The Isle of Steem: A Game Development Post Mortem and an essay in obsolescence and pointlessness

in gaming •  2 months ago  (edited)

Many months ago, I was actively developing a game about Steem. Not on Steem, but about Steem. It is called Isle of Steem, and was made in RPG Maker VX Ace. I was live streaming development, learning as I went, play testing as I went, and implementing members of the Steem community as NPCs.

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It was meant to be a parody and a bit of a piss-take, but as all things tend to do in my mind, it attempted to become something quite profound. I wanted to treat the community to a Douglas Adams style story, hilarious, absurd, yet somehow strangely poignant, and all the while; incredibly graceful and beautiful; like an Orca thrashing about in the frozen produce section of a Walmart (if you're American) - or a Tesco (if You're British) or an Aldi or a Lidl (If you're German).

The global supermarket industry now covered (please comment below the name of the major super-market chains in your country in order to educate me about them) - I can get cracking into this post-mortem.

I'll break it down into several sections to make it easier to digest. I'll warn you right now. This is going to be a very long post. It won't be a novel, but it will be long, and I'd love to have your continued attention throughout the following pain-stakingly typed words, so I don't have to bludgeon you all to death with a bloody keyboard.

Sections of this Post-Mortem

  • The Premise
  • The Learning Curve
  • The content developed
  • The hours sunk
  • Personal Impacts
  • The Legacy

The Premise

Docile Creatures are attacking anything that moves. People are scared and confused. For years, the witnesses have been silent. The pleas of the common folk echo unanswered. What is the cause of this corruption, and how will the world mend? Are you the hero that will save Steem?

I wrote many scripts and plot lines and story arcs. I had so many ideas. Prolific ideas. Overarching ideas. Hilarious ideas. Serious ideas. In all, way too many ideas.

It all begins like this - you find yourself marooned on a mysterious island, where no other social media exists, and you're introduced to the world of Steem, one function at a time. It leaned heavily on Steem cliches like "Follow for Follow", "Upvote for Upvote", and having SBD as a token, "pegged" currency.

In retrospect, I should have changed gold to "pegs" instead of SBD, like I did.

The plot was the best part of this game.

In the first area, you were beset upon by millions of introduction bots. It's a common act for a new Steemian to begin their life on the steem blockchain by making an introduction post stating what they hope to achieve, and just who they are. I made the art in Photoshop, and enjoyed it every step of the way.

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Less than five minutes into the game, I was already destroying SMTs. Smart Media Tokens in my game were items. Health SMTs were the RPG's potions. After collecting five health SMTs, and venturing out into the desert of #introduceyourself, you get to encounter your first welcome bot.

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Instead of attacking your foes like in typical role playing games, here you would need to instead "Flag" your foes. I'm subverting the typical RPG mechanics and steemifying it everywhere throughout the game.

  • Items are SMTs
  • The classes were Content Creator, Curators, Bid Bots, etc
  • Instead of "Saving" You'd SignTransactions
  • You couldn't quit, only Power Down

Oh, and there was many more than one welcome bot to fight.

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When creating terrible artwork, you tend to borrow from the video game development vernacular. Make one base model, and then modify it to suit your needs. Because I was trying to be satirical, or; in my native, Australian tongue "take the piss", I did exactly that at every opportunity.

You didn't even level up. As you defeated monsters, and completed quests, your reputation increased.

The only thing that I didn't think to do was implement an in-game vendor to exchange your SBD for Reputation. I've thought of that now. That was part of the problem with this game. Having so many ideas, things that are in-jokes to the entire Steem community, that, without context, mean nothing other than classic game mechanics re-badged with different names, just as a modern Jaguar is a re-badged Ford Mondeo.

The Learning Curve

I'd only done one or two semesters of Java Programming at University. I graduated with a Masters Degree in Visual Art and Design, and you can clearly see those skills on display in my monster art work that I included in the game.

RPG Maker VX Ace is like Powerpoint for game making, but it still has all the classic conundrums of writing a program. You need to know what you're doing, have a plan, and not get yourself stuck in and endless loop of scripts.

RPG Maker VX Ace uses some very basic Ruby scripting to help you manage events, conversations, and "Actors" (the NPCs, and characters) - and also allows you to use this in the animation system.

You can keep track of quest objectives using switches, which are just fancy names for variables. It isn't a complicated system, but it, like a blank canvas can be quite overwhelming when you want to implement even common things that you've seen in RPGs before, but it doesn't have that functionality out of the box.

All the world building and events happen in your mind and your design doc, and then you need to figure out how to translate this into the tool, the same way as which you translate some green, brown paint, and a paintbrush into a picture of a tree, ala Bob Ross.

The Photoshop stuff was easy. The sprites were easy. The events, scripting, and sound, and getting it to all play nicely were the hard bits. A lot of time was spent trying to figure out how to make things work, instead of making them actually ... work.

The other learning curve was interacting with the Steem Community, and handling project management. For that, there was GitHub, and its elegant, easy to use Kanban boards to track everything that I had planned, that I was working on, and that I had finished (or thought that I had finished)

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I spent almost as much time organising things as I did squashing bugs. I play tested, I documented, I fixed bugs as I went. I was a one man team with the blockchain at my back, not holding daggers, but with an expectant hush gathering around my frenzied work, which I continued to stream.

The Content Developed

This section is pulled mostly from a previous post. These are just the maps. I also have quests.

I'll start with the quests, before moving onto the maps.

Quest #1 - Introduction area, including "Intro Boss Fights"
Quest #2 - Evil Upgoats
Quest #3 - Magical Powders
Quest #4 - The Case of Laura Lemons
Quest #5 - A Hidden Secret (Literally)

Map 1: Prologue

Status: Complete.
Play time: ~2 minutes.

This is the starting area, where you find yourself shipwrecked onto the Isle. You journey through this area into...

Map 2: The Cave of No Return

Status: Complete.
Playtime: <1 Minute

This area is a transitional area (and packed with a secret!) that you can't access if you miss it after leaving the area.

Map 3: Where am I?

Status: Complete
Playtime: <5 minutes

The first area where you encounter a NPC, and a quest giver. You are instructed to write an introduction post, journeying to the South.

Map 4: The Robot Lands

Status: Complete
Playtime: <1 Minute

Another transitional area, here you encounter your first taste of combat, perhaps chancing upon evil, destructive "Introduction Bots", who attempt to flag you to death.

Map 5: The Robot Cave

Status: Complete
Playtime: 5-10 Minutes

The Robot Cave is where you fight more introduction bots, and make your introductory marks upon the STEEM blockchain. You fight your first boss here, which unlocks you access to the next area.

Map 6: Adelaide

Status: In Development
Playtime: 5-20 Minutes

This is a highly stylized representation of the city of Adelaide. There's a functioning inn - a zoo - manned by @ryivhnn (complete with custom sprite - not pictured above) - and a single quest accessible from the overworld map. This quest involves destroying some evil upgoats, before obtaining a stat-boosting item.

Map 7: The Adelaide Inn

Status: Complete
Playtime: 2 minutes

A typical J-RPG Style Inn. Play some SBD (the in-game currency) - and restore your health.

Map 8: The Jade

Status: In Development
Playtime: 5-10 minutes

A reasonably faithful representation of The Jade, where the Monthly (except December) Adelaide STEEM meet is held, on Flinders St, Adelaide - on the last Thursday of each month (except December). If you're ever in town, come and meet us. See how remarkable and life like my digital version of The Jade is! (Or isn't!)

Here, in this area, you'll meet NPCs like @o07, @lordnigel, @mattclarke, and several others of the #mallsballers crew.

There's even @wildflowerjessi, who gives you a custom quest to retrieve henna powder, and without spoiling the story, @mattclarke is there to give you a quest as well. It doesn't even relate to Flesh Golems.

Map 9: A Castle

Status: Complete
Playtime: 5-15 Minutes

The location where @wildflowerjessi's quest plays out. I won't say much more in order to not spoil the story. There's a quest here that gets you a permanent bonus for the player character.

Map 10: The Forest of Despair - 1

Status: Complete
Playtime: 3 minutes

An area that gets you a quest to go and find @lauralemons. @stitchybitch gives you the quest, and off you go, in search of her. I won't spoil more of the story here, but share more screenshots of the upcoming areas.

The Forest of Despair - 2

Status: Complete
Playtime: 4 minutes

A transitory area, leading to the next part of the Forest. This area plays an important role in part of the @lauralemons quest arc.

The Forest of Despair - 3

Status: In Development
Playtime: 2 minutes

An area where a lot of storytelling takes place, and some scripted events occur, leading you into the next area, which leads you to meet the elsusive @lauralemons

The Tower of Despair - 1

Status: Complete
Playtime: 2 minutes

An area that introduces you to Laura's character. There's some cool scripted events going on here, and its my idea to initially spook the player, and drive them forwards.

The Tower of Despair - 2

Status: Complete
Playtime: 10 minutes

This is the area where you meet @lauralemons, and she gives you a quest, taking you back through the other areas from before.

The Art Room

A dedicated studio for Laura. Some quest stuff happens here.

The Hours Sunk

This was a project that I spent almost a hundred hours building, talking about, and fixing. I spent even more time thinking about what it was that I wanted to do, and providing the game's elevator pitch to anyone who would listen. Most walked away with Archer-styled tinnitus.

These hours weren't wasted. I streamed, I made connections with people on @vimm, I spoke on the PAL weekly show about the project. I got some donations.

The Personal Impacts

It felt like, between those hundred hours of documented development (live streams, time spent in the game-editor, time spent play testing, and talking about the game) - that I was on a single rail-track and didn't know that there'd be another locomotive on the other end of the track.

I very quickly realized that my audience for the game would be limited due to the software I was using for development, and then, that it would be "obsolete" and "low tech" from a "Game" point of view. It was more about delivering an interactive story through the medium of a shitty RPG, and frankly, a massive joke that I even got so far engrossed and so deeply attached to the project.

The fact that there'd only be a single platform, and the game would be very unsophisticated from a game-mechanics view, made me cringe. It made me despondent, and it made me think that I was making a soul-less, shitty game.

This was was increased by the fact that I was getting less and less engagement each and every time I added new features, or new levels. I wasn't getting the attention that I needed to continue to motivate me to continue making the project.

Granted, I was playing a lot of Steem Monsters at the time, but that's secondary - I had plans to implement Steem Monsters as wild creatures in the game, and had approval from aggroed to use the art, as I wasn't going to be selling the game.

Even if I did attempt to sel the game and work out some sort of licencing for that, I would have gone nowhere with it.

I really want to take this time to thank both @bearone and @ryivhnn for supporting me with much better quality art work than I could have ever made for some of the monster design.

DownGoat1.png Downgoat2.png Downgoat3.png

I covered these glorious goats in blood, @ryivhnn created them.

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@bearone created this "drop bear" which I started painting. I never finished that step. Edit, as per comments, it was @ryivhnn!

There were so many elements that were unfinished, because my attention would flit and flutter from element of the game to element of the game, without ever finishing anything. I had a story, I had a progression, I had writing - but everything had to be perfect.

I couldn't uphold my own standards of perfection, and that made me dejected about the work that I was doing, and ultimately, led me to abandon all hope in my development efforts.

The Legacy

I published 8 versions of the game. They're all on GitHub; and if you want to finish making this game, be my guest.

If you want to play, then follow these instructions:

  1. Go to: http://www.rpgmakerweb.com/download/additional/run-time-packages
  2. Select RPG Maker VX Ace
  3. Install this on your computer
  4. Download the entire folder of the version which you wish to play. The last version before abandonment is v0.008
  5. Put this somewhere on your computer.
  6. Run Game.Exe to play

Controls: Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move. Enter interacts with objects within the world. Escape brings up the menu.

Development of this game is now abandoned by @holoz0r

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Is there a level that gives million in Delegation to people/projects that later fuck us over or use us as guinea pigs?
Should have put 250 into this instead of something that may come out a year or so later than "promised"
:)

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Yeah, there was plans to put dlive into the game, and I was actually streaming development on dlive prior to that whole drama going down. I was going to have an arena where vimm and dlive duked it out for streaming ascendancy. There was so. Many. Plans.

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so . many.......
Needs more Thetans to compete with Scientology on the cultish vibe though

You got in your own way. It happens.

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Should have put myself in as a boss! :)

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It's not too late. ;)

I like your ideas maybe someone will pick up the torch where you left off. :)

I applaud the idea and efforts here!

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Thanks Asher :)

Developing a game is hard, but you did great here, from all the works you've created so far. Hopefully you learned something useful along the way, and more importantly, had fun when you made it :).

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Hey thank you. :) Your little Dragon Character worked perfectly in the game, biting the player character and reducing their HP. That was a fun thing to do.


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I was a bit sad when you said you weren't doing this anymore, and I could encourage you along with how it's not fantabulous graphics or the platform that make a great game and all, but you know these things and I do understand. It's a massive undertaking (and I know because idiot here is doing my animation project mostly solo for the last...16 years and counting x_x cut me some slack I'm working around a lot of things).

But now you can say you had a go at making a game and you learned lots of cool things right? :D

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I definitely did learn some things, and I definitely know the pain for 3D modelling. I've had so many half-finished 3d models it's absurd. It is so engrossing, so satisfying, and so enraging when you model, then fail to model something in 3D again and again. Then you think you've gotten it, and your mesh topography is all wrong, so you can't animate, or texture with any level of ease.

Its an uphill struggle!

Thank you for sharing your artwork with me for this so freely. I truly appreciate your contribution to the project.

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RoFL! Yep yep yep XD Though I think I'm past the modelling fails at least (now that I can sculpt first, freaking edge modelling was an epic struggle even after I got the hang of it). I'm deliberately doing retopo per character to get the hang of that too, think I understand edge loops now, so it's mostly a case of seeing how much I can get away with for background characters that aren't crowd cameos (which will probably have at least mid level detailing) x_x

No worries! :D It was fun watching you working on it :)

This looks impressive on screenshots but I cannot imagine a world like this to explore and learn! Has any community seen this to potential to help retaining users? I think someone from @steemonboarding could look at this from an interesting angle. Thanks for sharing!

Posted using Partiko iOS

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As much as wanting to close the door on this project, there was a certain sense of removing weight from my shoulders by writing this post. Mulling over one's failures often leads to increasing your strength and desire to be better at all things.

Wow! Where to begin? Your writing is splendid, this game idea hilarious, and your knowledge about international supermarkets pretty impressive! Thanks for entertaining me!

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Thank you. In Reflection, I learned no code and no game making things. In fact, I only studied International supermarkets and made dozens of hidden levels devoted to them. This is why I couldn't deliver the basic premise of the game in any form of completion. The inventory management system and supply chain scripts were just far too complex for a mere novice such as myself to understand!

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Dude! Please tell me you‘v got a yt channel or something else where I could lmao!

Posted using Partiko iOS

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I do. On Thursday, the 11th of April, I had one view, consisting of 42 seconds where I stole someone else's life.

My YouTube is filled with videos of the games I play... (I've been doing a lot of city building in Cities Skylines) - and I'm continuing to play through my game collection in alphabetical order (because there's no other logical order) - and I tend to write reviews, or record videos of me making snarky remarks all along the way.

I have somehow managed to obtain 15 subscribers. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuupHoy5KyWOjRbqIY5F4HA Will you be number 16?

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Bildschirmfoto 20190416 um 08.16.30.png

SMASH A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE!11!1

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"Abonniert" sounds like an inert abomination. I like that language's definition of "subscriber". Thank you, and welcome to the asylum!1one!elevenone!

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[the language they use at Aldi & Lidl]

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Not at my local one! Yes, Aldi is all the way in Australia, too. Glad to have you in my comments section. Thank you!

Hello!

This post has been manually curated, resteemed
and gifted with some virtually delicious cake
from the @helpiecake curation team!

Much love to you from all of us at @helpie!
Keep up the great work!


helpiecake-chocolate-gateau.png

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Thank you for the delicious cake and curation!

Awwww I was wondering what was going on with this. It was a huge undertaking for sure but it seemed fun nonetheless.

As much as I'd like to take credit for the bear, that my friend is another one of Ry's genius masterpiece.

Posted using Partiko Android

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Drat! I thought that was you! That's how much I lost track on this project, and why it has now been officially shelved! I'll correct that error now. Don't worry, you contributed in more ways than one to this undertaking, through your support on my live streams, and providing me with additional ideas that never got finished.

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Glad I could help in my own way! Sad its shelved but totally understand why.

Posted using Partiko Android

Hi @holoz0r!

Your post was upvoted by @steem-ua, new Steem dApp, using UserAuthority for algorithmic post curation!
Your UA account score is currently 5.206 which ranks you at #876 across all Steem accounts.
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What an awesome idea!
As a newbie to Steem, i find your gaming concept of learning the ropes of steem very clever and very much looking forward to playing it! Keep up the great work!!

Posted using Partiko Android

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There'll be no additional development beyond the functionality that is documented here today.

The version on github is fully playable today.

Your post was upvoted by the @archdruid gaming curation team in partnership with @curie to support spreading the rewards to great content. Join the Archdruid Gaming Community at https://discord.gg/6yD2Emr. Good Game, Well Played!

Gotta check this out some day. The beginning of the Story is so hilarious...I didn't know about your project but I like the humor of it!
I hope to see some final product coming out of this, great work @holoz0r

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The final product is all uploaded, and it may be broken, and in fact, I'm not even sure that the player character starts in the right location in the final build I uploaded come to think about it.

I might have to fix that and release one final version that is playable, along with a video (with dev commentary) to show my thought patterns behind my design choices, and to talk about all the features. That I wanted.

I'm not sure that people would want to watch 40 minutes of me rambling about my failures though! I'm surprised there's been so much interest on this post, to be honest!

Thanks for dropping by :)

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Haha sounds like a lot trouble shooting needs to be done. I probably wait for the more playable version but I do like the sense of humor in it which gets me excited.

Do you know of any software similar to this RPG maker VX Ace that would allow me to create an MMORPG that is playable inside a web browser?

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Nothing that I am aware of, sorry. That sounds like an ambitious project!

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WOW. @holoz0r I truly admire your gusto!!

Really.

It is a truly interesting concept - and I do hope someone takes the baton from you and develops it further. Who knows, when Steem reaches mass adoption, the genius of this game will then be apparent! (:

#powerhousecreatives