Friday, December 23, 2005

Scope: Setting some boundaries

NaViGaWriMo draws ever closer, so I've had to start thinking in more detail about what, exactly, I want my game to be (for convenience when talking about it, the project will hereafter be codenamed Extinguish). Time and skill constraints are going to be bearing down on me like a hundred starving weasels, so I will have to simplify. The following is a rough idea of how complex and how simple Extinguish is going to be.
Fuck realism. If you want realism, play Call of Duty or something. Wherever realism conflicts with ease of play or speed of production, it will be cast out the window without a second thought. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. Taking this point-by-point:
-In a REAL fire, what's burning is generally the stuff in the house. Furniture, carpets, curtains, that sort of thing. Now, to create a fire that behaves like that, every room in the house would need dozens of objects. I'm gonna have to simplify and abstract here. Fires will just... spread. Across the ground. Probably by tiles, but fuzzily enough that it's not inherently obvious. There will be furniture, which will burn faster than just plain ol' fire, but it'll be a simple affair. Little blocky tables and bookcases... that sort of thing.
-I want smoke. Smoke is a big fat part of the danger of fighting fires. I want the player to be able to bust into a room and be afraid to continue further because of the big, thick black haze covering the air. Besides, it shouldn't be that hard to do. Just in case it is, thought, I'll probably add this close to last.
-Apparently when a room is on fire enough, and reaches a certain temperature, then the whole room will just EXPLODE into on-fire-ness. I think it's called flash point? Someone correct me on this. Anyways, it's a small detail, but I still want to add this.
-Breaking down doors with a fire axe is another neat idea, but I don't know if I could do it well. The graphics, the physics, the interface... I'm sure it could be done, but I don't know if I have time for it. Same applies to getting cats down from trees.
As I've said, I'm going to be using the Zombie City III engine for most of the graphics (for those of you who haven't seen ZC3, I'll try to host it so you can). I'll probably have multiple variations on the Being model - one for the fireman, and a handful of different ones for the various people. Maybe even kids! I'm not sure what I'm gonna do for the cats, though. Cats are an integral part of Extinguish.
I'm also unsure of what to do with the floor. In ZC3, it's flat grey - but I dont' think that'll cut it. At the very least, I'd make it various floor-like colors, like wood or carpety colors. Textures? Eeeehhhhhhhhhmaybe. It might be nice, it might be time-consuming, it might really accentuate how primitive the Beings look. Maybe, maybe not.
Fire effects, I have done, but mostly in the context of explosions. This'll be my first time creating persistent fires, and they have to look FIERY. Fires are the focus of the game (aside from cats), and they have to be convincing. The trickiest thing will be a convincing transition from fire on the ground into smoke in the air... but I think I can do it. Similar to the fire effects will be the water effects - except this, I have never worked with. I really hope I can make it look at least decent.
I haven't decided if I'm gonna do dynamic lighting yet. On one hand, the flickering of the flames and the darkness of the burnt-out areas would TOTALLY add to the atmosphere, on the other hand, having that many light sources would be an ENORMOUS processor-taxer. Unless I can think of a clever way to do it, I may have to leave out this one.
All graphics aside, the people you are rescuing must be detailed. They will have names, families, and jobs. This will make the player more motivated to rescue them. It's not just dropping your grade from an A to a B... it's letting a man die. A man with a name, and a family. This is where the emotional impact of the game will be. Guilt and pride. Your task is an important one.
I'm still unsure on whether or not to have randomly-generated houses. It WOULD be neat to have infinite areas to explore and rescue people from, but 1) It would be hard as hell to implement, and 2) I lose control over the building design. I'll need to carefully design the levels so that it's always possible to rescue everyone if you're fast and skilled enough. So, I just don't think it's possible.
At some later point in the process, I'll have to get a TOTALLY KICKASS gamer to play through my game and refine his skills on each level until I can safely ascertain what will be required to achieve an S rank on every level. That will probably be one of YOU! Unless no one is reading this. Then it's less likely.

Well, I'm sure I have more to say, but it's not coming to me now. Besides, this post is long enough already. Merry Christmas!


Rowan said...

I like how you put a moral thing in there. Such a relief from all those other games where it's like "DUhhh look at people die it's funny!!" Much better. "His Name Is Robert Paulson..." (sorry, couldn't resist)
It's shame your resources get limited, cause there are so many levels and things you could do with this game... but I like where you're going so far. It's really interesting to get a perpective into how these things work--I've really not much of an idea of what goes into making such things. I hope you like what you end up making--I'll be proud of you either way.
And heh, I'll test run it if you want, but you already know damn well I'm no kick-ass gamer... oh well. the more input the better, right? Though I probalby woudln't provide much for improvement. Cause I suck as it is.
That flashpoint thing sounds scary. But challenge can be a good thing.
(For a wimpy little gamer like me it just sounds inimidating)
I hope you can work in kitties. It would make me happy! =)
I wish you further luck with your work. And chocolate.

Alan Gordon said...

What I may end up doing is what alot of NaNoWriMers do - get the game OUT by the end of the month, but keep working on it and adding to it after that. That way I can cram in some of the things that I want to add, but don't have the time for.
The whole guilt/moral thing is a byproduct of something VERY IMPORTANT that so many sequel-spewing companies completely ignore: when designing a game, the most important thing to consider is what emotions you want it to evoke in the player. Everything else is secondary to that. Yes, EVEN making the game Bigger and Badder than ever before, with 500 new levels and 800 new weapons. If you ignore this, then the best you can end up with is a very well-executed soulless husk.
While I won't be looking to you for maximum stage efficiency, I'll still encourage you to play the game and give me feedback. Heck, I encourage everyone to do that. As for the flashpoint thing, what it basically comes down to is staying out of rooms that are more On Fire than Not On Fire.
...and I'll be sure to add "Robert" and "Paulson" as possible first and last names, if they are randomized.

Miss Elizabeth said...

Goddamn space monkeys.

No death for cats, remember. I don't want the blood of a million felines on my hands -- and apparently the blood of ALL cats is on MY hands anyway.

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