Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

More Frayed, More Knights, More Frayed Knightses!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 7, 2010

And now, for another exciting adventure in the development of Frayed Knights, the amazing indie RPG that all the other RPGs picked on in elementary school because it’s mother dressed it funny. And it comes with a Big Announcement

Way too freaking long ago … although, in terms of Duke Nukem Forever’s history, not so long at all (but that didn’t end well, did it?)… I gave an interview at RPG Watch about how long the full length of the game would be, as the pilot neared completion. I estimated that the final game would be six to ten times longer than the pilot. Which, even then, made me concerned that the game would be too short.



(Cue hysterical  laughter.)

What a fool I was.

Not that short is BAD, in-and-of itself.  While I have many years in the games business as both a mainstream developer and an indie, I’ve never designed a full-fledged RPG before, and Frayed Knights was supposed to be kind of a learning project for me. Not any kind of magnum opus. But too short – that would be bad. Because I want to make sure I give gamers value for their time and money. So I worried about the game being too short.

Well, it’s been a learning experience, alright. I’ve learned I suck as a project manager. So here are some things that happened to greatly expand the scope of this “little” indie project:

One: I over-estimated how much time it would take for a player to complete the pilot, and under-estimated the amount of time that could be spent in the rest of the game (at least, so it seems right now).

Two: I panicked a little bit when I found out that I had under-estimated the length of the pilot, based on the feedback I received.  This made me concerned that the game was too short. Short is not bad, but too short is not cool. So I deliberately added some more to the game than I’d originally intended.

Three: Feature and content creep happened. As it often does.

Four: Combat was made (so far) a lot more interesting, but also a bit more involved.  Hitting the attack button as fast as you can to end the combat in seconds won’t be the answer anymore.

Five: While it won’t affect those who make a beeline for the ending, I’ve added a few more elements that should reward those who enjoy exploring their environment more thoroughly.  Plus, there’s a lot more to the game than just beating up monsters and disarming traps, now, which was pretty much ALL that was there in the pilot.

Six: Somehow how “small” dungeons became medium-sized, our “medium-sized” dungeons became large, and we’re ending up with a whole lot more “mini-dungeons” in the game than we originally expected.

Seven: Leveling up is too much fun. I originally thought I’d only have maybe ten or twelve levels in the game. I’d save later levels and cooler abilities for future titles. But… well, we couldn’t resist. So there are a  lot of levels, and a lot of options when you level. So I kinda let things get outta control, you know, because I want there to be a lot of opportunity to level up, so you needed all this content, right? More dungeons, more monsters, more… stuff…

Of course, I deliberately did the drama-star thing so that players might have options other than reloading a saved game when disaster or near-disaster strikes, which means players may not be forced to repeat the same fights over and over again. This works to speed up gameplay a bit, but I don’t consider it an impact on quality.

Anyway, the  bottom-line is that  the game has expanded. A Lot. While we’re still guesstimating as pieces have been coming together, we’re possibly looking at the game being four or five times bigger than it was ever intended to be. Which means, for practical purposes, in the time and effort it’s taking us to get Frayed Knights done, we could have done four more games.

So what was originally intended to be a quick-and-dirty RPG project to help me “get my feet wet” in developing indie RPGs has turned into a gigantic three-act monster.

So – to get this bad boy under control, I could either aggressively shrink the scope of the project – something I’m too sucky of a project manager and too egotistical as a designer to do – or ….

Cue Big News fanfare (for the five or six people who might care and don’t know already)…

… We could break the project up into its three acts as separate, smaller, cheaper games.

This feels like a very natural move. I’d been fretting recently that the three acts were too self-contained, and I’d gone out of my way to force the player to go between areas that “belonged” in separate acts. I have to undo a little bit of work here, but the game breaks very naturally along these three lines. It feels like I’ve been subconsciously planning this all along.

This has already helped us tighten focus and improve the storyline a bit. There’s still this big overall story arc between the three, but we also want there to be a solid, self-contained story for each act. This illuminated for me the fact that the second act was weak in the story department – a lot happens, but it was really just a very long bridge between the first and third parts. So I’m working on that.

This probably won’t mean that Frayed Knights 1 will be out a whole lot faster than the otherwise. We’re trying to aim for having all three acts being more-or-less playable before releasing the first one, as we don’t want there to be this awful, ugly long delay between releases.  This will also mean that the core gameplay / engine won’t change much between the three. There will be a lot of new / cool stuff in the later games that weren’t in the first one – like new playable characters – but that’s always been the plan.

Because the core of the game will remain constant, however, it means that your characters and history (decisions, flags, etc) will also “port” between games. So you won’t be able to escape your past that easily.

A default party, appropriately leveled up and equipped,  will also be provided for each game, however, so playing all three games in order won’t be strictly necessary.

This decision frees me up to do a lot of things that I was hesitant to do before, because of game scope and several other issues. It also leaves a lot of questions open that I still need to answer. My objective is still to provide the most fun for your gamer dollar with these games – I just get three smaller chances at it instead of going all-or-nothing.

And finally – will the three games of the Frayed Knights Trilogy once again be too short?

Answer: Probably not. Especially at the reduced price.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 13 Comments to Read

  • Xenovore said,

    Before someone else makes the inevitable comparison…

    Frayed Knights has been “Starcraft 2-ed”. =D And yes, I’m certain that it will be a better game for it.

  • Badger said,

    Hey, it’s not that bad…. it’s only been 2 years since the pilot. and in this case, the end is actually in sight 🙂

  • Xenovore said,

    . . . Link

  • David W said,

    Well, I’m certainly a fan of Telltale Games’ episodic approach, so it could be fun to try out yours as well.

    And your rationale sounds solid.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    I understand your reasons for releasing Frayed Knights in 3 episodes or games, and I like the idea. I’m just a little confused, however. If you are going to finish all 3 before releasing the first one (minus polishing them, etc.) I don’t understand how that helps you?

    Doesn’t that mean it’ll take you nearly the same amount of time to release one episode as it was going to take you to release the full game? Minus however long you think polishing 2 and 3 will take of course. Is it just a motivator for you doing it like this, or a plan for us fans to get to start experiencing the game a few months early that we otherwise would have?

    Sorry for the questions, I’m just genuinely curious. I know you don’t want to be like “2-Years Between Episodes Valve”, but it seems like you aren’t planning on taking advantage of what breaking a game into episodes can do for you. More time between episodes by focusing on just one part and getting it out the door would allow you to make tweaks or changes to the final two parts based on feed back.

    Anyway, I’m excited we’re even to the point of discussing this for Frayed Knights.

  • Wavinator said,

    I think it’s a great move. I never got a chance to play your pilot and so I think it would be nice to be able to experience all the stuff I’ve been reading about.

    Personally I think anything that gets an indie RPG closer to completion is good. After all, it’s so freakin’ easy to get lost making these things you need anything you can that gets you closer to the light! 😀

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Answering some questions (especially those by Late White Rabbit) – I think this might allow us to get Act 1 out about six months earlier, which is actually kind of significant, though not a huge deal with the amount of time the game has been in development.

    #1 – Unlike Starcraft 2, we’re actually offering all three games at a reduced price (or the bundle together for regular full price), so it’s not just selling the same game three times 🙂

    #2 – Testing and polishing always takes WAY longer than anticipated. Especially when putting together a demo is required. My intention (don’t hold me to this – it’s a promise of effort, not delivery) from day one is to offer the complete bundle (at the same price I would have sold the full game otherwise), and I want to be absolutely certain that the three games will be able to be delivered in a timely method for those who choose that option.

    #3 – Consumer-friendly pricing. Basically, this allows me to sell both the full “bundle” version of the game at the price of the “full” game, but also break it down into smaller chunks for people who can better afford to spread the cost out over some time. Naturally, the bundle price will be a somewhat better deal.

    #4 – Frankly, I have been fighting my own three “act” structure for a while, as my desire for a more open-ended “world” has been fighting the needs of the story. It’s easier to have things more open around a particular “hub” (one town) for a single game. It just … fits better, if that makes sense.

    #5 – Having all three games closer to completion means I have less likelihood of having to retcon anything later when I discover an “oops” in Act 3 that impacts Act 1. And that kind of thing WILL and DOES happen.

    #6 – Finally, eating an elephant is a lot easier if it’s a bite at a time. The game has turned into an elephant, and for my own sanity and that of my team, it’s easier for us to break it into smaller bites to devour this thing. While I think we’re past that point now, there’s still the fact that a smaller project is less likely to fail than a big project, so I’m gonna sleep better at night with three smaller games.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Thanks, that cleared everything up. Looking forward to the game!

  • Badger said,

    heh, I would add that a HUGE stumbling block is the sheer amount of 3d art that goes into each one. a lot of the polishing is going to be directly because there are only a few of us working on the game, and art assets take an incredible amount of time and work to produce.

    Breaking it into 3 episodes allows me and Xeno the time we need to provide quality artwork for the next episodes without actually delaying the game itself.

    Coyote is actually looking at the end game for the first episode, with a set deadline (which I cannot share but it is VERY soon®!) If we had to push back all the art and stuff to release all the episodes at the same time, we could easily tack another year onto the release for artwork alone.

    Staging it out for 3 episodes means he can release what is ready NOW, and then we have 6 months to make a bunch more models and stuff for the next episode while people get to play the first.

  • Mart said,

    So 3 acts for $x each vs the whole game for $y, where 3x > y?

    Oh you are shreewwwwwwwddd…

    But I’ll still buy it! 😀

  • modran said,

    Still looking for it 🙂

  • Xenovore said,

    Another key point: For those with slow ‘net connections, you’ll be able to download a smaller chunk and start playing, rather than having to wait an eon for a behemoth DL.

  • Longue vidéo de la béta de Diablo 3 « Nexus Unlimited said,

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