Designing a game for EGX

In Febuary my game idea was selected for the Tranzfuser competition.  We recieved £5000 over a 10 week period, and in 1 month we get to showcase our demo at EGX 2017 alongside the 20 or so other teams selected.

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The Tranzfuser 2017 crew

I made Six Sided Slime as a project for artists, which is what the team are.  It’s a fun project with some unique visuals but ultimately it’s not winning any awards for innovation.  In Six Sided Slime you defend a centeral hub from waves of blob-like gelatinous cubes by building turrets and shooting the slime with scifi weaponary.  The whole thing has a very 50s B Movie scifi vibe.  The idea was also generated very quickly to meet the Tranzfuser application deadline.  In retrospect my biggest mistake was going for an idea that I thought would be quick to make, rather than one that could be a financial success.

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Since Febuary I’ve devoured a metric ton of game design theory in the form of books, articles, blogs, and verbal advice from experienced designers.  This has led me to develop a  brand new game design, one I think is far superior to Six Sided Slime, but I’ll come back to that in a bit.

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A sleepy mountain town. A freak meteor shower. I think we all know where this is going..

When doing my research for Six Sided a big oversight on my part was the imminent release of Fortnite, Epic’s own building/crafting tower defence.  It’s basically everything I wanted for Slime but with 5 extra years of production, and a large team of veteran devs behind it.

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Research oversight – Basically exactly what we were going for

The only way to avoid playing second, third, or even fourth fiddle to OMD, Sanctum, Fortnite, and the rest of the reigning Tower Defence champs, is to come up with a game that caters to an untapped niche within that market.  Six Sided Slime, as it stands, doesn’t do that.  The vibe is unique for sure – Golden Age scifi is a rich field of untapped inspiration for developers.  Lots of games draw from this era third hand, but very few go all in and actually replicate straight from the source.

Nevertheless, if the only thing we have going for us is our ‘unique vibe’, our potential audience are still going to see the design for what it is; a clone.

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I am a bit in love with Six Sided Slime’s weapons

So I decided to make a clean break.  Taking the lessons I learned I’ve created a design that could be a very big hit – at least in relation to other small team projects.  It also resonates with me at a much more personal level, which is ideal for motivation.

This new design incorporates many features from existing popular games whilst doing something significantly new with them.  It also has near infinite replay value, is highly suited to modding, and would create much more memorable, meaningful experiences for players.  Best of all, it takes proven popular mechanics from several very different games and melds them into a wonderfully unique subset of its genre.

Space Ship Simulator (I have a thing for SSS acronyms apparently) would take the base creation of Rimworld or Prison Architect, and combine it with the star-trek inspired adventures of FTL.  You build an entirely customised spaceship, man it with an eclectic crew, and set out to explore a rich procedural universe, filled with procedurally generated species, alien encounters, factions, planets, and, of course, other spaceships.

ship01.jpgThe aim is to replicate the feel of an episode of Star Trek, Battlestar, or even Firefly, but this time it’s you making the tough descisions; negotiating with proud alien warlords, scavenging wrecks for spare parts, or rescuing freighters of Targathian orphans.

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“As long as there is injustice, whenever a Targathian baby cries out, wherever a distress signal sounds among the stars, we’ll be there. This fine ship, this fine ship and this fine crew.”

The unique gameplay comes from the melding of ship-to-ship combat and the tile-based freedom of Prison Architect or Rimworld.  You can handle encounters however you want; destroy their shields with your mighty guns then beam across your best men to take the ship from the inside.  Launch custom-built fighters and destroy their hull so all the oxygen vents into space, or Picard your way to a peaceful resolution in a Civ-style negotiation.

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Yes “Picarding” is a verb

Of course combat isn’t the only experience to have in the game.  You have to manage your crews needs and keep your ship flying.  You can take quests to improve your standing with factions and earn rewards, or go entirely freelance and earn a name as an infamous pirate scourge.  There’s no plan to allow planetary landing beyond perhaps a few small maps, but planets will still offer resources, quests, crew, and new alien creatures to discover, eat, fight, or tame.

I’ve been working on Space Station Simulator in my sparse downtime for the past few months.  The ship building foundations are already place – you can build a basic internal structure, clad your hull with shapes (currently a hastily textured semi-circle), and save and load different ships.  Temperature and oxygen also works per tile, but is yet to be implemented into the ship structure.  The next priorities are creating customised crew and letting them navigate the ship’s structure.

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Not yet implemented, crew will be fully customizable – from species to features to uniform.

Six Sided Slime will be a fun experience at EGX.  Players will enjoy the 5 minutes or so they spend playing the demo.  I’m not expecting any “wow, holy crap, where can I buy this??” reactions though, which is ultimately what I’m gunning for in my game designs.

I’m taking a video of Space Station Simulator along to EGX to show players too.  I anticipate a much more enlivened reaction to this game, despite its early development.  If my predictions are proved right, I’ll take the idea to the wider gaming community and begin to build an early fan base.

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From small acorns

 

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