Tonight is a night of utter nerdom: I am going to make spreadsheets for ALL the weapons/armors for ALL the characters in the RPG Maker game and define a power curve and itemization for them. I've realized if I want to make this project happen, I need a more systematic approach to it. I spent a lot of time [nearly a year and a half!] on just getting Chapter 1 and 2 how I want it to flow.
UPDATE appears below as well!
To do that, I made some compromises. I gutted the idea of a World Map. This game isn't about exploration or discovering the world, so we don't need a mechanic to explore the world. I call this the Mass Effect 1 MAKO Design Principle.
I then went and looked at my character roster. I was able to remove a total of 6 characters from the roster of PCs without hurting the story flow. They all can exist and fill their story role as NPCs. This has greatly reduced the stress, plus it allows earlier recruitments of other, more central characters to the plot. This tightens the pacing and helps establish combat identities for the remaining protagonists so there's less overlap.
The third thing I decided to kill were the back story bonus dungeons. This means that a lot more of the background is going to be left unclear/unexplained. I'm actually OK with that, as it lets the player imagine what the reality is, and if there are ever fans, let them debate and decide on their preferred narratives. It also saves me having to create multiple one-shot PCs, equipment sets, enemy sets and dungeons. MONTHS of development was probably saved right here.
Fourth, I removed the idea of level caps by chapters. It seemed nice, but two things made me kill it. One, I accidentally broke the code. Two, while playing the game through multiple times, I only ever hit the level cap once, and that was when I was trying to see if the code was still broken. The level cap was artificial and not needed, while also handicapping players who may not be good at the game. So, it is gone.
Fifth, instead of touching up the game as I go, I've stepped back to make large, organizational movements in design. That's where tonight's sitting down and making item spreadsheets is coming from. This will let me not have to worry about item curves for the rest of the design process. It'll also help me get an idea for the scale of the game. If I end up with 20 individual weapons for a character, that's great! If I end up with 50... I may need to see if I can cut some plot points/condense the plot some.
All that's left is to make the long, arduous set of spreadsheets!
So, while we were working on our preliminary item types, I noticed something. Some of our characters in the modern/future setting? They were using weird things. Knives, stalves, etc. No one in our future setting was in power armor. So, how do we fix this?
First, the guy using knives has no thematic reason to use them. He just did because no one else had those items being used. Let's put him in power armor and give him the option to have a futuristic tech-y axe and shield or heavy machine gun as his weapon. Now that we have a second tank, we can refocus the SWAT/riot officer into more of a tactical officer, focusing on grenades and gadgets for AOE damage, a hole the team had once we gutted some characters. This gives both of the characters a much cleaner identity and gets rid of archetypes that are boring (the riot officer) or have no place in our modern fantasy (a knife wielding drifter).
In the modern world, we don't have magic users, so giving our doctor a staff was just dumb. They're not using magic powers! Their MP represents their current supply stock, and Magic Attack represents the quality of what they're using. So, let's just change stalves to Kits, while giving them access to Wes's Tasers as an auto-attack option [which they can also get a very minor Magic boost from, which we can say is using the taser's battery power to power their other supplies.]
Next, in the modern world, we had a category for Light Shields. This is just silly. With future tech-y axes, machine guns and grenades going off, it's full, heavy riot gear or nothing. Let's condense light shield users into people with arm guards and people with wrist computers. This let's us thematically turn the Empath from a completely mystical thing into a powerful, energy hungry thing -- making it is she uses her computer to store and manage the extra electricity running through her body [when she's not equipping a power kit to focus her completely on the "magic" side of things.]
After futurifying the item sets each character uses, that leaves us with only two "mundane" characters. Chris, the martial artist security specialist, who is clearly more awesome than a normal human, and Jenny the sword using girl -- both of who equip techniques that are far and beyond what a normal human can do. He can equip two techniques, she only gets to equip one [since she needs a sword in her main hand to use her sword abilities.]
So, even before I created a single item, we've done a lot to help give our cast some better identities, get some item over lap going [which is good design, I think], and helped us to get a better idea how our world operates.
... But this does mean I need to re-work Ch.2 now that Bob has access to Tasers and armguards and stalves no longer exist. I think I'll do that AFTER I get all the items created.