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Brief overview of Project Penguin

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Given I will be posting a bunch of weird concept art and fairly bland screenshots over the next couple of weeks, I thought I should put a brief description of what I see "Project Penguin" as being. This will also allow me to get a better grasp of the game elements by putting things down in words, and also open my ideas up for mockery constructive criticism.



Gameplay Overview
You play as a secret agent/action hero, who has a series of missions usually based on infiltrating an enemy base, completing an objective, and escape. In terms of inspiration the game is loosely based on Airborne Ranger (a classic MicroProse game from the late eighties), although since I haven't played that game in a decade (at least) the game will be substantially different. Probably the most obvious difference will be using a penguin as the hero; I'm hoping to go with a substantially more cartoony feel than most shooters. I'm hoping to get some sort of mix between Airborne Ranger, Metal Slug, James Bond and Danger Mouse, plus a whole bunch of other things that catch my fancy.

Setting
Due to the gameplay, I'm planning on a spy/secret agent theme, although I suspect the game will be more action than stealth. As a consequence of this, and to make the game suitable for 4E5 I'll be setting the game in a cartoon fantasy variant of 1960s Europe at the height of the Cold War. Given I'll need a suitable opposing force for our penguin hero I'll probably have the standard spy theme of West vs. the Soviets, although given the cartoon world I'm still putting the final touches on exactly what the Soviet equivalent will be (I don't want to tie this down too much with history). Another possibility is traditional Bond style supervillains in the line of "Evil Genius", attempting to take over the world, but it doesn't make that much sense in an continous mission cycle unless I put in extra effort for more art resources or the mission generator; mock Soviets are easier.

Elements
Since I suspect this project will take several months and I'd like to join in on a Four Elements contest, I'll attempt to put in the four "E"s. Most of them shouldn't be too hard.
Europe: The setting of the game. I hope to have a mission selection screen with a map to cement that this is in Europe, as the game itself will be a series of non-descript terrain types.
Economics: I'll have an equipment selection screen before a mission starts where you spend a budget of cash on what you think you need.
Emblem: The different groups of the game will have their own emblems, but I'll give the penguin himself his own special symbol.
Emotion: This is possibly the weakest: I'm hoping to have a fear and anger model for the opposing soldiers (shown in behaviour and animation), and throw in some elements of cartoony humour. I also suppose the whole world is gripped with fear anyway (it's the Cold War). I hope these will be enough.

Thoughts of the suitability of this as a 4E5 Project
I mainly developed the idea as a simple scroller game that is in the acceptable range of being technically within my ability but offering a lot of room for learning and experimentation. It was going to be a simple throwaway project, but after thinking about it I realised I could embellish it a bit with the four elements and turn it into something a bit bigger and 4E5 worthy. Possibly some of the elements are a bit weak, but I suppose it isn't that bad on reflection.

The big danger is that of project scope. At the moment, I feel there's a chance I can get this completed by November, but there's a huge number of scheduling unknowns that I cannot estimate. However the good thing about this project is that it scales quite well; I should be able to get something playable that fits the criteria done in time. Thus I presently feel the most likely scenario is that I complete a reasonable alpha for the competition, then spend a few more months putting in the extra elements.

Another thing I like about this project is that there's a good series of milestones that lead to the final product. First I need a terrain engine. Then I need a hero avatar, then basic enemies, then tying that down to a mission objective. Once that's down I can do the front end, make menus, equipment screens etc., put in variable missions to give a bunch of variety, and then polish like mad.

The final thing which really sells me is that I love the cartoony feel that I want to put in this game, and hopefully that will be enough to keep me on track through this project. There's something about cartoon heroes that screams "madcap crazy fun".


More to come in a few days. Still hoping for basic terrain on the Monday review post. Some more character design too later this week.
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