LISA A Life Ruining Gameplay Experience

As we finish up the game, and make the final decisions about what content to cut and what to double down on, I couldn’t help but think of another game that inspired a bit of our gameplay. LISA, available on steam, is a game set in the post apocalypse where there are no women. All women in the game’s world have disappeared or died, all but a single baby named Buddy. Buddy is of course kidnapped at the start of the game and the player spends the remainder of their time chasing down her captors across the wasteland.

Throughout LISA the player is forced to choose between losing items(which make the already difficult game near impossible), losing a party member(who will disappear permanently), or losing a body part(which takes away certain attacks). I would have loved to implement this system in our game as it would have given the player’s choices more weight, they would agonize over what to choose if they knew that whatever they picked would hurt them. It would also help to set the tone and drive home the conflict between the players caring for themselves and caring for their family/those around them.

The combat system of LISA would have also been a welcome edition to our game, it is difficult and hectic and requires judicious inventory management. Every battle is a struggle and if the player isn’t careful they can actually use up too many items, leaving the player unable to progress or costing them a party member’s life. As it is Camp Antioch has no combat, mostly due to time constraints and balancing issues.

Group Desolation: The Story and Events

We are happy to say that the story of our game has basically been finalized and the script, which we can just copy/paste into RPG Maker, will be completed very soon. This is also an exciting time as we have begun to populate the map with NPCs and can begin setting up the event markers for the main quest. If everything goes well we should be able to begin to playtest the majority of the story by Friday night. Along with this, we have begun to look into generating an in-game cutscene to introduce the main character to the player as the beginning moments are heavily scripted and do not require the player to be in control. Having this scene be completely under our control could also help in making the player feel like they are stepping into the shoes of a predetermined character rather than stepping into the game as themselves. This would immerse the player more fully in the world, something we as a group have decided is very important for the success of our game. Our game, like Always Sometimes Monsters, is based more on the choices the players make and the consequences of those choices rather than combat. The player will be made to fight at a certain point and will be provided a very clear goal, but immersion and the bond the player is able to form with the main character are most important at this stage. This a bit difficult to manage with the limited development time and limit on demo length, but we are working hard to address this.

Sometimes Always Monsters and the Escapists Series: Effects on Our Plans

As mentioned in our earlier update Group Desolation has decided to focus our game on survival and the consequences of the character’s choices. To fit with this some of us have looked into similar games for inspiration, two of which are Sometimes Always Monsters and the Escapists. Both of these games were made in a similar style, with pixelated graphics and relatively simple mechanics. From Sometimes Always Monsters we are mainly looking at how the game maintained its intense mood, and we are mainly looking at the Escapists for game play ideas.

For those of you have not played, or heard of, Sometimes Always Monsters it is a rpg in which the player character is a struggling author who has become estranged from the love of their life. Despite its cartoonish graphics and lack of voice acting it remains tense throughout because of the choices it forces the player to make. One of the starting scenarios tasks the jobless player to scrape together enough money to pay rent which they could do by working odd jobs, but potentially missing an important call due to the hours they are assigned, or by robbing their elderly neighbor. Both tasks are easy to accomplish, but having such divergent options encourages the player to immerse themselves in the game’s world and makes them more fearful of what the potential consequences are. This is an effective way to naturally increase immersion and if an early game choice was to be set up to punish the player no matter which task they chose, then the player would pay more attention and think through future decisions in much more depth to avoid failing again.

In the case of the Escapists we are primarily looking to adapt a similar game play. The main goal of the Escapists is to escape whatever prison you are placed in, which has clear parallels to our game, and in the process of escaping you must follow a strict daily schedule. The daily routine is a good way force players towards a certain play style, with various punishments discouraging certain actions and rewarding the actions the developers want the player to commit to. This retains the illusion that the player is in full control of their situation while guiding them towards the important choices of the game. However, implementing it in RPG Maker could prove rather difficult as the mechanics are a bit complicated with AI daily routines and a responsive reputation system.

Throughout this week we will hopefully find more games, or other media, to draw inspiration from and more fully explore how we could effectively implement the mechanics we come up with.

Group Desolation Progress Update

On Friday, through the weekend, and bleeding into Monday we have read to better understand the conditions within internment camps in the United States during WWII and begun to work through the RPG Maker tutorials. As of Monday afternoon we have also officially begun working on the map for the game and are continuing to look into RPG Maker’s capabilities. Specifically, we are going through the tutorials and wiki and the like to see what kind of survival/resource management elements we could include in our game. Our current vision for the game is for it to be a somewhat survival focused RPG which will follow the life of a 19 year old Japanese-American who is tasked with not only obeying the restrictions of the internment camp, but also must help care for his mother and younger siblings.

The main themes we wish to explore through this are what it was like to be a citizen of a country one moment and have your life torn asunder the next, along with the conflicts within an oppressed group this change could cause. That has been our primary motivation for making the protagonist a second generation immigrant, as it seems natural that they would be more conflicted about what the United States had done. To keep the focus on these themes the game play will be largely survival and choice focused rather than combat focused, as the goal is to make the player worry more about the consequences of their actions rather than the rewards. Overall progress is going well.