My Magna Cartas

This was originally posted on June 30, 2014

More than a year ago I started the series “My 10 Favorite RPG”, and the ulterior motive behind that series was (and is) THIS POST.

I have to be honest with you though: I wrote the entire series last year. I took more than I year to publish all the entries because:

  1. I wasn’t really in a rush to publish anything, having them in my “drafts file” was enough.
  2. I usually published a post in the series when I had nothing else to post, and I hadn’t updated the blog in a while.

But now things are different. Now that I’m working on a commercial game, it’s time for the “My top 10 Favorite RPGs” list to fulfill its purpose: The creation of my initial Magna Carta

What’s a Magna Carta?

A few years ago I read the book No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, and while I wouldn’t publish a novel written in 30 days, I learned a lot from the book. One of the main things I learned was the concept of a “Magna Carta.”

The author explains how important it is to be 100% aware of things you like and things you dislike in a story. Even better, it’s a great idea to have a written list at hand whenever you are writing and revising your story.

I decided to take that concept to heart and apply it to my game development efforts. Without further Ado; Let’s begin.

Things I like in an RPG

  1. Sublime Elements (I’ll have to explain this one)
  2. Innovative Combat systems that manage to maintain a Turn-Based mentality.
  3. Serious Plots (Directly or Indirectly)
    1. Especially plots where I can be emotionally engaged.
  4. Gameplay > Story (Emotional Connection is a big plus) > Music >>>>> Graphics
  5. Multi-party configuration systems and/or missions
  6. Unobtrusive tutorials.
  7. Moral situations/decisions
  8. Well refined gameplay (Combat System, Interface, etc.)
  9. Interacting with NPCs (“Bioware” style)
  10. Organizing the equipment/abilities of my characters is something I enjoy a lot (maybe a little bit too much?)
  11. Strange and new settings beyond the usual medieval style
  12. Interesting characters and relationships with said characters
  13. Carefully crafted and cohesive worlds
    1. Including Atmosphere
  14. Interesting Plot Twists
  15. “Paragon” Paths
    1. I’m just not interested AT ALL in pretending to be a “bad guy” in a game. I’m 100% sure this might come back to haunt me sooner than later when I don’t provide enough options for players with different tastes.
  16. Plots that are interesting from the very beginning, and where the objective is clear from the start.
  17. Situations that made me think and learn about myself.

Things I dislike in an RPG

  1. I hate to feel that I’m just playing the game to discover how the plot will unfold while hating the gameplay.
  2. Excessive Random Battles.
  3. Not being emotionally engaged with the story.
  4. Getting lost in the “Game World.”
    1. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general, I play RPGs for their story. Gameplay alone won’t satisfy me.
    2. Exceptions: Pokemon, Mass Effect 2
  5. Level grinding
  6. Plots without an overarching theme/story.
  7. Dumb/Pitiful protagonists (I’m also going to have to explain this one)
  8. Entirely Comedic Plots

Random Insights

  1. There must be a balance between the complexity of the combat system and the frequency of the combats. The longer a single battle is, the less frequent they should be.
  2. Easy to learn but difficult to master combat systems are the ideal. Complexity in this genre is hard to avoid though.
  3. If the combat system is fun enough, The player (or at least I did) will “level grind” on his/her own.
  4. I tend to like stories that are inherently interesting with mysteries that progressively unravel themselves.
  5. The more you interact with a given game world, the more you’ll be emotionally involved with it.

I’m going to come back consistently to this post to add/remove a few items, but this is it for now.

My Influence Map

This was originally posted on July 5, 2014 
As fox-orian explains in his influence map template:

As an artist, you are influenced by things. The reason why you do what you do is the combined application of all the things that influence you.

With that in mind, let’s make an influence map of the kind of games I want to develop. For now, I’ll limit myself to traditional  RPGs, for I’m not planning to develop a strategy game in the next couple of years. If you see a strategy game in this, it’s not here for its “strategy” elements.

Here you go:

Honestly speaking, I was too lazy to write the names over the squares (mainly because I’m using gimp now, and I only know how to do that in Photoshosp, and…yeah). Now I’ll write a little bit about the games I chose and the reasons behind it.

Just remember I’m using a Left to Right — Top to Bottom sequence:

  1. Final Fantasy 6
    1. Sublime Elements (As I said…I’ll have to explain this one later)
    2. Innovative combat system
    3. Beautiful Music
  2. Pokemon
    1. Easy to learn but hard to master combat system
    2. Breaking RPG conventions
  3. Sweet Home
    1. Mixing RPG mechanics with different genres
  4. Super Mario RPG
    1. Innovative gameplay and mechanics
    2. No random Battles
  5. Hybrid Heaven
    1. Original Combat System
    2. Original Setting and plot
    3. Interesting Plot
    4. No Random Battles (as far as I remember)
  6. To the Moon (Not really an RPG though… my bad)
    1. Narrative oriented gameplay
  7. Planescape Torment
    1. Sublime Elements
    2. Narrative approach & player options
    3. Interaction with NPCs
  8. Earthbound
    1. Polished gameplay, mechanics, and interface.
    2. Original Setting
    3. No Random Battles
    4. Breaking RPG Conventions
  9. Final Fantasy 4
    1. Beautiful Music
    2. Emotional Moments (i.e. Becoming a Paladin)
  10. Ultima Series
    1. Sublime Elements
    2. Strategic Battle Combat (without being a 100% strategy game)
    3. Interaction with NPCs
    4. No Random Battles
  11. Chrono Trigger
    1. No Random Battles
    2. Interesting Combat System
    3. Beautiful Music
    4. Interesting Plot Developments
  12. Megaman Battle Network
    1. Interesting Combat System
    2. Interesting setting
    3. Breaking RPG Conventions
  13. Ultima 4
    1. Trying to improve the world with a game
  14. Parasite eve
    1. Interesting Plot
    2. Interesting (and original) Setting
    3. Interesting Combat System
  15. Cthulhu Saves the World
    1. Interesting Approach to Random Battles
    2. Indie Role-model
  16. Xenogears
    1. Interesting Combat System
  17. Zelda: Majora’s Mask (This isn’t really an RPG bad)
    1. General mood, setting, and themes
  18. Mass Effect
    1. Interesting Combat System
    2. Interaction with NPCs
    3. Moral Elements

Baby steps

Hello There! Welcome to Ursus Games. This will be a space exclusively dedicated to my game development efforts, and vladimirsan will remain a personal blog.

I have big news for you. I’m already working on the first game I’ll release under Ursus Games! It is still a very raw state, but I hope to introduce it in the next following months.

I’m painfully aware of the dangers of over-stretching myself, so I’m aiming to publish content here at a bi-monthly rate. In the meantime, I’ll be slowly adding old game development posts.

I’m excited!