Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights: Tool Time

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 17, 2010

Time for another update on Frayed Knights, the “quick” and “easy” indie RPG that was somehow going to magically take only a few months of my spare time to complete. This update is going to be super-ultra-sexy. Which in this case means, “Totally boring unless you are a programming or design geek.” My apologies.

Abraham Lincoln reportedly said something along the lines of, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.”

I feel like I’ve been spending the last six hours trying to chop down a tree with a blunt axe, and am only now thinking of sharpening. But that’s not quite the case, as I’ve spent a great deal of time getting all the systems and functionality of the game working. I’ve spent a lot of time working on things manually, and in so doing have evolved those systems a bit.  But after spending an inordinate amount of time rolling all the content by hand (and often having to re-learn how to do so each time I do), I figured it was well past time to sharpen the axe.  After all, I’ve got two more games like this one to finish, too.

And I haven’t gotten to the serious debugging & balancing stages yet. Inspecting and debugging this much content is going to be a serious pain. I need all the help I can get. So I’ve been focusing on making and improving tools the last three weeks.  I hope it is time well spent.

The other reason for developing these tools was a much more subtle one. I’ve spent a good deal of time with Frayed Knights working on what I consider some reasonably innovative game mechanics. These were part of the design from – well, if not day one, than early in development.  But going through the existing content in the game, I’ve noticed how I’ve gotten lazy. Those cool mechanics that were so front-and-center in the design are getting ignored in favor of stuff like plain ol’ combat encounters. Why?

It is because I’ve made tools to simplify the creation of some kinds of combat encounters (the straightforward kind). And what is easier to do gets done more. It’s really as simple as that. I should consider that some kind of law of game design right there.

So do I want more trap-and-lock puzzles? Yeah? Then I’d better make an editor for them. (Done!)

Do I want more full, rich quests? Better make some tools to make it easier to build, track, and test them.

Do I want more party banter? Sure. What can I build, or what process can I follow, to make those easier to develop and maintain?

Do I need more interactivity in the dialogs with NPCs – giving players choices in the dialog, or opportunities to exercise special abilities? I should probably consider some kind of  tool.

What about making all the in-game equipment more balanced (and priced / introduced appropriately)? Yep, you guessed it. I could use a tool for that, too, to help measure things and view them as a whole. Or for drama star or experience point distribution, spell balance, quest balance, monster challenge, all that good stuff.  I don’t mean that I’m going to be building tools for all that, but those are all candidates.

Now tools don’t necessarily mean in-game editors. A tool can be as simple as a process followed on a spreadsheet. Or even just some rules of thumb and methods of tracking things. Whatever the case is – the fundamental rule is that your tool / process / whatever should make work easier to do in the long run.

With so much of the content “done” already with the first Frayed Knights game,  will these late tools really help me all that much? That I can’t say. But I imagine they’ll help a lot with the next two titles.

Filed Under: Design, Frayed Knights - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Phil said,

    Hey Jay, this may be slightly off-topic, but how challenging will Frayed Knights be? It seems like most RPGs (and most other games) are way too easy nowadays.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Well, this is going to come out sounding really boring, I’m afraid, Phil. But my intention (and balance / difficulty is totally messed up at the moment) is to have it be a little more middle-of-the-road, erring on the side of easy. That being said, I’m still aiming considerably higher than many modern games. You shouldn’t be able to sleepwalk through most combats like you would in a game of Diablo. Particularly after the first couple of adventures, success is going to come down to a smart use of the skills, spells, and items available — just “hacking and slashing” will get you killed. However, it won’t be so critical that a sub-optimal character build or failing to obtain the top-end weapons or spells is going to result in a frustrating game experience for you.

    Anyway, that’s my target. We’ll see how close I hit.

  • Someguy said,

    Is the ETA on F.K. still “When it’s done?”

    Also, how about that GOG.com eh?

    (Apparently they closed, but now it’s seeming to be a marketing stunt)

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    FK – Officially, yes. Unofficially – well, we have deadlines, but we’ve totally failed on them, so we’re defefining them.

    I just saw the news about GOG.COM. I desperately, DESPERATELY want this to be only a temporary issue. I was a huge fan. This doesn’t sound like a marketing stunt – unless its an incredibly stupid one. The only clue I can see is in the one tweet: “Sometimes it’s really hard being DRM-free… hard to keep things the way they are and keep management and publishers happy :(” That, and I know they were struggling against Steam’s incredible $2 sales and whatnot.

    I really dunno what to say. I hope, hope, hope, HOPE, HOPE that it will be reborn very soon. I’m sorry now for putting off a couple of purchases…

  • Frayed Knights: Part-Time Indie Blues said,

    […] out quite the way I’d hoped. The good news is that after I whined last time about needing more and better tools for putting together all the diverse elements needed to make an RPG work, this week I spent some […]