Ascension was, for most of the 2010s, my flagship series and main focus. It was a series of loosely connected RPGs set in a blended sci-fi/fantasy universe. I had a lot of idiosyncratic rules for the series, like alternating between mostly-scifi and mostly-fantasy and making each entry more technically sophisticated than the last.
There were at least four mainline games planned, plus many ideas for spinoffs. Some of these were doable, some were way too ambitious. I finished the first two main games and made some progress on the third, and released two spinoff titles (the Ascension Adventure mini-series). Several of the games have tie-in stories, and a companion anthology was planned at one point.
Though I mostly stopped working on the series in 2020 and formally cancelled it in 2021, the legacy of Ascension lives on. CommonCore was originally built for Ascension III, and continues to power almost every one of my games. And many of the narrative and gameplay ideas conceived in the context of the Ascension series would appear later in other games.
Ascension is the game that started the series. It’s a text RPG written in Java, originally a school project. It has a lot of ambitious ideas, both story and gameplay, that didn’t quite work out, which would become a running theme throughout the series. You play as a mysterious individual who has woken up in a fantasy world with no memory of who they are or who they came from, and there’s a major twist to the story that’s spoiled by all subsequent entries in the series. It did get a lot of updates, some with major text changes, and a port to Android. I’ll be the first to admit it really isn’t a great game, but it’s where I consider my journey in game dev to really have started.
Ascension 2, as the subtitle might suggest, headed into space for a sci-fi adventure. It follows on from the first game directly, but with a mostly disconnected storyline. I had ambitious plans for Ascension 2, but had to scale a lot of them back, and the end product was deeply flawed. It’s mostly a stock standard RPG Maker game with bad graphics, horrible balance, and a mixed bag of a storyline, although it does have some nice music and a few attempts at animated cutscenes. I learned a ton from Ascension 2.
Ascension III was a much more ambitious project than the previous games, a fully 3D FPS/RPG with an open world. At one point, it was to have empire building and naval combat as well, but I axed those to bring the scope to something I felt was large, but doable. I never totally locked the story down, but it would have involved princesses and dragons and guns and was set a generation later than the previous games. The development history is long and harrowing, but in short it was my dream project at one point but I slowly lost interest and wanted to do other things, and it reached the point where it was holding me back and would never realistically get finished.
Ascension Revolution was where I bit off way more than I could chew. In some ways it was even more ambitious than Ascension III, and at the time I knew much less about making games. It was to be an open-world RPG with multiple endings, companions with their own storylines, and a complex morality system, albeit 2.5D instead of 3D. There was always a huge gap between where I wanted the project to be and where it actually was, and though I released a few trailers and a demo none of them were even close to the vision I had in mind. Eventually I realized the project was never going to work, and switched gears to the much less ambitious Ascension 2. Some of the ideas for Revolution would later be find their way into Ascension III (which also didn’t make it) and Shattered 2 (which did).
Ascension Adventure is a retro dungeon crawler based on the Heroine Dusk source code. While I was working on Ascension 2, I ran across Heroine Dusk and was enamored by its simple but addicting gameplay. I felt it would be perfect for a little something to go in between Ascension and Ascension 2. I wasn’t very good at art, so the end result was pretty ugly, but it was my first browser playable game and after I ported it to Android ended up one of my few mobile games. It was good experience and I still think it’s a neat little game.
Ascension Adventure 2 was the one month project that took a year. It wasn’t particularly ambitious, taking the first Ascension Adventure and adding a few new mechanics, some tweaks, and a new map and enemies, but I underestimated the work required and overestimated the amount of time I had. My focus was starting to shift to Ascension III, and Adventure 2 was meant to tie into it, though ultimately these plans went nowhere. I’d decided to do Adventure 2 mostly on a whim because I felt there was some untapped potential and the first game was very easy to hand to someone to play (literally or figuratively). I think it turned out okay, but the art is pretty ugly and it definitely hints at a bigger story that was never told.