Small Favors is a comedic fantasy RPG with 40 hours of playable content. It features dozens of distinct areas, each with their own bosses, puzzles and complex branching events. It has hundreds of skills, items and enemies, roughly 200,000 words of dialogue, and several talking dogs. Though it’s still in development with a planned release at the end of 2021, a fully playable version is available for free download here.
As my largest project to date by far, a lot of the challenges in Small Favors development came from managing the game’s scope. After an early period of rapid content expansion, I had to make clearer plans on what needed polish. Dungeons on the critical path to complete the game were all given more detailed events and puzzles, as well as additional character-building scenes and side quests leading into them. The cost of this was cutting some areas entirely and scaling down far more. For example an optional arena with a detailed story and tons of fights was cut down a single boss, because it captured all the best bits with a fraction of the development time.
Another way the game had to be adjusted was controlling the pace that players saw new content. Early versions of Small Favors were almost completely open-ended, which made the critical path less clear and led to a highly inconsistent difficulty curve. In response I made the early game more linear, unlocking the map over time and adding directions to dialogue more often. Some side quests were made inaccessible until later, and others that were difficult when first available were given warnings through visuals and dialogue so players knew what they were getting into. Even shops in the hub town were changed, by requiring side quests for their owners to order new stock. This not only kept players from being overwhelmed by too many options, it gave more purpose to existing side quests and prevented players from easily buying their way past their expected power level.