About a month ago I started work on a simple game project with indie dev Joseph Hocking. It’s my first collaborative game of any scope, and I’m handling content creation and narrative design while Joseph handles the programming and system development.
We started out with very little other than a vague idea that it would be “an RPG” and, over time, has fleshed itself out into a post apocalyptic ruin-crawler.
My first story iteration cast the player as a member of an enclave of survivors near a major city. His role was to “run the ruins” – i.e. dash in, scavenge as much as possible without getting killed by the mutants and raiders who lived there, and dash out again.
I started making placeholder item and enemy tables to give us some content to work with, while Joeseph worked on the Unity side of things. I also started coming up with an event system – initially “random encounters” with ruin dwellers that might result in fights, barter, conversation, or something else.
These Happenings, as we call them internally, are mini-scenarios written using Inkle’s Ink markup language. I was able to come up with a structured template for Happenings of the “you encounter someone in the ruins” variety. Through tags and external function they interface smoothly with the Unity framework they’re set in, and can exit directly into the combat system Joseph is building.
After a conversation about the combat system we had to decide how it was that the player could survive combat of any frequency. Was avoidance key, or did they have an edge?
Talking through this process evolved the concept of our game. Eventually we came to decide that instead of a simple scavenger, the player was a cyborg agent working for an advanced faction called The Faculty, seeking the location of a hidden research facility within the ruins.
This gave us a more directed goal than simply “find lots of loot” and allows for more flavor in the way the game’s events play out. Of course, now our loot tables feel a bit bloated with items of interest to a desperate scavenger that a cyborg on a mission wouldn’t have interest in, so some trimming will be required.
As for the city itself we’ve conceptualized it as being made up of a number of regions, each with their own character and inhabitants. Each region is under the thumb of a different faction or gang, from blood cultists to neoprimitivists. Each region also has its own collection of possible happenings which can trigger while being explored.
In addition to the random encounter scenarios I wrote earlier, I’m also writing two dozen or so location-based Happenings for each, structured around that region’s character. These will be the locales where the player searches for clues to the facility they’re trying to locate – some will be somewhat randomized stand-ins for multiple locations of the same type (motels, drug stores, office buildings) while others will be singular unique places (The Casino, History Museum, Central Park).