Key Questions and Answers
This section is dedicated to answering some questions you may have of the overall design of Altered Conduct and all other content featured in this Games Project Proposal. I have addressed some key points about my design choices, some challenges that may occur in the future, and a plan for development throughout the second semester.
Why can’t Altered Conduct be a board game?
The Paper Prototype for Altered Conduct took the game’s core mechanics, namely the use of special abilities and changing the roll of the dice, and translated them to their closest board game counterparts. Players were able to complete the set level successfully and all reported that they had enjoyed themselves while playing this version of the game. However, as successful as the Paper Prototype was and as much as people enjoyed themselves under those testing circumstances, a board game version of Altered Conduct would not be as well suited for the project, because it would not convey the experience of the game as fully.
Altered Conduct is a strategy game that will enable players to manoeuvre through the environment with their fantastical abilities and solve those puzzles through the use of their creativity and wits. This strategic experience has been designed with only one player in mind, which may be problematic for a board game. Board games and Tabletop games traditionally involve playing with multiple players. They are largely about bringing friends, family, and like-minded individuals together, and oftentimes the different personas playing are equally important to the overall experience as the rules and scenarios they encounter. Additionally, even though there are a series of board games that can be played by one person such as Mage Knight, Dark Souls: The Board Game, Onirim, and Scythe, all of those have the potential for more players to join. Therefore, being an exclusively single player experience, Altered Conduct would not fair as well if it were a board game because it would be too limiting for that medium.
Why can’t Altered Conduct be a two-dimensional game?
Currently, Altered Conduct has been envisioned as a three-dimensional top-down strategy game. This decision has been made because with three dimensions there is a wider variety of level design options, which naturally means that there would be as few limitations as possible regarding the level layout. For example, should the need arise, a jumping mechanic could be implemented, the player would be able to move along the Z-Axis, or the player could cast some of their abilities mid-air. Although no finished levels have been created just yet, thinking about the project in three dimensions opens up as many possibilities as possible about the levels and their strategic value.
However, it should be noted that I have not disregarded the option of making Altered Conduct a two-dimensional top-down game. According to my estimation, the project could work in that format as well, however, I cannot say with certainty whether it would be as successful. Two-dimensional top-down games tend to restrict artistic choices because the perspective of the camera can never change. In contrast, a three-dimensional bird’s eye view camera can be locked in at different perspectives depending on the needs of the level. What’s more is that most commonly, two-dimensional top-down games that feature any sort of special powers or abilities have rapid gameplay with elements of exploration. Examples include The Binding of Isaac, Hotline Miami, Hyper Light Drifter, and the Legend of Zelda franchise. Strategic two-dimensional top-down games tend to focus on resource management such as Prison Architect. Altered Conduct does not fit into either of these categories because it involves carefully planning how each ability will be used in order to solve the environmental puzzle without being hasty or managing any resources. On one side, this analysis of popular 2D top-down games indicates a hole in the market, however, on the other it potentially shows that the medium may be too restricting in terms of perspective and possible movement for what I am trying to achieve.
Ultimately, the decision of whether Altered Conduct will remain in 3D or change to 2D will be determined through user testing and feedback, which will take place in the beginning of the second semester. Once a level has been designed and presented to players in both versions, I will be able to make the most educated decision on what is the way forward.
Why is Altered Conduct a strategy and puzzle solving game?
The entirety of the game is driven by Zeta, by her actions, her inventions, her decisions, the consequences of those decisions, and her reactions to the situations she finds herself in. There is no one else in this universe like Zeta, no one with her personality, her set of skills, and her achievements. She is the vehicle by which all of these events take place and is essential to what is happening in the game universe. Zeta has not been trained as a fighter, she does not know how to use weaponry, and is not particularly strong physically. However, Zeta is extremely intelligent and is a seasoned problem-solver. It is precisely because of her nature that the game can only work as a strategy and puzzle-solving experience with the use of these fantastic abilities. It could not be a shooter, because that’s not what this character is about, and it could not be an Open World Experience such as the Infamous franchise, because Zeta always has a plan and calculates her moves as well in advance as she can. Therefore, if the game were in any other format, it would not be true to its character and to its universe.
What type of play style is best suited for the game? Does it promote one play style over another?
Altered Conduct is best played in a stealthy manner, with players doing their best to avoid direct confrontation. Players are to use their set of special abilities in order to solve environmental puzzles and to manoeuvre through their surroundings. There will be a series of enemies that will be looking for the player throughout the game, trying to capture Zeta, however, it is best that they are avoided. Altered Conduct is a strategic experience rather than an aggressive and action-packed one. Therefore, there is no health bar in the game, so if the player has put themselves in a situation where they are forced to take a direct hit from the enemy, then they will have to restart the level. In the game universe, if Zeta is spotted and cannot disable all enemies that have detected her, then she will be captured, as she is not physically trained to fight without her abilities. However, it should be noted that although the most strategic way to play Altered Conduct involves a stealthy approach, that does not mean that the game will punish the player for simply using their more aggressive abilities. There is no moral choice system in Altered Conduct, which means that if hypothetically a player was able to get through a level solely through the use of their most aggressive ability, there would be no consequence in the game universe. Therefore, although a stealthy approach is promoted for Altered Conduct, if players creatively figure out a solution to a level that happens to use only Flux Energy, then that would be perfectly acceptable.
Will it be ensured that player will be able to solve each level regardless of what the dice rolls?
Yes, players will be able to solve each level with any type of combinations that they roll their set of dice. The total number of possible combinations in Altered Conduct is 27, as there are a total of three abilities with three different slots or dice each ability could fall into. However, the key mechanic to remember here is that players will always have the option to change at least one of the randomly rolled abilities, which means that they can make an educated selection based on how they think they might solve the level. This reduces the number of possible combinations they might roll significantly, down to nine unique options. Not only that, but the mechanic also means that as a level designer, I would have the liberty of requiring a maximum of one ability for the solution of a level. For example, there may be a point in the game where at least one teleportation is necessary, and players would simply need to change one of their die to the appropriate power to succeed. However, during the level design process I will attempt to account for all nine possible random combinations that players will not have control over. Through rigorous user testing during the second semester it will be ensured that all levels can be solved reasonably by players, regardless of how they roll the dice.
Is there an overarching message to Altered Conduct and if so how is that going to be communicated through the gameplay?
In simple terms, the overarching message of Altered Conduct is that no matter what hand life gives you, there is always a way to take advantage of your circumstances and to find a way to succeed. Zeta will continuously solve complicated levels and evade her enemies all with a random selection of special powers. No matter how the dice rolls, she will be able to find her way through and outsmart everyone that underestimates her. What’s more is that Altered Conduct shows that each individual can be the master of their own fate. Initially, Zeta will only be able to control how one of her three dice rolls, however, as the game progresses, she will develop her Telekinetic capabilities and this control two dice, and eventually all three. This progression shows that chance can be controlled, that one doesn’t have to be subjected to random events, and that fate can be controlled through one’s force of will.
In terms of gameplay, players will be able to slowly realise that no matter how they roll the dice, there is always some way to solve the level. Each level will be designed with that idea in mind, and I will be more than vigilant in ensuring there are a series of possible solution based on the various rolls. Therefore, although each time they roll the dice players will receive a random set of abilities, through their intellect they will be able to take advantage of the situation and take on the challenge. This multitude of solutions and ways to succeed will hopefully show players that no matter what happens there is always a way out. However, all of this will have to be established in a much more concrete manner after the series of user testing sessions has been conducted in the second semester.
What is the development timetable for this project?
To the best of my ability with the current knowledge and understanding I have of this project, I have crafted a timetable which I will strive to follow diligently throughout the second semester. It should be noted that a series of the processes and tasks will be done simultaneously. For example, once a level has been designed as described by the second task from the table below, I will also strive to make a prototype of that level in Unity, which could then be user tested and would involve coding. Similarly, when one 3D model has been completed, it’s corresponding texture will also be completed straight after. This modular process will allow me to be more flexible and potentially change some of the deadlines or revise the schedule as I go along. This timetable is by no means a binding contract and is likely to change, however, it does represent my current plan of attack for the project.
Is this project feasible in the given time frame and can it be accomplished by a team of one?
Altered Conduct is an incredibly ambitious project that will likely be a monumental design and development challenge. It will demand that I work harder and smarter than I have so far and it will require that I learn a series of new skills in a limited time. However, I am more than willing to put in all of my efforts into this game, to push myself beyond any limits to achieve my goals. During Year 2, Semester 2, I successfully taught myself how to texture in less than a week, while this year I have tackled modeling in Blender head on. I still have a lot to learn, however, I am more driven and motivated than I have ever been. Additionally, a series of stylistic choices, such as making the game quite low poly and using little detail in the modelling, will aid me in completing assets as quickly as possible. It is unrealistic to expect the entirety of the game to be completed, however, I firmly believe that I can deliver on about twenty minutes of solid gameplay that will show players what is at the heart of this game. I am incredibly passionate about this project, I am confident I can deliver its core by the end of the second semester, and I will do everything in my power to bring this vision to completion.