Project Overwatch – Post 1: Inspiration Pt. 1

Hey. So I’m working away at the prototype elements (which is/will be detailed on my portfolio blog here) I’m going to be posting articles on this blog looking into features and design ideas as well, primarily things that don’t involve deep levels of programming.

This week’s programming post covers the design specifics of the demo, laying out the aim for each one and then covers the first progress I’ve made. This post is going to focus on the inspirations for the game’s idea and design.

Initial Idea

So the the idea germinated when talking to a friend of mine on Facebook one evening. He has a dislike of modern third person shooting games. So one evening I grabbed him just to nail down exactly what he dislikes about it. From that, I learnt thus:

  1. Third Person Shooters are dull – crouch, pop up, pop off shots, drop down, wait to heal, rinse repeat several hundred times.
  2. Enemies in most take way too many rounds to go down – in Gears of War its most of its bad guys, in Spec Ops its many of the later opponents.
  3. AI in many games is very slow to attempt to flank the player or push them from cover

So we started to look at ways to fix this:

  1. Increase the pace of cover based shooting – make players want to move around a lot more to get flanking shots.
  2. Everyone is fragile – body armour helps but no one is going to be a tank walking around. Getting stuck in one place is very bad idea, especially if enemies have a drop on you.
  3. Either 1) fiendish AI with good navmeshes showing things like ambush points and such OR 2) human vs human.

This is where many of the foundation ideas come from. In fact, this conversation kind of kicked of the idea to start this project.

The rest are populated by looking at other games.

Gears of War

gears_cover_system

It may not have been the first game to use cover systems in games but by god did they do it right. Using cover in any of the games just feels so natural. Stuff like cover to cover transitions work very well in the game and features like the Roadie Run and blind fire are important features. Seriously it is the benchmark implementation. I went to visit a studio with my university course and one of the developers told a tale about them making a third person game. After a few attempts writing their own system, they ended up talking to Epic.

In addition, the manual of Gears of War has some of the best diagrams for showing cover system concepts. Two pages and most of the understanding is there.

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On the other hand, it does some things badly. The health of enemy characters can make some firefights feel like whack a mole or pumping endless rounds into bad guys. I’m also not really a fan of “fingers-in-ears-to-cover-up-loads” but that’s such a minor thing.

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec_Ops_Screenshot_003

I’m a huge fan of this game. It has some issues but the storyline and layers of subtlety they threaded into it is great. I like the physicality of many of the execution moves and the gradual decay of clothing. The main thing is that it’s a modern combat cover based shooter with fewer bullet sponges and a pretty vulnerable main character.

Well worth playing.

Modern Tom Clancy Games

Ghost-Recon-Future-Soldier-

I’m lumping these together because they kind of share some ideas. Rainbow Six Vegas and Ghost Recon Warfighter are the starting points but Future Soldier and Conviction/Black List have nailed down the mechanics of a fast flowing cover system. Vegas’s is a little odd being a first person/third person switcher but its plays very nicely. Warfighter’s is pretty clunky but lays down a nice idea. Future Soldier’s cover system nails it. Moving between cover under fire is quick, fast flowing primarily as you can simply point at the next piece of cover, hit the button and move to it. Blacklist is an even greater improvement – the controls help it to let players move quickly and efficiently around a map.

Future Soldier also has a ton of cool features. Many of the co-op focused moments, such as the squad moving together is an idea I’d like to implement. The weapon customisation is of the level I would like as minimum, having both internal and external upgrades. In addition, I really like the character designs and animations – lots of modern kit some of it worn in less than standard ways (rolled sleeves, customised bandanna, tomahawks etc). The game also starts off with a pretty cool (if repetitive) formation sequence protecting a hostage that could potentially work well with the “Snake In” formation detailed below.

Metal Gear Solid 4

Metal-gear-solid-4-poster

Kojima is a mad man when it comes to the gameplay. Despite it being a stealth game, there is a reason it includes the word “tactical” in its box front description. The vast number of weapons, attachments and camo options appeal to tweaking and playing around, especially with tweaks to the vest colour and the multiple options for things like grips – both just about aesthetic rather than a gameplay bonus.

However, the main feature that really sticks with me is the range of motions Snake can do (quite impressive based on his age). He can sprint, crouch, crawl, lie prone, lie flat on his back (my personal favourite). All these actions are incredibly easy to do, letting the player effectively stealth or in my case roll around like a mad man between getting in huge gun fights.

I’m also a little unhappy I missed out playing MGS: Online which sounds like it what very similar to what I would like my game to be. Lots of customisation (within reason going off the picture above), focus on teamwork and a large number of guns. Sadly no plans for robot ninjas.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

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Peace Walker is perhaps a step back in gameplay from MGS 4 but does pull a lot of punches when it comes to the co-op mode. The first point of mention is the co-op commands. Via a short series of button presses, players have 12 phrases good to go, helpful when working with players you might not share voice comms.  These phrase range from useful to oh so spamworth.

The other system I like is the camaraderie system. The more you play with another player, the higher your camaraderie rises which gives you various gameplay bonuses such as slight increases in damage and reductions in reload times. This acts as an incentive for players to work together more and to play together repeatedly. I’d like to add a system like this as part of Stage 2 (multiplayer) but I have to nail down exactly what it changes. Partially I think it should be partially in the background, partially selected by the player.

Finally, a system I fully intend to rip off is Snake In system. This is a co-op specific system, where players can stack up on each other. This makes the lead player control all the movement while the other players who have joined the formation concentrate on aiming as they move automatically. It’s a great working system which should be cool for players to utilise while at the same time looking really, really good.

There are currently no plans to implement the fulton recovery system.

 

In part 2, I’ll take a look at some other games that form part of the inspiration. Most of the second part is focused more on specific features rather than the entire game.

Long Term Project: Overwatch (Tactical Third Person Shooter Project)

Edit: The contents of this document are subject to change.

All images below are from other games. They are being used to help set the tone of the project and until I get an artist to help

What follows is a description of a long term project I have begun as a way of improving my portfolio and potentially develop into something. There is currently no timeline (although a large part of the initial concept is being developed as part of a university module and will be completed by May 2014), no team members and no funds so I don’t expect this to become a finished product any time soon.

Codg_Concept_art
Concept art from Call of Duty Ghosts – This sort of setting (industrial factory) would be a cool level basis while the idea of players cowering behind cover plays into a key part. Sadly I can’t see my game having that many dudes being shot at.

Pitch:

A small scale realistic third person multi-player shooter which combines the cinematic qualities of Gears of War’s combat with a focus on realism (often above all else) and customisation. Players take the role of mercenary spies, fighting around the world in a selection of operations in a variety of tactical situations. Success relies on tactical thinking, co-operation with team mates and sometimes a great deal of guts.

Key Points:

  1. Realism
  2. Multiplayer Experience
  3. Customisation

1. Realism

  • Realistic injury simulation – shots can tear muscle, break bone, cut arteries and inflict horrifying wounds to vital organs leading to various effects – players don’t take much to go down so cover fire and suppression become more effective. In addition, wounding a player can tie up his buddies and tempt them outside. On the other hand, compartmentalised damage means that players can be knocked onto their back but still keep fighting
  • A Useful Cover System – taking cover is vital. The cover system allows players to quickly move between cover locations, letting them stay safe from opposing enemy fire. A team using cover effectively should only be able to be knocked out by an opposition using flanking moves, covering fire and other tools relating to modern warfare – not just running at them and using a chainsaw. In addition, blind fire is literally blind now forcing you to remember enemy locations or rely on your team mates.
  • Realistic Ballistics – Each and every round is a physical object in the world, able to penetrate through wood, glass and flesh. In addition, it is possible for debris and other small objects to become potential weapons (thanks to the damage system) making explosives and certain materials even more deadly.
  • Protection vs Evasion – Body armour and other protective gear can help to protect the player from harm but each one negatively affects how manoeuvrable they can be. The more armour a player wears, the less easily they can mantle, sprint or climb all of which can be very handy when the bullets start flying. In addition, armour is only focused on specific locations and most will not stand up to repeated hits or high power rounds.
  • Deep Tactical Movement – as well as the cover mechanic, the game also will let players dive to the floor, slide into a crouch, climb and mantle over obstacles. Lying prone and turning will not move the player – instead they will slowly transition from lying prone to lying supine as they rotate their body. Diving to the floor will also tie into this – moving backwards and hitting the prone key will make the player jump and land on their back.
  • To take advantages of the above systems, a variety of weapon types will be included that would make sense for a small scale conflict (it is unlikely an undercover team in Hong Kong would be running around with an RPG for example but more likely would be carbines, pistols, sub-machine guns and shotguns).
mc4___environments_by_leopardsnow-d5nabh5
These concepts from Gameloft’s MC4 (created by leopardsnow) actually are close to some level idea I’d like to include. Call of Duty also is a big influence, with the Favela’s of MW2, the rainy Kowloon City of Black Ops and the Russian wastelands of Modern Warfare are all places that are cool inspirations.

 

2. Multi-player Experience

  • Small, Fast, Action Packed – with a focus on 4v4 multi-player, the aim of the game is to simulate small scale gameplay. Four player teams work well as they can easily split into buddy pairs without leaving a man left over. This number will be investigated and possible expanded during development depending on testing.
  • Multi-player Campaigns – Each mission ties into a larger campaign that keeps the same players through multiple setups. The results of each game affect the following ones, with victories (or defeats) in earlier missions giving various bonuses for the next.
  • Co-Operative Actions – To assist in players co-operating with each other, there are a selection of controls included to make it easier. Players can stack up on each other, with the rear players passing movement controls to the lead player in order to concentrate on shooting. In addition, pairs of players can go back to back, lift each other to higher locations, drag their injured colleagues and revive them if downed. Finally, players can pass magazines and weapons to each other, either to assist them when they run out or to let them reduce carried weight so they can move more efficiently. This can be especially handy, such as moving across gaps in rooftops or as an alternative to a two man lift.
  • Potential Co-Op Modes – Although not the main aim, the idea of including co-op focused missions with AI opponents is something I’ve been pondering. This is more of an additional goal rather than a focal one as it requires coding AI that can deal with the networking as well.

3. Customisation

  • Deep customisation of weaponry – Starting with the AR15 (M4 / M16 /416) family and working up from there, the idea is to let players take a base gun and modify it with as many modern day attachments as they can. Forward slots allow the use of multiple laser/light/camera items while different calibres  allow for a variety of gun roles to be performed without requiring huge numbers of models.
  • Limited unlocking – Pretty much everything is there to begin with. The items players will have to unlock will be tiny motivation patches or other minor cosmetic items. As this is late stage, exact ideas are unfinished.
  • Customise your character – Gender, race, clothing, equipment, webbing/vest, pouches layout, perks. All are available for you to select.
  • Perks – Unlike Call of Duty, kept minor and realistic. Call of Duty staples, which massively alter things like knife reach and such, will be ignored. Instead, perks will link to additional training or bits of kit such as improved medic interactions or letting players carry additional weapons.
  • Cool dumb little customisations -Want to magpul your magazines and throw on a BAD lever? Go for it! Cool little stuff like that is great! Want your character to hold their rifle in a different way such as by the magwell or in the magpull grip? Sure, different animation sets would be a great thing to add down the line. Don’t want everyone to holster their knife or pistol in the same place? I think that looks dumb as well and would like it to let players mount holsters to plate carriers, belts or drop legs. The aim would be to have some smaller variations but this is very reliant on artists and animators assistance.
pmc__shrike_operator_by_alexjjessup-d6ju8k7
This is the sort of look I would aim for players to have to begin with but the aim of the customisation is to not limit players to just PMC looking guys or hardcore military operators – the idea of players kitting up as Inspector Tequila. (On another note, AlexJJessup is a pretty fantastic artist)

 

Inspiration:

  • Gears of War
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • The Last of Us (several realism mechanics)
  • Brink (customisation and multiplayer/single-player merging)
  • Enemy Territory (multiplayer campaigns)
  • MGS: Peace Walker (Focus on co-op aspects)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 (Character movement)
  • ArmA series (Focus on realism)
  • Army of Two (Co-Op action)
  • Dark Souls (Hard but mechanically well-made games are fun)
  • Medal of Honour: Warfighter (Fire team multi-player)

Description:

Okay, I am a big fan of third person shooters like Gears of War and Spec Ops The Line. I think that it can be a very fun way to play, with characters moving between cover, swat turning across doors or diving over the top of cover into an opponent’s face. It looks cool, plays cool and overall can be a great laugh, especially in co-op.

The issue is that it also is makes camping play very easy despite most games teaching flanking manevoures in the very first single-player mission. In addition, games like Gear’s have huge meaty characters that can absorb a full mag of machine gun ammo without breaking a sweat which goes against the idea of realism. This project aims to deal with that.

The rough aim is to make the game in small confined stages. Each stage of development relates to a key point detailed above. The idea is to fill on the key points, producing a demo showing off the features and then taking them forward into the next stage. So:

  • Stage 1 will end up with the creation of a fully detailed realistic third person shooter. This will show off the basic gameplay and will take the form of a single-player sandbox letting the user test the movement, fire various weapon types into targets that will show the damage (and let players swap into them in order to feel the effects) and toggle between various armour sets ranging from knee pads and gloves only, up to EOD levels of protection.
  • Stage 2 will let multiple players take part in missions on a small number of maps. The multi-player systems will support the 4v4 teams and will let players play on at least a LAN setup – this is probably the hardest section to get the netcode working and have players have fun shooting each other and not break the game.
  • Stage 3 will add in the customisation elements. Initially, this will be a standalone application that allows players to customise a character and loadout without the game needing to deal with the variations. This will be folded in eventually leading to the game’s release
  • Stage 4 is when the game is fully complete and any bugs caused by the merging of the previous stages has been fixed. This is the point I would be happiest to sell the game. There is also a lot of work to get to this point

THIS IS ALL VERY NICE BUT WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?

Well, I’m making three demos as part of one of my university modules, due for completion May 2014. These will:

  1. Implement a third person cover system, letting a player move to the cover, attach themselves to it in a crouched position, move between a crouched position and a standing position and then leave cover.
  2. Implement a realistic damage system, letting a model report exactly which area is hit by a round which has a potential to penetrate. This can then be mirrored to the player, showing how that injury would affect the player.
  3. Implement a ballistics system that support different rounds with different velocities and create a simple demo.

The demos above will be created in Unity. The project will probably continue on using Unity, although the use of CryEngine 3 will be evaluated due to it already containing several features (bullet physics, weapon customisation) that would need to be implemented otherwise. On the other hand, Unity provides a very helpful tech base and is widely used.

As you can see these prototypes are just a small start. However, using the tech and ideas these create they can be combined and used as the basis for a more feature rich prototype down the line. The key thing is that the game will work its way through the three main features in order, getting one working before moving to the next.

Before anyone jumps on me, I understand the sheer scale of this project.

As I say at the top, this is a very ambitious idea that will be a little side project for me to work on in the evenings and weekends for a good few years. I want to to make it, because I think it sounds fun, its a game I would love to play with my friends and I don’t this a super realistic third person game being something someone would be interested in.

As the months progress, I will continue to document my progress. Some (primarily focused on the three demos) will be documented on my portfolio blog

Projects Time!

2014-01-19 08.32.59

So we are now into the main part of the term which means its group project time. I can’t say exactly what I’m doing due to an Abertay NDA  but I am very excited about it. Its a bit of tech I’ve never used/had much experience with so it should be pretty challenging. Luckily, I’m working with a good team of guys.

More interesting (at least of what I can tell you) is my other modules. Narrative Theory was the black sheep of the family compared to the other subjects I was studying seeing as it appeared to be a designer focused module. After starting it, and being introduced to our lecturer, its going to turn into creating content for a D&D style game. I’m interested in seeing how it plays (especially as one of our group has never played it before) but our basic idea leads to a lot of potential ideas. The end result is to create a wiki to describe the world and its rules. The first play session was a little slow but everyone was getting used to the pared down rules.

There is also my innovation (which is gradually rolling along) but more interesting is the product I have been creating for my Professional Specialisation module. Its something I’ve been working on the concept for a good few months at this point. This module is letting me start creating it for university credit. I’m going to put it up in a separate post as its going to detail a good few points. But I’ve got it started this week and putting in a cover system is an interesting experience.

Expect another post this week