Sunday, August 25, 2013

Prototype 3 - Montage Platformer

Last but not least: Montage Platformer. Catchy name, I know. Check it out here.

What it's all about:
You're a dude (or a chick), and you can run and jump (and more, just not in this prototype). The more you run and jump, the better you get at it, eventually unlocking new features (double jumps, dashs, flying, etc). That's about it in the prototype, but the rest of the game would be standard metroidvania fare: Go all over the place, collect things, and then fight a final boss.

How it came about:
I really liked the way the elder scrolls games handled character progression, i.e. the more you do something the better you get at it. Kind of like real life really. I had also been watching a lot of speed/glitch-running of games, and I kind of want to experiment with intentionally breaking gameplay (or at least, giving the tools to break it).

What works:
Well nothing in there is particularly polished so it's not like any of the mechanics in there are that fun to use at the moment, but I could definitely see them working well together plus offering an endless variety things to try. It's also kind of cool to be playing through the game as "normal" and then get rewarded with another seemingly different gameplay mechanic. Also really good is that it acts a player controlled difficulty slider. Having trouble with a difficult jump? attempt it enough times and you'll unlock double jump and clear it easily.
I really dig the difference in philosophy between this model and the standard metriodvania framework... Typically players have to go collect the items that give them new powers (and hence that becomes the progression), but here the progression can rely on something else, and the players are free to develop their powers at the rate that seems best for them.

What doesn't work:
Done right, there's not a lot that can really go wrong here. Platformers are kind of the darling of indie games, and anything with an RPG style system has immediate hooks. Game feel is super important though, but that's just a case of making the actual game.

It is possible that the open-ended-ness of the progression system could lead to some heavy breaking of the game, but I'm not really too worried about that. I can always introduce certain macguffins that prevent serious sequence breaking, plus if someone just wants to sit at the start location and jump 10,000 times until they get fly mode or whatever, who am I to stop them? They clearly know how to have their own fun.

Lastly, and most importantly, there's a hell of a lot of work to do. I'm pretty sure I can limit it down to however much I can do in a year, but every gameplay mechanic would need to be animated, all the level and background art done, enemy ai, etc. Plus it's way to easy to slide into feature creep with a game like this. Just working on the prototype I kept on thinking and then trying to add all the possibilities the mechanics could lead too. Each mechanic is like an additional week in itself.

Oh also, there is a terrible terrible screen tearing issue with GameMaker... and I'm not sure if it's my fault or not. I didn't notice it so much on the other prototypes, but it's pretty noticeable here.

What's Missing/What can fix it:
Some kind of concrete development map and someone to yell at me every time I deviate from it would be a good.

Obviously all the art needs to be done (as usual). I'd also need to decide on a final set of gameplay mechanics, and also a theme. I don't know if I should just match Elder Scrolls and go medieval... There's too many other indie platformers out there with knights or barbarians at the moment. I was thinking maybe I could base it off of Monkey Magic (hence the little clouds and stuff) since his skill set kind of lends itself to some interesting gameplay mechanics.

I was also thinking about the possibilities of him then going off and fighting other legends and myths and then stealing their powers (i.e. Fighting Thor and stealing Mjolnir, fighting a three against one fight against Arthur, Robin Hood and Nessie the Loch Ness monster for Excalibur, Final boss being  the granddaddy of all tales, Gilgamesh). Or alternatively I could do something a whole lot more manageable.

I would like to make this game a lot. It's the most gamey of all the prototypes, plus it gets me away from the mobile game mentality I've been stuck in. I think it's got potential to be interesting to a wide cross section of players, as well as stand out at AVCON. However, it'd take sooo much time, I'm not sure if I could do the level of quality I want  in a year (or in GameMaker).

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