This week developing my second indie game was all about the mechanics and tools of infiltration, tampering with the game world to open new pathways.
Vent those Shafts!
Like every good FPS designer, I spent a good amount of time modeling and placing ventilation shafts, which was oddly more fun than I expected. I diverged from my original floor plan, creating a whole new exploitable web of vents. Some high up that may require a bit of climbing to get to, some close to the ground. Some are open, some are closed, and require the Venticator gizmo (aka a tool) to pry open.
Going into vent shafts, observing patroling guards through the slits, all the while listening to Deus Ex soundtrack I suddenly realized… this feels fun! I think I am on the right track :)
Obstructions and Gizmos
The shafts above are an example of one of the four systems for opening new pathways with the right tools. Those are:
- Locked Doors – openable with the right key or Lockateer gizmo (aka pick lock)
- Vent shafts – some open, some sealed, but can be preyed with a Venticator gizmo
- Mechanical Obstructions – can be tempered with by using the Gearheart gizmo
- Outside zones – too low on oxygem/cold for normal traversal, unless you find an oxygen mask… or warm yourself up with some booze
Already, the level I have is starting to feel a bit more organic, with the various options at your disposal. Aside from, you know, lurking in shadows!
Gizmos as Player Custimization
The above gizmos, plus a few more I have in plan (like soft shoes to dampen your walking, a “weapon” of some form, or a tool to assists in conversations) are the backbone of character building / customization. This leaves a few interesting options:
- Limited Choice of Gizmos – you pick a new gizmo at different points in story, but can never acquire them all, so you must choose wisely. Think Deus Ex Augs.
- Upgradable Gizmos – you can get all gizmos, but can upgrade them at various points (thus a medium Lockateer can open more locks than a basic one). But, again, you can never upgrade them all fully. This enhances character building and lets you experiment with all gizmos. Think Dishonored.
- Disposable Gizmos – the gizmos would be scattered all around, but can be used only once. One picklock, one door. This encourages exploration and resource management. Think Deus Ex Multitools.
Each of these has their merits and flaws on gameplay, so I am still brainstorming. I will probably settle for a mixed approach, where some gizmos are limited/upgradable, while others disposable. I do like the meaningful choice in character building of the first approach and encouraged exploration/resource management of the second.
I also started replaying Deus Ex, in part as design research to get some ideas going and draw inspiration. You can see that’s been influencing my thought process above. I am also keeping other of my favorites in mind, like System Shock 2, which did a good job of sneaksy, infiltrator gameplay. And yes, I’ll think back to Dishonored and Thief as well, tho I am not a huge fan of either for various reasons (but I do appreciate what they did right, and why I still consider them as strong models.)
With great Movement comes Great Responsibility
I’ve complained about the Unity’s default player controller and finally got around to implementing my own (based on ToraHorse’s awesome work). So now the player movement fully supports smooth walking, sprinting, sliding, crouching, and leaning (yay!) Very happy with the “feel” so far :)
Next Week’s Plan
Next week will be slow, with me visiting Portland, so I don’t suppose I will get much done. BUT, now that I have the two basic levels, I can add in the key plot elements and items, strung together by the right narrative. And all the other plot “clues” that are the whole reason for exploring and breaking into people’s rooms. Oh my, things are starting to come together!