Inspired by the Nautilus in Verne’s “20000 Leagues under the Sea”.
Since I’m downloading X3 I started to think about what I would really like to play in this genre (which is another I have a passion for). The result is entirely, purely single-player load of fun. As I would design it. For a change no ambitious world-like sandbox-y plans. Just frenetic shooter, focused on a few elements that I think should be at the core of this type of fun.
– “Comet Ramming” (see description below)
– Swarms of enemies
– Grab & use loot/weaponry from enemy ships you blow up
– Squad-based combat
– PC and NPC character development
– Insane flying speed
– “Diablo in space” means that I want to carry over the basic mechanic I described here. Instead of having prolonged 1 vs 1 dogfighting, the idea is to set the player against SWARMS of enemy ships all at once. Totally outnumbered. Then you give the player’s ship much more resistence, faster speed and overall mobility. This with the goal to focus on the movement and perception and use of the space. The 3D space is your environment, total freedom, with both speed and maneuverability to make the movement the real core gameplay. Maneuvering around enemy squadrons, huge motherships or stations and so on.
– Think to a 2D sidescroller shooter. The idea is to port those crowded situations to a space sim and 3D environment. I want total chaos and superheroism.
– Think about Macross/Robotech (another source of inspiration). This is again the model to aim for. Massive battles with the players against an insane number of enemies. Missions divided into different stages and objectives one after the other. In open space, around stations or against bigger motherships. Rescue missions, patrols, escort or timed attacks. All kind of possible variations, but with multiple events triggering during the course of the same mission to overturn it in unexpected ways. So with a variation of gameplay without interruptions in between (but with checkpoint-stages, so progress is not lost. saving the game only possible at these checkpoints).
– Story. The story is functional to the combat. The overall setting borrows one standard theme of the space opera: the exodus. The player commands a big mothership through the space, leading his people toward a possible “salvation” or tranquility, also offering a strategical side to the game. The goal is to bring the mothership and people inside till the end of the journey. Along the way the player has a degree of freedom about where to move, to get resources and develop (enable) new weapons, systems and ships. The path is still linear, though. The exodus represents the course of the game itself, so with a definite conclusion but story-wise the game will end with a sad revelation: when you’ll reach what you chased along the whole game you’ll discover that it’s not what you hoped, so your people will have to continue the “endless journey”. No “happy end”, your destiny is to continue to fight and hope. The mothership represent just a context, while the whole combat action game will be about the player flying with small fighters.
– Squad based. Think to Jagged Alliance 2. On the mothership you will be able to meet a number of NPCs, with their specific story, personality, statistics and skills. 8-14 of these. Each will enable side-stories and mini-quests that you can discover through the course of the game. Like a RPG layer that happens between the space battles, with the possibility for the player to decide how much to indulge in it. The objective is about creating a squad of 4 other NPCs, so you have to select between those 14. The higher number will provide the game some interesting replayability. When a NPC is hired not only it will fight along with you (squad-based combat) but you’ll also have control over their “character development”, select their ships and load out, improve their piloting skills, add tactics commands and so on. Some traits and tendencies will be fixed to that specific character though (for differentiation and gameplay variations, like picking different NPCs in your party in Baldur’s Gate).
– The player will fight in a small, insanely fast ship. There will be five classes of ships with three ship types each to open different strategic possibilities. Hitpoints, shields, types of wepons that can be used and so on (both ships and weapons need to be slowly unblocked along the course of the game). The game will have a RPG side where you have to develop certain skills. These skills aren’t the same of NPC skills, but they are used so to unblock the use of specific weapons and systems. Your 5-man squad fights alongside with you, they have an higher number of skills to manage since they are AI-driven, so with the possibility to have skills that deal with fire precision, for example (and yes, Comet Ramming should be a skill).
– Einhander Too Cool idea to not be taken. Each ship you fly will have a turret, or better, a mechanical “arm”. The mechanical arm is used to get “loot” from the enemy ships you blow up. The arm moves by itself so you only need to just pass close to the loot you want to grab and the arm will take it for you. So instead of developing new weapons you can steal them directly from your enemies and then research on the mothership to “enhance” them. The loot is about weapons, ammo and energy “potions”.
– Some of the loot you steal from enemy ships cannot be used right away, you may need to research and develop the skills for that type. Once you have met the requirements you can then steal and use the loot “on-the-fly”, literally. The arm can use only one weapon at once. It can drop the current weapon to grab another, but it doesn’t use an inventory where you can store and pick the weapons you want. If you need another weapon type you’ll have to identify and blow up an enemy ship that carries it (realistic loot! as Titan Quest). So you’ll have to make your choices.
– During combat the goal is to provide to the player an OVERFLOW of possible targets and a pure laser tempest to dodge. Impression of velocity, speed. Massive stations and motherships to be used as reference to not make feel speed relative (it happens when you don’t have references in open space). The slower movement of the enemy ships will also help to “feel” that speed.
– Powerful collision system. This is a key feature of the game. Ramming should be one of the best attack patterns available. *CLANG!* Strong metallic impact sound, with different sound types for every different ship you impact with. The sound is supposed to be “visceral” and give a particularly satisfying feel to the ramming attacks. It must feel violent. After the impact with a much bigger ship your own could get slung in space, spinning like crazy, strong perception of impact, loud sound, screen shaking. With even the possibility to get stuck into the bigger ship and needing a few seconds to manage to refloat (think about aiming for a space station, going full speed against it, powering the afterburners and then impact, making a small hole into it and having to use reverse engines to get unstuck from its structure while a swarm of fighters is shooting at you).
– Afterburners. Slow recharge time (50 seconds or so, due to the already crazy default speed of the player’s ship). When activated they multiply the speed to an insane level. The afterburner lasts only 5-10 seconds or so (or even less if the player releases the key). When activated the sound should be like an “hiss”, with the ship wailing and shaking. With the afterburners active the player cannot move the ship and just fly in a straight line. Mostly used as the Ultimate Ramming Device, or to move quickly away from a too hot fight. To enhance the “feel” the afterburners should trigger a graphic effect with the ship “getting on fire” (suspension of disbelief! Now!) and leaving a glowing trail in space visible from a long distance. This is Comet ramming!
– “Carom” types of collision. Think about ramming an enemy fighter at full speed and send it flinging against another enemy ship to destroy it as well, or flying right through an enemy squadron to blow up an entire row and create an hole into it. Pure destructive power. The player may completely lose control of his ship after an impact with a bigger ship (see the description two points above) but the gameplay and “main feature” of the game requires that his ship is nearly immune to collision damage, while enemy ships are highly vulnerable to it.
– Complex damage models. For example smaller ships could start to become incontrollable, or shake, lose precision as they shoot, collide with other ships and so on. The motherships and stations should be covered by destructible parts (turrets, junctions, systems and so on). The fun is about blowing things up. Lots of things.
– Fast-access turret/arm fire. The mechanical arm with the “dynamic loot” can be used in manual mode. Mouse button 2 works like a fast switch. Click the button once and you go instantly to the “turret view”, click again and you go back to cockpit view. Once you are in arm-mode you have mouselook on the turret. Press mouse button 1 and you fire/use the turret. The turret moves as fast as your mouse do, with just a *slight* lag (shown through the viewfinder). Otherwise the arm fires in auto mode with whatever it has available.
– The “arm” can carry weapons but also other types of items. For example you could replace the turret with a directional shield. The mechanics are the same so you can click mouse button 2 and quickly direct the shield exactly in the position you want. For example moving it to cover your back while you have enemies on your tail. If you manually control the shield it will stay in the position you set, so it won’t go back to auto mode.
– 1st mouse button when not in “turret view” will fire the front mounted weapon (that cannot be moved).
– Alternate fire (lock-on seek missles, straight missles etc..) available through keys or 3rd, 4rth mouse buttons.
– DRILL MODE. Since the two buttons of the mouse are taken (left for front weapon, right for the turret/arm toggle) the “barrel roll” will be available through a key toggle. As you press it the ship will start to spin already at a good speed, then it will continue to progressively accelerate the spinning speed till you press the key again to deactivate it. As it is deactivated the ship will come to an abrupt stop, with a slight adjustment oscillation. This mode makes a “combo” with the Comet mode. When both are active (first you start spinning like a drill, then use the afterburners) the ramming damage is hugely increased. Instead of doing damage on collision, the “drill mode” PUNCHES HOLES through everything. This means that your ship won’t be bounced wildly on a impact like in a standard Comet mode, but it will go straight through whatever it finds, only losing acceleration depending on the density of the stuff it impacts with. Obviously this also makes aiming quite hard when you start spinning wildly.
– Sounds. I don’t care about realism but I want the player to feel inside a small and super fast ship. It must feel dangerous and visceral. The sounds can help a lot to give that impression. For example by making the ship *wail* when performing sharp turns, it must scream, make you feel the vibrations as if it would come apart any moment, feel sounds from laser beams passing so close to the ship, explosions all around and shaking the ship, etc..
– Constant radio chatter for immersion and mood. Coming from mothership (announcing events, like the arrive of new enemy swarms or change of objectives during a mission, scan mission stages) and, mostly, from your group, with each member describing what they are doing (converting AI actions into speech) and outcomes (“enemy squadron 1 destroyed”, “shield down”, “need assistance” and so on).
– 3D cockpit that moves slightly on the screen with the movement of your ship, vibrates on fast speed.
– Fancy graphic effects. If the technology is able to support it: motion blur. (again the focus of the game is the visceral perception of speed and impact through collisions).
– Title of the game: “Comet”. Simple, short, appropriate (again about “comet ramming” as a the Coolest™ feature). Epic enough, “celestial”. You could add an “h” at the end for “flavor” (or for other undisclosed reasons).
The concept of “Comet” comes from the idea that accelerating and ramming things can offer spectacular gameplay and an unique type of visceral fun. Add to the mix the possibility to steal weapons from enemy ships (as a wink to Diablo), swarms of enemies to fight at once, and the squad-based combat with some interesting character development… and you can see what was my goal.