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Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

…and other uses.

Who knew violins were so flexible?

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…and just because…

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Not all at the same time, though.

NinjaBee’s game A World of Keflings (a game I worked on quite a bit) is on sale this week over at XBox.com, and just in time for our latest DLC to hit the shop.  OK, technically it’s a little early, but it’s on sale this week, and the Sugar, Spice and Not So Nice DLC releases tomorrow.

As teased in that trailer for the DLC, we’re also releasing a second DLC, Curse of the Zombiesaurus, giving us a nice double serving of October-flavored gaming goodies.  I worked a LOT on both of these DLC releases, and it’s been fun to see them come together.

Curse of the Zombiesaurus!

I’ll be writing about the art and design of these things when I can get something put together.  If nothing else, I want to put together an article in praise of noobs.  …yes, it’s relevant.  Mostly.

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My Zomblobs! is a game designed in shells.  There are layers to the design, allowing for a “bird’s eye” game experience with little micromanaging, all the way down to a Civilization-like world conquering game with a Tactical RPG layer, between them plenty of opportunities to min-max your way into gaming geek happiness.

I’ve thought on more than one occasion that it could also be developed that way.  As in, develop the outer shell as a functional game and iterate down through the shells until it’s ready to weld to the TRPG (which could also function on its own) as a complete package.  Some of those iterations can stand on their own as playable games, perhaps even marketable ones.

This does spread out the work and allow for monetization to keep a project going, and even allows for design changes if it’s found that one of the iterations or directions isn’t playing well.  It also runs the risk of oversaturating the IP, making releases too disparate (in theme and/or release date) and therefore too easily ignored, getting lost in a crowd of shovelware (or becoming shovelware), dev team turnover, and code bloat.  There’s also the risk that all the shells may not play nice together if they have to bend to accommodate separate releases.

Still, there’s something appealing about the notion of breaking up a larger project into smaller bites to make it more manageable.  I’m not really sold on either approach at the moment, but it is still interesting looking at options.  The iPhone market and even XBox Live have allowed for smaller games to have decent viability in recent years, and I instinctively want to leverage that to make something bigger.  It’s a business sense that I haven’t honed very well, to be honest, but one that I can’t quite ignore.  I’d love to focus purely on designing the game and doing art for it, but the sad reality is that money makes the world go ’round, and if I want to turn the time I’ve spent on this into money (which really would be nice), I need to look at the business side of things.

On the other hand, since this is a one-man show at present, and I don’t have much programming ability or money to hire some, well… this may well all be academic anyway.  Sure, I’d like to learn the programming someday, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Still… dream big or go home, right?

At any rate, since I’m thinking of shells, here’s a rough concept of the outermost shell of Zomblobs!, the 3D globe Ataxx-variant I’m dubbing the Cytoglobe:

Cytoglobe layer

It’s a game that could stand alone as a smart phone game (or XBox Live or PC, whatever… though smart phone mobility and connectivity opens up a few new design options), and it could host a variety of variations, from multiplayer rule variants to a full map editor.  Ataxx-style play isn’t really all that mentally taxing, but it’s still fun, and I think a global geodesic version could be a nice spin on the idea.  (There’s also a fun tactile appeal of playing this on a touch screen… or even with Kinect controls.  Sort of a “megalomaniac conquering the globe” feel, as it were.)

Of course, from there it’s possible to drill down into discrete blobs with hit points instead of instant-capture, species-specific boons and weaknesses, location-specific special effects (with real world GPS twists, perhaps), progression mechanics (sometimes mistakenly called “RPG elements”), resource management, research trees and even stories.  The full Zomblobs! game would then only be a hop skip and a jump away, pulling all the elements together in a tighter fashion and welding them to the tactical game.

There’s a lot I want to do here, and there are good reasons to limit the scope of any single project.  Absent an organized plan of production, things can get hairy fast.  I’m still not sure what I’ll even be able to do… but it’s good to at least make sure I look ahead.  Forewarned is forearmed, and all that rot.

Any thoughts?

Would you buy a game that’s effectively a “slice” of a larger game?  Would you just expect it to be a sort of neo-shareware, offered for free, and the other layers monetized underneath for those who care to dig deeper?  Would you like a suite of games that work like cogs in a larger machine, or would you just want the larger machine?  Could you wait for new pieces?

…are any of you bored programmers with an itch to work on this?

…would a publicly readable wiki on the design be something worth making available?

…would Battle for Wesnoth eat my lunch anyway?

…EDITED to add the following great link to The Rampant Coyote’s recent article on “Feature Creep”… a highly relevant article as I sort out exactly what I want to do here.

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Chris, this one’s for you.  Marmosetofdeath, you might like it, too.

I’ve recently finished another playthrough of MechCommander 2.  I’m also playing Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis.  In both games, I find that I really like the ability to take the enemy’s resources and use them for myself midfight.  It appeals to the strategist in me, and the tactics of doing so make battles much more interesting than simply going into a battle rage and destroying everything that’s not mine.  (It’s also more realistic; scorched earth warfare has a tendency to cause more problems than it solves in the long run.)

Strategic “asset acquisition” is common in the BattleTech* universe, and most long-term campaigns are built around salvage.  I’m not terribly conversant with the board game (though I keep meaning to learn it), but in MC2, you can even salvage a ‘Mech mid-mission and plunk one of your pilots in it, making your force stronger for the rest of the mission.  It’s actually almost necessary for some missions with low initial drop weight.  You can also capture enemy buildings, and an enemy Repair Bay is an excellent tool.  This is guerilla warfare in spirit; making use of what you have, and applying a Jujitsu mentality of using the foe’s forces against them.

It’s very, very satisfying to manage a careful headshot on an enemy ‘Mech (killing the pilot or making them eject, leaving the ‘Mech largely intact), and then turn around and make it your own… especially if it’s a really big ‘Mech (expensive, in other words), or one that you’ve wanted for a piece of the puzzle that is your optimal strike force (I love Mad Cats/Timberwolves, and salvaging one is high priority).  It’s especially fun if you can turn it around and almost immediately use it to pummel your foes.  (And in multiplayer, sometimes you have to destroy your own downed ‘Mechs to deny them the opportunity to salvage them.  Corpse burning is more visceral, but it’s not much different.)

Reading the Arthas novel in close proximity to finishing MC2 is what sparked this line of thought… mechanically,  the violent appropriation of enemy resources is very akin to the classical notion of necromancers expanding their horde.  Arthas kills opponents, then reanimates them to serve in his army.  My ‘Mech group headshots foes, then sends in their own pilots to control the downed machines.  They rise, staggering to their feet in their funky-legged gait, and fight against their former allies.  The final foes in any given mission typically faced a force half comprised of their fallen ‘Mechs.  If there were any psychological warfare mechanics in the game, I’d suspect that would be a significant factor.

I hope the parallels are pretty obvious.

In TOKOL, you can “persuade” foes to join your cause midfight.  Anyone can persuade for their action per turn (with varying levels of success), and only a few units can’t be persuaded.  Apparently, loyalty is a fairly fluid thing in the TO universe.  (To be fair, it’s easier to persuade opponents when they are beat up a bit… not unlike the real world.  And in a mercenary existence like we see in most fantasy stories, loyalty to one’s own skin isn’t all that uncommon.)  Such persuasion is very useful in TO, both for swelling the ranks of your army (especially since foes usually are at higher levels than your carefully trained recruits) and for loot acquisition (you can offer persuaded foes a permanent position at the end of combat, and if they stay with you, you can swipe their gear, even if you then immediately dismiss them).  Persuaded foes get the standard “Guest” AI (they aren’t immediately under your command), so they can be considerably stupid at times.  Again, not unlike zombies.

So… as much as it pains me to admit it, maybe I do like zombies, or at least zombie mechanics, inasmuch as I love the ability to turn the enemies’ resources to my own nefarious ends (even if I’m fighting on the side of the angels).  I’ve always though that turning an opponent to your side was a more complete victory than just obliterating them.

I still don’t like the theme of zombies, but from a gameplay mechanical standpoint…

OK… I like ‘em.

*I typed that BattleTesh the first time, and had to go back and correct it.  How… odd.

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