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Yui's Making a Friggin' VIDEO GAME! (Not Clickbait)

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If you've got me friended on Discord or Steam, you've probably seen that I've spent an awful lot of time in RPG Maker MV lately. Well, this thread is about what I've been doing in there.

It all started a bit under a month ago, with this DM to @Saikazo

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Later that night in a call I had with him, I explained the idea of an RPG where the protagonist's class changes over the course of the game based on the actions you take, and how I wanted to set the system up. Then I started putting in some groundwork, and with almost a month since this initial DM and thirty bucks thrown at a certain plugin developer, I've got a game that's got the groundworks of playability set up in a way I'm pleased with (for now), and a wee bit of actual content to play through. This blog is here mostly so I can talk about game dev stuff that I either don't know who to DM about it, or is too wordy for me to want to send it in a DM in the first place, but it's also here to track the actual development of the game (which still needs a title) and show off what I've been up to lately.

And just to get some crediting stuff out of the way in advance since people deserve to be credited for their work, terms of use from a few parties compel me to mention the following:

  • RPG Maker MV is developed by Gotcha Gotcha Games, a subsidiary of KADOKAWA
  • If you see any sort of battle screen or pictures of an enemy, the enemy was designed by Aekashics unless otherwise specified
  • Any mentions of plugins (there will be lots of this) refer to plugins created by Yanfly, unless otherwise specified
  • I wanna lead off these blog posts with music, and any music I post here will be music that's also in the game, all taken from PeriTune's copyright-free music library

Table of contents

 

Edited by yui

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Remember everyone, this is what Yui took from you. He refuses to do this amazing idea because "It's too hard" and decided to do something far harder.

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Just now, Saikazo said:

Remember everyone, this is what Yui took from you. He refuses to do this amazing idea because "It's too hard" and decided to do something far harder.

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shhhhhhhhhhh i haven't gotten that far yet

ALSO UPDATE LAST NIGHT I THOUGHT IT WAS THE 15TH NOT THE 12TH, FIRST DEV POST COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU

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"So, What Makes a Hero Anyway?" - A quick look into how the protagonist is a hero of your own making

The most important character in any piece of media is the protagonist, since you'll be spending a whole lotta time with them. The entire game, in fact. So, when making the hero of this game, I wanted to make them feel like a proper character, while also giving them some level of connection to the player. As of right now, there aren't any ways to customize the hero (named Tove by default), but I plan to add the ability to give her a name of your own choosing (this is gonna be a last-minute thing right before I start posting playable versions of the game in the future) and the ability to choose her sex and gender later on (this would be a bit of work, and would be done near the end of development). In the more immediate future, however, there's two ways I decided to tackle this idea of connecting the player's actions with the protagonist's character.

The more obvious of the two was dialogue.

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Dialogue options are a staple in video games, but it often seems that your dialogue choices simply amount to saying a certain thing, getting a reaction, then the conversation continuing along its one actual path. I don't like that, so although it's much more tedious and time-consuming, I tried to have conversations move organically, with the things you say affecting what you're told in return and how the dialogue proceeds as a whole. For example, in the dialogue with this soldier you see above, the different options won't just lead to a one-off line then take you back to the railroaded dialogue. Rather, everything leads to its own branching path of conversation. This would take up too many images to show in a concise manner, though, so you'll just have to take my word that more often than not, your conversations will branch out instead of snap back into a singular path.

Some chains of dialogue may even lead to getting some goodies you wouldn't have gotten in others! I'm aware this can lead to min-maxxed gameplay, but that's why I'm generally trying to keep the benefits from being particularly big.

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"Hero it up in the way you see fit" was the main idea this game was built upon, so it would be remiss of me to not extend that concept to dialogue as well! And speaking of heroing it up, there's the matter of Tove's class. This part's gonna get a wee bit technical since it involves some tricks RPG Maker lets me pull off.

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At the start of the game, Tove is a newly-recruited Cleric within a quasi-religious organization called the Church of the Radiant, whose job is basically to help those in need and punish evildoers. Over the course of the game, certain actions you take can increase one of two variables, which I've labeled "Benediction (let's call it B for short)" and "Redemption (R)", based on which part of that "help/punish" thing you're doing. For example, you could give a cornered criminal a second chance at life and gain some B, or turn him in to the authorities to gain some R. Not every choice affects these variables, and some choices may only affect one of these, but they are important. At levels 15 and 30 (the level cap is 50) you can get special quests meant to promote Tove to higher ranks, granting her higher stats and access to new abilities.

This system is what Sai's post up above is referencing, but I didn't like the idea of any "tier 1" class being able to promote into any of the "tier 2" ones. I do still need to address what happens if you try to take the promotion quests while these two variables are equal, since I imagine it won't be hard to keep them equal throughout your playthrough, but that's a problem for a bit later. Instead, your promotions are based on which variable is higher between R and B. There are seven classes in total planned for this system, which correlate to the seven outfits you see above for Tove. There will be other classes Tove can unlock that are independent of these variables though, and the main story may even completely change by doing so! I already know one of these (it's not Monk), but won't be adding it until quite a bit later, probably not until the main main story is finished.

Basically, the idea for the system was that your actions affect how Tove evolves. Whether you've been punishing evil left and right, trying to work miracles for the needy, or juggling a bit of both, the playstyle of the main character should change to reflect those choices, I feel. That is, after all, the premise I wound up building the game on.

Tune in next time where I either go further into how much I value customization in this game by talking about equipment augments, or go on about how this game also is meant to address things I don't like in RPGs by discussing the magic system.

Edited by yui

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"Making Things Unique" - A quick rundown of augments and damage

Most if not all of what I'm going to say in the first half of this post runs due to Yanfly's Attachable Augments plugin.

Full transparency, Tove is a just a little bit weak at the start of the game, and this is by design. Aside from light being a really good element (more on that in a bit) and Tove currently being the only player character with planned access to it, I need to design her classes in such a way that it doesn't feel like you're sacrificing one thing for another when you get promoted later on. When you get promoted at Level 15, I don't want it to feel like you're sacrificing physical stats to become a better caster, or vice versa, and the unfortunate tradeoff for that is that Tove's base stats need to be mediocre at first. Luckily, we've got a system to make sure you aren't stuck sucking, and can become what you want to be pretty early on.

Augments!

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Using Yanfly's augments plugin, we're able to take certain items that I've specially designated in RPG Maker's database, and insert them into equipment to enhance the gear in various ways, thus enhancing the person using it. The system I've got going is pretty simple; there's four types of augments, each type can only go into a certain type of slot, and every piece of equipment in the game has at least one slot. I made different types of augments so that different armors can feel more unique besides just having different stat loadouts. For example, there may be a piece of armor with incredible stats, but no augment slots, or different armors with roughly equal stats may have different augment loadouts to differentiate them. The gist of it is...

  • Runes are exclusive to weapons, and can give your attacks new properties, such as giving them an element or adding a chance to inflict statuses.
  • Glyphs give whoever's using that piece of equipment access to a new skill.
  • Gems provide various miscellaneous effects, like MP regen or more item potency.
  • Orbs simply increase your stats.
  • On average, weapons and armors will have anywhere from 2-4 slots, while most rings or bracelets (you can equip one of each per character) will only have 1-2.
  • There may be some legendary weapons/armors with 5 slots later on in development? 🤔

At the start of the game, after finishing Baby's First Dungeon™, you'll receive a tutorial quest to teach you about various features in the game, but technically the only objective that's mandatory is learning about the quest board. You can in theory play through the entire game without using a single augment, if you feel so inclined, though I don't know if I'd recommend it. The point of the augment system isn't just to give Tove a bit of flexibility early-game, but also to tweak any character in a way you prefer. Do you want this specific character to become a tanky juggernaut, or a dps-focused berserker? Do you tailor your slots toward raw stats, or turn characters into utility belts of various other benefits? Much like how Tove's class - and even those of other characters to a small extent - develops, the way they perform in those classes is also for you to decide.

Which brings me to damage, a subject I just wanted to bring up both because I don't wanna wait to talk about this and also because I'd honestly like some feedback on this part. There are some bits here that use various plugins from Yanfly, which I'll mention as they come up.

Damage is how you win at an RPG, obviously, but a lot of times it feels like different types of damage are just different flavors of the exact same thing. I wanted to try and differentiate physical and magic damage beyond just different stats, and further attempt to make different elements of magic feel like you aren't just pushing whatever (if anything) the enemy is weak against. So, after lots of thought, I came up with a plan. The first and most important thing is that magic doesn't crit. Magic also has less variance in its damage. For example, if you had a physical and magic skill that both did a base 100 damage, physical moves in this game have 25% variance and magic has only 10%, so your two moves could do anywhere from 75-125 or 90-110 damage, respectively, or the physical one might even crit for bigger numbers still.

Aside from the different stats, physical and magic damage both have their own distinct perks and sit on the scales of consistent vs random damage, making them both valuable for their own reasons.

Then I wanted to make the different types of magic unique from each other, since I didn't like the idea that this spell and that one have different animations, but usually, that's all that sets them apart. This also means I can put basic spells on some marks to give characters access to utility they might not normally get! There are eight elements magic damage has access to, each with a unique benefit to using them. This is also the part I want some feedback on, since I'm not sure if these are good enough to warrant the distinction or if some elements are out of line.

  • Fire spells deal more damage by circumventing some of the enemy's magic defense.
  • Water spells also reduce the enemy's MP.
  • Earth spells grant the user a barrier (accomplished with Yanfly's Absorption Barrier plugin).
  • Wind spells can crit, and have 15% variance instead of everyone else's 10%. They also hit multiple times to better facilitate critting.
  • Ice spells have a chance to reduce the target's speed (made possible with Skill Core), reducing the amount of actions they can take.
  • Thunder spells currently have a chance to stun the opponent, though I'm planning to change this to instead have a chance to increase the user's magic attack.
  • Light spells have a chance to blind or silence enemies (silence is a very powerful debuff in this game, since everything except basic attacks is labeled as magic).
  • Dark spells currently have a chance to enrage or confuse enemies, though I'm going to change it to be a lifesteal element instead.

The changes to thunder and dark that I've planned are because when I looked closer, there were a lot of spell types that had some sort of debuff built in, with half of the elements in the game packing one. Water's MP reduction is inconvenient, but the debuffs the lower half of the board currently has can be downright debilitating with bad RNG. And I'd rather not make Debuff Simulator, so I'm giving thunder and dark new niches. This way, I'm both reducing the amount of inherent CC in the game, and ensuring every element has a unique niche. Talk about two birds with one stone! It's a good thing I made this blog, or else I wouldn't have thought about the problem with thunder and dark, and the game would have been worse for it.

Edited by yui

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Dev Update #1: Makin' the Bacon - Implementation of Shops in the Starting City (and the other stuff I've done so far)

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Based on the DM that started all this nonsense, today marks exactly one month since development began! Last night I realized the one-monthiversary was about to hit, so I did something I'd been putting off for a bit to focus on quests & dungeons (though I may end up scrapping the dungeon I've got and redoing it). That something was putting the shops into the game, since they're a crucial part of just about any RPG! In MMORPGs this isn't so much the case, since you can usually just loot gear from dungeons and not worry about store-bought gear outside of the very, very beginning of the game, but in classic JRPGs, this doesn't happen nearly so often.

While I wanted to try and circumvent it at first since I personally find it annoying, buying new gear as you progress throughout the game is a crucial part of the gameplay loop in this genre, and the addition of augments to this game means that at least early on, you need to make choices on if you'd rather prioritize raw stats from your gear or the benefits of augments. You can also craft your gear instead depending on the game, but I'm not adding a crafting system. Here's an interesting YouTube video about that, if you want some reasons why explained by a guy who can explain stuff better than me, in addition to the simple fact that it's just not something I think is worth the time and effort to implement.

I also learned that I can't make an augment have a chance to decrease an enemy's stats on hit without turning it into a whole new status like Poison or Silence, which is mildly inconvenient but I guess I'll do that if I really want that Wither Rune I added to the game. Anyway, the shops.

Right now, only two towns are mapped out: The rather uncreatively-named Holy City, and the nearby port town of Frostmouth. Of the two, Frostmouth currently just has a building to purchase ships bound to and from various places (I haven't implemented this yet), so the only shops in the game right now are in the Holy City. There's a general items shop where you can also sell the crap you don't need, a weapons/armor shop that shares a building, and an augments shop. There's also a mystery shop that sells something I won't talk about, but they're not open yet, and even after I make the shop, you'll need to get some progress done before it opens since it isn't open from the get-go.

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With the tutorial of the game, you should effectively start the game with 1,000G. Right now, the economic plan is that you can earn more in small increments by killing enemies, but completing quests will give you bigger sums of money for doing things like completing a dungeon or performing a certain series of events. These amounts, plus the amount of money different things cost, all needs to be balanced out still, but right now I'm less concerned about the game's balance and more about its functionality. The idea behind this was that since you start the game with a bit of money, you can go to the shops and choose how to steer your early-game by buying the appropriate gear.

Now, onto that other stuff I've been doing in the last month.

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This is the Database, where pretty much every gameplay element that isn't a map or event is stored. It's also where I've been spending a all of my dev time when I'm not doing map stuff or playtesting different odds & ends. Over the last month I've implemented...

  • 6 party characters, with plans to add a couple more (nobody joins the party as part of the main story; you have to go find them, and most likely will have to do a quest to unlock them, so you could be a lunatic and try to do a Tove-only Cleric no-augments run to show off how hardcore you really are)
  • A handful of classes, mostly for Tove due to that thing I talked about back in the first post with the variables (most of the allied classes still need their stat spreads did).
  • 25 different skills, though not all of the ones slated for character use are available in-game yet since some are locked behind Tove getting promotions, and slots for a whole bunch more.
  • 30 items, about half of which are augments (1 Rune, 4 Marks, 4 Gems, 5 Orbs)
  • Some weapons, but I need to heavily restructure that part of the database.
  • Armors for the start of the game; these should ideally be replaced at around Level 10.
  • 24 enemies
  • 39 troops (configurations of the enemies that you encounter), spread across the tutorial dungeon, a small section of the overworld, and the ice dungeon I'm working on
  • 13 statuses, 3 of which I had to add myself
  • And a partridge in a pear tree

Outside of the database, I've mapped out the Holy City in its entirety, added the tutorial dungeon, am working on a dungeon for one of the first quests in the game, and have built what should be the world map in its entirety.

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(the biggest of ups to one of my ff14 buddies for insisting they gift me the RPG Maker MV Trinity resource pack after I talked about it being on sale, despite my insisting they don't do that)

Oh, and I've added three starter quests plus a tutorial quest to the game, but of the starter quests, only one has any functionality right now since the locations and events for the other two aren't actually in the game yet. And that's a month's worth of progress summed up in a few paragraphs and some pictures! It doesn't feel like I've gotten much done considering the time frame, but it also doesn't feel like it's already been a month since I started working on this, so what do I know. I wanted to save the first dev update for the one-month mark, so now that I've hit that, please look forward to more dev updates in the future, whenever I hit a progress benchmark worth talking about.

A quick edit!

Over the three dev posts so far, you may have seen me interchangably call a certain type of augment Glyphs or Marks. This is because I had called them Marks at first, but my brain keeps registering it as Glyphs. I've changed this in the game to decidedly be Glyphs, and any future posts will exclusively call them Glyphs as well.

Edited by yui

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Well, I guess this is a pretty significant change in game mechanics, so...

Dev Update #2: Un-Tipping the Scales - Rebalancing The Game So That Physical Damage Doesn't Fall Off (and improving tooltip clarity)

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I was hoping the next dev update would be something along the lines of "I've finished this ice dungeon you see above", but it's not. See, I was playtesting the dungeon and noticed something was off. Physical damage felt... really weak. Even though Tove is specialized for physical damage in the playtest the above pic came from, she still deals about the same amount of damage with her basic attacks or Luma I (basic light spell; she unlocks it at Level 5). This is all about to get a bit technical with numbers involved, so buckle up and get ready to dive a bit deeper into how the combination of RPG Maker's method of handling damage and Yanfly's Enemy Levels plugin caused me to have to rebalance the entire game only a month in. Because if I didn't do this early on, it would be exponentially more work to deal with later.

Any skill that deals damage has a formula for its damage. This can involve flat numbers or any sort of math you want. For example, there are bombs you can get and use in this game that deal a flat 1000 damage, and the formula is precisely that: 1000. No math, no stats, just a clean 1000 to hurt people with. Otherwise, there's some stuff I should explain first before I start spitting out formulae in this post and leave people wondering what the hell is going on. The gist of the terms I'm about to use is as follows.

  • "a" and "b" refer to the person using the skill and its target(s), respectively
  • Any set of three letters refers to a character's stats; the ones we'll be seeing today are atk, def, mat, and mdf
  • a.atk refers to the user's attack stat, as an example of what you're about to see a lot of
  • I'll be putting damage formulas [in brackets] and bolding them to help them stand out a bit better from the rest of my incoherent rambling

 Now, the default formula for a basic attack in RPG Maker MV is [a.atk * 4 - b.def * 2], which is all well and good. However, that's built-in. I wrote the formulae for magic damage myself, based roughly on that. Spells use [a.mat * 4 - b.mdf] instead, or [a.mat * 4 - b.mdf * 1.5] in the case of AoE spells (exception: wind spells reduce the mat multiplier to 2 since they hit twice (higher ranks will hit more times)). This doesn't sound like a big deal at first, since I can just remember to double an enemy's defense, right? Wrong, and it's got to do with that Enemy Levels plugin I talked about before!

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Long story boring, it simulates enemy level growth by calculating your party's average level (or other criteria, if you so choose), then increases an enemy's "level" accordingly, upping their stats based on a formula in the process. That formula is [base * (1 + (level - 1) * rate) + (flat * (level - 1))] for every stat by default, and I'm not very math-savvy so I'm not going to touch that formula. Instead, I've had to touch growth rates. The picture you're seeing is after I've made some adjustments, though. By default, the flat growth for DEF is 2.5 instead of the 1.5 I lowered it to, and the MaxHP growth is 50, though I wound up nudging that back up from 20 in the middle of typing this post once I realized enemies were now too squishy. So, what's all this mean, you may wonder?

Well, I reduced the DEF flat growth to 1.5 to keep a sense of parity with MDF, to make it easier to maintain the balance between physical and magic damage. However, because of the default formula of [a.atk * 4 - b.def * 2], physical damage begins falling off hard after the first five levels or so, meaning I had to change it to [a.atk * 4 - b.def] to match magic spells. But wait, there's more! Because now that I've changed the b.def part of the equation, everyone's damage on default attacks has effectively been doubled. Which means I have to replay everything so far (admittedly there's not much, which is why I started doing this as soon as I noticed the issue instead of putting it off) a couple more times and tweak enemies accordingly, to make sure the relatively squishy start-of-game Tove doesn't get murdered just because a goblin looked at her funny in the tutorial dungeon, and likewise make sure enemies aren't getting instagibbed left and right.

Also, I made tooltips more transparent about what precisely items & skills do.

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During my playtesting, it was starting to bug me that tooltips didn't tell me exactly what they did, and I soon realized this was another thing video games do that I hate. Vague tooltips that leave it up to the players to do all the math and calculations themselves are incredibly uncool, and not wanting to do such a thing myself, I've made everything more transparent. For comparison, you can even look at the above dev post about the one-monthiversary, since that shows the Venom Rune I's old tooltip where it only says you have "a mild chance" to poison enemies. I've given the same treatment to every other augment - down to telling you exactly how many stats you're getting from different Orbs - as well as to every skill that left anything up to guesswork or interpretation. Having all the information there in front of you should hopefully make it easier to make educated and well-informed decisions, instead of buying something only to realize it's not what you were expecting.

While the tooltip updates were just a quick bit of text editing, the rebalancing efforts are gonna require more time spent doing the early playtesting, which in turn means more time until I can officially call the ice dungeon "complete", which likewise means more time until I do the other quests, then the other stuff on my checklist, ultimately it means a bit more time until I eventually put out an 0.1 build. But I think the couple days of delay it will cause is worth sparing would-be playtesters the frustration of speccing their Tove into physical damage only to realize that despite this, they still do just as much damage as a caster.

Finally, a closing note that's gonna make me have to do even more playtesting. I'm adjusting EXP curves and how enemies drop it. By default, enemies grant more EXP with the Enemy Levels plugin based on their level, which just makes sense. However, the side effect of this that I immediately noticed was that the party's level was shooting up way past what I intended before even getting close to the first real boss battle. So, I made it take more EXP per level, steepened the curve, and removed the additional EXP per enemy level entirely. I might give it back in a smaller amount depending on how it feels, but at present it's kind of a safety net idea to make sure you don't stroll up to a boss for whom I want the player to be Level 10-ish but you're already at least Level 20, since unlike other enemies, the bosses in this game don't scale with you. This does, admittedly, lead to an amusing hypothetical scenario where basic dungeon enemies are far more powerful than the boss they're working for, but you should have to really go out of your way to make that happen.

I'd like some feedback on this admittedly heavy-handed approach to EXP, since I'm putting RPG Maker down for a bit after this post goes up. As I type this wrap-up, I'm just adjusting the EXP curves in the ways I mentioned above for the playable classes. Please let me know what you think about the idea of enemy EXP being a flat amount per certain enemy without scaling with level, either by replying to this thread or @ing/DMing me on Discord.

Edited by yui

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Dev Update #3: Chilling Out - The First Dungeon's Completion and What I Learned

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After making the system changes to EXP I brought up in the last post, lots of changing how much EXP enemies drop in both the tutorial and ice dungeons, and a lot of playtesting in the ice dungeon to make sure the exp values were right and the enemies weren't too powerful (one of them was; more on that in a bit), I'm happy to announce that I've finished my first main dungeon in this game!

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The main purpose of this dungeon - aside from its place in the main questline - was to help me get a feel for how I want to handle dungeon design in this game. This is where I'm taking a page or two out of Legend of Zelda's book, because I really like the way they do dungeons in that series. In the unlikely event that a reader in my staggering audience of five people has never played a Legend of Zelda game before, the way dungeons work both there and here is simple.

Dungeons tend to have a unique gimmick that you need to use to solve some sort of puzzle. In Legend of Zelda, this is usually done with the aid of some sort of item that's vital to your ability to clear the dungeon and defeat its boss, but since I don't have that kind of power in RPG Maker, gimimcks are a bit more simple this time. In that aspect, it might be better to think of them like Pokémon gyms, that just happen to have monsters who are out to make you and your friends Very Very Dead™. Speaking of which! Another thing that tends to happen in Zelda dungeons is that you have to fight some sort of miniboss, usually to acquire the dungeon's relevant item. I like the idea of dungeons having some sort of miniboss, and I also wanted to do something at least somewhat unique with my dungeon design philosophy, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone here.

(speaking of which, the miniboss here is a bird!)

Let's go into the database once again to see what I'm up to!

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Much like in Zelda, there's also a Boss Key you'll have to acquire to enter the final room and fight the boss. In this game, however, you have to essentially collect two of them and combine the halves into a whole. If you have Fragments L and R, you can put them together for the finished Boss Key, and intrude upon the boss's inner sanctum! I was going to have the screenshot starting this post off be from the boss fight at first, but I decided it would be more fun to take a picture of the door instead, and leave people to wonder what they could be up against. "So what's this got to do with minibosses?" you may wonder. Well, the general rule I've decided upon is that Fragment R is acquired by beating a miniboss, while Fragment L is acquired by other means. This isn't a set in stone hard rule though. There may be some dungeons where both pieces are acquired via puzzles and the like, or some where you get both halves from minibosses! The next dungeon I have to work on constitutes a case of the latter, in fact.

With all this being said though, the dungeon here isn't particularly complex. Its puzzles are rather easy, its mazes aren't much better, and the layout is pretty straightforward. I plan to make more complex dungeons as I progress and learn more about how I want to do dungeon design, but it's for the better that this is a simple one, both because it's one of the first real dungeons you'll do, and also because the boss is actually a bit stronger than I expected, just by how the mechanics are designed. I've been playtesting everything with full recruitment and the use of augments, so solo Tove runs might be nigh-on impossible without a lot of grinding >.>;

(I'm not playtesting that (yet))

As for what I learned. The biggest thing that comes to mind is that I need to consider not just an enemy's individual strengths, but how they interact with other enemies in an encounter. There is no greater example of that than this fuzzy Snowbat.

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Snowbats are fast little fuckers, and are a bit beefier than their appearance suggests. The important thing, however, is their speed. This dungeon also features an enemy called Ice Taurus, which has access to a skill called Roar. Roar increases the ATK stat of all characters in the user's party. There's only one enemy configuration (called a troop) that features Snowbat and Ice Taurus, but it has two bats. As it turns out, when Ice Taurus used Roar in my recent playtests of this game, combined with the default ATK growths from the Enemy Levels plugin and the high speed of Snowbat, they became lightning-fast nukes that were virtually impossible to deal with. So, I turned down their ATK growth quite a bit, and gave Ice Taurus a small slap on the wrist too for good measure. In hindsight, I think I turned it down a bit too much, but I don't want to hyperfixate on getting one specific enemy's ATK stat just right when I haven't even released a playable model of the game yet.

This applies to player characters too, by the way! I need to more carefully consider when characters learn different moves, and make sure to not accidentally break anything like I already did. See, with the way I have skills set up, characters learn a skill every 5 levels (I might have them get two every 10 levels; currently undecided on this and it would be something I do later on if I go for it, shortly before or after the release of a playable 0.1). Currently, the only character you can recruit into your party is Thyra, who also is the only character you can recruit without having to do a relevant quest first. At Level 10, Tove and Thyra respectively learn Prayer and Double Strike. Double Strike does exactly what's written on the tin - hit an enemy twice - but Prayer increases both the ATK and MAT stats of any character in your party. As an unintended result, the party powerspikes hard at Level 10, since you can feed Thyra extra stats and let her pop off with boosted Double Strikes. This will be fixed by the time I release a 0.1 version of the game unless I decide it's funny enough to keep around anyway, though I may have to re-test this boss as a result since I relied heavily on that combo to just kill them fast. Which makes me think maybe I should move Prayer up to a later level...

Another thing I learned was that it's really hard to do mazes well in RPG Maker unless you dedicate a lot of space to them. There's three small mazes in this dungeon, and to be honest, they all kinda suck, and I might replace them with some ice slide puzzles (the dungeon's gimmick, done with Yanfly's Slippery Tiles plugin) in the future. This means that moving forward, I shouldn't really think about mazes unless they are explicitly the focus of the dungeon. Which probably won't happen, let's be real, because maze dungeons kinda suck.

Overall, the process of creating and playtesting this first dungeon has taught me a lot about how I need to consider my design philosophies moving forward, both in terms of the dungeons themselves and the players & enemies going through them. It's been quite an interesting experience, and I'll try to keep these lessons in mind moving forward.

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"The Spellbook Problem" - The Struggles of Class Identity and Skill Count

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(Warrior isn't here twice on accident; the second one exists for technical purposes that I can't work around)

By default, the level cap in RPG Maker is 99. You can lower this number in the Actors tab of the database per individual character, but outside of some sort of plugin I don't know about, there's no way to raise the level cap above this number. In this game, the level cap has been lowered significantly, from 99 to 50. This is for a few reasons, chief among them being the simple fact that creating a character skillset from levels 1-99 can be quite the undertaking. By lowering the level cap, I also lower the amount of skills that can reasonably be crammed into each class, the amount of times you'll have to trade up your equipment, and the odds of being overleveled by accident since you have less levels to go through over the course of the game (the revamped EXP curve is a godsend for this). However, with the way I've laid out skills, you also only have so many per character.

In the current setup, any given character will unlock a new ability every 5 levels. This means that upon reaching level 50, you earn your tenth and final skill, barring anything you've picked up from glyph-type augments. The smaller spellbook per character certainly helps maintain a sense of control over what characters are capable of, but it also comes with a few tradeoffs. In the above post - which this is actually something of a follow-up to - I talked about the accidental combination of Tove's Prayer and Thyra's Double Strike being incredibly powerful. I need to consider each skill and its placement in the levels carefully. Not only that, but each skill needs to feel distinct from the others, and despite the powers given to me by Skill Core and a number of other plugins, there's only so much I can have a given skill do.

So, to summarize, each class has ten skills, and each class needs to feel distinct from the others. While laying out design plans to distinguish one class from another isn't hard, what is hard is creating a satisfying kit with only ten abilities. For example, giving a character five levels of a certain element of magic attack would take up half of their entire kit! This leaves me with no room to wiggle around and let a character try other things besides spam (Element) V. I've been entertaining an idea since last night where I increase the amount of skills a character can have though, to tackle this exact type of issue. The idea was that I give a character a second skill every 10 levels in addition to the one they'd usually get, increasing the amount of moves a character has at level 50 to a comfy 15, perhaps having one Level 50 skill unlock naturally and the other unlock through a special quest. Even if I go through with this, however, it wouldn't be until right before I've released a "1.0" version of the game, so I'm mostly doing this post to get the idea out there and voice my growing concerns with how I've laid out skills in this game so far.

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"If the Shoe Fits..." - Some Ideas I Borrowed from Other Games (and regional diversity)

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It's been a highly unproductive week over here. I was having some mapping troubles (I fixed it earlier today by taking the option I didn't want to take, but wound up having to in order to avoid burning out), so after several days of just not wanting to work on the game, one conversation where I sparked to life the flames of inspiration in fellow RPG Maker user @Saikazo who I think it would be very cool if he also made a thread like this, and a bit of time finally spent setting the problems in my own game straight so I can continue work, production is back on track, and the infrastructure for the second of our three starter quests should be ready soon-ish. In the meantime, I wanted to do a post here, so let's talk about other games for a moment. Games that I think are pretty neat for one reason or another, and I've borrowed a page or two from their playbooks to use in my own.

Legend of Zelda. I've talked about it already a couple posts ago, but I took some degree of inspiration from Legend of Zelda and to a lesser extent Pokémon with how to approach dungeons. Most dungeons have some sort of small gimmick relevant to a number of puzzles you need to clear in order to get through, and in Legend of Zelda fashion, there's generally a miniboss of some sort you'll have to defeat. The use of keys and the Boss Key in particular (even if I did split it into two pieces) was especially inspired by Legend of Zelda here.

Final Fantasy. 14 in particular, but there's also a bit in common with 7 by accident. The idea of Tove's class changing over the course of the game was directly inspired by Final Fantasy XIV's job system, where each of the starting classes in the game are able to get a related job stone at level 30, unlocking an array of new abilities to take with them as they level up through the rest of the game. Not intentional was some shared similarities with 7, namely in the battle system. For the unfamiliar, Final Fantasy VII uses a pseudo-turn-based system where each character in a battle has a gauge that fills up before they can take an action, with the speed of the gauge filling up being based on the character's own speed. This game uses the same type of system, but it isn't because of Final Fantasy VII; rather, it's something I happened to notice later on. You could argue that the augments are similar to materia as well, but I'm not counting that because...

Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter has two features that I realized were similar to what I was doing before choosing to embrace it fully rather than shy away and try to do something unique. Main story progression and decorations. Putting the latter first for pacing's sake, decorations are similar to materia in Final Fantasy; you put them in slots in your armor and get new skills. Unlike Final Fantasy, however, different types of slots exist (admittedly, these are just for decorations of different sizes usually), and also unlike Final Fantasy, decorations give you passive abilities instead of the stats provided by materia. This one was just a coincidence and still is, but I'd handily say what I'm doing is more akin to decorations than materia.

What isn't a coincidence is how I'm progressing the main story. In Monster Hunter - at least in the beginning of it, anyway - you progress the main story by completing a certain number of quests from the board, then clearing a special quest that unlocks after you hit your quota. Clear that, and the next tier of quests unlocks, which you have to repeat the cycle through. Setting up main story progression like this happens to be very convenient for me as someone with zero knowledge of javascript (the language RPG Maker MV and its games run on), since I can give the player a set of quests all at once, then have them get the next major quest only after clearing all of them. For example, the three starter quests I've alluded to in a few posts are the first tier of quests, and once you complete all of them, you can get the first special quest that progresses the game further. Whenever I release a 0.1 version of the game, it will have all four of these quests. I quite like this system.

On another note since I don't like the length of this post with just talk about ideas, here's another thing that's been on my dev mind lately. Differentiating different regions in the world.

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Upon this map I have hastily scrawled some borders. These differentiate not just nations, but entire regions of the world. For example, the western area is split into two kingdoms (you can tell where one ends and the other begins by the big wall surrounding the northern one). Saying your world has different region is all well and good, but if the only difference is the tiles you use, are they really that different? Luckily, RPG Maker has a feature for precisely this! You can tag certain areas of the map as different regions, and from there, you can also make it so that different troops of enemies only spawn in certain regions. For example, there's a change in the icy isles up north that you might face off with a yeti, but you won't find them anywhere else. That's not good enough for me either.

Different regions need different philosophies behind their town designs, if not different tilesets entirely in some regions. That's an easy and very visual way to help make different parts of the world really feel like you're going somewhere new. For an easy example I can provide with the resources currently available to me, let's look at the shop areas in the still-very-uncreatively-named Holy City, and the equally-uncreatively-named Castle Town, which is in a different part of the world.

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Even if I were to "defrost" the Holy City, these would be two places that feel distinctly different from each other, even though the buildings in both towns are just glorified rectangles for the most part. That's how I feel looking at them, anyway. I need to do this a few more times over the course of creating an entire world (the MV Trinity resource pack should be massively helpful for this!). There's a lot more to consider when making different parts of a game world feel different from each other, but we'd be here all day if I were to go into detail on all of it, and I'd like to go to bed sometime tonight, so I'll wrap up the post here.

To close off my ramblings of the night, here's a fun bonus screencap that has nothing to do with any of what I just said. There's a plugin on itch.io called MV3D, which causes the game to be rendered in a 2.5-dimensional style. There's also a free demo version of the plugin available, so I decided to give it a try. It... didn't go quite as I'd hoped.

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I will not be using MV3D in this project.

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