COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: DELTREE

A brief interview with Deltree, creator of The Reconstruction and I Miss the Sunrise



An interview with Deltree, creator of The Reconstruction and I Miss the Sunrise.

The latest victim subject of my highly infrequent interview series is Deltree, space lizard and creator of the science fiction Strategy RPG I Miss the Sunrise.

Solitayre: Start off by telling us a little about yourself!

Deltree: Sure. I live in the southeastern United States, and I work in IT. I've been gaming since I was 4, and programming since I was 10.

Solitayre: Not many people can claim to have finished one full-length project, let alone two. What's your secret?

Deltree: There is definitely an order and rhythm to creating games, though I realize not everyone practices it the same way. I personally subscribe to the three P's: Play, Plan, and Pace. First, if you want to create games, you have to play games - and not just RPGs; try out many genres, and pick good and bad games both. See what's been done (well or poorly), try to deduce how it was done, and most importantly, see what hasn't been done before.

Second, planning. Everyone knows the design document is an important step, but few people are eager to actually do it. It doesn't have to be fully comprehensive - I usually write dialog on-the-fly, for example - but anything statistical or organized in nature should be planned ahead of time. I make spreadsheets for player characters, enemy units, attacks and skills, items, status effects, map designs - the whole lot. This way, if I question myself about a certain implementation, I have a master reference to refer back to at all times.

Lastly, pacing. It's never a good idea to force yourself to work as if hobby game design were a second job - I try to work it into my free time flexibly, as I am prone to working for too long and then burning myself out and pushing the project aside for a month. In addition, it's best to focus on one aspect per session - a handful of sprites, or some data entry, or something that makes it easy to get into a groove without having to switch tracks every few minutes.

And one last tip: invest in a waterproof notepad and pencil, and stick them up in your shower. I get more ideas in the shower than I care to admit.

Solitayre:Both The Reconstruction and I Miss the Sunrise have proven quite popular. What's your reaction to this?

Deltree: Abject terror! Okay, not exactly; I am very shy by nature, but the overwhelmingly supportive response to The Reconstruction has made me open up considerably. I've gotten fan letters from all over - Argentina, France, Germany - and it really is a great feeling to make something so widely enjoyed. Most of all though, I'm thankful to have gathered a small legion of loyal players who are so diligent in finding bugs, pointing out typos, and discussing balance issues and gameplay enhancements that I probably would not have noticed or considered otherwise.

Solitayre: Did you learn anything useful during the process of making The Reconstruction that proved invaluable in making I Miss the Sunrise?

Deltree: Definitely! Like any other creative outlet, game design is a constant learning process. You streamline old things, experiment with new things, and see what sticks and what should get tossed. To be honest, The Reconstruction is an unoptimized mess of events and parallel processes, and the overall performance pretty well demonstrates over-ambition over technical know-how. By the time I started on I Miss the Sunrise, I was much more comfortable with relying on the Ruby language for many of the workhorse operations, and the gameplay is snappier as a result.

This goes for gameplay mechanics, too - there are several analogues that have been modified to fit the setting, but some of the aspects, such as the rather clumsy mechanic of forming parties of characters, are only retained in spirit. So, the moral is: if you're trying to make the engine do something unique, get the skeletal core and the necessary mechanics running as efficiently and bug-free as possible before you start dropping in content and potentially painting yourself into a corner.

Solitayre: You're currently planning a new game called The Drop. Can you tell us anything about it?

Deltree: I'd be happy to. It's a roguelike, which is sort of a single-character dungeon crawler. It's set a few years after The Reconstruction, with several returning characters and monsters, but the story this time is very light and familiarity with the series is not a requirement to jump right in. It retains the three-way health system and elemental affinities from The Reconstruction, with a little bit of streamlining. I enjoy roguelikes for the most part, but they seem to have stagnated into a trend of "cram in as many races/classes/monsters/items as possible," so I'm hoping to diverge a bit by incorporating stealth and line-of-sight as a major gameplay element, as well as the use of magic to manipulate the environment when the odds turn against you.

Solitayre: What inspired you to get into game design?

Deltree: Growing up with gamer parents certainly helps! I started with QBasic when I was ten years old. At this age, "game design" meant copying programs line-by-line out of dusty old BASIC books printed in the 1970s, and then messing with the variables to give yourself infinite health or recolored sprites. My friends and I would also do small text adventure games and swap them on 360kb floppy discs, or make little quiz programs to show off in science class. While I've always kept programming as a skillset, I eventually started to gain interest in the "game maker" style programs as well - Klik & Play, Pie in the Sky's GCS, and the early RPG Makers. I don't think I ever did anything substantial with them before now, but they are good tools for prototyping and production both.

Solitayre: What are some of your sources of inspiration?

Deltree: That's the funny thing about inspiration - I could rattle off my list of favorite Final Fantasy titles and be done with it. But, inspiration really can come from anything - a song on the radio, a photograph, a nice day in the park, a text message from a friend. They're all tiny parts of an idea that compound in your head, and one day you're standing in the shower (with a waterproof notepad) and you suddenly make sense of it. I know that sounds obtuse at best and pretentious at worst, but the things I just listed all contributed to the initial spark that I Miss the Sunrise came from in different ways.

If you like an actual answer, though, the Shin Megami Tensei series basically saved the RPG genre for me. Demanding battles, high difficulty, well-written casts, interesting settings - the only downside is it's really hard to play anything else.

Solitayre: Are there any games in this community you like or recommend?

Deltree: I wish I had the free time to try more! I did play a handful of standout games relatively recently - Speak No Evil, Visions & Voices, and some of Last Scenario and Exit Fate. What else... oh, when I was in high school, I played A Blurred Line. It was probably my first exposure to the RPG Maker engine, and it's definitely a reason to take it seriously all these years later.

Solitayre: What advice do you have for aspiring game designers?

Deltree: Be aware that game is a massive undertaking if it's going to be done properly! Minimizing your chances of abandoning the project midway through should be a priority at the start. If you just want to tell a story, you will get a lot more mileage and a much wider audience with a visual novel, a comic, or even a book instead, though there is something admittedly cool about making the whole experience interactive. If you're sure it's a game you want to create, see my advice from earlier - play other games first, plan out with as much detail as you can, and pace yourself accordingly. Also, if you have never programmed before, familiarize yourself with some of the core concepts - loops, conditionals, variables, and maybe even objects. These tools carry over independent of syntax or language, and can change your thought process from "is this possible?" to "it is possible to make this better?"

Solitayre: Any other comments?

Deltree: The world needs more playable lizardmen! More seriously, it's obvious these engines are capable of great things, and even if you aren't keen on reinventing the wheel every time, a little imagination can still go a long way in revitalizing the genre.

Posts

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I used to draw lizardmen. I need to get back to that lol.
Good interview! Though I'm hoping to see some more podcasts >.<

You played SnE? I apologize profusely and extend sympathies.
Gibmaker
I hate RPG Maker because of what it has done to me
9137
Oh my God, QBasic. :O
did you have the snake demo program.
Deltree
doesn't live here anymore
4556
Nibbles! And of course I modified it so hitting a wall wouldn't kill you. (Spoiler: every level after 9 is exactly the same checkerboard thing.)
good interview but still didnt answer my burning question of how can one human be so consistenly productive

or is deltree really a space bangaa with advanced productivity systems/time warping abilities
author=mellytan
good interview but still didnt answer my burning question of how can one human be so consistenly productive
I dunno if I have the right to say this, but whatever- I'm a rebel.
Find your source of inspiration (this is one of my favorites) and use/play it religiously.
It works like a charm (until I run out of music- to which I'm very, very emo.)

author=mellytan
or is deltree really a space bangaa with advanced productivity systems/time warping abilities
LoL
Gibmaker
I hate RPG Maker because of what it has done to me
9137
author=Deltree
Nibbles! And of course I modified it so hitting a wall wouldn't kill you. (Spoiler: every level after 9 is exactly the same checkerboard thing.)
Aww. Spoilt.

Great interview. Will your roguelike be ASCII or graphics-based?
Deltree
doesn't live here anymore
4556
Full graphical tiles. More Mystery Dungeon than Nethack, really.
Deltree
doesn't live here anymore
4556
author=mellytan
bangaa's mysterious dungeon


If Square made a roguelike with a job system where I could dual class Trickster/Gladiator, I would buy ten copies.
I agree completly with your more lizardmen comment
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