Saturday, August 25, 2012

Seeker Design Idea

I've been racking my brain trying to find an underlying mechanic for The Seeker for a good while now. Seeker is supposed to be about seeking. It's supposed to be about the benefits of efficiency and bureaucracy. But how do you make that into a game?

Idea One: Coverage, The 'Neural' Mesh, and Scanning All The Things

My initial thought was to make it a game about scanning the MOST of an area. Scanning would 'infect' that scanned object, creating a kind of 'neural' mesh that would, upon reaching a certain threshold, calculate the position of the Seeked ship. Kind of like a CRC hash that can be used to determine if there's something wrong with a file.

The player would start the game by scanning stuff. Ships made the most sense. Large ships provided larger scanned areas. If ships were grouped in close enough proximity, they would infect each other, which would, in turn, increase the total scanned area. Also, buildings could be scanned. The player would have to find structures with certain qualities that could be scanned, also increasing the scanned area.

A map (like fog-of-war in Warcraft/Starcraft) or a simple percentage would let the player know how much of the current level they've scanned. Once that percentage reaches some threshold, the Seeker would be alerted to the position of the Seeked and the chase would begin.

To make things more difficult, later on there would be NPCs or obstacles that would 'disconnect' parts of the 'neural' network created by the player. The player would have to prevent these NPCs and obstacles from decreasing the scanned area by disabling, destroying, or blocking these things.

My biggest beef with this mechanic is that meeting the coverage threshold is open-ended. If the player never reaches the threshold, the game never proceeds. This could be good or bad, but I view it as a negative because there is not a lot of skill required to scan things. The player must avoid the NPCs and other obstacles, but there is nothing pushing the player to improve themselves. In my opinion, this becomes a boring game.

Idea Two: Planning, Traps, and Time Limits
So, because one of my major gripes with the first idea is the open-endedness of the scanning task, my second idea starts with a time limit.

The player is time-boxed for some arbitrarily short period of time. Let's say 1 minute, 30 seconds. During this time, the player must set up as many traps, scan as many ships (for coverage), and block off as many areas as possible (to limit the play area).

After the 1:30 mark, the Seeked will activate and begin moving about. Very similar to the first idea, if the player enters an area of coverage, the Seeker is notified and can go find the Seeked ship.

Traps may include things that disable weaponry, reduce maximum speed (traps would be dropped like datamines). (Certain traps make more sense once the number of enemies increases)

The player's job during this time will be to watch for Seeked notifications, travel between Extremist-targeted sites, and scan ships in search of the Seeked.

This idea splits the game up into two stages: Setup and Action. (one could argue three stages, but I'm going to keep it at two). Both stages are engaging, but in different ways. The Setup stage begins to resemble the setup stage of a Tower Defense game. The player builds their defenses, enemies swarm the defenses trying to get to the target, the player either defeats the enemies or the enemies make it to the target. However, in Seeker, the player gets a chance to play an active role during the enemy attack.

I like this idea more because there are specific goals and hard limits. The limits force you to make hard decisions and sacrifice one strategy over another. It provides a context by splitting the game into discrete phases.

I also think having a 'setup' stage translates well into the different mission types discussed.

Some thought still needs to be put into these designs, but we're getting closer to a solution.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

First Post and Design Thought Process

My deepest apologies for taking so long to post to the blog. I'm still moving stuff between my old office at the Temple of Silence and my shiny, new office at Commonwealth Industires.

For those of you unfarmiliar with me, I'm Mike Daly. Up until about a year ago, I was coding Information Dissemination software for the Temple of Silence. Then, out of blue, I get asked if I'd be interested in creating a game to promote the positive identity of the Commonwealth. I've always had a love for making games, so obviously, I took the job.

Levi and I really wanted to create a game that would embody the power and spirit of the Commonwealth. We also wanted to make sure that we didn't promote any themes that could potentially tarnish the Commonwealth.

One of the little-known services that the Commonwealth provides is protecting our free skies. Great men and women put their lives on the line everyday to protect us folks from the evil that threatens to destroy our safety and way of life.

We thought that this thankless service provided by these brave folks is a shining example of the positive influence that government can have. So, this is where The Seeker started.

The idea was to make a non-traditional top-down flying shooter.

Starting off, we knew we wanted to create a game that did not focus on mindless shooting. Not only are there civilians to worry about, but most Seekers do their work in large cities where a poorly aimed shot could mean millions in property damage or lost lives. Seekers have a duty and obligation to efficiency. They attack only when logic dictates.

To us, what this really meant was we should be creating a puzzle game. Information must be gathered, traps must be set, contingencies must be determined all before the Seeker could do his job. So, we had that core tenant. You enter an area, you solve some puzzles that get you close to the 'Seeked' and then, only when you're absolutely sure, you carry out the rest of the mission by destroying or capturing the target.

The hardest part of the design process has been filling out the middle part. A few mechanics have been discussed, but nothing that has made us so excited to move forward. This decision will make or break the game in terms of fun.

More to come..

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Seeker's Characters

Players of our historical simulation, The Seeker, will be assuming the role of Seeker 0107 (Gamma Group), a special forces pilot within the Commonwealth's Sol System Security. He's a genetically engineered human trained and molded to be an amazing pilot, shooter, tactician, survivalist... and well, the list goes on. Of course, he's also loyal to the Commonwealth to a fault. 'Brainwashed' would be what the Extremists say. We prefer "Educated succinctly."

The Gene-Superiors are not without some side effects though. The Seeker and his kind lack a head of hair and are gifted with  full-black eyes with irises of a dim white.

The Seeker's co-pilot is a slightly older, more experienced pilot named Patricia S. Scope, or just 'Scope'. Lately, she's been having to watch her veteran comrades be replaced with more perfect soldiers like the Seeker.

"Excellence without consciousness, strength without doubt and humility... these are dangerous traits for the most powerful force in the Sol System." - Scope [recovered data flow]

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Early Concepts of The Seeker

A lot has changed. Much has stayed the same. Here are some older concepts of the gameplay for The Seeker, Commonwealth Industries' first virtual simulation.

-Near the Mass Driver outside Rio de Janeiro

-Red Square Spacescrapers

-Alexandria Outskirts

-Flooded Mobile