I’ve been easing myself into a work-from-home life style this week; reacquainting myself with how to make my own morning cup of tea that sort of thing. My plan was to take a bit of a holiday before really getting stuck in to making a game again but in the end I only took a sort of half-holiday chewing my way through a couple of fiction novels (Pratchett) and spent the rest of the time planning, learning and pre-producing a new game idea.
The plan then is to make a dark fantasy, turn-based, strategic & tactical game where you control a brand new mercenary company; building them up from humble beginnings into an influential power in the land. For those familiar with video games imagine a cross between X-COM/UFO, Heroes of Might & Magic and Diablo. Its going to be a single player PC game, mostly because thats the kind of game I most like to play but also because it helps reduce the amount of things to do at first. I think when planning to do most of a game by yourself it’s as important to plan what you are not going to attempt as what you are.
The game, after X-COM and Total War, is going to consist of two layers; a strategy political & management layer and a tactical battle layer that interact with one another throughout. The strategy layer will be played out across a large dynamic, fantasy style map (think ‘here be dragons’) where you make decisions about how to build up your base camp, what contracts to take on, how to train up your mercenaries and other decisions to generally spread your influence across the map. The tactical layer will come in whenever your mercenaries have to do some fighting. Each battle will take place in a level arranged atop a hexagonal grid and viewed primarily from an isometric perspective, you’ll fire arrows, chop off heads with axes and blast doors off their hinges with spells.
Thats the rough plan anyway. I’ve also decided to tackle things in two stages – working on the more artwork intensive battle layer first and getting that into a playable state. I plan to get one ‘vertical slice’ style complete playable battle up and running with some decent artwork and all the basic battle rules in place to release as a free demo before I move on to really work on the rest of the game. Hopefully this’ll allow me to gather some feedback on the battle aspect which I can then reincorporate into the ongoing development of the rest of the game (expanding the range of battle options and art and building the strategy layer).
My general design and development approach is very iterative with a rough general plan broken down only into the next immediate set of goals. Taking inspiration from Valve & Blizzard I plan to let the proof be in the playing, revising the design continually during the development process. Of course unlike Valve & Blizzard I don’t have tremendously deep pockets so there may be some compromising with commercial realities once the game is ‘good enough’ for me to happy with someone paying money for it.
Let me know what you think and, if you’re not already, you should follow me on twitter here.
October 4th, 2009 at 14:27
Definitely a good idea to leave a bit of a gap between the old days and jumping headlong into self-employment, so you’re fully refreshed. Also agree on setting strict boundaries on what the game is _not_ going to be so you don’t end up extending the scope to something you can never finish. The other mistake I always make is not keeping it iterative – it should be playable from very early on and then broken down into shortish manageable chunks of improvement. You already know that!
Look forward to seeing some viewable in-game action, maybe even some improvement in punctuation 🙂 (missing apostrophes, semicolons and dashes mainly)