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Article - 'Gaming Community Interviews - Celera' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Celera is interviewed, as she gives tips about game design, info about her team's upcoming GM RPG Dark Vortex: First Revolution, and as well as some misc. info.

Body

Gaming Community Interviews - Celera
By: Mateui

^______^!

I sat down in my chair and decided to select a category in game creation. Magically out of my head, “Game Design” appeared. Naturally, I wanted to look for the best – someone who did things the professional way, and who was really organized.

Celera was on the top of my list, and I just happened to ask her while I noticed that we were in the same topic in the Game Ideas forum. She accepted, and the interview commenced a few hours later – I had to prepare interesting questions..

After a long time, the interview was finished. Me and Celera both had fun, and I actually learned a lot by reading her answers. Now, you too can be as fortunate, as the interview will be posted below.. Now!

The Interview:
The questions in the interview were asked in order of different categories. To make it easier for you to read, I have split up this interview into separate categories as well. Enjoy.


Game Design:

“Do you feel like Game Design has improved in the amateur gaming community lately, or done the opposite?”

Well, I've seen more people trying to get into the ring. I don't really think the games are getting worse--it's just that the standards are a little higher than back when RM2K first appeared. I'm actually impressed with lots of the kids that are getting into it. ^__^

“When trying to design a new game, and an idea has come to your head, what is generally the first thing you do to make sure that the game can be well prepared in later stages of development?”

I write it down. ^^ Usually just a basic overview of my idea. Then I work the idea over a lot, to make sure it's as neat as it first seemed. My worst nightmare is putting out a game that people can pick apart.

“Do you think that a Game Design Document is required or helpful when designing and creating a game?”

Definitely. You should always write out your plotline and basic ideas before you start even considering the programming. Planning is important with any game... Otherwise you end up with plotholes. It's much easier to judge a plotline when it's laid out neatly for you in a document. This is especially true for RPGs.

”Do you set up your Design Document in any special way?”

Well--really, it's not that organized. LOL. It starts with the detailed character stats, their backgrounds, powers, ect... Then it goes into the planned events, and the script. At the end, I placed the misc. info, like the timeline, and the calendar info.

“Is the time and effort put into designing a game really important? Or can it be easily overlooked without many consequences?”

I have a saying for this... "You only get what you put in."... That is, if you try to rush your way through a game, it'll end up looking rushed. I believe that you can tell when a person really thought a game through, and put in the time to make it great. I guess in RM2K, you could gauge that by how many custom elements they have... And of course, the story.

“What do you think is the most important aspect in designing a game? The story? Characters? World History? Or are they equally important?”

They each add to each other. A great story can be ruined by bland characters, or a boring environment. And vice versa--a bad story can ruin the best characters. They have to balance out.

“Does the saying "The more the merrier" apply to Game Design in terms of how much you have planned?”

It depends... You don't want to make a game overly complicated. Sometimes, you have to sit back and decide how much of your info is actually going to be delivered to the player. I could write about Blades for years, but the player might only see a fraction of that. So you don't want to get too wrapped up in the planning stage.

“Do you feel that by creating a concise design plan or document, it is easier to acquire a team to help you along in later development?”

Definitely. When I presented DV, I had already written a great deal of the Game Document. I was able to show people at GW the finer points of the game, without spoiling too much, which got people interested. I think a big problem these days is people search for teams too early in the game's development, and get discouraged when they get no answer.

“What can be done to improve a game's design if it appears to be intensely cliché?”

Well, lots of things. You want to rethink your ideas first, and decide if that's really the best plot to follow. If you're stuck, and can't think of a way to outright change your plot, you can add interesting twists to it, to make it stand out about the rest. Like, say your story is about a hero who has to save a princess from a dragon... Sadly cliché, but you can change it just a little... Maybe that dragon is actually trying to save the world from an evil that slumbers within the Princess herself, and once you've slain the dragon, your realize that your actions may have doomed the world you love so much... Taking an old idea, and adding to it... That's the best way to go, if you think you sound too cliché.

“What advice can you give to others who are trying to design a game but don't know what to do or where to start?”

Well--first, make sure you know the genre' well. If you want to design an RPG, for example, but have only played one, you probably won't understand the genre' that well. That's what seems to cause a lot of clichéd games today... A kid plays FFX, and suddenly wants to make his own RPG, which is fine, but he lacks the experience with the whole idea behind RPGs. Also, research is very important.


Dark Vortex: First Revolution Questions:

“How did Dark Vortex come to be? Did you just think of a storyline one day.. or characters.. etc.?”

Well--the basic idea's been around for a while, actually... Ironically enough, it all started out as kinda a joke, aimed at our teachers when I was a 7th grader... The original stories were horrible. When I hit 10th grade, I started the fanfic "Dark Vortex", which refined the story... I also found RM2K that year, and started a game.

“Did you finish it?”

No. My computer died, taking the game with it... It made me really upset, but once the computer was fixed, I started an original story. That orginal story evolved into the DV I'm planning now. ^__^ Really--it's a good thing that the computer died... I don't want to think about what people would have said about DV version 1. LOL

“How long did it take you to create a Design Document for DV? I heard Cawin, saying that you already have soo many pages, and it's only for the demo!”

Well--the game document is 246 pages long, if I'm not mistaken... I started research for it last June.

”When you say research, what does that exactly mean?”

I researched politics, and a lot of history to figure out how a real world would work. I did some research on things like illnesses and natural distasters too, so that I could make Blades's background very rich. I did a lot of name hunting too. I wanted each character to have a lot of meaning behind their names, and it took me a while to find them all. ^__^

“Was writing that thing worth all that time and energy?”

Yes. I was able to find some flaws in my original idea through the game document, and I'm a lot happier with the plotline now.

“Did you do it all by yourself, or did anyone else help you in designing?”

I did the designing aspect alone.

“For a whole year?! That sure takes effort and commitment.”

Well, I really wanted to put out a great game... I've wanted to make games since I was a little kid, so it's really fun for me when I plan and write for one.

“What would you have to say was the most difficult thing when designing Dark Vortex?”

Making Blades realistic. For the longest time, it felt like a very 2 dimensional world, where only one country seemed to be important... It took me a really long time to figure out how the people of each country acted and looked. That, and figuring out what our villain would look like. LOL

How do your NPCs react? Do they say the same thing over and over again, like most RPGs, or have you taken a novel approach?

Well--it's impossible to have them say something different every time you talk to them, but if you talk to most NPCs several times, they'll say different things. Sometimes you have to talk to a person twice to get the full info you need.

“Do you think that taking the Game Maker route to creating an RPG so large and complex as DV will give it extra added fame? As it will be one of the first completed RPGs on GM I presume.”

It will be. I'm sure that it'll help it along a bit, fame wise... But the real selling point was that I wasn't limited on the graphics. Really, putting DV on GM was DarkPriest's request. He wanted to prove that GM could handle a game like it.

“So, was DP the only reason you put in on GM?”

Well--he gave me confidence. I'm not a really good programmer alone... I don't really enjoy all that math. When he said that he'd be my programmer, it totally freed me from those responsibities, so I could spend more time on the storyline, and the graphics.

“Being the creator of the Enigma Factory, you have to manage a lot of members. How do you manage everyone and everything?”

Through AIM, and our forums. Without AIM, I'd be lost. LOL. There are about 14 members, officially, but only about half are active. A big problem I've had is that people sometimes vanish.

“About what time can the public expect a demo of Dark Vortex?”

I'm hoping January of '04. It's going to take a while to make it, but I promise that when it comes out, it'll be nice and polished. ^__^ The demo should have about 4 hours of gameplay, too, so it'll be worth the wait.


Misc. Questions:

“When is your best time of day to design things for your game(s)?”

Well--anytime that I can get some time alone. I can't work with people hovering around the computer desk. That's usually at night... I'm most active at about 4 AM.

“That's pretty late! When do you sleep?”

In the morning. I sleep for about 5 hours, then I get back to the computer, as long as my sister doesn't beat me to it.

“Where do you get most of your motivation?”

Lots of places... Music, other games... Deluge is constantly writing songs for us, and every time he gives me a new song, it's like a shot in the arm. (I asked her about this, and don’t worry, Celera says that this is in a good way! :D) Deluge is amazing. I still can't believe how fast he works. He has a real passion for music. We have about 50 songs already. He's only about 14 too --I've never seen someone that young be so talented. He does a lot of the composing in his head, however. He'll pop online and be like "I just thought up a song!"--and thirty minutes later, there it is.

(Let me tell you, Deluge is quite the composer. Recently, he has won the Midi Composition Contest, with his MIDI: “Into the Mines of Life.”)

“Do you have anything else to say or give any pointers to your fans or admirers? (People like me! ^_^!)”

Well--first, remember my motto, "Never forget your dreams". You should never, ever, abandon something you care about because of pressure. Shoot as high as you can. If you don't make it the first time, keep trying, and you'll succeed. ^__^

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Me and Celera sad our thanks and goodbyes. It was a really good interview – and a lot of really helpful advice was given. Thanks Celera!