A Clueless Guy trying to make a Videogame

I am Yora. I work as a gardener, I'm 39, I have ADHD, and I keep having fanciful dreams about amazing creative works that I want to make that never actually go anywhere. And I always want to tell people about it.

I first encountered computer RPGs in 1999 when I played Baldur's Gate, which I bought entirely on the grounds that I was really bored one day and wanted something new to play that might keep me occupied for two or three days, and this one was near the top of the rating lists for recently released games in the videogame magazines I was reading. I literally had no clue what RPGs even were, and I had no prior encounters with medieval fantasy other than having read The Lord of the Rings once some years before because the books looked interesting on my parents bookshelves, but didn't think much about it after that.

Obviously, it turned out to be more than two or three days that Baldur's Gate continued to keep me occupied.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons as a gamemaster when the 3rd edition came out in 2000, and then was quite active as an area designer and admin on a Neverwinter Nights server for two years. When Neverwinter Nights 2 came out a few years later, I got some of my friends from the old server together to try making our own NWN2 server, but that sputtered out very quickly when it turned out that the level editor was significantly more complex than the one from the previous game had been. And that had been the end of my videogame developer career so far. For the last 12 years or so, running D&D campaigns and creating homebrew material has been my main hobby that's been occupying the vast majority of my free time.

I also increasingly moved away from playing videogames. For the last decade, it's mostly been playing a lot of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and occasionally replaying Baldur's Gate, Thief, Starcraft, and Morrowind. However, one of the more recent games that got my interest was Kenshi. Kenshi is a game made almost entirely by just one guy. The graphics are crappy, gameplay is janky, and the performance is horrible for such a primitive engine, and it took him 12 years to get it to a proper release state. But he did it. And the game is amazing! My experience with Kenshi had me start paying more attention to small, quirky B- and C-list games, and it's just amazing what people are pulling off with seemingly no resources at all. Often, these seem much more interesting than the big, expensive hardware melters that have hundreds of hours of gameplay. It recently had me thinking that I wish I had dabbled more in working with videogame creation software back in my early 20s, as by now it was probably much to late to catch up with the decades of new technological development.

Last month, I was making a tool for a D&D campaign I was considering to set up, which is a set of multiple spreadsheets that do all kinds of automatic calculations to do a simple economy simulation that requires a GM to only enter the population number for a settlement, and it would auto-generate store inventories and cash reserves according to various guideline charts from the rulebooks. It felt a bit like programming (which I guess it is, at a very primitive level), and I was having a lot of fun with it.

For a while now, I've often been feeling dissatisfied with my RPG campaign material work. While my particular challenges that ADHD is creating for me are quite manageable and not too disrupting and I feel that everything is on track right now, I've been moving a lot in recent years. Playing RPG campaigns, and even more so running them, is a a commitment to a group activity that will stretch for months, and if you want to do something big and fancy, even several years. It's something you schedule for later when you expect to move to another city in half a year or so, and and such the amount of time I've spend on creating campaign material has been vastly out of proportion with the time I've actually been playing. And while it's an activity that is a lot of fun, I'm feeling more and more that it's not a good medium for expressing the kind of creative ideas that are motivating me to make stuff.

I've been thinking about what other medium I might give a try  to put my creative energy to use. And as it so happened, I saw a mention that RPG Maker XP is currently free on Steam. I installed it and took a look at it, and this really doesn't seem that hard. I think I could learn how to do that. Apparently, pretty young kids have made short games with this.

Now from what I understand, RPG Maker seems to be basically a working game where you mostly just create the maps from existing assets, place monsters and NPCs and write dialog texts. It also allows you to customize all the stats for characters and enemies, customize abilities, and put together custom character classes. This is all stuff I've already done with Neverwinter Nights and in Foundry VTT.

I can do that.

In fact, I think I could make a campaign for NWN if I wanted to. But I feel that there's probably a much larger audience for a game that you can download and run than a mod for a 22 year old game that isn't particularly popular. And both with NWN and RPG Maker, you are very much locked in for what gameplay you are going to have. There's a lot of creative things you can do, but at the end of the day, you still have to draw within the lines. And I'm really not a fan of the gameplay of either type of these games.

While I don't have zero experience with any of these things, I still think my skill meter as a game developer is only down at 2 or 3%. I'm not going to learn to make a game like Kenshi or Dusk in a couple of years. I'm also not going to make something like Baldur's Gate or Pillars of Eternity all by myself with no resources. But all the way back in the 80s and 90s, people made games like Wasteland or Ultima from scratch, and many of those developers where just one guy, sometimes producing several games a year. With all the tools available now, I think the difficulty of making games of that scope is now much lower than it has ever been.

Given my long history with getting very excited about a thing I want to make and then losing interest very quickly once I encounter the first obstacles, I think the odds of me actually producing something playable that will played by a hundred people are, to quote Subnautica, "unlikely, but plausible".

But I might. And I think I'll might have a lot of fun with it.

I can do this.

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