By ShadowConqueror 21 Comments
Writing is something I've always been passionate about. Even when I was in the first grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I would write stories for my mom and illustrate them for her, and while I'm sure they well all pretty terrible (you would be hard pressed to find a child who had a good grasp on storytelling), the spark was there and it was burning. In high school, I took all the creative writing classes I could find, including one at the collegiate level, culminating in me writing a 40 page short story for my senior project. Today, I'm a university student double majoring in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and Film Studies (my other passion, and one which luckily accompanies writing well), and I have grown tremendously as a writer in the past few years.
"But," you might be asking, "what does your life-long interest in writing have to do with working on an indie game?" A fair question, curious reader.
I have always been a fan of role-playing games, particularly of the fantasy and science fiction variety. The sheer immensity of the writing that goes into many of these games is astounding, and is often equivalent to a novel's length of work (or more). When games like Skyrim or Mass Effect are so rich with original lore, intriguing plots, and remarkable characters, it can be hard not to feel wholly immersed in the experience. That's what my goal as a video game writer. Can those goals be reached in a novel? Sure, but I can write a book on my own whenever I want, it takes a lot more to be a part of a team and have to rely on other people, and have them rely on you. I want to create a world that seems vibrant and tangible, and is at the same time susceptible to the whims and schemes of the player. Player freedom is important to me. The player's choices should be able to be as dynamic as the game world itself. I've set my ambitions for this project high, and while it will not be easy for me to achieve all of my goals, my hope is that the final result will be something I can be proud of and is something players will enjoy. This is my challenge.
The Game - Seelentanz
The game I'm working on is called "Seelentanz," (German for "Soul Dance" or "Dance of the Soul"), described as "a multiplayer roleplaying 'simulation' set in an immersive fantasy world. Essentially, it's an open world RPG with coop for up to 4-8 people (exact number still to be determined) aimed at hardcore RPG fans. Unlike most RPGs, there are no health points, mana, or even a HUD. Instead, combat is designed to feel lethal. Players (and enemies) have limbs that can be wounded, effecting gameplay. For example, if you take damage to your arm, your arm will be weaker and you will do less damage when you attack. If it is injured further, you may be unable to attack at all. You must also take care of your wounds, as wounds that are not mended will become worse over time. While this combat can be extremely satisfying if you manage to incapacitate an enemy, it can also be very dangerous for you, as even weaker enemies have the potential to severely wound or kill you if you are not careful. Essentially, the combat becomes more exhilarating by adding the possibility of death at every turn. The player thus becomes encouraged to think twice before jumping into an encounter against an enemy, and should instead find a safer resolution or at least plan ahead before fighting. The player must also sleep, eat, and drink to stay alive. Needless to say, this game will not be easy.
My goal for the story is to allow the player to resolve conflicts in any way they want, provided their character is physically capable of doing so. This would be hard enough on its own, but the added dimension of multiple players makes it much more difficult. I've been reading a lot about moral decisions and the good and bad ways they are presented in games. I found Gamer_152's blogs quite informative on this subject. I know I don't want to have the basic evil/good dichotomy alone, so developing a story that accommodates the many shades of grey that exist in morality is my first challenge. One of my biggest inspirations for the creation of the storylines for Seelentanz is Planescape: Torment. The complexity of how you can approach each situation in that game is quite amazing, and the story and characters are interesting enough that you actually care about them. Planescape's dark yet quirky tones are also worth noting. Another game that is inspirational for me is Dark Souls, particularly in the very dark nature of the story and world, as well as the understated nature of its storytelling.
Currently, I'm developing the world history for the game, and while we have very traditional fantasy races including Humans, Elves, Dark Elves, Orcs, and Dwarves (not my decision, this was decided by the project lead), the first thing I did was try to subvert the tropes and cliches of these races in unexpected ways. I can't elaborate on the specifics, but essentially I wanted them to appear fairly traditional on the outside but with a little bit of interest and investigation you discover things are not as they initially seem. This is something I liked about Dragon Age. The way you approach each quest having one expectation, only to find out later that you were only given half the story is a really interesting storytelling mechanic.
As a writer and a fan of video games, I don't want Seelentanz to be just another fantasy RPG. I want to write a story that gamers can really be excited about.
If you're interested in the project, please follow us on Indie DB and Twitter for updates. Any help spreading the word about our game is appreciated. Hopefully I'll be able to make more blogs about this as work continues.
Thanks for reading, Duders.