Project MC

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6 years 1 month
Submitted by SuperSayu on Sat, 02/27/2016 - 11:44

My personal notes on this project label it "MCB / DES / GW", which are three distinct game concepts all cut from the same general cloth. Project MC is a design, nay a desire, to make a new game in the vein of the old DOS/Playstation game "Magic Carpet" by Bullfrog Interactive. (GOG: MC MC2). I didn't play the original, but as a child I was enamored with the sequel, Netherworlds.

It is a grave disappointment to me that in not just the current, but every group of shooters since, there have been no attempts that I'm aware of to cop from Magic Carpet's basic premise, which is a round shooter where each combatant is anchored into the game by a destructible base. Coupled with a resource system based on destroying monsters and turning them into delicious mana balls, which you then claim and secure in your own base, and a progression system based on your mana level, it is both a promising single-player and tantalizing multi-player game. The Magic Carpet games also included semi-random, destructible environments, and all the main characters (if you couldn't guess from the game title) could fly, meaning that most of what made the map interesting was in its contents, not its layout; empty stretches of water were good for travel (except for submerged leviathans, and a few flying creatures like dragons) while overland routes frequently blocked your vision and had a wider variety of monsters. Mostly, though, you had to be careful around enemy bases, which until you were leveled up enough to launch an assault were dangerous to be around, not because the innate defenses were strong, but because if the enemy wizard was in his base or got back to it before it was destroyed, he had effectively unlimited health and mana while defending.

The three aforementioned concepts, then, are breakdowns of this premise with different foci:

MCB is a simple arena shooter that I conceived of hoping that I would be able to keep my head on my shoulders with a smaller project, which doesn't seem to be the case, or at least I don't seem to be able to keep myself focused alone. MCB would be a light, themeless, open-source top-down 2D (or light isometric 3D) online battle arena with no or limited single player. Its main purpose is to highlight the promising multiplayer of the formula by making a game that is easy for people to jump into and out of, while still fundamentally showing off the core concept. It is still a game I'd like to make, because it is still a game I'd like to play, but being themeless and multiplayer, there is a lot less design work I could possibly busy myself with in abstract; once the core of the game is established, a majority of the game will be tweaking the core based on experiments in the multiplayer, which is not something I can predict ahead of time.

GW and DES are both concepts with a larger, themed single-player; we will start with project Greyworld:

In my head there is a fundamental conceit of light and color in the graphical look of Greyworld; the world is fundamentally made of up of darkness, a blackish grey soup that you can fly through, but barely see through. However, as you develop your resources, you can create crystalline lightposts that hold back the dark mist and cast a light of your color over the terrain, which slowly becomes less blackened and grey and begins to take on characteristics of your character; color, yes, but also texture, flora, and especially fauna.

I envision magical fauna being a largish part of Project Greyworld, but before I get into that, I will take a dalliance to say that the aesthetic of light reaching into the darkness is meant to evoke a sense that you are saving the world from darkness, but that is not necessarily accurate. Mechanically, each map is safest when it is either all dark or all light; where a boundary exists between light and darkness, monsters appear, and the stronger the disparity, the more warped I intend the creatures to be. This enters into the resource mechanic, as these monsters are a mana source, but they are also a knowledge source, and plumbing the depths of twisted creatures gives new abilities.

That said, while the disparity of light and darkness creates monsters, light itself creates workers, and those workers are meant to be a part of the resource game. They can be set to worship, guard, mine, build, research, patrol, but not attack; they are bound to the light that created them and must stay within its boundaries. They are your only defenses while you are away, and the main way you turn raw mana into "stable mana," a sort of crystal imbued with your light, which is needed for construction. They can also be set to imbue objects with magic, turning them into equipment to boost your character, your buildings, or your workers.

Stepping out of the game mechanic, the story of Greyworld is a sort of grand war between god-like wizards travelling a vast astral sea. They capture individual world-bubbles, and each capture slightly improves their wizard level at the start of each new round, but beyond that, the worlds serve as nodes in a network that allows them to travel further and meet new wizards. The battles on the fringes of a fight are less of consequence than fighting on their home turf; it is only there that a wizard can be truly defeated. Your wizard, depending on his intentions, can tilt this war towards one side or another, but then, perhaps the sides are not as cohesive as they seem, and it may all turn into chaos...

The other game concept, DES, is loosely based on a lesser-known webcomic Deus Ex Somnia, on permanent hiatus:

In DES, as in the comic, the battleground is themed more towards dream combat, with much less of an undercurrent of independence. Dream anchors are necessary to keep yourself returning to this waking dream night after night, and you come into possession of one, which you begin to use to rescue people who are having their dreams broken by dark agents in the universe, or in some cases, just from their own nightmares.

DES is very far from the other two in terms of its combat rounds, as it does not make a great deal of sense to be breaking monsters in the minds of people you are trying to save and eating their mana. Instead, there are two basic types of rounds: combat rounds against enemy agents, and puzzle rounds against a character's own subconscious. Combat rounds are again much less of zero-to-hero round structure, instead becoming a sort of fake war between two forces; on your side are your agents and possibly the figments of their imagination, and on the other, enemy agents and any figments of theirs. These figments are basic brainless soldiers given stats based on your dream-abilities, and in some cases based on those of your network; they cannot be expected to single-handedly defeat an enemy of your own power level, but they can wear them down and defeat lesser opponents.

Battle rounds also involve summoning destructible environments, which you establish by building them in your own dreamworld, out of parts thematic to your character's past or those of your network. These can be very large, but they are meant to slow, weaken, and confuse your enemy more than defeat them. These can be maps like warehouses, or labyrinthine mazes, but the character who summoned them has not only the advantage of having created it, but a minimap symbolizing their knowledge of the place. These set pieces can be expensive to summon, so they cannot be used constantly, but can be a huge advantage over moderately more powerful opponents.

Solving puzzle rounds, in contrast, helps people achieve their dreams, increasing the happiness of the world which amounts to a success track for the game, and it also increases their basic stats while they are part of your network of dream agents, which helps you in various ways such as finding more dream-people, improving the combat stats of your own agents, protecting your dream network from attack, giving you new pieces to use in your summoned environments and new weapons, and it can also help you better understand how the dream world works, which helps you unlock other ability types, in rare cases.

Since this is mostly a single-player game, although there are great sandbox elements where you are able to create environments for your characters to fight in, a large emphasis exists on the character of the enemy and the sorts of worlds they will have for you to fight in. The enemy and their warped nature, their willingness, even desire, to destroy dreams and dreamers, is borne out in the caricature of their pasts which is revealed piece by piece in multiple fights with them as the game progresses. In many ways, this parallels the excellent character levels in Psychonauts but on much less of a grand scale.

By reducing the scale and utilizing these summoned environments, I would like to think that battles with enemy agents can be much less pre-planned, and indeed by reducing the scale I would like to make a number of set pieces for each agent, all of which may not actually be used before you defeat them. Because the set pieces are summoned, there is no need to engage the enemy at pre-planned points in the dream network; instead, any dream or nightmare can become a portal into their head, and you simply engage with agents when you feel ready or when they engage you. In this way, the strategic map where you select your next mission can be randomized, and the enemy AI behavior can be less scripted and more organic.

Any, nay, all of these game concepts would be fun to play and as such I'd really enjoy the chance to make them. Alas, I'm not really in a position to do so, certainly not at the moment. We will have to see what the future holds.