Monday, February 22, 2010

The story unfolds...

So I haven't mentioned story AT ALL so far. And that was because, up until recently, the story I had in mind really sucked. If you're gonna make a war game, you want it to be EPIC. Because wars are huge and destructive and violent and (when simulated for gameplay purposes) fun! =P

I knew I wanted this squad of marines to battling some kind of 'Alien' enemy - something that was foreign and unusual and scary. Also I wanted to go with a pretty natural setting, rather than on board spaceships or dark industrial planets. In my opinion, one of the best things about designing a landscape would be to create something that was beautiful and totally awe inspiring., the original plot I had went a little something like this:
An alien species has landed on earth in the near future. It doesn't seem to be hostile and although the creatures show signs of great intelligence, they appear to be timid and all attempts at communication so far have failed. Gradually though, the aliens are multiplying and building homes (in the form of some kind of large impenetrable hive/cocoon). They are consuming our resources and covering great portions of land from one central point outwards. Eventually a decision has to be made between the united nations as to what we are going to do. They decide to send in the military (of course) to enter the 'hive' and try to somehow either reason with the creatures or destroy them. And that would be the hook of the game, that the enemies aren't really hostile unless attacked and upon encountering them or certain areas, the player would be presented with multiple options which either resulted in you bypassing the aliens, restraining them or killing them (which wouldn't be as easy as it sounds).

Now the Japanesey angle, somehow changed my whole perspective of this story. Suddenly, I imagined the world to be quiet and serene, misty like silent hill and I saw the enemies as having stronger individual characters. Maybe we are on a planet that resembles earth yet isn't? And what if the enemies are HUGE so that you really do have take advantage of this team dynamic to bring them down.

So now...
Humans have arrived on a new planet which has an ecosystem very similar to Earths. It is widely populated by various 'animals' but there doesn't appear to be any intelligent life (picture Earth how it might be if we had never existed and nature had run rampant)... shortly after we land however, and humans have just begun to settle in, these huge "colossal" (guess the inspiration) creatures start appearing and tearing down our factories and destroying our diggers. Once again we choose to send in the military and that's where the player takes over.

One thing that really struck me about Shadow of the Colossus was the moral ambiguity of killing these creatures that are apparently doing no harm to anyone. It would be made clear in this game that although the creatures are causing a bit of a scuffle, they are yet to actually harm any person. So I thought about SotC and how you were forced to kill the 'bad guys' to complete the game but what if you didn't? As in my initial story idea, I thought it would be great if there was the possibility of simply subduing each of the creatures rather than murdering them. You are after all, part of the military and have access to top technologies. It might be interesting if it wasn't made initially obvious that this was even a possibility. Then it would really test the players morality, willingness to explore and perhaps even their ideas of this genre of game.

Like SotC, each creature would be a huge puzzle in and of itself. First you would have to figure out a way of getting close to it - perhaps you might drive to its feet and then climb it's legs, land a helicopter on it's back or even parachute down onto it from the sky. Once aboard, a member of your squad could be sent to 'analyse' it in order to determine it's strengths/weaknesses etc. and then you would be presented with a variety of suggested options to either kill it, subdue it, or simply guide it away/convince it to leave you alone. A few ideas I have included collecting plants to create a serum which could be injected into/fed to the creature to put it to sleep or make it docile (like tranquilizers?), tying it down snow-speeder style using harpoons from vehicles, or identifying weaknesses and planting explosives to systematically bring to the ground. The rifle could be upgraded to fire ammunition that can penetrate certain kinds of skin/armour or converted into a harpoon gun in order to aid in climbing the creature.

This idea has set me on the path for a very clear set of enemy concepts, which will have to convey the way each one might work as a game mechanic. Additionally, I can start basing weapon/vehicle/armour designs accordingly.

Below are a couple of unfinished sketches/ideas I've been tossing around as I've been formulating the idea.

This simply shows a couple of soldiers doing a good old bit of recon while squad transports fly overhead.
Here I was attempting to convey the scope of the enemies. (ignore the 1st person pistol bit - twas just an idea =P ) As the player(s) stand on the edge of a giant cliff in a deep jungle, a group of military fighters are attacking a huge Cat-Like creature in the distance...
For some reason, this pic kinda reminded me of Cloverfield. Maybe this guy has surfaced from a dark mountain valley and troops are 'boarding' him for surveillance.


  1. A-hey hey hey there John :D Awesome to see you back online! Quite the blogging spree you just unleashed haha, I finished reading it all, and figured there is no point dividing my comments, so consider this an overall reply to your project.

    WOW have you set yourself a doozy of a challenge with this one dude. Space marines? In the past decade space marines have become one of the most over-saturated elements in all of entertainment, in games alone you have DOZENS of titles vying for player interest. As you have said and mentioned; Halo, Haze, Killzone, BF2142, Gears, Fracture, Mass Effect, Crysis, StarCraft, AVP, Lost Planet, Timeshift, going back further.. Doom, Quake, Unreal Tournament...

    Designing something genuinely unique, that will stand out in this genre, it's something professional concept artists worldwide are struggling with! :S It's a big challenge, and although I like your designs thus far, I think you may have to go yet more abstract in order to truly break the expected conventions of this genre, currently your stuck in the same box as everyone else, creating variations on an existing archetype.

    Interesting fact for you too (not to be cruel and trip up your epiphany) but the Gears armour is actually inspired by Samurai armour also; that is where the chunky plates/pads/flaps and such came from. This said, I attempted last semester (with "Ultimate") to break convention by being purely inspired by midevil armour rather than current science fiction.. so I get your thinking on the issue.

    I love your conceptual artwork regardless, particuarly your weapons and aliens, which are extremely slick! Your art skills have not suffered during the break.

    I'm also very intrigued by your story, about an alien race which for once, isn't the invader. You could turn alot of tables with that premise, and perhaps include some twists about the true nature of the alien species... make them genuinely benevolent, the callous human forces plundering their ecosystem treating them like beasts when they are actually an intelligent race. Or something :P Watch yourself with the team V giant creature though, Lost Planet 2's demo implies it will be doing something very similar.

    Much luck man! Looking back.. this might have been a bit of a negative post :( Sorry, I think I'm just cynical about space marines lol On the bright side, you can prove me wrong! :D Blow my mind, John. lol.

  2. "make them genuinely benevolent, the callous human forces plundering their ecosystem treating them like beasts when they are actually an intelligent race."

    Avatar? Lol. Anyway, I like the designs so far, but I think it's much better to hide the face under the helmet than show it. Good luck, at least now you know my pain with Maya.

  3. hahaha Didn't even clock the Avatar reference I was making. I'd maybe go for more of a District 9 deal though.

  4. Hey guys!
    Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. I just have a ridiculous memory. And I blame Maya. It's hurting my brain.

    It seems like you 'get' what I want to achieve then. Although I wasn't primarily concentrating on story, it has since become a main focus through the exploration I've done in the artwork. What an interesting turn of events!?

    With Avatar being such a big deal over the past few months, it's something I quite consciously want to steer clear of although the sentence Kaile pointed out does kind of sum up the direction I'm going...

    Anyways, rather than babbling in my reply, I'll illustrate my developments in my next blog post - which I'm just about to do...

    Stay tuned!