A few comments.
I wasn’t sure about writing stuff about Dark Recon‘s gameplay, because I didn’t want to spoil the experience; but then I realized 2 things:
- I’m assuming someone will play Dark Recon.
- I’m assuming someone is going to read this.
So I give up and I will make a few comments about Dark Recon’s gameplay.
As I said in the first post about it, Dark Recon is a top-down shooter puzzle game (whatever that means). The idea is to combine in a seamless experience the thrilling of a well balanced shooter and the pattern search skills required in a puzzle.
What I was thinking when I proposed the design to the team was to avoid a thing I didn’t like in Alien Swarm (one of our references): the lack of unity in some portions of the game.
Alien Swarm is a great game, but I didn’t like how the experience (kinda) breaks apart in some moments. Is not like that’s a mistake, it’s simply that I’m not totally agree with taking a player out of the general experience. For example: sometimes you have to open a door solving some kind of puzzle, and that’s responsability of one player while the others take care of the perimeter. Something similar happens with the medical class an so on. I insist, that’s not a mistake, but I just don’t enjoy it that much.
Anyway, it is not like the this is the first time a game combines single and multiplayer skills.
Before videogames, baseball and cricket were there.
Let me put a thing clear: any team based game is a combination of individual and team skills. From football to basketball, from Left 4 Dead to League of Legends; if someone is not doing his job then the team falls apart (if the game is well designed, of course). Moreover, football and basketball have a mode where the individual skills are the matter at hands: free (and in football, penalty) shots. And even though, free kicks in football aren’t that individual. But what I mean is a game that combines two extremely different set of skills in one set of rules; free shots as you might realize are a penalization in both football and basketball, they are not part of the main purpose of the game. You can totally have football and basketball without free shots (but it will be just unfair and boring).
On the other hand, baseball (and from here I will just refer only to it, you can derive the same things for similar sports) can’t exist if you take away the single player part of the game: the pitching. The main trigger of the game in baseball is the challenge between the pitcher and the hitter. Once that challenge is overcome in whatever manner is resolved, the rest of the team take actions.
What do you do if you don’t have the pitcher? just leave to the hitter the responsability to try to hit the ball as far as he can? that doesn’t make sense at all. You have no challenge between the teams involved in that. The pitching section of the game is so important that it constitutes a (coherent) game by its own.
(In Venezuela we play the pitcher-hitter challenge using bottle caps and a broomstick. We call it Chapita (little bottle cap). If you are wondering why venezuelan baseball players are so good at it, that’s why).
Many people criticize the lack of physical challenge in baseball compare to, for example, football, and I’m among those people; the thing is this two very different sections of rules in baseball lead to that form of interrupted gameplay, where physical condition is not tested that much. In football, because the game is not splitted the physical condition are a very important part of the game. Of course there are team based experience where the physical condition is not even part of the game, this comparisson is just for the sake of this post (but you can generalize what I’m saying to other skills).
It’s just another way to design a game. I don’t like it, even when I can enjoy a game of baseball.
I have to say that the strategic challenge of baseball is quite high, and people doesn’t seem to understand that, which is a mistake.
Alien Swarm (and other games like it) is part football, part baseball experience. Sometimes (most of it) you play as a part of a team with one unified goal; sometimes you (or a teammate) are the trigger of an action in order to make the team come in. Its a way to combine different experiences in a single game, that’s always good if well implemented, and Alien Swarm does it fairly good.
However, my overall intention in Dark Recon is to create a gameplay that, whether single or multiplayer, never goes away from the original intention of that gameplay.
I will explain how we are trying to achieve that in the next posts, and how Contextual Reference is an important feature in it.