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Power for Good: More Powers!

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My small game Power for Good that I'm developing for the PyWeek competition is a point-and-click adventure in which you play a superhero whose central power is the ability to "steal" (or borrow, since it's temporary) other superpersons' powers. And he can fly. Yes, just like Rogue from X-Men. I give you, Amalgaman! Disclaimer: Concept art, initial draft. Lots of details/polish missing. And my mouse sucks. Yes, "Amalgaman" comes from "Amalgamation Man." See below for details. The basic idea of the game is that there are five distinct disasters in a mid-sized midwestern town caused by a bunch of supervillains: the hydro electric dam reservoir has been cracked, crippling power supply; the television and radio communications tower has been broken; the press have been held hostage in the newspaper corporation's building; road, rail and ferry service has been interrupted; and the mayor is being held for ransom at City Hall. Each of these disasters can be fixed by defeating the villain(s) at the scene and then repairing any structural problems. Doing so requires combining the powers of villains, which you take when you vanquish them, at which you are aided by color, rhythm and tone clues: the dam wall, for instance, will be a certain color with a certain rhythm to its sound effects, and likely a certain discordant musical tone. Each villain gives off one or more color, rhythm and tone clues, making the game fairly straightforward. The challenge lies in the fact that you can't unequip the powers, so you have to solve the problem that the combined powers match. Ideally, I would like the problems to be solved in any order, and for the solution of one to change the options for others. Fixing the dam, for instance, will making restoring tv and radio communication easier because you can draw on a transformer next to the tower; fixing the tower first requires powering up a generator, which could enable covert communication with the press, and so forth. I also want interesting and campy villains, with powers that combine in unexpected ways and without diammetric opposition in terms of "solution" ("FireImp" can't "evaporate" "WaterNymph," even though WaterNymph can "douse" FireImp). Here's what I have so far. Alternative names are presented (style is supposed to be 50s era, so camp is just perfect):
  • Mr. Frigid/Blizzard - Ice and the arctic elements. Think the twisted ovechild of Storm (X-Men) and Mr. Freeze (Batman).
  • Magma Man/Mutant Magma - Lava Girl's daddy.
  • Electro Girl/Shock Value - (I really like the name "Shock Value.") Electricity, temper.
  • Vortex/Hurrican - Wind, though s/he sounds like s/he overlaps Mr. Frigid more than just a little bit. This one isn't a major contender.
More importantly than critique of my characters, which is definitely welcomed, I'd like analysis of my gameplay mechanism (I described it to Superpig as Rock-Paper-Fire-Water-Sand-Gras-Landmower) and suggestions on neat oppositions. While the game is scheduled to be completed by Friday/Saturday EDT, I can make certain enhancements/additions after that point if they're just really great ideas, so don't feel too constrained! I thought, for instance, that it would be nice to have a side-scrolling shooter mini-game predicated by taking the power of a projectile-shooting villain, then using it to weaken/overcome a Juggernaut-type. I also think most of the villain "battles" should be turn-based, but I have very little experience in that arena. Suggestions actively solicited! I need to get back to my point-and-click base functionality. [smile]

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If you're trying to do it that quickly, I think you should just hardcode/script all of the meaningful interactions that can take place. Constructing a world with interesting emergent gameplay is not easy.

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Sounds like a fun little game. It reminds me a bit of my favorite superhero game "The super hero league of Hoboken".

Although I have a few suggestions. Some of your disasters seem too similar mainly the two rescue missions what about replacing the save the reporters mission with something more camp? Doomsday weapons where always popular and you could go with the classic stable of weather machine that control the vary forces of nature themselves!!! Also have you considered giving the villains more interesting and comical powers instead of elemental based powers? Wouldn't it be more fun trying to stop Polka Dot from converting the communications tower into an amplified for his hypnotic accordion so that he can eliminate rock music forever and begin the polka revival?

As for turn based combat have you considered perhaps some sort of dialog based combat? Where you combine witty one liners, objects, and abilities to overcome the super villains? For instance you are battling Polka Dot in the break room of the communications tower if wait till he standing beside the cake on the table before unleashing the one liner “Its time for you to receive you just DESSERTS!” you can knock him backwards into the cake.

Of course feel free to reject all my suggestions if they not in line with the theme of the game you are trying to create.

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I LIKE those!

Since it's a one-week competition, I figure that it's okay if I don't implement all the functionality. I just want to ensure that the parts that I do deliver are consistently polished. I'd been pondering different, interesting combat approaches, though, so that dialog thing is a godsend! Plus, it's reminiscent of Monkey Island, which is great.

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Its funny, but before I had ever read the other posts, I was thinking "damn, this is a perfect chance for monkey island revival" -- and I really have to say that if you can get some good, really, really cheesy dialogue down, you would be set. Another great thing you could do is have those "BLAMS" and "WHACK" everytime you hit someone. Those are pretty crucial.

Anyway, for the most part, the point-and-click adventures I have enjoyed have had elements of comedy (Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island 1-3, Loom) that made them memorable. I would definitely agree with TechnoGoth on your boss design.

Good luck!

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I like the theme! But I'm just wondering: How many unique combinations are you going for? If the A to B to C solution is different from A to C to B or B to A to C (etc.) then won't that get out of hand quickly? (Err, or maybe I'm not thinking as you are).

I second TechnoGoth's suggestion for more campy super powers. Polka Dot's is priceless. [grin] For inspiration, consider Freedom Force. With characters with names like Liberty Lad, Man-Bot and Alche-Miss, it's sure to be an inspiration.

OTOH, turn-based gameplay usually has to be stat heavy to be interesting. This may require too much detail for a simple game-- how many actions and activities were you thinking of giving the characters?

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I'm short on time, so I can't change the fundamental structure much at this point, but I'd love to incorporate some (all!) of your suggestions when the competition's over. I think I'll look at this incarnation of the game as a proof of concept (complete with programmer art), with a more complete rendition to come.

@Wavinator, Argus2:
I wasn't talking about emergent gameplay, actually. What I simply meant was not requiring players to solve the game in the fixed order A -> B -> C, but allowing them to solve in multiple orders, suggested by simple prerequisites. This means that not all sequences are valid, as solving B may require having solved A but be independent of all other steps.

The artwork is killing me (remind me to buy a scanner!), so I'm going for a much more abstract representation, which is unfortunate as half the fun of the concept was the graphic depictions. Well, I only had a week and some really crappy tools...

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When you steal another hero's power, does he lose it until you give it back? If so, it could lead to some interesting situations where, for example, you need power A to get to B, power C to cross it, and then power A again on the other side. You would have to guide a powerless A-person to B in order to once again use his power.

On the other hand, then you could just get near a villian, steal his power, and club him unconcious with it...

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I like to see what you've come up with when you are finished it. The problem with one week competitions always seems to be trying to finish all the content you need. Think if you had more time you could have the player have to escape a fiendish and ludicrous death trap devised by a super villian.

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I pulled out of the contest. It's compromising the design, and it's been too long since I made a game for me to work under that kind of deadline pressure (plus it really bothers me that my current build is ugly).

So now we've blown it wide open. Let me have every zany, weird, off-the-wall suggestion you have for where this game can go. The technology is point-and-click and sprites and the system requirements are low, so the idea is to make this game accessible to the widest possible range of players. Keep it G-rated; I want my SO to be able to play it! I'm also looking at py2exe or movable to deliver it such that it runs "out of the box." Flash would probably be ideal, except that I dn't have SWF authoring tools at my disposal.

I'd like to throw one (easy) side-scrolling level in to break up the monotony - say a fight against a projectile-wielding enemy (do you shoot back, or should we have something more interesting like hitting the projectiles back like a baseball or using a mirror to reflect energy projectiles?)

Scratch the small town story; that was to fit into the constraints of a game developed over a week. We can go all out now - doomsday device, weather machine, world dominion and all other staple comic book plot cliches! That said, the whole game should take about an hour to play straight through once familiar, and should feature a fair amount of variation in precise gameplay mechanics. And absolutely no pixel hunting!

I'm going to take a nap now, but I'll be back in a bit. I think I still like the idea of the basic hero, as well as reintroducing the elements of rhythm, tone and color as puzzle solution clues/keys. (Hey, Polka Dot fits into the rhythm and tone aspects, and his choice of attire definitely has much to say about color!)

I'll try to flesh out a skeletal design and post here when I wake up.

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Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
I pulled out of the contest. It's compromising the design, and it's been too long since I made a game for me to work under that kind of deadline pressure (plus it really bothers me that my current build is ugly).


Hey, sorry to hear that you're not in the contest, but good that you're sticking with it!

Quote:

I'd like to throw one (easy) side-scrolling level in to break up the monotony - say a fight against a projectile-wielding enemy (do you shoot back, or should we have something more interesting like hitting the projectiles back like a baseball or using a mirror to reflect energy projectiles?)


Can you do physics lite? For some reason the idea of being able to reflect richochet projectiles in a big, varied tunnel is calling to me. If you ever played the old game Super Cobra, it would be sort of like that, with your character a flying superhero who has no weapons, but must either evade or reflect projectiles. It could be an "invasion into Dr. Doom's layer" sort of level. You'd want to reflect bouncing projectiles back at the shooter or else you'd risk getting hit the closer you got. You could also make the power to bounce shots like a limited shield (sort of like in the original Asteroids). Oh, and for additional evilness: Force the character to constantly move forward.

Erm... or not. [grin]

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Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
For instance you are battling Polka Dot in the break room of the communications tower if wait till he standing beside the cake on the table before unleashing the one liner “Its time for you to receive you just DESSERTS!” you can knock him backwards into the cake.

Haha, awesome. I like that one :D

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I don't know if you've looked into it but the Adventure Game Studio seems to be pretty powerful tool for creating 90's styles Adventure games. I was playing around with it eariler today and it seems that you can do quite alot with it.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Can you do physics lite?

I have PyODE installed.

Quote:
For some reason the idea of being able to reflect richochet projectiles in a big, varied tunnel is calling to me. If you ever played the old game Super Cobra, it would be sort of like that, with your character a flying superhero who has no weapons, but must either evade or reflect projectiles. It could be an "invasion into Dr. Doom's layer" sort of level. You'd want to reflect bouncing projectiles back at the shooter or else you'd risk getting hit the closer you got. You could also make the power to bounce shots like a limited shield (sort of like in the original Asteroids).

I like it. Sounds interesting.

Quote:
Oh, and for additional evilness: Force the character to constantly move forward.

Oh, you devil, you! [smile]

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
I don't know if you've looked into it but the Adventure Game Studio seems to be pretty powerful tool for creating 90's styles Adventure games. I was playing around with it eariler today and it seems that you can do quite alot with it.

I am aware of it, but I haven't seriously considered it. Right now I'm sticking with Python thanks to the expressiveness it provides me, plus it'll serve as impetus to develop a number of ancillary tools (like a better debugger, possibly an IDE [plugin for Visual Studio?], effects libraries, etc). I discovered that free Python development tools and utilities for serious development were actually pretty poor, in my opinion and experience.

pdb is evil.

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Definitely go for the 'dialog' idea.

If I understand correctly, you want an easily accessible game which allows the player to play a quick game, but which has great replay value in that each game will take a different course depending on the actions of the player.

Dialog options would change based on player's actions.

For example, if player has just pushed Polka Dot into the cake, "I don't believe you, Mr. Frigid. Polka Dot couldn't be standing behind me with his hypnotic accordion in his hand, because I just took care of him in the communications tower." could be one of the dialog options.

If the player has not pushed Polka Dot into the cake yet, but has prevented the communications tower from being used as an amplifier, "Even if Polka Dot were standing behind me, his hypnotic accordion would be of no use now that I've disabled his converter in the communications tower." might be one of the dialog options.

Of course, if the player hasn't even set foot yet in the communications tower, one of the dialog options could be "Polka Dot? Behind me? With his hypnotic accordion? Oh, no! I give up!"

I recently played Temple of Elemental Evil, which makes use of a dialog system like that. I found the dialog trees more entertaining than the rest of the game.

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Since I pulled out of PyWeek, I have the luxury of revisiting the design from the ground up, while maintaining the core concept. I've pushed it from a "quick one-off" to a studied skill-building approach. As milestones in the development of Power for Good, I plan to develop and improve my character art, design and animation skills, as well as find a technical workflow that helps me get them from my head to paper to the screen.

It's still going to be implemented in Python, for the simple reason that Python is a great language with horrible game development-oriented utilities. I don't mean libraries; I mean debuggers, IDEs and so on. Trying to write Power for Good for PyWeek, I was constantly frustrated by the poor available infrastructure (I don't have Visual Studio right now, and I couldn't afford Visual Python for it anyway). So, while developing my game, I fully expect to develop a variety of usable, learnable, fairly intuitive game-oriented tools as well.

Finally, to respond to Silvermyst's comment (are you back? no one seems to be able to stay away from GDNet indefinitely! [smile]), I think that's an excellent idea and should be an integral part of the design. I'll need tools for rapidly creating and managing dialog trees as a subset of scene resources.

By the way, you grokked the idea fully.

I'm tied up with the development of a web-based publishing system right now, but I'll continue trying to develop and mature Power for Good, most likely by expanding the story and fleshing out the roster of characters. I really like the farcical approach, so I'm going to adopt that - and give my hero a bit more of a personality, full of tics and foibles of his own.

So we have Polka Dot. What other characterizations can we come up with? (Disco Daddy would be a lame repetition, even though he can claim the cultural "Disco Sucks" zeitgeist as his origination... or his love for Saturday Night Fever.)

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