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codeandroid

Feature game for a new game engine

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I lead the development of a new (and still virtually unknown) game engine. (Interestingly enough, it's more often used in non-game related applications.) I have years of programming experience and very capable people contribute to the project. Now that the technology base is getting in good shape, I began work on a feature game. Now here's the problem. I have ideas on setting and features and basic gameplay elements. But ideas are dime a dozen. And I'm not sure they're worth anything. I'm also sorry that this is a 'game idea' post and not a post on a single feature. I understand that this may provoke a few doubts. I've got quite a few ideas for different projects which, personally, I find to be extensible enough so that an iterative approach to development of the game is possible (meaning playable and fun demos can be produced in early stages). I'd love to get some feedback on this more than just 'very early' draft! Right now I tend to gear gameplay towards single-player experience. The technology for multiplayer is available, though. Core gameplay element: Basically the gameplay revolves around vehicle combat in a physically modelled world with improvised vehicles. The vehicles (mostly cars) can be customized in many ways by using the visual vehicle editor which allows to add/remove/edit components (sensors, weapons, armor, cargo boxes...). Components have physical properties and have a direct impact on the driving attributes of the vehicle. Setting: Post-apocalyptic lands, with lush woods, barren deserts, improvised settlements etc. It'd be nice to be able to evoke positive feelings (freedom, beauty of the surroundings, ...). The game can quite easily be developed in an iterative approach, for example, by starting with vehicle combat in special 'arenas'. It can then be extended by landscapes, settlements, NPCs, ... Story & characters: I'd like to have a strong story with strongly accentuated characters. I've got no experience in story writing, character development, etc so I have to find someone who does :) Nevertheless, I think, this is another area where indie games can succeed in being very good. ( My motivation: This is a hobby project. I'm willing to pay for story developers, artwork, etc and already did so. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not hiring here (I know the Help Wanted forum), I just try to illustrate that I'm dedicated. I've got years of programming experience, and I'm a coder in real-life. I think, I know what I'm doing in the field of software design & programming. I've got knowledge of 3d modelling and texturing but I'm too slow for my own needs ;) And I've no experience with game design but as everyone I've got a lot ideas. ) That's why I ask for your feedback here which I'd appreciate a lot! Thanks for listening! -codeandroid

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Quote:
Original post by codeandroid
Right now I tend to gear gameplay towards single-player experience. The technology for multiplayer is available, though.
From an initial readthrough it seems like you'd really, really need multiplayer support. Creating crazah cars and then battling again an AI just isn't as much fun as creating crazah cars and taking down your mate's crazah car. When I read the core gameplay mechanic, I'm thinking about games like Unreal Tournament - or, perhaps more accurately, Destruction Derby.

Quote:
Core gameplay element: Basically the gameplay revolves around vehicle combat in a physically modelled world with improvised vehicles. The vehicles (mostly cars) can be customized in many ways by using the visual vehicle editor which allows to add/remove/edit components (sensors, weapons, armor, cargo boxes...). Components have physical properties and have a direct impact on the driving attributes of the vehicle.
I like it, I like it a lot. Just how free would people be when building their cars - would they be starting from a base framework and 'screwing bits on,' or would they be able to create it from the very beginning, controlling things like axle placement, propulsion method, and where the seats go?

The other question: What's to stop everyone from building huge tanks, i.e. what are the downsides of throwing everything you can onto your vehicle? Cost? Weight? Score multipliers?

Quote:
Setting: Post-apocalyptic lands, with lush woods, barren deserts, improvised settlements etc. It'd be nice to be able to evoke positive feelings (freedom, beauty of the surroundings, ...).
Cool. Also sounds like it'd give you a lot of room in which to manouver, have maaaad drag races, etc.

Quote:
The game can quite easily be developed in an iterative approach, for example, by starting with vehicle combat in special 'arenas'. It can then be extended by landscapes, settlements, NPCs, ...

Story & characters: I'd like to have a strong story with strongly accentuated characters. I've got no experience in story writing, character development, etc so I have to find someone who does :)
Nevertheless, I think, this is another area where indie games can succeed in being very good.


Hmmmm.

You know, this would be amazingly cool if you were to develop it as an action RPG.

The single-player mode would be an RPG. Young Thomas is a boy who dreams of being a big Carena star, of fame and the adoring fans one gets when one battles other vehicles for a living. He works as a mechanic for his father, fixing up and enhancing (regular) vehicles for a living. One day some men (the Mafia of the world) come to visit, kill his father, and leave him orphaned. With little money and a burning desire for revenge, our hero jumps onto his own vehicle (constructed out of parts from around the garage, not very bad-ass) and drives off in search of answers. What follows is the revealing of a conspiracy that reaches up to the very echelons of the senior management of the Worldwide Carena League itself.

(Alternatively: Play LucasArts' Full Throttle [grin])

It's just a crappy example, but it could lead to a story in which this car-combat is heavily used, with the player winning new parts to add to their car as they go along. The problem I see with other approaches is that it becomes difficult to explain why the car combat is there, kinda thing...

Multiplayer wise, you just keep the pure battle gameplay, provide some maps and arenas to play in (probably reused from the single-player element).

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Thanks for the detailed feedback!

Quote:
Original post by superpig
From an initial readthrough it seems like you'd really, really need multiplayer support.

Yes, I think so, too.

Quote:
Original post by superpig
I like it, I like it a lot. Just how free would people be when building their cars (...)?

That's a more difficult question. I was thinking about providing a large number base chassis with mount points. Then any kind of components can be placed onto certain mount points (but not necessarily all of them). The number of axles per chassis would be fixed, though. Of course, this system is not so easy to create graphically, I'm talking about the 3d models here. But it's doable.

Quote:
Original post by superpig
The other question: What's to stop everyone from building huge tanks, i.e. what are the downsides of throwing everything you can onto your vehicle?

Right, there has to be disadvantages to doing that.

For example, generally, components have differing weights (weapons = heavy, sensors = medium, cargo = variable, depending on mission).

Therefore lots of attached components result in a lot of weight which results in less speed, but more important it results in more difficult handling (skidding etc) and it stops you from making insane stunts which could otherwise save your life, things like that.

Quote:
Original post by superpig
You know, this would be amazingly cool if you were to develop it as an action RPG.
(...)
The single-player mode would be an RPG.

I can't tell you how glad I am you mentioned it! It's stretching the scale of the game but nevertheless I've thought about introducing NPCs aside from those driving the vehicles.

Except that I'd love to experiment with a female hero in such a setting. Or maybe, just a female acquaintance, a mix between beaten and destructed character while still showing that once there was beauty, who takes part in action from time to time and has a certain impact on the story.

Quote:
Original post by superpig
The problem I see with other approaches is that it becomes difficult to explain why the car combat is there, kinda thing...

Maybe gathering and protecting resources could provide motivation (clean water, healthy food, oil, gas, metals...).

It's amazing how even writing about the whole thing makes it clearer for me, not to speak of thought-provoking feedback!

Thanks, superpig!

-codeandroid

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by codeandroid
Quote:
Original post by superpig
Just how free would people be when building their cars (...)?

That's a more difficult question. I was thinking about providing a large number base chassis with mount points. Then any kind of components can be placed onto certain mount points (but not necessarily all of them). The number of axles per chassis would be fixed, though. Of course, this system is not so easy to create graphically, I'm talking about the 3d models here. But it's doable.
Well, if it's a technical limitation... I still like the idea of building weird ring-shaped cars with wheels spaced crazily around the outside. Kinda like a Lego brick approach. ^_^

Quote:
Quote:
Original post by superpig
The other question: What's to stop everyone from building huge tanks, i.e. what are the downsides of throwing everything you can onto your vehicle?

Right, there has to be disadvantages to doing that.

For example, generally, components have differing weights (weapons = heavy, sensors = medium, cargo = variable, depending on mission).

Therefore lots of attached components result in a lot of weight which results in less speed, but more important it results in more difficult handling (skidding etc) and it stops you from making insane stunts which could otherwise save your life, things like that.
Hmm... are speed and stunts always going to be what you want, though? Consider the multiplayer mode in which you're supposed to fight against the other players. I could envision someone making a massively armoured car with a cannon on top, like a tank - they just sit there and blast everyone else with their 'artillery.' I dunno, it's a sensible idea, but I think you ought to consider ideas like a 'budget' as well.

Quote:
Except that I'd love to experiment with a female hero in such a setting. Or maybe, just a female acquaintance, a mix between beaten and destructed character while still showing that once there was beauty, who takes part in action from time to time and has a certain impact on the story.
That's certainly plausible. She could be a fellow driver, or anyone you meet on your journey...

Thinking about the RPG idea a little more, it seems likely that you won't be able to hold the entire game as vehicular combat - rather, the combat would be (extensively used) sections in a larger game. In between battles you'd be able to walk around, talk to people, and the like (allowing something such as an investigation). In fact, I like the idea of being able to use your car at any time - say you're told there's a guy living out 4 miles west you should talk to, you can hop in your car and drive over there. Of course, you might get into a fight or two along the way... and travelling long distances without your car could leave you vulnerable to being run down by other drivers.

Quote:
Maybe gathering and protecting resources could provide motivation (clean water, healthy food, oil, gas, metals...).
True enough; reminds me of Fallout (and if we're going to talk about post-apocalyptic RPGs, you should play that. Heck, you should play it anyway ^_^).

Edit: Whoops, that was me. -Superpig

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster (=superpig)
I still like the idea of building weird ring-shaped cars with wheels spaced crazily around the outside. Kinda like a Lego brick approach. ^_^

You got me thinking here. The internal representation already allows for nearly any kind of vehicles, including mixed land/air/sea vehicles. So from a programmer's point of view it's not a problem at all. I guess, I have to do a few drawings to see how it could look. (Too bad I suck at drawing. Lack of training.)

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster (=superpig)
Hmm... are speed and stunts always going to be what you want, though? Consider the multiplayer mode in which you're supposed to fight against the other players. I could envision someone making a massively armoured car with a cannon on top, like a tank - they just sit there and blast everyone else with their 'artillery.' I dunno, it's a sensible idea, but I think you ought to consider ideas like a 'budget' as well.

Right. A budget provides another mean for balancing.

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster (=superpig)
Thinking about the RPG idea a little more (...)

This sounds more and more like Elite on wheels with additional emphasis on RPG elements ;) But I like it! It seems to me that this kind of gameplay has some serious potential. (In the case of Elite, it hooked me for years.)

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster (=superpig)
True enough; reminds me of Fallout (and if we're going to talk about post-apocalyptic RPGs, you should play that. Heck, you should play it anyway ^_^).

I heard very good things about it. I guess, I have to stop at a shop later today ;)

-codeandroid

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Balancing of the components could be done in a number of ways, for example, to combat your "Heavily armored with big gun" vehicle, make the weapons traverse slower the more powerful they are. That would make the big guns on a slow moving vehicle next to useless since faster vehicles could keep circling and slowly wear down the armor of the slow vehicle. Of course 1 lucky shot could be lights out for the smaller vehicles, but then there's your balance.

Off the top of my head here are a few things I can think of as far as vehicle component balancing goes.

More sensors = more power consumption, more SA
Less sensors = Lack of SA, less power consumption
More power = less running time, or more space for power (generators, batteries, fuel tanks, etc)
Less power consumption = faster vehicle, or more space for weapons
More armor = slower vehicle
Less armor = faster vehicle
More weapons = slower vehicle, less space for power and sensors
Less weapons = less damage output, more space for power and sensors
More powerful weapons = slower traverse, slower firing rates
Less powerful weapons = faster traverse, faster firing rates

All of the above are just generalizations and could be turned into hundreds of combinations, etc.

As far as the vehicle building goes, the more customization the better imo, it leads to discovery on the players part of what works for them, individuality in vehicle designs, etc.

Implimenting that as far as graphics and physics go is a whole other conversation though.

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Original post by Thesolitas
(...)
All of the above are just generalizations and could be turned into hundreds of combinations, etc.

Thanks a lot! That help me indeed!

Quote:
Original post by Thesolitas
As far as the vehicle building goes, the more customization the better imo, it leads to discovery on the players part of what works for them, individuality in vehicle designs, etc.

I agree. It's another level of freedom. A few games have more or less successfully implemented customization features. Too bad most of the time you couldn't do much more than choose a few colours. But there are are exceptions. Making it a central part of the gameplay can be a lot of fun (-> Interstate'76).

Quote:
Original post by Thesolitas
Implementing that as far as graphics and physics go is a whole other conversation though.

Consider the physics part to be doable without problems.

I'm not so sure about the graphics part, though. One definitely needs a few standards for component dimensions. After all it has to look nice :) Some components can be placed on top of each other (sensors on a cargo bay), others don't (cargo bay on sensors ;) ). So there has to be a nice system of configuring how the different components are attached to each other. But that shouldn't be too difficult. Making it look good is another matter but that'll become the topic of a thread in an art-related forum ;)

-codeandroid

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
I agree. It's another level of freedom. A few games have more or less successfully implemented customization features. Too bad most of the time you couldn't do much more than choose a few colours. But there are are exceptions. Making it a central part of the gameplay can be a lot of fun (-> Interstate'76).


Totally agree, in fact you could make it THE central part of the game, with everything else being sort of a proving ground for your vehicle concept.

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Consider the physics part to be doable without problems.


The physics would be the easier of the two, its just a matter of adjusting vehicle weight, center of gravity, etc..

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
I'm not so sure about the graphics part, though. One definitely needs a few standards for component dimensions. After all it has to look nice :) Some components can be placed on top of each other (sensors on a cargo bay), others don't (cargo bay on sensors ;) ). So there has to be a nice system of configuring how the different components are attached to each other. But that shouldn't be too difficult.


A couple random thoughts on this, since I think this is where the most design work would need to be done for this game.

The vehicle should always start with a frame, this is where you have alot of opportunity to make unique vehicles..

Here's one possible suggestion. Give the player a top-down view of the frame, the player can adjust only 1 half of the frame, which automatically gets mirrored to the second half.

The player starts by placing a beam, they can then extend that beam, bend it at any point, and create new beams off of that beam. Imagine at the end the player has something like this:


Players Creation Mirrored Version
__ ____
/ / \\
|-- |----|
/ / \\
|--- |------|
| | |
\___ \______/



Excuse the poor ascii art ;)

Now, by creating it only 1 half at a time it makes it easy for the player, and also limits vehicle frames to those that are the same on each half.

Next the player could place axles, and define their length and position. They would have to cross parts of the frame, and when they do, they create an "Axle Container" at the the frame point.

Next you could add drivetrains, then motors, etc. Building up to a fully functioning vehicle.

Now most of this would be fairly abstract, for example, the drivetrain could enter the motor at any point, it just has to reach it basically. The drivetrain has to cross the axles, etc.

One thing this would let you do, is give the player a huge number of choices, they could choose things like the engine type, more powerful engines may require more space, so their frame would have to be designed to incorporate that.

But with this concept they could for example, create a six wheel vehicle, or an 8 wheeled. They could choose to have a narrow body vehicle, or wide, or maybe a narrow front with a wide back (to carry tons of weapons in the back).

One of the things you'd need to do, is define all the parts, define what parts intersect other parts (and how), and which parts dont intersect other parts.

One interesting thing about this approach is that you could model your weapons system to actually take into account penetration of armor, and what the bullet actually hits. Which would make the player take that into account, and not place the fuel tank outside the vehicle ;)

The 2 things I see as complex in this concept though are:

A) How to allow the player to model the body? Modelling the body I can see as a bit of a challenge, but I'm sure their are ways to make it simple.

B) How do you model the concept of connections? Between sensors and power, fuel tanks and engine, etc? Or you assume everything is connected? Or require sensors placed at a certain place? Personally I don't like the restricted placement of sensors, it limits the player too much.

Anyways, just some random thoughts about customizable vehicles, this may be getting way too complex, but if its a central part of the game, who knows :)

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Making it look good is another matter but that'll become the topic of a thread in an art-related forum ;)


I don't think this is much of an issue, in fact, as long as your components have similar design styles, color schemes, etc.. it should be left up to your player to design something that looks good, or not ;)

Just make sure your system guarantees no mesh overlap.

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Thanks guys for your thoughts!

Quote:
Original post by RazorsKiss
Auto Assault - and, even better, you can compete against this title, since it's bringing Car games back into the spotlight :D

Didn't know about that one. Oh well ;)

-codeandroid

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