The Art of Storytelling

It's been a while since my last post and that's mostly because I've been working a full time job.
I thank God that I got this sweet gig as a mobile app developer.
This gives me the chance to learn and develop for iPhone/iPad and BlackBerry.  Which means more potential clients for the game.
That, however, is in the distant future.  I've still got to get the Android release out there.
What's even better is that the job doesn't require insane hours.  I've still got plenty of time to work on SolomonRPG.

So, toward the goal of releasing the first version, I've slowed down development of the game engine and am now focusing on the art and storyline.  This doesn't mean the engine has stalled, I just feel that it's at a point where it's good enough and has enough features that I can start concentrating on other critical aspects of the game.

Believe it or not the programming is not the most important aspect of a game.
At least for what I've had in mind since the beginning.
I really hate many of the MMORPGs out there for a few reasons.
 For example, Pocket Legends, has great gameplay and graphics but I have no idea what the story is.
Granted I've only seriously played it for a few days.  There is no insentive to play beside just leveling up and collecting items.
What's even worse is how you can actually buy items and powers using real money.
I hate this.  It cheapens the game and feels like a sell-out move.
Another thing is the story, or lack of story.

What I love about RPGs are the stories.  I remember the good old days when I played the greats.  Breathe of Fire, Chronno Trigger, YS 1&2, Secret of Mana, Zelda, Final Fantasy, etc.

These games ruled in the story telling aspect.  They introduced characters and story lines that progressed and changed, climaxed and concluded.  Some of the characters would even die.
Now in most modern MMORPGs this notion is gone.  They are not true to their ancestors and have become nothing more than a cheap quest fill system to make some quick cash without actually making a game.

I'm not saying that I think the story line that SolomonRPG has is any better.  In fact, it might be worse because I'm not a professional writer.  I haven't written a story for a long time

I'm saying it is a unique challenge to have a few races/classes and develop stories around them.
These stories have to be cohesive to build/narrate the story of the virtual world.  They have to drive to a point and a conclusion.  There is drama and conflict in the middle.

At the same time, you must keep in mind the constraints of the virtual world.
For example, the engine was designed to use a magic battle system.  So you have to give a good background/narrative has to how or why the characters are able to use magic.
You have to motivate them to continue to level up and interact with the virtual world.
You also have to keep it simple enough where casual users don't have to read through tons of text to be able to pick up the game and play.

These and other factors make story telling challenging.  These are the types of questions that forced me to really examine the story:

What am I doing here?
What is my goal?  What is my history?
Why is this town here, why are the other towns there?
Why are those monsters there?  Where did they come from?
Why do I have to fight them?  Why do they fight?
Why should I do a quest?

Furthermore, the idea of having to write a bunch of brain-dead short quests that don't really tie into anything was not acceptable.

Back to the things I hate about most MMORPGs.  You may have noticed that in the Android market you'll see that most MMORPGs are crappy website type 'games' that don't even have any moving graphics.  You click on a button and you see some text change.  Boring!
To top it off these games don't offer anything in terms of story telling either.
They usually consist of the same old: Go here, get me X of these, and I'll reward you with this.

This is why I never play World of Warcraft, what's the point?
I don't care about the characters, and I don't care about leveling up for the sake of leveling up.
I guess the only real motivation there is the end-game.  Where you can battle against other players and do party raids.  That's the real fun in leveling up.

SolomonRPG doesn't have a raid system, or even PvP yet.  So, I had to come up with a concept that'll motivate players to co-operate and level up.  To continue playing toward something.
However, in there lies yet another issue.  What to do once the story 'ends'?
I guess at some point I'll have to implement PvP and raiding of a king.

This is the reason I have been so quiet for the past few months.
This adds yet another challenge to making SolomonRPG possible.

In the coming months I'll keep you updated on any progress I make.
So far I have the world story premise but I'll hold off on telling it for now until I polish it a bit more.
I'm also in the progress of making character lists and dialog for each one.
Creating an end-story that will be where all the sub-plots lead to.

These are all new aspects for me, but thankfully God's been giving me the chance to meet some really smart people who have helped give me tips and advice on how I should tackle this.

Anyway, for now I'll just post some random art for the game.  These are all still concepts.
Wish me luck, and don't forget: Jesus is King!

Here are some snapshots of some of the custom art and maps that I've gathered so far.
None of this is final, in the end I'll probably use tons of pixel art for the old school feel.
Also, thanks a bunch to Kinou Games for being awesome.  They've done a bunch of custom tilesets and character sets.  They've also been helping me with the art style and map concepts.   All in all, I HIGHLY recommend them for anyone who needs good game art at decent prices.
(The first hand drawing is by a personal friend of mine.)