Orosynthe devlog: A beginning

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having an OK weekend. Personally I’ve spent the past few days either eating, sleeping, working or watching TV shows (I’m currently obsessed with the first season of Loki), but it’s time to get back on track and keep working on my own creative projects! Fiction doesn’t write itself, and neither do blog entries. So let’s go.

This time I wanted to focus a bit more on my narrative videogame project (I should really find a shorter way to refer to this genre…) and how I’m tackling its first stages of creation. I will tell you a bit about what the project is, its new concept and title and the roadmap I’ve prepared for it. This should also help you better understand what to expect in future blog entries, since I plan on documenting my process in a pretty detailed manner.

Back when I was working on my previous project, Monster Embassy, I made a mistake from the very beginning: I treated the project like a “regular” videogame project. Everyone recommended prototyping the game first and leaving the actual content for later, like a mantra, so that’s what I did. But I failed to consider that my focus has always been storytelling, which isn’t the case for most game developers. That’s why, as I prototyped and learnt stuff and whatnot, I kept straying further and further away from my original intent, achieving mechanic-focused results instead of content-focused results, which is great but not what I wanted.

The process should have gone the other way around, content before mechanics, or at least they should have been developed at the same time. Many games are indeed designed content first and mechanics second, but it isn’t the norm so most people don’t consider it. I’ve been recently playing some independent visual novels, which has helped me better understand my mistake and realize that games or game-adjacent works can lean as heavily on content as other narrative forms of art do. I might be choosing videogames as my medium of choice, but that doesn’t mean that I should tackle this project from a typical gamedev-focused perspective.

Considering this, and keeping in mind how hard it is for me to stay focused in the long term, a few weeks ago (shortly before starting this blog) I decided to write out a VERY thorough roadmap for this project. And by thorough I mean that there’s a “project overview” with a list of around 30 things to do, divided into seven stages, and then there’s 20 more pages of tables detailing EXACTLY what needs to be done to finish every step in the list: characters, game scenarios, music, sound effects, menus, systems, literary script, game events and items. There’s a box to check for each individual task that needs to be done, from creating an item icon to implementing a specific menu.

The thing about this roadmap is that I have designed it to focus on content first and foremost. So the first steps are basically to make several mockups, gather documentation and draft the main story, main characters and main musical theme. Then I’ll focus more on characters, items, dialogues and scenarios, and eventually create a simple “walking simulator” version of the game, with all the game world already implemented. Then, and just then, I’ll start to work on the technical script and implementing events, interactions and systems fully, adapting them to the story and to the game world, and not the other way around.

Creating a roadmap is also something that I’ve seen recommended many times, and I think it will go well with my work habits, since I’m the kind of person who loves to keep lists of stuff and gets overwhelmed when they have too many choices. This roadmap will be my frame of reference when I don’t know what to do. The only part I’ve left out is establishing a fixed time frame for each task, since I know that I’d never be able to stick to any schedule, and it’d only frustrate me.

I’m currently working on the first of the seven main stages I have planned. I have created some basic mockups of the game to decide on the visual style, I’ve got the main game concept and logo (the new name is Orosynthe, from Ancient Greek, meaning “Mountain of the Elements”), I finished a general design of the entire game world and now I’m gathering documentation to make the game world more interesting. This time I will be focusing on Ancient Greece as my main source of inspiration, so this story will be firmly set in the classical fantasy genre instead of plain old fantasy.

I made this awesome mockup and then I realised that I couldn’t possibly finish an entire project with this kind of visual fidelity and resolution so I scrapped it. Pixeling that huge tree took a few hours but I had fun.
The game will probably look closer to something like this, although this is still an early mockup and I need to keep working on the style. I want to reach a balance between “pretty pixels” and “reasonably fast to do so I don’t die before I finish this”.
Shortly after finishing that second mockup, I sent my sister this meme. It’s 99% accurate.
This is the first version of the new logo. I’ll probably still improve it but for now it works and it looks nice. The “O” represents the Orosynthe mountain, surrounded by the four Aristotelian elements.

I will explain more about the project, what the logo means and how it’s all going in future entries. Thanks a lot for reading!

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