Mila is a top-down 2D RPG about a young girl’s search for a connection with her estranged father, and her slow disillusionment with the world her father is a part of. I’ve struggled a lot through the development of this game, and presently I am on a second or third draft of the art and maps. Functionally the game supports blendtree animation for movement, moving between scenes/maps, and collision. I spent a great deal more time than I expected to on the art, which is how I ended up with multiple drafts of nearly every asset and map. Because of this, the time I was able to spend on code suffered. I was able to make my game semi-playable, even with the amount of time I spent on the art. The process of the dev cycle helped me realize how well my background in design and visual art aided me in the process of game design. Although I was unable to spend as much time on it as I wanted to, I was also able to pick up on the logic of the code easily and quickly. I have a much better fundamental understanding of it now, and my skills in and understanding of animation grew a lot over the course of working on the character animations for this game. I’d like to continue to hone my understanding of abstraction and representation in art and animation, and to build my code vocabulary. During this project my greatest difficulty was scaling and rescaling the scope of the story. I began with a potential plot that was way too large to create within one semester – the fact that I spent the first few weeks of the semester working on and sketching out this plot (and then rescaling it when I realized it was unrealistic) lost me precious time that I could have put into making the game more functional. The coursework and materials gave me a lot of ideas about the functionality of a game, and the ways in which a game can get ideas across. I feel that I was able to incorporate a lot of ideas about shape theory and color theory, as well as taking design inspiration from a couple of top-down RPGs we played in the course, particularly Undertale and Suits: A Business RPG. I also took a lot of inspiration from Mortis Ghost’s OFF, which we did not play in class, but which I feel uses a minimalistic top-down format to create a very immersive and real-feeling world. It was also very helpful for me to see what my classmates were working on, as it gave me inspiration and motivation as well as reminding me that there is more than one successful way to make a game in the same code box. I certainly feel that I could have budgeted the time I spent working on code better on this project. I do feel that the amount of time I spent on art was warranted, as I will likely be able to reuse assets from this game in the future. On future projects I would definitely try to allow myself more time in the beginning of the cycle to focus on art before delving into the code.
My focus throughout most if not all of my dev cycle has been on art, not code, and that definitely shows at the place that I’m in with my game right now. Most of my maps are on a second or third draft, and I spent a great deal of time solely on color in certain parts of my game. After our second state-of-game in class, I was able to push past a lot of difficulty I’d been having with the second map – the green outdoor map. I made the map larger and populated it with more plants and trees – thus making it feel more alive, more a part of the world, and less closed-in and out of place. I’ve had consistent encouragement throughout the dev cycle that my art is successful in conveying what I want it to convey without words – sometimes the first or second draft of a map or character won’t be quite right, but usually by the second or third draft players can pick up a lot about the world with little explanation. Going into state-of-game, I was feeling very unsure about my choice to omit text in my game, concerned that players wouldn’t fully be able to read the art the same way they could read a description of it. There were definitely some critiques that I was able to take into account and make changes with (specifically in the second map, which I mentioned above, but also some notes about scale and trees) but I was surprised to find that my art got across a lot more about the story and characters than I expected it to. After state-of-game I put a lot of work into reworking the trees in my maps and the pathways and color schemes in a couple of them. I also spent a great deal of time to make the through-line of my maps very intuitive, something that I’m still working with. I want most of the conflict of the game to come from external forces and not from the player, so it was important for me that the world of the game be very immersive and steer the player away from seeking conflict. I feel I’ve somewhat accomplished this through the design of my player character. Almost everyone who’s playtested or looked at the game has felt endeared to Mila and has not gotten a sense of combat or fighting being necessary from the world.Players have expressed a feeling that conflicts in the world could be solved through conversation or compassion. Although there is often conflict surrounding Mila, I want most of the choice in the game to come from their decisions in characterizing her (in the conversation with the doberman, for instance) and from how they treat the other characters in the game (the vulture and mole, in addition to Mila’s father). I’ve also been playing a lot of game jam or lab games, usually made by one or two people, to get a sense of what other people are making working within the same scale or timeframe as I am. This has been immensely helpful in setting reasonable goals for myself and keeping me engaged in working on my own game.
Mila is about a little girl (the titular character), who, lonely and estranged from her father, leaves her home to search for him. As she moves forward, the world becomes colder and more unforgiving. Winter trees give way to concrete skyscrapers. When she finally makes it to her father, she finds not a kindred spirit, but a cruel CEO who sends her back to her ramshackle house. She makes her way back to her father again with the intent not of reconciling but of freeing the workers she saw along the way. I was influenced by top-down RPGs like OFF and Undertale, which use a sort of 3/4 view to create a sense of depth and dimension, and Sword & Sworcery EP for its abstracted pixel art style. My intention was for Mila to be a bright spot in a dim and (literally) gray world. I took narrative tone inspiration from Russian novels and games like Spooky’s House of Jumpscares, The Stanley Parable, and Papers Please. I want to create a dismal setting permeated and slowly saturated by hope. I’m attempting to translate this through color and character design. I also plan to include friendly NPCs based on “ugly” animals, such as the star-nosed mole and turkey vulture, to create a reversal of the common Disney-esque trope of a female main character befriending cute woodland creatures. Mila is also ragtag and disheveled for this reason. My state of the game focused on translation of idea through visual aesthetic, and this was mostly successful; even without more than one map or a narrative, players gleaned that Mila was searching for something important to her, and that she was a very hopeful character in a dreary world. I received some feedback about tile texture and made some adjustments accordingly; the workshop was very helpful in figuring out how to make certain textures (concrete, asphalt) read to a player in game space. Players also commented on Mila’s lack of a mouth, which I had intended as an artistic abstraction but which read as a conscious choice to show the character as quiet. I chose not to change this aspect of Mila’s character model because I don’t think the observation of her as quiet is incorrect and I am fine with the character being viewed this way. The paper game stage was very helpful for me in figuring out the layout of my story; I settled on a relatively linear progression mostly because of time constraints in the development process, but also because I felt it could get my meaning across simply and effectively. Players progressed mostly the way I expected them to, although I did receive some unexpected feedback about the presence of combat in the game, which led me to nix combat for the most part and look for other ways to portray and resolve conflict. Players thought that Mila attacking enemy NPCs broke an illusion of her “goodness” and that violence was unnecessary in the game. Development has been rocky less in terms of problem with code and programs but more so in terms of decisions about art assets and narrative choices. I’m currently struggling with the decision of whether or not to use dialogue in my game at all. I think dialogue in english might make the narrative feel less universal or more contrived. Players in the paper stage seemed to expect it, and without completed visuals I wasn’t sure how to express the narrative without it, but I would prefer to use pictures and scenes to illustrate meaning rather than dialogue.