Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hero Worship - Deep Thoughts

So far everything functions fine, but there's no game.  No goal, no challenge, no progression.  No meaningful choice.  In fact, it's all rather pedestrian, with me relying on tried and true concepts from other titles.  But I don't just want to make a complete knock-off of some generic strategy game. But I want to use the great Actraiser as inspiration.  And I really need to look more closely at what makes that game tick.

What the hell is an "Actraiser" anyway?

If you're not at all familiar with the game, Actraiser was a mix of god-sim and side scrolling action.  The game progression goes something like this:

It was a fairly linear game.  From what I remember, access to more difficult territories was based on your level, so your progression from one place to the next was fairly fixed.  For Hero Worship I think I'll be tossing out the progression from one land to the next in favor on a single, one map / one fight experience.  The game will begin in the town building phase and eventually end with an action phase once all requirements are met. Let's ignore the action phase for now and focus on the town.

Despite its simplicity, the sim phase in Actraiser was really pretty interesting. Let's look at what you did as a player and how I think I'm going to approach it in Hero Worship.

Here's the first map of the game.  The town starts in the center and is represented by a temple surrounded by a road.  On the outer edges of the map are monster spawn points.  As you are building your town, monsters will constantly emerge from these locations to wreak havoc.

Although the game runs in real-time, your villagers can only build once at the beginning of the day.  You can direct where they should be building. One of the goals for each map was to direct your villagers to build up their town right on a monster spawner.  Once they were close enough, they would destroy it, making the land a little safer.

As your villagers made their way around the map, they would discover special technologies (such as bridge building) that they could use to further progress.  They would also find "spells" that they would offer to you so that you could help them out as well.  With these spells you could summon rain to help crops grow or put out fires, or lighten bolts to kill enemies or clear away rock.  There was a very light puzzle-solving element involving locating these technologies and spells in each map, and using them correctly.  It important to note that the whole thing was very simple and very linear in terms of progression.

The other thing the player would do is direct the little cherub guy in the center of the screen around the map and use his (her? its?) arrows to destroy any monsters wandering around.  The villagers are completely defenseless are were prone to being kidnapped or having their houses destroyed.

Here's a quite decent let's play I found on the You Tubes.  The sim stuff comes in at around the 5 minute mark.

Once all of the spawn points were destroyed, the villagers would pinpoint the "ultimate source of EVIL" on the map and request that you come down and squash it (which is something you're all too happy to do during the action phase).

So how do I plan on keeping the spirit of Actraiser while making this game its own thing?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Direct control of town building.  This is a pretty major departure from Actraiser.  But I think there's more moment-to-moment engagement to be had from the player choosing which buildings to place when and where.
  • No direct villager control.  This is not a game about amassing a huge army and steamrolling over the enemy.  The villagers will react and defend.  There may be offensive units, but they will mostly act on their own.
  • God powers to assist and influence.  Like Actraiser, the god spells will assist the villagers in achieving their goals. It can be direct like a lightning bolt to take out enemies or it can be a subtle suggestion to investigate an area.  I'll need an additional resource (mana, belief, etc) to cover this.
  • Minion for direct control. Right now I'm thinking no.  The cherub in Actraiser worked in part because there wasn't much else for the player to do.  
  • Encroaching doom.  I had been playing a lot of the excellent Creeper World 3 and I just love love love the idea of fighting against this overwhelming wave of... stuff.   My initial thought is that the spawners, in addition to creating monsters, will spread corruption around the map.  This would slow units, destroy buildings, and render resources unclaimable. God powers and perhaps a special building would be able to counter the effect.
  • Destroying the monster spawners.  Same basic idea. However, in Hero Worship they will have to be discovered.   I've implemented something I call the "Poor Mans Fog of War" which I'll discuss in a later post.  Basically, these spots will remain hidden until a villager gets close to it.  Once discovered, it will be permanently visible on the map.  A discovered spawner will cause a specific building in the town to create a raiding party to travel over to the location and destroy it.
  • Summoning of the Hero.  This is what will end the "sim" part of the game and begin the action phase. In Actraiser, the action phase was triggered once the location of the "Ultimate Source of EVIL" was discovered.  In Hero Worship a shrine will need to be erected at a special location on the map.  The location will be revealed by destroying the monster spawners.  The shrine itself will require massive amounts of resources to be ferried to the location. Once built, the hero (the embodiment of god) will be summoned and the action phase will begin.
  • Additional villager types. A generic warrior/scout will take care of exploring and patrolling the map.  A druid will "seal" the monster spawners and build the shrine.
Obviously there are many more details to consider, but this should keep me busy.

1 comment:

freshaces said...

I have Act Raiser SNES cart BTW. Play it occasionally on my Retron 3. It'd held up well and is very under-appreciated. Great inspiration!