Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Profundis design ideas (5/1)

Work on the game has been slow this weekend (which is to be expected, since those are the days I spend 1. delivering pizzas, and 2. cursing fate), but I figured it'd be useful and perhaps interesting to discuss some of the ideas I have for the game.  These are all things I have been playing around with and may, or may not, someday implement.  Perhaps (or perhaps not) someday soon.

#1: Basic equipment

Okay this one is pretty set-in-stone, and in fact is the current feature I'm working on, hopefully to be finished before the Kickstarter project concludes.  In Profundis is intended to be a kind of game where just getting around is a large part of the challenge.  Your guy's abilities by himself are pretty much limited to jumping, crawling, swimming, pushing, and climbing -- and climbing only works if there is a cracked stone surface to scale, which are not usually common enough to rely upon.  Everything else you can do relates to your equipment in some way.

In the real game equipment will be handled from an inventory screen.  (I have persistent recurring visions of a roguelike-style inventory screen, but that would probably scare off a lot of players.)  Each item would be rated by weight, and you could take a certain amount with you on an expedition.  The various bits of kit you take with determine your abilities.  In the meantime, for testing, I'll just enable unrestricted use off all the items.  I intend to make this version of the game available as a playable alpha.

If you find that you've brought inappropriate stuff, you can go back and reload, but at a cost.  Living on an alien planet is not without its expenses.  Every expedition takes at least one day of game time, and thus a certain amount of funds.  The idea is that this cost slowly increases the more days you spend.  So, even if you seem to have inappropriate stuff with you, you still want to make what use of it that you can before you return.

The basic pieces of equipment planned are:

Pitons: These are basically simple metal spikes.  By themselves they are useless.  They are intended to be used with the Hammer or Air Gun.  Once inserted into a rock face, they can be used to climb.  Pitons remain in place after being inserted, even across many days, so as you spend more time at the site you gradually transform hostile terrain into something traversable.  This is a general theme for the game, how you reshape the cave to your purposes.  But pounding spikes into the rock can also cause cracks to form, and this is another theme: remaking terrain to suit your purposes is dangerous.  Sufficiently cracked walls can break, and expel whatever material was built up behind it into your face.  Once hammered in, these pitons are generally unsuitable to later reuse, but that's okay as pitons are one of the cheapest pieces of equipment you have.

You can also tie a rope onto a piton, either in your inventory or one that's already in the rock.  More on that below.

Hammer: One of two ways to insert pitons.  The Hammer is not consumed and doesn't wear out, making it a rarity among In Profundis equipment.  It can be used while climbing, so as long as you can get hold of the wall, you can continue pounding in new pitons on your way up or down the surface.  The problem is that you can't get around overhangs with just the hammer; pitons hammered into ceilings are not suitable for climbing.  For that you'll need to use something else.

Air Gun: Something else like this.  Powered by consumable cans of compressed air, this device can be used to shoot pitons out towards other surfaces.  I'm still figuring out how this will work; I'm thinking about a targeting system where you aim a cursor.  Firing a single piton is not very useful, but firing a piton with a rope tied to it is quite handy.  It'd be nice to use a full physics simulation for the ropes.  Nice, but no, I don't think it's going to happen; we're already consuming a lot of processor time with the cellular engine, and I don't think we'd actually get that much use out of swinging ropes, even if they would be bloody flash to see.  The way ropes are projected to work is, when the piton strikes the rock surface, the rope will unfurl downward ten units from where it hits.  If you can grab onto that rope (it's freely climbable at this point) and get to the end of it, you can tie another rope to the end, and in this way descend until you run out of rope.

Tradeoffs to the air gun: the rope weighs the piton down so the range, while not short, isn't very long.  It is long enough that, unless you have an unusually powerful light source with you, you'll have to rely on the automap to fire at the appropriate location.  And if something breaks the rope the rest of it, below that point, falls.

Air Can: These power the air gun.  There are other uses projected too, relating to the gas pressure system I've got planned, but in the meantime they'll just serve as gun "fuel."

Flashlight: Abstracted into an increased viewing range.  In the full game this will have batteries that can die.  Being without a source of light is a big problem; fortunately batteries have a good lifespan.  In the full game, if you run out of battery you can fall back on torches, but they produce less light and additionally carry other dangers.

Pickaxe: A very useful tool.  With this, you can smash tunnels into the rock, entering adjoining chambers or, in a pinch, digging a staircase back up to the surface.  But the tradeoffs are great -- you don't always have enough knowledge of what might be on the other side of that wall, the noise is considerable and prone to causing rockslides or alerting monsters, and worst of all, pickaxes are heavy and wear out over time.  Also, and importantly, it is impossible to get a good swing with a pickaxe while climbing.

That's all for now.  More ideas later!

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