Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Wonderful Future With Magnets

Magnets and How The Work
In search of game mechanics to include in The Seeker, I went back and looked at the some of the Commonwealth and Civilian ship schematics from over the years. One thing that I noticed is that many designs required magnetic alloys to be used in the ship hull to allow docking between ship-ship, ship-building, and ship-metallic surfaces.

Some prototype Commonwealth ships would be outfitted with a high-powered magnet that could be used to tow ships whose lateral thrusters had been damaged and slow down or catch rogue ships in areas where firepower could not be used efficiently.

I think that such a magnet, added to the Seeker's ship, would go a long way to round out the tools that the Seeker needs to complete missions with the greatest amount of efficiency while allowing the player to interact with the game world.

I think this not only plays well with the current missions, but also open up a few new puzzle mechanics that weren't possible before.

Different Ships, Different Specs
In researching games in this vein, I picked up an old game called FTL (Faster Than Light). I had to go through some less than favorable sources to get it, since games with themes that take place in FTL are typically banned, but my research position has granted me a few privileges, getting unsanctioned games being one of them. It took me a good part of the day trying to get it to run on the Commonwealth computer OS, but after that, it was a quite enjoyable game.

One thing that I found interesting was how the interior of ships were abstracted to show different systems (engines, weapons, etc) that allowed the player to enable/disable very complex systems without complex knowledge of the system underneath.

In the current Seeker demo, the only subsystems of NPC ships we expose happens after scanning a ship. Right now we force the NPC scanners ON and shut down the engines. There isn't much control over what happens.

I prototyped the idea of showing an interior view where you could disable/enable different components of a scanned ship, but found it really distracting to have a transition to the NPC ship every time a scan was performed.

However, the concept of being able to disable/enable particular subsystems of a ship is intriguing, especially if we have ships that have different tools and puzzles that require you to shutdown engine/weapon/communication systems or force a ship to fire a missle/turn on a mining laser.

Impact on Existing Missions
-The Flooded City: The flooded city stays pretty much the same. Our original issue with this type of mission is that there wasn't much to do but randomly scan until you found the Seeked.. or the Seeked blows up the target. With the magnet and enabling NPC scanners, you can position NPC scanning beams so they surround target locations to ensure that if the Seeked does approach the target, the player will be immediately notified.

-Red Square Skyscrapers: This is a typical chase mission, so the magnets and scanning doesn't quite have a use here. If the player gets too far behind, we could have ships with strong thrust engines that the Seeker could attach to in order to catch up to the target ship.

-Amazon Valley: Similar to the first mission.

-Alexandria Outskirts: Another scanning mission. We could disable the ships and then tow them with the magnet to a holding area.

-Industrial Chasms: A stealth mission. Magnet adds the ability to use larger ships to avoid detection.

-Occam's Razor: Since this is a pure battle mission, there's the potential for there to be lots of shooting and much less puzzles. So, this one probably won't benefit from either the changes to magnets or the scanner.

-Extra ideas: A stealth mission where you need to get to a particular sector of an enormous ship hangar populated by enemies. You can use your scanner/magnet to force ships to open locked areas, hide behind ships to avoid being detected by scanners, and disable ship comm systems to avoid alerting other vehicles.