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Wavinator

Interactivity Possibilities for Purely Top Down 2D

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For the ground and character-level interaction of the space game I'm working on I've decided to try and go for environments that look like these mockup screens: Operating a shuttle Exploring a docking bay on a derelict Exploring an underground warren (Large Pic) Although the view isn't immersive and I'll win no points with the graphics junkies of the world, it may be enough to communicate essential gameplay. But given the limitations of the perspective I've been reconsidering what that gameplay should really be. In space I'm using action-oriented gameplay in the mold of Escape Velocity, but when you land on planets I've been working on tile-based gameplay that's like a board game (talked about here). So what's possible with this? Some thoughts: A) X-Com style turn-based tactical combat? I think basic spatial representation with ranges is all you really need for this to work. Combat could visually play out like the flash version of the Aliens Board Game, but with a greater depth of individual unit actions and a wider variety of weapons. As a bonus TBS gamers may be far less hypercritical about graphics. B) Mass Effect Galaxy for the iPod combat? Not sure about this but if the gameplay were action-oriented it would match the starship gameplay. I could do gun-based gameplay with a variety of weapons mixed with RPG quests, but this might get old fast in a procedurally generated universe with dozens upon dozens of locations. As a counter-point to A, action gamers I think would be far more critical of the perspective. C) Icon Heavy Exploration Gameplay Originally I was leaning toward lots of factions and characters and this may be possible if I could use text, icons and 2D portraits to identify characters. This is implied by the Warren mockup, which IDs characters by name (the doctor) or symbol (the money for the merchant). I could support a lot of object-use and skill-based gameplay provided that spots on the map trigger popup screens (like a keypad that can be hacked). One big worry I have about this is the value of exploring such a simplified space. I've been leaning toward procedurally generating lots of levels, but if they don't evoke a sense of place (or "otherworldliness") what good would that be? What's Probably Not Possible / Wise Gameplay depending on character recognition - Obviously since you can't see individual faces and body plans / outfitting details would be minimal this would be out. Stealth - There's no Z axis and you again can't see faces so you can't tell what direction people are looking. A view cone like that used in commandos might work, but unless the game is turn-based and this can be toggled people will walk around looking like search beams are being projected from their bodies. Vehicles - I've seen car-based racing games that are purely top down 2D (Mexican Motor Mafia looks this way from screenshots). But I'm not sure a more laid-back environment without spatially placed racing objectives or car combat (Car Wars?) makes much sense. 2D GTA... prolly a bad idea. Thoughts?

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Would it be easy to do some UI mock-ups to get a feel of what each style would be like?

For an overhead map I'd lean towards either turn-based or pause-and-issue-commands styles of UI rather than pure action unless you're aiming for a more arcade style. With such a limited range of view you won't be able to see much around the character, meaning action gunplay will have to be kept close range. At least with pausing you can get around that by scrolling to see the state of the environment.

I'd also agree with your impression that strategy gamers are going to be more lenient on the graphics than action gamers.

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Well of all the mock ups I like the mini map on the warren graphic best. It is interesting to see the mocks as they make the game you are working look nothing like I was expecting.

For some reason I was thinking of something like a cross between
Chaos overlords



Space Rangers 2 rise of the dominators



And Alien Legacy, with maybe a bit of Sid Myers Alpha Centauri thrown in.

Based on the screens shots I could see some solid rogue style game play working. Randomly generated “Dungeons” filled with traps, enemies, and chests. It also looks like you could more depth to rogue genre by having other characters and competitors. Maybe you get a mission to help liberate New Athens and you and bunch of other AI controlled bounty hunters are dropped in around the city and start clearing out the aliens hordes block by block. Bonus objective could pop as you go. Distress signal marker appearing on an unexplored building, a group of civilians need help to reach an evac shuttle, an bank just asking to be robbed, etc…

Things like stealth would be more challenging maybe overlays would work? In stealth mode a stealth overly is applied showing light and dark spots, enemies detection ranges, and your own foot print.

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Don't worry about the limitations of the top-down graphics. You can also have the view follow the mouse so that you can look around your character.

The things is that many 3D games don't take advantage of the third dimension any ways! You sometimes walk around on a bumpy terrain, and travel down or up the Z-axis. But once indoors everything is flat in many 3D games.
Many 3D objects and environments can be represented with composites of sprites in an isometric game.

Just create interesting game mechanics, and create challenges with these mechanics, and you have a game, or a puzzle. And then graphics is just the way to communicate the information to your players.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
Would it be easy to do some UI mock-ups to get a feel of what each style would be like?


I can try this, although I was trying to lock down the smartest gameplay first before I create the UI that would go with it. (I hate wasting time on something I'm going to throw away but, honestly, I'm discovering that I have to get over it, as for me a lot of game development is trial and error.)

Quote:

For an overhead map I'd lean towards either turn-based or pause-and-issue-commands styles of UI rather than pure action unless you're aiming for a more arcade style. With such a limited range of view you won't be able to see much around the character, meaning action gunplay will have to be kept close range. At least with pausing you can get around that by scrolling to see the state of the environment.


Agreed. I'm leaning toward turn-based as well as it's really the only way to grow beyond one character. I'd considered something like a pausing arcade game where you could hire lots of guys (maybe deploying them from your ship) but this started looking like an RTS, which again I don't see being too successful given the action gamer's typical tastes in graphics.

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I'd also agree with your impression that strategy gamers are going to be more lenient on the graphics than action gamers.


Yeah, that's not to say that you can give strategy gamers crud but I think they are more apt to quickly focus on the mechanics / gameplay whereas players requiring a high level of immersion need to be impressed first.

Although I've got a lot of navigation finished for the space portion (including Star Control-style gravity, a concept I'm really partial to) I've long been considering dumping it and converting it to turn-based as well. Any thoughts on whether all play modes should be unified (I think I've asked this before but can't remember for sure)?

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Well of all the mock ups I like the mini map on the warren graphic best. It is interesting to see the mocks as they make the game you are working look nothing like I was expecting.


Haha, don't know if that's good or bad.

Quote:

For some reason I was thinking of something like a cross between
Chaos overlords
Space Rangers 2 rise of the dominators
And Alien Legacy, with maybe a bit of Sid Myers Alpha Centauri thrown in.


Okay, you've given me some research to do, which is great. I'd never heard of Chaos Overlords, didn't get far with Space Rangers before encounters problems with a defective CD and never played Alien Legacy.

I like how Chaos Overlords depicts the city but I'm still stuck on trying to depict individual buildings and the city-scape in some way that's relevant to a single character. I tried some vehicle / building views but don't like the amount of open space you have for top down and how hard it is to tell just what the heck buildings are (rooftops are VERY boring).

The group strategy stuff is still appealing to me. I like the idea that you could level up or "level out" though getting both to have the proper depth may not be possible. If it is, though, maybe the character-level interaction within a city could just involve procedurally generated "sets" with a small amount of exterior space to bolster the interior-based RPG stuff.


Quote:

Based on the screens shots I could see some solid rogue style game play working. Randomly generated “Dungeons” filled with traps, enemies, and chests.


Rogue could definitely be a good template. One possibly troubling thing about that direction, though, would be the high focus on combat. You'd have this retro ship gameplay exploring a large, procedurally generated game universe where you get out at location after location and fight. (I *think* this was what Space Rogue was, come to think of it).

This may not be all that crappy of a formula (seems to work for Mass Effect) but I wonder if a more sandbox Morrowind-like gameplay would work with such a limited perspective.


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It also looks like you could more depth to rogue genre by having other characters and competitors.


Hmmm... yes, maybe like Depths of Peril. If I could stop missions from being races against time, which really kills the feel of exploring, this might work.

Quote:

Maybe you get a mission to help liberate New Athens and you and bunch of other AI controlled bounty hunters are dropped in around the city and start clearing out the aliens hordes block by block. Bonus objective could pop as you go. Distress signal marker appearing on an unexplored building, a group of civilians need help to reach an evac shuttle, an bank just asking to be robbed, etc…


Very helpful example, thanks. Maybe I could try to do a kind of ecosystem idea with competing factions and throw in things like beacons as a standard convention meaning "come here for content." Some would be distress of the "lead group X to location Y," others representing bounty work, still others fetch and carry for cash.

Rogue sort of lives and dies by its monsters. In a more civilized high tech environment I'd either have to add something similar or really punch up factions. So either I could go with some sort of "the Flood" rubric where monsters could invade civilian environments or try to come up with a crapload of factions which create a sort of strategic topography you have to navigate using skills, combat and diplomacy.

Although harder to do, I like the latter option as it seems deeper. It could be irritating and unrealistic to dock at a city or base and have to get through lunatic cultists, crime gangs and corporate thugs just to access city functions, though.


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Things like stealth would be more challenging maybe overlays would work? In stealth mode a stealth overly is applied showing light and dark spots, enemies detection ranges, and your own foot print.


Had not thought of this. It'd have to be somewhat basic but I'll do some experiments to see if I can get something I like.

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If you've never played a game called Allods (I think it's called Rage of Mages in America), you should really give it a try.

It's one of my favourite games ever made and it plays in a top down style like you're suggesting.

It sold well enough to warrant a sequel so...

Maybe it'll help you out.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Well of all the mock ups I like the mini map on the warren graphic best. It is interesting to see the mocks as they make the game you are working look nothing like I was expecting.


Haha, don't know if that's good or bad.


I suppose it’s like reading the book and then going to see the film.

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Okay, you've given me some research to do, which is great. I'd never heard of Chaos Overlords, didn't get far with Space Rangers before encounters problems with a defective CD and never played Alien Legacy.


Well it’s been a while since I played any of them but I can give you a brief run down of the features of each.

Chaos Overlord:
- 4 Factions competing for control of a city block by block.
- Each block contained at least 1 special building and up to 3.
- Special buildings each provided different bonuses when controlled, like increased cash, research bonuses, and recruitment bonuses.
- Players control a number of gangs each with their own set of stats.
- Money was gaining by extorting from blocks you controlled, which also decreased their loyalty.
- Rival gangs can attack blocks preventing you from gaining money from them for a couple turns and can try steal control of blocks from you.
- You could only see rivals gangs if you discovered them by performing a recon mission.
- Gangs each had a different technology skill level which determined the highest level of technology they could use. So you while you might have research plasma pistols your gangs might only be tech savvy enough to use normal guns.

Space Rangers:
- Large space battles some times a you might have 30 ships battling it a single system.
- Competition with NPCs. The computer controlled ships would also try and grab the best loot for themselves from the wreckage of a ship. But you could always try and destroy them to get it back.
- Breaks from standard flying around the galaxy everyone now and again to compete in choose your own adventure style mission.
- You can refuel by flying close to a star, taking fuel tanks from wreckage, or just fill up at any planet or station.
- You can spend cash to alter the game space, by paying for new space stations, and donating to different factions to strength them.
- You could spend money for a one of improvement to any gear improving one stat by up to 25 or 50%
Weaknesses
- Repair costs sky rocketed as your “levelled up” equipment on your ship. Which meant some times you had to take a break from saving the galaxy towards then end to run fetch and carry quests until you could earn enough to fully repair your ship from the last battle.
- Like all space games trading is never a effective method of earning cash.
- Too much hidden data on equipment. For example each race manufacture the same set of gear but the stats could be wildly different depending on which race built it, and even then two pieces of equipment from the same race at the same level could differ dramatically.
- Finding top range equipment at a port came down purely to luck.


Alien Legacy:
- Classic game one my top 3 most memorable outsider games of the 90s (Syndicate wars, and under a killing moon being the other 2 or made blade runner, or uplink)
- Combined colony building, exploration, and interesting story line. Covering ship board emergencies, attacks on colonies by native life forms controlled by ancient towers, battles with a mysterious alien race, a doomsday weapon that threatens to cause a super nova unless stopped in time, and a violent rebel faction within your own people. Which if you spread too quickly without dealing with the plot lines you might have to deal with almost all of them at the same time.
- There was an exploration mode where you flew over the planet and using your radar you could detect objects of interest which you then picked up. A green crystal may turn out to be an old broken bottle or a new material that will open a new research project.



Quote:


Rogue could definitely be a good template. One possibly troubling thing about that direction, though, would be the high focus on combat. You'd have this retro ship gameplay exploring a large, procedurally generated game universe where you get out at location after location and fight. (I *think* this was what Space Rogue was, come to think of it).

This may not be all that crappy of a formula (seems to work for Mass Effect) but I wonder if a more sandbox Morrowind-like gameplay would work with such a limited perspective.


Agreed rogue like games tend be purely combat focused. But that’s not to say the same game design principles couldn’t be applied to non combat situations. A dungeon consists of a randomly generated map, points of interest, and obstacles which are typically monsters. The same engine could generate a city. It would be just a different rule and data set, to go from generating a cargo hold filled with boxes of loot guarded by an automated sentry gun, to a vip lounge with a bouncer on the door filled with important contacts and individuals.

You’ll need a gun or some hacking skills to get into cargo hold on the derelict ship, but when you’re in entertainment district of a big city you’ll need use your social skills or cold hard cash to get past the bouncer.

[Edited by - TechnoGoth on April 27, 2010 4:46:36 PM]

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Original post by Cpt Mothballs
If you've never played a game called Allods (I think it's called Rage of Mages in America), you should really give it a try.

It's one of my favourite games ever made and it plays in a top down style like you're suggesting.


Thx for the reference but these guys are isometric rather than top down (you can see the sides of buildings and your character). Funny enough when searching for "top down" games isometric is often confused with this perspective.

Appreciated though!

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Well it’s been a while since I played any of them but I can give you a brief run down of the features of each.


Thanks so much for this. I realize it's not even close to actually getting the feel of playing these games but I find it very useful to know what's been tried before.


Quote:

A dungeon consists of a randomly generated map, points of interest, and obstacles which are typically monsters. The same engine could generate a city. It would be just a different rule and data set, to go from generating a cargo hold filled with boxes of loot guarded by an automated sentry gun, to a vip lounge with a bouncer on the door filled with important contacts and individuals.

You’ll need a gun or some hacking skills to get into cargo hold on the derelict ship, but when you’re in entertainment district of a big city you’ll need use your social skills or cold hard cash to get past the bouncer.


I want to try to do this, but one huge barrier versus the typical rogue-like approach is that non-combat gameplay tends to pale in comparison to combat gameplay, especially when things are very abstract. You might feel a sense of dread being surrounded by monsters or excitement encountering that one creature with a special item, and there may be many strategies to evading the status effects of a particular dragon-- but this doesn't seem to apply to a social context. When you try to charm the bouncer and fail, for instance, what happens? Do you simply get expelled? What do you do then, switch to combat?

It's hard to structure socialization in the same mold as combat, although it's an interesting angle to experiment with.

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Original post by Wavinator
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Original post by Cpt Mothballs
If you've never played a game called Allods (I think it's called Rage of Mages in America), you should really give it a try.

It's one of my favourite games ever made and it plays in a top down style like you're suggesting.


Thx for the reference but these guys are isometric rather than top down (you can see the sides of buildings and your character). Funny enough when searching for "top down" games isometric is often confused with this perspective.

Appreciated though!


And what exactly is the difference between a top down game and an isometric game?

10-45 degrees in camera angle?

I think you're in danger of limiting your perspective by forcing yourself into the conventions of what is just, for all intents and purposes, a camera angle.

But I guess it's not up to me decide where you draw inspiration from, so whatever.

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Original post by Cpt Mothballs
And what exactly is the difference between a top down game and an isometric game?

10-45 degrees in camera angle?


Hah, in my case it's more like zero degrees camera angle. What that means is that it's impossible to tell what many things are from above. In Rage of Mages when I come across a town, enemy, hill or mountain I have a far greater chance of determining immediately what it is. At zero degrees terrain is nearly impossible to clearly depict, enemies (heck, even characters) all start looking alike because you only basically see head, shoulders and feet and so I have to adopt a different standard for how to represent things. For example: A ladder has to be a symbol; enemies and weapons need to have distinctive cross sections; and real-time action is problematic at best.


Quote:

I think you're in danger of limiting your perspective by forcing yourself into the conventions of what is just, for all intents and purposes, a camera angle.


You might be right about this but it makes me think of the age old strategic problem of situational awareness. If you're staring at the screen going "what the hell is that" before you get killed, it's a problem. If you can figure out that you're on a hill and thus have a range advantage, that's a problem.

(btw, wasn't trying to be smartass, I'm just trying to figure out what's possible within the bounds of my mediocre art abilities)

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Well if you ever actually play the game, the UI and the stat/skill advancement systems are the main things you should look at.

For a top down game, I think they'd perfect, you have character detail on the side at all times, a mini map and room for inventory, spell macros and unit commands.
So yeah.
The main reasons I recommended the game in the first place.

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