Have you ever played Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angles? It was a great squad based first person shooter which I owned (and still own) on the 3DO, a CD based console from the mid nineties.
The game was similar to the board game of the same name, but played out in real-time. The player controlled any single solider, from a first person perspective, and would have to pause the game to give orders to other squad members or change which space marine they controlled.
The thing was, this "pause" was actually a limited resource. Time drained away as you frantically scrambled to assign everyone an order before the genestealers started moving on your position again. I always loved this idea (and the game in general) and thought the game was ripe for a re-imagining on a new platform.
So, this was the basic idea for my new game when I first started working on the idea sometime last year. Take the core gameplay of Space Hulk, where you control all squad members by pausing the game and assigning them orders, and mix it with modern rogue-likes like Spelunky or Nuclear Throne.
Things have changed a bit since then....
The game is now more Paradroid than Space Hulk. You now play a robot that can hack other robots. I've ditched the pausing time mechanic, and controlling other squad members. This is one of the luxuries that I can now afford working for myself. I can change the ideas as I see fit without huge repercussions. I can also remain startlingly ambiguous about certain features, because I just don't need to design them yet.
Working as a lead designer on a big project at a big studio in the games industry you kinda have to know all of the answers, or at least come off like you know all the answers, without knowing any of the answers. Making interactive software is always risky and the outcome of any game's design is always unknown. Being able to predict the outcome of a mix of different real-time gameplay systems is like trying to predict when it is going to rain. It becomes very complex very quickly. This is one of the main reasons why innovation is quite scarce in big budget development: It's harder to predict.
So, with my new game I'm trying something a little different. I'm trying to be more flexible about the game design. I am going to make a bit of the game, then play it to see what it's like, and then make a bit more. Hopefully this methodology will make it easier to react to change, and to double down on the bits of the game that actually work. Whether this development model is successful or not will be documented on this website, I guess.
That's all for now, folks. I'm sure my next blog post will actually tell you about my new game...