Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stage One: Goldeneye

Well, hello blog! Yikes, it's been over a month. I hate when that happens.

Anyway, Jonathan Walton -- Master Chef of Game Chef for the past few years -- has a game design contest going right now that's captured my attention and imagination. The challenge: Make an "analog" version of the first stage or level of a video game. The whole thing has to fit on one sheet of paper, front and back, and the deadline's this Sunday, the 6th.

The first thing I thought of was Goldeneye N64, because some part of my brain is constantly thinking about Goldeneye, so that's what I'm doing. Goldeneye's first "level" -- or map, anyway -- is Arkhangelsk Dam, a rather straight-up Point-A-to-Point-B mission, which makes it pretty well-suited for this kind of thing.

Don't just stand there!
I'm representing the map itself with three sheets of college-ruled notebook paper, corresponding to the Drop Point, the Tunnel, and the Dam itself. These are pretty major abstractions of the actual map, of course, but obviously a good deal of abstraction is necessary to make this thing work at all. On each sheet, the player -- it's a solo game -- rolls 8d6. Wherever the dice land, that's where a thing is. The numbers on the dice tell you what those things are, whether guards or crates or whatever.

Movement and distance are measured in lines on the page, and your goal is to get from the "bottom" of the first sheet of paper to the "top" of the third. Time is measured in ticks, and the difficulty level you choose (Agent, Secret Agent, or 00 Agent) determines how many ticks you get. Everything you do in the game costs one or more ticks. Run out of ticks and you fail your mission.

Of course, you can also just get shot and die. Difficulty level also limits how many hits you can take. At Agent you're a virtual tank; at 00 Agent, a paper tiger. You take hits when you're within a guard's range and roll poorly (although even rolling poorly can kill a guard), so if you charge in there AK a-blazin', you're going get shot up real good, much like in the source material. Your best bet is to aim and shoot 'em from a distance with a silenced weapon before they're aware of you.

Along the way, there's the possibility of one or more secondary objectives to accomplish, like hacking into the installation's mainframe with your rad 14.4k modem. This costs ticks, like everything else, and if you try to do it where a guard can see you, you will be shot unto death.

It all looks playable, faithful, and even fun to me, which is great, but meeting the space requirement is proving to be nearly impossible. With some severe margins and small type, right now it all fits onto two pages (or one page front and back, if you will) with about two lines to spare -- but part of the contest also involves including guidelines for playing through Stage Two. That means the Facility.

For England, James. And, y'know, revenge.
The Facility is awesome, maybe the best map and/or level in the game, but it's also a little complex (no pun intended) to describe in two lines of text. I'd do the Facility in four pages, I think: Hallways, Pipes, Labs, Plant. You need a key (found on one of the guards) to get from Hallways to Pipes and from Labs to Plant. There's a secondary objective here, too: making contact with Dr. Doak, who's either in the Pipes or the Labs. In the interest of simplicity, I'd forgo worrying about civilian casualties.

So there's that, in a nutshell. I'm going to have to decide pretty soon whether I want to be eligible to win the contest -- possibly getting the game published in a short-run small-press thing, which would be super-cool --  or just create a game I like. If the latter, then I don't have to worry about space restrictions. If the former, then... I'm going to have to find a way to either outline the Facility in a couple lines (the above description is not enough, IMO), or edit what I have even more to make room.

Either way, when I'm done, I'll put the PDF online.

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