Monday, December 14, 2009

Another Epic Butt-Kicking

I broke down and bought a PlayStation 3 the other day. It's ironic; after examining the horrors of Sony's attempts to provide (and later remove) PS2 backwards compatibility, thinking a $600 price point was the best of ideas, and my general attitude about Sony's business practices, I was dead-set that I would never touch a PS3 willingly. But then something happened.

I examined their library of titles -- LittleBigPlanet, Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted and Uncharted 2, Demon's Souls, and so forth. There were too many good exclusive titles for me to ignore. And then the hammer drop: the price cuts. $299 for a new 120GB system. Or better yet, $349 with two bundled games. I could wait no longer.

I picked up the bundle, along with a copy of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. The bundle came with LittleBigPlanet and, of all things, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time. I set those aside for the time being and booted up Drake's Fortune, which I liked quite a bit. They did a lot of things right, but I can analyze that in another post. Once I completed it, I had intended to settle down with LBP and get my Sackboy on. I played a couple of levels, but decided I should probably at least give R&C a shot. So I fired that up, and played the first level.

And then I played ten more.

If I were asked when I first bought the PS3 what game I'd gush about in a post about amazing 3D shooter combat, you could bet that I would've envisioned a Drake's Fortune post. But as much as I liked it, I honestly think R&C did combat that much better. Possibly one of the best interpretations I've seen on a shooter in years. And trust me, folks, that's saying a lot.

First, if you have any competence in shooter games at all, put the thing on hard. It's an E10 game, and you'd expect it to be a cakewalk. I sure did. But then I started getting smacked for 14 damage from enemy attacks with a total lifebar capacity of 37, and I realized that this game was no slouch. On hard, combat was at points a white-knuckle affair. You had to pay attention, you had to know where the enemies are, and you had to be prepared to use the right weapon for the job. With a selection of some 16 weapons if I recall correctly, that's no easy task. Enemies may not have the same arsenal of tactics that the mercenaries hunting Nathan Drake had, but their attack patterns are so varied and so inventive that you'll be in just as much danger. And this time without the regenerating health bar.

In "On Regenerating Health", I discussed the kind of game that a constantly recovering hit point system would serve. Drake's Fortune is just such a system. Enemies flank, think tactically, move for advantage, and punish you under a hail of bullets. You will take hits, and you will take them often. It's built on setpiece combat, and without the break you get by hiding for a couple of seconds, the game would be impossible.

Not so with Ratchet. It's a different game, and it's not entirely fair to compare the two. Your health doesn't regenerate, and there's not much to go around. But enemy attacks are more quality over quantity. If you take damage, it's your own fault. In classic platformer style, there's a way over, around, or under every shot fired by your adversaries. A large bipedal tank might fire a heavy barrage from twin plasma turrets, which sweeps across the battlefield. Keep moving or jump over the stream. The next might launch an elecrified barrier either at your feet or above you. Jump over or walk underneath it. Time bombs? Run away, or better yet, snag 'em with your wrench and throw them back!

The shooting controls are very, very tight. You have a reticle on screen that varies with your equipped weapon. Using the pistol, you'll have a precise dot in the middle of the screen. The bomb glove, on the other hand, plants a circular target mark on the ground where your projectile will land. The angling is not 100% perfect, but in large part it's intuitive and you should be able to put your shots on target the vast majority of the time. Movement feels like a hybrid of an FPS and Devil May Cry -- dodge jumps/rolls, strafing, even odd objects in the environment to use for cover. (There's no "cover system" per se, in the style of Gears of War or similar, but it's not necessary.)

The platforming isn't perfect, but 3D platform games are notoriously hard to get right, and Ratchet provides the best experience I've seen yet. I've only suffered a couple of cheap deaths, mostly from bounding box issues with environmental objects. The small mistakes are forgiveable, particularly in light of the very small penalty for death. (Checkpoints are quite frequent, and help to deter frustration.)

The weapon list is extensive, and each one serves its particular purpose, with very few repeats. The pistol and shotgun do exactly what they suggest; the bomb glove provides pinpoint grenade throws; the Negotiator is a solid RPG weapon; the Dynamo of Doom fires a large electric ball that can be rolled around the map independent of Ratchet's movement; the Tesla spikes plant a pseudo-minefield that electrifies anything in the vicinity; the list goes on. The only duplication in functionality I saw was the "Groovitron Glove", which throws out a large disco ball that forces nearby enemies to dance, and the "Cryo Mines", which freeze enemies in place. You don't really need both, and their effects and timing are similar; the Cryo Mines trade a smaller radius for larger ammo capacity. Considering this is the only violation of my standard "each weapon should serve a unique purpose" rule, I commend Insomniac for their selection, particularly considering no weapon is bad. Each one has its purpose, and none are throwaways. You won't feel "stuck" if you're forced to use one, even if it's suboptimal for the job.

A post discussing the value of Crack in Time would be remiss if it didn't mention the pervasive sense that Insomniac put a lot of love into every area of this game. The environments are lovingly detailed. Ratchet's movements are believable and generally look good. Enemies will taunt you and provide amusing idle animations. The story is, if a bit cliche, hilarious at every turn. Even Mr. Zurkon, your gun-platform companion droid, provides hours of amusement with his hilariously violent taunts. The puzzles are well thought-out, fair, and provide a sense of satisfaction on completion, something that doesn't happen all that often these days. There are hours upon hours of levels and optional areas, each of which feels fun. Nothing is tacked on or unnecessary.

I commend Insomniac Games for providing one of the best-designed games I've seen in a long time, and showing me that even today, a game can be pure, 100% fun.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jerks and Xbox Live

I've made passing reference to some of my friends to the common perception of players on Xbox Live. (I mention Xbox specifically because I have one and am closer to the source; I still don't have a Gold membership and don't plan on getting one. I'm sure that PSN isn't much better.) A common refrain is "When you log onto Xbox Live, you immediately lose ten years of maturity."

While I confess that comment isn't exactly fair, it's hard not to be competitive in multiplayer games. The added incentive is that restrictions on quantity and quality of speech are almost non-existent, and rarely enforced where they do exist, on top of the anonymity of the online environment. I'm sure almost everyone has wanted to call someone a jerk or some other, more derisive term, but refrained because they were in the same room. (As an aside, this reminds me of a joke a friend of mine from college told me some years back: I believe it was called something on the order of "The Asshole Proximity Theory". Said theory states that people are bigger assholes the farther you are away from them. As in, regarding someone in the same room you might whisper "This guy's an asshole." Across town, you might state it louder. Now say a politician shows up on the television: "THIS GUY'S AN ASSHOLE!!!!!" But I digress.)

You'll see quite a few horrid comments leveled at the fans of two games in particular: Halo and Madden. Now, I don't really play sports games, so I can't speak personally of the quality of the Madden series, but enough of my acquaintances have played it and I've observed enough of it to know that it's a well-designed and implemented game. One with a vast audience, and which is easily accessible to most players.

I have played Halo, on the other hand, and while I do know some people who dislike the game (often on very reasonable grounds), I admire the series, and in particular how well-balanced it is. Generally, the game is fair, and has a very shallow learning curve for new players. You can pick the game up and go with a minimum of training or adjustment. As a consequence, you get quite a bit of strategic depth. (I won't go so far as to relate the game to chess, but I've mentioned before how overcomplicating a game's system limits potential winning strategies by virtue of one solution being optimal or close to it, and the rest being dominated away as a result.) Halo rewards many players with many options and many paths to success.

So what do these games have in common? Strong design, and a wide audience because of it. The consequence comes from that audience size itself. I submit that the reason most online Halo or Madden players are jerks is that the bar for entry to these games is set quite low (and I believe rightly so, but that's another argument), so you get a wide swath of players representing a larger cross-section of the general population than most games.

Let's face it -- we all know people whose gaming prowess consists solely of these "triple-A" titles, and who lack a breadth of appreciation for the medium as a whole. It's a lot like a person who watches sitcom television shows and nothing else. There is nothing inherently wrong with this attitude, but there's the small matter of a sense of scale. You'll find people of this ilk who will chastise more "legitimate" gamers about how the games they play "suck", or claim superiority as a "better gamer" because they can beat you at Halo. Leigh Alexander of the excellent Sexy Videogameland analyzed this very topic in short form recently, and she makes a valid point -- but while the kind of stereotypical player I just alluded to is certainly obnoxious, it's also not fair to say he doesn't understand games or his choices aren't worthy because they're common.

Even more so in (what I believe is) the more common case, where our player isn't a jerk with a superiority complex, but simply prefers more accessible games, perhaps because gaming is a minor hobby. Let's face facts -- not everyone has the kind of free time or money to play dozens of games, to sink eighty hours into Chrono Trigger, or to figure out what the hell is going on in Metal Gear Solid 2. We certainly wouldn't want to be chewed out for occasionally watching the Super Bowl or something like that. You know, the "no true Scotsman" ploy? The vitriol can go both ways.

I certainly play some esoteric games, but I refuse to stand idly and "hate on" Halo or Madden because they're popular, or because some jerks like to play them. You have to give Bungie and (shudder) EA some credit for designing excellent titles. As a consequence, I also find that I can extend some respect for the "hardcore casual" segment of the marketplace. It's probably contentious to call them that, but it's an apt description -- Halo is by no means a "casual game", but people who play it exclusively can't fairly be called connoisseurs of the medium.

And that's okay.

To the sophisticates of the gaming world, give the casual Halo and Madden player a break. To the casual, "stereotypical" player, go right ahead and keep on enjoying games for what they are, as long as you can respect those of us who delve more deeply into the medium. And can we all stop being so nasty?

Friday, July 24, 2009

On Recharging Health

I've always been an action gamer at heart, starting with the original Duke Nukem sidescroller from 1991. A main part of my upbringing in games has been first-person shooters, and shooters in general. From time immemorial (and for gamers, the 1980s are time immemorial), the standard currency to represent a character's resilience has been hit points (HP), or sometimes just health.

The most commonly referenced origin story for the concept of HP is the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The original D&D was derived from a wargame called Chainmail -- specifically, a scenario in which the advancing army must penetrate a castle's dungeon to come up into the main courtyard. Players enjoyed the dungeon scenario so much that Gary Gygax decided to make it a game in its own right. Of course, with a party of four or so characters, dying when you failed a single combat roll sucked, so he invented hit points, a measure by which a character could take some amount of damage and continue fighting.

Action games usually subscribed to one of two philosophies for a player's resistance to damage -- either he died in one hit (and usually several lives), or had a stock of hit points, called by various names, against which damage would be applied. Hit points could usually be restored by various measures, allowing a player to progess through much or even all of a game without dying given sufficient skill.

Arguments have been made, however, against the realism of this flat "life bar" system -- it fails to take into account the physical effects of damage to a human, for example. This degree of realism scarcely mattered in the games of yesteryear, where attention to detail was the exception rather than the rule, but since games are becoming more and more detailed, more and more realistic, and since player expectations have grown, some attempt has been made to address the percieved shortcomings of the hit point system.

One rather persistent trend seems to have taken root after the release of Halo, and particularly Halo 2. Halo used a system (which had appeared in games prior to it) wherein the player's HP was divided into a "shield" and "health" gauge. Shields would absorb the brunt of damage until they reached zero, and further damage would be applied to the player's health. Shields regenerate after a couple of seconds if the player doesn't suffer further hits, but health does not. Halo 2 removed the health gauge entirely -- the player still has a stock of health points, but they are not displayed on screen, and regenerate over time (at a comparatively slow rate).

I have always particularly liked the shield/health system from Halo 1 -- to tell the truth, I liked Halo 1 better than the other games in the series as a whole, but that's another discussion. The recharging health system has a handful of effects for gameplay:

- Increased short-term lethality. Almost universally, the recharging health system brings with it a reduced HP maximum -- the player will die in a few shots if he does not seek cover to let himself recover.
- Simplification of the supply dynamic. Games with recharging health need not provide the player with items to restore his HP -- it happens automatically over time. (The console version of Call of Juarez is an exception -- while the PC version had a strict HP counter, the console versions allowed the player's health to recharge, but left in the liquor bottles as a way to immediately recover HP.) Not having to include health packs means that the game no longer has to analyze that variable in the long term, meaning it becomes easier to balance encounters; the player is never in a low-HP state to begin with. The downside is that game effects that use HP as a cost variable (collecting items through hazardous terrain, "rocket jumping", special effects charging the player health points to use) are no longer a valid design decision, as there is no real consequence to the player unless he hoses up and kills himself.
- Simultaneous increase and decrease of realism. This one requires more explanation.

Recharging health systems have an odd effect on realism -- it all depends on the player's frame of mind. Combats become more realistic for two main reasons: First, the much decreased maximum HP count. Real people tend to die (or at least become incapacitated, which in most action games is as good as death) after just a hit or two. Since the player cannot have a large buffer of health to fall back on, it "knocks him down a peg"; he's no longer a Superman, but an average joe in a rough situation. Second, gunshots and other attacks often inflict much in the way of physical and psychological trauma, but may not have much lasting effect in the case of "flesh wounds" or wounds that are properly treated. I suppose some hand-waving is assumed in which the player character seeks medical treatment or patches himself up between scenes.

It is that "hand wave" that provides the decrease in realism as well: the player is essentially invulnerable, as long as the bullets he recieves are evenly spaced. A character could suffer a hundred or more hits against a life bar that lasts as long as three or four, and still survive with no long-term ill effects. I don't intend to argue for the inclusion of long-term damage effects in a game like this, as the player as a matter of course suffers far more damage than any reasonable person could be expected to absorb, and he must for the sake of the story keep going. Inflicting some kind of permanent penalty means the game would become a drag very quickly for anyone but an expert player.

This dichotomy becomes perfectly clear in a few recent games. The most standout example I can think of is the Rainbow Six: Vegas series. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series of games has always been notable for very easy player lethality. The original squad-based combat games would find characters out of action or even permanently killed if they suffered more than a hit or two; the effect is mitigated by the fact that the player had a roster of twenty or more characters, and an endless "reserve" stock of soldiers. More recent games, such as Lockdown, were more action-oriented, but still had the player suffer much damage from enemy shots -- the player's lifebar was quite small, and characters could not heal in the middle of a mission, in a nod to realism. In the Vegas series, the player's very low HP total returns, but Ubisoft has opted to include a recharging HP system. It's realism without being unfair, on a surface level. But for a RS game, it seems odd to include characters that can suffer dozens of hits, and in fact are largely immortal given enough adrenaline shots in the buttocks to keep them going. (The player is the sole exception -- if his HP reach zero he's down for good.) It makes for a better game, to be sure, but it does require some serious suspension of disbelief, particularly among series congnoscienti.

To tell the truth, I don't understand what's wrong with the good old lifebar. Even Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon included a fixed health system (and a medic character to keep the player and other characters going). I can see how the recharging health device is useful for some games, but it tends to crop up in places it doesn't belong -- RS: Vegas, but also such games as Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, where the protagonist is intended to be an everyman stuck in an unusual situation. (This is a textbook example of a phenomenon called ludonarrative dissonance -- a mental block occurring because the demands of the plot clash with the demands of the game system and mechanics. That's still another discussion.) It's a tool for simplification, and a handwave against realism. If you want realism and limited HP, give the player a realistic way to heal his wounds -- bandages, a medic, something along those lines, rather than a glut of medkits stored in unbelievable places, and leave the magic healing devices for sci-fi or fantasy games. Or strike a compromise.

An interesting system I saw came from a slightly older PS2 title, kill.switch. The player had a dual-layer lifebar, which for the sake of brevity I'll refer to as "stamina" and "health". When the player suffered damage, a significant amount of the trauma was applied to his "stamina" bar, which overlaid his health. The health bar suffered a small portion of the damage -- something like 20-30%. If the player's stamina bar ever reached zero, he died, but given time to recover, it would fill to a maximum level equal to the player's remaining health. He was able to suffer only a few hits in the short term, but there were still long-term consequences for suffering damage: a reduced capacity to absorb further hits in later battles. It left the player to make tactical decisions about how to approach battles, and didn't depend on him being in perfect condition; also, it satisfies the realism demands of a low HP max as well as accruing wounds over time. It's a system I wish I saw used in more games, and one I intend to test out if I get around to making a pure shooter game. More on that concept later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weapon Cross-Sections in Shooters

For Spacebot, my current project, I've thought about a couple of weapon systems and ammunition methods, but settled on a solid approach to use.

The player will encounter (currently) six weapons through the course of the game. They have limited capacities, but can be reloaded by pressing the "R" key. Reloading is done through magazines, rather than a spare ammunition pool (which has become the de facto standard -- more on that later). Reloading uses one magazine in inventory, and any remaining loaded ammunition is discarded.

The current weapon list follows. The descriptions should be straightforward except "Vacuum", which represents whether a weapon can fire in open space. (There's no oxygen, so weapons relying on an explosive action won't work.)

Capacity: 10 (unlimited reserve magazines)
Power: 8
Vacuum: Yes
A semi-automatic laser pistol. Fires one shot in a given direction.

Pulse Rifle
Capacity: 40
Power: 5
Cyclic Rate: 750 rounds per minute (12.5/sec)
Vacuum: No
A fully-automatic projectile weapon. Fires a rapid burst of metal slugs forward.

Fusion Pistol
Capacity: 24
Power: Variable (12-96)
Vacuum: Yes
An energy pistol with a charge function. The longer a player charges the weapon, the more damage it deals, but also the more ammunition it uses (anywhere from one to eight charges).

Charge Projector
Capacity: 8
Power: 50
Vacuum: No
A short-range dual-fuse grenade launcher. Fires in an arc forward; the grenades will detonate in two seconds or on impact with an enemy.

Flechette Gun
Capacity: 12
Power: 5 (times 6 shots)
Vacuum: No
A shotgun-style weapon that fires a spread of needle-like flechette projectiles forward.

Plasma Lance
Capacity: 5 seconds
Power: 150 per second
Vacuum: Yes
A flamethrower-style weapon. Fires a powerful jet of blue-hot plasma in a short-range lance.

(As an aside, any readers familiar with Bungie's Marathon series might recognize a few of the weapons in there -- I confess I did get some inspiration from there.)

The goal for this game's weapon set is to provide the player with a varied arsenal of tools, none of which duplicate another's function. I've thought carefully about the weapon set, and I want it to fall in line with Spacebot's overall design goal -- keep the game fun, interesting, but simple. Don't overwhelm the player with choices.

Therein lies my first conundrum -- does the Flechette Gun duplicate the Plasma Lance's purpose as a short-range power weapon? I've been thinking about this for a while, and I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't, and here's why. The Flechettes are designed to be wide-range, and allow the player to hit targets without precise aim. You may note that the overall maximum power of the gun (30 points) is quite small compared to what you might "expect" a shooter's shotgun-like weapon to have -- this is also by design, but more on that in a moment. The bottom line is that it is not a "power weapon" by any stretch of the imagination.

The Plasma Lance, however, is tremendously lethal at close range, but deals no damage at long range (the weapon simply doesn't reach that far!). It could be used in situations where the player wanted to hit several targets in a wide range, but he'd have to do some complex maneuvering to get that to work.

Why do I carry on about the notion of the weapons not having duplicate functions? I believe that having several weapons doing the same thing adds complexity -- that doesn't mean it's wrong necessarily, but it does depend on the overall aesthetic you're going for. Here are a few systems and some discussion of examples.

No duplication
Take a look at Marathon, the game whose weapon system I'm probably closest to. That game had the following array of weapons:

Assault Rifle/Grenade Launcher
Fusion Gun
Rocket Launcher
"Alien Gun"

The only weapon that needs explaining is the "alien gun", which was a rapid-fire weapon that shot from three barrels in a spread pattern.

The principle of this game was similar -- don't duplicate the effects of any one weapon in another. The only two weapons whose functions are similar are the grenade and rocket launchers; the difference is in their deployment. The grenade launcher is a tactical weapon; it has an indirect fire arc, and can rapidly shoot seven grenades per load, but the grenades are low-yield with a minimal blast radius. The rocket launcher was a two-shot weapon reminiscent of the same weapon from the Halo series (in fact the Halo launcher was more or less a copy of Marathon's, with the same name and all!); it has a very wide blast radius and deals significant damage, but is slower, and has a direct fire line.

Jet Force Gemini did this too; there was an array of about 20 weapons to choose from, but each had its own purpose and none duplicated another.

The rationale behind this system has already been explained; let's compare it to another system.

Large weapon array
A large number of shooters in the early 3D era (roughly around the time of Quake II) had, as selling points, a bewilderingly large array of weapons for the player's use. The consequence was that a lot of them did largely the same thing. This system leaves a lot more room for interpretation, because there are a few reasons for including a huge array:

Duplicates of increasing power: Wolfenstein 3D used this system, and it's the most basic example thereof. The player had three projectile weapons: a pistol, submachine gun, and gatling-style gun. Each one used the same ammo, dealt the same damage, but had a progressively higher rate of fire than the previous one. This gave the player a sense of progress, as his gun got badder and badder and he became more effective in combat. Once the player acquired a weapon, he wasn't expected to use the previous one again. This rationale can be applied in other games, too -- Doom did this with its pistol -> chaingun combination, but the system broke down when it introduced the plasma rifle, another rapid-fire machine gun weapon, but which was clearly superior and still used its own ammo; could the game not have dispensed with either the chaingun or the plasma rifle entirely and just kept one or the other as the "machine gun" weapon? The pair of shotguns from Doom II is more in line with the theory -- the "super shotgun" dealt triple damage despite only using two shells, and had half the rate of fire of the basic pump-action.

Sheer quantity: You saw this in some games, like the original SiN. Having 20-some weapons was nothing more than box-copy, and was supposed to be a selling point. A less materialistic interpretation came from Ratchet and Clank, where the player obtained dozens of weapons with their own ammo and purpose, but the quantity was built consciously into the game's mechanics rather than as an afterthought. The whole point of the game was the accumulation of an arsenal -- it was a means to its own end.

Limited Inventory: The most straightforward example of this comes from most present-day shooters in common circulation. The Rainbow Six: Vegas pair of games is a fair example: there are at least four of each "class" of weapons (handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, and so on), but there is no way to determine which one is necessarily "better" than the rest. It's usually a matter of personal taste. However, since the player can only carry two primary weapons, he isn't forced to slog through a massive inventory to find the specific piece he wants. He's forced to think, tactically, about which variation on the assault rifle is best for the upcoming combat scenario. This is the system I'm most willing to accept, because even though there are weapons that duplicate each other, the player would be silly to carry a pair. What use is having two pump-action shotguns, for example, if you can't engage targets at range?

The large arsenal theory makes some sense in each of those decisions, but it can be dangerous in some cases. If the player accumulates many weapons quickly, he will eventually come across a weapon that is "best" -- something he uses, constantly, in just about any circumstance. Give him enough ammo for that weapon, and he'll never touch anything else. It's an extension of an issue apparent in some fighting games: the "power move". Give the player, say, twenty unarmed combat techniques, but put in one that deals an inordinate amount of damage with few drawbacks. It's the only move he'll use; the rest are wasted code. You essentially have two options at this point: 1) Weaken the move so it's more in line with the rest of the options. Say, decrease its damage, or increase its recovery time, or provide some other sort of disadvantage to it. Or, 2) Remove the other moves that compete with it. Sometimes this can be the better option; if the player always uses one weapon, build the game around that weapon and ignore the rest! It's purer and gives the player fewer extraneous details to suffer through.

So there you have just one of the litany of thoughts that go through my mind with respect to game design and how I can apply lessons learned and overall feel to the games I design. More to follow.


My current project lacks a cohesive title, and I'm having trouble digging up something pretentious enough, so we'll give it the working title "Spacebot" for now, as that's what the game's source code is saved as.

I'm building a platforming shooter. It's a basic notion, and it's been explored (almost to death), but I'm okay with that, as my design focus has shifted from being completely original to doing something that's fun and that players can enjoy. I've been struggling to gain ground with a reasonable shooter game, but I think I came up with a set of mechanics and overall feel that I like, so I'm going to try to press forward.

The basic notion is rooted in the game I built for an honors research project in college, "Linear Proportional Control in Dynamic Level Design for Computer Entertainment Software" (I know). That project analyzed the idea of tailoring a game's difficulty level to the player's skill capability, which was a blast. I'm not carrying that concept over to this game; that can wait for something a little more complex. But the plot and basic premise is the same -- I don't have much in detail yet, but I'll get there as I go.

The player is an agent or mercenary of some sort, tasked with investigating the termination of communications signals from a distant space station. As it happens, the station is under control by the robots and drones that worked on it, turned rogue, which have killed (presumably) all human crew members. The player's goal is to reach the central computer system and shut down the AI coordinating the drones' efforts.

The game I created for the LPC project used a mouse-keyboard control system, reminiscent of modern shooter games. I wanted to do something a little less detailed for this game, so I'm going with a pure keyboard control scheme. For simplicity, the player can only shoot forward, up, and down. The weapons each have a base capacity, and can be reloaded through magazines -- more detail on the weapons and their behavior systems will follow in a subsequent post.

I've been doing some thinking and digging on possible game scenarios, and how to balance platforming and shooting, and I came across a good example of how I want the game to operate -- Super Turrican 2 on the Super NES. There is a significant amount of solid platforming, but the game's core is in shooting everything in sight with an array of weapons. It's that sort of balance and speed that I want to recreate in this game.

There is much more to say about the design decisions I'm looking to make, but those can wait for now.

What Is This?

Welcome to Game Zero, a side blog project I built to analyze notions in game design and explore design decisions and options in my personal projects. Should be fun.