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.
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.
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.
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