Using storyboards to figure out BlackSpire’s first moments!


I have spent the past few months working hard on the new game. Right now I am calling it BlackSpire. I have been working on all aspects of it, but for this post I want to focus on the story. I am going to show you the plans for the game's opening few minutes.

First impressions are important. That is when you sell your idea of the game to the player. This is true if you are building a traditional game, or you are on a Free to Play model. If players are not captivated they will drop out.

One game with a really strong opening was Final Fantasy 7. It doesn't waste a lot of time. It intentionally keeping things simple and unexplained in the beginning. It's primary concern is that the player gets sucked into the universe right at those first moments.

Taking the time out to tell backstory, or to show you tutorials would take you out of that mental space, so it is careful not to do that. That first 20 minutes or so of Final Fantasy 7 also served as the demo. I would count it as the best demo I have ever played. I am sure that demo did a lot to sell people on the game, and to sell the western world on the JRPG.

Have a look at the storyboard attached here as a PDF. You will see that I try to do things in a similar way. Momentum is important. There will be some explanation of the mechanics, and a better understanding of the story AFTER the player is already invested.

What I plan to do with BlackSpire is to evolve JRPGs into a new direction. I am going to take much of what was great about those games in the late 90s and early 2000s. I am also going to use a lot of story telling techniques that we have seen in modern AAA games.

One thing I thought about a bunch while working on this opening is the balance between story and game play. Always remember to pay attention to that balance. If you take control away from the player for too long the player will get bored. Likewise if you populate your level with too many random battles the player will get bored.

I already touched on the tutorial thing. It is common practice to me now, but how many games have you really enjoyed that just front-loaded all the tutorials? It's too much info and it turns many players away. One recent game that does a good job of introducing mechanics is X-COM2. It's a very complex game, but I feel like they really nailed the pace at which they introduce new mechanics.

So the PDF is attached right here! Read it and let me know what you think. There will be many, MANY more BlackSpire posts to come in the coming months!

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