Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hazards, Toxic Bubbles And Sewers

These last weeks I've been pushing the demake concept a little bit further. Imagine that you're a kid in the 80s and your parents bought you a brand new cartridge for the NES: it's a Vampire: the Masquerade video game! And it has intense storytelling and platforming! How can we ask for more?
In order to achieve this degree of realism in the platformer-RPG mechanics, I've studied very closely all platformer-RPGs in the market (there're not so many games in this sub-genre so it was quicker than I expected). The overall conclusion is that Zelda 2 can be considered the father of this small sub-genre even though Castlevania refined the formula almost to perfection after a long series of installments (ending with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). However, in its original simplicity for the NES, Zelda 2 can still teach me some important lessons about platforming applied to RPGs. Since the platformer-RPG is not a crowded genre, I'll start applying these basic principles:
Let's start by the most basic type of challenge in a platformer-RPG: environmental hazards. Zelda 2 is filled with a great diversity of elements that damage Link just by contact: fireballs, bubbles, rocks. Therefore, the player has to avoid stepping into these hazards in order to avoid losing health points. Environmental hazards typically appear as a static zone or fluid that the player can't touch: lava, fire, spikes, etc. Also, some hazards are thrown to the player either vertically (such as bubbles) or horizontally (such as fireballs), forcing the player to manouver to avoid taking damage.
Here's a quick mockup of the sewer levels in Bloodhunt. These underground sewers, filled with toxic waste and strange abominations are a good narrative justification to add some interesting hazards in the form of toxic bubbles emanating from the waste, acid drops falling from the ceiling, radioactive worms attacking from the depths of the toxic water and huge spider falling from the darkness above.

After some tweaking in Unity, the mockup translated almost exactly to the game. I started working on the hazards, trying to add some basic challenge for the player. Since Unity uses a component-based approach, I just created a single hazard script to control a generic hazard, and then attached that simple code to all hazards. With a bit of lighting, particle effects and whatnot, here's how it looks so far.

Note that the sewer lights are tilting randomly. Also, in order to anticipate the zones where rocks fall from the ceiling, a bit of pixel dust falls as particles.

These are a closer shots of the toxic wast lighting effects, the falling rocks and the overall sewer level design. After all these screenshots we can say that the game is looking pretty nice (even better than the mockup). It has all hazards implemented (when the player gets hurt when she hits the toxic water, the bubbles, the falling rock or the acid drop). However, there's a lot to be done yet. Enemies (the spider, the worm), a better player control (jumping still feels ankward), items and pickups, NPCs, and so much more.


  1. So will the entire game be a 2d side-scroller, or will you use the boardgame style world map as the base, with the game switching to to the side-scroller for exploration/random encounters?
    On a different note do you have any ideas for integrating disciplines into combat?
    I was thinking that potence could give the player a Magic Sword style meter that automatically fills, when the player attacks with a full meter, their attack deals extra damage/fires a shockwave/ something else. Upgrades to potence could add more levels to the bar, for even more powerful effects. If you want to use auspex as a gun boost skill, it could be used like a ranged version of potence, or maybe a mega-man style charge shot, where auspex upgrades could add more charge levels, or raising the charge speed. Maybe those would be too cartoony for the atmosphere you're looking for.

    1. Well, that's a great question, anon.
      I think the game will benefit from having both perspectives: a 2D side-scroller for combat and dangerous areas (streets, sewers, etc) and a 2.5D JRPG perspective for exploration (interior locations, puzzles, etc). Since combat is always a lot more difficult to portray, I've focused on the 2D perspective zones but eventually I'll go back to the 2.5D and the graphic adventure stuff, don't worry.
      And about the Disciplines, I've designed some combat interactions and some adventure interactions but I haven't tried them yet. I think it's best if we could nail the basic combat and platforming mechanics before adding Disciplines to the mix. So you'll have to wait a little more to see the Disciplines in use. More to come soon :D