Magical Boutique

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musical74
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#196 Post by musical74 » Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:31 pm

Well, I've been following the MB thread since it was a *show video of what it's like* and I'm really happy with what monele's done with it :)

I'd probably be one of the *want more of a story* because there's not too much story - although whas story there is, is GREAT - and marrying Fram....what would her parents think? :wink: Come to think of it...the main character never meets Fram's parents, right?
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#197 Post by monele » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:39 am

and marrying Fram....what would her parents think? Wink Come to think of it...the main character never meets Fram's parents, right?
Gwehehehe X3... I can see so many things going bad with this XD.
But you're both right... there is a need for more story. I've been struggling with a new gameplay system for quite some time and haven't made any significant progress :/...
I guess I'm pretty sure of what kind of game I want to do now... the only thing left is to decide which of the 3 or 4 stories I have in mind I should go with ^^;

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#198 Post by Sed » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:23 pm

monele wrote: the only thing left is to decide which of the 3 or 4 stories I have in mind I should go with ^^;
Silly monele, you do all four stories and have them each branch off at some point. ;)

Does MB2 pick up where MB1 leaves off?

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#199 Post by monele » Wed Jun 27, 2007 4:36 am

By "stories", I meant "projects" :P... Sci-fi, dark fantasy, shounen fantasy, comedy and MB2. Make that 5 :/...

MB2 could start at two points : either right after MB1, which means you spend the few months of vacation, trolling around the town, before Framb and Pom come back..... or it starts right before Framb and Pom come back. Haven't decided yet.

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#200 Post by musical74 » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:45 pm

UGH....tough choice....here's how I see each scenario:

1) Starts right after MB1. Dalmaryon putters around the town, getting to know the various merchants and businesses. When he's not getting acquanited with the other businesses and merchants, he's checking out the his store, finding out things that aren't readily available, and generally getting a good feel for things. Maybe make a few potions too?

PRO: It allows time for the player to know the merchants and businesses, gives the player time to know where to go for stuff, no feelings of *gotta get X potions ready NOW* Be interesting to see when Fram and Pom return and what their stories are.

CON: May get kinda boring, since the store's closed, and will be for a month or so.

2) Starts after Fram and Pom return and the store opens.

PRO: well, the meat of MB1 was selling potions and gathering ingredients...so this is good =)

CON: Far more trial and error...

Myself, I still think it's a good idea to have at least a little time before the store opens, that way the player doesn't have the *gotta get 40 weak heal ready NOW* (the max request for weak heal was 39....) Or will the repuation be back to where this won't be an issue?

Either way.....I do like both ideas =)
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#201 Post by monele » Thu Jun 28, 2007 6:21 am

I also like the idea of giving some "free" time to get acquainted with the various secondary characters (shop owners will be NPCs, unlike MB1 who hadn't any character for that).

As for the "39 Weak Heal" problem, it might not happen anymore since I'll very probably go towards a more story-focused concept. Sorry for the management fans but this means that there won't be as much interface and clicking so much.
I'm just not sure yet wether MB2 will still be "Magical Boutique" if I go with this more adventure-ish concept. Hence why the other 5 projects look shiny too : they might be more adapted to the adventure genre.

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#202 Post by DaFool » Thu Jun 28, 2007 2:27 pm

monele wrote: I'll very probably go towards a more story-focused concept. Sorry for the management fans but this means that there won't be as much interface and clicking so much.
I'm just not sure yet wether MB2 will still be "Magical Boutique" if I go with this more adventure-ish concept. Hence why the other 5 projects look shiny too : they might be more adapted to the adventure genre.
This is precisely the feeling I get, now that I'm taking a short break to browse these forums before writing the main event that leads towards the final ending of Nettestadt Troll. The actual "gameplay" / minigame aspects, I noticed, turn out to be just 3 occurrences. I originally planned at least 4 or 5, but then the realization I have is that they are really not that necessary to advance the story, because the game is mostly story.. I also applied the principle to the menus, eliminating extraneous ones that do not really contribute to advancing the story or its direction.

Magical Boutique is unique in Ren'Py games because it is primarily a gameplay engine interrupted by VN events. I don't think we will see another game quite like it in the months (or even years) to come. Nettestadt is the other type of approach: A VN engine interrupted by gameplay events. I think by the way you describe MB2, that is exactly how it might turn out.

There's no choice...one would have to dominate, whether it's the gameplay or the VN storytelling. (I am not talking about quality of storytelling, just the dominance of either an interactivity engine or the standard Ren'Py VN engine) How could you balance these two perfectly 50-50? That will be hard. It is only natural that one type of system will seem to be riding on the other system (and interrupting in the form of events). I mean, just look at all the RPGs released to date.

I guess NT will have to be open-sourced then. Inspect it and hopefully learn how to design a better story-based adventure engine. I just had to pipe in because I couldn't help it that there are some similar elements which were planned for MB2 which are integrated in Nettestadt.

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#203 Post by monele » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:03 pm

I can't really compare yet but I have the feeling MB2 might even have less gameplay than NT in that regard ^^;. Though of course, it depends how you define "gameplay" (and specialists actually think there's no such thing as "gameplay" >.>...).

I'd say the most recognizeable feature of VNs is their linearity. I don't mean that you can't make choices and change the story, but that you're on rails and being pushed all the way through... you rarely "come back" or "roam around for a while". That's what I might try with MB2 (or the other projects, this will be implied from now on). The closest game to what I'm thinking of would be Nocturnal Illusions where after each scene, you can choose where to go in the mansion, room by room. Most rooms will be empty and not lead to anything. DIVIdead was similar too. The biggest problems with these two games was that there was only *one* way to progress. *One* room to visit to get to the next scene. In that regard, they were actually KNs... That's where I want to change things and allow for a bit of freedom.
It might not amount to much : maybe you can just take care of multiple problems at one time, choosing which one to tackle first... or maybe you can choose one of two problems to solve only, leading to a specific path of the story. Or maybe just get some flavor stuff to explore : discussing with characters, examining places...

I can't help but think that this would feel quite similar to the old adventure games : find out multiple things getting in your path, roam around the world trying to find tools to fix the problems, choose what to do first (sometimes it's just you thinking up one of the solutions instead of another and not really a *choice*).
The difference is that I don't want too much of a "use object X on object Y" system. At least not directly... Things might happen a bit more automatically as long as you have the right objects or pieces of information (from talking/searching).

Trying to sum it up :

** What I want **
- A system that allows exploration freedom to a certain degree
- A game that isn't too obvious while not leaving you lost (hard one >.>...). The freedom should help with the non-obvious part, but I'll try to stay clear with the main goals at least.
- A game that allows flavor content/side secret. The freedom would allow a player to discover things by exploring instead of reaching a goal immediately. It might be just a flavor bonus (talking/discovering) or even some bonus (helpful items? unlocking secret story parts?)
- As many unique instances as possible. This probably means that potions will only serve once (even if we can assume that they would be sold multiple times afterwards) and that each potion would be linked to a quest. Oh and if possible, not have only potion quests of course...
- Focus on the characters, always.

** What I don't want **
- A system that needs you to repeat unneeded commands to go around (I might add a "quick travel" system to avoid having to go through the hall, then the lobby, then the street, then the other street, until you get to the ingredient shop)
- A complex game system with lots of stats. If stats end up making it, I'd like them to only keep track of stuff for me, the author, and not be mandatory for the player (I like the "going with a hunch" idea)
- Something too repetitive because of the game system. This means no "get X potions A... now get Y potions B... now Z potions C...". But it also means no "get object X to access A, now Y to access B, etc...".


Haha, trying to sum it up turns into me detailing everything... ^^;... ah well... I probably haven't stated everything, but this might give an idea of what's up.
If people have (working?) examples of similar games... maybe... I would be interested. And of course, this is open to discussion ^.^

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#204 Post by absinthe » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:19 pm

monele wrote: ** What I want **
- A system that allows exploration freedom to a certain degree
I've been playing with this idea a *lot*, and I have to say, it's totally doable in Ren'Py. Especially an IF-style room/location structure. The big problem I've run into is that, once the framework is done, I never seem to want to actually enter all the quests and characters into it.

Another issue, of course, is that a story-style game is so much easier than a complicated, side quest-filled, stat-based one, just because you (the developer) can control all the cards!
monele wrote:Haha, trying to sum it up turns into me detailing everything... ^^;... ah well... I probably haven't stated everything, but this might give an idea of what's up.
If people have (working?) examples of similar games... maybe... I would be interested. And of course, this is open to discussion ^.^
If you'd like to see what I've got, I'd be happy to share! It's not pretty (my programming is best described as 'stubborn'), but maybe it'd be of use for inspiration or something. :)
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Re: Magical Boutique

#205 Post by Mr. E » Fri Jun 29, 2007 9:40 pm

Hmm... You have some very intresting ideas there, monele... I like the idea of exploration, and have considered it in some game ideas ( That are still, unfortunately, just ideas :| ) And it would lead to a quite unique gameplay style. I believe that The Nettestadt Troll will be at least similar to that concept and it's another game I am anticipating! Games can benefit a lot from intresting gameplays, as well as from prfound stories and amazing art use. ( and even music and sound, the forgotten elements... )

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Re: Magical Boutique

#206 Post by monele » Sat Jun 30, 2007 4:20 am

it's totally doable in Ren'Py. Especially an IF-style room/location structure.
That's what I had in mind, yes
once the framework is done, I never seem to want to actually enter all the quests and characters into it.
That's my problem with any game XD. But I like the fact that you can quickly build a two room world and then slowly add new places, then fill them with people and things to do, etc... You get an instant feedback on your thoughts and it's more fulfilling, I think ^^
is that a story-style game is so much easier than a complicated, side quest-filled, stat-based one, just because you (the developer) can control all the cards!
Obviously, and that's why I've kept going from one to the other ^^;... I still find it hard to write a story, but MB and subsequent tries made me realize making a *game* is not any easier. But even if inspiration is hard to come by, I think I like making up stories and characters more, in the end ^.^;
If you'd like to see what I've got, I'd be happy to share!
Sure! It'd be nice to see the same concept done by someone else.
You have some very intresting ideas there, monele...
It's nothing new, really... as I said, two H-games already use this and Nettstadt also goes with this idea ^^.

That's part of why I want to play it :)... It'll be part entertainment and part guinea pig ^3^.
Games can benefit a lot from intresting gameplays
Mh... I know what we're going for is rather gimmicky, but I do hope it will at least feel different and fresh. The last thing we want is people getting bored of the genre ^.^

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Re: Magical Boutique

#207 Post by DaFool » Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:32 am

I just finished writing the 5-room minigame tonight (give or take some bonuses I was planning to add.)

The gist of the actions included are as follows:
* sell
* buy
* deliver
* talk
* process (i.e. cook, harvest)

And it is customizable, so that I am using the same if-else sequence. The flavor and quests of the minigame actually change depending on the visual novel decisions you made earlier.

The thing is, it is highly recommended that these sorts of room-structure thingies are visual... I mean, if I were presented with a plain menu that says "Go Up. Go Down. Go Left. Go Right." I would bang my head against the monitor in frustration. You really will need to design the place well so it is intuitive where a player can go next.
The big problem I've run into is that, once the framework is done, I never seem to want to actually enter all the quests and characters into it.
I think I have discovered a way around this. Yeah, it was overwhelming at first when I first sat down and well "Aww, hell, now I would have to code all of this crap up."
But I did it step by step, and used modular programming methods... so that it is just a sequence of calls to subroutines (which represent certain situations).

One thing for sure... before anything else, make sure you have a navigatable room system that doesn't crash.

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Re: Magical Boutique

#208 Post by monele » Sat Jun 30, 2007 9:01 am

The thing is, it is highly recommended that these sorts of room-structure thingies are visual... I mean, if I were presented with a menu that says "Go Up. Go Down. Go Left. Go Right." I would bang my head against the monitor in frustration.
Been thinking about this... I think I'll either go with the Nocturnal Illusion solution : a map of the current floor/zone, a simple click leading you to a room... or with a list of places you can go from where you are (you're in the lobby, you get an icon for the dining room, the hall and upstairs).

The first solution means the player could maybe "skip" places that should otherwise be physically gone through according to the map. This is a bit silly if the hall is linked to the dining room which is linked to the kitchen and... when going directly to the kitchen, you don't meet A, whom you meet when going in the dining room. Actually, maybe the player wouldn't really notice it (just thinking the person got there after he went to the kitchen)... mm... would have to test it out. But it sounds a bit "dangerous" at least :).

The second solution means it's a bit more annoying for the player since he actually clicks through places he doesn't need to be at. But it might also help with the immersion (I'm really there, I'm bound to logical rules of moving around), and *maybe* make the player remember about things he wouldn't otherwise (my goal is the kitchen, I go through the dining room and spot Mika whom I had to tell something to... let's do that).

I also thought about "clicking" the backgrounds but this would require proper bgs and could turn things into pixel hunting which I'm not fond of. A clear list of choices seems better.

** Interactions **

There are gradual ways to complexify these...

The simplest is that by simply being in a room where something is supposed to happen, it will happen. If raised a conversation flag for Mika, the next time Mika is in the room, you'll talk to her. Simple, but it would mean the player only "moves around"... A bit *too* simple and boring imo ^^;...

I would rather go with two other menus : characters and objects/actions. If a character is in the room, a thumbnail is clickable to interact with him. It doesn't mean the character won't initiate a convo at times, but most of the time, it's the player would should know who to talk to.
As for actions, they would probably be a simple text list. This gives much freedom : maybe usually the living room only has "rest" and "watch tv"... but if you raised the "light bulb pops" flag, then you would also get "fix the light".

It could be more complex, with a whole visible inventory, separate objects with multiple actions (look, use, take) but this would really turn into some first person view adventure game with, I think, too much complexicity for its own good.

In the end, this means that after each "move", you would get the "move to", "characters" and "actions" menus on the screen. It could be handled through regular Ren'Py menus but it could mean a list of 10 possible choices after each click ^^;... so a specific interface seems appropriate.

** Phases **

There's something I want to have to simplify things and avoid story-based bugs as much as possible : phases. I think they're called "scenes" or "acts" in the last Inform version. Basically, I'd define multiple time periods which globally define the state of the game (time of day, general ambience, where most people are, what can be done, what's the main goal) and have only a few "exits".
Until you find the exits (through talking, acting, etc...), you would stay in these little sandboxes. The good point is that I would know exactly what's possible during a scene. I wouldn't forget that "if you didn't do that right at the beginning, this character now appears in two places". This happened a lot in MagBou ^^;...
Phases means less freedom for the player, but a more secured environment in which to play. There would probably be things that can be done in multiple phases and things that are carried over from one phase to the other... giving a sense of continuity.
But overall, I would be able to draw a very simple diagram of the phases and have something similar to your run-of-the-mill VN with choices.

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Re: Magical Boutique

#209 Post by absinthe » Sat Jun 30, 2007 1:01 pm

monele wrote:The second solution means it's a bit more annoying for the player since he actually clicks through places he doesn't need to be at.
I think this approach *could* work, but it's a matter of how often clicking on extraneous locations would be necessary. In a game where you'd have only a few repetitions (say, a new area opens up each segment while the old area closes off), it wouldn't be horrible, while one where you're traveling over the same ground over and over endlessly would drive most players nuts.
monele wrote:The simplest is that by simply being in a room where something is supposed to happen, it will happen. If raised a conversation flag for Mika, the next time Mika is in the room, you'll talk to her. Simple, but it would mean the player only "moves around"... A bit *too* simple and boring imo ^^;...
This is the approach I used for Eidolon. You're right, it can be overly simple, and it's hard to keep it reasonably interactive! And it moves away from 'game' and towards 'story', I think, if that makes sense? With 'game' being something like Final Fantasy or Jade Empire or even Baldur's Gate -- you play the game to be rewarded with more story -- and 'story' being a more traditional VN, where you follow the story on a path throughout the game to an ending.
monele wrote:I would rather go with two other menus : characters and objects/actions. If a character is in the room, a thumbnail is clickable to interact with him. It doesn't mean the character won't initiate a convo at times, but most of the time, it's the player would should know who to talk to.
I implemented a framework like this for my AIF conversion (I'll PM you a link), with clickable hot buttons (think of the old adventure games, like King's Quest), a room structure, and a keyword-based interaction system and conversation system.
monele wrote:It could be more complex, with a whole visible inventory, separate objects with multiple actions (look, use, take) but this would really turn into some first person view adventure game with, I think, too much complexicity for its own good.
Exactly my dilemma! It really boils down to, when designing something like this, what demands the story you want to tell makes of the game structure. The problem is, I often come up with these elaborate frameworks -- take Eidolon, for example -- and then later find that they really aren't necessary for the story. I think you need a very big story with a sizable cast to really justify making a complicated game framework.

I'd really love to do a very complex game like you describe -- something with sidequests and multiple paths, stats and stat-based challenges -- a "game" VN as opposed to a "story" VN. In fact, the two projects I've been playing with the most lately are a cyberpunk just-this-side-of-an-RPG, and a ruler-sim inspired, of all things, by rediscovering my copy of Castles.
monele wrote:There's something I want to have to simplify things and avoid story-based bugs as much as possible : phases. I think they're called "scenes" or "acts" in the last Inform version. Basically, I'd define multiple time periods which globally define the state of the game (time of day, general ambience, where most people are, what can be done, what's the main goal) and have only a few "exits".
That's a string of pearls structure! I've always wanted to try one (Eidolon was originally planned to use it but it ended up being unnecessary). And one of my favorite non-quite-a-VN games (Vampire TM: Bloodlines) uses this structure. I think you're right, it definitely provides a nice balance between freedom to explore and plot constraints. And it's great for horror/suspense, because you can play up the 'trapped' aspects for each segment.

It's fun to talk about this! Hope I'm not diverting your thread too much. :)
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Re: Magical Boutique

#210 Post by monele » Sat Jun 30, 2007 1:49 pm

while one where you're traveling over the same ground over and over endlessly would drive most players nuts.
That's what I imagine it would be like, yes. But it all depends on the game. If you think of a game taking place in a mansion, it would make sense to explore multiple rooms, and maybe use the "connected rooms" system... if only to help the player get a feel for the place he'll be living in.
Now, though, if MB2 takes place at the shop but also at other shops (ingredients and stuff) and at various gathering locations... maybe the shop wouldn't need multiple rooms... just "the shop", with events changing the bg as appropriate (talking to Framb? maybe it takes place in her room).
This is the approach I used for Eidolon.
The bar part, uh? :). Sadly, there wasn't much to do and the exits were very straightforward. I guess that the room system probably needs a minimum number of rooms and things to do to make you forget you're hooked to the storyline.
I implemented a framework like this for my AIF conversion (I'll PM you a link)
Okie ^_^
I think you need a very big story with a sizable cast to really justify making a complicated game framework.
That's why I'm trying to make something not too complicated, yet with a gamey feeling. I think there's a big difference between a game that gives you a choice between "fix the lamp" and "talk to Mika" and a game that gives you "pick up, use, look at, open, close, ..." verbs and quite a few objects in each room to use these on.
The second kind means you're limited to those verbs and interactions will always take place in the same way (lest you confuse the player). The first kind *might* allow a lot of freedom since all the actions are simple sentences that *you*, the author, make up and decide, again with freeform text, what they do.
I'd really love to do a very complex game like you describe -- something with sidequests and multiple paths, stats and stat-based challenges -- a "game" VN as opposed to a "story" VN.
Actually, you're describing MB1 as it was supposed to be here ^^. But MB2 might steer away from that. As I said, I might abandon stats and focus on choices. If you take a scale with story on the left and game on the right, the current project would be quite far on the left.
That's a string of pearls structure!
Yep ^^...
And one of my favorite non-quite-a-VN games (Vampire TM: Bloodlines) uses this structure.
I've heard a lot about this game and, while I'm not sure I'd enjoy playing it, I'd certainly love to read about all the possibilities ^^.
It's fun to talk about this! Hope I'm not diverting your thread too much.
I might love talking about games more than making them, honestly, so no problem :).

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