THE SANTHARIAN TALES RPG ADVENTURE

DEVELOPERS DIARY  7/2003

OF RATS AND MEN

Geeeez... Game development isn't an easy job... Correct name from the "Raven River" to "Toran's Creek" in rooms 30, 31, 32, 54 and 55 (don't forget to check 27 and 26, oh, and take a look as well at the whole rest of the rooms to the west)... everything needs to fit... ok, done. Prepare descriptions for the Prosperous House rooms, 14 in number... oh dear, this may still last a while! Add important and not so important items at the house... Oooops... Need to lock the trapdoor, otherwise Mr. Player will get his experience points way too easy... Eeeep... Shouldn't forget texts for locked and unlocked trapdoor state... Now, where was that rat pic Faugar made back then? And how would the Avennorian ship of Quellion look like in a picture border, with canvass and shadowy effect applied to add a bit of 3d, huh? Dear, I haven't even started to integrate Talia's lovely rooms... Patience, patience... Now, where was I? Hmmm... Need a rat sound, but only have a decent fireplace crackling yet, but I only have the one which sounds too much like birds... Rats. Uhmmm... That's what I need, though: rats. Well, will need to ask Ralrok... Uhm... That is, if Humangus can make the sound work properly at all, meaning: Playing sound files over the background music. Oh, and the Pinn quest needs still a bit of adjustment, cause as Talia pointed out, Pinn is sitting at the kitchen table while still playing with his toy ship in the coast's sand. And where are the promised item descriptions?  Aaaaaaaaargh... I guess I'm close to a headache... :)

The Stone Bridge of Nepris

Welcome to Nepris: You have to cross the Stone Bridge to enter.

*hehe* Ah yes, game development is not an easy job. Especially if you're in the unthankful leading position of game designer and try to accumulate stuff from all parts of the Dream to make something new and game-like from it, be it room descriptions, beasts pics, quest design or gathering musics and sound effects, and prepare it all in a way that Humangus, our LT programmer, can actually understand how something should look like in the game and can integrate it without encountering any major problems. Well, but game development is also a funny and creative job, and a rewarding one as well, especially once you can see your ideas being realized in the next test version of the game and you get a taste of the interactivity you created yourself. An interactivity which isn't possible to realize in written a story for example... Well, game design requires a lot more than writing - you need to think about what a player can do and what not and when, or why not - or under what kind of circumstances. But that's what it takes to make an interactive role playing adventure come true. And what is work on the developer's side is enjoyment on the player's...
 

CREATING A LIVING ENVIRONMENT

As you already know: After our discontinuation of the Sorren cooperation, we chose to realize a Santharian game with the Legendary Tales engine. Aside from that there is another big difference concerning the game design issue compared to the Sorren project: We do it all by ourselves. While the previous cooperation was intended to provide the world details which programmers and game designers were meant to realize, Santharian developers now plan the whole project right from the start and aside from determining the direction  the work on the game needs to go, the Santharian developers also guarantee that the extraordinary amount of detailed work which was put into hundreds of entries on the site also is reflected properly in the game itself.


Above you can see just a small selection of Non-Playing characters
for the Nepris RPG Adventure drawn by Faugar.

After the main concepts are done (basic map, defining locations of characters you can encounter, decide which rooms are where - see Diary Part 1), I think it is important to add "life" to the game already in the early stages. There are games out there which mainly consist of good graphics, and the rest are quests, which hold the thing together, but game designers often forget to try to build a believeable world. Well, mostly the idea is to get the game out at all costs, so kingdoms are created in the middle of nowhere, some evil guys are put in, a story is made where a good hero needs to prevent the apocalypse by defeating someone really, really evil... - and that's it. Define release date, lock the programmers in the dungeon, and there you go.

Santharia is different. The Mysteries of Nepris RPG Adventure is a completely non-commercial project, and though we don't have release dates and nobody will be locked into the dungeon (not that we don't have one...), we still try to get the project done in good time - and I repeat: Every single contribution (be it room or item description, quest design, dialogue building) is appreciated and will help tremendously to deliver a successful game. So if you're interested, don't hesitate and let me know.

The Tale of Katya Dragonseeker

The other thing we have to our advantage is that the Santharian world already exists, and mainly needs to be converted to a game environment, not the other way round. There are enough resources there, and our artists have also provided already a lot of material made directly for the Nepris game for integration (see e.g. the portraits of Faugar above, ranging from barmaid to little child and grumpy old grandpa). And this richness on Santharian resources also allows us to make these things part of the actual game, whether these items, texts, poems, pictures, or whatever will play an important role in the game or not. You will fight cave spiders, rats, michwrats, goblins, and perhaps even a typical Santharian drake, but you will also find "The Tale of Katya Dragonseeker" when scanning through a small house-library upon searching for a particular quest-item, and you might find recipes in "Dame Sausade's Cookery Book" - things you may already know from the site. Fishermen will tell you old sailor's tales, young girls will have books with Santharian love poems hidden in their drawers, and you might encounter some pictures drawn by our artists hanging on the wall. Oh, and I hope you will also be able to hear Wren's voice singing here and there, be it a lullaby or a song at the Saltwillow Tavern. I'm confident that more of Wren's legendary audio recordings will follow, which would help us very much in this respect... *pokes Wren*

Picture of an Avennorian Barek

All these things add life to our game, and give it the necessary Santharian depth right from the start. We're currently in the process of creating a certain area where we try to add as much details as possible - once this area is done we can move on to further areas, where we can apply the same scheme. The player will encounter a multitude of objects to manipulate, and though they may not all be of relevance in the game to solve quests and gain experience, these items (pictures and descriptions) create atmosphere and will discern the Mysteries of Nepris RPG from other similar games, which do not have a 5 year tradition to base their projects on. So I guess the result is definitely something to look forward too, especially if you know most parts of Santharia already either by role playing on the Play-by-Post Message Board or by being member of the developing side already for a while.

Of course there's still a lot of balance required between the setting of priorities concerning room, item, quest, picture or music integration, but with every unanswered question we solve and every part of the game we finish, we get more and more experienced on how to handle certain game situations from the developer's side. For example at the beginning of the game we've been in the process of defining templates for room, item and quest descriptions, which now are applied to the first completely designed quests in an already very well developed area of Nepris. First examples on what we're working at the moment can be found below.
 

A FIRST HOT INTERACTIVE AREA

One of our first "hot areas" is the Prosperous Farmhouse in southwestern Nepris. You can see a map with all three levels (main level, attic, cellar) to the right on where Non-Playing Characters (NPCs) and monsters will be placed.

The Prosperous Farmhouse Map

Map of the Prosperous Farmhouse area.

As you can see we have three NPCs in this house, a fourth one (Ilbeth's husband) can be found at the outside and will also play a role concerning a quest or two. Note as well that some characters also won't have fixed positions but will move from one room to another during the game to give the player the feeling that he/she is actually part of a living environment.

In the Prosperous Farmhouse area you will find various items you can see displayed on this page already. You will also get the first weapons and typical adventure items you will need on your quests (torches, lockpick etc.), and in this small area alone the player will receive 3 quests. The player also needs to re-visit the location again in order to solve a fourth quest, so a bit of adventuring is already guaranteed with this minimum adventuring area.

Interactivity of the NPCs with the player is definitely key here, and only if the player can understand the characters and identify with them and their problems to a certain degree the player will feel to be an important part of the story and get involved. Though the quests you can deal with in the Prosperous Farmhouse are only sidequests, which don't have any relation to the main quest at all, the player will learn here how to use the interface, how to equip items and how to fight first foes. Here the player learns about the way of life in Nepris, and will receive first glimpses on history and culture of this region as well. Currently we're in the process of describing the whole set of rooms and will further elaborate on items you can find here and dialogues you can have with characters, be they quest related or informative in general. Not only the Santharian GDT Dialogue Builder is being expanded at the moment, but also the Legendary Tales Editor and the Legendary Tales Engine are enhanced with further features which make it a) easier for the developers to integrate/debug things and b) make the interface more comfortable for the player. Note that while the main game interface still won't change for a while and remains mostly non-graphical at the moment, ideas for improvements later on are already evaluated. However, currently room development has topmost priority.

View picture in full size Screenshot of the current LT game interface showing an excerpt of a dialogue, which is part of a first quest already realized in the Mysteries of Nepris game.


MORE, MORE, MORE...

What you can see above is just a selected example of course on what we're currently working on. There's much more in progress. For instance there is the whole western area, consisting of Baych Tree Grove, Swamp and Baveras Shrine being elaborated by Talia, and you can bet that several tiny little surprises wait for you here. Existing pictures of our artists are as well currently being looked through in order to place parts of them on important locations in the game.

The placement of first larger monsters is also currently in discussion so that Nepris won't be a just a peaceful place to visit... You'll soon discover that danger is lurking everywhere, even in a such a small and seemingly harmless sleepy fishing village like Nepris. But of course we shouldn't give away too much here, because maybe you want to experience the adventures Nepris has to offer you on your own sometime... - But I personally wouldn't trust this gravedigger up north - he's acting quite strange... But on the other hand what do I know about gravediggers?

More things which are currently in the process of being evaluated are the integration of ambience music into the game and of sound effects (as mentioned above): One of our composers e.g., Ralrok, will take care of some eerie cellar/dungeon/cave background musics. Well, and as he's officially in charge of providing the official Henry Carpenter soundtrack for this year's convention celebrating the 25th birthday of the Halloween movie, I'm sure Ralrok will also have something creepy waiting for you in the Santharian underworld... - As for soundeffects: get prepared for rockslides, slamming of doors, deep rolling thunder, howling wind, rustling chains - to name only a few effects which will let you dive into a legendary Santharian adventure...

STATISTICS MYSTERIES OF NEPRIS RPG 20.7.2003

  In Preparation Realized in the Game
Rooms (Outdoor) * ca. 25

75

Rooms (Indoor) * ca. 15 7
Rooms Graphics ca. 5 3
NPC Dialogues ca. 3 4
NPC Portraits ca. 15 4
Quests, Game ca. 2 1
Beasts/Monsters 2 1
Beasts/Monsters Pictures 2 (none)
Items: Foodstuffs ** ca. 25 4
Items: Herbs & Plants ** ca. 5 3
Items: Travel Gear ** ca. 15 (none)
Items: Weapons & Armour ** (none) 1
Musics, Ambience (in evaluation) 1
Sound Effects (in evaluation) (none)
(*) Though the mentioned rooms are already integrated and accessible, this doesn't necessarily mean that the design of these rooms is finished yet. Items, beasts and quests still need to be placed in these rooms, and various scripts need to be added as well here and there to ensure a living environment.

(**) Though created, the items may not be placed in rooms yet.

Want more? Want to share your ideas? Then become part of the development team and help to build the first interactive Santharian experience:) - You're welcome!

Yours sincerely,

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