This weekend I feel that Stasis took the leap from ‘cool project’ to ‘Adventure Game’. Its a difficult feeling to explain, but there is that moment when you are creating a game where it start to feel less like a collection of screens, and starts to actually feel like a playable game. The thing that prompted this leap? A newly streamlined interface…
Below are some of the major changes I have made, as well as the reasons ‘WHY’.
I have been playing quite a few older AG’s, and comparing them to the new Action, story driven games (the Deadspace and Bioshock series being my main template for a modern AAA title), and have tried to take as much from those games as I can in terms of how they direct the player, and how they keep the game flowing. One of the main things that they have is that the player always has a clear objective. Now where the balance has to come in, is that in AG’s, you dont want to hold the players hand. The fun of an adventure game is in NOT knowing what to do-but, in playing the older AG’s, I’ve sometimes gotten frustrated with having NO direction.
As I said, Im designing STASIS as a game that I know I would enjoy, so for me that means making sure that as a player, I always have some sort of forward momentum-in having a definite OBJECTIVE.
EDIT: Spoke to a friend about this (hey Mike), and he suggested that it may be a bit like brow beating the player over the head with the objective. Should the OBJECTIVE just be more of an ‘inbuilt’ hint system? Something that Comments/suggestions?
Something I have also been wrestling with is how to have a managable way of having the world around you described. Now the ‘ideal’ would be to have you click on an object, and Maracheck responds by saying something about it-but Im not doing that for two reasons.
1-I really feel that to have constant voice overs will really break the atmosphere. I want you to really feel alone in the game, so that when you arent alone (dum dum DUUUUUUUM), its almost disconcerting. Perhaps even welcome….sometimes not.
2-Managing that amount of voice over content, without access to voice actors for the entire duration of the project is something that I just cant do. Also, I want to keep the game to a manageable size.
Note how the description in the lower left hand corner isnt from a first person point of view…its almost ‘story like’ in its wording. Doing the descriptions like this eliminates both issues I had, as well as lets me get really descriptive for areas of the game without having Maracheck come off as someone who talks to himself in descriptive ways.
CONTEXT SENSITIVE CURSOR.
And the final, I read a fantastic article called WHY YOUR GAME IS BROKEN about Interfaces in Adventure Games (http://americangirlscouts.org/agswiki/Why_Your_Game_Is_Broken) , and I really took what he was saying to heart. The interface in Stasis is now completely context sensitive. What this means is that when you move your cursor over an object that can be SCANNED, your interface ‘Pie’ will automatically be set to SCAN. If its an object you can INTERACT with, the cursor will automatically be set to INTERACT. Im still working out the logistics of certain things, such as being able to INTERACT with an object, and SCAN it (which is more important for the interface to switch to), and things like, should you have to SCAN an object to INTERACT with it-but I can tell you that the game flows MUCH better like this.
Here are some screens of the new interface in action. (Note that Descriptions are temporary).
…and a screen from the opening cinematic. Work in progress… 😉