Gratia is a 2D narrative RPG created as a directed study during the fall semester of 2019.
Now that the semester has drawn to a close—and with it, the development cycle for Gratia—I feel it’s worthwhile to reflect on the process and everything I learned from it. Naturally, as a student, I’ve made games by myself before. However, all of them were smaller in scope, constrained to a month or two at most, and largely undocumented. Throughout this process, I’ve both learned a lot and created a time capsule of the entire experience.
Gratia was, for the most part, a solo project. I used an art asset bundle I found on itch.io, a font I’ve used in another project, and music my partner wrote, but the code, narrative, and overall design are my own. It was a lot to put together in such a short time, and while I did shift gears and change plans a few times, I’m certain that the plan I laid out before beginning was at least half of the reason I was able to do it. The other half was the fact that it was solitary work; while I met with my instructor, all of the work was under my control, so I didn’t spend time coordinating task assignments or waiting for other pieces to fall into place. While I don’t mind working on my own, it definitely made me miss the team atmosphere of prior projects.
Documenting the project kept me learning and applying new ideas beyond core development work. I’ve tracked work before to some extent, but writing and reviewing documents on and off around work helped me to refine the core gameplay. One of the earliest such documents was the layout I drew up during week four, the first comprehensive demo of the game. I wish I’d drawn more throughout the process. Graph paper is a favorite of mine, and I didn’t use nearly enough of it on this project. Either way, combining a hand drawing with some digital annotations made for a clear picture of the state of the game at the time, even if much of it was rearranged later.
My writing improved as time went on as well. The first few weeks of documentation were mainly accounts of the work I did, with a few decisions and explanations mixed in. However, by weeks nine and ten, I shifted away from simple accounts and focused more heavily on why I made the choices I did. Game design is problem-solving, and the reasons for taking any given solution are just as important as the solution itself.
All in all, I’m proud of what Gratia has become. I’ve wanted for so long to use games as a storytelling medium, and while this project has only scratched the surface of their potential, it’s a step along the road to where I want to be.
The full documentation is available on the GitHub wiki at https://github.com/PurpleNinjaLink/Directed-Study-FA19/wiki