Amber's postmortem and future games

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jack1974
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Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by jack1974 » Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:45 am

If you haven't read the blog post yet: blog/2017/06/ambers-magic-shop-postmortem/

I just wanted to be clear about some things regarding that post: I don't blame the writers at all, they did a good job overall. The main issue is with the process itself. If making a game consist of prototyping/trying several things and repeating it until "it works" (more or less!), you can imagine that writing a story "set in stone" before that whole process is a bit restrictive.

For example in Cursed Lands, there's a fixed deadline. That was needed by the plot itself (there's a menace and people need to eliminate it in time). Now if I was writing the game myself maybe I would still have it (even if I know that most of my players don't like that) but maybe not, or I wouldn't have time advance in general but based on finishing quests. Other things are item rewards that are hard to make (in the CL thread I managed to implement items that grants the user a skill, but I wasn't sure that I could have added that to the game).

In summary there's a LOT of reasons why writing myself makes more sense: I know what my players want in term of gameplay, characters, story, romances. I know the restrictions of the engines I use, so I wouldn't even bother creating an item or a quest that it's too hard to make (hehe I remember in SOTW the writer was very creative with many battles and I tried to make them all, but in some was just too difficult). I know how long a game should be (when a certain game will be out you'll see how crazily long it became) and so on.
Last but not least, I work fast, so if I write the games myself there wouldn't be anymore delays of YEARS :lol: and with a good editor, I think the result could be decent (I've asked a few people I know to edit some lines and the starting result vs ending result was crazy, much better quality!).

For certain type of games like more story-oriented, there aren't problem, and luckily I can continue having external writers to help me (I cannot write ALL my new games, would be too much even for me!). But whenever there's some gameplay involved, I think it's better if I write them myself.

And of course I'm not talking about the current games in progress, those will still be finished by the respective writers :)

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by Katicflis » Sun Jun 25, 2017 1:02 pm

PSCD had one of my favorite plots of any of your games. It crushes me to think miakoda wont be brought on for future projects. The only other game that came close for me was Loren, which I'm not sure who wrote that but the story was fairly good and the romances were pretty awesome in that one.

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jack1974
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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by jack1974 » Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:37 pm

Miakoda will be working again for sure! Indeed she's writing Love Bites right now.
She did a great job on PSCD, and she is also someone who plays a lot of games, I really didn't even need to tell her too much about how to do things for PSCD (she actually came up with the envoy idea, and as well the different kind of possible endings!). As I said I would try to write myself only games in which gameplay it's strictly mixed with story, or when there is a lot of branching like Bionic Heart. In those cases I think it could be better. Anyway, we'll see, maybe I'm wrong even about that :mrgreen:

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by jack1974 » Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:46 pm

It's a bit hard to understand, since it varies game by game. PSCD was mission-based, but I had full freedom in designing each battle. So in that case the story didn't matter much for the missions (just the "theme", or enemies present in the battle but it's a very small restriction).
For Loren was more or less the same. For SOTW was really painful - because writer added a lot of custom battle condition. Of course, he did to make the game better, but for example if I was in charge, I wouldn't have done that way.
So well, depends on many factors, in general how much "detached from the story" is the gameplay part. In some cases I could just write a storyboard, like I'm thinking to do with PS2, outlining all the various battles and what is the setting of each one (since I want also to have the skill-check thing) but then I could still have a writer expand it and write it in full autonomy, since it would be enough that he/she followed my "guidelines".
Hope I managed to explain a bit more, but it's a bit complicated indeed. In summary I need to make sure that a way or another I will have the story work around the gameplay and not the opposite.

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by Franka » Sun Jun 25, 2017 7:29 pm

jack1974 wrote:
Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:46 pm
In summary I need to make sure that a way or another I will have the story work around the gameplay and not the opposite.
I've asked for this before, I'm glad you feel the same way!

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by jack1974 » Sun Jun 25, 2017 8:11 pm

It's the best thing. As I wrote in the post, it's better if I either just make some plain VN/dating sim, but if I go all the way to add some complex gameplay, then better to do it well. Otherwise I can just save my time/money and probably get a better result too :)

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by Troyen » Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:29 pm

jack1974 wrote:
Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:46 pm
For SOTW was really painful - because writer added a lot of custom battle condition. Of course, he did to make the game better, but for example if I was in charge, I wouldn't have done that way.
I actually liked the coliseum battles the most because they were so different from all the others, and you had the story intertwined a bit with the battle. Though I do remember it led to a lot of bugs especially with VN mode (though I wonder if in the future, VN mode could just skip to a different scene entirely that just contained all the narrative of/during the battle instead of trying to hack around the combat inside the renpy script).

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by jack1974 » Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:43 am

Yes they were cool, but I would have written them differently simply because I know what's going on behind the scenes, so I know that doing XYZ instead of ABC it's much easier/harder :)
The VN mode had issues exactly because of that and how battles work, you can have cutscenes but then it's hard to remember exactly when to jump back, endless loops, etc etc (technical stuff!) :mrgreen:

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by Troyen » Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:36 pm

jack1974 wrote:
Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:43 am
The VN mode had issues exactly because of that and how battles work, you can have cutscenes but then it's hard to remember exactly when to jump back, endless loops, etc etc (technical stuff!) :mrgreen:
Actually, that's what I was wondering about. I'm assuming the SotW code went cutscene A -> battle -> B -> battle -> C with special code to skip the battles when they tried to load. Maybe it'd be simpler to detect VN mode after scene A and go to an alternate cutscene entirely that resembles B (with possibly minor variation to indicate a battle was taking place) but isn't B? So VN mode would go A -> D -> C, and B and D have very similar text. No need to load the battle code/battle skip code at all in that path.

The downside, of course, is any edits have to be maintained in two separate places, for non-trivial intermediate scenes.

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Re: Amber's postmortem and future games

Post by Anima_ » Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:01 pm

I'm actually not sure how Jack hacked the cutscenes into the framework, it didn't support in battle events or special conditions.
In the new framework there will be full support for cutscenes and events. So there will be no messing around with the combat code in VN mode. Instead there will be a normal scene that calls the appropriate battle cutscenes and bridges them with short battle descriptions. No duplication, no stupid bugs and unfortunately still vapour-ware :cry: .

Hopefully I can really start working on it next month.
RPG Programmer for Winterwolves, currently working on: Amber's Magic Shop
Part-time emotionless AI

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