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JLW

Game project, brief overview.

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So, I think I've got my project largely figured out, and I'm starting on the design document now. I figured I'd just share an extremely brief* overview of the concept right now, before I get to writing on the document. That way, hopefully, the concept will be refined enough by the time the document comes out that it will still be recognizable upon release. Other than general review, though, I do have a major question: Am I forgetting anything, especially anything really important? Are there any mechanics or features that the presence or absence of could radically alter the game that I have not made a statement on the presence or absence of? If there are any such things I'm forgetting, I'd hate for those not to make it into the document and I'd especially hate to not have any idea what I'm doing with them.

 

*That's "brief" by my standards, which may not align with yours.

 

This game is a 2d, sidescrolling action RPG. It combines brutal gameplay with a metroidvania map design and robust character creation. It is set in a dying world, never referred to by name but clearly not our own, which the player finds themselves in. The sunlight is lethal, so you and the others living there are forced to live underground, only venturing to the surface by night. People seem to come back into existence when they die, a while later and a little worse for wear. How the player, or anybody else, got there is never explained. Whether the rest of this world is like this area the player will never know, but this region is deserted. There are no animals, and only a few sane people. There are hints that this land was once settled, some very recent, but alas few sane people remain and they all came too recently to know what happened to all those who came before. The occasional bit of metal, be it an arrowhead or a coin, shows that civilization was once here, but it's clearly long gone, was just short of bronze age to begin with and all that there is to find now is ruins.

 

Gameplay:

The player navigates the 2d world with a controller. Navigating the game world requires the use of items and tools, and a fair bit of platforming. Areas are barred to the player largely by what items are available to them at the time, for example there is a pit right at the beginning of the game, but the trapdoor leading to it has been very deliberately boarded shut and the ladder destroyed, so until they have the tools to pry the boards off they can't get in, and without a way to descend safely they'll be injured by the fall and not be able to go back the way they came. (And since this path is mandatory and immediately leads to a boss fight...)

 

Much of the game's danger lies in non-combat hazards. The game includes a fair amount of platforming, but platforming sections are mostly for items and shortcuts and can always be bypassed. One of the species can also fly, which makes some platforming sections much easier and unlocks some new ones that are much harder. Traps and snares are a thing to look out for, (though it's best not to think about what they aim to catch, since there's no animals), and beyond those there's plenty of unintentional dangers. Some buildings (yes, underground buildings) will have rotting or broken boards, loose nails, broken glass, failing supports and other such hazards that can injure the player if they aren't careful. Some tunnels may have slippery surfaces or running water, be dark or not have air. Some parts of the map are cold or hot, and maybe have ice or fire within them for additional damage. Some tunnels are flooded, because spelunking just isn't dangerous enough without having to do it underwater. There are some areas where poison, corrosion or even electricity become hazards. While hazards of this nature will seldom kill you right away, taking damage is a definite possibility, and you can asphyxiate if deprived of air. There isn't a species that can breathe underwater, and air pockets have a limited air supply, so those sections don't need enemies at all to be lethal (and usually have them anyway). You also can't forget the whole "lethal sunlight" thing, the sunlight causes the nasty "curse" status effect that can kill you if it builds up too high. (Try increasing your fortitude, wearing curse-resistant gear or just resting until night.)

 

Stealth is also a feature. There is no chances or timers in this game, stealth is very strictly binary. Enemies will always detect you (or sounds you make) at a fixed distance dependent on the enemy and the circumstance. Visibility is based on light level (at viewer and target), intervening objects and whether or not the player is presently hiding. (Hiding requires an object to hide behind, and puts more of you behind the object. This also helps protect you from projectiles, so it isn't all about stealth.) While you cannot be directly detected through sound, enemies do react to it and move towards the source, increasing the chance of you being spotted or touched, so sound is also important to stealth. Different enemies also have different perception scores, which determines their detection range, and you can invest into stealth or wear gear that blends into particular areas to shorten enemy detection range.

 

Survival mechanics are also present in the game. Food, water and shelter are ultimately not relevant to normal gameplay as the timescale on the game is 1 and time passes so slowly during regular play as to render such concerns irrelevant. However, the main method the player heals is by passing massive amounts of time through the rest feature. This is also used to pass time in order to access events that are time-specific, like resting until night before heading to the surface, or resting until a merchant is available so you can buy something. Lastly, resting is used to create checkpoints, as you will respawn at the last place you rested. All this passing time makes food, water and shelter relevant as you will die if you pass too much time without food or water and you can't rest in dangerous areas. Finding food, water and safe places to lay low is vital to the player's success.

 

Combat:

Combat, however, is what most players are here for. Sure, navigating dangerous environments without dying presents a challenge and can be fun in its own right, but most players are there to stab something in the face. Combat is very important to the game as a result, enough to get its own section, though many combat encounters and even some bosses can be completely bypassed if you try hard enough.

 

Enemies come in small numbers in this game, but they are extremely dangerous to the player. They all have attack patterns that the player will do well to remember, and injuries have enough of a lasting impact to make even small amounts of damage concerning. The player, therefore, needs to fight defensively or risk game-breaking injuries that can screw them out of important resources. To help, the player has effective defensive options that include a quick-step with invincibility frames, a timing-based parry and high mobility that can allow them to evade attacks just by getting out of the way. Armour is also present and effective, but good armour is scarce and weight is a serious concern, especially for the non-combat sections.

 

The player is also, however, encouraged to end fights quickly if at all possible. There is a stamina mechanic in-game that is important to both combat and exploration. Stamina is consumed by actions, regenerates slowly over time and when depleted your stamina-consuming actions use your health instead. This is made worse by stamina being locked at 0 if your health falls to 50% or lower. Not all actions consume stamina, and proper investment can increase your stamina and regeneration, and even reduce (or eliminate) certain stamina costs.

 

As for why even small amounts of damage can be a serious problem, it's for a couple reasons. Firstly, the game has a poise system, so just because one hit doesn't cause much damage doesn't mean it can't set you up for another. Second, there's a body damage system, so parts of your body can be crippled, which can leave you royally screwed. Third, there's a bleed system, so an injury that has little immediate impact on you can kill you if left untreated. Not all injuries cause bleed, or even body damage, but that's based entirely on the percentage of the attack's damage that gets through and the initial damage type. Lastly, healing can only be done by resting, and takes a lot of resting (therefore a lot of resources) to heal large amounts of damage, especially body damage.

 

Death is downright nasty in this game, but given that the game uses a respawn mechanic instead of a save mechanic you probably expected that. When you die, you permanently lose any and all unspent experience. Additionally, all your items will be taken by scavengers, who will sell most items back to you. This spares you the trouble of retrieving items yourself, ensures important items cannot be permanently lost, and it's much cheaper than a replacement. Killing a scavenger to reclaim all your items that they are carrying does work, they actually drop their entire shop inventory so this is massively profitable, but it is not recommended because they are not pushovers and will be understandably pissed off when they respawn.

 

Game map and central hub:

While the final size of the map is to be determined, the map is a metroidvania-style map with multiple divergent pathways (after the first hour or so) that intersect with one another and all lead back to a central hub. However, the player does not start at this central hub. Instead, the player starts at the upper-left of the map and must make their way to that hub before the game opens up. The game does not feature fast travel, and while the player can acquire maps of various areas, they only show that area and the closest thing to a world map is a wall in the hub where area maps can be nailed up. You can view this map by activating this wall, and it starts with only the central hub's map.

 

The world map isn't the only upgradable feature to the central hub, either. As time goes on you can unlock new pathways out of the hub, fix hazards inside it, get more storage space and better resting bonuses, even get merchants to set up business. All of this is done by finding NPCs in the game world and allowing them to move in, and doing this is also how you advance NPC questlines (as this is where they wait for you), and some NPCs give access to repeatable radiant quests, so having them in the hub makes grinding easier as well.

 

Character creation and progression:

There are five species, two age groups and two sexes to choose from in this game.

 

The species are orcs, hobgoblins, goblins, spinners and fae. Not exactly your standard lineup, but they're not supposed to be. Orcs are mutant elves with strong hearing and a large bonus to all non-kinetic resistances, having adapted to the inhospitable climates they are forced to live in to avoid elven purges. Hobgoblins are mutant humans with high health and a small bonus to all resistances, having adapted to extreme physical abuse at human hands. Goblins are mutant halflings with high health and a large bonus to all resistances (but small size), having adapted to rough treatment and poor conditions. Spinners are half of a gnome and most of a giant spider and are somehow born that way, with strong resistances on their lower body, a poison bite and the ability to generate webbing (which they can substitute for some items at the cost of stamina). Fae are fairies, or rather fae and fairies are different breeds of the same species, so of course they can hover and glide, have strong hearing and either have strong night vision (fae) or strong vision in general (fairies).

 

The two age groups are child and young adult. Young adults are the default, and while visibly slightly smaller than adult NPCs and starting off with less experience a young adult player is otherwise statistically identical. Children are much smaller than young adults, have less starting experience, have slightly lower overall attributes and especially strength and resolve, but heal faster, gain experience faster, face less aggression from some enemies and have higher perception and charisma. The difference between the sexes varies based on species, but in all cases each sex gets a small bonus to two attributes, which is +2 for young adults and only +1 for children.

 

Once all this is selected, you are allotted experience based on your age. While this should be 100,000 for children and 200,000 for young adults, in-game it is 0 and 100,000 as the first 100,000 has been spent on bare essentials your character is going to need to do all the stuff in the game they canonically need to be able to do. Your remaining experience, clearly only relevant if you're a young adult, is spent on your discretion. It costs 10,000 to upgrade a skill one rank (skill ranks are massive and transferable), 5,000 to purchase a talent (specific special abilities and passives) and 2,500 to upgrade an attribute one point (up to a maximum of 2x the starting value). All experience must be spent to continue.

 

Character progression works through two means: Experience and inventory. Experience is just like it was in character creation, except you are only allowed to make one purchase at a time and must rest for a full day for each purchase. Notably, although children got seriously stiffed in character creation, they get +50% experience in-game. Inventory progression just means getting better stuff is a major part of your progression. While there aren't any explicit item qualities in-game and you can't upgrade items, some items still have different traits from similar ones and one items are clearly meant to be better. Hierarchy is harder to establish for armour than weapons as the different traits become more seriously meaningful, and even in weapons "inferior" materials often have their advantages, such as stone being lighter than metal and wood lighter than stone. Cost is also nothing to scoff at, of course, though as you get into the late-game sections you will find more valuable loot and that becomes less of a problem.

 

World notes, factions and the plot:

The game's tech starts off stone age and eventually falls just short of bronze age, with the ruined civilization present having no alloys and largely being limited to natural metals such as copper, lead, silver and gold. Copper in particular is the best metal in the game, which is what we like to call "damning with faint praise", and in the last couple areas it's pretty much everywhere.

 

The game features three apparent factions that are threats to the player. These are the Grieving (the main antagonists), the Daywalkers (respawning bonus bosses near the surface) and the Forgotten (most of the game's enemies).

 

The Grieving are a cult that see enlightenment in despair and seek to spread it, making up a healthy number of the game's bosses and being responsible for the distinct lack of sane people in this region. They believe that as acceptance follows grief, driving people to despair will lead them to peace, so they can accept their pain and be able to move on. Whether they are wildly off-base or not is up to interpretation, but the immediate effects of their actions sure don't seem very helpful. They travel the land to force their lessons upon others, driving them faster into the insanity of the Forgotten in hopes that they will one day accept their pain and find peace as they did. (Of course, when they came to accept their own pain it wasn't because some jerk climbed up from a ruin and intentionally made them miserable. But I'm sure that little detail isn't important.)

 

The Daywalkers are raiders, having once travelled here from other parts of the world and now unable to leave. They wear suits of lead, protecting them from the cursed rays of the sun and providing some protection against other means of attack as well. Your boss fights against the daywalkers are recurring, they will drop down from the ceiling in sections near the surface with holes above and wooden boxes below, only during the day, attacking you to take your stuff. Unlike other enemies, when you die to a Daywalker you must defeat them to reclaim your items. Additionally, you can find them on the surface where they wait to ambush those passing below and defeat them there, and by doing so you rob them of their last hope, breaking their minds and causing them to succumb to despair. They can be found from there on out on the surface, as Forgotten.

 

The Forgotten are most of the game's regular enemies, people who have been broken either by time or despair (usually both), and wander the tunnels in a barely functional state, trying to ease their pain. You'd be forgiven for thinking them monsters or zombies at first, for they are often injured and malnourished and their slow, stumbling gait doesn't help matters, but they are alive and the horrific state they are found in is a result of despair and neglect, as they hardly take care of themselves, often not at all. There are a few Forgotten bosses, including the first boss of the game, The Forgotten Child. Every Forgotten has a story, never a happy one, and they don't end well. This is an fate is inevitable.

 

This game's plot revolves around the distinctive lack of sane people in this particular area. Take a wild guess who is responsible for that. Your job is to investigate this phenomenon and see if you can't do something about it. Some NPCs will tell you the goal is to find a way to escape, others will tell you the goal is to let people in, some tell you to put an end to the Grieving, the Grieving will tell you that the Forgotten will find peace on the other side of their grief and instead must be cared for until they find it, which of these the player chooses to do and which they choose not to are, in the end, up to them. However, despite this being the main plot, most of the game revolves around smaller stories, mostly those of the Forgotten. Every area has its stories, every boss has theirs, and most of the experience you earn in the game (excluding the radiant quests and Daywalker bosses, which can be done infinitely) comes from finding these stories.

Edited by JustinS

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Okay, more focused question now. I've just written my outline today, and the sections I have laid out are "Overview", "Gameplay", "Content", "Setting", "Map", "Characters", "Artistic", "Technical" and "Project Timeline". Am I missing anything vital from those? 

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I've just written my outline today, and the sections I have laid out are
"Overview", "Gameplay", "Content", "Setting", "Map", "Characters", "Artistic",
"Technical" and "Project Timeline". Am I missing anything vital from those?


TDD and schedule are not part of a GDD. They are separate documents.
Art design: in a GDD you can describe your desired art style, but an art list
or an art spec would also be different documents (not part of a GDD).
Lastly, how do you define "content"?

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Got a small system to run past people. The basic method through which swings and thrusts are balanced in this game (because all weapons can do both of them) is with startup time, active time and cooldown. To simplify it, thrusts come out faster but are active for a much shorter time and have a longer recovery animation after the initial attack. Swings, on the other hand, come out slower but have a much longer active period and a shorter recovery animation.

 

More specifically, the first 25% of a thrust's attack animation is the telegraph, then it is active for only 5% of the animation and 70% is recovery time. The swing takes 50% of its animation to start, is active for 20% and the remaining 30% is recovery time. This is all out of a base (before agility and weapon speed) of 2.4s animation. For power attacks, this changes a bit. A power thrust is still 25% telegraph, but it's 2.5% active and 72.5% recovery. A power swing is still 50% telegraph, but it's only 10% active and 40% recovery time. This is because power attacks have twice the total animation time, but only the same active period. Agility increases the speed of everything by 5% per point, and weapons will have anything from a 0.5x to 1.5x speed multiplier after all that. (Technically 0.1375x to 1.5x, but that's if you do really stupid stuff like try to one-hand a giant club.) Thrusts coming out so fast makes it hard to respond to them, in particular blocking them is difficult because your delay period before blocking is 0.6s (before agility) is equal to a regular thrust's telegraph (if the weapon has a 1x speed multiplier and the opponent's agility is equal to yours), so unless your opponent is slower than you, making a power attack or using a weapon with a speed multiplier below 1, blocking it after it is started is simply not possible. Thrusts are also good for striking enemies in windows where they can't respond, such as during the recovery period of their own thrust. However, as I just mentioned, a thrust that fails to connect (or connects, but doesn't stun the enemy) is sure to get punished. Thrusts also take timing to use against fast-moving enemies, and are easy to dodge because their active period is so short and dodge moves do indeed come with Iframes. Enemies that dodge a lot, use a smaller weapons or are very fast should be engaged with swings when possible, as to leave yourself less open to whiff-punishing.

 

Grabs are another option, if you have an open hand. Grab attacks are very hard to pull off, but allow you to (briefly) overpower an opponent and wail on them for a couple seconds. (You've seen this mechanic in games before, you know how command grabs work.) However, they have a base animation time of 6s before agility, which consists of 2.4s of telegraph, a 0.6s active period and a colossal 3s recovery period (which only applies if whiffed), and while grabs can't be (fully) blocked landing a grab on a blocking opponent gives massively reduced duration, dodging them purely with Iframes is not possible but their short reach and long telegraph means dodging out of their area within your Iframes is easy, and parrying a grab not only cancels it, it gives a much larger opening to attack the opponent than parrying other moves (because the parry opening is equal to the animation time of the parried attack) and a parry of a grab allows you to transition into a grab attack the opponent can't respond to. (That isn't a rule, it's just a consequence of other rules. The opening after parrying an enemy almost always lasts long enough to get off your own grab while they're vulnerable.)

 

For example, the first enemy in the game is extremely vulnerable to thrust attacks because he's paralyzed, meaning he's grounded and can't dodge. To his east is another enemy, however, who is ambulatory, very aggressive and dodges a lot, but her left arm is broken so she doesn't block and you want to swing against her. Below and to the west is the third and final tutorial enemy (before the boss), who is extremely defensive, in that he moves around constantly, dodges and only drops his guard when he's trying to parry you. He also doesn't attack first, he only counter-attacks. Against him, choosing thrusts or swings is highly situational, but since he guards almost all the time and is in a corner you can land grabs on him easily and they're very effective. The boss of this area, however, is uninjured and will dodge, block and parry.

 

As a side note, these enemies are also easily responded to with different defensive measures. The paralyzed man only makes grab attacks so he's less susceptible to blocking but is stupidly easy to parry. (He also doesn't follow up on his grabs, so he doesn't deal significant damage. In fact, your DR makes it so you'll only take damage if his grab trips you. So just don't try and run past him.) The wounded old woman swings all the time, so dodging her is harder than parrying and blocking is very easy. (She also has a broken arm and only power attacks, so her attack rate is abysmal.) The man in the corner only thrusts, so he's very difficult to parry but dodging him is much more effective. (He also never power attacks, so his damage gets wrecked by DR.) The boss will swing, thrust and grab, so she's a bit more difficult to counter. (And even though she's still not armed, beating somebody to death is not hard.)

 

And as another side note, there's a clear story with these characters. The paralyzed old man is the only one located in an area that looks lived in, and he's already dying when you enter. He's also a dark elf, which will be important in just a minute. There's blood on the ground and on his bedroll, he's still bleeding from the head so he was probably beaten fairly recently. The woman to the east is also injured, with a broken arm and damage to her arm and leg, suggesting she's the one who fought (and paralyzed) the old man. She's a high elf, probably why she and the old man fought. (The extreme racism of elves is a rather significant lore point.) She can be found is a room that was boarded up recently (boards are on the ground, nails sticking up where they can injure the player, notably on the past the threshold so this room was boarded up from the inside), next to a high elven man about her age hanging from the ceiling, who seems to have been dead at least a couple days despite her likely having arrived here very recently. Her stance, sitting on the floor facing him, despite there being a fallen chair right next to her, staring silently at the ground, should make it clear why she's there. Unfortunately, you need that rope to get down a shaft without taking falling damage, and she gets a bit upset with you for taking it. The last man is another high elf making a small stone pry tool, quite a bit younger than either of the other high elves, sitting at the far end of the tunnel. He's sitting against the wall just behind a boarded-up shaft, the one you need to get into, probably making the tool to take the boards off. He only attacks you if you fought the old woman or have the rope. As for the boss, she's also a high elf, even younger than the one next to the pit, who looks to have been down there for a couple days. She can be heard crying throughout the entire level, and when you finally get down to her she's only hostile if you fought one of the other high elves. (Meaning all four of these fights can be bypassed.) It doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened here.

Edited by JustinS

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