In our D&D group we were all sharing the dungeon master role. Well mostly others would share that role in fact. I never enjoyed being the dungeon master as I was all over the place. I tried once to run an adventure I bought and it was even worst. So when I couldn’t escape the dungeon master duty it went like this…

First I had a vague idea of the theme/setting. That was enough for me or I should say that it was all that I felt comfortable having. Then I would design a few encounters not quite knowing where or when each encounter would take place. I knew how players would “get in” this adventure but I had no idea how they would get out. My thoughts were that eventually players would give me a way out of this and they always did.

The adventure players enjoyed most was starting in a tavern. There was some unknown crazy mage in there (unknown even to me) that would trap players inside his amulet (and I had no idea how or why). This amulet was containing some unique world which was allowing me to break any rules players might be expecting. Things were moving by themselves, nothing was really making sense. I guess it was my take on the “it was all a dream” experience. But it wasn’t a dream.

So eventually I got the players into the amulet, got them to face most of the encounters I have designed and I still didn’t know how they would get out of this stuff. The thing is that players were starting to have their own idea of how this could end.

On each encounter I improvised 99% of the stuff that was happening (including dice rolls…). I had players failed when I thought they should fail and they had their moments of glory when they caught me by surprise. A player telling me “I attack that monster” was a damn good way for me to punish him. They had to make sure they described everything they were doing and what they were trying to achieve. I really hate to seal fate by a roll of dice. Surprise me and you’ll be the hero of the day. Try to fool me and I’ll make sure your character remembers what just happened (I rarely killed characters but enjoyed using curses and that kind of stuff).

So it was getting late and somehow players felt they were near the exit. I heard all their theories and it gave me their way out. Turns out they were about 90% right but 10% was missing … The 10% I made up after hearing what they thought was happening … They got out of the amulet, felt they almost died and everyone was happy …

And now here’s me trying to create a game with a somewhat progressive story without the direct input of the players… It’s annoying I must say but right now that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to create some open-multiplayer-community-driven game.  I had my moments with Golemizer (again here players were mainly deciding which direction I would take) but here I want to create something that has a beginning, an end and a fixed price. Something that players can say “okay here’s a fully completed game I can play”.

I’m really struggling at the moment at having this game going in a specific direction. Since I started to work on the prototype many months ago I found some kind of direction to follow but I still feel incredibly insecure. I want to create something that will keep players busy for a few hours and I’m deeply afraid of creating something that feels incredibly repetitive.

Yes I’ve played many games that are incredibly repetitive yet highly addictive but this is not THIS project. That’s not how my mind is set right now. I have other ideas for this. Right now I’m trying to figure out something that feels like a natural progression. My lack of skills to create an interesting gaming experience with interesting narrative makes this difficult.

I think I’m really close of having something quite interesting from the whole mechanic/interaction point of view. I think that only a few pieces are missing and I should be able to figure this out. What’s missing though is the purpose. How will I be able to have players to play this for more than 10 minutes. That’s where I’m having difficulties. They are not there to feed me and I won’t be there to tell them “yes you might have something here”.

So I think I’ll try to do as much as level design stuff as I can and then I’ll have to work with someone to help me on the whole “motivational” thing. The whole “what the heck is happening in this game”. The whole “I want to keep playing because I want to know what will happen next” thing. I think that at this point I can say that I won’t be able to get it done by myself.

Coding? Optimizing? Mechanics? Childplay … Mixing all of this so it makes an interesting game? Well I’ll need help.

It’s frustrating because I’ve spent so much time on this code and that it can now achieve way more than it actually needs to achieve. I could very well release this as a “game programming tool” and I’m sure some people would come up with some clever stuff. The thing is that I don’t want to release a tool. I want to release a game …

Amazing how difficult it can be when you know what you want …