The Nameless Adventure
(Yes, I was uninspired, that much)
The nameless Adventure, or TNA, was the first full game I made. Started in 2004? Finished in 2014? The dates are blurry. As with SESC, most of the time spent between start and end was doing anything but working on it.
And speaking of SESC, its concept of having the narrator as a character dates back to that time. Long before I discovered The Stanley Parable, with whom I fell in love many years later and whose execution of the concept is carried out with talent.
TNA is an RPG made with RPG Maker XP, all its resources were either provided with the software or downloaded without thinking about copyright. I can not distribute it publicly in its current form.
Not that you are missing a lot; the majority of the work was done while I was a child or teenager, the only effort put on it as an adult was to fix the CTDs, as well as combining the different parts that had already been created.
Suffice to say that I had no concept of game design, that the script was meaningless, the characters were flat, cliché and uninteresting, the levels were not memorable, the RPG part was not balanced and it is possible to finish the whole thing in an hour because all the grind voluntarily introduced to artificially inflate the playing time can be avoided.
(For the grind, I want to clarify that young me did not think badly of it and even believed that it was absolutely necessary to put it in the game, otherwise it wouldn’t be a good game.)
The story is simple: the main character must assemble a team to beat the big bad guy who wants to dominate the world. As a bonus, a prologue to know how the main character has come to be who she is and an epilogue to give hope about a sequel, using a plot-twist that doesn’t make any sense.
The forest was meant to be a hub connecting all the other parts of the game. Strongly inspired by the plain of Hyrule found in several Zelda games and is the entry points to other areas.
Unlike in the Zelda games, the TNA forest was not interesting in itself and only had a few trees and wolves.
Fitting as an introduction. The game itself does not start there, though.
The game is filled with choices whose morality are dubious, without any impact on the remaining of game. Example on the left; it is possible to insist on getting on the ship to the point of being imprisoned, but you can also use violence and hit directly the sailor. There is no long lasting consequence with choosing either option.
TNA is also filled with moments where a false choice is offered, where we can take one of the options, but as long as specific one is not selected, the plot does not progress.
Please note that these moments are not implemented to allow the player to save or take care of things before entering a place they can not escape. These are simply fake choices that absolutely do not give the illusion of choice.
The characters are:
Fedora, main character, 80yo Mary Sue. A prologue is dedicated to her story.
Josty, which with Don Quixote syndrome, which is her only defining trait and isn’t explored.
Félix, a subpar Robin Hood, whose entire story is given with exposition.
Tatsuki, a greedy man. It is his only defining character trait and it isn’t explored either.
The maps suffer from the RPG syndrome; unrelated areas are glued to each other without explanation:
The river where Fedora lives
The totally optional city
The mountain where Josty is
The ruined city infested with zombies, where Tatsuki hides
The beach with the prison boat in which Felix is imprisoned
The final boss’ church
Please note that the city which is infested with zombie has no background. It was a prosperous city, but now it is in ruins, people are zombies and no one living 500 meters away is worried. Why? Because we must not take what we have for granted. Yes, logic is dead.
The good points
Although I do not recommend playing TNA for its intrinsic qualities, some elements do hold up to this day.
No scenario element was filtered by self-censorship. If something seemed funny or interesting while writing it, it was kept afterwards. The result is thus unique and very personal.
The epilogue is kinda ambitious; introducing a cinematic view, some mystery, a new delicate character who turns out to be the real enemy of the main game, all that giving the possibility of a sequel.
The optional city
The optional city is a good point deserving to be detailed there.
The entire area is optional. It is possible to never set foot there and finish the game nonetheless. However, it is full of NPCs who give information about the TNA lore; the majority of what little information about the main characters there is can be found here. This means that the delivery of a considerable part of the story is done in an organic way.
This contrasts sharply with the introduction of TNA which holds the player’s hand to a ridiculous extent.
There are also small side quests to get unique items, and even a stealth mini-game.
This is also where buffer zone system is. It was made for the transfer of backups, but finally never used and replaced by the prologue and epilogue. Nonetheless, it is an idea that I kept to this day; it seems like a valid strategy for the making of modular games, or even to introduce a system of exchange of objects with other players.
After the facts
Today, as far as I’m concerned, TNA is more of a proof of concept than a game. I still like the universe I created, which is quite generic on the surface, but has many unanswered questions that can make it unique.
The characters would be interesting if they were developed. It would probably even be possible to make a full franchise about Fedora's life. In retrospect, she is a kind of “One Punch Man granny”.
The big bad is absolutely not developed and although the trope is not the most interesting, it could be used as background theme while other interesting things are put forward. In the same way that Sauron, in The Lords of the Rings, is evil incarnate just because. And it must be avoided like the plague. What matters is the story of the Hobbits, the political shenanigans of the elves, the tragic past of the dwarves ... (I have no memory of the movies and only partially read the first volume, do not murder me if I'm wrong.)
Oppositely, it would also be possible to give the bad guy a complex story in which the player would play as the bad guy during multiple levels. Incarnating the villain, knowing how he got to this point, then incarnating the good guy, and finally seeing how the conflict resolves. It's something to try. Additionally, I speak about the "bad guy" and the "good guy", but having nuanced characters and not knowing who to support in the end would be even better.
The maps should all be redone from scratch. Their overall concept is not bad in itself, but it is severely lacking intermediate zones, or a system giving the impression that the forest is not glued to the ocean, for example. Moreover, the maps are either empty, or filled with senseless things, or way too big for no reason. Especially the prologue, which is utterly uninteresting.
The concept of bringing heroes together and then facing a final boss is not innovative, but with developing the characters, knowing how each one got there, by not making them accept immediately the idea of following an unknown person, it would be possible to make it all credible.
When I say "developing", "knowing", etc. I mean having moments of play and not only cut scenes, or even worse, pure exposure through dialog boxes and no on-screen action whatsoever.
Little moments of drama should also be added; dialogues between characters when entering an area, ending a fight, starting a fight, after talking to a character... All these moments are good times to introduce a line of dialogue or two, or even a complete cut scene, provided that all the necessary characters are gathered:
Getting into an inn with Tatsiki in your party = Tatsiki asking Fedora to take the cheapest room. The morning after, he’s making comments about her choice.
Félix delivering the fatal blow to a human foe = Félix deeply regretting what he did.
Spending some time in a forest = Josty saying the place is mystical and that there is such or such item around. That item doesn’t exist.
Every X step, Fedora complains about her arthritis.
Of course, these should not be systematically shown, but simply having a 10% chance of seeing the scene, which happens only once, would make interactions more human. Some could be unlocked only after some others. For example, if Josty is in the party and Fedora complains three times about different body parts, then the next time they enter a magic shop, Josty will ask if they have anything to help with the pain.
The Nameless Adventure is an imperfect game, but it is my perfect counterexample for many things. In addition to that, the time span between its creation and its finalization gives me hope every time I tell myself that my current project will never be finished. If TNA has been finished, any project can be.
One day, maybe, I will make it rise from its ashes, but I have too much ambition for it and way too little time, resources and collaborators to be able to tackle that. In 2050, who knows?