The Donnerwald Experiment – Dev Diary#1


Welcome to the first Dev Diary for The Donnerwald Experiment. It has been pretty quiet here since the end of last year but this changes today.

There are several topics I want to share my thoughts about with you, but for today I’ll briefly talk about the basics of TDE: Johanna, Montgomery and Partners.

And of course, everything will be spoiler-free.

Johanna Prokuri

The main plot of the game has shifted multiple times since the start of development three years ago. At the start, I only knew I wanted to make something with the thematic “forest”, “loneliness” and “machines”.

The plot was simple. Johanna was a mechanic & ornithopter pilot, flying above an unknown forest known as Schwarzwald, but then a malfunction made her crash into the forest. There she had to defeat roaming mechanical golems and take their scrap to rebuild her ornithopter (and also build robot companions as partners with those materials to defeat bigger golems).

The first artwork, back when the game had the work title “Schwarzwald” by Edarneor

It might have been a good game on its own, but after the initial plot drafts I had many concerns. It lacked something outstanding. And the thematic “loneliness” means it won’t have many NPCs, but (multiple) character interaction(s) is something I really wanted to include for an RPG.

Looking back, some core ideas are still alive and have evolved. Johanna’s personality and values stayed the same over those three years. What has changed is the situation she finds herself in, as things are looking grim for our blonde inventor in the now finalized version of the plot:

An experiment three years ago made her lose her creativity and renders her unable to build new machines. And then she’s told this is just one symptom of an even worse matter, as she’s going to die soon due to an “Dream Demon Infection”. Her only chance for survival is to capture the Dream Demon who’s responsible for this, steal his magical tophat and force him to remove the infection before it breaks out.

Montgomery

The mole-a-hole with it’s driver

Montgomerys inclusion was more or less a wonderful accident.

One artist added a stylish mole into one of the construct sketches and it didn’t take long until I fell in love with his design. In his first story iteration little Monty became a shopkeeper NPC, selling fruits (and his favourite super hot chili) which can power up Johanna in battles.

Today he’s the wise advisor from the Dream World, guiding Johanna on her way to find and hunt the Dream Demon who’s responsible for her mess.

Similar to the first partners in the Paper Mario series, he offers information about enemies in combat and has several tricks hidden under his hat (which he stole from a powerful Dream Demon he defeated).

Construct & Partner

Adding constructs to the game was one of my main headaches. Initially they were intended to be the only help Johanna could count on in battles, but now they can coexist with her biological friends in battles.

Then there was this problem that constructs and friends “felt the same”, as they were different types of constructs but still provided the same kind of support in battle.

It all changed when I jokingly asked myself “what if Johanna pilots a mecha” like those from popular anime series like Neon Genesis Evangelion. Initially I deemed this idea too ridiculus, as I imagined she would sit in a way too oversized robot and stomps on smaller demons like they were bugs.

But then I asked a very talented artist for a sketch just to try it out and I started to really like this idea.

Many different directions on how the robot should look like. In the end, it became a combination of B and H.
More detailed concept on how it could work and possible upgrades.

What was once considered ridiculous is now part of the heart of the game.

When people hear “The Donnerwald Experiment” the first thing which should come to their mind should be the robot. And then Dream Demons. And then that one plot twist. And then maybe petable dogs.

It’s unclear what will happen with the other smaller constructs. Only two were finished and sprited, so it wouldn’t hurt that much to completly drop them in favour for the big robo. But Johanna has many talents and building a BIG robot is just one of them, so I’m thinking on how to include the smaller constructs in a meaningful way.

Now to sum it up:

Construct:

  • Quality over Quantity: One strong construct with a huge HP pool and very powerful attacks.
  • Unlock extra abilities by installing new modules.
  • Can be resummoned if they get destroyed (at a price).
  • Requires Woy energy to be used

Friends

  • Quantity over Quality: Can have up to two partners at the same time in battle and have a good variety of medium-strong skills to offer.
  • Level up and aquire new abilities by helping them with overcoming their problems.
  • Once they die, they are gone.
  • Can generate Woy energy for Johanna if interacted in a certain way.

One more thing

This concludes the very first Dev Diary for The Donnerwald Experiment, I hope you enjoyed reading it. Next time I want to talk a bit more about the overworld and available movement options.

Have one more look at this small paragraph, as this sums up my vision on the project pretty well:

After getting toyed around and tormented by Dream Demons for several nights, Johanna is now ready to pay everything back with an oversized fighting robot.


-Wegenbartho, 2019