Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Game Idea: Thought Design Process & Concepts

So I started a new game project; it's in this initial state, one that is quickly approaching the first progress hump.  If I slowdown too much, I'll forget about it and end up restarting it from scratch at some point.  If I go too fast, I'll be too intimated by an oversized, unedited the scope and too discourage to continue.  Anyway, this post is more for me as a place to write down my ideas but also to show some of my thought process and some concepts I've drafted up -- concepts I'll admit I'm a bit hesitant to post.

Super early prototype.  Hit box and some animation working!

The Game

Lately I've been realizing that fighting games have been becoming too sparse for a single-player enthusiast such as myself -- as selfish as that sounds.  I don't utilize online modes; in fact, I have a few online codes for some games and haven't even redeemed them.  I just don't enjoy playing strangers online.  A combination of lag, unfriendly online opponents -- ranging from extremely high skilled to extremely low skill -- have just been making the experience lackluster.  Soul Calibur V was an example of this boring single-player experience.  Story Mode was cheesy and Quick Match became very repetitive.  If I had friends to play with or was more active in my local fighting game community -- which I've been meaning to look into -- I might enjoy them more.
Regardless, I still love the fast-paced style of fighting games, and this is where my next project comes.  I want a game that feels like a fighting game without the fighting game package.  Something like Odin Sphere with a deep story but with deeper mechanics.  This really is a game for me.  Some people say that's bad, some people say that's good, but I don't care.  I'm doing this because I want to.

Felt this way after dowloading Street Fighter X Tekken's added characters

Design Ideas

My original concept was a simple Frankenstein project:  Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 plus Super Mario World!  Two of my favorite games in one!  This soon became nightmarish for a variety of reasons such as the movement variety among the characters -- Chun-Li can triple jump, Super Skrull can teleport to different points of the stage, and about a dozen characters can fly!  Another issue is that even MVC3's simplified move commands are still too complex for a game that will also have platforming, especially if I want it to have more broad appeal.  Thus, I attempted to simplify, but then it seemed too similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl whose single-player campaign didn't appeal to me, most probably due to the simple fact I dislike SSBB.  I then decided to break the game into two main parts -- fighting and platforming -- detail features for each.

This would be fun, right?!


Fighting Game Features

Character Customization
One-Line:  The player should be able to edit the character visually by equpping different items but also be able to change the moves they can perform.
Risks:  Art & Animation Scope!
Rewards:  Broader appeal, replayability and future DLC possibilities

Multiple Characters
One-Line:  Players can choose form a small cast of main characters
Risks:  Art and animation scope creep
Rewards:  More variety and interesting choices and ways to complete levels.

Simple Attack Input
One-Line:  Even novice players should be able to perform all attacks
Risks:  More skilled players might be turned off and feel its too easy
Rewards:  Broader appeal, simple input system programming work
Possible Alternative:  An item that simplifies attack, but this could be even messier

Attack Evolution
One-Line:  Attacks evolve as the player uses them; for example, level 1 of dragon punch will has more startup frames than level 2 of dragon punch
Risks:  Scope creep depending on how the attacks differentiate
Rewards:  A more measurable sense of progression

Teaching Fighting Game Mechanics and Concepts
One-Line:  The enemies the player encounters should subtly introduce fighting game concepts such as cross-ups, mix-ups, combos, footsies, etc.
Risks:  Could take a long time to get the designs right and puzzle some players
Rewards:  Could become an interesting stepping stone game to get people into fighting games and in my own way, introduce more people to that community.

Large Bosses
One-Line:  Some should be large similar to MVC3's Galactus
Risks:  Art scope
Reward:  Gameplay variety

Platforming Features

Twitch over puzzle
One-Line:  A majority of the platforming elements of the game should be reminiscent of fast, skill-based platforming not slower, exploratory puzzle platforming
Risks:  Integration with the fighting aspects could be difficult and some players might thing they get in the way
Rewards:  Break-up between fights and could introduce fighting game concepts to players with low-risk scenarios

Independent Levels
One-Line:  Levels are seperated through a level selection map and the game is NOT a "Metroidvania" platformer
Risks:  UI work for the level selection
Reward:  Don't have to worry about overly expansive, interconnected world and can focus on small levels

Rail Platformer
One-Line:  Gameplay feels 2D but is on a 3D rail similar to Klonoa
Risks:  ART SCOPE (reoccuring theme?)
Reward:  A nice visual variety
Probably my favorite non-Nintendo platformer and the freaking ending crushed me!

In-Depth Story
One-Line:  Story that is well delivered but not too instrusive with a diverse cast
Risks:  Art scope and though I like writing, whatever I do will never be overly original
Reward:  Creative fulfillment.

Swimming
One-Line:  Players will experience some levels with swimming
Risks:  Swimming can be done really badly
Rewards:  It will make sense with my story, which I will discuss soon.

Story and Concepts

Right now the story and theme is still in very early development.  I'll summarize the theme with one word:  MERFOLK.  I'm leaning towards more of a I've always like the sea and ocean and sealife, so I wanted to do a fantasy-based game with these types of characters.  Though swimming is the first feature I'd cut, it feels like it has to be at least hinted at in someway.  Again, I want it to be a bit deeper than most fighting games, but also less...confusing?  BlazBlue, I'm looking at you!

Best way to explain BlazBlue's story; Bill Murray would make a great Ragna, right?


Environment Ideas

Originally, I was going to split the game into different worlds like, earth, fire, ice, etc., but that's not very original.  The worlds will still be divided, but I really want to try different worlds and different themes I don't see too often.  Art can always be updated and levels should be white-boxed firs, so I'm not concerning myself with theme right now.

CONCEPTS!!!

Anyway, for fun I decided to show off some character concepts I've been working on with some descriptions.  Also, not looking for art critiques; I know the anatomy is off and that I don't draw hands well -- I'm not applying for concept jobs.  These are more for me, but I shouldn't be afraid to share.

Gigi


She is attractive, but she won't jiggle...

Gigi is an old character concept I came up with in like high school.  She's a strong, free-thinking, athletic, fighter, not intimiated by...anything really.  She's angler fish inspired, hence the bulb on her head.  Because of the ability to swap moves in the game, I can't really say which characters she'd play like, but I do want to not just give her female characters' moves.  She might do Karin Kanzuki's Ressen Ha or Ryu's Shoryuken -- obviously, for copyright reasons I wouldn't call them this or animate them like exactly like the game they come from.

Atlas

That's a wetsuit of sorta.  Color would help with that.

Atlas is a newer character, named and inspired by someone from my only NaNoWriMo novel.  He's hammerhead influenced, and in this world, he's the equivalent of a white mage.  He's stern yet loyal.  He's gone on adventures with Gigi since he knows she's powerful despite their ideological disagreements.  He'd probably be projectile heavy but maybe with some strong, chargable attacks.

Prince Rib

I don't think he'll look this young in the end.

Also influenced by a character from my NaNoWriMo novel.  I was thinking of making him a prince of sorts who wants to adventure.  Since he's frog influenced, I thought the whole frog prince could be comically clever, but the more I think about it, the more I hate it.  Gameplay wise, I was thinking of making him do some Bionic-Commando-esque movement with his tongue, but again, could be difficult to do and not look good.

Octonia

What's going on with that arm you ask?  I don't give a crap!  That's what!

A strong woman with octopus inspiration.  I was a little stuck on her hair -- bald, short suction-cup hair, small tentacles?  Was thinking of making her a dignitary of some octopus land but travels to perform the story's task, the smart, older one.  Definitely would have a lot of grappling attacks and long reach.

Mermatthew

That's a coattail, not a skirt or kilt.

A coworker came up with this name awhile ago, and I thought it was hilarious.  I was thinking of making this character the right-hand of the main bad guy who I have an idea for but not drawn out.  He's a reoccurring boss so he'll probably have several forms and attack patterns.  A dream would be to watch famous fighting game players and have him fight with styles similar to theirs but the AI alone would be nightmarish.

Anyway, if you read all this, I'd love to hear some feedback and ideas or suggestions if you have any, but again, this is a game for me, even if that isn't the best decision.  The scope might be too large for me, the gameplay may be too complicated, the story might be completely inane, but if I'm happy with the final outcome, whatever that may be and whenever it may come, that'll be enough.

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