Monday, 20 January 2020

The Planning of Yogsimulated

Exactly two months ago, I posted a fan-created story to Wattpad that put focus onto a well-known entertainment brand. Yogsimulated told the tale of ten members of the Yogscast getting to experience a new type of virtual reality and be the ones to make it public through the use of a video. Each of the four points of view explored the same events but with different experiences being felt.

And now, with this post, I’m going to give a bit of a behind the scenes look at what sort of ideas I had planned for, and why the things that went into it happened. If you haven’t read it yet and want to do so before reading this look back at its creation, you can do so by following this link. Now, let’s start at the beginning.

The time was around this point last year. The Jingle Jam of 2018 had finished, I’d been watching some of the regular streams over the month, and wanted to celebrate my appreciation of the Yogscast in the way I knew best. But what could I use as a story? Did I want to go wild with it or play it safe?

I eventually opted for the latter, but used a bit of creative licence when crafting the characters. All of that came in the last few months before release, however, since for most of the year it was just small bits of ideas that never really got put down in writing. The only thing I had really settled on was – as with all my fan-created works – an alternate reality that allowed me to be a bit more creative with the world.

So to start with I had a list of various members who could be used in whatever story happened to uncover. That list was always changing and evolving, and at one point I had considered adding original characters into the ‘cast – though I felt doing so wasn’t in the spirit of what I wanted this to be about. Then there were the events I wanted to happen. I had considered taking the ‘cast on an adventure of some sort, so for the first few months the label of Yogventures was applied to the folder of ideas.

Such adventures were to have referenced a few things from the then recent videos I had watched, though such ideas had never been put into data form. I just knew I wanted an adventure to happen. But then I started to think on something I like to say, and decided to theme the adventure around that. “Adventure can be found in your hometown” was something of a phrase I’d say near the summer, as I would sometimes just head out with end goal in mind. So with the Yogscast being based in Bristol, the adventure of Bristol started forming, with wacky antics being had as they travelled around.

That idea lasted a few weeks before I then decided on a new angle. Now in the second half of the year, the Jingle Jam would soon be returning for another December of festive-themed charity streams. I wanted something that would tie in – however loosely – with that event. So, what with the alternate reality in mind, I uprooted something from Elemental Heroes for use here. That being the virtual reality that was pretty much an alternate reality. A video game environment where you controlled every action you made.

The idea was that they had been invited by the inventor of the technology to be the ones to make it public. As for what they were doing within the virtual Bristol, I at first flavoured it as a Gmod-like experience, with game modes similar to those the Yogscast have played on the main channel. Rather than transferring them completely over, I started to develop similar modes to fill in for them. Only infiltration – the TTT-like mode – ever had ideas written down for it.

Infiltration would have been an objective mode, where the team have a goal that needs to be completed. However, there are infiltrators who aim to stop that goal being completed by killing the other members of the team. For every five players, one would be an infiltrator. Everyone would have a role which determined which weapons they had access to, independent of whether they were an infiltrator. The game would have been played with full communication off, which would have made for a more plot-focused section of the story rather than being character interaction based.

Then I added some racing to the ideas of games that would be played in the virtual reality, and since my heart lies with racing, that’s what the entire story became based around. Not only did it allow for character interaction to be at the fore of the story, it allowed for an expression of just how much could be got away with in this virtual reality. You’re not going to be able to zoom around the city streets without repercussions in reality, after all, and that’s something I made sure to highlight within the story, along with a few extra bits about the morality of actions even in a virtual world.

The list of characters had been finalised and I got to writing. The first pass at it needed some strengthening in certain areas. The introduction felt weak, and there was little in the way of true interaction. There also needed to be some world building and explanation of the systems at play within this virtual world. The second pass made sure to correct that weakness, adding in the world building elements, while still keeping it all told from Lewis’ point of view.

Now, truth be told, it could have ended there, ready to be uploaded to Shorts of the Rula in November. But if this was a celebration, I wanted it done right. There were four groups in the introduction, and so another three points of view were written. Doing so allowed me to include the three journeys in the first half that would never have been told, along with some more world building opportunities. I could also put some focus to areas that wouldn’t have seen much under just the one point of view. Working on those other three POVs brought to light a few corrections and additions I made to the overall story.

Looking on what was created, I felt it managed to convey the usual banter and interaction that videos of the Yogscast have, but aside from the world building of the virtual reality technology, doesn’t stand as a massively strong story. It was something made by a fan to celebrate their appreciation of a brand. In this case, the Yogscast. And it does do that, but I’m left wondering what I could have achieved had I kept the larger ambition for the project I’d had at the start. Video content is what we love the Yogscast for, but – while certainly a unique take – doesn’t mean a story written about them has to follow that core foundation.

That game mode of Infiltration I have kept as an idea for another time. It won’t see anything major done with it, but it serves its use as a world building tool – whether for a continuation of this story (since I could theoretically make a second story based on the livestream during Jingle Jam I reference in the first) or for another of my worlds as a mode within a standard game.

What I do want to try is a story that takes those original ideas of an adventure and make something of them. If I feel the opportunity is there to make another fan-created story using the brand of the Yogscast, I will try to incorporate those ideas into such a story. I’d want such a story to have something unique to it, though, so will only use such ideas in such a way if it makes sense for what I want to achieve.

While what I said above does make it seem like I am disappointed in how this came out, I am anything but. As said, it managed to convey the banter and interaction videos of the Yogscast have, and that was what I set out to achieve once I had a goal in mind. I’ll leave it up to you to see if I managed to succeed at that, but I feel it has.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Redesigning the Galar Region of Pokémon Sword and Shield

 The Galar region showed a lot of promise when it was first unveiled, taking a lot of elements from the UK and mixing them into what is the most diverse region we have seen in a main game. It did deliver on that, but it also felt incredibly linear and unconnected, with certain sections of the map being cut off from access except by train. It made the whole region feel smaller than it should have been, not really helped by the Wild Area restricting design for half of the map.

So what would be the best way to set about making the Galar region a better place to be? Well, top priority is getting a better way to connect everything together, and that’s where the Wild Area comes in with its new name of Route 1. You think I’m kidding, don’t you? But I’m not. Taking inspiration from the A1, the Galar Route 1 would wind its way across the region from Wedgehurst to Wyndon, providing the connecting line for everything to be built around.

Now, a few rules before continuing. I’m only using exactly what was given within the game itself. No changing the number of towns or routes (though I am allowed one extra on account of Route 1 being the new Wild Area). The structure of the region will also be remaining the same, as by giving representation for all of the UK, it makes little sense to compact it down to something akin to Kanto. And just as with all maps I create, this is not to scale but serves as a guide for the explanation. With those rules out of the way, let’s take a look at that map.

 As you can see, everything’s colour coded and easy enough to understand. There’s some obvious changes been made to the placement of a few of the towns in relation to each other, so I’ll start with that first. And the obvious one is the starting area. Postwick is to the west of Wedgehurst instead of being south, and there is no Route to connect them. Instead, the Slumbering Weald has a path on the outside of it that connects the two, with the gate to go deeper into the forest being over the river. The pesky Wooloo will still be attacking this gate, and the beginning of the story progresses the same as the game.

You’ll still be heading into the Wild Area – or Route 1, with this map – as while Route 2 is connected to Motostoke here, there’s still the lake which is impossible to cross at the beginning of the game. You can see Hulbury has moved from a north-east position from Motostoke to being near enough directly east. The idea behind it was breaking the obvious loop that the three towns of Motostoke, Turffield, and Hulbury made. There’re also more connections added, but we’ll get to those later.

Stow-on-Side has been moved down to be directly west of Hammerlocke, even if it’s not a simple straight line to get to it. That also moves the position of Ballonlea, though here it isn’t placed directly north. Spikemuth and Circhester get shifted to be north of Hammerlocke, which removes that obvious loop from the map. This area is the most changed of the lot, with plenty of connections between locations that previously weren’t available.

Then there’s Wyndon, which is now connected to Route 1 instead of having a Route 10 to the south of it that itself is only connected by train. The train connections still exist, but are now purely optional instead of being forced in two particular cases. And speaking of optional, there’s choice in how you get around the middle section of the map instead of being restricted to following one path.

Sure, the journey as it exists in the game is still a thing, with Turffield, Hulbury, Motostoke, Stow-on-Side, Ballonlea, Circhester, Spikemuth, and Hammerlocke being followed for the Gym challenge in that order, but there’s choice in how you get between them. The obvious way is to follow the Route numbering, but that doesn’t mean you have to if you don’t want to.

Take travel between Turffield and Hulbury, for example. You could head along Route 4 to get onto Route 1 and into Galar Mine 2 to get to Route 5, but there’s also the option of heading back along Route 3 (which will now be fully open, since it had to be closed to force you into Galar Mine 1 before the badge) and into Motostoke. From there you can choose to go onto Route 5, or out to Route 1 and approach that way. Even in the late game, you can head directly into Circhester, or head for Route 9 and transition to Route 10.

As for the Routes, Route 2 is still the same green hill as before. Route 3’s east side keeps the look it has in the game, with the west side taking on the appearance of the game’s Route 4. This version of Route 4 adapts the game’s Route 5, or that section that isn’t just bridge. Route 5 in this version has a bridge, though not as long, then slopes downward to the sea in a winding path. Route 6, once you get over the river, is desert and rocky terrain, as is the short bit of Route 7 that leads into Stow-on-Side.

The larger changes come with these next Routes, with the rest of Route 7 being a mountain path down to a forest that leads to Hammerlocke. This forest is also represented by Route 8, though the forest isn’t as colourful as the Glimwood Tangle. Route 9 (from the Route 1 access) would have some fields visible with the river, which would turn into a thick lining of trees upon approaching Route 10. Those trees would continue as the Route heads south, with the west side having some steeper hills on it. As the Route heads east again, there’d be rolling hills all the way down to the sea.

Route 10 would be mostly similar to how Route 8 appears in the game, with ruins and sandy terrain. Since there is no water around this area, Route 11 – which connects Hammerlocke to Hulbury – has been added to provide a water Route for the game. The land nearest Hulbury will be a construction zone, with a bit of world building saying that another small town is being built. The land nearest Hammerlocke will be a beach with a sloping path leading up to the city and the Route 9 Tunnel.

The largest change is Route 1, what with it now filling the Wild Area’s purpose. It will still feel the same, with varied terrain on offer throughout, with the very north of it being an icy mountain just as Route 10 is within the game. All the areas represented in the Wild Area are within Route 1, with that small island within the southern part being representative of the Lake of Outrage.

As stated, the idea behind the creation of this map was to bring more connectivity to the region and have it feel less linear in design. Do you think I have achieved that here, or do you think I’ve gone overboard with the idea? Let me know down below.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Pokémon Direct - 9/January-2020

The Pokémon Direct has finished and given us the news. Home was barely featured within it, with the meat of the presentation diving into the Sword and Shield Expansion Pass. Just at the beginning, though, we got news that the original Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is being remade for the Switch as Rescue Team DX – and there’s a demo already available to try it out.

The first Mystery Dungeon game was one I played a lot when it first came out, with it offering a blend of turn-based battling and a full range of movement that couldn’t be found anywhere else at the time in the series. The story was fun to experience, with it being involving as you worked toward becoming the best rescue team in the world. Gaining experience and getting to tackle more difficult missions was all part of the fun, and felt your team really was growing.

I never really played any of the later games even though I did finish Red Rescue Team, as I didn’t feel there was anything else the series could offer me. I tried Gates to Infinity but felt it lacking in the charm of the original. Getting to experience the original with new features and opportunities should be a great experience, and I will certainly enjoy digging into that demo later on. The full game releases 6/March, which is a bit close to Animal Crossing, but that should really offer much of a problem.

When I first set foot in the Wild Area of Shield, I felt it one of the best things to happen to the main series in a long while, which gets me very excited for the expansion pass of the game. Two new areas are set to be included with the expansion pass, and both are full Wild Area type experiences. The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra will offer new places to visit, with new characters to get to know, and new story chapters related to that area. With new Legendries being a part of that, I’m hoping for something good.

From what we’ve seen, the new areas look great, with the concept art showing in greater depth the sort of things we’ll be able to find within these new locations. Returning Pokémon that weren’t included in the base game will be found in these new areas, including the Legendries of past generations. Along with them come new clothing options and other new features that are still to be revealed. The Isle of Armor is set to come first in June, so we can probably expect to see another Pokémon Direct before E3 giving a deeper look at what’s coming. The Crown Tundra will follow in the Autumn.

An update to Sword and Shield is coming later today to get ready for this new expansion into the world. We’ll meet one of the trainers from the expansion, as well as one of the new Pokémon we’ll encounter. With this expansion pass replacing the need for the director’s cut (or third version) of the game, there should be plenty to experience and gain from this pass, and for half the price of a new game.

There’s also more set to come, with Home being announced for a release next month with more information being released on it soon, and if I’m not jumping to conclusions, the saying of “continue to bring new things in 2020” means there’s more yet to come. Just what new things are coming is anyone’s guess, but with no new main series game for the year (you would expect), it should allow for the spin-offs to come out of hiding once more.

And with that lovely surprise of Pokémon news, I hope that the next general Direct can surprise and excite me just as much with even just one of the announcements it brings.