Tales of Arrissia 1

By way of introduction I thought it would be fun to write about my foray into Making An RPG. I figure the best way to do this is explain how the game I have In the Works, Tales of Arrissia, came to become what it is today. Be sure to select pictures you’re interested in to see larger versions of them along with some captions (some of which have sneakily-hidden links).


How the game looks today
How Tales of Arrissia is looking today. I thought it best to show the “good stuff” first!



Around June 2017 last year I decided to begin making games in earnest. As a long-time fan of RPGs – I enjoy the stories, character progression, and exploring the nooks and crannies of different worlds – it was an easy decision to focus on them. What I didn’t realise then was that making RPGs is an awful lot of work.  I’m thankful for my ignorance at the time, else I fear I’d never have dared embark on this mad journey.

At the time I thought I’d be releasing a 2D sprite-based ARPG I had been working on – think something combining the satisfying click-mashing of the Diablo franchise combined with that halfway-between-death-and-glory feeling of rogue-likes. I called it TechnoMance (magic and machines, of course!) Having gotten started though, certain nasty realisations started sinking in. Sprites and textures were taking me forever to draw. I was having issues with super-basic things like the camera and getting a decent-looking faux-3D isometric look and feel. The game itself was basically this hollow walking simulator flinging taunts my way in my imagination.


A screenshot from TechnoMance, an old project
Welcome to the walking simulator! You can also smack guys with your sword


My motivation for the project began flagging. I continued working on different game systems (note below the appearance of a health bar, which corresponded to a whole new health-management system for combat, healing, items, etc.), but overall progress was slow. Especially once I began working on character art. Elina Satola wanted to try out some sprite work, and she came up with those very nice pieces of furniture you see in the picture below. Not only did they look better than my stuff, but it took her less time too. And all this time I spent on art, I was losing out on learning how to improve central game systems – ouch.


A screenshot from TechnoMance, an old project
If a walking simulator looks ok, and plays ok, it’s probably only an ok walking simulator


Martin’s Magical Third Dimension

So, next step: admit I’m not capable of literally anything and everything. Even if I was, time – it turns out – is a hugely valuable resource. So either start using third-party assets or obviate the need for such time-intensive graphics. Remember, I had yet to really develop any interesting, you know, actual game mechanics. My solution was to migrate everything into a more manageable environment: 3D. This turned out to be a huge help; modelling in 3D was a slightly quicker affair, and by keeping the models basic I was able to sketch up decent textures and apply them – the end result is reflected in the image below.


Screenshot from test 3D project
The same but different


This way I was able to get back to properly working on game mechanics. Models were fairly awful (I mean, look at them), but with some love and attention (textures) they pulled through. Working in 3D meant quicker prototyping, and quicker elimination of bad ideas. More time on coding meant cool new systems; some new character statistics, levels, a DPS meter. Awesome.

This transition made things a lot clearer for me going forward – my path was clear. I drew up some character textures, planned and laid out a proper level, implemented a basic game-play hook (defeat enemies, gain experience but lose health, heal by getting potions or levelling, level up to reduce the need to heal) and an end boss. A dash of purpose (escape a castle with the help of a magician) and home-made sound effects spiced things up. Thus was born Martin’s Magical Mess. Finally I submitted it to the Mighty Internet. Games are meant to be played, but you might prefer a review by Four Mile Circus – the game was really just a simple little demonstration.


A screenshot from Martin's Magical Mess


Martin’s Magical Mess was, unfortunately heading in more the “hey I bet this could like sell pretty well on like Play Store if I can just like make twenty levels and chuck some ads in the middle of them” way. The game was a slightly-buggy, repetitive affair. Sure, one could throw in some collectables, achievements, passive play, etc., but that’s not how I’d like to roll. Remember, I’m making RPGs here, people. Stories, journals that you go and read over to check something, figuring out where that village is meant to be.


Enter PBM

So, I re-wrote a lot of the underlying code for the basic systems, making them modular so as to be able to play nice with their future siblings while upgrading what I could (like floating health bars)… It looked awful, and the picture doesn’t do the underlying work justice – but then again, if it’s ugly, it’s ugly. Also, the models were still made by me at this point – mostly. No point in drawing and mapping textures, or bumps, etc. for ugly models I’ll not end up using.


First screenshot of PBM
At least the barrels looked nice


Elina contributed a barrel for fun – she had been getting into 3D modelling as a hobby. We agreed to do a test-run with her doing a batch of models and see how things worked out. This was more for her benefit; I sometimes put more time into this than could be expected of others, and I didn’t want to make her head explode. With Elina managing the look and feel of most of the game, I got back to developing the meat. All those random bits and bobs of features like health, a menu, or enemies were stitched into distinct systems. I called it an ominous code-name PBM. It had a lot more actual game-play stuff.


A screenshot of some models from PBM during development
An improvement, yes?


Stuff like:

  • Character sheet and all the systems behind the stats you see
  • Equipped items affects statistics on equip
  • Inventory (click-drag icons to drop, move, or equip in equipment slot, mouse-over to inspect)
  • Ability Sheet
  • Health orb, experience bar
  • Click-drag hotbar for abilities and hotbar lock (to avoid accidentally moving icons)
  • Four unlock-able abilities which have levels of powers
  • Enemy types with certain kinds of abilities, behaviours, and statistics
  • Different item types like equipment types (weapons, armour, trinkets, etc.) as well as consumables, key items
  • A story I’ve been writing for sometime
  • Loot from enemies, items, rewards…
  • Conversation system, currently with multiple dialogue options, certain ones triggering events, soon to be branching
  • A journal system to track things to do
  • A save/load system
  • Handy UI features like different kinds of popups for mousing over UI elements, NPCs, enemies, etc.
  • Main menu and game menu, along with things like popup boxes for notifications (e.g. “you didn’t enter a name”)


Screenshot of the Character Sheet and Inventory
Marvel at the stuff


Tales of Arrissia

Myself and Elina have come to an agreement and she’s taken over modelling. I have been writing and am implementing story, lore, dialogue, and journal content into the game for the first area. Eight characters, complete with dialogue, several quests, and descriptions for about 25 objects (items or props). Primary game systems are looking fairly settled, and I’m heading towards the territory of  things like balancing stats, adding in and populating new areas, and expanding quests, characters, and general lore.

So now Tales of Arrissia is the name of the game (hah!) and it’s full steam ahead for this game.


Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave any comments, questions, whatever, below.



Posted on: July 20, 2018, by :

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