Here are the info to check the updated prototype if you promise to come back to read the rest of the post… Bonus points for leaving comments/impressions ;-)

Where to play

http://machine22.com/smugglerv7/

Controls

If you have played the previous versions there are new options available (in green)

  • Left mouse button to move. Your ship will follow the mouse cursor.
  • Mouse wheel: zoom/unzoom
  • Z: fire turret when you are piloting your spaceship …
  • Left-mouse button: fire turret when your spaceship is piloting itself (see the gunner mission)
  • X: Hold for bullet time. The player also gets slower but not as much as everything else. There are glitches with bullet time but still feels good enough for the prototype.
  • SPACE: Hold to activate the engine’s booster
  • P: Pause/resume
  • When the game is pause: Click and drag to move the camera around. Camera gets back on your ship when you resume the game
  • C: Fire a flare. If a missile hit the flare it will be destroyed
  • V: Deploy a space mine that will shoot at your enemies (there’s no limit in this prototype so if you deploy too many of them at the same spot performance will greatly decrease because of the alpha property of the radar. I’d say for now it’s better to ignore this one).
  • B: Press once to deploy an EMP bomb. Press again to activated the EMP Bomb. Repeat to deploy another. Ship caught in the blast will be disabled for 10 seconds. You should have 3 of them in each mission.

What to do

First click on “campaign 1″. There are now 4 missions to show the possible scenarios I could come with in the final game. It’s far from being complete missions it’s just to show what are the possibilities. I’d appreciate some feedback on how fun the whole stealth concept fit well in all this.

Instructions will be displayed when you start a mission.

What to remember

It’s still just a prototype so there are bugs, things are ugly, missions are simple, etc. That’s a way for me to see what kind of game I could (well will I think here) make.

It’s still completely moddable!

Yes! The SWF file itself is just 71 KB and everything else is loaded based on text files used to define missions. Even the interface (well if you can call it an interface) is built based on the content of text files. It’s the first time I do so much efforts to avoid hardcoded stuff and it’s quite neat I must say.

First it’s way easier to add new features and missions but I feel like it might be some very interesting selling point for the final game. It won’t be a game that you complete and then have nothing to do with. My hope is that some players will want to create new content for it. Want to write a whole new storyline for the game? Well you can! Want to give a retro look to the game? Well you also can. Want to make something completely different like a cowboy game? Well you can as long as you can figure out how to use the current features available to match your setting. The only thing you can’t change yet are the controls but that’s coming.

My primary goal is still to build a stealth game taking place in space but there are already many things in there to turn this whole thing into something that might feel very different. For example “episode 1″ might be about a smuggler but “episode 2″ might very well be about a more aggressive bounty hunter, “episode 3″ could be some kind of tower defense game and so on.

A tool to tell stories

The “hack satellites” mission shows this better as I didn’t went through the trouble of adding much stuff for the other missions. My point is that I don’t want to just put the player in a meaningless world to reach level 2, 3, 4, etc. I want this to feel more like a RPG than a straight mechanic turned into a game. As for RPG elements I have yet to attack the whole “customize your ship” part that should probably be next on my list.

As you play missions you will unlock new ones and the plot will evolve. While there might be points or achievements the main motivation will be to complete missions to see “what happens next”.

I keep calling this game “the smuggler game” but in the end it will probably more like “tales from that galaxy” or something like that. The “smuggler” part is just the first episode of many (I hope).

The artist problem

It seems I must be careful when talking about that as some feel a sudden urge to tell me what to write and/or not to write on my own blog thinking that I don’t see anything around me… Just remember that me writing about some problems I have doesn’t mean that I think I’m the only one in this situation. I’m very well aware that the challenges are the same for all indies. It just happen that this is my blog so eh.. I write about the stuff I go through!

I want this project to look very good. Good as in “way better than anything I’ve done before”. Good as in “this might be Steam stuff”. Good as in “oh this is an indie game? Didn’t noticed”. Many indies are doing it all the time and this time I want to be part of this group. So here’s my plan for now:

1- Figure out everything I’ll need graphically speaking to release the game

2- Get a quote for what I need from 3-4 artists or more if possible

3- Keep working on the game just like I’d already have the final art (the fact the game can be easily modded is quite helpful here)

4- Once I have something that looks like a real game (not necessarily completed but advanced enough) look for an artist:

A- Interested to become my partner for this project

B- Or someone willing to do for free just enough art for me to be able to look for funds to complete the project (and then pay back the artist for the initial stuff maybe with a bonus)

Option 4B is probably what I’d prefer as it keeps things a bit more simple in the long run. Not that I don’t want anyone else in my garden but adding a partner would require additional stuff to figure out like how taxes would work for example and surely other stuff.

I’m hoping that by having something concrete to show it will be easier to convince someone to take any kind of decision.

If anyone reading this is an artist that might be interested in such project here’s the kind of art I’d like to go for. Something that looks like a comic book. In fact it’d be cool to have actual comic book bubbles between each missions (and yes I’ll contact these artists later for quote and/or business offer):

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

Example 6

Example 7

Why I finally decided to go on with this project

It’s one thing to throw some code together to experiment but it’s another to decide to commit to the release of a game. I took my time to take such decision (about 2 months during which I wrote a lot of notes and worked on the prototype) but now I’m finally ready to say “yes this will be a game”.

I wasn’t sure at first if there was enough potential with the whole “stealth in space” theme but as it turns out yes. I keep thinking of new plots, new gadgets (like the new EMP bomb) and fun mechanics (portals, black holes, force fields, etc.) that will help to add variety between each missions. I also have a good idea of the first story (the smuggler story) I want to tell.

Approaching the whole idea from the point of view of a story helps a lot to make this project a lot more interesting. I don’t see levels anymore I see characters. I don’t see mechanics I see twists in the story. It’s still quite a challenge as I’ve never done anything similar in the past. It was always either arcade or sandbox so trying something new is also a reason why I’ll go on with this project. I’ll learn new things, face new difficulties and that’s all very good reasons to keep me motivated.

The bottom line is that I finish what I start so I wanted to make sure that there was enough in this project for me to stick by that. Now I believe there is.

So here we go again! It’s great to set yourself new challenges to overcome :-)

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