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Kris Schnee

"Colony" Game: Demo, Tough Design Questions

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Demo (4.4 MB) I've been working on a game I call "Colony," an RPG-like game in which you have a central base and must build up your own technology and equipment. The original idea was, "What if you and 99-or-so other people woke up in an uninhabited alien world and had to build a camp while exploring for resources and clues to what happened?" Unlike a traditional RPG, if you wanted a sword you'd have to gather the materials and technology to make one. I also thought it'd be cool to include some form of AI by which characters make their own decisions and have interesting events happen. Eg., two people decide on their own that the colony needs cleaning, and they not only contribute to the colony's Health stat but have a chance of meeting up and developing shared skills and friendship that boosts their stats when together. Because I'm not very skilled and wanted a manageable project, I focused on the mechanic of sending teams out on missions to explore and gather resources, leaving aside the aspect of you being directly involved in them. My demo's scenarios (it can load maps, special rules etc.) include a story-based, blatantly unoriginal quest to rescue your friends from a mad scientist by sending teams to Base A, then Base B, etc.; and an open-ended exploration scenario with random characters. (Single-player, turn-based, by the way.) Screenshot 1: You can see your base near the upper left, and the map that's partially revealed as you explore. Screenshot 2: The, uh, special character graphics on a roster screen on which you pick people to go on a mission. I'm now working on a second demo with expanded features, and know several things to improve on, but am questioning the awesomeness of my basic idea. Problem 1: If you're stuck in the colony sending teams out on missions, then even assuming I add the ability to walk around the base, talk to people, and build stuff there -- would it be fun? It'd be beyond "X-Com: UFO Defense" in the amount of stuff to do at home, but one friend joked that without being able to go on the missions yourself, it's like "being Charlie instead of the Angels." But if I do include the missions, am I not setting myself too large a task by having to make a full-blown RPG dungeon-crawl experience in addition to the base-building? I do have some of the necessary code, but not all. (Old screenshot from another project showing a sprite walking around a 2D tiled landscape.) Problem 2: How can I best tell the story, if the game is centered around the colony? In the demo there are one-screen blurbs describing battles and so on when teams get back from their missions, but those don't satisfy even me. On most missions players probably won't want to see the details of exactly who gathered N units of berries, but even if I went to the trouble of building a "Final Fantasy"-style script system for showing people walking and talking, how would I convey what happened in a cool way? My proposed scenarios for the new demo are "Kamikaze Mars," a strategy-driven Mars exploration game with random people, and "Broken World," a story-driven scenario in a traditional fantasy world that needs saving. If developed enough, the basic Colony engine should support other scenarios like a historical Jamestown setting or a space-exploration game like "The Ur-Quan Masters." I want to show off something of that range of potential. I need to make sure the basic gameplay is fun, though! Advice? (By the way, I'm working in Python using Pygame and various free media; thanks especially to lostgarden.com.)

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