How to Save the World

Part Four


The Perpendicular Universe


In the last part we saw how a character must be able to roam freely and explore the vicinity in the RPG. But all this roaming, hunting, and mini-quest-taking has its purpose. Eventually, the goal is for the hero to move on to the next dungeon with greater preparation than he had going into the last. In other words—and this is important—the hero must not be allowed to use the same strategy and techniques in more than one dungeon or major level. He must be forced to learn new fighting skills, earn more energy upgrades, and obtain more powerful weapons in between dungeons if he is to have a prayer of beating the game. As RPG maker, it is your job to adjust the difficulty of the dungeons accordingly, so that while each is progressive (the first is easier than the second, the second easier than the third, etc.), there is also to some extent a gap in the difficulty (the first might be rated a “level 1 difficulty,” so the second should probably be a “level 3.”) Make sure you understand this concept before designing your second dungeon.


If you are like me, however, you want to get to the good stuff in your game, and you’re planning on making your second dungeon a pure work of art, a true test of your player’s finest skills. For some of you out there this won’t happen until your third, fourth, or even fifth dungeon, but at some point it is a good idea to make a clear separation from what I call minor league gameplay and the majors. So from my second dungeon on, Lewis Dominick is going to have some very exciting battles and trials indeed.


But to jump straight to my level 5 second dungeon would be unfair; I just don’t want to go through the work of making a full-scale level 3 dungeon because for my game in particular it would be a waste of time. Hence I will precede my complicated dungeon with a “level 3” miniature dungeon: Hector’s Castle.


Now, before I go on, I must explain to you two vocabulary words (no, there won’t be an English test on them).


Parallel Universe: A secondary world that shares a distinct likeness to an original. This is often employed when a game has a sequel, but it is also useful when a world or dungeon has a mirror image of itself within a game.


Perpendicular Universe: A portion of a primary world that is not concerned with the main plot, but instead has its own problems to deal with. This happens any time the hero visits a place where the inhabitants couldn’t care less if he were sent to save the world; they have too many local problems to care about the big picture. Okay, this is a term I completely made up, but you’d be surprised at how often you’d actually find this in RPG’s.


My point is that Heartlandtown is a perpendicular universe. The people there aren’t half as concerned with the war up north as they are with the “madman” who has apparently found a “source of great power” and has wielded it in a hostile takeover of Hector’s Castle. Dominick learns this information from people in the Town Hall of Heartlandtown. What he also learns is that the castle as it appears now is not nearly what most town residents remember it as. Nobody can explain it, but somehow, the castle is much smaller than it used to be. Hmm… a mystery… sounds like it needs investigation!


You (Lewis) and Ky go to Hector’s Castle, but you cannot enter because it is surrounded by a moat and the drawbridge is up. Ky will soon suggest that you enter this castle as you did the last one, though the back. When you go around the moat to the rear of the castle, you see that there is a tree you could climb and jump from to clear the castle wall. Ky says, “You go first,” and you get over to the top of the outer castle wall. But right after Ky says, “Okay, now I’ll come up, too,” she is captured by several guards. She yells for you to run, but there are guards there to get you, too. Luckily for you, though, you have a bow staff to knock them out of commission. When the guards that have Ky go around to the front of the castle, the drawbridge goes down. At the same time, more guards come out of the castle to get you, so the drawbridge stays down. Use this opportunity to get into the castle and then close the drawbridge behind you so that none of the guards follow you in. Welcome to the miniature dungeon.


*Here are some general rules for designing miniature dungeons. To all of these rules, it should be noted, there are many exceptions, so if your dungeon does not follow some of them, that’s perfectly okay.

  1. Unlike a standard dungeon, there is no central room. Instead, the hero is immersed in a series of hallways and doors leading from a central hallway. These doors are split into two categories: those that can be opened immediately (very few) and those that require an extra item to open (the majority of the doors).
  2. The miniature dungeon is about 50% strategy and logic problems and 50% physical battles, just like the standard dungeon.
  3. The hero is limited in a miniature dungeon to only accessing one series of doorways/halls until he reaches the end of that series and gains an item (in my mini-dungeon, this item is the cherry bomb). The hero gains this item by solving a puzzle, not by defeating an enemy.
  4. Once the hero has gained the item, he can access all the other doors in the miniature dungeon. Behind most of these doors (in fact, all except one of them) are items that are purely extracurricular, so this is a great place to find subquest items.
  5. Beyond one of these other doors, usually a door that is specially marked, lies a creature ready for battle. When the hero defeats this character, he either receives another item, he opens a door to the real dungeon, or something else good happens. Once again, be creative.


In my later reports I will include complete maps and guides to all of my dungeons and miniature dungeons, but not now; I want to keep the general plot of the RPG moving. I will, however, introduce you to the enemies Lewis must face and the basic idea of my dungeon.


Common Enemies in and around the Heartlands:


Guards: All of the guards of the castle have black armor and resemble wolves of some sort. It takes two hits to down them.


Alarums: These creatures look just like the stones in the walls of the castle. Lewis might be walking through a hallway when all of a sudden a stone comes out of the wall and throws itself at Dominick’s head.  They can be noticed ahead of time by their light appearance, and can be dodged easily. Once an Alarum misses its mark, it never reappears, so Lewis does not have to worry about the things making a boomerang move back at him.


Boomerang Alarum: Now these he has to dodge more than once, or until they run into a wall on either side of the hallway. Boomerang Alarums are slightly darker than the regular Alarums, but not as dark as the stone walls of the castle.


Floor Alarum: This is the “boss” of my miniature dungeon. At random a stone in the floor will pop up and grow arms and try to grab you, shove you under it, and then crush you with its weight. To break this rock, you must use cherry bombs to stun it, then a bow strike to pound it back into the ground without you under it. It takes three hits to end the battle, after which Ky is released from her prison cell in the small castle’s dungeon.


The Parallel Universe


Ky apologizes for getting caught like that and promises never to do that again (on a side note, most gamers find it extremely annoying when the character needs to be rescued more than once. Remember Slippy from Star Fox 64? Don’t make the mistake of letting a major character, sidekick especially, slip into enemy hands a second time). But while she was in the dungeon, Ky noticed that there is an underground door that leads to the outside. Go through this door and you will see two paths: one that leads back to Heartlandtown (bomb the wall so you can pass through) and one that leads to a very opposite sort of place…


The only reason why you might want to go back to Heartlandtown is to once again visit the Town Hall to see people talking about how the castle just collapsed on itself (this happened right after you made your escape) and learn some background information on the next dungeon, which I have talked so much about that I think it’s about time I actually got there.


In the “opposite sort of place” is a land that, contrary to Heartlandtown, which is in a desert, is a bleak, desolate tundra. This is the land known as the Broken Heartlands. There are several collapsed buildings in the same location as the buildings of Heartlandtown, only in a mirror image. And at the end of the road in this town is a huge castle, black, and very foreboding. As you walk in, a mysterious voice speaks to you and Ky. There is no way of telling where the voice comes from. Here’s what it says:


Voice: Ah, welcome to the Future! All that you see here is just an image… just a mirrored image of what is to come when I lay waste to the land! And that will happen shortly, very shortly, for my plan is coming to its full potential now! Who am I, you ask? Dastard, maybe? But no, the dim-witted General does not know the future like I do. Do you yet think I am crazy? Well, I might have the both of you know that I also saw the destruction of Club Town and Diamond Castle before they happened! And you, boy, do you know that those too were illusions? Do you know that they are but things to come, not things that are?


Ky: This is getting weird.


Voice: I have all of my plans set up: Dastard will destroy Club Town, then Diamond Castle for me. I will use the source of power granted to me so that I can turn what is Heartlandtown into what you see before you! Then all I have left is to conquer Spade Mountain and all that Dastard so conveniently won for me will fall into my hands!


Ky: I still don’t know who this guy is.


Voice: Don’t you, Alexandra Chi? Don’t you? You should… after you stole from me my one true joy.


Ky: What? I’ve never stolen anything in my life!


Voice: Haven’t you? Perhaps you know not what I mean… oh well, no matter. But I see before me dilemmas… both of you are here. You therefore have the ability to see into the future, yet you think the events you have seen are in the present?


Ky: Now I get it! Lewis! Club Town has not been destroyed yet, and neither has Diamond Castle! Don’t you see? We’re in the future! Those events haven’t happened yet, but they’re about to in a few days or so. Don’t you know what this means? It means we can still save the Club Town and Diamond Castle from destruction!


Voice: Ha! Neither of you will do such a thing without control over your sight of what is future and what is present. But like I say, I have dilemmas… you both see into the future, even if you do not know you are doing it! Only two types of people can see into the future: those with a source of power like mine, and those who are of great destiny, according to the legend. But I have said too much, have I not? It is long past my time to destroy the both of you and stop you from hindering my plans… but you are both harmless without my jewel. I advise you therefore not to try and stop me! If you so wish to challenge me, my door is open to you.


The drawbridge of the castle comes down. The entire castle then splits into two parts, the drawbridge splitting, too. The ground tears apart, and Lewis and Ky are separated.


Voice: Sorry to break your hearts there, but I cannot have you teaming up on me, now can I? Oh, and about turning back: I cannot allow that, either!


A boulder falls where you entered.


Voice: Now step into my castle of wonders, and we will have fun… I like fun… I will enjoy watching you die at the hands of my minions… I like fun…


Ky: Lewis, I’ve learned a little by watching you fight, and as it looks like we have no choice, let me take on my half of the dungeon while you try yours. And don’t worry about me… I think I just figured out who this guy is.


And so you’re trapped with nowhere to go but into the dungeon. But wait! You’re not Lewis anymore! Now you are controlling Chi’s actions!


Ky: Lewis, any time you want to take over, press (command button) and I will stop moving and let you start.


In other words, press this command to switch between the two players, but only press it when you are sure Alexandra is safe (in a room marked “shelter”) so that she is not hurt by an enemy while she is on her feet standing still as you control Lewis. As hinted by the switch of identity, you must start the dungeon as Ky.


Ky walks into the Heartland Castle to face her first challenge, as a ninja claiming to be brother to the ones Lewis laid to waste much earlier jumps out a her unexpectedly… Next time, Part 5: The Fourth Dimension.