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Monday, February 17, 2014

Next Project: Unicorn Quest (Top-Down Shooter RPG)

Concept Art / Mock-up for Unicorn Quest
     This is the game I always wanted to make. I couldn't picture it before, but now I have something to go by. Adventures in Equica: Unicorn Quest is a game that takes the sense of adventure from Zelda and mixes it with a top-down shooter combat system that's unlike anything I've seen before. You solve puzzles, roam gigantic maps filled with secrets, and battle enemies in randomized arenas. The game uses a pop-out pixel-art style that enables me to draw sprites that look great as apposed to vector drawings that may be lackluster. The combat features complex enemy behaviors, spell combinations, and makes players utilize fast reflexes and pattern recognition. It's the kind of game I never could have managed two years ago and am eager to try now.

Find out more about this passion project beyond the page break.

     This idea spawned from the very thing that made me want to become a game developer in the first place. I stumbled across a game called Fighting is Magic on YouTube a few years back and the commentary by the developers of that fan-made My Little Pony fighting game (featured on GameSpot) made me realize that I wanted that to be my job. I want to sit around with friends developing an awesome game that tons of people will love playing. The idea of some kind of pony RPG has been floating around my head ever since.

     The original idea was a turn-based RPG but that eventually mixed with my dragon themed RPG and became a projectile focused action RPG. After that shift in design I kept building on ways to make that combat feel different than my dragon game and be more complex in its own way. That lead to the combat resembling a shooter more than any action RPG I ever heard of. So now I call it a Top-Down Shooter RPG.

     The game will be made in phases, a new and exciting style of development for me. My first priority is getting basic functions working together. Things like movement, loading other scenes, text boxes, the interface, a battle scene, combat, and a few enemy types. Once I have that I can experiment with controls and interaction until I have something that feels just right. That's when I can start adding extra things one at a time until I have every game element I think I'll need to make a vertical slice.

     Vertical slice is the next phase. Once I have basic working parts, I want to put together a polished demonstration of what the game will be like. Something to establish what the whole game would be like and get me pumped to finish the rest of the game. I'm thinking about having it start in an early part of the game, up through an entire dungeon, and end with a boss fight. I can put a video of it on YouTube and try to show it to as many people as possible.

     After the slice is working I'll just be working on the rest of the game little by little, taking feedback from people who saw the vertical slice or post comments here. I'll keep building the game until I have the entire scope charted out and the game has a beginning, middle, and end. That's when I'll organize an alpha and start having others playtest the game. I'm not sure on specifics on that yet but I do have Google Groups Testing via Google Play in mind. Over that time I'll be improving the game by adding things, subtracting things, and fixing bugs. After this step I'll just combine the improvements and run a series of beta tests to iron out all the permanent features and add tons of polish before release.

      All these steps are vague on purpose. I'm trying to avoid a schedule and strict development rules and requirements because I want to make a game naturally for once. I want to see what happens when I just try to take my time and build on a game idea day-by-day. If a release date has to be guessed I'd say Unicorn Quest will be out before Christmas, but I'm willing to delay it until I feel that it's the best game it could possibly be. Even when I am done "developing it" I'll still be touching it up for a few months while I contact as much press as possible to get it out there. I want to try my hand at marketing before a big release day.

My Messy Concept / Mock-up Supplies
      For this game I'll be posting more specific development posts and sharing new things I add in detail. I want to share my excitement with everyone who reads this blog! There's a lot of things to explain, and I'll be doing that over the next week or so, but for now you can read the gist of what Unicorn Quest is below.

~ Combat ~

    You roam sections of the overworld like you would in Zelda but when you step out of towns or other locations you enter a zoomed out overworld representing the great distance you're travelling like in Golden Sun. In either of these places you could encounter enemies, and when you touch them you enter a battle scene like you would in a turn-based RPG. The difference here is that instead of a turn-based battle scene you are in an area that you can roam freely in throughout the fight.

     Enemies have special patterns and elements that you will need to defeat. You have the ability to move in any direction (even diagonally) but can only shoot while standing still. there are 10 different spells in the game and 4 of them are elemental spells with an interesting effect. For example, if the water spell is cast on an enemy, then hit with a fireball, the enemy suffers from bonus steam-burn damage over time. If the enemy is hit with frost when wet they will freeze instantly. If hit with electricity when wet, the enemy takes critical damage and also harms any enemies making physical contact with it.

     You also have a teleportation ability. By double tapping anywhere on screen you can instantly warp to that position. It will be useful and necessary for dodging the very powerful attacks bosses will use often. Teleporting has a cooldown symbolized by the purple pixie images so it needs to be used carefully.

     The stationary firing is a control scheme I will need to experiment with and I have not designed any specific enemies yet. Everything is just an idea in my head until I start coding things in Unity.

~ Characters ~

     Unicorn Quest is an adventure where you play as Clover, apprentice of the greatest archmage to ever live, the renowned Grand Swirlstar the Bearded. Clover is a female Unicorn with immense magical ability. In this game she faces not only remarkable odds, but her own doubts as to if she is able to live up to her mentor's name. Early on her journey she teams up with a smart-mouthed pixie named Parax, the abandoned pet of Swirlstar, who guides you on your journey and let's you utilize his teleportation ability in combat.

      You'll encounter many interesting denizens on the mystical floating continent of Equica. Some good, some evil, some weird, and others mysterious. You'll need to spread your influence and bring peace to towns overrun with trouble in the absence of Swirlstar. An organization of Dark Unicorns exists to exploit opportunities opened by your mentor's disappearance and their elemental leaders are after powerful artifacts hidden in Swirlstar's Towers. You'll have to beat them to those objects to keep Equica from falling apart, or falling from the sky for that matter.

~ Progression ~

     You level up from winning battles which increases your magical strength, improves your magic capacity, and speeds up your magic regeneration. Spells level up individually as well in a manner similar to guns in the Ratchet & Clank series. If you use a spell a lot, it can level up and acquire new and improved qualities. The Decoy spell for instance leaves a doppelganger turret in your current position that shoots the basic blast spell at nearby enemies. When it upgrades it will shoot rapid-fire blast spells, then upgrade again to shoot more powerful slash spells at rapid speeds.

    I'm also thinking about other bonuses for leveling up, like letting the player choose a bonus to increase. Letting the player choose to increase the chance of money dropping after a battle in addition to an increase in magic points for example.

     Your HP works just like hearts do in Zelda. You get a new container from beating bosses and can replenish them with hearts found inside destructible objects. You start the game with 3 and each heart depletes in quarters. I'm still debating if the game should have hidden heart pieces at all, even just a few. It may feel incomplete without that feature but I can play around with that later in development.

     You collect coins/gems in the overworld and can purchase things in shops like potions and stat-boosting accessories, all conveniently stored in the saddlebags underneath Clover's cloak. A cloak that has two upgrades, each of which doubling your defense when you find them.

~ Content ~

     The game's storyline and sidequests should last for many hours but the arena mode I'm planning should give the game endless playtime. I want to have a mode that could stand as an app by itself. A place to fight an endless stream of enemies with intermissions where you dodge hazards in an effort to survive as long as possible or maybe earn as much money/experience as possible. I'm even considering giving Game services another try just to have leaderboards for such a mode.

     There will also be locations on the zoomed out map that I want to be small caves acting as mini dungeons will multiple paths, particularly hard puzzles, and great rewards. Maybe even respawning chests with small rewards scattered throughout. Something that makes getting sidetracked very tempting.

     Unicorn Quest is a game full of secrets and substance. Hidden treasure, false walls, difficult battles, an interesting story, stunning visuals, and hours of gameplay. An app that makes your phone feel like a Gameboy. A game that you can hop in and out of in small doses or engage in for hours on end.

I'll be posting details about the game over the coming weeks and also any progress I make as it happens. Stay tuned for more updates on Adventures in Equica: Unicorn Quest, this has literally only just begun.

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