Hey, hey people. It’s been a while.
2021 was probably one of the most messed up years of my life, but I’m glad things didn’t completely go to hell. It’s time to throw away any lingering despair, and keep on keeping on. It’s time for a new beginning.
Today we’re going to talk a little about Arkavite. My plans, aspirations and goals, in both the short-term and long term. I also have some important things to discuss regarding Harahel, which we’ll touch on later. Forewarning, this devlog is a long one. So, without further ado…
Let’s finally touch on this. Now that the Harahel Interactive is finally stable, I’m shifting gears as I put more time back into Arkavite development.
Project Arkavite is a top-down pixel style RPG game currently being developed in Unity. This project has been a long time coming and is finally starting to pick up. The game takes place in a new fantasy setting, with some dungeon-punk elements sprinkled in. It’s a world of guns, swords and magic, sporting lecherous lewds and magnificent mysteries.
As I’ve alluded to in the past, Harahel was based on aspects of Arkavite’s world and lore. While many parallels can be drawn between the two, they are not the same. Though, the differences aren’t so far off that I couldn’t still unify the worlds (which is something I have considered doing and will touch on later). Gods, Magic and some of the more unique races, all come from Arkavite, as do some of the key locations depicted in the Harahel CYOA, and a number of boon and banes. Without hetting into story and spoiler territory, that is long and short of it.
The Game Plan
What is this game about, exactly? Let’s talk about that. Broadly speaking, I’m designing an open world in which you can go around adventuring, surviving and exploring endlessly. Something with many JRPG fantasy traits, but doesn’t strictly lock you down the path of a linear story. I want it to be possible for you to go wherever you want to go and do whatever you want to do. You could think of it like Elona + on steroids.
I’m going to create a live combat system. I have a good idea of how I want it to feel. Akane, is a particularly good reference I may look towards for inspiration, as it works in a similar pixel medium, and isn’t too far off what I wish to achieve. Of course my system will also need to interweave magic into the gameplay.
While the game will have a core story, there will be plenty of other aspects focusing on exploration, combat, survival, “romance”, and customization. This is the core scope of the project.
Let’s get meta. We want to create narrative comprised of various arcs which could play out somewhat independently, but work together contribute to something to the grand underlying narrative. After the correct arcs have been cleared, the plot elements from those arcs will converge on a main story plot point, pushing the narritive forward and tying everything up nicely, only to have the story branch out once more.
The idea is to let the story be approached from multiple angles and ensure it doesn’t have to be all encompassing. I have other ideas in mind for instilling a sense of urgency, but I want you to be able to take the story at your own pace.
The prologue at least initially will be rather linear, as the world will take some time to put together on the development end… At some point in the future, I intend to introduce alternate starts which would essentially give you, the main character, the opportunity for a different backstory. (And yes, Isekai is on that list).
In terms of how our storytelling is done, we have a VN style conversation system, which will eventually be hybridized with in-game sprites moving around and performing actions on screen. Quite reminiscent of many RPGs.
The player character themselves won’t have a VN sprite, as you are presumably playing from the protagonists’ POV.
We’re aiming for an open and somewhat organic world. A large part of the world will be hand-crafted (from cities to villages, wilderness and ruins). In terms of dungeon diving and some wilderness, we’re going to see about making things procedurally generated. This is going to fit into the lore of randomly appearing dungeons, and unimaginably hard to navigate wilds. Of course, we would still have handcrafted dungeons and wilderness where necessary, or even a mixture of the two if the situation called for it.
This also leans into the aspect of adventuring/exploration and giving more avenues for replayability. A long term goal of mine would be for the appearance of dungeons or monsters in the wilderness to hook into a guild and quest system. I will need to go into dungeons in a separate post as it is its own beast.
I’m not sure how deep we’re going to go on this. Some survival systems can definitely be too overbearing. Baseline, I would like food drink and rest to be a thing. When the going gets tough, and your supplies start to dwindle, satiation is a fun way of getting players to take risks and eat or drink things which they perhaps shouldn’t.
Day/Night cycle, and crafting are a given. We may introduce some kind of camping system to accompany this. I imagine camping could be used as a “downtime”, for talking to characters and getting to know them a little better (in both senses).
The next step-up would be environmental hazards, normal and magical. I would like to introduce weather systems, as that could be tied into apparel, and would make you think more about your loadout. Certain hazards may even force you to take shelter in dungeons or push you towards other fun scenarios. Perhaps a sadistic weather AI is needed?
My long-term, very aspirational goals for this would be to introduce building, and permanent structures, where you could create the façade of a house and enter it to customize its interior. Or even apply that same logic to airship customization, assuming it becomes possible to buy or build one. It would be fascinating to have it so that you could turn a cleared dungeon into your base of operations. Finally, I would like dismemberment to be a thing a-la Kenshi or Rimworld, and have it so that you could hot-swap body parts with automotive prosthesis.
In terms of customizations, the actor is going to have a good number of slots for adding on clothing. Once in game, there will be an aspect of magical, potion, curse, and esoterically induced transformations. This could in turn be used to further customize your own body.
Now, when it comes to visualizing these customizations, while you don’t have a VN sprite, you still have your in-game character you navigate the world with and perform combat with.
To the right, is the current sprite design I’m playing with. It’s not too big (only about 32x32px), but as you customize your character (clothing, hair, race, etc.) this sprite will be updated. There’s also going to be a bit of “text adventure”, in that you’ll always have a very in-depth text description of your appearance/body state, and be able to see any statuses you’re currently feeling.
While a character portrait for the PC would be nice, I’m not sure if it’s the best move at this stage. These can be hard to get looking right, when the PC has a lot of parameters to keep track of. And as the player becomes more customizable, this would add a lot more work. New items would warrant the need for more portrait sprites, and as we add more, the older ones might need revisions… I suppose It would be ideal if we used a nude character portrait. You certainly run into more difficulties when clothing has to be drawn for different levels of musculature, body size, and bust.
With the tiny sprite you run around the world with, and your full description, a lot is up to the imagination. Rather than saying “look at this image, this is what you look like”, you get to create a picture in your mind’s eye of what you look like, and I personally find that to be more immersing. I can certainly see the appeal of the other side as well, it may be something worth coming back to in the future.
Need I touch on this? I suppose It can’t be helped. There’s a few things I want to do here. Traditional romancing akin to what you find in otome gamu, and that other kind of romancing you may find in many otome eroge. Let your mind run wild. We have a main cast in mind. Pretty bois and some lovely ladies. Capture targets are key.
Recently we have just passed an important milestone in Arkavite development, and that is the creation of the dialogue editor. I want Arkavite to have a lot of openness and exploration to it, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s an RPG, with a lot of story/questing elements, and with that comes A LOT of scriptwriting & dialogue work.
Writing branching dialogue without a visual editor is hell. I have done it on a number of occasions over the years, and it was never fun. Docs? Docs are fine so long as you are working on a linear script. As soon as you try to loop back on yourself or introduce some branching in the narrative, it becomes an unthinkable mess. You can definitely use proprietary software to plan out branching dialogue trees, and later pull that into your game, but that come with its own problems. You then need to find some way of streamlining the process of importing all the dialogue for every scene, and tracking changes between your external editor, and in-game dialogue scripts… And then the testing and revisions…
After spending many sleepless nights searching for a solution, last year I bit the bullet, and decided, to sidestep all the hassle of that, by creating my own in-house solution. Enter, the Dialogue Editor. A program which allows us to write branching dialogue by visualizing the dialogue nodes. The best part of this, is that it saves directly to a format which can be used by the game. It’s also tied directly into the games systems, so we can easily script commands, and check for requirements before displaying choices or dialogue. All of this has been set up to work via drop-down menus, increasing our workflow exponentially. Harahel’s “Info System” acted as a great test for the initial prototype of the editor, and we have begun compiling our current script work into the editor so we can use it from here on out.
There is another reason for this existing. Not everyone on the team is proficient in programming. I find working in the editor takes out the issue of having to think about the linking/programming aspect and eliminates the risk of creating bugs as the commands and requirements are flexible, but still hard defined in the system.
Worrying about all that may distract you from writing naturally and being as creative as you can. My solution is based on a number of editors I’ve tried to work with and feedback from those who will primarily be using it. It takes advantage of the fact it can interact with the core game systems and lets you do things like check for parse-errors or quick-test a scene as they would appear in game on the fly.
It also looks kawaii as fuck. Yes, this is a necessary feature… Jokes aside, I can’t stress how handy this is, and likely will be for not only Arkavite but potentially projects. Arkavite 2 electric boogaloo?
Following on from the dialogue editor, the next important thing for this game is the parser aspect. As I touched on earlier, this game is aiming for a good deal of player customization, either via the character creator, or later transformation in the game itself. To immerse one in the story better and have these changes be more than superficial, I have developed a dialogue parser to marry into the dialogue system. Other than the basic things like how a character is addressed and other characters calling them by their name, the parser can pick up on all the nitty-gritty appearance aspects of the PC.
Of course, it’s more of a contextual thing if you need to start referencing things in relation to the player’s appearance, but the fact of the matter is that this gives us way more freedom in terms of writing. What’s more, the player character in game is composed of only so many pixels, something’s like the exact specifics of what you’re wearing, or what type kemonomimi you’re sporting might be ambiguous without referencing them directly. I like to think that it’s like we’re combining the aspects of old text-adventures of yore, with more modern pixel RPG systems. A hybrid system to capture the best of both worlds.
Here’s what I’m working towards. For this project, I have a number of releases planned. Each step of the way, I’m hoping we can pull from people’s feedback, and improve the game further.
- Project Arkavite – Character Creator
- Project Arkavite – Sandbox
- Project Arkavite – Prologue
The Character Creator
The Character Creator, lets you create your character. This is probably the first thing which will come out, and I’ll do it as more of an alpha people can mess around in as I work on it. I am making upgrades to the CYOA backend to better mesh with the character creator, and in doing so, this has given me more ideas for what I can do in terms of Aria’s design. We will get into that shortly.
Back to the character creator, I am currently ironing out the specifics of UI design, and finalizing how class systems and level progression should work. The level system itself will probably connect to the idea of tiers, but introduce higher degree of resolution, such that the tiers themselves have variable sublevels. On the same note, for the sake of gameplay, a tiers “destructive scale” will probably need to be toned down a bit and converted into “destructive force”. Think city destroying punches concentrated directly into your enemies, limiting collateral as much as possible.
In terms of choices, there will be a sort of “CYOA” aspect to creation. In other words, banes, in exchange for boons. The underlying systems to make it function are almost in place, and I’ve already planned out the majority of the boons and banes. There may be some crossover with Harahel, as I’ve mentioned, some options in Harahel are based on options from Arkavite (e.g. Just Passin Through, “Start at the bottom of a dungeon one” was an idea for a hazardous alternate start).
Project Arkavite – Alpha Sandbox
So, the Sandbox release is going to be a demo of the combat aspects of the game, and potentially some other things like crafting, magic, potions, bases etc. The sandbox is both a way of internally testing these features and getting feedback from others after running about in the system themselves. This will give me a better idea of what needs to be tweaked come the prologue.
Project Arkavite – Prologue
The prologue release is essentially chapter 0 of the game. By this time, we should have the majority of core gameplay mechanics in the game. I am trying to constrain the scope of the project as much as possible starting out so that we don’t fall down the slippery slop of feature creep, and can get something playable and enjoyable out the door in a decent timeframe.
From here, building upon the game’s core becomes a bit easier, as well as writing the story for the rest of the game. From here, I want to do more frequent updates as features get added, and look towards some of those more aspirational things.
Project Harahel – And Related Stories
Arkavite’s actual character creator, along with the new dialogue editor and parsing capabilities, gave me some fun ideas I am currently weighing as far as my CYOA ventures go.
For some context, I’ve begun a number of projects over the years. Given my busy schedule and one-track mind, it was always stressful to give love to every project equally. With my attention split, it lead to the feeling of getting a lot of nothing done across many projects, despite the fact a lot of good progress was being made, and for some things, a lot got done. In the end, I came up with a solution. I figured the best way to keep focused and actually get stuff done was to take all these projects and consolidate them into one master project. Arkavite is the culmination of my efforts, and Harahel is an offshoot of that which has, gotten a little out of hand to say the least. I never expected it to go past being an obscure one-off thing. Hell, it was only meant to be a merger of two Warcraft CYOAs… No matter the case, we are here now. It is what it is.
I’ve been planning many CYOA behind the scenes which would link together to explore different aspects of the Harahel, but i’ve run into the issue of a growing scope as it begins to slowly resemble Arkavite more and more… Now working on two Arkavite scale projects ain’t it chief. Why my sanity has already taken qite the dip, that’s just gonna kill me. There is still much I want to do with Harahel. This project is not something I want to abandon, or outright ignore.
Thus, In an effort to streamline things, there is one idea I’ve been toying with. An idea which may be controversial, but would save my sanity and possibly lead to greater things. That idea is further consolidation. The projects aren’t so far apart at this stage that I couldn’t merge them together. Fusing Harahel with Arkavite, turning it into a full-fledged game. Keeping most of the CYOA aspects, but having it chain or interweave with actual gameplay and an open world. There’s already room for an isekai alternate start. It’s a bananas idea, but I think I have just enough autism to pull it off.
Now this would of course delay Aria further, though as it stands, with my focus split, It becomes increasingly hard to find the time to work on It, all the while, its scope grows closer to that of Arkavite’s as I want to do more with it.
I know many have been waiting for some delicious spells and lore. Aria has allowed me to fine-tune the lore of magic and what spells exist in the world. Most, will probably show up in Arkavite in some form or another, and should gradually be getting added to the sandbox fairly early on. I honestly cannot wait to be building the magic system into Arkavite. I have a couple wacky Ideas I can’t wait to implement and show off. I’ve done a good bit of work on setting up the basic enemy AI systems, but PC combat needs a lot of love, and will be getting it soon enough.
This concludes your irregularly scheduled update. Though it does seem more like a manifesto at this point.
I would like to know people’s thoughts on the merger idea, as that would obviously have some far-reaching implications. I think it would be cool, and it would certainly give me less to stress over in terms of focus and worrying about things not getting done. As it stands, I am already no lifing this project in most my free time. Should we just shoot for stars and whatever lies beyond? Let me know.
To conclude, we have a dialogue editor now, and a fairly solid plan for development, project scope, and future releases. I have been a little boarder in my descriptions of things then I would like, but I will be covering the specifics and individual aspects of this project in future logs as I come to work on said aspects. While they take a bit to write, I do like doing these logs. It gives me a way of sorting out my own thoughts and getting them out there so there, so my brain doesn’t tear itself apart. It also gives you a better idea of what’s going through my black-box of a mind… This could also be a good forum for getting your thoughts and suggestions on things. I would be interested to know what you all think about my plans for Arkavite, so please be sure to leave your comments down below or join the discussion in the Arkavite Discord.
We have now surpassed 250 members, which is wild. Thank you all for joining! I hope you’re all ready for what’s to come.
So as a final note, what am I doing now? I am designing character sprites for the dialogue system. To the right is pretty boi you may grow to love and lust over. I’m also working on character animations, writing, and programming the character creator. There is a lot on my plate, but we have a new member on the team who may be able to help out with the art side of things, and a couple lads assisting with writing, so I hopefully don’t pull myself apart and die lol.
Thank you for joining me today, and congrats on making it to the end. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as things evolve. Thanks for sticking around. Till next time~