aside (It presents Filgaia as a post-war world fairly well, with blasted-out cities at multiple points among other things) is in its gameplay.  Play it for, among others, the study in character synergy, and the fact that this game is possibly in possession of some of the best JRPG bossfights in existence–an exemplar among a series that became known for them.

Wild ARMs 5 (Sony Playstation 2): This game, on the other hand, is an example on how so many things can go wrong.  This entry in the series is regarded with lukewarm opinions at best, and vitriol at worst.  It half-asses its own template system, ripped from a previous entry and made worse.  The characters can generally not be cared about aside from perhaps four or five–and a majority of those are on the villain side.  And it is fairly well-known that while the producers hired a novelist to write this plot, they then took what she wrote and made it into…what it is now.  Add to that that this is both the big follow-up to Wild ARMs 4 -and- the series’ anniversary title, and they focused more on series fanservice than making a good game, and you’ll see why I consider this one a study in What Not To Do.

Persona 3 and 4 (multiplatform): The Persona series has existed since the Playstation era.  It started to change with Persona 3, however, which attempted to make itself a genre-blender of a game, mixing parts dating sim and JRPG.  Persona 4 continues this tradition,adding more notable bosses on top of that.  Look at either for a study in how to mix other genres of game into JRPGs, among other things–and the dangers of having overpowered mains to game balance.

Epic Battle Fantasy 3 and 4 (online Flash games): The Epic Battle Fantasy series is notable for being one of the best independently-created Flash RPGs out there.  Skip 1 and 2, and go straight to 3.  While not quite up to the production values of a company-produced game, both games show the amount of love and care the creator put into it.  Play it, if nothing else, to know that you don’t need a company to actually make a good game.

Cave Story (multiplatform): Let’s be fair.  Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve at least heard of Cave Story.  If not, it’s the creation of one Daisuke Amaya, AKA Pixel, another person who proved that you don’t need a company to produce a quality game.  Just play it–it’s available for free online.


Posted August 19, 2013 by EpicAlphonse in Uncategorized

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