Alright, this is a big one…
Bandits and Bounties is a Spaghetti Western themed Action-RPG that I’m currently working on, with Jared Cohen doing the art. It is a game inspired by movies such as A Fistful of Dollars, Sartana and Sabata where you play as a gunslinger offering his services to the highest bidder.
This is a game I’ve been wanting to make for a while, and is a combination of some ideas that have been floating around in my head for even longer. Finally decided to start making the thing a couple months back.
More info on the game after the jump…
Images from a side-scrolling run’n'gun Jared Cohen and I have been working on for the past few months:
I absolutely love watching interviews with the team at Firaxis who made the new XCOM. These guys get it. They not only get what made the original XCOM so great, but they know what makes their own game work so well, And I feel like that’s a dying art in the AAA industry. So many games are so reliant on the tropes and mechanics established by every other game in the genre, that often you get the feeling that people included certain mechanics just because that’s what you do when you’re making a shooter. So it’s crazy to see someone, and someone making a remake of all things, have a unified vision for their game and assess each mechanic based on its worth in achieving that vision.
Megaman is a brilliant game. I say this unclouded by nostalgia; I only seriously played the game a few years ago. There are a lot of incredible things to take away from the game, its level design, its enemy design… but I want to talk about the difficulty progression. Actually, calling it a difficulty progression doesn’t give it enough credit. Its an interactive narrative arc built right into the mechanics.
Megaman does something that very few games do: It has carefully constructed challenges which it then allows you to essentially bypass by using other elements of the game. Pretty much every individual challenge in the game is crafted with incredible precision around the mechanics of jumping and shooting horizontally. In order to progress, you pretty much have to “solve” the challenges like puzzles, memorizing an optimal path to jump and shoot at just the right time. When you first face a challenge, it will be extremely difficult. Eventually, the solution will become muscle memory, as you repeatedly get past it to face the next challenge in the level. Megaman, in the early stages, is a game about making you figure out how do do things the right way.
Then it gives you more tools. It gives you weapons with different patterns. You can find a gun that makes platforms. And here’s the best part: because you can play the levels in any order, (other than the boss weaknesses), they aren’t really built around having specific weapons. The carefully crafted challenges which at first seemed to have only one solution now have a multitude of ways you can get by them. You learned how to beat challenges the way the designer intended it, now you’re doing things your own way. It feels like you are now playing by your own rules, taking the situation into your own hands. What had at first been reflex puzzles now become resource management challenges, as you have to determine the best time to use your limited ammo on the special weapons. You can bypass whole challenges with the platform gun (although then you may not have enough ammo to bypass the next challenge). Thus the game creates an arc of personal growth; You begin the game simply reacting to challenges, and you progressively find ways to avoid the “intended” way to progress.
Now, for a moment, think about the lack of ego it takes to create this sort of system. To craft so many tight encounters, then let the player “mess them up” or bypass them all together with different weapons.
Another perfect example is Planescape Torment. You can bypass nearly every fight, including most boss fights, using stealth and/or dialogue options. If you have a high enough wisdom score, you can talk your way out of the final boss fight.
Hell, Super Mario Bros let you skip whole worlds of the game with the Warp Zones.
Think of how many games nowadays build these elaborate set pieces and cinematic boss battles. Can you imagine the designer who just spent countless hours creating that fight saying “okay, now let’s give the player a cool way around this”. If I were to name a primary sin of modern game design, it would be ego. So many games are an attempt to show off the coolest things they’ve made. You are led from vista to vista, from scripted fight scene to QTE laden boss battle. The player is restricted in their choices because that would get in the way of seeing this cool thing the developers made.
Keep your ego in check. Sometimes letting the player work around your cool bit of content can be a better experience than making them face it the way you intended.
Half Life 3 is probably the longest anticipated game since Duke Nukem Forever. The internets are constantly ablaze with people asking when Valve is going to get off their asses and make Half Life 3 already.
But I’m gonna be honest here…
I’m not sure I really care.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Half Life and Half Life 2. I think they’re great games. But…really… do we need another? I mean… Every big AAA release is basically Half Life now. You know, the Narrative Shooter with first-person story segments broken up by gunfights and set-pieces which combine scripted events with AI enemies. That’s basically what a AAA game is now. Halo is Half Life, Mass Effect is Half Life, Bioshock Infinite is Half Life, The Last of Us looks like Half Life, all the Call of Duties are dumber Half Lifes, Spec Ops: The Line is a Half Life that makes fun of dumber Half Lives. Everything that made the original Half Life such a revolution at the time is now pretty standard. Everything that made Half Life 2 revolutionary at the time is now cliché (and those physics puzzles are practically quaint and goofy now).
And look at what Valve has been doing instead. Revolutionizing team based multipayer dynamics in Team Fortress 2, crafting elegant co-op experiences with Left 4 Dead, fuckin’ Portal. And who can blame them? They created the template for modern shooter games. Why would they want to rehash that when everyone else is already doing it for them.
The only reason I can think of to want a Half Life 3 is to find out what the G Man is. But, you know what? Whatever it is is going to be a disappointment. He’s going to be an alien, or a time traveler, or your father, or you from an alternate dimension. Whatever it is, the mystery will have been better.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Valve never seems to release anything with a 3 in the name. We should be glad there’s a company that’s more interested in making new and interesting games rather than making fan-service sequels. I’d love to see a world where the majority of games don’t have numbers in the titles.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here waiting for any word on Beyond Good and Evil 2.
You can now Pay-What-You-Want (min. $1) for the standalone version of Flight of the Data-Thief. The standalone version contains some improvements over the web version, including saving/loading, controller support and full screen. The standalone version also comes with the soundtrack.
Emo McGothington is a new game I’ve been working on with an artist by the name of Jared Cohen. It’s a side-scrolling run ‘n’ gun. You can follow the DevLog of the game here: http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=33410.0
You can check out some mockups after the jump:
A few days ago, I released the web version of my new Rail Shooter, Flight of the Data-Thief. Click the image below to play:
I’ve just launched a kickstarter campaign to help support development of Flight of the Data-Thief: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1144112254/flight-of-the-data-thief