Saturday, January 14, 2017

Game Idea: The Ship

This game changes the focus of most shooter games in that it adds tedium (or detail rather) in some areas, but takes it away in others. Players can automate new things in game, but players have to explore ways of creating tools and weapons themselves.

Players can devise of passive effects, or damaging effects by devising of button sequences that select combinations, timing, focus, and intensities of 4 primary ship capabilities. These capabilities, and variances on the capabilities, form a set of variances that result in effects on the ship and surrounding environment.

After players discover and design commands they prefer, they can save those ship commands as button combos. Then, at a moment's notice, players can initiate those button combinations, allow the ship to prepare the effect, and then engage the commands to effect the world around the ship. Standard goals involve getting more ship energy, traveling, and attacking and defending.

So the game consists of a lot of exploration of the ship's capabilities on one hand, but then in moments of action, the player can initiate those long-devised commands at a moment's notice. The effect is that the player has a personal connection to the ship itself, and the feeling that he/she has a skilled relationship with the ship, like Han Solo to the Millennium Falcon for instance.

The action in the game becomes a test of button sequence vocabulary, timing, and creative re-combinations. Action skill revolves around button sequences that have grammar rules. When you learn and obey the rules over time, you can do more with your ship. (Designing the game well means designing this grammar so that effects might be derived via under-riding principles of this button language. See here.)

The ship has a low-energy standard propulsion system that affords it standard movement, but if the ship's 4 primary capabilities are harnessed correctly, then alternative propulsion methods can be used to send the ship at hurtling speeds, or to set preset motions of the ship, to perform ballistic attacks, or defensive maneuvers upon engaging a command.

VR Version

A VR implementation of this game would be a totally different experience. See here.

Game Pretense

 Somehow, you are piloting an alien ship similar in appearance to the ship in the flight of the navigator.

It is mysteriously seemless orb, but might be more yellow or golden. It might or might not have a visible wind screen or something, but the key is that it is a mysterious and strange technology. This makes no attempts at science fiction or realism.

The crazy power of the ship is that it can emit 4 different things all around it. They explode from the ship in all directions at first. You can learn how to direct and recombine these 4 things in order to form weapons and effects on your environment.
  1. light / energy
  2. matter beads/particles, similar to lead or steal beads
  3. plasma / liquid / gas
  4. biomass particles

Game Intro

By the end of the introduction, you have made your way into the ship one way or another.

You fumble around and learn buttons through trial and error.
  1. The first thing you learn is how to lock yourself into the ship's chair, which grapples around you.
  2. second thing you learn is the button to push in order to ready the materials to be emitted.
  3. third thing you learn is each material's button.
  4. 4th thing you learn is how to then emit a selected material.  A basic set of rewards and punishments occur for emitting the materials in different circumstances.
    • all the materials emit in all directions, with no focus or form
    • they emit as general plumes or sprays

Initial Gameplay

Initially, the player can initiate basic sequence of one action, basically engaging an emission of one thing at a time, perhaps say light. The light emits all around the ship to glow, so that the player can see his/her way around or out of something.

Slowly, the player learns how to initiate more complex sequences that combine materials, stagger emissions of materials, focus materials into areas, or into targeted rays, automate emissions to serve as a propulsion system, and even generate materials that form into walls or shields that blockade for a given time, or given a certain level of damage.

Even at the beginning, it's apparent that the ship if amazing and powerful. The ship can do special things that make it fun to play right off the bat.

Eventual Game Skills

The game is an engine by which the materials can be combined and directed using button combinations. Effect the world around you with the materials. Use emination for:

  • weapons
    • energy
    • solid bullets
    • liquid short-circuiting
    • laser
    • combos
      • plasma guns
      • energized bullets
      • exploding projectiles
      • biological weapons
        • infested terran
        • other zerg-type things
  • shields
  • structures
  • tools
    • door rams
  • parts
  • farming
  • distraction effects
  • power solutions
  • animal design and creation
  • plant design and creation
  • part design and creation for robots and machines
Uses and creations might not have presets (such as in Minecraft). The idea of this game is to have open-ended problems and solutions. The game is an advanced Universe with laws that allow things to happen in no preset way.

The game starts out with simple, direct problems that have obvious solutions. Then it increasingly opens up when the player proves he/she has grasp of basic button grammar.

Button 'Grammar'

The intense part of designing this game is building an entire button language. The challenge is to create something that is complex enough to create open-ended possibilities, but to still be simple enough to learn gradually and naturally as the player is having fun.

Just as a sentence has grammar, this game is about ordering things in stages that form different portions of a command.

A command must be initiated and engaged. There are conventions to commands, but there are also manipulations of those conventions that produce altered results.

  • Y - energy
  • B - solid matter
  • X - liquid / gas matter
  • A - biomass
  • 3
    • initiate button sequence
    • engage button sequence
  • 9 - focus
    • out all the way - emitted around the entire ship at once
    • in all the way - emitted to a specific point
  • 6 - intensity
    • volume
    • strength
    • level
  • 1 - set point of target
  • 10 - next statement
  • 5 - previous statement
    • up / down
      • next / previous word option
    • left / right
      • next / previous word selection
These settings are of course just a brainstorm of options that might be available. The player would initiate a command sequence to then be engaged. The game process would go something like the following:
  1. Player presses initiate button
  2. Player enters sequence
  3. Player waits for ship to perform preparations and reach compliance
  4. Player presses engage button
  5. Ship engages command sequence immediately (or droops down in power failure or self destruction or overheating)
A virtual reality version of this game would have the player actually turning dials and pulling knobs and things on a spaceship dashboard.

In-Game Automation

At some point in the game, macros can be implemented to automate tedious and repetitive tasks. Usually this would not be possible until the player has truly mastered the skills they are automating.

Things can be automated to a certain degree, but never so much that they only require only one button push. The game software only allows so much automation, so that the player difficultly is still engaging and involving as the game progresses. Perhaps this would be done by automating categories of portions of an initiated sequence.

Still, automation can be a key factor in advancing in the game.

Automate action options per type of target

One thing missing from shooter games is an option to automate types of actions per targets. Players can often switch through weapons to personalize an action towards a target, but that is not the same thing as automating this such that the player is presented with limited multiple options.

The player wants to feel like he/she is switching things up and having fun, but that fun is lost when there are SO MANY OPTIONS that choosing the right weapon is a ridiculous time-consuming process. Perhaps the user has the ability to designate a class of targets, and to instruct the system on the ship on how to define and classify the targets. Then the game allows you to have a specific set of options of actions for what to do when the ship encounters that class of target. So the player does not automate things to become boring. The player automates a narrowed set of options in a given scenario, making the game both faster paced AND maintaining a sense of real-time playful decision-making.

For instance every time I confront a class B ship, I don't want to be confronted with 100 options of what to do. However, I don't want to always do the same thing over and over again every time I see class B ships. What I want is for every time I encounter a class B ship, I want to have 3 or 4 options to cycle through, that I created myself. One of those might be more passive, one of those might be more aggressive. It is partially a matter of provisioning options for whatever weapon I might be in the mood for in the moment.

Game Comparisons

  • Guitar Hero
    • good example of a game that heavily revolves around button skills
    • similarly game orientation should encourage a rhythm to button combos
  • Minecraft
    • good example of open-ended game, though this game is not open-ended in what you can build.
  • MechWarrior
    • good example of a control-intensive weapons simulation game.
    • during battle action, the weapons are not always able to be fired quickly. Similarly, this game would demand more complex button sequences for more advanced weapons. Thus there might be stressful moments where weapons take more time to warm up or be able to be fired.
  • Final Fantasy
    •  typing in button sequences in combinations could feel like selecting a correct attack if done in correct order
  • Bejeweled
    • entering button sequences might be similar to bejeweled itself, where there are exciting sounds and visual previews entering in combos.

Gaming Possibilities

  • There could be the possibility of freezing time to engage longer button sequences
  • There could be action options of halting gameplay with a temporary shield in order to enter longer button attack sequences 
    • thus producing an effect like turn-based attack games
    • might become the only method of carving out time to enter in more difficult attacks
      • this would also require entry period where user learns to enter commands in given time-frame. then time-frame is narrowed to demand other means of making more time to enter harder attacks.
    • makes shielding and time-delay crucial, rather than in most games where shielding is usually a second-tier skill
    • in this case, defensive measures would have to stave off most or all attacks for a length of time.
    • the defense methods would have to require significantly less effort to enter than the attacks in order to be worth using.
  • there could be in-game macros of longer sequences
  • there could be in-game notes, to eliminate the need to memorized longer sequences
  • alternatively, the primary skill focus of the game could be the ability to recall the button combos at any given time. 
  • Propulsion
    • there could be a slow propulsion system that draws some energy, and then the 4 primary emissions could be utilized to produce a secondary propulsion system that would allow for targeted travel at much higher speeds.
    • When the player engages a high-speed propulsion, the ship makes dramatic noises and shakes and stuff.
    • The player can set a number of preset motions in a macro, to move the ship around in a circle while shooting, or something like that. But these require energy.
    • These alternative propulsion methods all suck energy, and energy is useful for all of the emissions. Therefore using alternative propulsion can be and expensive luxury, potentially reserved for later in the game.

Gaming Appeal

Of course the fun is exactly what changes according to the features and controls that are implemented. The game has to be centered in simplicity with extensions of increasing complexity.

Commanding a Ship

Imagine all the movies like Star Wars, about initiating a combination of settings on a ship before engaging the ship to do it. Imagine the feeling of 
  1. personally devising of that combination of settings to initiate the ship to do, 
  2. setting the ship accordingly, 
    • The power source whirs with energy sounds
    • the dials click with adjustment
    • the heat rises
    • power failure warnings buzz and blam
    • dials go from green - to yellow - to red
    • and all of this is actually meaningful to statistics in the game
    • heat sync warnings flash
  3. SHWAMMM!!!!!, pressing engage, and watching the ship do something amazingly powerful, 
    • sending out a shockwave of light,
    •  beaming a super laser-heated stream of plasma liquid, 
    • dessimating surroundings with an spherical emission of solid bullets all around,
    •  lobbing a huge plasma and energy ball encased in a metal shell at someone, and watching it sploosh on a target
The important thing is that the player learned, designed, and set these initiations on his/her own. The player also set macros to automate portions of command sequences. The game simulation allows for variances in these 4 elements that the ship can emit to combine into real-time effects that produce custom results on the surroundings.

So the appeal of the game is that the player truly feels like he/she is commanding a ship, and has a relationship to the ship like Han Solo or somebody who is familiar with something special.

And indeed, the player does have a personal connection to the sequences, because the player actually designed the sequences he/she engages on the environment. During the action in the game, the player knows that when he/she is engaging that sequence, there is intensity in the visuals, and the audio, and in the personal relationship to the action.

Every action the ship performs is like this. The player encounters something he/she feels impressed to effect in the external world. The player designs a command to be engaged by the ship that might effect that thing or things. As the player is setting these settings via button commands, buttons and levers and dials are making noises and whirring and humming with energy. The player can then press the engage button and WHOOOOOSH!!! Whatever sequence or command the player had chosen then gets engaged.

Depending on the demands of any given command, there might be a warm-up or prep of materials that is required to be accomplished to convert energy into the right form, or to prepare materials to be morphed into the right form. These processes of warming up and matter conversion etc. (part of the fictional reality of the alien technology) make whirring and energy noises that are exciting and await the release of all the processes into the external world. . . . So there's a audio and visual expectation of action that will occur when the engage button is pressed.

These actions can be automated a certain degree, but never so much that they only require only one button push. The game software only allows so much automation, so that the player difficultly is still engaging and involving as the game progresses.

Still, automation can be a key factor in advancing in the game.

Mana / Energy
Designing commands and sequences is limited by the number of things you are allowed to do in one sequence. Sequences can be increased in length and complexity by increasing overall ship energy capacity and holdings. Gathering items in the surrounding world increases holdings of matter, liquid, energy, and biomass.

All of these things can be converted into energy and then into other items at an overhead cost.

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

One key to this game is that simple skills are building blocks of higher level skills in a way that other games fail to embody.
  • The player learns key button combos that feel natural and quick to the game.
  • Then the player realizes that those button combos can be combined in different orders to produce different results
  • The key is that the player never feels like old skills are lost or worthless.
  • The game is constantly training the player for the future of the game.
  • The game is fun at all stages of gameplay, without the player knowing that skills build to become alternately important in new and unexpected ways.
  • Learning an easy command is like learning a vocab word in a larger language of commands. Elegance and creativity can be conveniently and quickly implemented to produce impressive, dramatic, and rewarding results.
  • There is a heavy visual element to implementation of effects.
    • dramatic bursts of energy
    • dramatic sounds of matter and expansion and other effects of emissions
    • recombinations have dramatic advantages and visual and audio alterations
    • surprising fluidity of gameplay
    • surprising possibilities of combining emitted particles

Button combos 

The most obvious criticism would be that entering buttons is boring.
The process of entering button combinations must be either be so seemless that attention span is satisfied by achieving means in a timely fashion, or it must be fun unto itself, almost a sub-game or alternate game in lough of the larger purpose of the game. For instance, there could be an entire section of the screen with flashy effects if achieving button combos, with instant preview of effects.

Guitar Hero

One possibility is that the game is incredibly directed instead of being open ended. The ship is flying down a narrow corridor, and button combos produce effects in conjunction with items that are flying by on the ground in particular sequences. This would have a gaming appeal more like guitar hero, where the player is syncing actions with things passing by - or slows down to interact with items that are going by. This would include picking things up - blowing things up - gathering energy from things - pausing to attack things - hit-and-run and drive-by scenarios - and sequential roping or sequential tagging of items in order to produce results relying on a series of successes.


Somehow these button sequences have to result in a larger frame of action, like a turn-based game produces flashy action. There has to be a rhythm to the action, that doesn't go dry while the player is distracted doing something else. If the player is doing something boring, that boring thing must be really beautiful or rewarding while doing it. It must be action. It must always avoid dullness like the plague.

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