Making RPGs in Minecraft!
How Azounstone and Dasaster crafted a series of MCRPGS!
We've seen some pretty impressive fantasy stories and large adventure maps in Minecraft, but few have come close to the sheer magnitude of Drobnovia. There you'll find a series of Minecraft fantasy RPGs. Described as having “an epic story with an RPG MMO feel,” they’re primarily the work of two builders and designers, Azounstone and Dasaster.
These maps span countries and continents. They have monumental stories and hundreds of characters, all with intertwining relationships. They're tales of heroism, with magic and monsters and unstoppable evils. They're bursting with quests, ranging from helping local townsfolk to banishing the darkness that threatens the entire world.
Basically, the only thing these RPGs don't have, is any respect for your free time. When am I supposed to find time to do anything else when these lands still needs saving!?
There’s three adventures in the series to date: Drobnovian Knights I, The Golden Chalice of Kurast, and The King of Shadows. Azounstone spends 60 hours a week working on these projects, while Dasaster spends 30 hours or more. Some take over a year to complete, meaning thousands of hours go into crafting these ambitious RPGs.
Every quest must be coded, every building placed, every line of dialogue written. It’s difficult to describe the sheer magnitude of the maps without doing them a disservice: this is an adventure the size of which dwarfs a lot of retail games in my collection - but all built in Minecraft.
The question is: why does Azounstone do it? It's hardly a small time commitment...
“My granddaughter is the simple answer,” explains Azounstone. “I'm an older person, I'm 52 and retired. My granddaughter, who I have a very close relationship with, had encountered Minecraft; she's with me every weekend and she said ‘Oh, Grandpa, we must play Minecraft!’
She showed Azounstone YouTube videos of maps players had built in Minecraft, to show him how they could build their own. So Azounstone found himself another builder to help out, Dasaster, and they sat down together in October 2014 to put something together - what would eventually become Drobnovian Knights I.
They worked for eight months (!) to put out Drobnovian Knights I, learning about writing, building and redstone engineering along the way. Of course, Azounstone’s granddaughter, Faith, gets to lend a hand in building and quest designing herself: one quest is dedicated to Stampy Longhead, thanks to her.
Azounstone’s own influence comes from being more of a “hardcore” gamer previously, playing Everquest 2 seriously some years ago. Inspiration has come from many different roleplaying games, and both Azounstone and Dasaster take a break after each release to see what other games are doing and get fresh inspiration.
In Azounstone’s own words, “there’s only so many times you can tell the player to pick something up,” so he has to get creative in designing and writing quests - especially when the maps include hundreds of them.
"It is Faith that should be thanked as without her there would not be any of our maps."
The focus rests with the main storyline first and foremost, but soon after you find yourself ensnared by the lure of the smaller side quests as well. There’s a lot more to do here than just defeat the bad guy. In fact, there are even ‘legendary quests’, devilishly difficult challenges reserved for the boldest adventurers. To be honest, it’s amazing I found time to write this article with so much going on.
But that’s still not all! Azounstone designs stories that unfold between the maps. In The Golden Chalice of Kurast, the team’s second map, side quests will lead on into The King of Shadows, while The King of Shadows itself may reference characters that you’ve met previously. The storytelling weaves a web through the series, linking characters, relationships and their stories back and forth through each of the RPGs.
With a window to code on one screen and Minecraft on the other, Azounstone works to input code to command blocks all around the map. He does that manually for every quest in the game - from small side quests, to the main storyline, to the unique legendary quests.
However, while Azounstone and Dasaster are the key people in making the maps, they’re still not the only ones.
“A lot of credit must go to the Minecraft community, because they create some fantastic buildings,” explains Azounstone. “We speak to the creators and ask if we can use them, and the answer is usually 'yes, of course you can.’” Both Azounstone and Dasaster make their own buildings as well, but being able to take inspiration from the community is a key part of how such a small team can make something so impressive.
They're committed to their own community, too. Both Azounstone and Dasaster spend time on their forums, listen to feedback, and create video walkthroughs for each main storyline, to help players who get stuck. There's no shame in using one! I won't judge you! Much.
There’s one more member of the team: bikerchic44. Once Azounstone and Dasaster have put everything in place, bikerchic44 will go through it, testing each quest to make sure everything works before it all gets released.
Azounstone stresses that despite the huge time commitment he gives to the project, these RPGs are a team effort. “I'm incredibly grateful to Dasaster, because without her there would be no maps as she works on them full-time with me too. It’s a joint effort and she is as important to the project as I am. Also, bikerchic44 deserves a big thank you for all the time she spends testing our maps prior to release.
“Ultimately, though, it is Faith that should be thanked as without her there would not be any of our maps.“
So, Faith: thanks for introducing your grandpa to Minecraft! He, with you, Dasaster, and bikerchic44, have made some of the most impressive adventures in Minecraft. Now, if you’ll excuse me: Drobnovia still needs saving!
Er, anyone got a few hundred hours spare?