4 Hugues Ross - Blog: Making the first Halberd game: Story Time!
Hugues Ross


Making the first Halberd game: Story Time!

If you haven't read this post, do that now. I'll wait.

The first step to making a successful game is coming up with a good title, clearly. I spent a solid 10 minutes or so trying to think of a good legally-distinct title involving words like "dragon", "knight", and so on before remembering that I can just rename it later. So, let's just be lazy and call the game Henry for the time being.

Believe it or not, the second step to making a successful game is to make a new folder somewhere on your PC to put all the files in. Halberd can do that for me, or it could had I remembered to make it installable. Let's fix that now...

With that nonsense out of the way, we can start designing the game for real. Normally it helps to start a game with some prototyping, but that's not yet on the menu with Halberd. Instead, let's talk narrative.

Warning: Actual writers may want to skip this bit, to avoid the aneurysms my... process... will cause them.


Even with a game as small and simplistic as the one I described before, it still helps to put together a little timeline of what's going on and what the characters will do before we build any content. We start out with the obvious:
Incredible. 10/10 story.

Sarcasm aside, this foundation gives us a lot of room to expand, even without dialogue and cutscenes to work with. This pair of events alone raises some interesting questions:
  • Why is the knight slaying the dragon?
  • What must the knight do to slay the dragon (besides the obvious)?
  • What happens afterwards?
You'll notice that these questions fill gaps before, between, and after the 'story'. Let's tackle the 1st and 3rd.

Motivation - Why slay the dragon?

Fictitious knights usually go on quests for kings. Kings, not typically portrayed as stupid, usually have a reason to send their knights off on a quest. Perhaps...
  • The king had a vision of his kingdom's destruction at the dragon's hands
  • The king is a greedy man, who wants the dragon's treasure hoard
  • The dragon threatened the king directly, demanding tribute
We could go on, with more ideas and deeper motives and circumstances. Of course, we couldn't depict most of that well with Halberd as it is. Let me instead reach once more into Ye Olde Bag of Cliches, and The dragon kidnapped the king's princess.

I don't want a totally boring story, though. 'Princess' is also used as a dog's name on occasion, so that might be a pretty achievable twist.

Conclusion - How does it all end?

We now have a knight, a dog, and a dragon. The little twist we just set up will provide a decent ending as well, so that can go at there. We can push it even harder, too. Since the player will likely expect a human princess, we can imply certain (wrong) things by stacking up some bones and a crown just before the dragon, and make the surprise even bigger.

The Rest - To Find a Dragon

I'm not cocky enough to try recreating the entire Monomyth in 10 minutes of lukewarm gameplay. Still, it's a good reference for brainstorming an RPG plot. Look back at the existing story points, and you'll see a couple similarities already.

Next, let's consider the (in-game) journey through our constraints. Given how short the game will be, I think 4 distinct 'areas' is a sensible goal to aim for. Clearly the 4th must be the den/lair/2-story condo that the dragon lives in, so that leaves 3 unknowns. Looking back at the Monomyth, there are a few things that interest me:
  • Most examples involve some transition from the known/safe to the unknown, then back at the end. This seems doable through environments alone, by starting the player off somewhere 'happy', like some lively woods or plains, then moving on to more foreboding locales.
  • There's a lot of events involving 'trials' and hardship around the middle. I happen to know of a couple simple events that could be made possible in Halberd, so I'll probably use those in the middle two areas.
So, we now have the following:
With this, we now have enough story to begin the game for real.
 Next time, we'll begin making some content.

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