Initial design thoughts

Dr. HorribleSo after a day of consideration, I’m putting forward my current musings on a design for GiaW #6 (currently work-in-progress-titled “Lord”).

As a reminder, the theme quote this time is:  “Lord, save us from that horrible land!”, a lyric taken from the novel Dune.

First, some constraints that I need to keep in mind during this game.  As I’ve recently added 3D support to VectorStorm, it’d be really good to use them in this game.  However, there are a few issues:

  1. I have no 3D collision library in place, and I probably don’t have development time during the week to learn and integrate one.  If I go 3D, the game will need to have either simplistic or no collision requirements.
  2. I still have no bitmapped/truetype font rendering support.  This would probably take me about a day to implement, so could realistically be done if needed for this game (but I’d need to start on it soon — only six days in total remain, including today!)
  3. VectorStorm’s shader backend is very simplistic;  it currently is either “on” or “off”, and it always performs a full-screen bloom pass.  If I wanted to do something that was non-glowy-vector, I’d either need to turn off the bloom entirely, or devote some time to revamping it so that I can apply the bloom to a single layer, instead of to the whole rendered scene.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about game designs.

Meerkat pointed out in the last article that the quote theme is a dead ringer for the game Lemmings.  Which means that I don’t want to do it that way;  not interested in doing remakes, here!  :)

My most expansive idea was to cast the player as the deity of a poor farming village, consisting of about five families.  The parents till the earth, the kids do small chores around the house.. and they all pray to be freed of the tireless and difficult work for various reasons;  some so that they can go to school, some so that they can go shopping, some so they can go to the casino, etc.  Give the player some divine powers to help or hinder (or indeed, to smite), and then give the player no score at the end (“It is not for you to judge My wisdom.”)  I still really like this idea;  it’s kind of a less-Lovecraft variant of I Fell In Love With the Majesty of Colors, and everything I did here would be directly applicable to MMORPG Tycoon 2.0.  But I worry that there’s too much work to be done;  that I wouldn’t have time to complete it.

In a more bizarre bent, I tried speaking the theme phrase with the emphasis on the word “land”, and ended up with this little pitch:  The water level has fallen, and the poor fish are flopping about helpless on the exposed beach!  As Poseidon, lord of the seas, you must use your mighty trident (with seaweed cabling attached) to spear the floundering fish and drag them back to safety!

This game would be played from a side-on 2D view, and would be basically an Artillery-style game, except that a direct hit on a fish would leave you with a grappling cable connected to the fish, and would allow you to drag the fish back toward the water.  Everything here would be implemented using Box2D, including fish flopping about on the shore.  I really like the core concept here; the “Oh no, the fish are dying — quick, save them by spearing them with your trident!” thing.  But I’m not wild about the actual gameplay.

But I do like that I’d finally have made a game which used Box2D, after all the time I spent integrating it into my game engine.

The thing I keep coming back to when I consider the theme statement, though, is the word “that”.  “Lord, save us from that horrible land!”  Kind of implies that the person doing the pleading isn’t actually on the land that’s horrible, but is either afraid of the horrible land, or wants to avoid going to the horrible land.

Of course, when you put together “Lord” (in a religious sense) and “horrible land”, it’s difficult not to think of Hell.  But I don’t think I want to go there.

So as is often the case, after a day of brainstorming, I haven’t picked the final theme yet.  But I have a number of interesting directions to go.  My goal for today is to get bitmapped font rendering into VectorStorm, as I suspect I’ll be wanting that.  I’ll update tonight/tomorrow with progress.