There is a post on deck I know I have to finish it. I’m about to do it.
I finally announce the development of a game project a few friends of mine and I are working on. Project Dark Recon is a humble demo which we want to use to introduce ourselves as game developers.
The main design purpose is to create an isometric puzzle-shooter to show our development skills and attention to detail.
To be honest, the lack of resources we suffer as an indie team won’t allow us to actually create a complete game, the goal is to create a demo in which the gameplay proposed and the execution of it can be evaluated by every each of you and anyone interested.
Our friend Dislocacion (María Alejandra Niño) is giving us a hand with the concept art. She is a very talented artist and I love her work pretty much (I also speak in the name of the whole team). You can see more of it in her Flickr account, and follow her both in Twitter and Tumblr. (Most of her updates are in spanish I have to say).
The concept art is now focused in defining our main character. Once we have done it, we can pivot the design of the rest of the elements based on that.
In the programming department my friends Jorge Palacios (@pctroll) and Christian Chomiak (@cchomiak23) are doing the deeds using XNA. As mentioned, what we want to do is to integrate 2 different experiences of gameplay: a simple puzzle and a pure shooter. The first gameplay problem that have been taken care of is the puzzle; we decided to define all the elements in a 2D game completely separated of the main game (at first), and that’s exactly what Jorge is coding.
The above image describes the state of the gameplay right now. We are developing a (literal) pattern search and recognition game: the big grid is a field presented to the player in where he (or she) have to find the color pattern shown in the little grid. By clicking on the squares on the big grid the player (depending if the job was done right) will advance throughout the game.
I want to emphazise the “literal” in the description: every game you have played is a pattern search an recognition game with a lot of layers on top of it (art, music and sounds, options, moveset etc.). In this stage of development we think that keeping as literal as possible the pattern recognition feature will make easier not only to integrate into a bigger gameplay experience, but to playtest in a very effective way.
It looks very simple at first sight, but if you look closely for a moment, the simplicity of the 2D puzzle game allows to create an almost infinite variations of it. We want to focus on a really tiny subset and polish it as much as we can.
In further post I will explain in detail what we are doing and also, I will upload the first version of the 2D game (with the source code attached) for you to playtest and look at the code.
We have two main game influences: one directly related to what we are doing and other one set as a design goal. The first one is called Nation Red.
And the second one is Valve’s Left 4 Dead series.
The integration we want to achieve is to put the 2D puzzle game described as the floor of the shooter experience influenced by Nation Red, so the player’s avatar have to move around to complete it. We are studying Left 4 Dead’s design in order ot seamlessly create a set of features meant to integrate both gameplays; for example, completing each pattern search gives players ammunition, weapons and keys, the enemies could (and would) change the pattern in the floor etc. That’s why so important to polish the 2D puzzle game: if we don’t do it right the main gameplay goal won’t be feasible.
Christian is working right now on creating the basics for rendering. Of course, we don’t want to create a whole set of tools, we want to complete the game using the fewest and simplest code possible. The first example of visualization is this one.
Even though, given Dislocacion’s unique drawing style, we want to capture the spirit of her pieces and portray it using a specific piece of rendering technique. We are basing our approach on Valve’s Team Fortress 2 Illustrative Rendering implementation.
Is not about copying Valve’s work (that would be easy, it’s just reading the paper above), is about understanding the fundamental workflow in order to use properly Dislocacion’s unique art style to create a game experience and mood based on that.
Yes, it is a somehow ambitious goal, but how can we show off otherwise?. (Remember, it’s just rendering, not a complete engine full of tools).
As well with gameplay, the advances of Christian’s work on rendering wil be explained in further post.
I will be creating the general game desing, doing some additional code (both in Maya and XNA), modeling, creating textures, animating what can’t be done procedurally and doing the necessary research related to gameplay and rendering.
Music, sound and narrative are being development, but they are in a very crude stage right now.
So, for now that’s all I have to share.
I have to confess I’m a little worried. Jorge and I were working to define this project for months, and we started development quite well, but I can’t rid of this general feeling that all will tear apart after this announcement. The effort Dislocacion and Christan have put in this project need to be honored and I promise to my team not to give up until we finish this demo.
(Sorry for the dramatic paragraph, but a just needed to say that).
We scheduled a year to complete at least the basics of the goals set, but we are convinced we can show a lot in less time.
Twitter updates will be shared using the hashtag #DarkReconGame.
We invite you to comment, criticize and share any though you want from now on.
Some music related to the project and this post