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I was wondering if anyone here had this same experience: the first game I worked on in RPG Maker was an entirely generic, mad-lib sort of RTP game. As I kept using the editor I would basically drop games and start again from the ground up many times over, using new stuff I'd learned, but the characters, plot and general structure would kind of migrate between the different builds in swapped-around, mutant form. So the person who was a party member in A became a local guard NPC in B became a villain in C, and the end boss's name stayed the same, and the main character was now a detective, etc... It is interesting for me to think about now, because the purpose of all those new builds was to try to make something increasingly sophisticated / complicated / polished, but I was still using parts of the crude first game, and in many cases it felt like that kind of ground against the more polished elements. I don't think it was as respectable as being consistently interested in some character or idea, it was more a vague attachment to names, or the idea of a lineage, that persisted through many wholly dissimilar games...

In retrospect it feels kind of sad to me that the desire to make, like, more elaborate and polished containers for these primordial game ideas was part of what gradually ended up erasing them, but I also think it's part of the process of making things in general

Did this happen to anyone else, were there characters and names that stayed weirdly consistent from very early engine projects even as the rest of the game changed dramatically around them (maybe over years?)
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
What you're discussing is basically "pre-writing," albeit over a very long timespan.

Stories and ideas evolve naturally as you change, get older, or become interested in different things. Things that seemed rad to you as a teenager probably don't still seem as rad when you're in your twenties/thirties.

However, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with maintaining an attachment to a particular character, idea, setting, etc. In fact, I'd say that a genuine fondness for your story and characters are absolutely essential to telling any kind of interesting or worthwhile story.
i mostly reuse previous charasets from previous games that were once protags/villains. none of them ever retain their personalities or sometimes even gender though. i guess i mainly do it so i didnt waste all that work doing custom art.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Oh, I know exactly what you mean, catmitts... For my first attempt with RPG Maker, I came up with an incredibly cliché story and setting, complete with legendary magical swords and burnt down hometowns. It was awfully bad, but I still spent a lot of time developing the lore of that world. When I finally realized how much it sucked, I abandoned the ideas I was now ashamed of and thought I would never touch them again.
Years later it suddenly occured to me that some of the core ideas of my old projects could still be useful. I went back, changed a lot of things drastically, weeded out most of the stupid ideas and added a good deal of realism. Now, this reworked version of my old fictional setting serves as the fundament for my current projects. The irony...

In short, I tend to "recycle" a lot of things from older creative efforts. Ideas, names, settings, you name it. It's not necessarily a bad thing. If you have to come up with a completely new idea, it's often not easy to polish it so much it becomes interesting. But if you use ideas you already had before as a basis, you can start adding sort of a "second layer", which helps giving concepts more depth.

(P.S.: I actually wrote an article about this some time ago, in case anyone is interested: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)
It just proves that while some things about us changes, other things remain the same.
Those are some interesting reads, NeverSilent. Have you considered posting them as articles here?

On topic, I agree with Soli about developing a love for your characters and the game world they inhabit. It's probably one of the reasons I've never worked on any other serious project ( apart from Tristian )than Enelysion. =) But still, be prepared to 'murder your darlings'. The names of locations might have changed, the script rewritten but the core characters and game world has remained unchanged since I started development in late 2010.
My first game was a fangame, actually. Had a pretty interesting concept, but was soo~ badly balanced that it was almost unplayable. The mapping was decent for a first try, but pretty horrible if judged from a more experienced standpoint. It wasn't a horrible game, but one that came from a really in-experienced mind.

I'm working on my first 'real' game now, but I'm not a real newbie. I read so many tutorials that I can't even count them anymore and played around with certain effects for a really long time before I considered myself 'worthy' to actually make a game. Helped me a lot, though. I'm still far from being perfect, but I think I've got the basics down.

I know what you mean, though. Most of my characters have traits of characters I played around with, one character that was meant to be a protagonist in another game became a villain in my recent project. That character was never really meant to be a good guy, though. In general, all of my characters remain their personalites and often even their names, they just adapt to their new scenario.
I named a number of characters in my game without considering whether those names fitted the African theme. Eventually, I did change some of them to fit the theme. For example Citan became Bahati which sounds much more African (Plus, Citan was blatantly named after a Xenogears character lol.) But, at least 3 characters kept the names that I originally made for them including: Lanoa, Rawjal, and Clua. I just grew too attached to those names to change them. Although, I did eventually give them African inspired last names like Lanoa Lumumba. Patrice Lumumba was the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo after they had won independence from Belgium.

Anyway, I suppose the point I'm trying to get at is basically what Solitayre was talking about.
However, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with maintaining an attachment to a particular character, idea, setting, etc. In fact, I'd say that a genuine fondness for your story and characters are absolutely essential to telling any kind of interesting or worthwhile story.
I kinda know the feeling, although not so much anymore.

Back when I was first starting out with RMXP, I was making a massive epic fantasy with a Hero named Hyriu (mostly because it sounded like "hero"). Unfortunately, the plot was cliche and lame, the hero was a Marty Sue (Ie, a "perfect hero" with no real faults), and the game was too huge in scope. I went back several times to improve it, and it never really got much better... :(

Fast forward a few years to my next serious RMXP project, which was looking MUCH better. I had a new setting, much better plot, better game systems...and I brought back old Hyriu, now with a few flaws (he's a coward, naive, and mostly just out for himself with little concern for others, which fit in nicely with the whole "You are now part of an airship pirate crew" plot). Sadly, the project stalled and is on the back burner. I might bring it back in VX Ace someday, since the setting was so damn awesome, though.

Also, my friends and I have had this one "for real" RPG we've been planning to write, code and sell in Unity for a long while that began as an RPGmaker game about 6 years ago....but it's currently on the shelf until we can sort our lives out. We do want to revisit it since the setting and some characters are just WAY too awesome to let go of, but we're putting real life first until we have the chance to ACTUALLY stand a chance at finishing it.

So I know the feeling, but I'm trying to be more reasonable these days.
It just proves that while some things about us changes, other things remain the same.

Basically agree with this! A lot of great writers don't necessarily tell many different stories, but find new ways to tell old ones.

And it can definitely vary depending on the type of creative person you are. There are quite a lot of artists, poets etc.. who retread old territory in order to hit home a certain theme, or allow themselves to gradually master their craft. Plenty of older members on here have stuck with their same projects over so many years (Starless Umbra comes to mind ;D), and the amount that they've improved and evolved is unbelievable.

But I guess everyone learns differently. The overall process of improvement and how that factors into the finished product is most important IMO.
Story-writers tend to stick with the same genre, and even type of story.
Personally I think this is a good thing, because as you say it allows them to gradually get better at that type of story.
For a prime example of this, see one of my favourite authors, H.P. Lovecraft.
The theme for pretty much all his stories is the same, basically the fear of the unknown, and some things or characters tend to reappear in stories, such as Cthulhu and the likes.
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Oh yeah, I totally do this. Originally one of my games was planned to be a sequel of my first completed game, but gradually over its development I removed all the direct references to the original and changed some (but not all) of the character and location names. Technically it would still function as a sequel if you played the first game first, but if you didn't, you would miss out on nothing and never know. It still actually has the same world map and everything.

Now the RMXP game I've been working on is a spiritual sequel to that second game. Originally my plan for this game was to just reuse the plot of the second game but have totally different gameplay, but as I started designing it, I abandoned that and set it in the modern day real world - but still using the same overall plot structure and several conspicuously similar character. Changed some major things that didn't work, but tried to keep everything that did work.

So in summary, my goal with my second game was to make a sequel, but when I realized my first game sucked, I made it just a spiritual successor. My goal with my third game was to not have to write a new plot, but when I realized my plot sucked, I made it just another spiritual successor.

(also made other unconnected games, though)
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
Throughout all my versions on my main project Infection, characters and names all stayed the same, as did general storyline. (though it being a zombie/survival game the story obviously wouldn't change too much)

I love doing this, as it brings past characters/ideas and experience onto the next game like some kind of gam mak family tradition.
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irreedeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
The thing about my project is that, while I did make side projects during its development, it started off as simply as they come. I had a few names for locations and a point A to point B plot, but that was about it. Honestly, the game I'm working on now is an experiment gone wrong/right as it's become much more than I had originally planned it to be and has given me many moments of fulfillment throughout the development process.

But had it not been for those side projects, I'd likely have either completely different names for many of the places and characters that make up the world or they'd simply not exist. It was through these side projects that I was forced to come up with new names for places and people and, when it came time to return to my main project, gave me more to work with in terms of fleshing out the world I already had my greatest investment in.
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
The things that persist in my games tend to be gameplay ideas and mechanics. Oh, that and scripts. For example, I've become obsessed with the idea of puzzle pieces representing real maps in the game. So I've tried to use that over and over again and I think I've got something in this latest game. Lately I've toyed with the idea of using paint to create crude parallaxes because I was just lazy and wanted to create unique maps quickly but now it's turning out to pay dividends due to the unique style.

I don't mean to speak for you, catmitts, but you probably have this little bias too. You use a lot of crude handdrawn images, and even photos of stuff you've made as sprites just to give it unique value. It's just the product of you being a solo artist that the little trademarks you have are ingrained in your development style, and you know what works and that's good.

As for story and characters, the same names do prop up now and again, but luckily enough they're such unique names like "David" and "Desmond" that they don't ring alarm bells in people's heads for being too familiar. I suspect I could use the name "David" for every protagonist in my game and it wouldn't even be too noticeable. I also fall into that pitfall of using my personality as the template for everyone's personality, but that's more of an inevitable thing than an actual "crossing-games-over" thing.

All in all, there is an eerie vein of blood that courses through my gameography's veins, but I suspect it does all. Call it your imprint on the game, because when you create a game, part of you should be in there too.
I know this as well. For me it's mainly that I have my game world and when I make a new game it's still in the same game world (though it might be on a different planet).

But there is one particular story that really fits:

- I started making a few very simple text-based games when I first learned programming, two of them were games where you would climb a tower, there was nothing to the game at all except choosing to proceed and then fighting a battle or finding an item and you had to make it to the top and beat the boss to win the game (nobody, not even me ever beat them), as I was a Final Fantasy fan at that time I obviously named the series "Final Tower".

- When designing Final Tower 3 (was never developed), I started to think of a background story - why are the towers even there and why do you climb to the top to beat the boss? I made up this story that the towers suddenly appear every 1000 years and monsters keep swarming out of them, if the boss at the top is defeated, the tower will disappear again, so whenever a tower appears, the strongest heroes come and try to conquer it (FT3 actually had a twist too, it had 3 tower appearing next to each other and in the design there where some pathways that would lead from one into another tower).

- Then when I got my hands on RPG Maker 95, I made a really big and extensive but also very generic game using all the default assets, this game was also inspired by the Final Tower series, but had a big change: Instead of just the tower the game played in the world where the tower appears. You also could get 7 party members rather than being alone. The game often plays in the tower, but there were many plottwists that caused you to leave it again and having to explore the world more. The game was generic, but it was huge. I called it Gerania, because I imagined that's the name of the world/planet where all this takes place. Unfortunately I lost the whole game due to a hardware failure. Ever since then I'm making backups like crazy.

- Several years later, I decided to recreate the game or at least part of it again, but this time I wanted to do my own graphics. And I did. I learned pixel art and did a bunch of graphics for the first areas. I expanded the gameplay a lot, instead of generic gameplay I developed unique character progression systems and special battle features. The story was already good in the original as I already had plenty of plottwists in it and the pace was fine too, so I left the general story almost exactly the same. What I changed however were the characters. Rather than all just wanting to save the world and conquer the tower, I all gave them a personal background. Where they were born, what they experienced before the events in the game, what their motives are and so on. I especially fleshed out the villains more.
Because shortly after I realized that I hate doing pixel art too much, I never got the game longer than 5 hours playtime, but it's still the pinnacle of my RPG Maker style game development (I have bigger projects but they are all either text-based or more their own genre altogether).

As you can see the very basic idea of a hero going into a tower to fight monsters and find items slowly evolved into a big story with plottwists, character backgrounds and unique gameplay ideas.
Exciting, but ultimately pointless.
I use a few character and town names frequently. There's usually always a Hillsdale and Meksicburg in my games and there's usually always an Aiden, Eleina/Elina, Hans, Teo or Vahn.
Sometimes, the characters are just going to keep haunting you until you get them out into the world somehow. Sounds like that's what you experienced.

Or, maybe, you just really like them? I have a few characters that I've worked with on and off for years. In a way, it was limiting at first, but over time I've built up a wide enough range that I can tell all sorts of stories with detailed characterization. Sometimes the characters are recognizable between works and sometimes they aren't...but as long as they fit, all is well.
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