What is the 8 Lives Left to Licensed RPG?

Breath of the Gameboy was at one point my dream game: a game that combines the open world and chemistry system sensibilities of Breath of the Wild with the tighter mechanics of Link’s Awakening.

Here’s a mockup someone did for Reddit.

Obviously, not 100% identical, and not using Nintendo’s precious properties or graphics. But a rough idea.

That’s a 10 year game or more, especially for one guy. So I pondered how to break it down into smaller pieces. The idea was, if I made each piece a game, that game could fund the next piece, and then the next, until the final product was finished.

My best plan was 8 Lives Left. It’s a good product plan. Just the combat system. You are a cat who has been murdered, and you decide to use your remaining 8 lives to get revenge. Like John Wick, only you are simultaneously John Wick and his dog.

These projects are not currently under development. I like them; I don’t like them enough to devote years of my life to them. I bring them up because a very sensible way to undertake a big project is to turn it into little projects. A great way to make a big game is to make part of that game into a small game.

So what’s the 8 Lives Left to my Licensed RPG?

I have various bits and pieces I’ve made at various times. But I have, thus far, never been officially working on it. I’ve been tinkering in my spare time.

I’ve made hearts that quickly fill and slowly drain so we can have Zelda meets Earthbound for health…

I’ve made dudes in Spine that jump forward and attack on command for that turn-based JRPG goodness…

I’ve made dudes that charge up action points in my quasi-ATB system.

Walking around and reading signs/talking to NPCs in 2D…

And, most recently, moving around using Nav Meshes in 3D with 2D graphics.

These are all fine experiments into what is possible, but the real question is: if I want to make an RPG that can serve for, e.g. Hat Trick, or Combat Frame X Seed, what is the smallest, easiest thing I can possibly make that is: A) A definite step towards that RPG, and B) A complete game all by itself? Ideally, it would also be C) Something I want to make all by itself, and D) Something one of my loved ones would enjoy, so I can keep him in mind whilst making it.

Should I make the combat system all by itself and call it an arena game?

Should I make the movement and dialogue a whole game, a point and click adventure in the style of Sierra?

As if by Divine Providence, Alexander the Greek has reviewed a book, Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings, by the founder of Sierra on the rise and fall of that game company. A book I would very much like to get my hands on, but it is not to be at the moment. (Although if any of my readers wants to get me something for Christmas, hey! You need not buy the spendy paperback; kindle will do fine.)

I got my start on text adventures, like Colossal Cave.

Explore the groundbreaking Colossal Cave Adventure, 41 ...

And the first game with graphics I ever played was the Castle of Dr. Brain, published by Sierra.

About the only other video game I got to play before I was old enough to get a job — and thus a Gamecube, was Torin’s Passage, also published by Sierra.

I knew things like Nintendos and Marios and Sonics existed — and the moment I played one, I fell in love with it, but gaming consoles were not on my parents’ budget. When my dad’s arthritis made his mechanical work impossible, however, he switched to computer maintenance and repair, and so older PCs could be found around the house. And my dad himself was sucked in by Myst.

Anyway, I haven’t played most of Sierra’s catalogue. Nor most of the games from the golden age of adventure games. Just a couple of games on continuous repeat. But I think here lies the next fruitful avenue of research. Either King’s Quest or Quest for Glory had RPG mechanics layered on. More to the point, the art style of a Sierra style adventure, where you’re looking at a drawn picture of a world instead of a tile map, is close to what I envision (though my intended final art will still be more modular than the “every screen bespoke art” standard for the genre).

There have been a couple of attempted resurrections of the genre. If I recall correctly, fragments of LucasArts, the other adventure giant, formed TellTale Games and tried to make something out of licensed properties, but from what I’ve heard, they haven’t found a solid model. Thimbleweed Park was a notable attempt by other former Lucas employees to resurrect the genre, with a massive Kickstarter. I don’t know how well the game succeeded.

But I have an advantage over former LucasArts guys. I’m not a famous dev in the Bay Area. I’m a hobo. I don’t have to succeed nearly so well to succeed.

Anyway, it’s time to do some research.

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