Sunday, December 4, 2011

Story and Mechanics

As I'm planning to develop a personal specific universe for this game (as opposed to using the Zaxxon one) I need to develop a story around my game.

My story summary for now is the following:

'A week ago, invaders attacked the earth. Given their supperior technology, they defeated coalition forces in no time. They made all human prisonners, but one guy escaped. During his escape he found some special weapon. Now he wants to fight the aliens back and free earth from their hold.'

Let's first give a tentative name to the game (I need it for my project folder anyway). I need to convey the spirit of the game which I'd like to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek and kitch.

Key words I've assembled are: Invaders, aliens, revenge, aftermath, fight back, conflict, universe, galaxy, space, star, battlefield, earth, attack, freedom, mankind, unwelcomed, the clearout, species, roswell, area 51, armageddon.

Another important thing is to comme up with a name that is unique and has not been used anywhere else. Some google search will help, but generally the longer the name, typically with a subtitle, the least chance you have to get sued.

So I came up with this:

'Invasion Aftermath, Mankind's Revenge.'

Note this could be read as 'I'AM Revenge'.

Let's now talk a little about the game mecanics.

My planned process it to iterate around a prototype to remove risks and validate mecanics.

Here's my first process loop (essentially focussing around the 'toy'):

  • Is my control pleasant and intuitive?
  • Can the player easily understand the height of the ship?
  • Is it intuitive and easy to shoot static objectives on ground and in mid air?
  • Same for moving objectives?
  • I'm quite fluent with Lua, but can I implement and integrate custom functionnalities in C++ when I need higher performance ?
  • Do I have a fully functionnal and convenient pipeline for quickly building dozens of levels?
The first mecanics I'll implement are the ship control and the camera.

I'm a huge fan of SuperStardustHD (developped by Housemarque), and although my camera will be in perspective (as opposed to top-down in SDD) I do like the screen-space control scheme. It's a well acknowledged way of controling a character and it has been there since Mario64.

So to move the ship, you use Left analog stick. Relative to the screen.

That is something very different from Zaxxon, because here you'll be able to move in any direction on the XZ plane. This will allow for some specific gameplay patterns and could potentially allow for exploration mecanics. Great if the levels are potentially huge.

Also I need to control altitude change. In order to reduce complexity, I will assign a button to switch altitude. This way, I can avoid difficult situations where the ship would not be alligned with ennemies or item height. So we have two heights, low and high. I will then be able to design ennemies/traps..etc specifically for each height, and some might also be able to change height just like the player.

As the camera will always look pretty much toward the same direction, I do not plan to give control over the camera. It will be essentially automatic. I need however to give enough room around the ship in order to ensure sufficient visibility for the player. In other word, the camera will be quite distant.

That means I'll need some close-ups during cinematics or whatever, to create some binding between the ship/main character and the player. I think it's important for player 'involvement' and suspention of disbelief. I'll leave that for later, as I focus now on the core mecanics.

Allright, next post first control implementation and screenshots!

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