I’ve been putting a lot of mental investment into RPG Chess. Thinking about technology and resources and time.

Technology was a decision practically made up for me. I want to support asynchronous play, and the only (free) system that supports this is Game Center for iOS. There are other systems, but they’re expensive or complicated or involve writing a lot of the back-end tech myself. There’s a limit to how much time I want to spend treading that kind of water. My knowledge of web development is already pretty minimal, and if I manage to get through life never touching JavaScript or PHP again I’ll consider myself a success.

Art is still a wide open question. I’m conflicted on a lot of things: do I want classes or not? If I have classes, it makes sense that every class would have unique pieces, but that’s visually confusing. I don’t want players to be uncertain about what image correlates to what piece. Do I want animations? That bumps up my art requirement considerably, but it could add a lot of panache to the game. Can I get away with just using stock art on the internet? There are some good sets out there, though less than I’d like. Is it morally reprehensible to take that stock art and sell it as IAP? It adds to the game, but it’s not something I myself created.

Monetization has been at the back of my mind. I came up with the idea for the game without considering how to make money off it, but I’ve made no money off enough games that it’d be nice to, y’know, recoup some of my investment. (Side note: Cuddle Bears actually lost me money, even if you don’t count the time we invested). I can sell: new piece sets, new boards, new board layouts, premium powers, premium classes if I introduce classes, avatars, artificial advancement. “Pay to Win” leaves a horrible taste in my mouth, but I hope to balance the powers in the game such that higher level players don’t have a distinct advantage as much as they have a wider selection on how they’d like to play. Do I include ads for non-paying players? That’s pretty common in freemium games, but I dunno.

Scheduling is a constant concern. I’m not horribly busy at the moment, but I’m busy enough to make a side project hard to manage. This thing will have to be scoped carefully - big enough to make it an interesting game but small enough that I can actually finish it. I’m already foregoing a single player mode entirely (no complicated Chess AI here!), so the ‘RPG’ title won’t be as descriptive as I’d like. I think once I sit down and start devoting my energies, things will come together, but it’s impossible to predict how long this will take or whether it will become another unfulfilled project.

Design wise, I’ve locked down a lot. I’ve got 20 different powers thought out. If I don’t have classes, that may be good enough for a first release. If I do have classes, I’ll need a lot more to support positive, constant player progression; at least 10-13 per class. The general flow and UI feel is coming together on paper. Communicating new concepts to the player has been streamlined, largely because the new concepts themselves have been streamlined.

During the course of writing this post, I think I’ve resolved on including classes. The major reason is that they provide a larger deviation on standard Chess and fit nicely into the RPG framework. I was starting to worry that simply ‘Chess + Progression + Powers’ was not enough of a difference to make this an interesting product. Allowing the player to have different characters that can each grow independently adds a whole new dimension. Balancing will be tough, and there are art decisions that come along with it, and it also slows down the new user flow if I’m not careful. But I think it’s the right call.

So now I guess all that’s left to do is, well, get started. Very little tech work has gone in so far, but hopefully over the coming weeks we’ll see that change. First playable by the end of March? I’m not going to commit to that, but it’s a nice idea.