RGS Addendum: Payday 2 and Post Release Support

Well I managed to time my last post terribly. Literally the next day, Overkill did something that really showed once and for all just how much they care about post release support.

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CRIME FEST! 12 days of updates that add in brand new features and culminated in the return of Hoxton and his glorious voice actor. Taking place 3 years after the original Payday was released, Crimefest had been advertised earlier in the year with a huge push to add new members to the Steam community. In a not unexpected series of events, the community beat the crap out of the total, blowing its way through all various tiers and getting ready for for the most that Overkill could provide.

So over the 12 days, various things happened. The main point of the event was the daily updates – this played out like those before the normal patches but with some slight alteratios. The main one was that several of them were actually not new content but announcements of future plans for Payday 2, such as introducing a second studio that is working on more heists. These updates also included some new ingame content, announcing the return of Hoxton, a brand new shotgun and one more major pack.

Hoxton’s return brought a few changes – New Hoxton is now Houston (a name that better links him to Dallas, seeing as its his brother), Hoxton is back complete with pony tail and burnt face, we have a new shiv and Hoxton has a new class focused on lone wolves. His new item is particularly useful, being a large number of instant use med kits.

In the middle of Crimefest, the biggest addition was the introduction of a free update featuring John Wick, the star of the film of the same name. From a gameplay point of view, this added the mechanic for different characters other than the main four, two new weapons, a host of attachments and some shades. More interesting was the new perk deck it bought, adding the ability to dual wield weapons (a feature echoed in the new fugitive class) and the ethical aspect of adding such a blatant advertising stunt. John Wick doesn’t break Payday’s fiction (in part thanks to linking to a pre-existing character), but it is still a little weird.

I also managed (during Crimefest sale) to pick up the old DLC packs I had missed. The new heists and guns bring something new to the table but I think the most important pack is the Gage’s courier pack. It provides a brand new way of gaining XP while at the same time grabbing new (and in many cases better) attachments to add to the guns in the game. I actually find it pretty fun to go looking for some of the more expertly hidden packages in each level.

A point to also mention is that the game isn’t the only release recciving constant updates. As each update includes brand new music tracks, the various locations you can buy the soundtrack from (Steam as DLC or Bandcamp) are also updated to include the new tracks. This is fantastic, saving people having to rebuy it with everyone new track. The music is also a super important part of the game and is fantastic to listen to by itself – much like Hotline Miami’s banging soundtrack, I don’t recommend listening to it while using heavy machinery.

Finally, it looks like Overkill has no plans to finish support Pay Day 2 any time soon. A few days after Crimefest we had the Halloween event and a few weeks ago, a new Gage weapon pack bringing you even more guns to roll around with. Its obvious that the ideas started in the main game are slowly being brought forward.

RGS: Payday 2 and Post Release Support

RGS, or Really Good Stuff, is where I look through the games I play and pick out cool features about them that are worth talking about. It might be gameplay, art, business or even just the whole package.

Update: added information on #BailoutHoxton

Update 2: An addendum to this post about the recent crime fest is forth coming

I’ve realised for a while that my gameplay style is one of breadth rather than depth – I don’t spend huge amounts of time playing a single game. Instead I delve into my collection and play a lot of different games. So for this reason I never delve too deepish into multiplayer. There are however a few exceptions. Payday 2, Overkill and Starbreeze’s heist em’up is one such game.

So here is a question, Why? Well in one part its down to my friend’s playing it (nearly every night in fact) but another part comes down to how the game has managed to keep updating and changing itself at an almost constant pace.

I must point out before I begin that I’m not a megafan of the game – it has its many flaws(don’t get me started on the loot system), I don’t play it every night and I’m not quite up to date with the paid for DLC.

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The Details

Since release in August 2013, Payday 2 has had 37 patches (not including hotfixes). These patches have been made freely available to all and are delivered via Steam, a cornerstone to the game’s success. Many of these patches are simple fixes – replacing sounds, fixing bugs and other minor tweaks needed to keep the game in the best condition.

However, there are also some other, much larger patches. Some of these are standalones, introducing large amounts of content or engine overhauls without the player having to pay for them. Examples of this include Patch 20 (which added the Go Bank heist as a Christmas event), Patch 22 (which added a prestige style feature called Infamy) and Patch 24 (that introduced the Deathwish difficulty mode to increase the challenge to players), all three large feature sets that changed how the game is played. Other patches change the game engine – Patch 33 massively overhauled the networking code (a vital part of a co-op focused game) while Patches 13 and 26 modified the stealth system in order to make it a more viable way to play the game. These patches also added additional enemies, bringing back the Cloaker from the first game as well as an additional gang of goons to take the player on.

Finally, and most importantly, there are the DLC patches. These are tied into content packs, usually priced between $5 and $7 and in many cases worth every penny. The most common are weapon packs, provided (according to the game’s fiction) by Gage, a wheelchair bound war vet who provides you with a selection of firearms. All these weapons are incredibly detailed, with custom animations, lovely ingame models and a whole host of attachments to add (if you can get them from the labyrinth of the loot system). Many packs also introduce new weapon types to the game, adding machine guns and sniper rifles to change up playstyles massively. The weapon focused packs include multiple weapons (often based around a theme) as well as new masks for your character and achievements, some of which help to unlock the rest of the DLC content. Another Gage pack is one that unlocks several packs of weapon attachments, as long as you can collect the packages. Some of these packs also included tweaks to main game such as the addition of frag grenades, melee weapons and shotgun ammo types. Overkill can be see frequently to massively overhaul the game when it matches up to player requests and their vision.

For some players, the more exciting DLC packs are the heists. These add new missions into the world of Payday and often are very different beasts to the set included in the base game. The key ones so are Armoured Transports (a set of four heists and one secret job as well as new guns and masks) and the Big Bank (a huge heist that adds a pre-planning feature to the game while also including a new gun, masks and achievements) but it is highly likely there will be more soon, especially with the frequent comments relating to a certain character from the first game. With these packs, anyone can play the jobs as long as the host has bought the DLC.

The content patches (both paid for and non-paid for) are nearly always advertised by Overkill on their site in a long webpage unveiled over several days – the first day shows the basic page, the next the first set of items/features before the last releases all the information, including additional achievements for the players that way included. A good example is the last two DLCs – the Gage Assault pack themed after the Battlefield games, as can be seen in its colour scheme and distorted soundtrack,  and the Hotline Miami DLC, which brings the neon glow of the murder em up to the street of Washington (along with some themed weapons, masks and achievements). These pages are a delight to read – teasers of weapons lead to speculation, pulling fans together to throw ideas and try to be the one to shout “Ha, I told you so”.  Overkill also like to use other teasers for future content, from youtube videos to replacing the game’s intro with one forecasting future events, often with a live action sequence that continues on the web series.

Finally, Overkill tempts players to join the community by offering exclusive guns and masks to anyone who join up to the Steam community page. Its only a small feature but it does help to draw players even further into the game. This was also helped by the Crimefest event, where extra players joining the community would provide additional bonuses such as new guns and additional heists and masks.

The game has done massively well for itself – it managed to turn around the fate of its developer. They are also planning to keep it in constant update for the next two years which is another great sign as to how well its working.

A poster advertising one of the Heists included in a free update – This once requires stealth to complete, a good test of the mechanics changed in several patches close to its release

Why Does It Work?

First of all, the base game is good. Otherwise, players wouldn’t have any desire to spend money on these packs and keep the ball rolling. The game provides a unique co-op experience, something that can require the planning of a MMO raid but with a greater level of action – very different to its closest rival for four player co-op, Left 4 Dead. I could write tonnes about various parts of the game (and probably will write something about the music system) because it has so much going for it.

Second, the patches and updates are constant and consistent. 37 patches in just over a year? Either your games super buggy or you want to keep people playing. Their patching system can be a little problematic, requiring lots of extra space during the process, but the process up to the patch, especially the DLC ones, is full of player interaction. Patch notes are pored over, trailers watched and teasers sites ripped to pieces.

Third, the developers listen to the community. Now, this is a double edged sword – the people shouting the loudest is not often the representative of the masses and so you get the crazy hard additions to the game. But they are willing to overhaul key elements of the game’s workings in order to keep people entertained. This constant change can be a little confusing, with the playstyles of the moment rocking back and forth but better a developer listen and change to much than not at all.

A major example of this is the #BailoutHoxton situation. Between Payday and Payday 2, Overkill changed two of its main character voice actors, replacing Dallas and Hoxton with brand new, all american VA. The fans were not happy – Dallas’s voice was quickly changed but it seems that Hoxton’s original voice, Pete Gold and his glorious Sheffield accent, was slightly harder to get hold of. A dedicated fan campaign later, and Old Hoxton has become tied into story of Payday 2 from his Christmas album to the upcoming free Hoxton heist.

Fourth, the game was designed with constant expansion in mind. The rather irritating missions system, which doesn’t present you with a simple list but rather populates a map with random jobs, makes a lot of sense when factor in designers wanting a simple yet narratively suitable interface for choosing your next heist while at the same time letting them slot extra missions onto the list of possibles. The huge number of weapon slots make a lot more sense when you have a huge number of guns. It is also a game whose idea lends itself well to expansions – choosing jobs rather then being led through a single story removes some of the issues singleplayer games have when they add extra plot 6 months down the line.

Fifth, the developers knew not everyone would buy the DLC. Just because people haven’t bought the DLC, doesn’t mean they don’t like your game. It could be that don’t play it enough to justify the costs to themselves or maybe they are just fine with the guns they have, thank you very much. Letting players join heists they don’t own, adding new features that they can try out and keeping them in the loop helps to keep the fanbase whole and give the potential to convert new players over.

 

What Can We Learn From It?

  1. Plan ahead – Make it easier on yourself and make it less of a slog to add new content.
  2. Listen to your fans. ALL of your fans, not just the loudest guy in the room.
  3. Give everything to the one paying, but always give something to the little guy who doesn’t. Maybe you’ll tempt him in one day
  4. Make your content worth your player’s time and money.
  5. Make game gud.

That's right Dallas, make game gud

Narrative Through Systems

This is one of several posts written as part of a module at Abertay. They are being archived here for prosperity

A 77 year old ninja? A great story waiting to be told
A 77 year old ninja? A great story waiting to be told

Games like the Civilisation series, the Total War series and Crusader Kings all have campaigns that do not sit with any exact narrative written by a script writer. Instead, they campaigns are focused around more general ideas such as the gradual progression of civilisation or the general overall politics of a certain time period. Their more powerful story telling instead comes from much smaller events discovered through gameplay.

In Hearts of Iron, a game similar to Crusader Kings but set during the period between 1933 and the late 1940s, I routinely play as the British trying frantically to keep hold of its empire while at home being absolutly hammered by the Axis. The most compelling story for me is keeping control of a small division right from their deployment to Egypt at the start of the war until their final mission somewhere in the Italian alps. They had fought through North Africa, worked their way up the heel of Italy, served time in a small invasion of Spain via Gibraltar (don’t ask) before finally finishing right on the Austrian border. I’d seen them change from reservists at the wars beginning, of their horrifying losses at the first battle of Tripoli, of their rearmament and retraining before the amphibious invasion. The fact that the name of the unit had been generated to that of my home county also played a big part in seeing their trails and tribulations through to the end.

Or in Shogun Total War 2, seeing a single general rise up from your recent recruits. Watching him win battle after battle, seeing him rise up in rank and gaining new hangers on. One of these possible additions to their party is a foreign officer, in my case a Frenchman. The image of a Japanese general sitting on the back of his horse as an army of recently trained western style troops marching in front of him while a French advisor is presumably relating tales of Napoleon is great image worth of any film. Of course, when his army is crushed a few hours later and he himself is slain on the field of battle then the film sadly turns into a tragedy.

Or perhaps the joys of seeing your troopers in XCOM, working their way from simple recruits up to majors or forcibly converting them into stomping mech trooper or genetically modified monsters. Seeing two troopers work alongside each other only for one to pass away a square away from his brother in arms really tugs at the heart strings.

To conclude, I’ve found much more enjoyment from these style of stories, the ones created by my own actions and lasting from sessions stretching across a huge number of hours, than from nearly any adventure game or any other 8 hour cinematic blast. And in a world of user generated content, this style of story is something that become more and more common.

I’m Free!

Well that’s all the teaching in this module done. I ended up having a race to the finish but got all the final work handed and I can now be ready for the summer. Sit back, relax and….

… go back in for one more group project before I leave Dundee.

Outside of university, I have started the job hunt. I’ve already put out a few feelers and have had some responses. I’m actually really excited about this stage – I’m applying to companies both inside and outside of the UK. It would be really cool to go work abroad (although I would need to improve my foreign language skills first) but its also terrifying. Part of me would also really like to stay in the UK and find a job but at the end of the day, I’ll be happy to move to where someone will employ me.

I’ve also started a few projects. The aim is that by the end of my university course, I will have several small prototypes ready to sit alongside my university stuff to show off and improve my general employability. Making games by myself however, is pretty hard (and they will also look pretty bad thanks to my lack of artistic skills) but luckily there have been a few other people interested in this. I’ve been recruited by one of the designers to be a programmer on a block of his ptorotypes – we currently have four planned but there is the potential to add a few more.

Finally, I’ve also been trying out some other, non-game related, things. I’m a huge fan of miniatures wargames – I love me some 40k and have been really enjoying the quick games when I went back home for Christmas and Easter. I’ve also been looking for a long time for a decent set of rules and figures to play with in the modern era. Luckily this has appeared in the form of the Spectre Miniatures kickstarter!

I may have splurged a little bit and bought in for one each of the PMC/SF packs (not a huge fan of the models for the African troops) so there will hopefully be a little bit of black ops skirmishes going down. I’ve had a little try with the rules (available to kickstarter backers) and they are really nice and detailed while still being pretty fast paced. The models themselves are also pretty good, using CAD drawings to sculpt the weapons. I’ve also picked up a few Hasslefree minatures to assist them in the game (and add some much needed support weapons).

Prepare for Titanfall!

(This was written on the launch weekend of Titanfall and has since been sat in the archive waiting for upload)

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So at time of writing EA’s newest shooter game Titanfall, produced by Respawn Entertainment a studio based around the core of the Infinity Ward team behind the multi-player behemoth Call of Duty 4, has been out for between 2 and 5 days depending on if there is a giant ocean preventing Origin letting you download it. I, in the midst of a series of days of sleeping terribly, might have binged heavily on it after its midnight launch. So far I’ve reached level 21, finished both campaigns and played some of what is called classic mode.

So first up – it’s a fantastic multi-player shooter. I’m not a great fan of high-speed shooters due to have the reaction times of a snail, but I have enjoyed every one of the 30 or so games I’ve played so far. the game has a sense of speed unlike anything else I’ve played. The range of movement the player can do thanks to the jump pack and wall running makes it very easy to bust around the level on the rooftops before diving onto an enemy titan. The guns make it feel like Modern Warfare 2 – each one is incredibly damaging so none feels too over powered (except the damn shotgun but we can skip over that). The smart pistol is a fun addition – perfect for culling enemy grunts and spectres but not overpowered against enemy players.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the titans. There are three types (effectively light,medium or heavy) each of which share the same selections for loadout but still manages to act in a different way. Titans massively change-up how the game plays. By getting kills you decrease a timer that slowly ticks own until your teams adjutant informs you that your titan is ready for drop. Quick tap of the v button on a location and suddenly a pillar of flame starts to fall from the sky, a comet falling towards you. The moment  a titan hit the deck, it pops a shield and waits for you to interact with it. At this point, you have two choices. The easiest is to simply tell it to go into auto mode – the titan will stand up and either guard a location or follow after you. This is great for when you need to capture a point a you leave your bouncer outside, slamming other titans in the face or stomping enemy pilot and grunts. I know a lot of people who enjoy the free running and just don’t ever pilot their titans, instead using it as a distraction.

On the other hand, you can sprint towards it and start hammering the E button. Often the titan will pluck you out of the air and gently push you into the cockpit, with your view showing you using handholds and climbing bars to get into the driving seat. The front panel drops back down leaving you in darkness for a moment before interior screens turn on, showing the seams between the panels before they merge together. Climbing into the titan is a beautiful experience full of  cool details and varied animations. But once you are in your titan, you’ve just become a huge player, who can easily stomp and crush human sized enemies and blow through an entire team if everyone played like the average call of duty player. but at the same time EVERYONE can mess you up. Other titans are often speced just for the sole purpose of dooming your Titan (setting it to explode after a certain amount of time) and crafty players have a range of methods for taking you down from simply shooting you with rocket launchers to rodeoing your titan to a fiery death. You are by no means vulnerable but at the same time you are not going to be over powered.

Each of the maps are great. Although limited to 6v6, all the maps feel full of action thanks in part to the sheer number of AI running around. Grunts are literally cannon fodder, worth a single point in attrition and not much of a threat. Spectres on the other hand are robots that can easily knock you down if you are in either a titan or on foot. The fact you can hack them to follow you is also pretty cool – it turns you into a parkouring mother duck, trailed by a gaggle of robo ducklings. The interaction between the grunts and spectres on both side are great (I’ve embedded a video of  some behind the scenes stuff) – the little fights you run past as you sprint and jump to the objectives are fantastic. In one building, you see two grunts on opposite sides having a fist fight, throwing each other to the ground. In another, two militia guys are dragging a third injured one away. In another, a spectre is busy punching his way through a grunt. As scene setting,  they are sweet. The thing that really makes it is what happens if you get involved – if you shoot the enemy grunt in the fist fight, the survivor turns to you, says “Thanks sir” and then runs off to join the fight. The maps themselves are excellently designed  with a selection of maps ranging from city battles to scraps over a prison camp to my personal favourite, a battle amongst the Spectre construction line.

I’ll write up another article on Titanfall at some point with a greater teardown of what works and what doesn’t. Until then, I heartily recommend Titanfall – it gave me the same joy that I felt when I first played Call of Duty 4 with my friends

(A second article is coming soon)

LUFTRAUSERS!

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So I’ve been playing a little bit of Vlambeer’s latest game Luftrausers, a cool little arcade flight game where you try to rack up kills without meeting your maker. The game is 98mb of utterly fantastic gameplay, backed by a great pumping soundtrack (see below) and with a huge number of different combinations you can make to play game differently nearly every time.

Like so many of Vlambeer’s game there is no great story – you are simply shown you are a pilot flying for the totally not WW2 Germans and each level starts off with you blasting off from the deck of your submarine. You then fly, pirotte, stall, shoot, crash and boost around the sky shooting down enemy planes, jets, missiles, boats, battleships, submarines and more. Its a super fast frantic shooter but there is still a level of complexity hidden in the games design.

Most of this comes down to the combinations of parts you use to make your Rauser. By changing the weapon, hull and engine, you change how the vehicle acts when you fly it, from how it causes damage (bullets, lasers and more, oh my), to how it flys (high speed jet, powered by bullets or even underwater) to how much health and other effects it can have. What makes each of these great is that each one has a massive change – no part feels like a waste of time. In addition, each Rauser has a cool name to go with it and a sweet new tiny graphic to play into the lo-fi gameboy screen looking aesthetic.

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Finally, the thing to make you keep coming back is the process of getting those parts. Each life takes about two minutes before you die horribly. In that time, the aim is to complete challenges linked to each part such as shooting down x number of bad guys in one life. Overall, its pretty damn great.

I’m really liking it and I’m going to play quite a few more lives. But now, I MUST RAUSE!

Super Cool Thing: The Background Music

So a fun feature of the game is that the various weapons, hulls and engines you attach to  your Rauser actually has an effect on the awesome background music in the game. If you want to see how it works, you just have to open up the data directory in the Luftrauser install.

Screenshot 2014-03-30 04.34.09So the first thing you notice is that the backing music are split into three parts: Bass, drums and lead. Each part you can choose in game changes which file is played in its linked category.

From the little I’ve played so far its seems to be that:

Bass – Weapon
Drums – Body
Lead – Engine

I need to play some more to check this but its a really cool system for them to implement.

 

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

942xmgspw_10

 

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