Ludum Dare: Genre Before Theme?
To avoid one of the issues I had with the LD warm-up last weekend, I want to have a discussion about different gameplay genres we may want to use for the competition. By following a fairly well understood blueprint for the basic gameplay, it will minimize the number of deadends I will be pursuing and will let me focus on best executing a game that is fun and strongly represents the story/mood elements of the mystery theme. I will try to be FAR less avant-garde than I was with LD22′s Paper Town.
As I mentioned in my last post, I think I want to have something a little more action packed this time around. There was arguably room for some twitch-factor in my LD22 entry, but not much — and clearly none in TD23′s Fish Tank Commander, the turn based strategy game. Now, this doesn’t mean pure action (like a FPS or shmup — though these are certainly options), but a fast-paced Tower Defense game that operates in very real-time (instead of waves) like Creeper World and The Space Game also fits the bill nicely (and Desktop Tower Defense is actually pretty adrenaline-inducing too, on the higher difficulties and/or when rushing for high scores).
I’m hoping that whatever genre ends up getting used, that I find a good excuse to include physics and explosions and particle effects. Also, 3D models via Blender. Unfortunately, good looking “natural” units – such as animals and people – are not really within my artistic abilities. Highly stylized/cartoonish might be possible. Alien-looking things might be an option. Robotic/inorganic may be the best choice.
2D Platformer: I think – in light of my LD23 entry and my recent Unity tutorials – I want to avoid something that looks 2D. That being said, we could still lock the camera to the side and use pure 2D gameplay, while giving the game a more distinctly 3D look.
3D Platformer: Zero additional programming complexity compared to 2D, but considerably more level design work. There’s also the possibility that we’ll come up with a bad control scheme and/or camera.
Tower Defense Game: LD22′s Paper Town was originally going to be a crafting/TD game, but took a different turn. I think that with more focus – and my now increased familiarity with Unity – I could do a much better job at this. This could be a classic top-down (or 3/4 isometric) view, or it could be done as a 1st/3rd-person game where you place turrets, like playing a TF2 engineer. You could be building something more interesting than just random turrets — maybe you can do walls and such and it becomes a castle-building game.
Third Person Adventure Game: I’m only including this entry to say that “Third Person Adventure Game” is was too broad and tells us nothing about the actual gameplay. It only tells us what the camera and movement are like.
First Person Shooter: We don’t have to be shooting bullets. Are we shooting “blobs” that stick to terrain and become things you can jump on, becoming an interesting kind of platformer more than a “shooter”? Combine some limitations about how much “goop” you have (and maybe different types of “goop”), the need to do multiple things (create platforms to stand on, block laser beams, add weight to a see-saw) and suddenly you can create a first-person-puzzle game in the same vein as Portal.
Space Ship Sim: Before people get too excited, a huge epic space trading game with dynamic economies and thousands of sentient NPC ships is out of the question. But blowing things up X-Wing style might be reasonable. Note that it might not literally be “space”. Maybe you are a white blood cell flowing through arteries and blowing up viruses. Maybe you are a dragonfly exploring a swamp, munching on mosquitoes.
“Physics/Building/Puzzle Game”: Fantastic Contraption and Cargo Bridge are examples of this. (The early versions of Minecraft other possible examples of this, except that Minecraft isn’t much of a *game* due to the weak/non-existent win/lose mechanics.) The “First Person Goop-Shooter” described above could also be another example that fits this. Obviously this isn’t as much of the “actiony” type of thing I want to create, but some themes might work better here — and it still gives us the chance to get a real sense of *physicality*, which is interesting.
If you have any ideas of specific mechanics I could use for any of the above, or if you have any other basic genre that I could consider (include examples of specific games where you can!), let me know in the comments. When the theme gets selected next week, I want to be able to look at it and say: Okay, I think we should make a tower-defense/platformer/whatever kind of game, because we can make your character a ________, the enemies be _________, and the story will be _________, and that will work well as a tower-defense/platformer/whatever.