When the fall comes, I’ll be starting my bachelor in game development and basic coding, and following it up with either an in-depth programming/animation education or a economic/software project leadership education and starting my own company. I like telling stories and I love the game as a medium.
The game I want to make is a story-centric one, not a gameplay-centric one in that it’s a singplayer-only game and it’s going to be non-linear in a structured fashion. I find most “non-linear” games out today, like Oblivion, to be very abstract and am a bit frustrated by the generic, generated content, so I want to make a very designed, living world.
Working title is Underground. The sub-title is Occupation.
[Warning: Longass text ahead. Apologies in advance for my English and lack of entertaining writing skills.]
The story is centred around a fed-up office worker loosely based on Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club; your typical cubicle worker who resents his life. After the loss of his wife and child in his late 20s, the person loses most of his touchstones to reality and joins the Army as a way to ground himself. We’ll call him Leonard, Leo for short - from Leonard in Memento.
The tutorial part of the game will come through a few hours’ worth of boot camp exercises and will root the player in the basic FPS fare of character control, use of cover and weapon handling. The game will be unofficially set in the 90s, because I don’t want to be handling futuristic prototype weaponry and the like.
I’ve got some ideas for the cover that’ll be developed further, based on my own amateur experiences with in-doors paintball and Home Defence wargames. Basically, if you put a guy in an urban or in-doors setting against an enemy he doesn’t know, he’s going to be using whatever he can as cover, even if it’s just a door, and I want the character to be able to both interact dynamically with the enviroment - as one would in real life - and to be able to create cover for himself in a fully destructible enviroment. An explosive charge should do more damage than just creating black burn mars on the floor; a nice, little crater, for example.
Leonard finishes his Army stint after a few years. This will mostly be told in non-interactive cutscenes, though I want to give the player a few minutes of balls-to-the-walls action, to keep him hooked and to play up the FPS part of the game.
The real story starts six or seven years after that, though.
In year x+10 (x being the year he joined the army) a neighbouring army invades and occupies the country. (It’s not the US; a fictional country probably based on Europe, mostly because I don’t really know the US and because the US doesn’t really fit the bill) It’s a flash invasion à la Red Alert and Freedom Fighters, with occupying forces being deployed very quickly over the entire country. The standing army faces several quick, ruthless defeats and the character isn’t given much of a chance to join them before they’re effectively out of play.
The occupying army puts on a benevolent face for the sake of public opinion and generally treat the population well, although details will surface during the game that the country is being used for strategic staging purposes. Much like Norway during WWII - and of course I am taking a bit of the game from that.
Leonard is upset and figures he’s got nothing to lose. The real game starts with Leonard watching the invasion in disbelief at home (think broke-down apartment, cheap TV-set, large book collection) and grabbing his Home Defence kit and getting ready to deploy to the army. His door’s kicked in by either uniformed hostile combatants or local, revolutionary insurgents who knows he has an army background. You gain control of him behind his couch with a handgun and a stock H&K G3A3. (I debated using the HK416, but it’s a more recent development and definitely not viable for HD-troops for a few years yet. Also, I want to give the player better weapons later)
Whether or not you shoot your way out or GTFO through the fire escape behind you is up to you. Considering you’ll be unarmoured and there’s three of them, the fire escape may be made the more viable route. Afterwards follows a chase/hunt part where you’ll want to either clear out the building and get back to your room to get the rest of your gear or pick down some easy targets and get their gear. When you’re geared better, you’ll be contacted or drawn to a place close by, where some of your friends are holed up. If you’re in your house to get the gear, you’ll be called up. If you’re outside, someone will come for you in the street. This is a mild form of the conditional story advancement techniques I’ll be using later in the plot.
I’ll skim the plot forwards a bit, to get to more of the core gameplay. You meet up with your friends in an apartment and there’s four of you. Two of them are already equipped; if you picked up extra weapons or if you are willing to relinquish any of your own, you can arm the other two. Considering there’s no organized resistance yet, you now have a squad of up to five men to command à la Freedom Fighter.
You can issue them basic commands - take cover, cover me, fire, retreat, on me and charge. Intuitive commands that are hotkeyed for easy access - but for the most part, their AI will take care of them. One of the features here will be that one of them will be a more-or-less permanent sidekick character or bodyguard, who another player can come in and control by just picking up another controller. I want to create the feeling that the soldiers are at once unique and personable, as well as mortal. If one of your guy gets shot up and dies, he’s dead. Not coming back. However, he can also be wounded and taken off action after a map and come back later. The scarceness of people availible will force you to be careful with your guys, and I’m hoping to back this up by creating empathy for them. It’s a hard thing to do, but I hope it can be accomplished.
After you’ve pulled a few operations - raided a few weapons caches, demolished a few outposts, picked off some soldiers or officers - you’ll be contacted by a larger, organized resistance group who’re having a gathering meeting later that night. You’re encouraged to explore the city until then. In this phase, and many times later, I hope to implement much of the same “social stealth” system as Assassin’s Creed is working on, where you can hide in the masses and blend in, as long as you’re not carrying openly.
When you get to the meeting, you’ll be able to share the intelligence you’ve gathered for bonuses, to encourage further exploration. Say you’ve found a weapons’ cache - the next day, you may be set up to raid it to provide weapons and ammunition for the resistance. Or transports, or life-saving medical supplies which means you don’t have to send your hurt to the hospital (which’ll be monitored, of course) or a lot of things.
The second thing that happens at the meeting is that you’ll be instated as a Rank X -3 (where the leader is rank x) as given recognition for your military experience and that you’ve led the small squad so far. You’ll be assigned one squad of twelve X -6s with one x-4 so you can split your squad into two for tactical purposes. X -6s is the basic unit in the force you’ll control, the untrained resistance fighters whereas x -5s are either veteran resistance fighters or fighters with military background. They have a significant health bonus, are more likely to have their own gear, shoot more accurately, are more likely to use single or burst-fire and are generally less prone to do stupid things.
On a sidetrack note here, I intend (or rather, wish) to introduce an AI element called Artificial Stupidity. You know the one, where your trooper suddenly gets an angst attack and has to have a sit-down, or talks really loudly during a stealth-operation or blows his cover by opening fire on the street.
The third thing that happens at the meeting is the real introduction of the element of “I don’t have the right fucking answer.” Basically, in real life, you’re going to have to work on guesses, assumption and doubtable intelligence. It’s the same here. And we’ll be randomizing it, so you can’t just memorize the sequences: some times they go your way, some times they don’t. I’m not saying they’re set 50/50, though, things are more likely if they’re obvious, but more on that later.
Here’s how it goes: At the end of the meeting, the group is dismissed with orders to start activating each their own cells. (Basically telling people to keep their eyes open and if they see anything, report to them) The people leave, being told to meet the day after next at the same place, same time. As they’ve left, you’re held back by the leader of the resistance who gives you access to a safe-house to bunk in. At the end of the conversation, he points out that one guy, Mike, was looking really shifty, nervous and sweaty the entire time and refused to meet his eyes. The implication is that he’s a collaborator.
You’re given two real choices;
1: Have him followed.
2: Don’t worry about it, it’s a bad time all over.
Now, if you go for option two, two things may happen. (And this is randomized) He can be clean, at which point nothing happens. Or he can be a snitch and the next meeting has it’s door kicked in by the occupying army, at which point you have to defend yourself and change your location.
If you go the safe path and have him followed, two things can happen;
1: He’s a snitch and you get advance warning that something’s going down, and you can bail house or prepare accordingly.
2: He can be clean, but notice that he’s been followed - inexpertently - and get all outraged and pissy, at which point you may lose trust in the group. Trust will be important, though I don’t know quite how, yet.
I feel this will add a good portion of immersion and realism to the game, as you know there are some choices which are made on bad intelligence and there aren’t really any “right” decisions. You just have to go by your gut feeling.
At this phase in your game, this HQ will be the place where you go to get missions, although you’re free to roam the city otherwise and any intelligence you get and any damage you do will be rewarded and appreciated back at HQ. The missions will be toned by requirement, but will basically be of the martial type with two subsets.
Subsets one is direct action against the enemy. Destroying or raiding supply dumps, ambushing convoys, raiding outposts, taking down hostile troops, sabotaging the infrastructure, etc.
The second subset is the more interesting one. Public opinion and trust in the local populace will aid you in many small and big ways. You can gain new safehouses, hide in people’s shops, be aided financially, use social stealth and be offered help and intelligence by civilians and so forth, if your public opinion is high. These missions will go to raise these; they’ll include saving journalists to write propaganda pieces for you, set up illegal printing presses, shake down informants for information, infiltrate enemy bases, defamation, setting up illegal radio stations and providing security for closed public rally meetings.
All of these will require a considerable effort - for example, if you’re safeguarding a meeting you’ll have to post civilian and armed watchposts for early alert, provide backup and guard the escape route. Your public opinion will also affect the odds of someone snitching on you, so don’t underestimate their worth.
Having a high public opinion also increases the pool you can draw resistance fighters from, as well. Of course, things like unnecessary civilian casualties and collateral damage will decrease public opinion.
The last facet of the game I’ll go into today is the relative non-linearity of fixed storyline events. For instance, at a certain phase of the game you’ll get bumped up to a X -2 rank because of the previous owner vacating the post in one of the following manners;
1: He gets shot in an encounter.
2: (If you keep him safe in 1) He gets shot on the way home from the encounter, in an ambush.
3: (If you keep him safe in 1&2) He dies during a raid on the HQ.
4: (If you keep him safe in 1-3) He abdicates his post to secure his family during a phase with heavy resistance crackdown.
5: (If he’s alive at point Y after 1-4, OR if his family is killed as collateral) He abidacates his post to serve as a X -1 at another place.
I want this more non-linear approach to build up an illusion of a proper real-life dynamic and to keep the game’s pace smooth and unbroken.
The Oblivion Kingkilling is a major pet peeve of mine. [spoiler] When the Emperor dies at the beginning of the game, I was left with the feeling that this is fucking stupid. I’m standing right here in front of him, paralyzed-like, even though I’m pretty damn sure that I could’ve saved him. I could’ve flung a fireball in the assassin’s face or stunned or chilled or insulted his mother, but I’m left helpless to further the plot because of essentially lazy design that breaks immersion.
Right, that’s all from me today. If there’s any response, I’ll post further info, but I know hardly any of ya’ll have reached this point It’s cathartic to have it down in writing though, so I guess I’ve found my satisfaction with this thread already.