Any good advice on how to plan out your game/story?

sleepy_sealion

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Hello, haven't really been touching rpg maker lately - since I've been having a really bad problem of over complicating things that's been turning games that I feel I can actually do, to games that get really super complicated and difficult to manage.

Basically I have a simple idea, and then that snowballs into all these other ideas, that are usually to much for me to swallow - that I usually burn myself out on trying to implement/ or manage, and then I come back later on and I barely remember how to use them and it's been borderline impossible working on this lately.

It's also the same problem I have with trying to think up a story - starts out simple, and then ends up trying way too hard to be deep and meaningful, and I just kind of lose sight of what I keep trying to do.

I just seem to have trouble setting limits for myself, since part of the reason I came to rpg maker - was that it had a lot of things that I needed to make a very basic story, and that I was more interested in using it as an experience to draw stuff for the game. Which I can absolutely do. And work out on how to tell a story and to get "make a game" off my bucket list.

So I know a big problem I have right now, is actually planning the game, something a few people have told me before - but I could really use some advice on how to learn to set limits, and to piece together your ideas, and just learning how to tell a story. And how to stay committed to your plans.
 
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These are some good videos applicable to your situation:
Not game-related but very good time-saving tips
Fail Faster
Keep Cutting

Basically, plan out your story and execute, but be ready and willing to make many sacrifices for the sake of plausibility. Pick out what items *must stay no matter what* and prioritize those. However, even for those items, you still need to stick to the "nothing is sacred" credo and reduce the scope when necessary.

And always start small. If you're unwilling to go with a smaller or more trivial story, then at least go with finishing up the intro/tutorial of your big game and just finish that part first.
 

sleepy_sealion

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I see what they mean. To tell you the truth, I do feel like the game started "falling apart" when it came to things like visual battlers - which I guess shouldn't be that surprising since rpg maker seems to be geared towards "front views" and that rpg maker doesn't seem to be the easiest thing to visually map things out with.

And I guess I did have my first sights aimed just a bit too high, and pretty much did want to use every little thing that came into my head thinking I'd miracle code it somehow. But anyway, thanks for the videos - part of me felt kind of bad watching that, but I felt like I did need to see that and I'll start seeing what I need and don't need. And trying to keep things as simple as possible. Even if I do end up having to bite the bullet and give up things like visual battlers for the sake of actually being able to make a game.

Thanks!
 

EliteZeon

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Make a rough outline of what you want to happen.

Then put in "why" x and y occurs. Always ask why and try to give reasons for actions and situations.

Some great adventures can take place in small locations if it is easier to manage. Entire Dungeons and Dragons adventures could be the tale of just one town. Don't worry about having to explain everything is explicit details, but context clues are always nice.

A final boss doesn't have to be the personification of life and existence reality, it could be a rogue paladin attempting a blood ritual to revive his fallen wife. You can always hint at something grander but a small scale tale is always great, and sometimes even better than an epic.
 

woootbm

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To piggy-back on EliteZeon, keep track of how many locations, characters, and other assets needed while making an outline. Really think about how much time a lot of these things will take and make cuts in the outline stage. It's a lot easier to rework things here than once you have a bunch of stuff made.
 

sleepy_sealion

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Well, I've been giving it some thought and simplified some things gameplay wise. Trying to make things more manageable rather than looking fancy though I still do kind of regret it, even if it would have been a bit much for me. I'm still in the process of seeing which scripts I absolutely need and do not need.

It's hard to find time to sit and work on things do to other projects that have priority over RPG maker stuff, but I feel if I do come back like a week later, and I can't understand how something works - it's probably not worth keeping.

Though I do have trouble with some things I'm kind of dead set on like the "weather system" and "Element STAB" stuff I tried to script - though maybe it'd be best if I'd get advice on optimizing my scripts so I can come back to them a week later and not have to cut out things I need.

Trying to piece together a story seems to be the tricky part now - I feel if I'd had that more under control I could plan out the game more and I'd have a better idea of stuff like skills/enemies I'd need to do.
 

woootbm

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Ah, well first of all I'd recommend looking for already made plugins for the added stuff you want to do (unless you feel like programming is your strong suit, in which case make it yourself I suppose). Stuff like http://yanfly.moe/yep/ are a godsend because he allows ya to use his stuff in both commercial and non-commercial RPM games just so long as you give him credit. There's already some weather stuff that can be done in eventing, although making it dynamic or whatever you may be trying to do would probably require some plugins. Never tinkered with that myself, but likely something a lot of people have done before so you should have options. Not sure what "element STAB" means, but there's plenty of element stuff you can do as is, and I know there's a lot of plugins on that yanfly page for that.

If you're worried about skills/enemies, then I might suggest starting with building a combat system. Then you might get some world-building and character ideas based on the stuff you come up with. Often times I find that useful, too, if you're making a story that's, say, specific to how magic is used/governed. Tying narrative directly to combat/skill usage I actually love myself. :)
 

Jules98

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Not sure what "element STAB" means, but there's plenty of element stuff you can do as is, and I know there's a lot of plugins on that yanfly page for that.
STAB stands for Same Type Attack Bonus. It's a mechanic from Pokémon that boosts a move's power if the user is of the same type as the move (e.g. Flamethrower will deal 50% more damage if it is used by a fire type Pokémon)
 

woootbm

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Ah, I see. Yeah, I've never played any Pokemon game, heh.

Well, that in itself doesn't sound complicated. But what would be is that it implies that you have a game with a massive pool of playable characters that possibly have randomized stats/abilities and/or that you have a large pool of abilities that many different characters can equip. Otherwise, in a game with a short list of characters with set abilities, you would just make two spells: one with normal damage, the other with bonus. Give each one the same description and icon and stuff and then assign the weak one to the non-fire based character and the strong one to the fire character. In the previously mentioned huge game, you could do an advanced damage formula with some plugin that checks for class and/or actor that adds a x1.5 multiplier if the class using it is right, or something.
 

sleepy_sealion

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Well, I actually have that figured out. I just wanted to have some characters have "elemental affinity" stuff, which I just usually default to Pokemon - and I have a bit of script that checks if they have a state and it makes the damage slightly higher. That's something that's a bit harder to manage than not having it - but I do understand it, so I can keep it.

Though ultimately, I'm unsure if its going to stay as is - since some of those videos Dark Horseman shared went into "not getting attached to things", since I do have something set in mind for the combat flow - but I still have to decide if this ultimately something the game needs, or just something that I should just push aside for something simpler.
 

thebanon

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I'd rather start with characters, then the world map, then the events, then the database because I'm going to add more ideas in that order.
 

Kes

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@AquaDog Can I just remind you that 'General Discussion' is not for feedback/discussion on an individual, specific project, nor is it about implementation of checking states and which spells to have etc.. If you want to have a game specific discussion, then it needs to go into 'Ideas and Prototypes'. If, on the other hand, you want to return to the proposed topic set out in your OP, e.g. how to set limits, how to piece together ideas etc., then it can stay here.
 

sleepy_sealion

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Yeah, I did want to learn and discuss more with how to plan out games and just see how people who have experience, or are just starting out like me are keeping their things together. Though if this thread is getting too off topic, I'd rather have it deleted than moved.

Though I'd still like to hear more about planning and learning to work with limits and just not getting greedy and pouring every thought you have into one game and making a mess of it.
 

Kes

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Though I'd still like to hear more about planning and learning to work with limits and just not getting greedy and pouring every thought you have into one game and making a mess of it
That fits right in with what this section is about.

For my bit of advice, you'll have to do some 'translation' work.
We have this thing called a "post-it note", which I think is called something different in the US. It's those small pieces of paper on a pad which are sticky at one end and which you can lift up and put somewhere else and re-stick it.

Arm yourself with some post-it notes and a bit of blank wall/outside of a cupboard/white board/whatever.
Express your ideas on these notes. One idea = one piece of paper. If you can't get it down so that it fits on one piece of paper, refine it. You need clarity and focus. No post-it should have more than 20 words on it, so no cheating by writing tiny.

Ideally you would have different colours, one for characters and their development, one for plot, one for gameplay. In a perfect world you would have another colour for location (i.e. town/dungeon) Personally I would start with the plot notes, so that I have a clear framework to hang everything else on. You need a start, an end, and at least a few key stages along the way. Stick them up chronologically. Perhaps this is already enough for you to see some of the locations you will need. Put them up.

First character appears. What does the corresponding plot note say? Second character appears. Again, what does the plot note say? You start introducing game play elements. Stick them up chronologically. Do you have a big clump of them? Would it be better if they were spaced out a bit more?

The very method of doing it like this forces you to be a bit choosy. It's more work than just scribbling notes in a pad or in a document on your pc. You are obliged to think structurally, how things fit together, from the very beginning. You need to be asking yourself constantly "why is this note here and not there?" You start seeing huge numbers of game play notes and so ask yourself "why do I need all these? Maybe I just want them." In which case they are candidates for culling. The same with your plot. Do you need to have all those twists and turns and coincidences? If you were to take all that's written on your notes, would it make a coherent synopsis?

You start spotting backtracking - does your plot need you to revisit that dungeon 4 times? If it does, how are you going to make that less tedious for the player? Will you write a teleportation skill game play note, or an airship one, or... Maybe you see several location notes with appropriate game play notes, but no plot notes. Why is the player going through all this? If there's no plot and solid character development, perhaps they don't need to. Or you need to find a good reason for them doing it, other than "fight enemies to get gold to buy gear in order to fight enemies".

It is much easier to move ideas around using this method. It is also easier to remove something by taking the note and putting it in the bin. Once something is written on a pad or in a document, it's harder to see its relationship with other elements and harder to ditch it.

Doing something like this will go a long way, I think, to meeting the need to set limits through a flexible planning process.
 

sleepy_sealion

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So I've been following the advice in this thread - and I do actually feel like I'm getting something simple together now. And just kind of heading back towards where I was when I started out before my ideas started snowballing, and liking the game again.

I haven't really used sticky notes - but I have been jotting down ideas in this little flipbook that I was using to store drawing ideas. Maybe when the notes get a bit much to manage I'll start shopping for them and trying to set something up like that.

And on top of just writing down little snippets for the game, I've also been trying to plan out how I'm going to approach something while I'm on my work break, and I do feel that's making things a bit easier for me personally just writing down "fake code" or a fake event and then coming home to try to create it and see if it does anything.

The time I spent writing things out also had me realize just how wrong I was doing everything and wasting energy. But writing about the game while I can't really work on it just kind of gives me a way to think about it - but also not really just open the program, and constantly make everything that comes into my head.

I feel like just having a bit of a gap between you and programming has been helping a lot and I really appreciate the advice. And I hope other people are getting something out of the advice here too.
 
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