This is the underlying lesson for this Ludum Dare jam, but it’s with a lot of reservation that I put this as my headline. I love RPGs, I love designing them and think they offer a lot of potential fun game design opportunities that I would love to explore. The problem is they are very hard to make, especially outside of engines built just for RPGs.
I came into this jam thinking I was so smart about it. I had built up a base of code, a rough game engine on top of Unity to support Quest 64’s RPG system as a whole, but I hadn’t built up enough code. (You can read more on my thoughts about Quest 64 in my previous post )
Ideally, this would lead me to spending the 48 hours only working on art, 3D models, textures, particle effects, and UI. Sure, maybe some folks would be upset that I had so much code ready beforehand but I’m at a disadvantage wanting to build an RPG.
Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of the engine built in time as I soon found out.
I’d estimate about 80% of my time was spent coding engine features, just basic components like the Spell selection UI, getting an arrow to follow a target. How components would interact like having a spell launch a projectile. I had only built up code so far as to detect collisions with attacks and register damage.
I naively thought figuring out how to cast spells, how to select them, and building an entire battle engine would be simple. In retrospect, hahaha of course not! Just writing that out now it’s clear how incredibly daunting that would be.
The solution would’ve been to code more of the engine, although I sincerely did not have the time even prior to the jam to do so. From there, it follows that I should have designed a different, much simpler game even if it’s one I would be less passionate about.
It’s bittersweet to say that because I love RPG mechanics and they should be available to explore in a game jam setting, but you have to be smart about it. Be realistic. Write down in text (pseudo-code) every single little detail about your assumptions of how the game runs. Then decide if you have the time and ability to build that engine.