Warning: Walls of text ahead! If you don't like reading, my game is probably not going to be of interest :D
One of the things I love most about 7DFPS is the breadth of creativity and diversity that participants explore. Seeing so much variation in what people can envision and express a FPS game to be really demonstrates that even in one of the most saturated "genres", human creativity is able to bring something special.
I like to think of the event as an opportunity to approach development, design and production from angles outside of my comfort zone. With FLAT
in 2012, we explored unique movement mechanics and a reimagining of old-school sprite based FPS visuals, and in 2013, I attempted to create an atmospheric and compelling first person puzzle game with Dance
(with varying degrees of success).
Stepping outside the familiar is what defines adventure - the opportunity to explore the unknown and discover not secrets both external and internal.
This year, I had a few concepts to chose from. Early in the year, my running favourites were a first person giant monster brawler where players would leap from planet to planet, colliding mid-orbit and causing interstellar mayhem, and a first person runner/cinematic platformer hybrid involving the use of multiple cameras. Whilst both of those are ideas I'd love to come back to, something else came up in the meantime that caused me to shift focus and look towards something both more and less ambitious.
For 7DFPS 2014, I'll be working on a first person text adventure, drawing inspiration from older text and hypertext adventures like Portal
(1986) and graphic adventures such as The Secret Of Monkey Island
(1990) and Quest For Glory
(1989), as well as more modern text oriented titles like Kentucky Route Zero
(2013) and The Entertainment
There's something special and fundamentally different about environments, characters and stories that people read (rather than see). I think that people who immerse themselves in worlds that their imaginations have in-part created are more connected to them, and that's the kind of experience I'm hoping we'll be able to provide in a new an interesting way (more on that in a later post).
Joining me on this journey are Henry (my Dad, who assisted with some movement logic during Dance's development) and Anton (who scored FLAT's soundtrack), as well as peripheral contributors Lumi and Syd.
Henry will be focusing on most of the engine development. Earlier this year, he and I had spent time prototyping the kind of experience that we'd like to convey with this game using JMonkeyEngine, and he has been hard at work over the past week assembling a framework in C++ using SDL and OpenGL based on the insights we'd learned from prototyping. If all goes well, that work will be mostly finished by the time the 7DFPS week starts, putting us on-par with those who've chosen to use pre-existing engines for the jam.
Anton will be looking after the game's score. I had a blast working with him on FLAT and look forward to seeing what he is able to bring to this game in terms of atmosphere. Without visuals, music will be a key element in creating and conveying mood.
In addition to designing the core experience, I've been spending the past month or so planning out the narrative flow and puzzle structure of the game so that during the 7DFPS week, I can focus on implementation and content creation (and so that Anton has what he needs to be able to hit the ground running).
Lumi was originally hoping to contribute environmental and incidental audio effects, though unfortunately her availability is uncertain. She's still keen to help out in small ways though.
My long-time cohort Syd is also likely to lend a hand with puzzle design and be her awesome supportive self across the 7DFPS week.
Right now, my biggest uncertainties are probably technology based. Since none of the engines we looked at were a good match for what we need, and since our needs are few, but specific, we decided to roll our own engine so as to give us the greatest control and flexibility over what we're working with. Even using our prototypes as reference, there's still a bit of unknown involved, and any hurdles will end up impacting on our bottom line (with the main constraint being time, of course). Having a person dedicated to engine work definitely helps take a bit of pressure off here, and should make it easier to respond to any implementation issues that arise during development without slowing down work in other areas.
The other thing I'm unsure of is environmental audio. Without visuals, environmental effects (along with music) are going to be critical in providing a sense of space. They're also going to provide valuable orientation cues which will help counteract the inherently disorienting nature of exploring spaces without visual reference. Having a dedicated person here definitely would have eased most of my concerns, but I think we'll still be able to get through it, and there's always the option of bringing someone else onboard.
I also have no idea what we're going to call this thing :D
Whilst the player won't see any 3D environments, we're aiming to have positional audio, and will be using 3D scenes to raycast against to determine what scene elements a player is "looking" at. I'm really torn on whether to show WIP stuff of these "visual" elements that won't end up being shown in the game. On one hand, I love the idea of being open, but on the other, I'd hate to predispose or undermine the way that players will imagine the world that we're creating.
I'm leaning towards showing stuff but prefixing posts with a warning, recommending that people read them after playing the game.
At any rate, I can't wait to see what we're able to come up with across the 7DFPS week. Best of luck to my team and to everybody else out there who's planning to make something!