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Hello folks and thank you for tuning in to this blog update, the first in a long time, after some crazy busy months this first part of the year.

As ever, accommodating the development needs of a game like Winterfall when you've got all the obligations and responsibilities of regular life, tends to be a challenge. Thus time flies and we work a lot more than we do update, and maintain a slow, careful pace as we implement things that haven't really done before.

It's a funny thing because if you want to implement a level-based system or a gear-based system, you've got plenty of reference of it being done right (and wrong) in all kinds of games. In Winterfall, as we're going for broad simulation and entirely new types of mechanics, we have to travel through the jungles of discovery and it takes a while, as well as meshing with other systems and mechanics for things to show if they work.


In the previous blog update many months ago, we talked about Emotions, Homecoming and Camping. To briefly recap:

- Emotions are felt by your character in response to any event (including feelings like hunger, thirst, or alleviating said hunger or thirst or others). What emotions are felt in response to what stimuli depends on your character's personality (which you determine initially and expand further along your adventures). Emotions are also the game's main currency as many things you do can be imbued with Emotion, and the way to interact with others meaningfully is through a transfer of Emotions. Emotions also build up to help develop your character's Traits, and they may also inspire the character to vent through certain Outlets, or indulge in other ways, depending on whether they're positive or negative.

- Homecoming is about how the character must "deliver" knowledge to a destination. As things happen along the way, such as adventures, misadventures or emotional highs and lows, the character may get forgetful due to intense immersion in his/her circumstances. It's therefore up to you to balance your character's emotional fulfillment and adventure-seeking, while preserving the knowledge he/she carries. That knowledge, as a resource, will appear again in the Remembrance system, which we will describe later on. To sum it up very quickly however, Remembrance is the means through which you will help repopulate the world, by bringing back things that once were. Remembrance is the score you will seek to build and keep high; whether you end up spending it to bring things back, or want to hoard it and bring home as much of it as you can, is entirely a matter of playstyle... and should have interesting consequences.

Ancient ruins and monuments are where you will soak up on that lost knowledge

- Camping allows you to manage your character's needs and emotions, work on restoring clouded knowledge, and all kinds of restful and planning-based things.It is the downtime in-between days of the journey and an important step of your adventures. While you may at times feel pressed by events and goals and only seek a short night's rest, you'll sooner than not seek the solace of a proper camp.

Those systems were a very important thing to implement as they lay the groundwork for further Wilderness gameplay developments. Everything stems from there, as additional systems are based on them.

Our next goals for August & September are implementing a few more systems and mechanics:


The Drives system, which allows characters/entities to react to their emotional state or environment by wanting to do certain things to either alleviate what disquiets them or to bask in what positive feelings inhabit them at the time. A common example would be to have a hungry character actually want to eat... but will they want a picnic or will they want to feast on a catch of fresh fish or feast on wild game? Drives are based on all kinds of character states and ultimately on environmental factors as well. Maybe seeing those alluring ruins in the distance will summon the drive to go explore them. Maybe the character will wake up in the morning with the drive to go fight someone. It'll be up to you to seek to fulfill or frustrate those Drives, for emotional gratification or character discipline.

Personality Traits

The core Trait system should follow suit, enabling you to build your character's personality by "purchasing" behavior and reaction modifiers from a choices tree, spending Emotion for it. The idea here is not just to build stats and bonuses, but also fine tune who your character actually is and what your character can do when dealing with both Emotions and people. The idea is to attain a high degree of reactivity and customization, and give the characters powers of personality that they can use to impact situations: if you could appease or terrify that aggressor, be it wild beast or person, that could spare you from the risk of a messy fight. Those Traits will come as story nuggets, so you'll also be able to write your character's story that way, by acquiring Traits.

Character Controller Improvements

Also on the table for this month, further improvements to the character controller. As Winterfall does involve a ton of jogging and walking around, the character should really be interesting and comfortable to pilot. Dealing with obstacles and landscape features in a more streamlined way is a target, enabling the character to jump or vault over things and so on. It's not supposed to be Mirror's Edge or Assassin's Creed but it should be satisfying nonetheless so hopefully we don't run into trouble putting that together.

Interaction Developments

Winterfall is meant to be a highly interactive game, where all sorts of things are available to be interacted with, bearing some kind of effect immediate or delayed, visible or invisible. From spear-fishing to camp-building, drinking from a spring or carving arrowheads, taking a swim in the pond or napping in the shade, there are so many things you're supposed to be able to have your character do (especially when your character insists that you let them do them!). Also, as Winterfall maintains a high focus on nice and immersive visuals, the idea is to make those things happen, animated, on-screen, as opposed to simply making them text-based. We've put together the basic framework that allows us to add animated interactions, so the next goal will be to add effect parameters (for example effects to character stats) and expand the list of animations available to the player.

Morphs & Emotions = Character Expression & Customization

An important aspect of any RPG for me, something that Winterfall has to have to a high degree, is expressive characters that can be customized in detail. While the basic function and mechanics have been engaged, there's still a long way to go to properly implement that into the game, and that's more of a long term goal. But it's good to know that it's already here to be experimented with as opposed to being completely hypothetical. It's all about design challenges and priorities, so it'll all be about time and money. But we can do it and we will do it.

The "I know something you don't" shift

Weather Manager

So we have great-looking clouds, rain, storms and so on, now it's going to be about integrating them through a manager that follows the interactive logic in Winterfall, where it's the things that you do that impact the environment around you which, as a fully-fledged entity, reacts in the ways it knows to. So expect storm, mist, thunder, lightning, rain, snow and so on to not just be random events but part of the broader game between you and the world. As time goes by, you will know the disposition of certain regions and how you should navigate and engage them for certain types of environmental settings. Maybe that particular area tends to be foggy after noon... but also, maybe it doesn't like you lighting fires out in the open, or maybe it doesn't like you killing its wildlife... or maybe it just doesn't want you there. With the Personality/Outlets mechanics already functional, plugging the Weather Manager to it all won't be major work, but it'll be work nonetheless. It should however be really exciting to experience once it's in!

Storm, thunder, lightning, snow... What did we do to piss off the mountain?

Core Experience

We will also be starting to solidify the overall thing into a more playable structure. At the moment, Winterfall is a whole bunch of systems and mechanics that all exist in the same space but aren't really structured into an actual experience. So we'll look into that, even if that involves using some menus as placeholders and so on.

We are also building video material to presents aspects of the game or aspects of the world and will begin releasing that when we've got a nice little pile ready.

There is a lot more in the works, including some wildly ambitious (and actually quite down to earth and effective design-wise) things involving AI and settlement/development but those would deserve an article of their own complete with plenty of nice pictures and so on. That sounds like a good topic for the next devblog!

Stay tuned, and as ever, thank you for following Winterfall!

Going to be telling you a little bit today about the work that's been up with Winterfall recently and where things are going. It'll allow a bit of further direct insight into how the game is meant to work in actual practice, at least the part dealing with "Wilderness Adventures".

Conditions & Emotions

As you can see on this screenshot, we've got a basic UI, entirely placeholder, but featuring some new elements.

So, as you no doubt gathered from the rest of website and the various posts made about the game, Winterfall is at the core about two things: wilderness adventures and character+house development. I'm going to tell you about two core systems that touch upon both those aspects and communicate with one another.

The first aspect is how we twisted the core "vital needs" design abundant in survival games to give it a little more depth and make it a bit more suitable with what we're doing with Winterfall. In Winterfall, the survival component is emotional survival more than it is physical survival. The feeling here is that regular survival gets a little tired by now - too many games out there that make you wander around between loot spawns until you die of some thing or lack of a thing or other. We didn't want to leave it at that. That design is pretty primitive in that it does not leave room for long range development and worldbuilding, since everything is a closed loop of living and dying.

So here, as you can see at the top of the window on the left, we have a hierarchy of colors that set up a personality type. Colors were chosen because they're easy to get a general idea of, ultimately we'll plug actual, specific traits to those colors:

But you get the idea, I'm sure. Blue/Soul = emotion and depth, Red/Heart = action and intensity, Green/Will = physicality and stability, Yellow/Spirit = mentality and agility, so to speak. So you get to determine a hierarchy of colors for aspects of your character's life and personality. In this case, the Primary color slot deals with vitality and core needs.

Beneath that you get a bunch of additional values. Two "threshold" values and three percentile values (untouched here):

Further down, you get status indicators, which we call Conditions. Standing around a bit seems to have made our character slightly thirsty, very hungry, and quite exerted:

Beneath that, at the bottom, you get Emotions, presented as -/+ gauges centered at 0, although here, the physical activity described above has worked our character's emotions negatively a bit:

So the entire idea essentially is that you have a personality structure in place. Each Condition is attached to an Emotion so that each time a character is stimulated, it may react by generating a primary emotion, occasionally a secondary emotion, or no emotion at all. To that end, we check the Condition's Color, the character's personality Colors, and there we go we get a coherent, reaction through the generation of an emotion.

So as you run around the countryside and get hungry or thirsty or hurt or exerted, it's not just that you want to eat or must drink or die but instead that there is an emotional buildup in your character based on those stimuli.

Those emotions aren't just there to look pretty, of course. They have a fourfold fate:

Outlets - Emotions pile up (positives or negatives), upsetting the character towards a reaction, which we call an outlet. Now, based on the emotion type, the personality type and the % value at the top of the window, the character's chosen outlet will be determined. It's something the character needs to do to either alleviate the pressure of a negative emotion, or enjoy the benefits of a positive one. When it gets to that, the character will notify of its feeling and then it's up to you to let the character indulge itself or keep him/her focused away from that. Think of it as a mini-quest, or a bit like the Whims in the Sims. Both doing and not doing have consequences, of course, some of those explored in the follow-up Homecoming System. But short term, in the moment to moment of your adventures, they may introduce an element of chance and surprise, and also of entertainment for the player. Right now, Outlets are lines of text, there are 12 positive and 12 negative (stuff like self-grooming, meditation, playing games, self-lamenting, getting intoxicated, reaching out to someone, going on a binge, breaking something...), but they'll be a lot more entertaining when they become animations and cascade into gameplay.

A good shower under the waterfall as a fine way to relax

Development - There is a Rest button by the middle of the window, near Conditions, to the right. At the end of every day in the wild, presumably you'll want to rest your character. Essentially, closing the day on a given emotional balance or imbalance will "fixate" those emotions in the character. As fixated emotions cross thresholds, the character earns new personality traits fitting its personality and further influencing the way the character reacts to certain things, or the needs that it has, etc. Some traits will be fun, others not so fun, some will build up an idea you had of your character, some may go on a tangent... then it's up to you to accept or deny, knowing that traits do build up over time and that you'll ultimately be able to work against them if you don't like them. At the moment, we do have fixation but not trait-acquisition.

Interaction - Emotions are also to be used as a "currency" that you can pass on through various interactions. As they build up, you can "pass them on" to other characters, for instance you can vent your excess anger to someone else, and that anger may become that person's burden to carry from then on. Or maybe that other person will react to your anger with fear, with sorrow, or will feel amused or unmoved. The same rules that determine how your character reacts to the needs it feels are to be used to determine how any character reacts to any interaction and emotion, basically. Such mechanics are not in yet, but given that in-between every journey there is to be a halt, you'll walk into that camp or inn or homestead with a lot of pent up emotion that you have to do something with... there again, it offers interesting interaction possibilities, with direct consequences to interactions as well as over time, longer range effects as characters and entities remember you and their previous interactions with you and how those went.

Collecting some negative emotions from Mr Funny Hair, apparently.

Power - Just the same as you'd use Emotions as currency, you'll be able to use Emotions to acquire certain powers of personality, or invest items you may be making with a certain "power". We aren't going into fireball territory here because it's not the point. But there are many simple and understandable ways to invest those emotions through all the regular effects and uses you can think of for crafted items. More potent poisons, sweeter food, deadlier weapons, that kind of thing. Of course, using Emotions in such processes means embracing them and working with them. So just as with the "Development" aspect, those Emotions will fixate themselves into your character and it will grow associated traits. It will be hard for someone riven by fear and anger to dedicate themselves to crafts that demand focus and joy, for instance. Try singing a cheerful ballad to your friends when all you can think about is how angry you are with everything... but then again, if you need to rile them up for an upcoming fight, maybe that anger will go a long way.

Holding a sword to the light, an adventurer thing to do.

So as you can see, this whole Personality component and its loops and branches, allow us to inject much needed depth into the walk-around open-world rpg experience. Its core and mechanics make it easy to replicate at other scales and integrate with other systems so that any event can trigger a reaction in the character, and as you've gathered, as soon as there's a reaction, there's a little cascade of things not far.


Currently, this system branches out into the Homecoming System, which follows this concept:

The Homecoming System structures the part of gameplay that deals with integrating (or returning) a character to the House through a journey, adventure or ordeal. In so doing, both the character and the House will be augmented or altered in some way.

The concept is that the character starts from a haven or sanctuary and is tasked (or tasks him/herself) with delivering a resource to the House. The House being set in the lands of the Old Kingdom, it is thus located in what is known as the "Lower World", a land teeming with life where the call of the wild brings forgetfulness and a desire for unbound freedom.

It is against the effects of that call that the characters will struggle, by trying to retain what resources they are bringing, in the face of forgetfulness, devaluation and wastefulness.

Journey by journey, you will be delivering the "exp" that the House needs to grow in its various areas: cultural identity, technical knowledge, historical identity and prestige. With that "exp", you will unlock perks and traits for the House, which may lead to events, facilities and so on.

Ancient ruins are a good place at which to refresh your lost knowledge

Currently, the Homecoming System ties in with what I described earlier through how the emotional ups and downs of the character may bring about that "forgetfulness" that is mentioned in the concept text, as well as "devaluation and wastefulness". Through emotional ups and downs, the character may get carried away by the thrill of adventure and the ordeal of survival, and forget about his/her mission and the value and contents of the knowledge and values he/she is bringing to the House. When the character finally arrives home, the "resource" carried by the character is tallied and we see how much of it was preserved and will be usable as "exp", so to speak.

Momentous ruin-touching snapshot, because a slight bit of cinematics cannot hurt the immersion

The Camping system, which is our current in-development item (also as ui for the time being) plays into that since at Camp, the player can manage the character's needs and Emotions, get some rest, but also try to counter the effects of forgetfulness and wastefulness that cloud his/her remembrance of the cause and goal of his/her journey (as well as do a whole bunch of camp-related activities).

Ruins are nice for camping but also a great place to brood over the landscape, Winterfall-style

Hope this clarifies things a bit for you. As you can see, we're working on somewhat unusual stuff for Winterfall, as far as rpg design is concerned. It's exciting to have a fair bit working already. Despite the immense challenges of working on such innovative and "out there" systems and mechanics, It's thrilling to be implementing such unique systems and to get to talk about it a bit.

Thank you for your interest!

Lately I've been coming across a lot of indiedev porn inspired by the whole coaching movement where it's all about loud common sense, aggressive positivity, raging self-affirmation and catchy words like soul, purpose, life hack and things like that. I don't believe in that stuff all that much because we're all different, and while a small few general notions do apply to us all, they often crumble in the face of our unresolved blockages and resistances. I also find the whole coaching thing a bit self-serving but that's another story.

Yeah!!! wait, what?

So today I would like to talk about the mindset that has driven Winterfall up to this point, through 10 tenets, in no particular order of importance or meaning. I guess they're all important and meaningful to me. And there's 10 because its nifty but there could probably be a few more. I'll throw some unrelated screenshots in-between for eye candy.

Anyways, I think it may be interesting because at its beginning and for a portion of its development, Winterfall was, basically:

- A first project ever, yet very ambitious in depth and scope

- An unfunded project led by an inexperienced and untrained guy

- An unstaffed initiative started by a purely creative person without dev skills

While it ticked every box towards the likelihood of complete, rapid and inevitable failure, its design philosophy and development approach were and remained based on a select few personal tenets that ultimately gave it its die-hard endurance and keep it going to this day, overcoming all and any odds.

A screenshot of the concept build 3 months into development:

How everything began for Winterfall... sort of come a long way. But there was multiplayer!

Multiplayer with midgets.

First I will describe the mechanics currently being implemented, those of the Homecoming System, as they will provide context for some of the examples I'll be taking in this post by describing one of the larger segments of the gameplay (the "open world adventure" thing).

"The Homecoming System structures the part of gameplay that deals with integrating (or returning) a character to the House through a journey, adventure or ordeal. In so doing, both the character and the House will be augmented or altered in some way.

The concept is that the character starts from a haven or sanctuary and is tasked (or tasks him/herself) with delivering a resource to the House. The House being set in the lands of the Old Kingdom, it is thus located in what is known as the "Lower World", a land teeming with life where the call of the wild brings forgetfulness and a desire for unbound freedom.

It is against the effects of that call that the characters will struggle, by trying to retain what resources they are bringing, in the face of forgetfulness, devaluation and wastefulness"

Now, let us begin.


Volumetric fog adds nice depth to the scene.


#1 "Know Thy Self"

Any indie dev on a first project is bound to hear the words of wisdom "Start small, focus on finishing something". With Winterfall, the opposite approach was taken: "start big and keep digging". This ultimately worked out specifically because I knew what I was made of and knew that less than total commitment to a grand idea would prove ultimately frustrating to me. As I knew I didn't have the discipline and knowledge required to tackle things in meticulous order on a small scale, unambitious project, I figured that going for something captivating for which I would be passionate would keep me going. It'd be, I thought, the best opportunity for me to develop steadfastness, organization and know-how, fueled as I'd be by raw motivation. I also knew of my personality tendency to never back down from the pursuit of a victory I believe in, no matter how bleak or hard things may look.

IN PRACTICE - The idea was to carve a path of challenges and boons as natural as possible to me to maximize my ability to adapt in overcoming the hardships and to extract nourishment from the victories. 4 years down the line, I have not lost a drop of motivation (though I've lost a lot of social life, creature comforts and money) and have only grown in competence, drive and character.

#2 "Go All In & Don't Forget to Experiment"

Coming from a contemplative philosophical outlook and pragmatic approach, and loving to play with ideas, concepts and notions, I found that binding development to an arbitrary schedule and external budget would prevent this project from going where it must go. Further interaction with school-trained developers and designers showed me that time and experiment-based maturity are as important as method and training and often overlooked. That is why such a project could never be done merely 9 to 5, "on the job-only" and had to be a full-time thing: it may be that often, "on the job-only" simply doesn't give the project enough time to reach its full maturity, for its concepts to go as far as they need to to make it into satisfying, organic design and logical gameplay. Beyond this specific project, as a designer, to me the ability to "bring the work home", that is to keep a brain processing thread on for the work at all times, whatever I'm doing, is crucial.

IN PRACTICE - as an example, the original Personality Simulator was nothing if not experimental and could be deemed "financially wasteful". It also kind of sucked. But it was a crucial sketch-phase of the streamlined version we have now on which many gameplay systems in the game rest or are to rest comfortably. On the same note, I soon couldn't go outside anymore without examining mountains and rocks, taking all kinds of mental notes as to how to properly build landscapes in the game.


The fog rolls down the mountain, gradually engulfing the valley.


#3 "Mimic Life"

Life is the ultimate game. Most of us are terrible at playing it because we are unable/unwilling to see that it is a game and then because we can't find a manual that explains how this "life" game is supposed to be played. Yet, for game design, life offers the best inspiration if one acquires the ability to look at its events and processes structurally and conceptually: how do things work? What is the point? What are events trying to say? Why is this happening? What is driving a person? In that area, feelings and experiences acquired in all kinds of life situations become useful at informing one's conception of design and gameplay. That organic conception can then be properly formulated in schematical ways in the language of game design, and executed as engaging gameplay.

IN PRACTICE - the Personality Simulator we built for Winterfall came out as a byproduct of deep personal exploration on identity, personality and relationships. The "emotional survival" bias of the game came out of personal life experience. The focus on wide open spaces to wander in and in which to manage personal emotional resources and emotions came from my love of mountain hiking. We can make gamified games based on prior games, or maybe we can be a little bit more contemplative in our inspiration and draw from the original source: living life.

#4 "Design Deeply"

In my experience and preference, games with some sort of depth to their design, or games with overarching philosophical logic are always more memorable in terms of the experience they deliver, than "gamified" experiences based on loops and short-term pavlovian conditioning. Long-range consequences to minute choices, developments over the length of a game, replayability through New Game+ unlocks, gratuitous achievements & challenges, pattern breakage and twists of unpredictability make a gaming experience ultimately a lot more alive and engaging. It is not to be about checklists of things to acquire or win, but rather, through incentives, to go out and play and get exposed to gameplay situations for opportunities to experience things and formulate new goals. In that sense, exploration, assigned goals, detours and replays become a chance to "get more game" rather than being the final and finite point of the game.

IN PRACTICE - having a Personality Simulator, an emotional survival system, an inventory/item management system, exploration incentives and ongoing resource management mechanics all connected and active during gameplay make it so that it's a lot less about winning, and a lot more about running with what matters to you, and every time you get out there, those systems will interact (along with some others) to offer you gameplay and goals to pick and pursue.


And now getting fully engulfed.


#5 "Build Modularly"

I never understood why the video game industry is so wasteful of its resources. Hundreds of thousands may be spent on making one game and all that has been created for it is often lost altogether if the game has no follow-up: game mechanics, game assets, world... new and finite may mean short-lived and unadaptable. In this project's case, the idea was always to make things modular enough that they could be expanded on, but also open-ended enough that other games could be made by using the same philosophy, architecture and assets. This logic applies itself to in-game systems, assets and mechanics as well as beyond. For instance, the Personality Simulator allows us to simulate a character and its reactions and inclinations. We can reuse that system to simulate a group or faction, or anything that is supposed to have a sense of personality and a reactivity. We can use it to determine how a material reacts to stimuli, we can use it to determine the stats of an item and so on.

IN PRACTICE - Your character is an entity, so is every character out there. The environment is an entity, with its own reactions. Everything is alive, due to simply upscaling a given system to another level of magnitude while leaving its interactivity wide open. Beyond in-game scaling and duplication of a system to be put to different purposes, should the game mechanics of Winterfall, a fantasy game, meet success, why not adapt them to a sci-fi shooter universe and gameplay? Things were then designed in such a way that a few hours of dev work and a new batch of art assets would render that possible. It'd bring the novelty twists of Winterfall to another genre and from the difference in genres and settings, create a whole new slew of experiences while running on the same design and platform.

#6 "Choice"

Games are based on choice, and plenty of it. The very nature of gameplay is generally about minute, split-second choices that take us down a path of consequence to be navigated with further micro-choices until victory, defeat or escape and reattempt. You can see such mechanics clearly at work notably in high frequency pvp games, where a single click or move or ability usage can mean a lot down the line. At another rate of speed and scale, you can see that also in strategy games.

On the opposite end of the choice spectrum, RPGs often pride themselves in terms of choice but those choices are often either cosmetic (customize looks and dress and goodbye) or hollow and instant (purchase upgrade to ability and goodbye). Choices are clear cut, much as they are in scenarios where the player gets prompted to act either absolute selfless goodness or gratuitous evilness. But such fake choice is simply meaningless and hard to connect with.

IN PRACTICE - It's not just about taking your character Home, but instead about how you will do it, in what shape you will deliver it. Rich and weary? Healthy and empty-handed? Strong-minded and morally bankrupt? Innocent and preserved? Or various mixes of all those? It's your call based on what it means to you, and the idea is that it will, over the long term, build up what you care about.


Within the forest, the atmosphere shifts dramatically. Gloomy...


#7 "Consequence All Over the Place"

Why not instead think of offering players to make isolated, time-separated choices, minute or momentous, that ultimately compete with one another and thus provide yet further choice? Why not letting players choose what is most important to them by giving them several non-crucial but important values to focus on? Why not giving several win conditions, not necessarily binary ("win/lose"), where the player does not feel that all should be succeeded at? Why the focus on perfect score and full checklists? Why the focus on score at all, why not scores? Why one win condition only? More choice and evaluation mechanics tend to mean a more customized game experience as the player plays in a way that he cares to, that means to him/her. This may well mean more engaging and memorable experiences ultimately. Look at strategy games. Anything but linear, ultimately made of lots of smaller victories, defeats, consequences, detours, explorations and attempts. Always engaging.

IN PRACTICE - You don't have to fight. You don't have to explore. You don't have to build relationships. You don't have to craft, you don't have to seek adventure... you can however do any of those, or all of them at once, you can focus on one or several specifically.

#8 "Making it Naturally Relatable"

Dwarves, elves, fantasy aliens, giant swords and laser beams, man-machine hybrids, furries, fireballs and magic are all nice and good, but coming with so many constraints, conventions and comparisons, aren't they a bit expensive by now? If you don't need to explain that the big bad black dragon with green fumes is the bad guy hell bent on destroying the world, it's just because you're knee-deep head first into cliche territory and that's bad. If you do need to explain, it's just that you're being pretentious. People got it. They just care about going through the motions of killing it (or maybe they don't even). If you go down the tropes route, they'll have a harder time focusing on the super-detailed world and characters you came up with if you don't put in three times more work delivering it. Either way, it's been done a hundred times before, so let's finally unsubscribe from it as the default, yeah?

IN PRACTICE - The "antiquity-inspired post-collapse dark age" setting of Winterfall is full of humans dealing with humans, history and wilderness. No elves, no fireballs, no zombies. You don't need a lot of knowledge to get into it and your assumptions may not work either. That means your mind is fully free to discover, enjoy, and build your understanding as you play.


... or diaphanous.


#9 "Integrity is Coolness Tuned all the Way Up"

As much as we like escapist fantasy, it turns out that our culture has found subjects grounded in reality or a sense of realism endlessly fascinating. It is interesting that in an age where heroic fantasy and sci fi have finally become totally mainstream, people tune in so massively to relatively low-fantasy shows such as Vikings and Game of Thrones. Everyone understands what it's about, it's close enough to not require suspension of disbelief, and with all that accumulated goodwill from the audience, you can then introduce funky stuff and they'll love it. It seems to me that starting from a simple, relatable premise gives the solid foundation that will spawn its own originality in terms of its intrinsic developments, both in world design and game design. Maintaining that integrity as a design value will tend to keep design centered on systems that logically grow out of the premise itself.

IN PRACTICE - Call of Duty in 2189 or Dungeon and Dragons with Predators is just still Call of Duty, is just still Dungeons and Dragons and then you're stuck down certain gameplay design alleys and people have no reason to care enough over the previous Call of Duty, Dungeons and Dragons, or similarly-inspired products. Whereas DayZ, simple as it may be, is so clearly defined that the game sort of designs itself from the simplicity of the premises. In Winterfall, as the premise is all about building a House, its members and its legacy in a fading age of overgrown wilderness, the design naturally formulates itself around matters of building, development, journeying, emotional survival and investigating the past.

#10 Give it its Growth Space

Ideas are great. Everyone has them and they're often a lot of fun. But what about protecting them? Because the world is so full of people who steal them, right? Well, no. It's almost become a meme by now for indie devs that ideas are ultimately worthless in and of themselves, that it's all about how those ideas are formulated and implemented. But what I find is talked about a lot less, is how design and execution kind of have a life of their own, or require a growth time of their own. In other words, by the time you start formulating that design and implementing it, and in the long run through giving it further attention, especially in connection with other mechanics and with input from other developers or testers, it's going to change. Possibly a fair bit. Some things are just great ideas but are unworkable in practice, some things are great but don't work so well within the rest of the product, you name it. It's important, I think, to realize that the real extent of your ownership of an idea is mainly in the responsibility you have to see it all the way through its growth to complete integration. Isn't it also one of the reasons why we talk about game development?

IN PRACTICE - 3 months into Winterfall's development, Shroud of the Avatar was announced. Same concept as Winterfall. Panicked me and sent me on a tailspin. As soon as Shroud of the Avatar started showing actual gameplay, I realized that while it may be the same general concept with some similar claims in its design, it had little execution in common. Now, years further down the line both projects pretty much don't have any common trait anymore. Ideas had time to go to their full maturity. No two people will grow to complete similarity, ideas work just the same way.


Time for a bit of rest.

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