All right, pre-production is going in a weird sort of direction, but that’s fine.
I admit, updates have been kind of slow lately. That’s because, the more I get into the meat of the game, the more I have to be careful about what I add. If the story changes drastically, as it has been, then things I have planned end up being tossed out because they suddenly don’t fit – the reason why I’m hush-hush on things that aren’t actually in the game yet. But I’m working on a final script for the game that will, essentially, solidify the game so that I know for a fact what I’m working on. The last piece of the puzzle just fell into place, I think, and… well, it’s pretty damn weird.
I’d like to introduce you to an obscure Japanese game you’ve never heard of. It’s called Yume Nikki. Okay, well that video there isn’t actually Yume Nikki – it’s one of several fangames based on the formula called .flow, made by someone who apparently loved to fuck with sentence structure. But they’re all exactly identical gameplay to what you see there, and that video is probably the best demonstration. With love, I have to admit, the games are pretty amazingly fucking boring. They’re all Japanese things made in RPG Maker 2000, and some are made to be interpreted (.flow there is one of my favourites because it actually can be interpreted) and some are made solely to freak you out as much as possible. They’re all games where you explore a little boy/girl/transgendered’s dreams, which realistically is a lot less like Inception and a lot more like eldritch horror porn. On acid. The whole objective is to walk around, explore, and find little things called ‘effects’ that transform you into other things that let you do more. They range from having a bike so you plod around a little faster, to changing your head into a giant hand with an eyeball that lets you escape traps. Most of it is empty, most of the effects are useless, but then when you get them all, you get the ending, which is invariably depressing and horrifying.
I’d been struggling with the dungeons for a while. I had five major themes all figured out, all of them kind of interesting on their own, but it’s just a pain because I can’t get excited for them. They’re not even related to the story. Like with Oblivion – they’re just holes in the ground to go to when you want to level up.
Now I have the story figured out more, though. The dungeons are still just dungeons, but now they also act as passageways to deeper, darker parts of the game world. Now they actually serve a purpose other than being bunches of rooms to run through and kill stuff in. The first tier of dungeons are standard fare, still – they’re still just something pulled straight from any other RPG, with branching hallways, rooms, monsters, items, etc… But the idea now is that, as you go deeper, you end up navigating an underground maze that gets more abstract and more unsettling as you go, eventually reaching a bottom, which is just an insane, dream-like realm completely separate from the overworld, with no sense of structure. Dungeons start linear, then they branch, they get a little confusing, and then at the bottom, it’s basically stream of consciousness. Doors take you from one area to the next without any inherent structure, like an actual dream, working solely on free association. And without spoiling anything, that bottom layer would be important for the story… How you get there is just up to you.
Obviously, the gameplay of Yume Nikki and Megatronica won’t mesh. Megatronica is about running, hacking, and slashing, then popping up to the overworld to build some things and chat with the villagers. Sure, you can go at your own pace, maybe taking more time to peacefully build your city, but then WHOOPS the story’s back better go stop the villain from ascending to Godhood or whatever the hell he’s doing this minute. Yume Nikki is slow, plodding, boring, with very little to do in terms of actual gameplay. The mixture of the two would be doable, and fun, and definitely not as empty or as slow as Yume Nikki… it’s just not going to be as manic as Megatronica. To compensate, time would flow different in the ‘dream layers’ (the flow of time is a big deal). But just having a big dungeon, completely divorced from the main game’s sense of humour (save for the occasional sadism) and tone, with no enemies to cut up, and the high risk of getting lost in all kinds of unsettling shit, is going to be pretty jarring.
Initially, I was thinking I was just being stupid, tossing that in there. It’s something I had wanted to put in the game somehow, because I love the idea of little abstract places for you to explore with all kinds of interpretive details stuffed inside. But this would be like a main level of the game, part of the world as a whole, where it just didn’t seem to fit.
So I went over the story again, came up with some other ideas, and it turns out I was completely wrong.
Again – I hate talking about things that aren’t in the game yet. I’m writing this down because I need to start committing, and the more I think about this aspect, the more I think it fits what I want to do perfectly. Now that it’s part of the story, I could not imagine taking it out. So now I’m doing a script and setting something in stone, so I can actually have a rough framework of the game done by January 25th. The idea is, by then, the full 25 – 40 hour ‘main quest’ will be DONE, and playable, start to finish. It was never my intent to release a ‘demo’ on that date – January 25th is supposed to be an iteration of the full game. Rough, unpolished, maybe lacking in areas, but there and done. So yeah, time to start cranking this story out for real.
I hate being a perfectionist.
…And now I’m just waiting for 1:25 PM so I can post this damn thing.
There we go.