February 6, 2017

Designing the Game: Part I

Playing and developing video games is something that I have been doing since I have some memory.

I played a lot of classics from the golden era: River Raid (Atari 2600), Parsec space shooter (TI99/4A), Questron, Telengard, Silent Service, Manic Mansion, Zak McKracken, Pirate Adventure, Defender of the Crown, and the Ultimate Series I-VI (C64) just to name a few.

As a result, I have a bunch of memories, feelings and sensations nailed to my heart that I want to vomit all together over my game design paper sheets.

As an independent game developer I can afford to do it. I have to be true to myself and not betray my soul. That is the true spirit of being an independent game developer: design with your heart (pockets out).

Slowly the game that I have in mind is surfacing. It is a mixture of ideas and feelings that orbit around my head waiting to be aligned.

My first and most crucial dilemma was whether or not to use permadeath in the game.

Permadeath is a gameplay mechanic in which characters that die are gone forever and cannot be used never again. This is permadeath in the most hardcore form; it is important to note that permadeath implementation may vary widely between games.

Games not using permadeath might allow players to be resurrected by losing resources or undoing progress already made by restarting from a previous checkpoint.

I like permadeath because it adds tension and risk to the game forcing players to play cautiously and focused because bad decisions might have high consequences. The negative side is that permadeath does not get along well with narrative. It simply doesn't work for many game genres, specially in narrative-based games where repeating the same sequence of narrative events each time is not the best idea.

So at some point I was standing in the middle of somewhere being tugged by two guys: Mr. Story and Mr. Death.

Finally, after several days (and coffees) I decided to take a bit from both sides. 

So, the first novelty about the game is that it is going to feature a casual form of permadeath that will preserve the expected feeling of risk and tension, sustained by a decent and clear plot. 

The second novelty is that there will be a fixed cast of playable characters (4 to be more accurate) that could potentially die and resurrect at some point. When a character dies, he will lose all the equipment and part of his progress. 

Other characters will be able to retrieve the equipment from the dead ones (if they manage to find them.) Each character will have limited inventory slots, so players should be wise enough to know what to carry and what not. Items will tend to be short-lived, so players should be very careful about their inventory. 

Little by little the game is taking shape. I must continue the excavation process in order to put together all the pieces of this beautiful puzzle.

See you in the next post!

- Diego

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