The History of Nothing But Interconnections

Nothing But Interconnections is an old concept of mine. It was born from the proposition of a Shin Megami Tensei game set in New Zealand. For those unfamiliar, the SMT games are RPGs produced by Atlus known for being incredibly challenging and usually revolve around recruiting creatures and deities of various myths to fight for you.

The latter point is in part more the idea "SMT In NZ" was initially brainstormed around. I wanted to make a dark, gritty, urban fantasy RPG where the enemies you fought were based around New Zealand's myths. Of course I'm white as heck and don't really know anything about Maori mythology.

Not only that, since I'm an introvert that hangs out with mostly American friends online, it's hard to say if I even know what New Zealand's youth culture is even like. What would probably result from this all is an urban fantasy that irregularly is stereotypically New Zealand just to try and establish the setting. (Or maybe what makes my image of teenagers New Zealand-y is probably so ingrained I don't realise it's different to America or the UK's youth, and I don't need to worry about that.)

Establishing the Story

It all starts when the protagonist Hemi decides to follow after some mysterious figures one day after school... just to see what they're up to. His friend tags along trying to convince him of the danger he could be walking into, only to ignore it. They make their way into the stranger's house, into the basement, and stumble upon an occult looking ritual. He accidentally breaks part of the setup, messing up the ritual and summoning some strange monsters.

Those performing the ritual decide to get the hell out of there, leaving Hemi and his friend behind. Before it seems he meets his death, a creature springs forth from Hemi's head and fights back stopping him from getting hurt. Hemi realises he knows what that creature is - Pixie, a creature he created himself in his head for his own original story.

After leaving the flat, Hemi finds that his town has taken on a strange atmosphere. More of those monsters that came from the ritual are showing up. Some parts of town seem to just feel more foreboding. Later, he would meet with a woman calling herself "Reality", and declaring she is bored of the world and wishes to "retcon" it all and start over...

Brainchildren and the title

Nothing But Interconnections is closer to Persona than Shin Megami Tensei in terms of the themes and events. The characters fight by summoning their brainchildren to battle. Brainchildren are the original characters and creations of the main characters themselves, just as the common subjects of my art are my own original characters - or the characters in this project itself.

It's not just brainchildren coming into existence. Demons born from peoples' fears, bad memories, and dark desires, are also coming into existence and running free. The monstrous entities come to be referred to as ideons. As they seem to embody ideas that are recurring in many people's minds, they don't seem to need a specific host to stay in this world.

How are these brainchildren coming into existence? That's one of the mysteries in the story. Each major character has their own view on how they see their creations, along with a theory of how the things that are going down are even happening. The title Nothing But Interconnections comes from a possible line from one of the characters:

There are no impossibilities, there are nothing but interconnections.

This line means that nothing is impossible, because somewhere out that something is possible, you just need to make that connection to bring it to fruition. However, this concept is entirely bullcrap. Within the story it is argued that ideas and imagination cannot simply be plucked out from another universe. There's also the fact that "Reality" herself claims to be the creator of the universe we live in and wants to do it over.

The core concept around that line was inspired by something that I thought was long dead and gone. Within fiction itself, it sounds like an interesting idea! Which is how Nothing But Interconnections came to be. In reality? It's obnoxious and offensive to creatives because fans frequently disconnect creators from their creations. I had the unfortunate experience of running into this unwittingly on multiple occasions, which means that if I chose to pursue this project I fear the risk becoming a target again. Fun.

I'm sorry, I don't really want to bring up that past now. Lets move on.

Limited Time

Witness to Unity will have a day system where you can only do certain things once a day, and going to sleep passes time. You only have 20 days to save your world, so you better use that time wisely. Nothing But Interconnections had a similar system in mind, only instead the idea was to make sequence breaking part of the game. Unlike Witness To Unity, you could sleep whenever you want to recover, but that would pass time, and if you weren't careful, you might just sleep away until the end of the world.

Also unlike Witness to Unity, everything would happen on certain days. The idea is that the story would be affected by if you went to a certain location before, during, or after a related event. A basic example would be going through a dungeon before "Reality" was going to show up to thwart her plans. While you might not immediately change anything - she might thwart your thwarting instead - the fact you got in her way would count towards something.

I am quite fond of the idea behind this system. A minor version of it could easily be used in Witness to Unity with side quests - and indeed certain events will happen on certain days, but they aren't what will affect the narrative, that is affected by merely playing through particular stories. With Nothing But Interconnections however, I would have to be incredibly careful about how much the order and time a player does things would affect the narrative later on because there would almost certainly be a configuration I hadn't thought of.

Code History

The battle gameplay was inspired by the idea of an RP battle system, following the format of a chatter/persona character and brainchild/summon character. The RP/role-play part comes from the idea that IRC RP has chat members using alias commands to represent characters. The characters would protect the chatter in battle, and if the chat member fell, so would the characters. This was much too complicated for me to try, so I initially tried having one summoner in battle at a time.

Early battle screen construction complete with animations, dated 2009-10-16.

If there was one thing I didn't want to happen, it was messing up my variables again. I made sure to document all I (thought at the time) needed so I could plan ahead. Working with event systems in RPG Maker 2003 is not as easy as creating a custom system in RGSS in the modern RMs. Scripting may be daunting, but at least you don't have to juggle variable IDs.

There are two technical systems that I originally began coding for Nothing But Interconnections that have since moved onto other projects. First is the concept of brainchildren in the mechanics: Brainchildren are weapons that gain skills through mastery points, and each party member can equip two brainchildren like other equipment. This system initially was proposed as being skill tree based, but the version used for the Witness to Unity system is a single path.

The original skill tree concept, complete with crappy names, 2009-09-27.

The other system is the idea of battles being based around stamina. In this system you are free to act as many times as you want in a turn, but every action consumes SP. SP would affect your accuracy and evasion, and you could go beyond zero into negatives which would make it impossible to act. It was your choice as to whether you rushed ahead in one turn or spaced out your actions with taking breaks.

I had Bravely Default's Brave/Default BP system in mind before Bravely Default. Though that game handles it vastly better by restricting the max/min and separating it from skill/magic cost.

Eventually I thought I'd try coding the system in RPG Maker XP. I felt that I was confident enough to code such a thing by this point, though I don't remember why it was I dropped the original project at this time.

The prompt to repeat your current action, 2009-12-27.

Somewhere along the line I dropped Nothing But Interconnections a second time and adopted the system into another project. I already wrote the system to be reused in several projects, even in the early stages I tried coding several layouts into the same system that I frequently toggled between out of boredom when testing gameplay code.

A different project that is using the same engine/script, 2010-04-15.

Nearly a year later I returned to the original engine for Nothing But Interconnections. I built up the code more, and had at some point between then and this point changed the RP battle system into a traditional battle system, only still with a stamina focus. Brainchildren were now weapons that granted skills, instead of entities that would guard the summoner. There would also be a normal party setup as a result. Here at this time I was testing turn order, as indicated by the string of sprites in the corner.

The altered battle screen, 2010-09-05.

I can't say for certain when I finished the brainchild system with regards to battle, or when I last stopped working on Nothing But Interconnections' RM2k3 incarnation. Here however is a screen that displays the stats of a brainchild. Each brainchild had a chance of summoning themselves to take damage for a character if that oncoming attack was a certain element. They also didn't have normal HP like the party members, no matter how much damage they take, they'd only lose one pip. If a brainchild lost all its HP, you could still use its skills, but it would no longer protect you from hits until it recovered.

This interface would be later adopted into the current visual style for Witness To Unity, which also began its roots as a second do-over of Nothing But Interconnections in RMXP, later moved to VXAce. To compensate, a proper restart of the Nothing But Interconnections project (when the WTU "engine" is completed) would have to use something else.

The interface displaying brainchild stats, 2012-03-09.

This is the title screen of that second do-over before it was replaced with Witness to Unity and later moved to RMVXAce. I quite like the effect I achieved with rotating urban spheres - one covering the sky, and another revealing it. Those two would individually slowly rotate in opposite directions.

Art

This is some concept art for the way brainchildren would manifest in Nothing But Interconnections, featuring Hemi and Pixie, the umbilical cord attachment being representative of the brainchild's reliance of Hemi to manifest in reality. It's also slightly unsettling in a way, which helps with the atmosphere I wanted this game to have.

Surprisingly, a picture I drew the same day has already been posted here, I'm not sure why the picture above was not. It's here titled Realm, and is a concept I was considering for late-game, like the final dungeon. Of course a final dungeon that's nothing but stairs seems incredibly boring, and in-universe incredibly tiring to ascend. I still like the appearance though.

Logo Design

Logo design can be finicky at times, but I feel that the logo for this is especially frustrating to get something that feels like it works. The title "Nothing But Interconnections" itself is quite long, but "Interconnections" is a long word alone that makes the rest hard to balance nicely. I think I did okay with the last design, but it’s a rather boring one that doesn't really evoke the connections theme in the title.


So there you have it, the evolution and thought process behind one of my projects. I like a lot of the ideas behind it, but there are also things I am afraid to communicate in it due to past experiences. I'm not sure how alive the project is, but I've avoided talking about some elements here either due to not being able to find my notes, or because they're spoilers and just maybe this thing could live on.

I find it interesting how this project has influenced others. Twice I began coding an engine-of-sorts in modern RPG Makers using concepts and themes in this project as a base, only for things then to branch off into other ideas. Gameplay elements or UI designs have also been adopted out of it out of assumption that this game would not live on outside my computer's WIPs.

I don't know where it's going to head next, I'm not even sure why I wrote this huge thing. I like this idea, but it could be a while before it can be played.

PostedWednesday, 19 February 02014 Tagsconceptualisation, games, graphic design, sketch.