Reconstruction, I Miss The Sunrise, and The Drop

  • sbester
  • 02/17/2013 10:35 PM
Welcome to the tenth issue of Series Master!

Issue #9 was posted as a blog rather than an article, and can be found here:

Series Master! Part 9- Eden Legacy with SBester

It is now time to visit a budding franchise from Deltree, and a very well received one at that. The Reconstruction was a game featured on RMN a while back that was notable for its imaginative (and quite intuitive) battle system, its involving universe and races, and its guild-like quest system. Its prequel, I Miss The Sunrise, was met with even more critical acclaim, and was also featured around the time of its release. A third game is in development right now, title The Drop, and with that, it’s time I delved into this creative and expansive universe with some questions for its creator!


Sbester: Can you briefly explain the origins of the series? How closely linked are the three games in this universe you’ve created?

Deltree: Sure! I started on the first game in 2007, but I'd had concepts and ideas related to it for several years already. My initial driving forces were (a) my dislike of by-the-numbers RPGs, and (b) my dislike of high fantasy stories, so I set out to circumvent both with The Reconstruction. Honestly, I initially had no plans to turn it into a series, but it proved popular enough that I decided to run with it.

When I started on I Miss the Sunrise, I wasn't entirely sure whether I wanted to do a prequel, since I only had a small handful of elements in The Reconstruction that I could carry backward. I also wouldn't have the luxury of a predefined world to work with, so I had to build a new universe and establish its own rules and themes, and then turn around and link it back to the story of the first game. Fortunately, the relationship between the settings fits the running theme of "scope," so it really turned out to be a happy accident of sorts.
The Drop is a straightforward and direct sequel to The Reconstruction. Though relatively light on story (being a dungeon crawler), it will close out many characters' chapters from The Reconstruction, while setting up a few more mysteries for the next game.

An image from The Reconstruction.

Sbester: How have they evolved from game to game?

Deltree: Evolution is an odd concept in a game series - the off-hand definition seems to mean starting with some core mechanics or elements and then refining them more and more as each game is released. Instead, I started with the core and experimented with it by changing up everything around it, for better or worse, so there is not exactly a sense of progression or refinement from game to game. I did begin with both a core mechanic and a gameplay philosophy in mind - namely, the multiple health/energy bars mechanic, and the idea of strategy through preparation and diversity of resources with an "ideal" action for each turn in battle. Then, I built the rest of each game around these core concepts in a way that is appropriate to its setting.

In The Reconstruction, you have magical elements, a weapon/armor triangle, secondary actions like rushing and enchanting, predefined characters with nonstandard skills and roles in battle, and enemies who vary just slightly enough to sometimes throw a wrench in the player's strategy. In I Miss the Sunrise, elemental attacks were replaced with properties; spells and armor were replaced with player-made weapons; character parties became fleets; "Rush" became "Zone of Control." I carried over some elements, and cut the ones that wouldn't be appropriate while adding new ones in their place. I also took criticism to heart and reworked the turn system into something more reasonable, and streamlined things like health pools and racial traits to keep from throwing as many potential curve balls at the player. So, while there was refinement to be had, I was not going to settle with making the same game over again. It was always meant to be a different game, with different kinds of interactions and characters more appropriate to a sci-fi setting, so I was careful about not shoehorning in things just for sake of resembling The Reconstruction.

The Drop will go in yet another direction - being a roguelike, you will control one character rather than a party or fleet. The core concepts of multiple health bars and strategic preparation will remain thanks to mechanics such as spell variety and manipulating the environment - once again, adapted for the new setting and new "rules" of a different game world. So, when I think of gameplay evolution, I think of taking the root and adapting it to a new experience, rather than just improving in a straight line from sequel to sequel.

Battles from The Reconstruction.

Sbester: Both The Reconstruction and IMTS have been featured on RMN. Can you describe what it is you think is meshing with people so well?

Deltree: I honestly can't say! They are both "protest" games of sorts - maybe that resonates well with people who are looking for something different? I also tend to put a lot of detail into characters and the world - sometimes extraneous, sometimes with payoff in the far future - which I'm sure has its own appeal. Mostly, though, is that I start out with a vision for each game, and I stick with it. I think consistency in the secondary elements is key to keeping the player's interest in the game itself - things like interface design, color palette choices, background music, terminology and vocabulary, and general polish. I make sure all of the mechanisms and design choices come together as a solid product, and I think gamers are inherently inclined to appreciate that.

An image from IMTS.

Sbester: Can you give us a little preview blurb for The Drop, and what we can expect when you finish it?

Deltree: It's a roguelike, which is admittedly not a widely-well-liked genre, but I am implementing a lot of mechanics to make it a more friendly dungeon-crawling romp. There will be close to a dozen playable characters - some new, some returning - and the option to create a character from scratch as well. Multiple playthroughs will be necessary to unlock all of the bonus characters and advance the story. There will be an "achievements" system that is shared between characters, as well as a "true" roguelike mode with permanent death and limited saving, if you're in to that sort of thing. For me, it's really an experiment in gameplay over story, but the demo has gone over very well, and so I think it will be a fun game even for someone without exposure to the rest of the series. I hope to have it finished some time this year.

Battles from IMTS.

Sbester: Any plans for a fourth game?

Deltree: Definitely! Though this sounds odd, both The Reconstruction and I Miss the Sunrise end at the exact same moment in time, and so the fourth game (after the mostly-unrelated events of The Drop) will be a culmination of both of these stories. I know at some point I want to try my hand at making an action RPG, but given the turn-based pedigree of the series so far, I may hold off on that for another game. As for the fourth game itself: I can't give specifics to the cast or plot yet, except that I will be venturing into a "modern" setting - basically, what one would reasonably expect a fantasy world to evolve into after a few hundred years. It will also be the final game in the series, where all of the little unexplained oddities of the previous three games will finally come to a head.

An image from The Drop.

Sbester: What advice do you have to others who are trying to create their own series of games?

Deltree: It really depends on your personal goals. If you want to make a series of games with similar mechanics and the same setting and perhaps even characters, then it is obviously in your best interest to plan all that out before you even begin. You don't want to create inconsistencies in future games, and you definitely don't want to wedge in an obvious fix. Players know a retcon when they see it, and it hurts the immersion and can cause them to question the designer's ability. Of course, if you're like me and just decide to wing it, just pray that you left enough loose ends to build a connection around, especially if you're going backwards! It's a tricky proposition - you want just enough mysteries left over to hook players into anticipating a follow-up or even forming their own theories, but if you go too far then the story can look half-finished.

Another image from The Drop.

Sbester: Any final words?

Deltree: Game design is a discipline - especially if you intend to go for the long-term. Like with anything else, don't expect to get it right the first time. Learn what works and what doesn't; encourage feedback; plan ahead. Don't be afraid to try something new, but at the same time, be prepared to fully integrate this new aspect as a part of the world and not just as a gimmick. And, finally, test everything twice!

Only three issues left! Tune in next week!
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