This is my Weekly Update, and it's late; I couldn't think of anything to write on Sunday, but now something has actually come to mind!
I've been working on Miasmon all week again, and I've got some stuff done, mainly technical things, so while progress isn't exactly going *fast*, it's at least going steadily.
Anyway, over the last two or three days, I've been trying to work out the plot for the game... which sounds stupid since I SHOULD have had the plot sorted out *ages* ago.
I thought I had. I had a sort of 'skeleton plot' planned out, which would span three chapters, and while it wasn't detailed, I thought it was good enough and it'd be easy to add the details later.
Now that I AM adding the details, however, I've found that there are a lot of gaping holes in the original plan that'll take some thinking to fill. In doing so, I think I've come up with an adequately detailed 'backstory' for the world at large, and an acceptable plot to string the three chapters together, but... hmm. It seems that I've got two completely different potential ideas for how the game could *start*.
My original plan - which I've talked about before, which is shown in the screenshots, and which is currently in the game in a vague sort of way - was that you played as an elderly male scientist who'd basically invented the whole monster catching thing... Hmm, I suppose I should explain a bit to be clear.
The planet that Miasmon takes place on is called 'Fracture', and it's a strange place; it had its crust blasted off into small chunks - 'islands' now - which all orbit a naked core. It used to have a sentient race living on it, but whatever cataclysm fractured the world must have killed them off. Humans came and colonised the remains of the world as a novelty - despite the fact that it looks ruined, plants and people can still manage to live on the islands - and some of them became archaeologists to study the previous inhabitants and try to find out what wrecked the world. It'd be only natural for some people to be curious in that kind of way.
This elderly professor was one of the first archaeologists, and when exploring ruins, he found out that the ancients had managed to gain mastery over the 'miasma' that exists everywhere in the Fig Hunter universe, allowing them to create monsters at will and bind them into their service. They trained these monsters and battled them for sport, but also used them practically to enhance their society.
He managed to reverse-engineer the machines that the ancients used to create subservient 'clones' of monsters, meaning that he'd essentially brought the concept of monster training to humans.
However, while actually in the process of reverse-engineering the machines, an incident involving an improperly cloned monster resulted in something terrible happening to him, making him hate monsters. He did manage to finish his work and released the machines to the world, but decided that he'd stay away from it all and become a hermit because he rather hated monsters after that terrible event. (I know what the 'terrible event' IS, but I'm not saying it here for spoiler-related reasons.)
At the beginning of the game, two younger archaeologists (in their mid-twenties while the scientist is at least in his sixties) have found a ruin but lack the expertise to decipher the ancients' hieroglyphic language within. They turn to this hermit professor for help, and he reluctantly agrees to leave his life of solitude and help them, since he never did find out what fractured Fracture, which is what his original reason for being an archaeologist was. That's how his adventures begin.
While alone and away from the rest of the world, he'd continued his work, and tried to make artificial monsters that weren't just clones of monsters in nature, in order to make *safer* monsters to prevent the tragic event that scarred him from happening to anyone else. As such, you start with a unique 'synthetic' monster that nobody else has anywhere.
That was the original idea, and what I've been elaborating on in my plans for a while now.
However, the game starts really *slowly*... You start off as this hermit, and there needs to be a fairly lengthy introductory bit explaining who you actually *are*, since it is quite important. These two archaeologists come to visit you on your lonely Hermit Island - as I mentioned - and they talk amongst themselves, and then to you, about how you're this great scientist and archaeologist, but you're a hermit now, etc, etc. It drags on a bit and it's ages before you even get to your first battle, and I get the impression that that wouldn't be too appealing for people playing a Flash game. People would rather get to some instant action when playing a game like this, I'd imagine.
The idea appealed to me in the first place because I thought "why doesn't Professor Oak fill his own Pokedex? What if he did, and you played as him?"
It seemed an interesting and amusing idea, copying the 'learned monster scientist' archetype from the Pokemon games but making him the *protagonist* rather than a mentor figure who sends you on your quest.
It also seemed like playing as someone who's famous in the game world, rather than as some unknown teenager, might be an interesting and novel way to go about making an RPG world and plot.
However, he's *old* and a he, which means that female players who'd prefer to play as a girl might be turned off, and younglings might prefer to play as someone younger.
All these things considered, I had another idea for the start of the plot...
Instead, you could be a rookie archaeologist - probably in your late teens or early twenties - who'd just joined those same two archaeologists that were to seek out the professor in the original plan... You're dropped straight into the action; your team has discovered a ruin and you're going to investigate, which basically means a dungeon romp. There's a quick explanation about how this is a ruin and you should help explore it, but that's about it.
You'd be new to monster catching though and would never have battled with them before - this would mirror the player's own inexperience, making the character more of a relatable avatar - and you're warned that if you enter the ruins without a monster, you'll, well, die, so one of those two archaeologist plot characters would ask you to get a monster from the scientist who's joined the expedition... who happens to be the same elderly male (called Francis Marmalade) that you were originally meant to play as in the first draft.
That way, the designs for his character wouldn't go to waste. Rather than suffering through some tragic accident and hating monsters, though, he continued to be an archaeologist, and still seeks through ruins for secrets to the mysteries of the past.
He could still have been working on the synthetic monsters, but merely out of scientific curiosity and experimentation rather than because he wishes to make 'safer' monsters or anything. When you talk to him, he'd give you one of these synthetic monsters since he'd take a liking to you (for no particular reason...), and would ask you to try it out for him, since it hadn't seen use in battle. This way, you'd still be getting the same starter, but with different *reasons* behind it all.
If the game did start this way instead, it'd require a lot less rambling dialogue before the game began, and you'd be playing as a silent avatar of yourself rather than a plot character with a personality. That character would still *exist*; you just wouldn't control him.
You'd be younger and you'd be able to choose your sex, too. (Though please note that you'd not be able to choose the details of your appearance or anything; that'd take loads more work and I don't want to do it.)
In the original plans where you played as Francis Marmalade, I couldn't decide whether to make him a Silent Protagonist or to give him an active role in conversations and a set personality... I eventually decided to make him talk.
If I did this other idea instead, he'd still talk and have a personality, but your protagonist would be mute, like you are in Pokemon; other people would do the talking for you. This again makes the player character more of an avatar for the player rather than a set character with a certain story role.
The rest of the plot beyond the beginning could work in very much the same way whether you played as Francis or a rookie undefined-gender young archaeologist person... It'd require minimal rewriting and it'd still span three chapters as it was originally meant to. Much of the plot revolves around those two archaeologist NPCs anyway.
So! What I'd like to know is which of these approaches you'd prefer...
Would you prefer to play as an old man with a set personality who is talked out of being a hermit by a pair of archaeologists, via a long, long conversation explaining his backstory and their reasons for asking him at all?
Or would you instead prefer to jump right into the action and play as a young rookie archaeologist with a sex of your choosing who'd merely interact with the old man at times, and who'd be a colleague of those two archaeologists rather than some celebrity that they sought out?
I'm okay to do either; I'll do whatever seems most appealing though. Neither will delay the release or anything since both require just as much work to implement.
I feel like I should elaborate a bit more on this because some people may be getting the wrong idea; I might have explained the ideas poorly. Obviously this won't make much sense unless you've read the bit before this.
Whichever choice I go with, the amount of plot dialogue *will stay the same*. The difference isn't in how much there'll *be*, just who the focus is and the pacing.
For example, if you are the scientist, these events happen right at the start:
- He wakes up in his house and greets the day, then goes out for a walk to his lab to start the day's work.
- He overhears some visitors talking about him, this famous scientist, who they've come to visit. They each talk about their perceptions of him to eachother, and the dialogue goes on for a minute or two. When they're done, they enter the professor's lab (there are two buildings on his island; one is his lab, the other is the house that he sleeps in).
- He enters the lab after them, and they greet him, saying that it's an honour to meet such a famous and influential man, etc. They explain why they are there; they found a ruin but need his expertise to help them, since he was the best archaeologist back in the day. Or something. He goes on a bit about how he's a lonely hermit and how he left that life behind him, so they try to convince him. He is an old man who is rather set in his isolation, so this takes a while (it'd be 'emotionally cheap' if they quickly convinced him), but eventually they succeed.
- They give him an item called a 'totem' which can be used to evolve your starter; you get a choice of one of three, so it's basically like choosing the element of your starter. There's an explanation by the archaeologist about how these are trinkets that they found in ruins, and that they'll give you one as payment. Your character comments that he could use them to affect his synthesised monster.
- After this exchange, the archaeologists leave the lab.
- If you leave the lab, you find one of them waiting, blocking a path. He talks about how you'll need monsters to battle things if you're going to come with them and help. The scientist mentions that he's always hated monster battling since that fateful day, and they talk about this for a while. The scientist also brings up the synthetic monster that he's been working on. After more talking, they eventually have a battle to test whether the scientist is ready.
- After the battle, the archaeologist talks more about where to meet up with him, etc. Then he leaves.
- If you try to leave the island, you find the archaeologist blocking the way again, and he mentions that his partner has wandered off somewhere...
- You find this partner in a third building on the island which contains information about the ancient race that used to inhabit the world; it was designed as a museum or library to educate people about the scientist's work (since it'd make sense that people would want to learn such things if he was famous), but after his terrible incident and subsequent isolation, it's never been officially opened. The other archaeologist is found within, fascinated by what's in there. From a gameplay perspective, this introduces the ancient race's customs and stuff, which will be important for the plot later... But to learn about them, you basically have to read through a load of bookshelves.
- Eventually, after a chat, the other archaeologist leaves and you can leave the island yourself.
- You travel to the second island, where most of chapter 1 takes place...
However, if you played as a young archaeologist, the following would happen instead:
- You arrive on a small island that contains a cave. An archaeologist greets you with something like 'you made it, rookie!' He briefly explains that the ruin that your team is excavating can be found in the nearby cave, but you can't go in without a monster otherwise you'll die.
- You have to talk to Francis, the elderly scientist, who gives you your starting monster, after a brief bit of dialogue explaining how he's been working on synthetic things.
- The archaeologist - who was blocking the way before - sees that you now have a monster, and says something like 'but do you know how to use it?' and battles you.
- When you win, he congratulates you and tells you to head into the cave. He tells you that there are archaeologist NPCs in there who will explain the basics of monster training if you don't know about that sort of stuff, but it's optional to talk to them.
- Once inside the cave, you meet the second of the two archaeologist plot characters, who explains briefly the machines that you can use to heal and clone monsters, just so then nobody would miss them and complain about not knowing how to heal...
- After this meeting, you can explore the ruins for a bit, where you encounter monsters that you can battle against and clone.
- Mid-way through the ruins, you'd encounter the two archaeologist characters exploring a room and finding no way to continue. You'd find a fairly obvious switch and open up a secret passage, which would lead to a room with 'totems' in. Impressed by your accomplishment, the archaeologists decide to give one of them to you as a reward. When they've left, Francis comes in and remarks about the totem, encouraging you to try to use it on the synthetic monster that he had given you.
- Deeper in the ruins, you'd find ancient relics that tell you things about the ancients' society. It'd be the same information you'd have got from the library on the hermit's island, but here you're seeing it first-hand instead. Rather than having to tediously read bookshelves, different bits would be introduced one-by-one, described by one of the archaeologists (further fleshing out that character's personality and perceptions about such things), and interspersed by more dungeon crawling and battles and stuff.
- Once your dungeon romp was complete, your team would take what they'd found there back to their base, on the second island, and from there, the plot would continue in the same way that it would with the first idea.
I wonder if this additional explanation will make it clearer how each one would have the same amount of plot - the latter might actually have *more* - but the pacing is just completely different. The first one is slow, the second one is more involving.
The main point is that one dumps a load of backstory stuff on you right at the start, while the other introduces the same stuff bit-by-bit.
I should also make clear that I'm not interested in plot suggestions; I've planned a lot of other stuff which I haven't described here (90% of the plot is done and decided on), and these are the only two starting points that'd make sense with it, and which fit with the characters' personalities and roles and which have sufficient buildup to future events, in my mind anyway. So I'm not looking for your ideas about different approaches to starting the game; I'm just interested in hearing which of my two ideas you'd prefer.