Development Log #1 - Prototypes and Ambition

I think I might have made a mistake.

Maybe it's the years adding up and giving me false confidence, maybe it's shipping 2 complete products already, but something in me decided that it's time to tackle a bigger project. And so I got to work on an RPG prototype right around Christmas time.

It looked like that. A white room and a simple character controller. Not actually too bad for a single day, but I wanted to nail down an art style and have something a little nicer to show, to get myself excited mostly.

Some quick facts about getting the prototype up and running quickly:

  • Built in Unity
  • Probuilder is a godsend for rapid protoyping and even adequate for low polygon scenery
  • Playmaker is a great tool for getting ideas done quickly and despite what people will say, is perfectly viable for production
  • Final IK is a fantastic solution for making characters feel like they belong in the world; head movement, foot placement, and hand targets are just some of the great benefits it provides
  • Character Creator 3; this one could be a game changer in terms of producing a high volume of quality characters for a solo developer

After getting basic movement and camera working with the character controller (and figuring out how to get that sucker animated in the process) I decided to spruce up the environment a bit so I could get an idea of what the game would look like.

Things were still basic but I was starting to nail down the the colourful cartoon style that I was aiming for. A few more days and I had progressed to a point I was happy with for the initial prototype.

With a basic look and feel to how the game would play in an exploratory setting, I decided to work a bit on interactions. I decided that one small gripe I had with a lot of games is that the world feels very static. What I mean by that is things like furniture, chairs, etc; things that should move when bumped into often are glued to the ground like static geometry. There's a lot of tweaking to do still, but for now 90% of objects in the environment react to being touched/pushed/moved/ran into. You run into that bookcase on purpose? Knock it over and spill all the books. Run into the picture along the wall? Watch it crash to the ground. That rolling chair? It rolls along the ground when lightly bumped into. I don't know how well this will work down the line from a gameplay perspective, but for now it feels really cool to be able to physically interact with just about everything.

The next thing I started working on was interaction with things such as light switches. This is where Final IK really helped. I was able to set targets for the player's hands and even have the appropriate hand (left or right depending on which was closest) reach up to use the switch. Another cool detail is that the player turns his head to look at intractable objects when he's near them, also done with Final IK.

Keep in mind all of this was done in the span of about a week. With the basics in place I decided it was time to start working on the meat and potatoes of an RPG; the battle system. This is where I am currently, with things still in the rough stages. Battles function at their basic level but obviously there needs to be more than just basic attacks. Items, special abilities, and more are coming next. I've also started dabbling in the behind the scenes involved in all this; the math that powers the stats and battle system.

This is getting pretty long already so I'll wrap it up. I had a lot to say for this first development log, as most of the fun cool stuff happens in the first few weeks. Hopefully next time I'll have more to show on the battle system, and perhaps more of an in depth look at some of the challenges I've been facing and how I've been solving them.