Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bloodhunt: a prequel to VtM Bloodlines

After VtM Renaissance, I'm starting another VtM Bloodlines spiritual sequel: Bloodhunt.

This is a strange project so let me explain myself before hand.

What is Bloodhunt:
Bloodhunt is a prequel to VtM Bloodlines. Also, it's a minial Vampire: the Masquerade game. This means that the focus of Bloodhunt is to maximize story and gameplay while minimizing graphics and technology. In other words, Bloodhunt is a 2D RPG heavily based in VtM rules.

Who is working in Bloodhunt:
Just me. Why? Because Bloodhunt is a minimal game and it's ultra fast to work by myself. Of course, I'm not saying I won't appreciate some help or collaboration down the road, but for now I'm just on my own.

How will be Bloodhunt like:
As a proof of concept, I've done in just a couple of hours a quick concept (pixel) art of Bloodhunt. The sketch portrays the game perspective and the first setting: Santa Monica apartments. The JRPG perspective is extremely simple, but works pretty well to give a sense of volume. The only problem is that all objects facing backward are less recognizable. Note that I've moved the fridge to the opposite wall to avoid this issue.

How will be Bloodhunt developed:
I've planned a series of prototypes that will show each aspect of the game in detail: from visual style to gameplay mechanics. In just a couple of hours I can lay out a pixelart concept and then easily port it to Unity.

Allow me to show you some of my first visual concepts. This is all WIP but I think the overall game vision is pretty clear and well defined. Let's start by the beginning. Here's VtM Bloodlines main menu screen.

And here's Bloodhunt main menu screen. I looks like a 2D demake of the original, and I'm quite proud of it.

Here's how you perform contextual actions in VtM Bloodlines. You stand near an object, the icon indicates one contextual action, and then you press the E key and the action is performed. It works pretty well, but I think it's a very limiting system since the player is never allowed to perform more than one action upon the same object.

Here's how Bloodlines addresses this issue. The player clicks in the object and a contextual menu is displayed. The context menu contains all possible actions. In VtM Bloodlines if there's a book you can only press E to pick it up, and then you have to open your inventory by pressing I, browse the inventory items and choose Read. That's quite a lot of button presses for such a simple action. Bloodhunt uses a simpler interface where you can examine, take or read the book just with a couple of clicks. 

Examine is a common action amongst all objects. It works pretty much like in graphic adventures. Your character examines the object so you can read more details about the object. Some items have special descriptions depending on your Intelligence or Perception (maybe you notice a hidden detail in the book).

Now let's pretend we want to directly read the book so we can gain a bit more of Security. Reading a book is, of course, an extended action that requires time and a specific number of accumulated dice roll successes to complete the whole action. In the screenshot you can see how dice rolls are explicitly portrayed in the game interface as pixelated 10-sided dice. Your character rolls her Research dice pool against a difficulty of 6. The action progress bar in the top of the screen indicates that reading the entire book requires 5 successes and you have already obtained 1 success: 4 more to go.

Extended actions, however, consume time, and time provoques severe consequences. Should you continue reading? Should you stop to get some rest? With a simple dialog choice you can choose between rolling again or quit trying. But don't worry, your accumulated successes are maintained when you abandon de extended action, since you don't necessarily forget what you've read the second after closing the book. However, when you botch a dice roll your successes are lost (maybe you've been getting it all wrong from the beginning).

After you accumulate all 5 successes, you get your +1 in the Security stat. Here's how your character sheet looks like.

Pretty much like VtM Bloodlines character sheet.

Now let's talk briefly about combat. Bloodhunt combat is turn-based but not grid-based. I need more time to prototype combat, but here's how it should work for now. First, you point and click your target. In the contextual menu you choose your prefered type of combat maneuver.

Then there's the dice roll. Your roll your feat. In the top of the screen you can see your enemy health bar. Note there's no numbers indicating the exact number of health points remaining.

Here's the complete combat HUD. Your damage is displayed as floating numbers. Health is represented by a simple blue bar. Aggravated wounds stack below your health bar for as long as they last. In the side of the screen, the blood pool is displayed pretty much like in VtM Bloodlines.

Here's how VtM Bloodlines handled health bar.

And now let's talk a bit about the inventory. Here's VtM Bloodlines inventory screen.

And here's Bloodhunt inventory. At the bottom of the screen we have 8 inventory slots, grouped in the different categories that you can use to access objects more easily. You can drag items to the upper slots to equip clothes, armor and weapons. The character face and body portraits show how the equipped items look on your character. Note that the whole inventory only covers half of the screen. The other half of the screen will be covered when shopping (I'm still working on that screen so there's no image yet).

Move the mouse to your equipped weapon to see its stats.

Move over a weapon in your inventory to see the stats, compared against your equipped weapon. The shotgun has better Damage and Range, but worse Capacity and Conceal. Note that the green and red colors in the stats indicate which is better. If you want to equip the Shotgun, just drag it in the equipped weapon slot.

Clothes and armor influence your character stats. Wearing a fancy dress? Don't expect any soaking bonus. Appearance is modified with a +1. But enjoy your -1 penalty to Dexterity.

And that's all for now. More pixel art concepts coming soon.

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