Saturday, 18 June 2011

Red 2 standing by

This is Jerome, the second half of the Project 7 devteam, making my introduction.

I'm a fan of games that put you in a state of 'flow', or as most people call it 'in the zone'. You know the feeling. Your movements become lightning fast, your mind and fingers work seamlessly as you execute a series of dodges you thought impossible. This happens when you hit a sweet spot; the game is just challenging enough to keep you coming back for more, and exciting enough that you don't mind taking it up.

It's much easier to pull this off in real time games, because you make many more decisions per minute. Strategy games can do this as well as action games under the right conditions.

There are other things that make a game fun to play as well; your decisions need to be meaningful and affect what you can do in the future. Options must be balanced. The interface needs to be intuitive. Story is always nice, and having the right atmosphere helps.

But for me, games are about charging through nigh-unbeatable odds to claim victory. For months I played Left 4 Dead, struggling through the same maps, the same enemies, with tactics I'd used a thousand times before. Why? Because I hadn't beaten everything on expert. Yet.

Same deal for Cave Story - an indie platformer/shooter game by Pixel - the level "Last Cave" (not the final level incidentally) is basically a ten-minute gauntlet of precision jetpack flying. You have to pull 90 degree turns at just the right time while the bats swarm in around you. There is a boss waiting for you, and no savepoints until you run through the crushing blocks AFTER the boss.

And as for Nethack... Well, I could tell hundreds of stories of glorious failures. But I'm still going to keep trying.

Now that you know a bit about my gaming style, to our game.

It started with the combat engine. The main thing we put in that sets it apart from other top-down shooters you may have played, is the shield. This isn't some plug-and-play forcebubble that you can use to wade through zombies like a space marine - this is an actual shield; a square thing that only covers a 90 degree arc centred on your weapon. This means you can aim your shield AND your gun with the mouse, which is handy. It also means you'd better not be flanked.

This is what the game is about. You don't have much health, and the bullets are fast enough that dodging them (especially on sand or water) isn't anything but a last-ditch tactic. The shield comes down when you move, and also for a bit when you shoot, so timing is crucial. Unlike your health, the shield does regenerate on its own.

As in my examples earlier, getting through a level of P7 is tough. Your foes pack the same weapons as you do and they can dish out a world of hurt when they gang up three to one. You have to pick your battles, play it carefully and watch your back. It's something new - there are no chest high walls here, but no one will win a race with a bullet either.

Thanks for reading, gameplay footage and demo to come. While it may seem stingy of us to come empty-handed, we are preparing an all-encompassing demo for the Adelaide Anime and Videogame Convention (AVcon) in July. You guys will be able to downloaded what we present there.

I leave you with a screenshot.

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