This is the second entry in our monthly Pep Talk blog series. A written companion to DRDC’s ongoing Dev Diaries video series, Pep Talk features behind-the-scenes info, insights and sneak peeks of works in progress by the developers of the Spirits of Aporia (SOA) game.
All Work and No Play…
As someone who was introduced to the world of video games at a young age, it was a childhood dream of mine to become a play tester at a game studio. I remember playing Final Fantasy VIII on the PS One thinking:
“Wouldn’t it be fun if my job was just testing new video games all day?”
Fast forward 28 years later, I landed a job as a Community Manager/Game Master at a Korean-owned game company and got paid to do just that. QA testing our mobile games in between routine weekly maintenance wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.
Turns out, playtesting doesn’t really involve much “playing” in the traditional sense — Unless you’re the type who enjoys high-octane, blood-pumping excitement like…talking to the same NPC over and over for hours or jumping in one corner of a game map 10,000 times to test for broken wall physics.
Sarcasm aside, it takes a certain kind of individual to actually enjoy what play testers are tasked to do. The good news is, if you’re the saboteur type who takes glee in toppling down a lego fortress or nitpicking at a classmate’s homework then this might be the career for you!
Breaking Good (not Bad)
In Video Game Development, the job of a game tester is to basically break the game, then report to the dev team how it was done so they can fix it. It’s an often overlooked aspect of the game development process as more mainstream roles like programming and game design take the spotlight in mainstream media.
This makes our development of Spirits of Aporia an interesting case as we continue to involve the community in our game creation process.
When Karl, the game’s lead developer and CEO of DRDC, first brought up the idea of the Dev Test Build and having a group of playtesters, I immediately asked to be included. Of course, I knew what I’d be seeing would be far from a polished mobile game but I was interested to experience SOA in it’s raw form, from the perspective of a game developer.
Call me impatient, but I was chomping at the bit to do more than just walking around maps with my newly hatched Anima buddy, so much that I was willing to volunteer for one of the more unglamorous roles of making video games.
On top of getting access to new features in the developer’s pipeline, it’s also refreshing to see what the other participants of the first SOA Tester Group have to say on the new Forum. In my opinion, inspiration for indie game projects like these thrives best when it can feed off of the imaginations of others in the same community.
Dedicated fans and supporters will always be the greatest asset of small-time video game devs and publishers!
And heck yeah, the first release of the test build did not disappoint! This month, the devs focused on the game’s Ranch extension which includes the main Anima raising mechanics.
All Animas have needs that need to be managed by players. These are: Mood, Hunger and Energy. The newly revamped UI design neatly lets players check their buddy’s status information including their name, popularity, age and base stats.
The addition of the game’s ranch assistant NPC, Nancy, and her tutorial dialog is a welcome call back to old-school JRPG games too!
As I mentioned in my previous post, the way we choose to raise our Anima affects how well they perform in training drills and ultimately, in Arena battles. Players need to keep a good balance of playing with, feeding and resting their Anima to keep them in tip-top fighting form!
Of course, they also need to carefully tailor their training regimen to match their desired Arena playstyle.
A Case of the Munchies
The Anima metabolism and food satisfaction system is surprisingly intricate in SOA. As I confirmed with Karl, there’s more to providing nourishment for your battle buddy than meets the eye!
Aside from breaking down edible items into certain food groups, what you feed your Anima has different effects on each of their physical needs. According to the current version of the game’s tutorial, some food items are more filling and replenish more energy but do not improve an Anima’s mood. Others, like Junk Food, provide little nourishment and energy but are widely enjoyed by Animas who like how they taste.
That’s right! Animas can have food preferences. They can like or dislike different kinds of food flavors! Furthermore, repeating the same food choices will have diminishing returns on your Anima’s status and metabolism. Yes, Animas are picky eaters and can get bored of eating the same thing everyday — just like my royally spoiled cat (talk about a realistic pet-simulator)!
I’ll have to save that question for Karl next time.
Happy, Shalala (It’s So Nice to be Happy)
Animas have moods which affect how well they do in training and in battle. Playing games with your Anima is a good way to keep them happy which hopefully, means they’d do their best in training. While there isn’t a happiness or sadness meter visible in the game, checking your Anima’s INFO screen prompts a helpful hint from your ranch assistant NPC.
Players can play a game with their Anima using toys stored in their inventory. According to Nancy, these toys can be purchased in shops throughout Aporia. For now, the only game I can play with my Anima (I named him Iggy) is fetch.
The mechanics are pretty basic, just tap anywhere on the screen to throw the ball and your Anima will bring it back to you. While the interactions are a little too simple to be called a proper mini-game, it’s nice to see the little heart pop up on screen as your Anima brings the ball back.
Of course, we can’t just keep playing with our Anima to get a free mood boost (that’d be too easy). Every action that involves an Anima’s participation diminishes their energy over time. So while it’s good to keep your Anima smiling, I doubt it would be an efficient strategy to spend the next 30 minutes playing fetch with them on your Ranch.
That is, if you want your Anima to stay healthy, you need to let them rest too!
No Snooze? You’ll Lose!
Like humans, Animas can get tired and cranky. This makes them prone to failing in training or doing poorly in battle (like me on a 1AM lose streak while being a sweaty try hard in VALORANT~). When this happens, it’s probably a good idea to let your buddy rest while you take a break.
Put down your phone. Stand up and stretch. Grab a drink. Go outside and touch grass. You know, the good stuff.
Time in SOA is synched to our real world hours and the game’s Calendar system also follows ours IRL. Each day starts at 12:00AM (UTC +8, PHT) and, unlike old-school PS One games, time does not stand still when we stop playing SOA.
This mechanic, according to the devs, was carefully planned so it doesn’t matter whether you’re more of a night owl or one of the mythical creatures that actually get up before 10AM everyday.
Thankfully, it also means most players won’t have to worry about tending to their Anima in the middle of a school or work day either. So long as your Anima gets their 8 hours of sleep, they’ll stay happy and in their best form.
I guess I’ll wrap up here for now before I put everyone to sleep with my ramblings. I’ll end by saying all Anima lives matter! Just because they’re virtual, doesn’t mean your buddy’s companionship is any less valuable or valid!
Want to read more about game development and blockchain technology? Check out DRDC’s article on why the Play-to-Earn model can be ruining the gaming experience!
Excited to try out Spirits of Aporia yet? Don’t miss your chance to grab an Anima buddy before everyone else! Join our ANIMA PRESALE waitlist and stay tuned for more leaks, sneak peeks and nerdy monologues in the next installment of Pep Talk!