Well, I'd said I would be back soon, so here is my update. First of all, meet my future wife. Not really, but we can all dream:). Anyway, this tech file might be a little erratic and not make sense at some parts, but I have been 1) busy this week 2) had food poisoning, so I've not been at my best.
So you want to be a designer? Yes. Well first of all, you have to come up with a pretty good idea these days. In the old days, it was ok, people were willing to play all the latest clones out there (mainly because they were shareware, and you got the first few levels free to try it out). But these days you have a much more sophisticated audience, with Ninja PC's that could have run the entire US space program 30 years ago, and push polygons harder than it takes to make your momma cry.
For this "series", we are going to be working on a Hypothetical game called Ghost Catcher. It's a 1st/3rd person "shooter" based on the Ghostbusters™ films, and a touch of X-Com™ thrown in. Now, I admit this game isn't the most original, but as I said, its Hypothetical, so the game is not being made, and there is no real team, so all the events portrayed are fictional (or based on past experience), so there is no point making something truly original.
Anyway, I have had this idea for a game, but before I present it to anyone, I have to draw up a brief synopsis on the game to explain the events that happen in it. Do you that you can walk into a publisher's office with the greatest game idea ever, but have nothing on paper? No, you can't. In this document, you have to present things like settings, characters, basic gameplay and the sort of engine the game will require, but keep it simple. For Ghost Catcher, it might be a little like this:
Ghost Catcher: Introduction
Within Turbine City lies an ancient Evil that will soon be disturbed, and awakened to bring terror to Earth once again. Within Turbine City itself, everywhere you look the evil has manifested itself over the 200 years of the city's existence. Turbine City has the highest murder, suicide and strangely enough, cult sacrifice deaths in the US.
The city itself is a retro-futuristic city in the year 2008. Based on the dark gothic look of New York, with tall gothic buildings, and gargoyles on nearly every main street. It also has a lot of elements of Fritz Langs Metropolis, and the old point and click game, Beneath a Steal Sky. The city is ALWAYS dark, and covered in a cloud and smog layer.
Main Game Engine
The game is split into 2 screen types. The main screen style is a 1st/3rd person engine that supports both a city like scene, and inside of buildings, and high polygon counts at that. This is the engine for the driving and team based gameplay, and also internally created cutscenes (CGI cutscenes take away too much from this style of game and also events can be unplanned). The second interface is a 2d menu interface for management. The management in this game comprises of selecting and equipping your team and base, research of new ghost types you capture and weapons to make their capture more easy. This system will be very much like the X-Com game interfaces.
In the main game engine, the interface will be minimal. When in travelling mode (i.e. in a vehicle), you will have a semi-transparent map that shows you where you are, and where you are going. You will also have fuel and damage gauges. In the game mode, you will have 4 screens along with the main screen. Each screen will flip between that characters current vision and their statistics (heath, fear, weapon energy, etc), along with the main screen for the selected character (their team screen will always have the statistics on it).
Control will be the same as Quake 3 (i.e. keyboard and mouse) for both 1st person and 3rd person modes.
In the 2d management mode, mouse will be used to control a variety of tabs, pull-down menu's and buttons that allow you to control your Ghost Catcher team. Screens in this part of the game comprise of Team management, which is where you employ new staff and assign them to Ghost Catcher teams. You will also equip them in this screen with suit types, ghost catching weapons, and other equipment like IR goggles, etc. The next screen is research. As you catch ghosts, you will find there are different forms, and that they require different methods of catching to make it easy (ghosts can be caught with other equipment, but it will be harder). You will also be researching the background plot as the game progresses. Research will not be like X-Com where you hire scientists, but you assign team members. But this means these members are unable for missions during the research.
Team Member Types
During the game, you will employ new members to the team. At the beginning, they will be scientists, but as the game progresses, and Ghost Catching becomes more public and popular, you will have other people like out-of-work Firemen, Policemen and even teachers joining you. Obviously, team members with high science skills will be better for research than say a Policeman, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, a scientists Feer and Sanity points may be higher, and required for a mission that's considered particularly "scary".
So, there you go. This is a quick and dirty overview of your game. It's not great, but you start to get an idea of what it's about. Hand this around your friends, and see what they think. Get feedback from them, and in the meantime start thinking more, and maybe reading some books like H.P Lovecraft, or Clive Barker to get background plot ideas. Things to start writing down are (obviously) background plot, character statistics, ghost types (complex crap like 'level 5 freeform vapour' and 'Spontaneous Ectoplasm Spirit'), and anything else that comes into your head. One thing I ALWAYS recommend is to have a pen and paper on you at all times. You always get the best ideas in the most inconvenient places (I had one of my greatest at a job interview!) and usually forget it by the time you get home.
In fact, between you reading this now, and the time the next tech file is up, please feel free to send in any ideas for the above game to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Holy Ectoplasm". You never know, it might make it into the final design doc.
Anyway, that's it for today kids. I don't know exactly when the next section will be up or in fact what it will be exactly, as I have some work on Silent Space to do. I expect it will be about starting to gather a team and thinking more about the design, but don't quote me on it.
Lead Designer - Silent Space
Crytek Studio's (www.crytek.com)