Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Game Ideas 01: First Person Exploration Adventure - Phaeton

First of all, I thought about writing up some of my ideas for games that I might develop some day or just use them as a basis for new ideas.

The idea of a first person exploration adventure was poking around my head for some time now because I think it would be a game that I would play the hell out of... but as someone who just finished a game design course at a game design school here, I know that designing a game for myself is not something I should do from a game designer's point of view. As a game designer I should be looking at a game idea that could sell and that has a huge target group. Sorry but I don't like the idea of just designing games that sell and that are fashioned for the masses. The problem with these kind of games is that they are not really innovative but build on too many proven concepts to be original. I think that these games and that approach of designing games are wrong and smother innovation in the field of games. The idea of going indie is not so appealing either because more and more indie developer think of making games as art and design something that is either nice to look at but without any gameplay or that is so simple that it is fun for a few moments and boring in the long run. But enough with the ranting about the state of games at the moment...

Ok, back to the idea part: What is a first person exploration adventure?
It is a game not unlike a RPG but without all the character stuff, the classes and the micromanagement. The player has all the freedom to do what he/she wants without sticking to a predetermined play style. There are games out there that give that experience to a point. One of them is Minecraft which give an ever expending world and a small set of tools to the player with which he can do whatever he wants. A problem with Minecraft is the lack of goal and lack of guidance that many players want for their games but as an free-form exploration game Minecraft shines like no other. Another game that could fit the "genre" is Amnesia but my experience with it is limited so I am not so sure about it. Apart from that is the setting that is not one I would prefer as I am no fan of survival horror or any kind of horror for that matter. To clarify the "genre" a bit, I thought about the old Myst games and changed the puzzles to be more "in-game" than just some "mini games" like you can see in most action adventures nowadays, write a story that is a background and part of the game as well and have a goal that the player can see but reach in his own time. So in conclusion it would be a game where the player character walks around a set of areas, finds clues to proceed to new areas, solves puzzles and experiences an engaging story without shooting or killing anything.

And what is the difference to an action adventure?
Well, first off, it is in first person because the first person perspective is as far as I'm concerned the perspective with the best immersion in the game world.Second, the emphasise is on exploration and not on killing stuff or doing mind blowing acrobatics in split seconds. There is no time limit and nothing that pushes the player to rush through the game world. Everything inside the game areas could be a hint to proceed further so the player has to have enough time to have a thorough look around.Another difference is the fact that the story is one of the most important parts of the game.I already mentioned Myst as an example but thing of more free movement and the chance to alter the story by being able to choose different paths to solve a puzzle and having that choice influence the story (that's why I mentioned RPGs as an example because most modern rpgs advertise with this feature). So much for the "genre".

The title says "Phaeton", so let me explain what Phaeton is.
It is a Science Fiction world some friends and I created as a world for pen & paper role playing. It uses our galaxy but in about 4500 years, so a lot of things changed in that time and mankind noticed that they are indeed not alone in the universe and that there are a lot of other species out there. One of these species are the Raccequa, a kind of amphibian that needs a lot of water to survive, which enslaved most of the galaxy and ruled over them for about 2000 years. The massive expansion and internal struggles lead to the fall of the ruling caste and to a rebellion that freed most species resulting in the formation of an intergalactic union which brought equality and temporary peace to the galaxy.

The background story for the game is:
The player character is a mix between a smuggler, a private investigator and security guard who owns a small ship and preforms odd jobs to get by. One day he picks up a distress call and find a large cruiser drifting through space near an asteroid belt. Driven by curiosity and the distress call he docks and gets on board the larger vessel, just to find that the reactor seems off-line and no life signs could be detected aboard. From his point of entry he starts his investigation into the whereabouts of the crew and the distress call. By looking around for clues and reading diary entries he finds in crew quarters he can find what happened on the ship and proceed to the bridge to find the source of the distress call.

Much more I will not reveal by now because I am willing to make that game someday and telling the whole story here would spoil too much...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Toils of Everyday Life

My last post is sadly more than a month old and I have not had the time to post anything until now. Much has changed and some things are still the same as ever.

First of all the second semester at the Games Academy is finished, the second game design project handed in and now I have about two or three weeks just for myself. The project was better received as the first one but there were some problems that could have prevented us from handing in a working game,  fortunately we had a working build from the night before. The problems were the results of sleep deprivation during crunch time. I was working on finishing up the path finding in the UDK and must have deleted a vertex of a blocking volume. The result was that the player start was not working any more and the game did not even start properly after that. It was not really my fault having worked three days in a row with only about two hours of sleep, so we couldn't show the very last version of the game but the reception was good nonetheless. Making mistakes like that could have been prevented with some better planing and coordination throughout the whole project but that is something we all had to learn.

Another thing that changed is the level design assignment but it was not finished in a way that I could hand it in. The UDK killed my work of about a week one day before deadline and as a result I could not make the required screen shots and decided to not hand in anything at all which brings me to the things that did not change at all in the last year. I am still not able to keep a schedule for more than three days and I am easily distracted by unimportant things like new episodes of TV series I follow or a game I have not played to the point where I could do it in my sleep. As the second semester progressed my class attendance decreased and my "sick days" increased. It was harder to get up in the morning and easier to skip a class or two. It might sound like another case of ADD but there are things that I can do for hours without any problems but these are things that I chose myself and that I consider fun i.e. there is my Minecraft server that I can play on, forget the world outside and just relax. Maybe I have to contact a psychologist and ask what my problem could be.

Making plans for the next semester seams kind of futile because I know that I will not put the required work into the preparations as is needed for presenting a game concept of my own. As the next semester is the start of my three semester programming course I might fresh up my programming skills a bit and try working through some tutorials on the net.

In past posts I promised some updates on various topics but as far as I can see at the moment I will not post updates for those posts and I will try to not promise things that I cannot deliver in the future... which does not mean that this blog is dead it simply means that I will keep my irregular updates as before whenever I have both the time and the energy to post anything.