Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts that we will be calling the ‘Chopping Block’. As you can see, we even have a nifty image reserved for this feature. Chopping Block will be a discussion over an element of our game that didn’t end up working out for one reason or another. As with most game development, a lot of stuff hits the cutting room floor for all sorts of reasons and we wanted to shed some light on some of our thought processes regarding these cuts. Some of these chopped ideas were definitely removed from our game entirely, while others may have been recycled into something that better fit our game.
In today’s post, I will be talking about the very early days of development when I was pulling together ideas for characters in Sigils of Kairos.
When conceiving the basic framework for this game, there was always one character idea that was sure to be a lock. Some may be thinking of Otto the tank or Diam the healer, as they are iconic tropes that fill ‘pure’ roles, but they would be wrong. One of the original characters envisioned for Sigils had their moveset completely planned before being cut. Which character? The ‘Standard’ character.
The idea of the ‘standard’ character is one that’s used across the board. For any Street Fighter, it’s Ryu. For Overwatch, it’s Solider 76. For any Mario game, it’s-a him, Mario. Although each of these characters are unique, they also have the most straight-forward tools for their respective games. For our game, the ‘Standard’ character was supposed to be the baseline for all the other characters to bounce off of. ‘Standard’ was set to be the jumping off point for new players, introducing the basics by using a generic play style.
Standard would have been the face of our game from the beginning. This tutorial-ready character that would’ve been a normal-looking human for skittish players to ease into the world we’ve built. In contrast, other characters like the Khurn (the blacksmith) or Lynx (the cat) involve a bit more knowledge of the game as their moves use lesser known mechanics such as defense buffs or provisional damage. For new players, these characters can come off as overwhelming or even underpowered if not used correctly.
In terms of moves, ‘Standard’ would have had a mix of a little healing, a little damage, and a basic trap/disarm to touch on main mechanics. Originally envisioned as a typical RPG reluctant hero, Standard would wield a sword and fall back on some of the RPG tropes for her/his move list:
Damage Card (A special move that attacks the front opponent)
Potion Heal (Standard uses a potion to heal target ally)
Splash Damage (A special move dealing damage to the front opponent and minor damage to the back opponents)
Disarm (Remove a trap, Laying a trap was also considered here)
Ultimate: Discard up to 3 cards, Deal 3 attacks and a crit to the front opponent
Card Draw – Medium / Base Damage – Medium / HP – Medium
As you can see, the character would have lived up to the name ‘Standard’. By all accounts, the character would have been fine in the game, but there was one vital flaw. Standard… was boring. With no discernible hook, the character’s mediocrity far outweighed the appeal of being relatable to the player base.
Another big reason why we ditched this character, is that the Paladin (Garric) seemed to lean in the same direction as ‘Standard’. It was Jacob that recognized this and basically cannibalized ‘Standard’ into our ‘Paladin’ moveset. By converging the two characters, we made a single character that was a lot more interesting both mechanically and narratively. Looking back, this change was bound to happen eventually. With a limited roster, each character needed to shine. Constructing a character for the sake of filling a slot will always be less interesting than an organic creation.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully you enjoy the new Chopping Block feature as we’ll have plenty more coming your way in the future. My hope is that ‘Chopping Block’ will give a better understanding of our design thought process.