There has been a tremendous dearth of content for my site lately. This is a thing that troubles me greatly. There are reasons for this, of course, busy at work, ladyfriend, some topics I’d like to write about but don’t entirely feel comfortable writing about, and a general lack of inspiration from the games I’ve been playing. This will change going forward, however, as my current games I’m tackling consist of Kane & Lynch (completed), Frontlines: Fuels of War, Haze (completed), and my much-adored Just Cause 2. I’m looking forward to writing about them, but that time is not now.
I realized an hour or so ago that my reliance on Twitter often leaves me talking about things that are actually relevant to this site and, in doing so, never actually talking about things that are relevant to this site on this site. Microblogging killed the blog, or something. This revelation was particularly noteworthy because I started a new project a couple of weeks ago and unless we count my development gallery, there is no mention of this project on the site. This just strikes me as being egregiously wrong.
The new project is what I’ve been billing as a semi-Rogue-like, very barely XCOM-ish, evoking bits of Team Fortress 2 top-down tactical action heist game that I’m calling Caper Corp.. After making a series of smaller, more “indie” games with Unity, I got the point where I wanted to tackle a bigger project. And, unlike most of my independent projects up until now, I want this project to be somewhat less quiet and subtle and convey a more definite sense of character. On top of all of this, seeing Monaco at the Independent Game Festival when I was at GDC this year made me realize just how large a void there is in the list of genres that games commonly draw from. This void is vast, of course, but specifically I want more heist games. And while Monaco is surely a fantastic and incredibly well-made and well-designed game, the actual gameplay didn’t jive with me. So I’m making a heist game. In Unity using some of the 2D/3D stylistic stuff I picked up on working on a prototype called “Men of Science:”
The hallmark of the dungeon crawly, Rogue-like genre of games is their procedural nature. Every experience is different from every other one due to the highly randomized nature of the environments, monsters, items, and so on, so while the core game design remains the same play after play, the environment in which a player explores is ever-changing. In theory, I really dig the sense of unpredictability and excitement that arises out of procedural level generation. What I don’t dig is the amount of development time that would have to be sunk into a procedural level generator for a game which is completely dependent on its environmental dynamics. When a dungeon has weirdly-wrapping corridors with strange connections and randomized caverns, it’s okay: it’s a dungeon. When a six-floor bank or ten-story casino has a completely illogical and incomprehensible floor layout for each of its floors, it’s ridiculous.
What I decided to do for Caper Corp., then, is semi-procedural level generation. Each level has a template: casino, bank, tropical hacienda of an oil baron, etc. Each template has a series of floor types: main floor, basement floor, upper floor, and rooftop. Each of these floor types has a series of potential foor plans. These floor plans are made in an editor. Each floor plan has a definite architectural layout (defined by the designer: ie, me); however, each individual floor plan also has randomized activation of the designer-placed game object on the floor, along with “sets” of architectural features that are enabled/disabled at random. It’s, essentially, controlled randomness. These floor plans are then laid out per the template; a casino has a main floor (chosen from, say, six casino ‘main floor’ floor plans), with three ‘upper floor’ floor plans (from a bank of twelve), and two ‘basement’ floor plans (from a bank of fourteen). Theoretically, even if a player played this exact configuration of casino floor plans in the past, there would still be enough randomness at the floor plan layout level to provide for a unique gameplay experience.
Unfortunately, all of this required me to do work in an area of game development that I absolutely loathe: editor design/development. I finished the first pass of my “Blueprint” tool for Caper Corp. an hour or two ago, though, so all is good. All the editor can really do at this point is paint floor tiles, wall tiles, erase tiles, and save/load floor plans, but that’s good enough for me to start working on the game core and style/art tests, which will start… In about ten minutes. Here are some screen shots from Blueprint (and check out the full Caper Corp. development gallery for ongoing pictorial updates):