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Looking Back

In the past whenever I finished up an event game I always tried to do a write up afterwards. Truth be told, I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile now, but I’ve been exhausted, busy and honestly I wasn’t really sure what to say.

Unlike Pilgrim’s Road, which was, honestly a fairly easy and smooth process, Battlefleet Excalibur’s development was... kind of a mess. For the Abrupt Ending Party Event, you were allowed to take notes and make graphics before the event actually started, and I’d managed to get all my interface stuff done and planned out ahead of time. With the Valentine’s Day event, there was a ‘no starting of any kind’ rule, which meant that planning, sound, graphics, interface design, eventing and dialogue writing all had to be done at the same time. Yikes. I did offset this somewhat by scavenging some resources from other games I’d done. New Eden is using the same textures as Mon Gazza from a Star Wars project I’m working on, on again off again, and the dialogue UI is from Pilgrim’s Road 2 (another off again and on again project), but things were still pretty chaotic, and I spent a lot of time on my breaks at work trying to figure out just how I was going to put everything together.

Originally the strategy mechanics were going to be a lot more complex. New Eden would have had ten regions, each of which would have a limited amount of infrastructure you could build as well as populations that had to be managed. Aliens would attack them individually, and a lot of the drama would involve figuring out which regions to sacrifice and which to preserve. Defending everything would have taxed your fleet to the breaking point, and you’d have lost. Probably would have made for much more interesting gameplay, but for obvious reasons that just wasn’t going to be feasible and it got downscoped immensely.

Likewise, the story was originally going to play out very differently. In my earliest drafts, Charlotte would have had a bunch of people advising her (think the Small Council from A Song of Ice and Fire). Each of them would have had his or her own motivations, and there would be some drama between them, the scientist would have been appointed by the Emperor himself, and would have only cared about studying the alien menace, and not necessarily actually beating them, the Union Representative wouldn’t have cared about anything more than her profits, the Marine Commander would have tried to keep his casualties to a minimum and the Governor would have tried to keep all of his people from getting torn to shreds. Dealing with their squabbling and conflicting agendas would have generated some drama.

The Excalibur would have been part of New Eden’s defence force, and Charlotte would have arrived via shuttle, except the aliens would have captured you somehow enroute. Cue a heroic rescue courtesy of the Marine Commander, and the game would have played out normally. Fredericka shows up, Charlotte reconnects with her, but once you built the PSI Jammer, oh, whoops, it turns out that Fredericka had been dead all along, while you were in the aliens custody they scanned your brain, built a simulacrum of someone you trusted, got her into your command staff and had her trick you into building a psychic amplifier.

But then AlienFredericka actually falls in love with you for real, and after building the amplifier, she walks into the facility with a nuclear bomb, gets into a standoff with the marines, radios you and begs you to destroy it from orbit. Charlotte hesitates, a massive portal opens up and an ungodly amount of aliens spew out. Then the two of you fly into the alien portal (along with the rest of your fleet), fight your way past some mega deathstar aliens, then confront the Big Bad Evil Guy. Like in Earthbound, you wouldn’t actually be able to kill him with your weapons – you and AlienFredericka would use the power of love to drive him insane and collapse the portal – galaxy saved.

That got simplified a lot. In the next revisions the aliens would have just scanned Charlotte’s mind telepathically (this is why she’s been having headaches by the way) but then it got totally abandoned after someone on the Discord figured out the entire plot. Fredericka is totes real and I actually don’t know why the aliens messing around with Charlotte’s brain. Tactical and strategic information, I guess? The Big Bad Evil Guy does still show up on the ground combat screen though. He’s the Blue ‘Mass Effect 2 Concept Art’ Fetus thing opposite to Charlotte (who uses artwork from Star Wars: Crimson Empire. That’s Mirith Sinn by the way. A character who is definitely not Mara Jade).

Originally the “Small Council” guys were cut for time, but I think if I could do it over again but with unlimited resources, I’d still remove them. Having Charlotte only interact with the Adjutant reinforces how socially isolated she is, and how important Fredericka is to her.

There was also going to be a plot thread where the Emperor was straight up trying to get Charlotte killed, and he wanted her to fail. The outer colonies were super disloyal and difficult to govern and he knew she hated his guts, so would have sent the bulk of his fleet to the core worlds, and allowed the aliens to ‘clean house’. A few remnants of this can be found in the codex, where it talks about how the Marines don’t really like the Empire, and how New Eden isn’t allowed to built any heavy weapons. Unlike almost everything else, it wasn’t scrapped for time. I just thought it would have given Charlotte a more active role in the story if she was told to retreat, but instead disobeyed orders and stayed.

A few other plans that never made it into the final game were the Emperor himself. My earliest ideas for him were as a sort of Raistlin or Palpatine like figure. An evil wizard who did evil wizard things and was very mysterious.

This evolved into him actually being an immortal brain in a jar, who had thousands of cybernetic clones of himself. They ran around the palace and did his bidding. Instead of sleeping, the clones would have gone into a ‘borg regeneration chamber’ type thing, uploaded their memories of the day and downloaded new instructions telling them what to do. Their implants robbed them of any free will, and they were really just highly intelligent meat puppets. Assassinating one of them would have been meaningless, and actually getting to the Emperor himself would have been nearly impossible since he was deep underground, in the mother of all bunkers.

Building off of that theme about the brain Emperor wanting to live forever, all of his concubines were only allowed to have daughters. Imperial laws of succession meant that women couldn’t inherit land, so this was meant to prevent any of them from trying to overthrow him, and also give him family members he could have put in high places. That’s why Charlotte only ever mentions having sisters, and no brothers or anything.

This never made it into the final game because quite frankly while it is an interesting piece of lore, I don’t like mandatory info-dumps. Unlike in Pilgrim’s Road, the gameplay here didn’t really let me stick in an optional library, and while I could have used the Codex instead, I wanted to keep everything in it relevant to the game, and not some weird background stuff that had little to do with the story.

I guess that’s about everything?

I should probably stress that I don’t have any plans to mess around with Battlefleet Excalibur beyond just basic bug fixes. It’s true that there’s a lot more I could do, but the longer I make the game, the more complex and in-depth the gameplay would need to be, which means making more complicated systems.

The thing about making RPGMaker 2003 CMS stuff is that the more complexity you add, the amount of effort needed to make it increases exponentially. The Pilgrim’s Road overworld took me maybe four hours to make.

The Pilgrim’s Road 2 overworld took me days to make, and it’s still only ‘mostly’ functional. A bunch of features still need to be added in.

I don’t really think anyone’s going to care enough about my weird sci-fi game, but, as I said in the comments, if someone actually does want to mod it, or make something that’s derivative of it, I really don’t mind. They’re also, likewise free to steal any of the unused ideas I mentioned in this blog post.

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I recommend everybody to click these two video links Sidewinder included in this blog post. You'll see some quite stunning stuff there and you won't believe these were done using just an RPG Maker!

Wow!
The RPG Maker 2003 Update v1.12 leads way to many abilities some may consider to be... unnatural.

Also the maniac's patch lets me use the mouse which is really useful.
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