Play it: https://qintin.itch.io/rpg-in-rpg
The Walkthrough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOCkiX-jwTk
The game is made in Godot, using an open source dialogue system I made myself a while ago: https://github.com/QueenChristina/gd_dialog. The battle mechanics are made following HeartBeast’s Action RPG tutorial series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAbG8Oi-SvQ&list=PL9FzW-m48fn2SlrW0KoLT4n5egNdX-W9a. It is a horizontal slice (minimum viable product), with an overview of the overarching narrative, rather than a vertical slice — however, the narrative has been condensed to fit the timespan for the project.
I wanted to parody top-down action RPGs by making a game around a core theme: in RPGs, you are the hero, yet you kill monsters and fulfill quests all for the sake of progressing the game. Would you become a monster yourself if it meant progressing the game? Will you do anything to progress the game, or will you keep to your morals? What truly separates hero from monster? In this way, I am heavily inspired by Undertale, criticizing a core theme of RPGs: heroes kill to win. The core of the final plot twist in the game is that it is revealed you were playing as the monster of another’s RPG all along, and that you were not the true hero of the world. Hence, the game is aptly named “RPG in RPG”.
Concept Doc: https://mechanicsofmagic.com/2022/07/11/project-2-rpg-in-rpg-concept-doc/
Although this game features killing monsters, there is no blood and violence is all fantasy. However, because the game parodies classic RPGs, I expect the audience to be familiar with top-down RPGs already, though the included onboarding teaches anybody how to play. Moreover, while winning requires skill and maneuverability, the attack mechanic is very simple and accessible: users simply click to attack. Thus, this game is targeted to a general audience around 12+ in age.
The game is a condensed overview of my vision of what it means to play as a monster in another’s RPG, but believe that you are acting as a hero. It is a nod to the spirit of Undertale while criticizing the battle mechanic of traditional action RPGs. Hence, the game starts off as a typical RPG where players kill off monsters and fulfill requests, practicing to kill off a boss monster, and progressing to the next areas accordingly. However, the twist is that the boss “monster” that gets killed off is the local villagers’ god, and the final requirement for moving on is for you to succeed being a hero to the true main character of the game (depicted as a black wolf), and to be killed off in their RPG as yet another monster — admitting that you were no true hero to begin with. All along, you were the monster playing in someone else’s RPG. After all, what hero kills innocent NPCs and even the local’s god, just for the sake of progressing to new areas?
Balance is woven into the game by usage of space — the player is thrown into multiple practice areas to fight lesser, weaker monsters, before reaching the final area with a strong boss monster.
Types of Fun
The narrative is linear, relying on exploration, challenge, and fantasy. Challenge is derived from the skill needed to evade attacks and combat monsters through repeated clicking. The player is transported to a fantasy world where bunnies worship a god of nature, heroes are marked by red swords and sacred amulets, and the game delivers partly on sensation through atmospheric music and a world of limited colors.
I wanted to make a nod to typical RPGs by including typical monsters.
One of the monsters you fight is the slime, a typical monster in RPGs.
Paying homage to the ubiquitous and annoying Zubat from Pokémon, another monster you fight is a “bat”.
I also included “The Right Hand of God”, a monster that humorously breaks the fourth wall to include me, the creator of the game, into the game itself.
The enemy that kills you off at the end is intentionally a wolf, a predator, hinting that “RPG in RPG” may be yet in another RPG — the true hero is not clearly defined, if there is a hero in the game world at all, and perhaps everyone is a monster. Violence perpetuates violence. It also hints that the wolf character at the beginning who gives you the quest to kill off the local monsters and hails you as hero may have been “crying wolf” — lying that you could be the hero of the game through violence. In the end, violence was simply a way to progress, having nothing to do with morals or holiness.
Pixel art was used to inspire the same atmosphere as class J-RPGs, such as Pokémon and Zenonia. The background elements intentionally have a simple color pallete of red and pastel yellow, making the full-colored interactable elements pop out, and making the game easier to navigate at a glance.
Core Game Mechanic
The core game mechanic is having the player fulfill quests for NPCs by killing off monsters and garnering items and money, then progressing to new areas after fulfilling tasks for the NPCs.
The core game loop mechanic.
The player plays by moving with WASD, ENTER and arrow keys to progress through branching dialogue, and CLICKing with the left mouse button or using SPACE to attack monsters.
Usage of Space
As the player progresses through new areas, the game gets harder as the player builds up new skills — introducing more and more difficult enemies for the player to attack as they progress through the map. For example, the player at first fights slimes, who rely on attacking the player through touch, but then the player gets introduced to fighting firefrogs, who attack from a distance via projectile fireballs. Firefrogs require slightly more skill to evade, as fireballs track the player position and target the player.
Players move across the map, as marked by the blue line. As they progress , each area’s monsters are more and more difficult in defeating.
- The first playtest was a test of the core game loop and basic UI: killing monsters and fulfilling one or two basic quests (kill slimes and retrieve an item from a boss monster).
As feedback, one playtester mentioned that there was too much red and it was harsh on the eyes — even the text was red, and overall some elements were hard to read and was unpalatable to the eyes. On the other hand, another playtester said they loved the background color pallete. I certainly agreed that the menu icon was hard to see, but felt the color pallete made it easier to read interactable elements on-screen, so I ultimately changed the icon but left the pallete the way it was.
2. The second playtest included more of the narrative — I laid out a more finalized map, a boss monster area (where the player fights “God”), a village area, and a few animated sequences to bely the main theme of the game: that you were playing as the monster of another character’s RPG all along.
An initial prototyped map of the game.
As seen above, the player mainly walks downward then loops back up to enter a final village area. Unfortunately, my playtester got lost and confused at the final sequences of the game in terms of story. They mentioned that it was not clear when they progressed through the story prior because there was little feedback (both in terms of NPC interaction and background/visual), and moving vertically did not feel like progression. Thus, I rearranged the background and areas to move from left to right instead of vertically, so that players could feel like progressing through the game as if reading a book. The background also changed to be more special and wild as players progressed to serve as a visual marker of change, such as with god rays overlooking a shrine. I also added more NPCs that the player can talk to so that the theme that you were viewed as a monster, not the hero, as you killed more and more monsters, was more obvious and straightforward.
3. Moving forward, if I had more time, I think I would change NPC interactions and animations so that the storyline and themes are more clear than they are now. However, I am happy that the main battle mechanic and core game loop are featured in this slice of the game.