The Quarry is a three-part article about the roots of many game makers – early, unfinished projects – and rediscovering their scattered pieces of unused potential.

The Quarry is a three-part article about the roots of many game makers – early, unfinished projects – and rediscovering their scattered pieces of unused potential. It was originally published on the Solest website.

Part 1: Dusting off

“One day a friend showed me the project he was working on in RPG Maker. I had been dreaming of making my own video game since I was a child, so I was completely thrilled to find out a program to do just that actually existed. Back at home I began searching the internet right away, downloaded the trial version and started working on my epic-scale RPG.”

This story probably sounds familiar to most of you. When I discovered RPG Maker, it was the naive enthusiasm of a beginner that drove me forward. I hardly had any knowledge of the program, I wanted to use all kinds of custom resources, the story I had come up with was one-sided and incredibly clichéd, the protagonist had no character at all – in short, there was a huge gap between my ambitions and my abilities. Needless to say I never even got close to finishing the game. I managed to create about two hours of very basic gameplay before I recognized I had overestimated myself. I got overwhelmed by the sheer size of my project and eventually gave up.

And, to be honest, that was a good thing. Now, about seven years later, I’m glad I didn’t invest more time and energy into a project that was doomed to fail right from the beginning. Still, I don’t regret working on that first project either. It set a starting point for me, a first step on the long way of self-improvement. And there’s still a long way to go.

What were your experiences with your first project? Did you rush into it like me? Did your first game actually have a lot of potential but failed because you found yourself unable to put your ideas into practice? Did you have more foresight than me and made a test project to train your game making skills first? Or maybe you did manage to complete your first game after all?

No matter what, it can be a good idea to look back at your roots from time to time. Try to remember what your original motivation for game making was, and whether your attitude has developed further since then. If you abandoned your project, why was that – and would you now have the ability to do what you couldn’t do back then? And even if you think, like me, that your first project was a failure and not worth being revived, try to realize the many things it possibly taught you: Your strengths and weaknesses, the pitfalls in game making, and how to use the RPG Maker engine to go beyond the average. With the right attitude and some stamina, a failure can suddenly mean only a delayed success.

Part 2: The Backdrop

It’s a simple fact that the vast majority of RPG’s are fiction. Even if they take place in the real world, the plot and precise setting are nearly always products of the creator’s imagination. In most cases however, games are set in a completely fictional “world” or “universe”. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But it is also a fact that creating an own fictional world is a challenge that should not be underestimated. Numerous problems begin to arise as a result of a very common pitfall game creators often don’t manage to evade: Giving the impression that their world exists solely to fit their story. In order to be convincing and fascinating, a fictional world must appear to be alive and breathing, have its own history and its own dynamics independent of the story, and where the things that are pure fantasy to the player are probably perfectly normal to the world’s inhabitants. Designing a world that is more than just a cardboard scenery is an extremely difficult task, especially when it is created with a certain storyline in mind. And this is where the Quarry can prove to be incredibly valuable.

My personal favourite RPG Maker game Master of the Wind and its predecessors are great examples for this. Although two earlier games by the same writer, set in the same world, had been completed, they were never released publicly. Still, their echoes can be found throughout Master of the Wind and are an important reason why the world of Solest is so lifelike, vivid and believable. Basically, the story of the first game provided a part of the fundament on which Clean Slate, the second game, was built – and both provided much of the backdrop for Master of the Wind. You will have a lot more material to work with if your world was established and polished over the course of more than just one story or game project, and this can make it a lot easier to show the player how alive and autonomous your world is supposed to be.

Now take a look back at your own old projects that never made it to completion. No matter how undeveloped and crude their stories may have been, you put effort and thought into them. And you established a small part of a possible world history with them. Your story about a young prodigy who found the Blade of Eternal Power, rescued the kingdom from the corrupt usurper and became a famous hero might not have been good enough for an actual game – but you can still use it to fill up the void in newer projects. Make it the background for everday life, where some people are grateful to their undefeatable protector while others feel deeply uncomfortable about the existence of one superior individual who could kill them all if he had the inclination. Make it a part of your world’s history, known by many people and perhaps debated controversially. Or make it a piece of mythology people read and write books about, and in which your old hero has become a patron saint for the brave or a symbol of vigilantism and self-righteousness. There are numerous ways to let your old stories live on and simultaneously breathe life into your current setting. Similarly, if your unfinished game had a fantastic story but was just never made into a complete game, make it the backdrop for your new game and use the chance to show it off to the world.

Don’t be afraid to modify the old story to fit your needs or to develop it further. But do use the potential of your unused plots, weave them into your story – it will give your characters something to talk about other than their current mission objectives, and give the player another reason to marvel at the depth of your game’s world.

Part 3: The Gems

Depending on the context, the word “recycling” can have very different connotations. On the field of creativity, the idea of reusing old material is sometimes frowned upon and seen as an instance of laziness or lack of imagination. Wrongly.

If you have ever decided to abandon a project once and for all, you will probably have had your good reasons for it. But don’t forget you still invested time, energy and creative potential into that game. Letting all this just rot in its place would simply be a waste. Remember that you must have thought of that abandoned game as a good idea back when you decided to work on it. Even though the project itself may have failed, there will certainly have been some instances where you did a good job – and it’s these precious gems that you should be looking for and preserve.

For example, you may have created an early project that never made it to completion. Chances are it lacks quality on many levels, the dialogue tends to sound awkward, the cutscenes look very static, the mapping is poor etc. Looking back at old projects can sometimes be unpleasant – but, hidden between all the rubble you will likely find a few gems that deserve to be polished and see the daylight once more. These can be concepts like simple minigame ideas or quests, plot parts like a certain cutscene or a character constellation, even small things like a well-made map or one memorable line of dialogue. What about that one animation you created for this project? That one graphic you edited yourself? An item, a skill, a single event?

Since you will probably never revive that old project again, there is no reason to not make use of the products of your creativity that are now lying around unused. Think of it as a quarry: You can simply take out those pieces that could still be useful for building something entirely new. Sure, they might need some adjustment, some reshaping. Even if you can’t use an old idea directly, if it only gives you some inspiration for newer projects, that’s a success already. Copying or reusing something you already created is not only a way of refreshing your pool of ideas, it can also simply save you the time of having to create it again. There’s nothing wrong with “plagiarizing” yourself, after all (especially so if the work you take your ideas from was never going to be released anyway).

When you feel like you’ve reached a dead end creating a game, why not take the time to look back at some older, abandoned projects? The results will probably surprise even you, even though you might not always like what you see. But that will only remind you of how much you’ve improved since then, and of what not to do in current or future projects. However, as soon as you do find something you like, something that still has potential in your eyes – Mission Accomplished.

Thank you for reading. Stay creative, everyone!


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A great article! This is indeed what I have been doing this year. Just realized it, haha.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Thank you! These concepts have gradually become an important part of my own game design, so I figured I might as well share my thoughts on the subject. Glad to hear you enjoyed reading the article.
The all around prick
That was a wonderful read! You bring up a lot of interesting points. I'd recommend this to anyone feeling like they're in a creative rut.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Thanks a lot, Red_Nova! I'm glad you found the article useful. This approach has helped me a lot with my own projects, so if anyone else can benefit from it, that makes me very happy.
You're magical to me.
A wonderful article. It is indeed refreshing to go back to your old works and see what you were going for ^_^
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