Archive for December, 2011

We’ve done the…

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

We’ve done the two biggest sectors now:

The Shola Riverland is filled with the skirmishing armies of the continent. House Gumrak, House Hirak and the Imperial Sentinels clash to bring resources under control and put the squeeze on their opponents. The independent cities attempt to ally with the Academy, builders of skyships, to stop the great houses occupying them by force. This area must be traversed, and at least one path found through it, though there are several possible routes.

Next there is the Aizon sector. The Asterian mountains in the north border the Shola sector. House Hirak has their capital and arms factories here. Past the mountains the Aizon desert sprawls out. The challenges in this area are different. The level exits are asymmetric: if you enter a level from the north, and exit the level from the north, you won’t go to the level directly north of you. To find your goal in this sector, you can work out a possible route via a logic puzzle given to you.

I enjoyed working on these 2 sectors as they are the most thematic and interesting. We have another 2 sectors on the mainland left to map, and then the minor island sectors and the Tetrak Spire building.


Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may all your hits be crits.


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And still more details

December 13, 2011 2 comments

Three sectors have now been detailed: Cascade, Tenshi Highlands and Rainforest. These are the first regions the player can access, and the first few chapters of the story take place here. The main enemies here are bandits, with a base in each sector. The Tenshi base has an airstrip, and the area nearby is subject to dropships coming in and dumping foes right next to the player. As well as this, the mercenary house Hirak is trying to sieze a mining town in Cascade, while the Imperial Sentinels fight the bandits in the rainforest to secure a source of wood and water. There are a lot of sides in this game.

One of the problems we had to solve was weapon placement. The game uses nine weapons. Two (rifle and sword) are available at the start. Two more (laser and rocket launcher) are obtained through doing quests for factions. That leaves five others to place (burst carbine, grenade launcher, luxpistol, blobgun and horizonslayer). The player is ‘supposed’ to do a quest for each of the remaining weapons, and such a quest is easily found. However, prior to this, the weapon will be hidden in secret areas. If the player finds them, the quest will be rendered unavailable.

The problem of finding interesting rewards and quests to fit them has made us take a slightly different approach to flavouring the game world. We now just put something interesting every few levels, which can be a quest but also a unique problem to solve in order to get through the level, or simply an unusual way for the enemy to attack. Fortunately the game isn’t primarily about questing but about exploration, and so we can leave quests sparse if we want. What is important is that the environment be rich and varied, and that the player be challenged in different ways trying to get to new locations.


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Details, details

December 10, 2011 1 comment

This is the first post since the transition to wordpress. Hello all.


We have more or less completed the world map and ‘level-webs’, diagrams of how levels connect to each other. This week we have also placed the first types of obstacles. Firstly, there are things mandated by plot to be kept blocked for a while, and secondly there are the areas that require tool-keys to access. There are seven of these, the drill, translation manual, grappling hook, steelbane shockwave (a detonator of sorts), a boat, a pressure suit and the disguise kit (‘Impersonat’). All but the Impersonat have been implemented in code. The areas the player can use these items in have been demarcated on the map into zones, and the items themselves have been placed.

Now we enter a new stage. Each level on the map is now getting some description. We’re ranking both the terrain and enemies in difficulty levels, so we can get some rising and falling tension. In some regions, such as the prized Shola Riverland, enemies will predominate, while terrain puzzles will be widespread in out of the way areas like the Great Grey Wetlands. We’re also putting in some quests and rewards to add a bit of flavour. As of thursday only the main character’s home sector, Cascade, has been gone over like this, and we may alter it in the future.

This is a major part of the game’s design, since the game has such a heavy focus on exploration. While in Cascade the player can walk around anywhere for the most part only having to deal with a few bandits, further out they will find their movement heavily restricted. We are planning to have several paths through other areas, each with a different type of obstacle. The player could choose to storm through heavily defended enemy territory, talk to the locals to find some secret path, or bribe a neutral to let them through.

The thought of balancing this; of allowing the player choice in where to go while simultaneously challenging them no matter what, is a difficult task. Yet this is what we hope will make the game unique.


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December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

ARGGGH (Adelaide Really Good Gathering of Gamedevs, H is silent) was today. It went swimmingly, but now I’ve crashed after all the coffee I had in the middle of the day.

In any case, it is my solemn duty to inform you of the past week’s game design. With distractions now limited to civilian leisure, we have started regular face to face meetings to draw up maps.

We’ve had the master world map for a few months when we finalized the plot, so the next stage is to draw up a web connecting all the overworld levels in the game. Since exploration is one of the things we want to focus on, we are now planning how the player can explore the world. From the starting point, they should be able to move in any direction and after fighting the elements and their foes, they should arrive at some cool places. This requires some freedom of movement but also challenges to block the player, because afterall the challenge is what makes it a game. Sightseeing tours don’t have the same sense of adventure.

We’ve completed the webs of levels (not the levels themselves mind you, just maps showing how they connect to each other). Levels are represented by squares, and a line between two levels indicated a link between them. Across these links we will place symbols to indicate barriers that need to be overcome with a certain tool or quest.

With the level webs done, we are currently placing obstacles to the player’s exploration, either to be unlocked with progressing through the story or gathering new equipment. We should be able to draw zones the player can access at each stage of the game.

Terrain includes mountains, volcanic wasteland, the tunnels and caverns of the dark-dwelling Selenites, the rusty Ferrite zone, mud flats filled with sinkholes, grassland, riverland, icy high plateaux, gorges filled with fast moving rivers, tropical islands and storm-lashed cliffs on the edge of nowhere.

I’m excited.

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