Archive for June, 2011

Gameplay footage!

There’s been some hiccups getting all the recording and editing software working but here it is; nine minutes of our circular hero and his trusty shield. All the hand weapons are used at some point, but few of the puzzle elements.

Here is a link to the actual Youtube page. 

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Story Ambitions

Does anyone remember when a game story meant something? When the player played a real character, with thoughts and fears – not some beefed up space marine. When the story had goals, actions had consequences and the player was living and creating history? 
Many recent games have skipped out on what made the games of my childhood so great – a gripping story. Sure I, like anyone else, enjoy shooting up Nazis and Zombies. That’s a great way to blow off steam after a frustrating day – But sometimes, I just feel I need a little more drive. In a game it’s the same as in a novel, or a movie: Who is the main character and why should I care? 
With recent games, that just doesn’t happen often. Maybe it’s the obsession with graphics stealing time from other parts of the game, maybe it’s the focus on multiplayer (That isn’t necessarily a bad thing) or maybe I’m just old and ‘out of touch’. Whatever it is, I yearn for more than the half-hearted ‘plots’ fed by most recent titles (there are, of course, exceptions.) Heck – I’ve even seen indie games with so much promise, and such exciting ideas fall into memory because there was nothing to keep me playing more than a few hours.  Being an avid reader – and writer – I love a good story.  
That’s why when we set out to make project seven, we knew we wanted a good story. Heck, we could release the game tomorrow if we didn’t care for story – just chuck together a few narrowly designed levels and add in a stock antagonist and call it a plot. That’s the path I’ve seen too many games take – and we didn’t want to do follow. 
We wanted a story. A really good one. So that’s what we set out to write.  It was hard at first, and we got stuck numerous times. Writing a story for a game is surprisingly different to writing a story for a novel (maybe more on that in the future), but now I hold in my hand a completed plot outline of seven-thousand words. Well, at least I hold the flashdrive it’s stored on. But that’s just the plot outline – over the next few months we are going to go over it with a fine-tooth comb and flesh it out. Build characters with personalities and flaws. Create antagonists that the player can hate and – sometimes – relate to. We’ll breathe life into the world and plot. But it’s far from done, so I won’t give anything away yet. What I can tell you, however, is what we want out of our story. What you can expect when it’s done. 
Project seven is going to have a full campaign, with ten ‘chapters.’ Each chapter should last about an hour for the average player, assuming they do no exploring or Sidequests (more on Sidequests later, too.) Meaning the game should take ten hours to complete if the player does nothing but the main plot.  Ten hours. That is a long time. But that isn’t all we wanted with our story – we wanted players to be living the story, not discovering it. Some games rely on plots were the player is told a story though cut scenes, and has little choice in what goes on. Even Worse, some games have stories were the player is simply discovering something that happened to someone else.  When I set out to do the first draft I specifically kept in mind that I didn’t want to write that kind of plot. I wanted the player to feel like they were part of a living, breathing world.  I wanted the player to feel like what they were doing was actually having an effect on the world and, most importantly, I wanted to give the player the ability to make choices on their own. Not superficial ones – real choices, with real world and game play effects.  So when I wrote the plot I kept this in mind, and tried to look for places where the player could decide things on their own. That said, I have one golden rule about plotting that I picked up from novel writing: the Antagonist drives the Plot. In all the best Novels and movies, the player is one step behind the antagonist – struggling to catch up and make things even. The antagonists creates a problem, the protagonist must overcome it. This continues until the climax was the protagonist surpasses his foe, winning the day. This is true for all genres – from war to romance. I wanted the stakes to be high, and the antagonists to drive the player into action.  So don’t expect something with the choice of a CYOA novel, expect to be given an objective and left to work out how you want to do it yourself. This is more than the usual ‘rush in guns blazing’ Vs ‘Sneaky stealth’ options (though they are options.) 
Now you know a little more about what you can expect from Project Seven story-wise. A little more about our ambitions. More information on subplots and sidequests later (suffice to say there will be none of that ‘Go collect 10 large bear hearts’ stuff.)
Thanks for reading!
         – Ben
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Red 2 standing by

This is Jerome, the second half of the Project 7 devteam, making my introduction.

I’m a fan of games that put you in a state of ‘flow’, or as most people call it ‘in the zone’. You know the feeling. Your movements become lightning fast, your mind and fingers work seamlessly as you execute a series of dodges you thought impossible. This happens when you hit a sweet spot; the game is just challenging enough to keep you coming back for more, and exciting enough that you don’t mind taking it up.

It’s much easier to pull this off in real time games, because you make many more decisions per minute. Strategy games can do this as well as action games under the right conditions.

There are other things that make a game fun to play as well; your decisions need to be meaningful and affect what you can do in the future. Options must be balanced. The interface needs to be intuitive. Story is always nice, and having the right atmosphere helps.

But for me, games are about charging through nigh-unbeatable odds to claim victory. For months I played Left 4 Dead, struggling through the same maps, the same enemies, with tactics I’d used a thousand times before. Why? Because I hadn’t beaten everything on expert. Yet.

Same deal for Cave Story – an indie platformer/shooter game by Pixel – the level “Last Cave” (not the final level incidentally) is basically a ten-minute gauntlet of precision jetpack flying. You have to pull 90 degree turns at just the right time while the bats swarm in around you. There is a boss waiting for you, and no savepoints until you run through the crushing blocks AFTER the boss.

And as for Nethack… Well, I could tell hundreds of stories of glorious failures. But I’m still going to keep trying.

Now that you know a bit about my gaming style, to our game.

It started with the combat engine. The main thing we put in that sets it apart from other top-down shooters you may have played, is the shield. This isn’t some plug-and-play forcebubble that you can use to wade through zombies like a space marine – this is an actual shield; a square thing that only covers a 90 degree arc centred on your weapon. This means you can aim your shield AND your gun with the mouse, which is handy. It also means you’d better not be flanked.

This is what the game is about. You don’t have much health, and the bullets are fast enough that dodging them (especially on sand or water) isn’t anything but a last-ditch tactic. The shield comes down when you move, and also for a bit when you shoot, so timing is crucial. Unlike your health, the shield does regenerate on its own.

As in my examples earlier, getting through a level of P7 is tough. Your foes pack the same weapons as you do and they can dish out a world of hurt when they gang up three to one. You have to pick your battles, play it carefully and watch your back. It’s something new – there are no chest high walls here, but no one will win a race with a bullet either.

Thanks for reading, gameplay footage and demo to come. While it may seem stingy of us to come empty-handed, we are preparing an all-encompassing demo for the Adelaide Anime and Videogame Convention (AVcon) in July. You guys will be able to downloaded what we present there.

I leave you with a screenshot.

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The First Dusk

Hello Everyone, Ben here and welcome to the first home of Nightfall Studios.
We are a two-man game development team currently working on our first full game, “Project Seven”. Though the game is currently in Aleph stages, we figured it’s never to early to become a part of the community, and we hope you’ll check back here often – we plan to keep fans updated with information about the progress of development, and who knows what else will come from this little experiment.

But enough about us – on to the project!

Project Seven has been described as ‘Legend of Zelda meets Halo in 2d’ by one Alpha tester – that certainly gives us big shoes to fill, but I’m confident that we’re a good fit.

Project Seven is an top-down action-adventure game very much in the spirit of the Original Zelda games, if they were filled with intense firefights and airships. 

We have been working on the game for nearly two years now, and currently have most of the mechanics implimented. There’s a working combat system with a variety of weapons thats pretty fun to play, even without all the other stuff. We also have a variety of puzzle mechanics and tools built in. At the moment we are working on the story and game world, but more on that in another post.  I just hope you guys like war epics and political intrigue.

 So, we hope you’ll stay with us for this one, and check back often – screenshots and much more information coming soon!

– Ben

Current Build – Aleph 4.9

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