It would be a little silly to give a regular update two days after my last one, so instead I’ll recap everything I’ve done and look forward toward what’s still to come.
* Stat growth balance – I based my stat growth and experience point scaling loosely on Pokémon as a familiar starting point, but altered to my own ends. Stats are slightly higher across the board to compensate for the absence of an EV system. (And no worries: there’s no IV equivalent! A character on her first playthrough will always grow to be exactly as strong as herself on her second.)
* Core battle mechanics – Damage formulas, status effects, passive abilities, elemental resistances, and pretty much anything in the foundation of the battle system does what I want from it!
* Move balance – Another thing I loosely based on Pokémon. As a marginally competitive Pokémon player, a decision between Icy Wind, Ice Beam, and Blizzard is one of the clearest examples of good game design, so I adapted their principles and it’s turned out great. I don’t feel like I have any filler moves, especially in conjunction with…
* Enemy AI and balance – Of the 42 enemies I’ve tossed in so far, I’m happy with at least 35 of them in terms of how they act and how weak or strong they are. Since most of the enemies recur across many continents at different levels—yet again, Pokémon inspiration—the important ones are all really solid. Most importantly, they feel distinct: ogres are vastly more threatening than kobold rogues, but kobold rogues are quite a bit more annoying. I’ve played entirely too many RPGs—even RPGs that are among my favorites of all time!—where enemies are interchangeable pretty models, which is right near the top of my list of things to avoid.
* Equipment system and fashion subsystem – Inspired by Dragon Quest IX, but a lot more visible, the way you wear your clothes can give you hundreds of possible fashion bonuses. What you can wear also depends on your body type; a character like Evelyn who has wings can wear wing accessories but not a cape or cloak.
* Equipment and status menu layouts – Granted that they’re only boxes and alignment right now since I haven’t paid for any art assets here, but I’m pretty satisfied with how cleanly they’re laid out.
* Controllable animated sprites – I just wrote about this, but yes, now the player can actually move a character sprite around and it’ll animate properly. <3 Like in Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, I’ll only do four directions of sprites, but diagonal movement is still possible. (FFVI had that on staircases in the Fanatics’ Tower and Zozo; I bring up the comparison because, for budget reasons, my sprites will look a lot more like that than huge CT sprites.)
* First continent layout – The first few (mini-)dungeons and one or two towns are still to come, but the main continent itself is all set up. I might increase or even double its size, but the layout’s not changing much if at all.
And, of course, I’ve written a myriad of flavor text and dialogue. But that’s not gameplay, so it doesn’t count. =P
* Battle timing – Although I’m making a turn-based RPG for several reasons beyond the scope of this post, action RPGs are technically my preferred genre, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep battles flowing. Multiple attacks per turn with a limited window for inputs like Valkyrie Profile? EarthBound style HP drain? Reduce the battle party size?
* The point of the fashion subsystem – Okay, so dressing great increases your Style stat, but what does that do? In DQIX it didn’t accomplish much pragmatically. Do I pull a Zelos from Tales of Symphonia and have NPCs throw goodies at you for looking fabulous? How about borrowing from Dragon’s Curse (AKA Wonder Boy III: Dragon’s Trap) and locking out some obtainable items until you look good enough to earn them? Should Style affect battles in a minor way like the Luck stat in Fire Emblem?
* Extra battle mechanics – Celty’s battle gameplay is… different from most of my other characters. Without giving away any spoilers past the first 10-15 minutes, she has a hero code and never uses overwhelming force against her enemies even if she significantly outlevels them, so her visible stats don’t reflect her real battle performance. I haven’t finalized figuring out how I’m going to accomplish that code-wise, but it’s vital—and not only from a story perspective! Everything I do goes to the good of gameplay somehow. Other than that, the one major aspect of battles that I didn’t get rolling yet is enemies who can summon allies or reinforcements, like greatwolves calling more of their pack or kobold chiefs calling underling warriors. I know it’s possible in ORK Framework since others say they’ve done it, so I only have to figure it out.
* Priority attacks – This, on the other hand, is impossible in ORK right now—at least as far as I can tell! Priority attacks are moves like Quick Attack in Pokémon or Mercurial Thrust in Dragon Quest that always attack first but are weak as well as moves like Dragon Tail that always attack last but have a notable effect. One option for me is to outright commission the development of that feature. Another is to try out a delayed priority effect; instead of an attack going first and dealing weak damage, it could deal weak damage and make the next turn’s attack go first. I can’t remember ever seeing that in an RPG, so I might give it a shot just to see how I like it. This sort of thing is a perfect example of limitations drawing out creativity. =)
* Animation integration – Just because I can animate sprites in a vacuum doesn’t mean I know yet how to integrate them with ORK. I think I do know! …but animation is the one and only thing so far that’s been more difficult than I anticipated, so I rule nothing out.
* Full-fledged environment movement – Player characters need to interact with the terrain and the camera needs to follow them, so for as much trouble as it was, simply getting a character moving is only a first step! …so to speak. =P
* Cutscenes – I haven’t even touched the idea of making cutscenes happen since they’re one of my lowest priorities, but they’re certainly coming up!
* Additional environments – Like I mentioned above, I’ll need a few dungeons and towns. (Don’t interpret that as tons of work; SNES classics often had one-room “dungeons” or “towns” like Guardia Forest and Gau’s father’s house to create scenery variety—and I’m certainly learning from that mold!)
And, of course, I’ll need art assets and music and so forth, but the bulk of those efforts will be on other people rather than me.
I’m probably forgetting a few things that I’ve done and a few things that I still need to do, but overall this is a pretty good review of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Good to regain some perspective after a long challenge and a recent breakthrough. : D