In honor of Zybourne Clock, the most inspirational RPG ever.

Pierman Walter

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Whenever I can't work anymore and feel like giving up, I look at this game and redouble my efforts, fueled by the fear that my project will end up exactly like it if I don't get back to work. If the RPG community was a school, games like Undertale, To the Moon, and Middens would be beloved teachers who guide their students, improving their skills and giving them ideas so that they too will someday be able to create a great game. Zybourne Clock would be the insane paint thinner addict who charges around the parking lot, punching cars and screaming, "WHERE IS THE STEAM?" for hours before passing out. He is what the other teachers point to whenever students (us) ask, "Ugh, I don't want to learn how to write my own script. RPG Maker already has enough variables and sprites to create a game. Why do we have to do this?" Zybourne Clock is inspirational in the same way a rotting human corpse in the middle of the road is inspirational. It instills the fear of death into all game makers who come near it. It forces us to think upon our own plots and characters and come to the terrifying but necessary realisation that our game is as terrible as theirs, and if we don't change, soon enough we will both be the same: the skeleton of a game, trampled on by the living on their way to greatness that is now impossible for us to achieve.

WHAT IS ZYBOURNE CLOCK?

Zybourne Clock is an ambitious RPG Maker game hailing from the Something Awful forums, featuring a steampunk setting, time travel, as few cliches as possible, an unique emotion-based combat system, 100 hours of gameplay, and full voice acting for every single character. Or it would have, if the entire development didn't collapse after two weeks. Although there was somewhere between 20 and 50 people on the development team, most of them, allegedly, were writers who spent most of their time arguing and adding more and more details to the already bloated plot. The writers rarely communicated with the level designers and artists and threw the one person with actual game making experience out of the project because he disagreed with them. As the writers grew in power and shrank in awareness, the plot grew to the formless mass we know today. It features three countries at war, a cabal of conspiring scientists, and about a trillion different timelines, all of them completely incomprehensible, because documents that are supposed to be describing gameplay are written like a terrible paperback thriller. In one scene, there is a man stealing an artifact, a crowded room full of people, and a little girl. In another scene, many scientists argue for and against building a machine. Nowhere does it say who you are actually playing as, so I'm assuming these are all cutscenes. If so, then that means at least 80% of what little effort was put into this game was put into potential cutscenes. Despite all of this, chatlogs between writers show that they were proud of what they created and believed it to be "Like the plot of FF6, but 1000 times better."

During the early development, promising concept art and maps were released, but as more of these sordid details surfaced, the jab-happy SA community started parodying it. The game itself was so weirdly written and illustrated that it was impossible to tell the difference between a deliberately bad fake and the real thing. 

Here are some choice quotes from what I believe is the actual game, with awful grammar, typos, and general confusion: 

-------

This, my darling, is a device. A device many men and many women have died to see, to understand, and to own. In many ways it is like one of your toys, but a toy for adults. This, darling, is The Zybourne Clock.

When the object enters the timestream, time begins to correct itself. Let me use this example: Imagine four balls on the edge of a cliff. Say a direct copy of the ball nearest the cliff is sent to the back of the line of balls and takes the place of the first ball. The formerly first ball becomes the second, the second becomes the third, and the fourth falls off the cliff. Time works the same way.

 

You always had a pension for the dramatic, Johnny.

 

He recalled that they were once called Buttersteam Spirals, named after the device used to make them, the SteamButterer, and the company which made it, The Buttersteam Company. Then, as always happens with technology, the Steambutterer was replaced by the Streambutterer, which still ran on steam, but differently, and was still made by Buttersteam Co. His brow furrowed.

 

“Doctor, you understand if we do this, We will fade from existance as the timeline corrects itself.” One of my colleagues said in the grimest manner I had ever heard him speak before. I began to turn pale, and dizzy. I quickly found a chair and used the magazine (that I was subsequently still clutching) to fan myself.

 

Frozen with guilt, the man slowly begins to run through the crowd.

 

If he had bothered to look down at the sidecar, perhaps he would've seen a few purple hairs, those hairs connected to a head, the head connected to a body, the body being Nina's who, nestled in secret among the lilylips, clockwork honeysuckle, and supplies, smiled her inscrutable female smile.

-----

 

I post this in hopes that other game makers will be as inspired as I am to keep their projects from descending to the same level as Zybourne Clock.

 

 

 

 

 
 

NeoFantasy

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Thank you for sharing this, this was very interesting to read. 

If I heard about this when it was being started and knew how many writers they had I would have told them right then and there that it wouldn't work. I can't speak for everyone but when I write things need to go my way, don't get me wrong I'm open to suggestions and all that but in the end if things don't go my way it's not my story. You cannot have so many different opinions in power it just won't work.
 
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Pierman Walter

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Thank you for sharing this, this was very interesting to read. 

If I heard about this when it was being started and knew how many writers they had I would have told them right then and there that it wouldn't work. I can't speak for everyone but when I write things need to go my way, don't get me wrong I'm open to suggestions and all that but in the end if things don't go my way it's not my story. You cannot have so many different opinions in power it just won't work.
Although, according to what I'm aware of, the main problem wasn't that the writers were arguing with eachother too much, it was that none of them had and experience writing, and so spent so much effort congratulating eachother for every little thing written, no matter how horrible it was, that it spiralled into madness.
 

NeoFantasy

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If they had the ability to get 20-50 people working on one project could they not find an experienced writer. Were they all just friends that got together cause that's what it seems like, the writing (at least what you have posted here) isn't horrible but it isn't good either, it doesn't flow well and like you said so many grammar mistakes. It's like they read a few books or whatever and were trying to imitate them. If they spent less time patting each other on the back and more time finding their best writer, or hiring someone to help out they could've made a pretty good game.
 

Pierman Walter

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The writing, while weird, is nothing compared to the art.

BEHOLD!

imgres.jpg

images.png

imgres-1.jpg
 

NeoFantasy

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The writing, while weird, is nothing compared to the art.

BEHOLD!

imgres.jpg

images.png

imgres-1.jpg
Um... this is the official concept art...you gotta be joking, at least you can say they tried. 

These are sketches that you would send to your concept artist not the official concept art for your game.

Don't even get me started on that city plan. 
 

Pierman Walter

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The later art increased in quality, but somehow made even less sense.

imgres.jpg

imgres.png

images.jpg

In order to get from the residential area to the commercial area, one must walk straight through a military complex and slums.
 

NeoFantasy

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That first one is certainly interesting, and the town map is just stupid, but that timeline picture makes no sense, who is sylus, if the clock was destroyed how was the message sent to the girl, it's a picture of the timeline and it has plot holes in it.

I'm sorry but these guys had no idea what they were doing, they might have had an interesting idea at some point but threw it all away becuase they just didn't care. I feel like this is how there meetings went "allright we finished a scene today, there are some typos and it doesn't make that much sense but our game is going to be so good that people won't care."
 
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Pierman Walter

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The saddest/funniest thing about all of this is that the developers in charge legitimately believed that this game would be finished within a year.
 

NeoFantasy

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They were saying that it would be like ff6 but 1000 times better and thought it would be finished within in a year, one year, they were way too full of them selves.
 

Matseb2611

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If he had bothered to look down at the sidecar, perhaps he would've seen a few purple hairs, those hairs connected to a head, the head connected to a body, the body being Nina's who, nestled in secret among the lilylips, clockwork honeysuckle, and supplies, smiled her inscrutable female smile.
Now that is some terrible writing. Hairs connected to a head? Head connected to a body?

Also, why are all these descriptions in the game? Shouldn't all this stuff be shown, since, you know, a game is a visual medium? XD

That second city plan gave me a good laugh. The rich folk have to go through the slums and get mugged on their way to the commercial district. That's some smart city design. XD

The timeline also seems to make no sense. But I am curious about it, because I can already imagine a plethora of plotholes coming to the surface.
 
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NeoFantasy

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Now that is some terrible writing. Hairs connected to a head? Head connected to a body?

Also, why are all these descriptions in the game? Shouldn't all this stuff be shown, since, you know, a game is a visual medium? XD
It's like I said, they read some books and tried to imitate them.

The timeline also seems to make no sense. But I am curious about it, because I can already imagine a plethora of plotholes coming to the surface.
There would be more plot holes than actual plot. lol
 
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