Making The Epic of Sadko: Entry Two

For a class I am taking, I have to create a concept document explaining the idea I have for the game that I want to make this semester. Since I already know a lot about the game I’m trying to make for the class, I thought I would share it with my few readers. I went back to look at my other posts on The Epic of Sadko, and I realized that they don’t really explain much about the game in concept. This seems as good a time as any to describe it.

So as I said in my introduction to the game, The Epic of Sadko the Street Performer is a game that takes the notions of the epic video game story found in many modern games and turns it on its end.  In general, the game is about a person taking a book to a library. This is a relatively mundane tale about relatively mundane characters, but it uses the tropes of the video game epic to arrive there. For example, the book is clearly so mysterious that it must be important, and therefore the task isn’t just returning it to the library, but instead finding someone to unearth the lost knowledge of the tome. It is important to build up tropes like this one (the importance of a randomly appearing mundane object), so that those tropes can later be shattered. Some other tropes that I’m looking at building up and destroying are some things common to roleplaying games: money, equipment, combat, and statistics. Roleplaying games are the strongest proponent of the epic video game story, and so I think that the Epic of Sadko should masquerade as an RPG. Having described the premise, let me describe what I want the game to be like.

First of all, the only requirements for the project is that it must be 3D and must be made using C# and XNA. This sadly means that the game will be Microsoft only, but does mean that I might be able to release it on the 360 so I suppose that’s a kind of plus. Originally, this game was to be a direct, top-down 2D game. It was supposed to use a simple tile engine with minimal graphics. There was a slight problem with this, as I also wanted to add in some puzzle elements to the game, much of which involved getting to higher and lower ground. So in a game that was completely 2D, I needed a 3D world. More specifically, I needed a tile engine that had tiles at different heights. The problem was with representing this to the player. I obsessed over making sure a player could read this at a glance, using blended shadows to show the height difference between tiles. A 3D engine solves this in its entirety, by letting players actually “see” the height differences. For this 3D version of The Epic of Sadko, I’ve decided to use a 3D tile system.

Basically I am going to use a 2D tile system and add a height to the tiles. Then I will build each map tile up with blocks. I’ll also be able to indicate for each corner if it is at full, half or zero height, so that I can make inclines. By treating the game’s maps like a 2D tile system, I can quickly and easily make maps for a game that will probably require a large playing area.

The game will be in a minimal art style. I’ll be using a lot of solid color for the game, and a lot of primitive shapes (spheres, cubes, etc). This is to lower the 3D art workload on myself. I don’t have a lot of talent in 3D art, so I want to be sure that I don’t bite off more than I can chew in the art department. On the other hand, rather than just generating everything via code as you normally would with primitives, I still intend to use imported textures and models. I want to do this so that they are easy to replace at a later time, just in case I decide to step a bit away from ultra-minimalism. I’ll be using triangle shapes for the playable characters (so that is is easy to tell what direction they are facing), with other shapes for non-player characters.

For gameplay, the player controls three different characters, each with different abilities. This is reminiscent of games like Gobliiins, The Lost Vikings, and more recently Trine. The playable characters are Sadko, Alex and Raise. Sadko is a street performer from a small town who has parents who want Sadko to move on with life and do something more worthwhile. The elder of the town sends Sadko on the journey to return the book so that there will be some purpose in Sadko’s life. Along the way, Sadko meets Alex, a librarian that befriends spirits no one wants around. Alex is constantly sent on tasks from the library because other librarians don’t like him being at the library. Along with Alex, Sadko meets Raise, the daughter of the most powerful merchant in the country. Raise is a terrible merchant, but is constantly trying to live up to her father’s expectations. Her father’s pride prevents him from funding her business. Other merchants distrust Raise because of her father, and so she gets the short end of the stick, often selling things people do not want.

The characters gain more abilities as the game goes on. The abilities that the characters have are used to traverse the game environments and explore the world. In this way, the game will have puzzle elements to its areas. Each of the characters will start with one ability which is thematic and they will gain abilities through the course of the game. In order to advance in the game, the player needs to obtain an ability that will let them get there. The starting abilities are generally useless for doing this, but can be a point of satire for the game.

For example, Sadko’s starting ability is to tell jokes. Telling jokes won’t really get Sadko anywhere, but it might make money. So when the player is in a populated place, a group of people might pop up in a manner similar to old-style turn-based battles. Instead of killing the people, though, Sadko can use jokes to build up a person’s pity and get the people to give up some money (“defeating” them). Additionally, this will build up experience for Sadko, who is practicing the craft of a street performer. The money and experience are virtually useless in the game.

Other points of satire for the game are levels which increase statistics which have little to no affect on gameplay, monsters that are obstacles rather than slot machines, items that none of the playable characters can use, and reward systems to get things like “A Father’s Acceptance”. As stated before, the storyline of the game is a satire of epic tales found in video games. The story comprises of a typical quest to deal with a mysterious object that people are either afraid of or oblivious to.

For the class I am taking, I will be committing myself to make the game up to the point where Sadko delivers the book to the library. This is in fact only one-third of the way through the planned game. The characters will each get their first ability beyond the first in this time, and they will need to use their abilities to get to the library. If there is time beyond this, I’ll expand the game to include the second third of the game in which the three are tasked with taking the book to a wizard’s tower to seal the book away.

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