Saturday, October 24, 2015

(No Longer) Untitled Game - DevDiary #5 - Title Time

Okay, it's time to figure out a title for this project. I've worked nearly twelve months on this project, restarted the script once, I have a clear idea of where it needs to go, and what needs to be done to improve it. I need a damn title.

I used to be quite good (I felt) at titles for projects, and would usually come up with a title before principle work began - although, I'm still a little annoyed that I could never find a different title for "The Dublin Man." I was quite proud of The Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses, despite being long; and Express Line Number Seven, despite being shelved, is still a perfect title for that narrative. This one has eluded me for some reason.
Very early on when I first came up with the game, I filed all of the ideas under Talisman; however, I have two problems with that title. The first being that Talisman has very little to do with what's going on in the story. Currently, the Clave (an antagonistic tribe to Auryon's), uses very old talisman from a war long ago in order to cast spells. During the Old War, these talisman acted as a type of "ready-made" spell for the rabble, so the more powerful sorcerers wouldn't have to risk themselves on the battlefield. While Auryon uses one of these talisman in her adventure, and has to deal with several of her opponents using them, they don't really serve as a central theme; merely a world-building tool.
The other problem with the title Talisman is quite simple: I don't like single word titles. They sound like advertisements for perfumes (Obsession, Memories, Talisman - from Calvin Klein). So, Talisman is out.
A title should do one of two things (ideally both). The first is to capture the central themes or ideas from the story in a single, memorable phrase. This will, hopefully, get the audience to think a little bit more about the narrative. The other is to describe the story in a way that informs the audience what they're about to interact with. If a title captures neither of these elements, then it really doesn't serve the narrative at all, and, in fact, can do quite a bit of damage to the narrative that it's trying to support.
The adventure is a tale of Auryon (pronounced as Orion for those who might be unsure), a young woman who is part of the Bandog tribe, that were charged with protecting a city during a war long ago - know as the Old War. Nearly two centuries later, the Bandog are struggling to survive. Resources are running low, the Clave (their opponents during the Old War) still fight them from across a river, and all contact with the heroes of the Old War was long ago severed. A brutal attack from a member of the Clave, known as Possl Tall, leaves the Bandog leaderless and vulnerable. In her dying order, the Bandog Capsman (the leader of the Bandog) tells Auryon to find Possl Tall and stop him. Now in their darkest hour, Auryon strikes out into forbidden territory to stop Possl Tall and his grab for power.
In this description, there are a few ideas that I might be able to turn into a title. The Tales of the Bandog comes to mind quickly. It's a bit silly with the made up word, but the there are allusions within the narrative as to where that word came from. It's also a bit too generic, but it is a start. The Old War has the same problem of being a little too generic, however, it will work with some of the themes going on. I have in my notes The Empty City (the city that the Bandog protect is largely abandoned). This does draw the reader in as an interesting idea, but is a little misleading because the city in the story - while important - is really only a portion of the events that lead Auryon and the Bandog to their current situation.
I work with several themes in the game that could lend additional ideas to a prospective title. While describing the story I mentioned the Old War and the Clave. The Bandog and the Clave represent two much larger opposing cultures from the Old War; both tribes being descendants of battalions or companies that fought in a single battle of a much larger war. Certain events occurred to cut both tribes off from their respective commands. Without news or orders, both continued with their mission to defeat the other. This results in two tribes with a very long-lasting blood feud that neither really fully understand. This idea of culture clash repeated over time, and the scars produced there of, is a central theme.
The theme of language is also currently playing a heavy role. The Bandog and the Clave speak in very different languages from each other, making communication between the two old enemies difficult. To compound this issue, neither come from a particularly educated people. Their ancestors were soldiers entering a war that had already been going on for at least a decade or more. The respective cultures wouldn't have risked the most intelligent on the front line of a war that had essentially become a meat grinder. The two tribes can barely understand each other, and both of their languages have changed in the face of isolation.
There are other themes within the story, but these are the two (three if you count culture clash and old wounds as being separate) themes that I'm mostly focusing on. The challenge with themes is that they are usually very abstract concepts that are difficult to capture in just a few words. With a little bit of thought, the word "echo" comes to mind, capturing both the idea of the remnants of a very old conflict, as well as the sound of spoken words repeated. Added into the previously mentioned titles I get Echoes of the Bandog or Echoes of the Old War.
I think I like the latter a little bit better than the former, if only because it does get the player to think a little more about the themes going on, and it does describe to a degree what the game is about - particularly taking into consideration Possl Tall's motivations.
The problem is, the word "echo" conveys a bit more modern of a setting than I would like. As a word, "echo" means to repeat or copy. Nominally, it is a sound that bounces off a reflecting object to be heard again. It captures the idea of a fading copies of an original. A synonym like "reverberate" is too long and clunky, and "ringing" doesn't quite resonate with the rest of the title.
"Memories," while not a synonym with "echo," invokes the idea of a fading, inaccurate memory, which could work well with the themes. It does have the the drawback of being, perhaps, a little too melodramatic. "Reflection" could work in the place of "memories," but it seems to suggest that Auryon's journey is similar to the events of the Old War, which it really isn't.
I feel that "echo" and "memories" are the strongest words to use in this situation as most of their respective synonyms don't really fit the rest of the title or might convey an incorrect meaning. Of the two, I think I like "echo" a bit better, despite it's drawbacks. Memories of the Old War seems to indicate a little bit more precision in remembering the Old War as well as a little bit more focus on that event. The Old War is really only a very distant backdrop to the events in the story. Echoes of the Old War seems to capture much more of the theme of a very old and dramatic conflict, that is still causing pain today.
No title is ever set in stone. Sometimes, despite a project having been released for years, the creator will still change the title. I'm still just in the first draft of the game at this point, and so much has already changed from the original idea. I'm still not really settled on the "Old War," so that could still change - as could the title. That being said, Echoes of the Old War is certainly better than simply calling it the project. Now that I finally have that out of the way, back to writing the first draft that just won't seem to die.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Uhh... It's Been a Little While

Maybe a bit longer than it should have been.  For the last couple of months, I've been primarily focused on writing the first draft for the project.  I really hope that I'm at least done with the first draft by the end of the year, but at this point, I'm not entirely certain that will be accomplished.  I'm about half way through, so it may be possible, but it's always difficult to tell with writing.

There really hasn't been anything else to post here for two reasons: the first being that I'm focused on writing; and the second being that there's only so many updates that I can post that basically just amount to "still writing" without being repetitive.  I wanted to post something here - no matter how useless - because I do still look at the metrics and see that people are stopping by.  There should be some update here for those of you who are genuinely interested in the progress of the game.

I don't have anything really planned for other side projects to help fill out this space while I'm working on the current one (I seriously have to find a name for this project).  I just really want to be done with this first draft.  Once I get that done and move into other aspects such as editing, programming, and art, I should have more of a personal need to have something else to do.

In the month of November, I'm going to take a break from the current project and start work on another just for the month.  I doubt this will result in anything being posted up here as the new project will be a story that I've had my mind on for a little while that will, at minimum, likely be the length of a novella, but maybe I can post a first draft of a chapter.

Taking on a project of this size certainly has been a challenge.  Outside of working on this project, life has continued to throw wrenches at my head, and slow things tremendously.  You often hear established writers and artists say to always take some time each day to write, draw, paint, etc... regardless of what's gong on in life.  They never talk about the days that you just want to play a video game, watch a movie, or just hang out with a friend or your significant other.  Yes, writing and art is as much a discipline as anything else, but I have to keep reminding myself that there were days when Picasso, Mozart, or Orson Wells said, "fuck it," and had a little break.  I'm still moving forward, no matter how slowly.  The first draft is always the hardest, so, hopefully, things will pick up momentum once I get past this phase.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Let's MAD 12 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

In the final episode of Let's MAD, can Sanjuro stop the evil god-like...  Is...  Is that really what it looks like?  Uh...  No.  No, I'm sure...  I'm sure it wasn't...  Intended to look like that.

Let's MAD 12: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Untitled Game - DevDiary #4 - A New Script

This is really becoming the project that refuses to take form. As of last night, I've spent over 158 hours working on this project over the course of 8 months. I have not been as diligent as I should be with this project (there are many different reasons, but really it can boil down to me just being lazy), so the span of time this has taken is not really surprising. That being said, things are progressing, and I am by no means giving up.

However, this is really becoming the project that refuses to take form. Up until last week, I had been working heavily on the first draft of the project. With seven acts outlined, four written, and the fifth begun, things have been progressing. As with every first draft, problems have been popping up, but nothing much too concerning. There's a leap in logic here, this character knows something that they shouldn't given events, this puzzle isn't as good as it should be, and on. 

As I began work on Act V, I began to realize that there were two critical problems that were going to require me to do some heavy re-working of the current draft. The first and foremost problem - an issue that is directly tied to the fact that it is a game - was the pacing at which Auryon (the player character) picks up new tools and abilities for her to use, as is tradition in Metrodvania games. There was a really heavy balance early in the game to her gaining access to these tools, with very few appearing later in the game. This isn't to mention the fact that these tools also weren't very well thought through, some stopped being used all together, and others had a very heavy overlap of use (i.e. two tools that essentially do the same thing). The second problem with the first draft was that it was probably a bit too ambitious of a script for my first ever video game; at least one that I could accomplish by my self. While I'm certainly confident in my writing abilities and confident that I could produce art of quality enough, I would like to see this project completed in the next decade.

When I realized these problems, I thought that I might stick to completing the first draft. It would help me solidify some ideas, figure things out for the next draft, and maybe hammer out some problems with characters. And it has. In the writing process, however, you have to know when to give up on a draft and just start over. For this project, it was early in Act V, when I realized that I was just making leaps of logic fore the sole purpose of pounding through this draft to just get it done with. I opened my script on Sunday, did a quick glance through on the scene that I was working on, and immediately opened a new page to begin planning the next draft. Nothing that I was going to write down on that scene was going to be useful for me.

With these two problems in mind, I chose to first comb through the first draft for ideas that I would like to keep. A boss fight in which Auryon faces a major antagonist (at the time referred to as the Disciple), in which she must fight through his adds who are willing to sacrifice themselves for their leader. A trenching tool that was originally thought to be just a throw away item, but became surprisingly useful. A puzzle in which Auryon must figure out how to pass through lingering poisonous gas that was used to clear a sapper's tunnel. These are all good ideas that I want to keep and continue to work with. Some may land on the cutting room floor, but there's no reason to scrap them immediately.

Next came scaling back the world to something a bit more manageable. Metroidvania games - the good ones - tend to have a really natural connection between the areas that the player character might travel, so I know that I have to make sure that all of these locations could logically be found in connection to each other. Originally, Auryon was going to go on a journey encompassing five regions, thirteen areas, and several locations in each area. That's quite a bit. I would be working on level design for probably a couple of years.

As mentioned earlier, I knew that I wanted to keep a few areas from the regions in the first draft. Given the setting and themes, there's a city from the first draft would be an excellent central location. While it may not be the starting location for the game, I could very easily see several locations attached to it; a factory, once a hub of development and production, now quiet and haunted by history; a mighty wall that once held an invading enemy at bay, now crumbling and being consumed by the environment; a once beautiful and reverent library filled with an old civilization's knowledge, now long empty. All of these location would provide a visually interesting playground for Auryon (and the player) to explore, and, assuming that I can not completely mess up the art, should individually tell a story that would supplement the central narrative.

Now with some understanding of the locations that I wanted the player exploring, I decided to sit down and hammer out more details about the actual game play, and how new abilities and tools should be paced as compared to the structure of the game's narrative. This will help give writing the coming drafts more direction.

Very early in this step, I realized that I wanted Auryon to have a core set of abilities up front. Running, jumping, climbing, pushing objects, etc... would be all realistically be things that she would be able to do because she is a healthy human being. Given her tribal upbringing, she would likely also know how to use a bow and arrow, know where to find food, which food is safe and which is not, as well as probably be significantly more agile than the average modern day person. I see no reason to lock any of these "abilities" away for her to arbitrarily find or figure out over the course of the game. They would also work in a first act where the player is still learning how to move through the environments.

So what can I provide to Auryon to allow her to advance further in the game, while also provide some interesting puzzles for the player to solve? In the first draft, I hit upon the idea of her using a trenching tool as a sort of universal blunt instrument, and the more I wrote, the more I realized how useful it was. From digging up ancient land mines used to defend a beach, to popping open a barricaded door, to even prying the heavy armor off of a knight to make him vulnerable. This quickly became the model of the sort of tools that I wanted to add in to the game to make the player think in interesting ways.

Science and magic are two themes that I wanted to play around with in the game, so I wanted to include something from both camps that might tell a little about the societies that they came from. From the science camp, I thought that a torch or flashlight might be interesting. While this fairly innocuous item may seem a little useless as compared to the trenching tool, I began to think what if this old society relied heavily on solar energy for power, and really followed a scientific path focused on electricity as a power source? Normally a torch is useful to light dark areas, and it can even potentially be used to attract enemies, or even repel animals that are sensitive to light. If the society uses light as an energy source, however, then it can be used to power machines, and they've likely constructed special locks using light filters, and certain methods of detecting hidden messages using lights.

From the magical camp, I had to think a bit more about what this society might have looked like. Usually, when you think of fantastical magic, you think of dusty old men in dark libraries trying to figure out the next spell, or mad villains desperately trying to grab on to power beyond this world. If magic is a practice of the elite, then is it possible that the average soldier or farmer understood anything about these seemingly impossible powers? If a society doesn't understand magic, can it really be built around magic? It can if the upper oligarchs allow a limited amount of knowledge to trickle down to the lower echelons. This may mean that a common soldier doesn't have to know how to cast a fireball or arc lightning if they have a talisman or a "ready-made" spell of some sort that would preform this task for them.

In this light, I came up with the idea of the bell. This would appear to be the same as a standard dinner bell; a small bell, probably silver or gold, with a wood handle that produces a pleasing sound. In the first draft, this bell was just a bell that Auryon could use to attract human enemies. When I decided to imbue it with magical qualities, I tried to think of what it might do. I realized that the tone that you hear from a bell is nothing but a compression wave passing through the air. In this light, what if the magic tied to the bell manipulated this compression wave to something significantly more powerful? Now an innocuous little bell becomes a weapon that can stun opponents, knock them back, or potentially produce a compression wave strong enough to push a lever at a distance or shatter glass. This provides a lot of new interesting puzzles that can easily be taught to the player, and also could make some potentially interesting boss fights.

Thus far, I've developed six primary tools for Auryon to use in her adventure. I have a feeling that these tools are not yet fully permanent, but this is a great starting point, and I probably won't add too many more to that count. I figure that each act in the story will highlight one of these tools to try and teach the player their uses before moving on. While the narrative acts and tool acts may not precisely line up, this will help keep the player interested and also help keep a fairly regular learning curve.

There are a few game play elements that I'm still not certain as to whether or not they're going to stick around. I had a couple of ideas for "secondary" tools that have very limited use, but still provide some interesting story telling and puzzle elements, as well as a basic crafting system (such as crafting arrows or food to heal or provide boosts to Auryon). I'm not exactly certain if I want to keep the crafting system as I usually dislike crafting systems with a few notable exceptions. I'm going to keep these elements around for now because I have feeling that they'll be nice little additions to the game that won't get in the player's way.

With these two issues hammered out, my current focus as been to form a synopsis of the new version of the story. I was originally hoping to be done with writing by the end of the year, but that seems unlikely now. While this is a set back, I certainly don't want to rush things. There are a lot of really good games out there, so it would be a waste of your and my time to produce something that I am only just okay with. I've worked on projects far longer than I have with this one only to scrap them later on, so I'm certainly not going to be dismayed when things don't get quite right the first time around on this one.

Now, if I can keep from just getting distracted...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Let's MAD 11 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

Today we enter the alternate universe of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, where Sanjuro decides to try and defeat Gabriel (I still don't know who Gabriel is), free his brother, and side with the despotic maniac holding a gun to the world.  Wait, what?

Let's MAD 11: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Let's MAD 10 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

After a month-long hiatus, Let's MAD returns!  Sanjuro has chosen to join a cult, betraying his comrades.  Will he be able to stop Admiral Akarju in time to prevent the Kato Cannon from firing?  Do these words that I'm writing mean anything?  Let's find out.

Let's MAD 10: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It Just Dawned on Me...

...That I should probably have made this post back on Friday.  Lindy (theSardonicGirl) and I are moving into our first condo!  Yeah, this means I'm probably going to be pretty quiet for the month of May as we scramble to get everything wrapped up in our apartment and into the new place.  As you've probably guessed, no new Let's MAD, and probably no new DevDiary.  I'll try and post updates, and it looks like everything is back to normal come June - barring any disasters.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Untitled Game - DevDiary #3 - A Different Kind of Writing

Writing presents many unique challenges.  Making sure that there's an internal logic, keeping and maintaining a voice, being certain that characters speak and act in a way that makes sense for that particular character, etc...  Most of the issues that can come up in writing appear in different formats of writing.  You will always need to check for inconsistencies, you will always need to be sure that your characters sound right, and you will always need to read lines out loud to hear what they actually sound like.  All formats, however, do contain unique challenges.  Writing a short story requires less verbose prose to get points across quickly, comic book writing requires detailed descriptions to convey information to the artist, audio drama scripting forces the writer to convey visual information by different methods than normal.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's MAD 9 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

With the discover of Cothinial, Sanjuro must choose between using the Kato cannon to destroy a Gaian entity that seems to be minding it's own business, whipping out thousands of innocent lives in the process; or joining a mad cult that worships the Gaian entity that doesn't seem to care much, likely whipping out thousands of innocent lives in the process. Which route will he take? Do we honestly care? Let's find out.

Let's MAD 9: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Let's MAD 8 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

What...  What was that last episode?  Wait, I get who Gabriel is, but I still don't get who Gabriel *is.*  Whose Uziel?  If Shogo has a hand in Gabriel, than who are the CNC?  Will this plot finally start making sense?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Untitled Game - DevDiary #2 - The Hard Cut

In gaming, there is a particular concept that always gets my attention.  It usually shows up in table top war gaming and card games, but also appears in video games, board games, and RPG's (both pad & pencil and digital).  It is a concept that will usually make or break a game for me.  If done poorly, the game will be broken, frustrating, too easy, or even sometime just unplayable.  If done, right, the game will be absolutely timeless.  This concept is what I like to "the Hard Cut."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Let's MAD 7 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

Can Sanjuro free his dead ex-girlfriend from the dark and sinister halls of what looks to be a mere public services building?  Will someone, for the love of God, please put hand railings on all the precarious walk ways?  Find out in Shogo: Mobile Armor Division.

Let's MAD 7: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Season 2 of the Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses Is Now Available (Again)!

Season 2 of the Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses is now available for purchase on Bandcamp.  Go check it out, and help me fund future projects!  Not sure?  You can still check it out on this very website for free.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses Now Available on Bandcamp!

Exciting news!  I've just put the first season of The Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses up for sale on Bandcamp.  Check it out!

But why put it on sale when I can still get it for free on Boundcompass you may ask?  Well, I'll level with you: I need the money.  Yes, the series will continue to remain free here.  You will still be able to download it, watch it on site, etc...  Buying it, however, at the astoundingly low, low price of $10.00 per season helps me continue to work on art, writing, and other projects, as well as puts me one step closer to making this my full time job.  A job that I would love to have as comparison to my boring cube-rat job at a stuffy bank.  This also comes at a critical time for me and my wife, as we're looking at buying our very fist condo, so any amount of single episodes or full seasons purchased, helps me off set that cost.

I know there are a small amount of you, but I don't care.  The amount of traffic is pleasing to see, and as long as you're getting some joy out of my work, be it the series, art, or other works I put up here, I'm happy.  If you want to keep coming to Boundcompass to check out my stuff, great.  Buying does help me immensely, regardless of how little it seems.  It's a big ego boost, and I can push forward on getting the new project off the ground.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Untitled Game - DevDiary #1 - A Work in Progress

Back in November-ish, I decided to shelve Express Line Number Seven; a point and click style adventure game that would have released for the PC (and potentially other platforms).  I decided it best to ultimately shelve the project as the narrative, as I had envisioned it, did not fit a game format.  The project would be much better suited to a graphic novel.  Express Line Number Seven is still very much a possibility somewhere down the line, but I decided it best to continue on the video game vector because I want to challenge my self, much the way that I did with The Amazing Adventures of Captain Farr Novarider and the Wild Horses.  When I shelved Express Line Number Seven, I already had an idea of the story that I wanted to try.  Honestly, when I decided that I wanted to try developing a game, it was between Express Line Number Seven and the story that I’m currently working on.
You'll probably notice that it seems I'm playing coy with new project's title.  This is part of the reason that I had originally picked Express Line versus this story.  I had very little laid out in terms of what the narrative is going to be, the major themes that I would be playing with, the over-all world design, and even the title was nonexistent.  The most I had were a few early character concepts, and few ideas for game mechanics, and maybe a couple of themes.  Maybe.

I'm happy to say that after the last few months the world, themes, character concepts and motivations, and game play are all starting to coalesce into something a bit more tangible.  Mostly.  Some major steps still need to be taken, including finally getting an idea of what I want the story to look like and writing said story, what the ultimate conflicts for the characters are, major antagonists if any, and, yes, even the title of the game still needs to be figured.  Fortunately, my schedule has progressed enough to where I can finally begin working on these very important items at full speed.  What do I have so far?

The year is 1915, and World War I is in full swing.  Factories across the United Kingdom are producing vast quantities of munitions and supplies to ship to British Forces on the front lines.  Archwood Ashland (better known as Archie) has found dutiful employment at one such factory pumping out ammunition.  Archie’s talents with machines has lead to him being able to push the factory well above it’s expected capacity.

Things are not going well on the front lines, however, and the British Government is desperately looking for young bodies to pour into the trenches.  Due to Archie’s talent for machines, he’s managed to stay safe at the factory to ensure that it continues to operate and send ammunition to the front line.  With the increase in mechanized warfare, Archie’s talents are becoming more desirable on the front line rather than behind, and recruiters are becoming more pushy and demanding.

It wasn’t long before drafting papers were taken, meaning Archie was under government order to report to a recruiters.  The air sirens blare, however, signaling a Zeppelin Raid.  Archie attempts to find safety with the others, but bombs begin to strike the shelter and factory, forcing him to find safety elsewhere.  As he runs, a rip occurs a head of him.  He falls through just as a bomb hits.

He finds himself in a green meadow of an unknown land.  Debris from the chaos around him remains.  He’s greeted by a young woman who speaks a language that he’s not familiar with.  After a bit of work trying to communicate, he finds that her name is Auryon.  Alone and far from anywhere resembling home, Archie must find his way in a world scarred by a long forgotten war.

The game follows Archie and Auryon as they travel throughout the environments of the world, in a Metroidvania-style adventure game.  Can Archie find a way home?  Does he want to return?  What mysteries are hidden in the wounds of the war?  That will all be determined when I figure the rest out.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Let's MAD 6 - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

In the sixth installment the game gives up and decides to take a big steaming plot and character dump in our shoe.  Who are these people?  What does their introduction mean?  The game doesn't know nor does it care.  Let's MAD: Shogo - Mobile Armor Division.

Let's Mad 6: Shogo Mobile Armor Division by Boundcompass