Development of the Station 6 concept
Due to the recent influx of school work that Ben and I have had to attend to, we haven’t actually been able to work on Station 6 this week. I’m still going to do a blog post though! This week I’ve decided to talk about where the idea of the game came from, and how it developed.
During the last school summer holiday, I participated in Ludum Dare, an online game development competition where participants have to create a game from scratch in just 48 hours. I created a game called ‘Fred the Astro-Miner’, where you’re an astronaut who’s trapped in an asteroid and needs to escape from an alien. You have a drill which you can use to dig so that you can travel down different paths and also collect valuable metals. It wasn’t really a good game though. I made it on an extremely busy weekend, and it was also my first time attempting a proper tile rendering system, so that sucked up a large portion of my time. You can download it here.
Ben, on the other hand, drew a comic book, which also happened to be about astronauts, who were floating in space, having their last conversation before their deaths. If I remember correctly, there were two of them, and they were drifting apart from each other, one of which falling towards the Earth. I might ask Ben to scan it in so I can show it to you some time.
Before that holiday, Ben and I were planning to do a game, which was originally supposed to be something a bit like Metal Slug. It was a bit vague really, and we didn’t really know what we actually wanted to do. I also toyed with the idea of using XNA, because of it’s ease of use and the ability to have it on both PC and XBox.
When we got back to school after the holiday, we discussed about the game and decided to go with a space theme as we had both done projects that involved astronauts during our summers. I also quickly decided against XNA, as although I think it would be pretty cool to have a game on a console, I would rather the game be PC only but be playable on Linux and Mac as well as Windows. I also knew C++ and OpenGL, as well as developed my own library, which I am currently using for the game. If I went with XNA I’d have to learn C# and XNA itself, which isn’t hard, but it’s just another step away from actually getting started on the game.
We quickly decided that the game should be a puzzle game. We came to the idea that it would be a top-down game where you had to place machines on the map to solve puzzles, and that you were exploring a space station. There would be machines already placed on the map, and the player would have to work out which machines to build in order to make the overall mechanism work to solve the puzzle. I started work on this and eventually I got the idea of some machines that needed to be powered by a source of electricity. In addition to the machines you could place, I made it so that you could also place wire. Electricity would flow through the wires from a power generating source to any machines connected, and those machines would come to life.
I was enjoying using the electricity mechanic quite a lot, and then another idea hit me. Why don’t I make the wiring of the machines the main mechanic? And that’s what I did. Now, all of the machines were already placed on the map, but you could go into a ‘build mode’, where you could wire connect the machines together with wires using the mouse. I felt that this was an improvement on the original idea and was able to come up with a plethora of different machines. I also made a few puzzles that centred around just crates, pistons, and buttons.
But there were problems with the design. You might disagree with what I say here, but this is just how I feel. I felt a bit disjointed with the character in the game. The build system was centred around the player being able to be a sort of god who could see the whole map, or a large area of the map around the player, and wire up things as they pleased. The player was just a guy you had to get from A to B. I wanted to have a better sense of ‘ooh, I’m exploring this big place, and I don’t know what’s around the next corner’. When you’re looking from a top down perspective, you can already see what’s round the next corner before the character you’re controlling does. Okay, maybe I could set up a system whereby the player could only see a small circle of the map around them, but I really don’t like those kind of games. Ben was also having trouble with drawing the right kind of perspective and wasn’t able to find something he liked the look of.
I’m a really big fan of platformers. All of my favourite games are platformers. I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. I had a brainwave. Why not make it a platformer? Okay, okay, everyone does a platformer. But in my opinion changing it to a platformer was a good decision, regardless. Instead of pointing and clicking to where you want your wires to be, you get to pick up an oversized mains cable, run up to another machine with the wire dangling behind you, and jam it into another machine to make it work. You can now jump. Before, you were basically defenceless. Now you can bop enemies on the head with your feet! Bosses will be a heck of a lot more interesting as the best thing I could think of for the top down version is just wiring up the machines in a way that corresponds to the boss’ movement patterns to shoot lasers or something (you’re defenceless, remember). Now bosses (and the rest of the game, for that matter) actually require some sort of dexterity, so wiring up that super laser to blast the boss isn’t quite as simple as jumping into build mode and clicking the left mouse button a few times. You now also feel like a smaller person in a big world, which is exactly what I want the game to feel like. You’re just this little astronaut in a big space station which you need to get out of, and I think a platformer allows me to convey this feeling in the best way I can. Ben also finds it much easier to draw this way. You may disagree with my decision, and that’s fine, it’s just that I love platformers
Now to finish off let me remind you what the game will look like with the picture from Ben that I posted a couple weeks ago…
Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, questions, criticisms, anything you want to say, please leave a comment or send me a message.