The RPG Maker project I won’t be making.

So Talking Time is doing a “month-long” event where people try to hammer out a quick-and-dirty RPG Maker game, something along the lines of Super Talking Time Bros. except that there’s more than one game. (The same guy initiated both projects, in fact.)

I declined to participate for two reasons. One, I don’t know the first thing about RPG Maker, or even the second or third thing — I’m not even sure my computer could run it. Second, I’ve got enough on my plate right now with my prior commitments, like the Majora’s Mask LP and this blog, that adding another was probably not the best of ideas. The one constant I’ve seen in all indie video game projects is that they are both more difficult and more time-consuming than the creators initially anticipate. Nevertheless, though, I couldn’t help but start thinking up ideas for what I would do if I did have the time and inclination to participate.

The rules of the project were that it should be a simple find-the-four-MacGuffins or defeat-the-four-bad-guys plot in the mold of Final Fantasy I. My initial idea was to steal inspiration from the story of Final Fantasy I — not the plot of Final Fantasy I, mind you, but the story of its creation. You may or may not know that the original NES version of Final Fantasy I was programmed by one man, Nasir Gebelli. I had the idea of imagining some company who saw the success of the game and recruited a programmer to produce a copycat. This programmer, disgruntled, then proceeds to crank out a lowest-common-denominator clone with the least effort he can muster. A party of pandering, fanservice-y characters would embark on an epic quest through stock RPG locations to collect the Four MacGuffins, which would be depicted by ripped sprites from other games — a Pendant from A Link to the Past, a Crystal from Final Fantasy IV, etc. In this way the game would be parodying both older NES-style RPGs as well as cliche-riddled by-the-books modern RPG development.

Of course, this would all be a coat of paint on the actual game — the gameplay itself would be polished and fun, ideally in the Lufia/Wild Arms/Golden Sun “Zelda with RPG battles” mold. I went so far as to put together the party members, all of whom were female and all of whom represented a cheap fanservice archetype: Princess (all-round hero), sultry witch (black mage), hot nurse (medic), and catgirl (physical tank).

The more I thought about this idea, though, the more I disliked it. In recent years I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with “meta” plots. Just acknowledging that the fourth wall is a thing isn’t really all that funny in and of itself — right, Order of the Stick? — so I’d really like there to be more to the game than cheap jokes at the expense of other games. I want the game to stand on its own rather than as a response to the industry as a whole. Plus, you start to move into that whole morass where your parody is indistinguishable from the thing you’re parodying — it would be hard to make the “lone programmer putting zero effort into this” backstory evident within the game without being too obvious about it, so I fear that it would come across as a legitimate effort to pander, rather than a tongue-in-cheek response to such.

So, instead, I reworked the thing, reenvisioning it as a still-lighthearted but more or less standard fantasy adventure — more Dragon Quest or Chrono Trigger than NIS. I kept the four-female party, though, partially because I didn’t think any of them would have translated particularly well to being male and partially because I don’t think there are enough strong female characters in video games anyway. If some macho indie RPG player finds his masculine sensibilities offended by the fact that he’s forced to play as a group of chicks, that’s just too bad.

Maybe I’ll post the rest of my notes on this someday. It’s not particularly interesting stuff, but it’s not like I’m ever going to actually do anything with it, so…

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