Monday, June 6, 2016

Hammer devlog 25

Let's talk about what happens when you hit that New Game option anyway, though.

Here are my immediate goals with the opening sequence:

- establish player's understanding of mechanical fundamentals well enough that I don't need to lean on further tutorials, and can trust they have the baseline competence necessary to navigate the world and respond to challenges
- establish tone - surreal, otherworldly, dreamlike, but unmistakably hostile; an initial "crossing over" that establishes that whoever your character was before is unimportant, that what happens from here is what matters, and allows the player to inhabit that avatar without really feeling burdened by preconceptions about what that character is supposed to be
-provide initial goal of game progression: kill three bosses at extremes of the world, take their monolith fragments, bring those to the stone circle; establish that this is probably a bad idea and rely on player curiosity and the drive to make progress to see that happen anyway

I don't exactly have a fully-formed narrative here, but I have some scattered ideas, and this is what the opening needs to do for those.

Mechanically, I want to start the player off without a single weapon. Mobility is paramount and that needs to be the first skill you learn. Once you've got dodging down, you acquire the starting pistol, and you can start to fight back against things and learn those mechanics.

Navigation is also an important skill to teach here. The world is sprawling and interconnected, and not every path is visible right away. So this intro area needs to be complex enough that it requires you to put some genuine thought into getting around and moving toward your goal.

So here's the basic script: player starts in a safe room, given the narrative suggestion that they're fleeing... something. Not just "something"- something that you've earned? A miserable fate that you've got coming, but somehow you've wound up here instead. Details aren't really important right now, just tone. This is a room with a gate, and when you cross the gate you wind up... somewhere else. For now, let's call this area the Oubliette. Basic concept - it's a purpose-build tutorial level that mixes the three main regions' tilesets, switching it up from room to room and giving you a sampling of the kind of places that exist in the game world. A surreal, disconnected, nonsense space; something that makes it clear that, whatever happens, you can't go back - this place physically should not exist, and even if you can cross over one way there's no reason to think that something so capricious can be treated like a "normal" space, that it's the same thing whether you're coming or going.

You enter the Oubliette, you're immediately beset by enemies. You're unarmed and things are still pretty linear right now; you wind up just making a mad dash "forward," naturally learning to use the dodge roll because it's the only thing you have to keep yourself alive. This teaches you - the timing, the spacing, the i-frames, and since you will take hits, it also encourages you to learn to work with the dodge regen and use that to stay alive. You cross the length of the Oubliette and wind up reaching another safe room, which contains a checkpoint thingy (because you should die when you first start trying to handle combat, and this teaches you that death isn't that big a deal) and the starter pistol.

With the starter pistol, you can leave this room and start fighting the things that you were fleeing - very basic, easy foes. After making your way a few rooms back, there's a cave blocked by a destructible barrier, and the pistol enables you to enter that; this cave is a fairly short area, but it lets you make your way onto the upper level of the room you entered the cave from, and from there you can explore "backstage" areas of the other Oubliette chambers until you make your way to an unfamiliar room. The foes here should be a bit more complex, but still very manageable; the goal should be that you impress yourself by not dying in this fight. It does, however, instill in you an appreciation for the advantages offered by proper control of space and target prioritization, and it makes it clear that the best possible move if you're in a tight spot is "kill literally anything."

After this slightly steeper challenge, there's a very simple puzzle. This space feels a bit more "definite" from here on out; you enter a room with a valley that's spanned by a clockwork bridge which is currently unusable, and you have to turn interconnecting gearwheels to try and get each of the separate platforms that constitute the thing to be in the down position at the same time. From here, you go through a largeish room without any real enemies or puzzle elements or anything - just an atmospheric space that's supposed to get you relaxed, get your guard down; the intro's gone on long enough now that you're probably feeling like it's gotta be about over, and you did a harder fight and then opened a "door" back there, and this area feels different from the earlier ones, so there's probably, like, a cutscene or some shit?

End of this room, cross into the next: you're shut in a tight space with an endgame enemy. It wrecks your shit. You come to, washed ashore on the beach in the starting village; a set of cutscenes follows that gives you your first energy-consuming weapon and your first Taboo, then sets you loose on the world.

Mostly unrelated: Thinking it over, I'm gonna kill the minimap. I'm glad it's a horrible broken piece of shit, because that's prompted me to ask why I have a minimap. But in truth I really don't need it, and I think I can produce a stronger game without it. Navigating the world is a skill the player needs to develop, and for my part as the [LITERALLY EVERYTHING] I need to design a world that's navigable; that's, if complex, comprised of distinct, memorable spaces that intersect in ways that make intuitive sense - no identikit corridors; every room is distinct. The minimap would only serve as a crutch to let me get away with inferior world design, then; it's going.