Hello! I hope you've been well. This last week and a half has been incredibly exciting, as I've been writing the documentation for a new game. Surprisingly, I have no minor changes to mention, so let's get started!
This game project, known as Project Merchantry, is about the experiences of a travelling merchant and craftsman in a low-fantasy medieval-era world. Unlike Pilgrimage of Embers, this game is a small to medium project. Since the game will take place mostly in one place (initially), this means I'll need significantly less artwork and animations than what I would need in a larger game. The core features of the game will be:
- Crafting. Create tools, brew potions, and bake foodstuffs from ingredients.
- Trading. Buy, sell, and barter with the townsfolk and merchants.
- Professions. Select a profession, earn experience points, and unlock recipes through levelling up.
- Characters. Converse and trade with immersive characters.
- Time. Seasons change, and day turns to night.
If I were to divide the expected time spent on activities and add it to a fancy pie chart, it would be:
I'll go into detail on the gameplay, locations, characters, and other topics next.
Basic crafting happens at the crafting table UI, which you start out with by default. The player clicks on the table, and the camera zooms in where he can place items from his inventory onto the grid. If the pattern matches a recipe, then the result will appear in the three output slots directly below. To encourage staying in the game, recipes can be bought from others or discovered through a dream (for more on dreams, see the Time section). In the picture above, the notable differences are the buttons and the progress bar. If I make crafting take a short amount of time (seconds, not minutes), then the buttons will increase/decrease the crafting queue. I'm still toying around with how it should work.
Besides the crafting table, some professions have specific interfaces. Blacksmiths have the furnace, apothecaries have the brewer, and sages have an enchanting table (for more info, see Professions below).
At the start of the game, you'll pick a profession. For the prototype, I'll only focus on one of these (likely the blacksmith). Once you've chosen, you're restricted to that profession for the rest of the game. These professions are:
- Blacksmith. Smelts ores into ingots, and uses ingots for creating tools and certain apparel like armor. For smelting, requires access to a furnace.
- Apothecary. Brews ingredients into potions and posions. Requires access to a brewer.
- Sage. Uses various items to make spellbooks, and gives items special effects through enchanting. Enchanting requires access to an enchantment table.
- Baker. Uses ingredients to bake cakes and breads. Baking requires access to a furnace.
- Clothier. Uses strings to weave fabrics, and fabrics to make apparel.
I'm open to adding a few more. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.
I'm taking some inspiration from Stardew Valley for the yearly cycles. Years have four similar seasons, and each will last thirty days. Each hour lasts thirty real seconds, so a full day will take twelve real minutes.
The player has full control of when he should sleep, and can wake himself up if necessary. If the player pushes through without sleep, he may experience side effects such as sluggishness and harder/longer to wake up the next day. Going days with little sleep, he can collapse from exhaustion and may skip an entire day. Sometimes, an order may need extra preparation time, making it useful to stay up late. Other times, a character may need assistance late at night, and they will call for your name.
An important aspect of sleeping is dreams. A variety of events can occur when you dream, which are:
- Knowledge. Knowledge of a crafting recipe may be partially (or fully) revealed to you.
- Prophecy. Knowledge of a future event. This is shown as keywords on the screen. Keywords that seem disconnected will likely not happen -- sometimes a dream is just that. However, it will if you have a couple dreams that have similar keywords.
The game will likely write down dreams to the player's logbook automatically.
The locations in Merchantry were one of the first things I worked on. I couldn't work on characters unless I knew where they come from -- they should be a product of their environment. Similarly, I couldn't work on plenty of items, because items should be designed as apart of the game world. Fruits, vegetables, meats (from fish, livestock, birds, monsters), woods, ores, etc. You get the picture how important it is to do this first. For the most part, these will remain the same.
The lands are divided into three provinces, with a monarch who rules each one. These are:
- The Northlands, where it's cloudy and cold.
- The Westerly Coast, where it's sunlit and fair.
- The Easterly Steppes, where it's windy and warm.
Vale of Wintertide. A large valley in the center of the Northlands, covered in snow and clouds.
Dwelling of a Cold Monarch. A castle in northeast of the Vale. The monarch of the Northlands rules here. It is surrounded by a deep, icy ravine. The only way to the castle is across the bridge.
Hiemal Alps. Snow-covered mountains located on the upper coast of the Northlands.
Town of Moira. A large town located on the middle of the Hiemal Alps, and extends down partially into the Vale.
River of the Northlands. The largest river in the Northlands. It goes straight through the middle, then snakes down and splits into two smaller rivers that flow to the Westerly Coast and Easterly Steppes.
Apricity Hythe. A small port town on Northlands River.
The Westerly Coast
Citadel of a Fair Monarch. A whitestone castle built on a hill, it overlooks Nairne.
City of Nairne. A coastal city named after Nairne the Prophetess, located on the western shore in the middle.
Keepsake Sanctuary. A temple of burial and remembrance. There are small holes in the stone walls where the family of the deceased place keepsakes and letters.
Lesser Mire. A swampland located to the north-west in the Westerly Coast.
Lake Oro. A large, wide lake that cover the north and north-eastern parts of the Westerly Coast.
Meadows Hamlet. A small village located just south-east side of Lake Oro. There is a meadow of flowers towards the south.
Stormridge Mountains. A range of mountains in the
Isles of Alisa. A group of islands located near the Westerly Coast.
The Easterly Steppes
Palace of a Brooding Monarch. Located just before the promontory.
Settlement of Lilias. A village located slightly north-west of the palace.
Huntsmen's Promontory. A peninsula on the south-east corner of the Steppes.
Easterly Beacon. An ancient lighthouse located on the tip of the promontory.
Thousandth Acreage. Thick woods covering most of the promontory.
St. Ava's Mountain. A mountain named after St. Ava. Located in the center of the Steppes.
Lightveil Falls. A waterfall that flows out of the mountain.
Haven of Gusts. A deep, redstone basin with a large pit that extends down indefinitely. Wind pushes outward from the pit, causing a perpetual whirlwind. Located in the south-west of the Steppes.
Nomad's End. An ancient place of many homes, shops and temples carved into the sides of the Sanctum of Gusts.
The characters I've imagined fall into four categories:
- Dialogue. Living characters that talk to the player.
- Lore. Dead characters mentioned in legends and lore.
- Inconsequential. Simply fodder to buy from, sell to, or fulfill special orders.
- Creatures. Beings used for lore and items. Most of these will remain unseen.
For now, I'll list all of the dialogue characters. These are separated by nationality. Please note that some of these may change later or, or get removed entirely.
- Kynne, Monarch of the Vale. The current ruler of The Northlands.
- Merle of Moira. An old man from the city of Moira in The Northlands. Known for his potions and poisons.
- Brae of Apricity. A girl from Apricity Hythe.
- Storr the Mighty. A viking-esque man who was born by the Northlands River in a wolfskin hut. Known for his strength and endurance.
- Shieldmaiden Nessa of Moira. A young woman from the city of Moira. She is decent with spears and shields.
- Ellard the Sage. An aged man, born in Hiemal Alps.
- Edana the Wroth. A young girl raised in the Vale, separate from society. She has a tendency to magically ignite things.
- Spellsword Keane. A man born at the southern edge of the Vale. He is known for his skills with both sword and spell.
- Ferrymaster of Apricity. A man born at the docks of Apricity Hythe. Known by the locals as ferrymaster.
The Westerly Coast
- Eleora, Monarch of the Coast. The current ruler of The Westerly Coast.
- Sir Gower of Nairne. A man born to a commoner in Nairne, eventually becoming a respected knight.
- Celia the Pilgrim. A woman from the the city of Nairne, born to a merchant family. She lives in the Sanctuary of Keepsakes.
- Orestes of the Mountains. A rugged individual who dwells on the Stormridge Mountains. Often comes down weekly for supplies.
- Daisy of Meadows. A woman from the hamlet of Meadows. She sells flowers and dyes.
- Guildmaster Cavell. A shorter man, he is the guild leader in Nairne. He hates you, as you are not apart of the guild. He feels you are not doing it the proper way. You skipped the fees and hoops that everyone else had to do.
- Marmion the Apprentice. A young lad, apprentice to the Guildmaster. A product of his environment, he is cynical and mischevious.
The Easterly Steppes
- Lonn, Monarch of the Steppes. The current ruler of The Easterly Steppes.
- Okes of the Acreage. A man from the Thousandth Acreage on the Steppes' promontory. Known for his herbs.
- Dawn of the Dusk. A girl born to a nomadic family on St. Ava's Mountain. Excels at magic.
- Tynan the Short. A wayward dwarf with no roots. He is an adequate baker.
- Eara the Butcher. A tall, thin woman born in Lilias. A quiet individual known for her meat.
- Yitma the Ratling. A small, rough, humanoid rat. Understandably abandoned, he's no friend of humans. Sells bits and pieces of monsters... among other creatures.
- Una the Masker. A short woman born on the outskirts of Nomad's End. Well known for her clothes and masks.
- The Silent Knight. An individual whose face is hidden. He's the "hero of the game", the "player". As time goes on rumors will spread of his appearance when places or people are saved. Merely a subtle parody.
- The Postman. Deliverer of mail (model after the one in Minish Cap?).
As with the opening picture, the perspective will be on a 45° angle.
One of my earlier thoughts was to still do it in pixel art, but slightly different. I like the chunkier, blocky texture that some of these offer.
A newer thought was cartoon style, but make a lot of the game objects (characters, items, trees, etc.) look like stickers by adding a white outline. Animations would be minimal, relying mostly on rotation and scale effects for actions like walking. Characters could have different poses to show emotions (surprised, frustrated), always facing the screen. I would probably opt for the first image, due to the lightheartedness it gives.
Alright, those are most of my ideas on this project. If you read the whole thing, thank you for sticking with it! In the coming weeks, I'll do some experimenting and prototyping. It's gonna get crazy soon!
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Thank you for reading!