Before talking about the topic of this post, an announcement: Hazel is now available on Steam as well: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1394550/Tales_From_The_UnderRealm_Hazel/
Also Steam keys have been added to itchio, so if you bought it there, you can grab your free Steam key now. And now, let’s get back on the topic of this post!
So in past months I began working “seriously” on this game. And I felt sick again lol! I thought that after 10 months of break from Planet Stronghold 2 complex coding, I was good, but as the first inevitable bugs/issues popped up, I started to feel bad.
I thought what to do with this game. Since I already have all that heroes/creatures cards art, I wanted to use them. But if I said I couldn’t do anymore games having both supercomplex gameplay AND long story, there was a reason!
While coding it, I was also unsure if people could like the setting or not. With my fantasy games, I am more or less sure that there’s a fanbase. But something totally new and also a bit “crazy” like this setting? I have no guarantees. So probably this was also influencing my mood as I was coding it.
Maybe I found a solution though!
The master plan
At first, I thought that worse case I could have done the gameplay part only, and sell it as pure gameplay game (with the romance CG as rewards). Many games on Steam do this now, in practice combining gameplay+sexy stuff. However for sure most of my fans wouldn’t like it, since are used to read a story.
So I had this idea: I’ll first work on the gameplay part. Implement and test all the cards and meta-gameplay like upgrading cards. And then have a beta. This way, any potential early bugs or issues will be solved. Ans so, once I’m done with the gameplay part I can focus on the story only, which is rather complex too.
During Planet Stronghold 2 development I had both to take care of bugs AND a complex branching plot, and it’s definitely an experience I don’t want to repeat (or better, I CAN’T repeat otherwise I need to go on theraphy lol).
Splitting the two things, coding first, and story later, will make everything easier. To be clear: the beta will be a sort of pre-order, since there’ll be a lot of gameplay. Not the whole game, but a good amount of it. Probably not the final 2-3 battles, but almost all cards should be there.
And after the base gameplay is well tested, I’ll likely do a KS to gauge potential interest in the story. I have already brainstormed all the storyboards but depending how the funding goes, I’ll make the game shorter/bigger accordingly.
Yes, because the story is going to be a bit particular, different from what I’ve done in the past, even from PSCD. How to put it, it’s more “risky”.
In short: each character died and the game takes place on a sort of after life/limbo. You’ll do battles and discover the past of each character thanks to some special device. So the vast majority of the story will be each character telling their backstories, and you (the protagonist) will interact with the narrator with the usual VN-style choices.
There will be a few scenes with the various character talking to each other of course, but the majority of the story will be about each character’s past.
I am going to do it like this, because this setting otherwise would be too hard to write. In a fantasy game you have existing lore, backgrounds, locations, etc. Here I’d need to start from scratch and also, taking place in a limbo, there isn’t so much that can be done.
I’m writing ToA: An Elven Marriage (the next Saren/Elenor game) in my “spare time”, and I feel it’s much easier for me because there’s already a lot of existing lore, characters, places, and so on. It’s MUCH easier to do! It almost comes naturally. Instead for CoM I’d have to spend hours just on planning each scene.
And since I don’t want Curse Of Mantras to become another super-huge game, I can’t even do too much world building! Just think that there are 12 backstories to write (10 love interests plus the two protagonists) and even assuming “only” 10k words each story, that’s already 120k just for the backstories part (even if it will be the bigger part for sure).
Anyway, this is the plan. We’ll see how it plays out!