The Curse Of Mantras plan

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!

each hero has five exclusive spells cards

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

Image
Mantras explaining to a confused Lily what’s going on in the early stages of the story (tutorial part)

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!

6 thoughts on “The Curse Of Mantras plan

  1. G Anderson

    I have mixed feelings about your current idea for Curse of Mantras.

    Of all of your games, my all-time favorite was Loren The Amazon Princess. But Planet Stronghold 2 was a close second. And I really enjoyed PS:CD, too! I play Magic: The Gathering Online, and so I am quite happy with the idea of card battles.

    It sounds like some of the same problems you encountered with PS2 are happening now with Curse of Mantras. It is a lot of work, which is stressing you out, and you are understandably worried about whether or not you will sell enough copies of the game to have made creating the game financially worthwhile.

    If you want to test Curse of Mantras on a smaller scale, then that makes sense. You could release something sooner which is “smaller and cheaper”, and then later turn your unused ideas for it into a DLC or a sequel. Just as you split your ideas for a Loren sequel into 4 smaller games, you could do something similar with Curse of Mantras.

    But there is one part of what you suggested that really worries me:

    ********************************************************
    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.
    ********************************************************

    One of the things that I liked the least in all of your games, was the flashbacks or backstories in Seasons of the Wolf. To me, doing a flashback killed all of the suspense. I will see if I can explain.

    At one point when I was playing SOTW, Riley was telling the other characters about his backstory. And I got to play Riley when he was younger. He faced danger a few times, and I wondered: Would he survive? And the obvious answer was: Yes! How could Riley possibly tell stories in the present (now) about how he had faced danger in the past… if he had not survived that past danger?

    I think that an exciting game features suspense, and danger. A game that really gets me emotionally involved and gets my blood pumping is a game which features characters that I care about, who have a realistic chance of winning, but who also have a realistic chance of losing, or even dying. (Yes, technically “it is just a game”, and if I lose a fight and a character dies, I can just re-load a saved game and start over. But I hate to do that! I If one of my characters dies in the game, there is a real emotional impact for me… and when I face danger and win, with every character surviving the fight… that is a real thrill for me.)

    So, since I find that there is zero suspense and almost-zero excitement in a flashback scene, I like the stories in my games to “move forward in time” as much as possible. Whatever events happened first in the life of the character should happen first in the game. (This only refers to playable and interactive parts, of course. In PS2, I really loved a lot of the “flashback” stories. Rebecca Fox and her story about her sister’s death was really dramatic and moving. So was the story of Rebecca’s past with Milo. And so was the gradually-revealed story of Philipp and his alien dancer girlfriend. But in all of those stories, there was no attempt by the game to have me play through those events and “get the best ending.” Instead, those past events were told as… past events. They were dramatic, but they were not interactive for me. The past is the past, and it cannot be changed… it can only be discovered.)

    I hope that my comments about “playable backstories” versus “revealed, unchanging past stories” makes sense. I am very eager to try Curse of Mantras, and whether you release it as a beta test version, or as a “smaller and cheaper” version, which will be followed by a DLC or a sequel, I am sure that I will at minimum buy the first version of it, and I may buy everything you release for it. But please please please… do not try to create false suspense by having a “playable interactive backstory”, because that just does not work for me.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for the feedback. Well first of all, since the game takes place in a sort of afterlife, all characters died in their backstories 😀
      What changes based on the choices is HOW the character died. There’ll be 2 different endings for each. One sad/bad, another well, still sad but meaningful, better, positive.
      Also, except for the two protagonists, the choices weren’t “what they did in the flashback” but more like comments on the event that they remember step by step. A bit hard to explain but like in PS2 after they made some (maybe terrible) choice they stop talking about the consequences or judge it from moral standpoint.

      So while there won’t be suspense in a way if they live or die (they all died!) I think there’ll be interesting plot twists and I wrote some of them in a way that you really can’t figure out what’s happening until the very last scenes (the storyboards I mean). I think they’ll still be interesting, but of course players will be the judges 😛

      Reply
  2. S bechirian

    Don’t get discourage! I like your kind of drawing and this one looks beautiful ? As G Anderson was saying, you can do a smaller game to begin, and sequels after it. Good luck on your journey!

    Reply
      1. S Bechirian

        Well… The gameplay of your visual novels is really good! Who’s doing the drawings? It’s incredible!! And I think it takes a lot of imagination to do such pieces of art in every way in general!

        Reply

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