Friday, January 18, 2013

Starting the Engine Prototype

With a basic plan, and some knowledge of the Unity Development Engine courtesy of some online training programs, a few books (see references at the bottom of the post) and some videos, I'm ready to start the engine prototype. The goal of this prototype is to have a basic turn based game. No fancy effects, just a 3D map, with player and enemy objects that can move and shoot each other.

With this is mind, I created a short work plan with a list of tasks that would have me building the prototype in a few months. I know that much of what I will be developing will be brand new and slow. Shooting, moving, path finding, object selection, map building: it's all going to be a new adventure. 


So far, I've been able to replicate the same basic prototype level I created in Google Sketch-up and added a camera to examine the level. I wasn't 100% happy with the result, but I also had to look back at it and say “it’s OK, lets look at this more later”. It just seemed to me that I started with this powerful graphics engine and made things look so… BUDGET, by making it into an isometric view. I can see myself definitely going back to a Perspective view soon.

But lets look at the positives. I created a level. I added a camera that could scroll and move. I then downloaded a free model that had WASD movement (with keys) built in. It even shoots... It was progress. Next I'm going to add some enemies and some basic shooting.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pre-Production

Although it sounds like I've just started, in actual fact, I've been working on this game for the last year. I started by doing market research into 4 of my favorite games in the genre, as well as general information about the video game market in general. I've collecting feedback from online forums and created lists of what worked well and what didn't  The announcement at the beginning of this year of XCOM: Enemy Unknown by Firaxis was an interesting development, as I could tell from a lot of interviews that they went through the same process. I was also excited with the innovations they made with the turn-based tactical role-playing strategy video game genre. With an renewed active community in one place, I was able to collect extra information about what did and didn't work in the original 1994 XCom.

Based on this, I then looked back at the last 30 years, looking for trends. My initial idea was to create a zombie apocalypse game for a few reasons.
1.    This was my first game and I wasn't sure I could build a good AI. Having zombies would help with that.
2.    Zombies seemed like a popular area to develop for.

Over the period of the year, this all changed. Suddenly zombies seemed to have reached a saturation point. I kept telling myself that the story didn't matter at this stage until I had an engine, but half of me was conflicted, knowing that if I didn't know exactly what I would build, I would not have a sense of accomplishment (e.g. I've completed 20% of the game!).

In the end I came up with a few alternatives, all wildly different.
1.    American Revolution. Muskets and Indians and such. The slow pace of muskets would be ideal for a turn based game.
2.    Space Marines. Set a few hundred years in the future, with aliens (very similar to the Chrysalids who I think are fantastic and one of the most interesting units in the game) and space travel. Think a combination of Starship Troopers/ Aliens.

I’m torn on direction, but as I mentioned earlier, at this stage of the development, I have plenty of time to still to decide.

Here is what I know
1.    I need a basic engine that will allow me to load levels, move characters and attack other characters. I need (at least partial) destructible terrain.
2.    Once I have this, I can start putting together a story and levels to support the story, as well as a simple 'strategic layer to create story around each of the battles.
3.    The idea is to create 3-5 levels into a short, tech demo. I could even call it “Episode 1”. The Walking Dead recently handled Episodes very well. The tech demo will be very linear from the over story point of view, but of course the tactical game will have plenty of choices which I hope will balance things out a little.

Based on this, I started to design a few tech demo levels in Google Sketch up, an excellent tool I had used in the past. The idea of my first level was to show multiple levels, allowing me to build in destructible terrain, cover, and path finding into the initial level.