Post-Mortem: Black Sword RPG Part I, “Getting There”
After twenty years of growing up with computer games and three years of playing various persistent browser-based games, you start to find yourself asking questions. Like, â€œwhy canâ€™t we do this?â€, and â€œwhy does it always have to be like that?â€ – but when you find yourself saying â€œI could do betterâ€ then you are in trouble. You will never be fully satisfied with any game you play. And you will always have ideas that you think could make whatever you’re playing better. There really is only one way to solve this problem: make your own game.
Iâ€™m Joshua, a.k.a. Turin, the designer and project manager of Black Sword RPG. I have been kindly invited to share an article on my experience of designing of my own PBBG and what Iâ€™ve learned from it now that I can look back. As I wrote this, I remembered so many things that this will be released in two parts. In this first part I will focus more on the experience of making of the game, and in the second part I will focus more on looking back at the product.
I had my basic game doc finished in November of â€˜06. Iâ€™m not a coder, so I needed to find a partner that was willing to code what I designed – in return, I would handle the management of the game. I found a coder in February â€˜07 who started building the base structure and most of the communications. However, he had to drop the project due to personal reasons. Luckily a coder who had said he was interested after the previous coder had started was still interested and took over. He started construction again in April. After several months, the game was ready to be released in mid July.
One thing that I found helped me greatly is that I did not approach the game from a coderâ€™s perspective but from a playerâ€™s perspective instead. When I actually applied that perspective to how I designed the game, it improved the finished product. By imagining playing the feature I was designing helped me figure out what I did and didn’t like about certain features. Whether it was too complicated or too simple and boring, asking questions from the viewpoint of a player helped guide me.
I had lots of new ideas and ways to improve old ideas, but I am very glad I came up with an original feature to focus the game around. Without at least one such idea a game cannot stand out, it looks like any other game. Iâ€™ve seen far too many carbon copy PBBGs to allow that to happen to my own! I designed a new feature that I hope has made my game unique, despite its current minimalist appearance. The new idea I had was that of the Black Sword and the King. When a player gains the Black Sword, they become King over the land. They gain the power to make decisions that influence every player in the game. They get a really powerful sword too – but if they are defeated, it is taken from them, or if they are in power too long, the Sword eventually breaks. It really isnâ€™t a new idea. I just brought King of the Hill to a fantasy rpg. But without this powerful center for the game, I wouldnâ€™t have anything to focus the story and other features around. Please, come up with something new or something old that you have vastly changed and improved to focus your game around. There are hundreds of games where you train, level up, and kill monsters. Your question always needs to be â€œwhat makes my game different?â€