Conundrum

I made a pretty bold promise in Throw It Against the Wall* a little while ago. That was that 2012 is the year I make a video game.

I really thought I had it figured out. I wanted to finish and put to rest an idea that’s been kicking around since, probably, seventh grade. It’s evolved since then, but the core of it has always been the same. A story about relationships in wartime, about disparate definitions of right, about making tough choices and taking terrible, necessary action that you know will ruin any semblance you have to the person your partner fell in love with.  It’s since gained a setting and philsophic base torn from the pages of Plato’s Republic. It’s a Final Fantasy-inspired JRPG called Spuria, and it’s experienced fits and starts in various forms since I discovered RPG Maker about five years ago.

When I read about the impending English-language release of RMVX Ace, I figured this would be the perfect time to do it.  New system, more options, some enabling constraints on what I could and could not do.

Something kept nagging at me as I began to make notes on this game.

It’s big.

It’s too big for me to do as a labour of love. It’s something that would need a team.

And I don’t want a team on this “make a game 2012” project. Not really. This is something for me to challenge myself, to put something together in a medium that will tax my writing and artistic abilities, my direction and ability to create something complete.

I did a little mental pro-con list about pursuing Spuria. Pros were really limited to “finally excising this idea from my brain.” There was some self-congratulatory stuff about having really fascinating characters and building in tangential learning opportunity. There ended the good ideas.

But the cons didn’t end. Too long. Too big. Sisyphean, if I really wanted to put a word to how it feels. Using a toolkit I’m not thrilled with. A genre I chose because the source material for this idea started as an homage to Final Fantasy VIII a squillion years ago, a genre I wasn’t overly familiar with or fond of. Limitations on my art. Limitations on how much voice acting I could include. Limitations on the gameplay I could offer without learning the RGSS scripting language.

I’m not equipped to create a world in my spare time. But as I had no other ideas, I halfheartedly kept making notes and slowly updating a wiki to organize everything. For the last week, I’ve been developing a game I didn’t want to make.

Then, today, while putting away the dishes, I had a flash of insight. Just a mental image:

A man crawls out from behind a snow-frosted and upturned table, bleeding. The vessel he’s on is abandoned. He knows why he’s there and who he is, but has no idea why the boat is silent. It’s night. Polar night. He’s in the high Arctic, freezing to death, and alone. And something doesn’t want him to get off the boat.

Then I sketched this.

This is it. This is my game. Confined by the size of the boat. Confined in its scope. Atmospheric. A character study. An old-school adventure game, built on free tools, an opportunity to really showcase my art and writing. Fewer voice actors needed. And way more accessible than a JRPG.

I don’t have a name for it, or a high philosophical concept, or a motivation to make it that borders on obsessive. What I do have, however, might be something that people would want to play. And something I feel I can make–and make well.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.

-Trevor

*I know the TIATW feed is broken. I need to sit down and get it up and running again; Feedburner is pointing to a domain that no longer exists and the permalinks are similarly all broken. I’ll post when I’ve fixed all the things.

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