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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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!)
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
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
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
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
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
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 covered these glorious goats in blood, @ryivhnn created them.
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.
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:
- Go to: http://www.rpgmakerweb.com/download/additional/run-time-packages
- Select RPG Maker VX Ace
- Install this on your computer
- Download the entire folder of the version which you wish to play. The last version before abandonment is v0.008
- Put this somewhere on your computer.
- 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.