Guidelines for Designing Your Own Game Guided by Firelights
When making your game, you will be considering numerous things all at once in the hope of forming a cohesive whole. To make your life easier, we’ve created this Checklist. In this chapter, you will see all the things you need to think about when making your game. Simply go through each section, and by the end of this chapter you will have a pretty good idea of what your game will look like.
The first thing you need to think about when creating a game of any sort is the format you want to use. If your document is a trifold pamphlet like Firelights, a 20-page zine, or a full-fledged book, the way you write your text, lore, and mechanics will differ greatly.
In formats like bifold or trifold games, every single word has to be useful. Every single sentence, condensed. Because of the space limitation, you might have to rephrase things often to make them fit on the page. Using a small format also means you won’t be able to add as many things as you might have liked. Details like world lore, a bestiary or NPC backgrounds can take up a lot of space. Space is a luxury you often can’t afford in small formats., It requires significant effort to make condensed games, but it can be a rewarding challenge..
If you decide to go with a larger format like a zine or a book, then you will need to ask yourself the question “how much is too much information?” Guided by Firelights games revolve around a solo protagonist who explores and discovers a world. If you add too many details around the world, what is left to be explored? Try to strike the right balance between things that are necessary to understand what the world is about, and what is superfluous to actually enjoy being a part of it.
Firelight was created in the hope of mechanically emulating the Metroidvania video game genre. As for its world, the game is heavily inspired by Ori and the Blind Forest, Hollow Knight, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The world of Firelights is grim, dark, but still hopeful. The dead can’t find the way through the Veil, and only Firelights can reignite the Beacons which lead their way. But, Curses are all around, and plague the land. The game starts with the protagonist emerging from a cocoon. They know nothing of the world at this point. They start with only a basic understanding of what they need to do, and are guided by their goal to explore and reignite the 6 beacons of Penumbra.
When creating your world, think about what it looks like, what kind of creatures live in it, and what are its impending or current issues. Is the world broken, or is there something that is looking to cause it harm? Think about the latest events in the story, and describe them in the game to give a sense of history and context.
In Firelights, the protagonist of the story has one clear goal: explore a world that is entirely new to them, and re ignite the 6 beacons of the land. Only they have the power to do this and guide the dead back through the Veil. This goal that drives the player through the story. Without this, the player won’t have any interest in actually exploring the land, and expanding the map.
When creating your story, think about the goal the main character of the story has. Is the protagonist just a lone explorer, or are they a part of the solution to resolve the problems of the world? Are they looking for something, or are they fleeing someone? Think about the different factions in your world, and how they relate with the protagonist to define how everything is linked together.
In Firelights, the main antagonists of the story are the undead and the Curses. The undead are the creatures that plague the land, as there are no more beacons to guide their way through the Veil. The Curses are the shadowy entities who’ve extinguished the beacons, and corrupt the land of Penumbra. While the undead exist for narrative purposes only, Curses are an important part of the system. Curses are the bosses of the game. They are scary, dangerous, and are hunting for the protagonist. In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, those are your Howl, Mora, and Shriek. Some actions results hint at their presence, while others put the player in direct conflict with them. To fight a curse, the player needs to perform an action, and stack a certain number of cards to match the Curse’s strength. Some Curses are vulnerable to certain types of actions, and this is reflected by card suite vulnerabilities inscribed on each Curse’s definition. E.g. “♠ cards count as two cards”
When designing your world, think about the different kind of enemies, creatures, opponents, or adversaries the protagonist may face in their journey. Define what triggers them showing up, may it be caused by an Action’s result or not. Then, think of how a character fights them (e.g. with an action), and what makes them unique (e.g. vulnerabilities)
Games that are Guided by Firelights usually focus on developing the story of a lone protagonist, which the player of the game embodies throughout the story. That protagonist is determined to accomplish their goal, explore the world, and interact with the fiction using a list of Actions and a set of Approaches. Consequences are paced using a Fatigue track, and Treasures can be gained and spent to do numerous things in the fiction.
The protagonist has three approaches: Forceful, Quick, and Patient. Each approach is linked to a Modifier which is often used when making Actions in the game. At the start of the game, there is one approach set at a +2, another at a +1, and the last one is set to a 0.
For your game, think about the different kind and number of possible Approaches you want the protagonist to take when performing Actions in the world. Define their name, and think of how the Modifiers for each approach are set at the start of a game, and if there’s a chance to increase them during gameplay.
The word Approach is important here. Those aren’t skills, they are the ways and methods a character might use when facing a particular challenge.
The protagonist has a Fatigue track which is made of 5 boxes, which the game uses as a way to pace the consequences of making actions. When the main character makes an action, and the result is not favorable, there’s a chance they’ll have to mark a number of Fatigue boxes.
For your game, think of the different way you want to pace out consequences. You may want to use a single track like in Firelights, or rely on multiple tracks. Think about which Action has an impact on the tracks, and define what happens when if a track is ever full.
To its core, the Fatigue track is kind of like a health point bar that is used as a way to boost up the drama of the different actions of the main character.
The protagonist also has a Treasures counter. Treasures are gained by the SEARCH FOR TREASURES action, and are consumed when making the BUY INFORMATION action. This diversifies the types of things the protagonist can do in the story, but gives them more tools to get to their goal. Instead of resolving everything with a challenge, this gives them the ability to approach certain situations with a new angle, thus making the gameplay more varied.
For your game, think about what the protagonist can do and gain throughout their journey, and how they can expend it to gain other advantages. Always refer to the list of Actions the main character can take when designing this particular aspect.
Treasures were incorporated in the game to reinforce the exploration phase of the game, and guide players to look for secrets, like you’d do in Metroidvania style video games.
A Moment of Rest
As the protagonist explores the map of the game, they may be asked by the result of an Action to mark Fatigue. At some point in the game, they will have to clear the track, or fear having to fall back and flee for impending danger. Firelights accomplishes this by allowing the character to Rest. When a character rests, they clear the fatigue track, shuffle the discarded cards they’ve used back into their Story Deck, and take the time to fill an entry in their Journey Book.
When designing your mechanics, think about what taking a Rest looks like, and the kind of impacts it as on the different systems and mechanics that your game uses.
This kind of move is classic in games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Hollow Knight. This is when the character finds a calm place in the world where they can restore their health, save their game, and take a breather from the constant challenge that is their journey.
An Action List
The core system of Firelights relies on its Actions. These are self-contained systems the player can quickly parse at a glance when they are looking for something to do. Each action has a trigger (e.g. “when you do this…”), defines how the action is executed (e.g. “Act + Modifier”), and lists out a distribution based on whether the result of the action created Light, Shade, or Shadow.
For your game, think about the kind of moves you want the main character to take as they walk the land, face adversaries and explore the unknown. Every single action should be put in place to reinforce something important about your game and your themes. In other words, don’t add generic actions. Instead, try to look for actions that are entirely unique to the Protagonist.
In video game terms, these are the kind of activities the main character can do in the world. Can they fight? Search? Climb? Evade? Purify? Add one action for each important theme, and make them worth the player’s time.
Now having read creator kit, you should now have a pretty good understanding of the different parts of games Guided by Firelights, and should be in good hands to get started on your project.
But your journey doesn’t end here. If you need further help designing your game, or want to bounce ideas with amazing people, be sure to join the Fari Community. You can also ping me on Twitter at any point for assistance or feedback.
Once you’ve designed your game, you may use the Guided by Firelights logos, which can be found here.