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Castle Wolfenstein – in search of Space Monsters

Designing a maze game – stealth, action and 30 year old classics

As somebody who has never really got along with Pac-Man I have to say that I’m developing a new found admiration for it. The games that I make much like the games that I typically enjoy are full on in-your-face affairs that generally involve shooting the bad guys, plenty of explosions and reasonable amounts of screen action.
Pac-Man, with its strong focus on avoidance, never really floated my boat.

With my new game being set in a maze with a strong emphasis on collecting objects and dodging monsters I should probably be quite daft not to have spent some time analysing the most famous of maze games.
Much like Namco’s 32 year old classic a lot of my game focuses on navigating your way through a maze, collecting gems and goodies whilst strategically dodging the guardians of the maze until such a time as you get the upper hand. The upper hand in the case of Pac-Man was of course the power pill. Once you have this you are no longer the hunted but the hunter and if you can catch them you can “eat” the ghosts. In my game this game changing item is not yet defined. Largely because I’m currently building a game of magic, wizadry and medieval castles but am becoming very tempted to set the whole thing in a Nazi castle a la Castle Wolfenstein.

 

Castle wolfenstein screenshot

Castle Wolfenstein

Castle Wolfenstein first appeared 30 years ago and was very much a game of stealth in which the player crept through a dark and dingy castle in search of secrets armed with a gun and the sole intention of escaping with the Nazi plans. Although I never actually played this game I know all about it thanks to id software’s 3D remake of the game 10 years later. This and Pac-Man are currently strong reference material.

Another game that I have played a lot and really enjoyed is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There’s a sequence in there that sees the young Link stealthily sneaking his way past some castle guards. You can see it at this link on YouTube. Just skip to about 07:00 and you’ll see what I’m referring to.

zelda screenshot

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I really like the way that Link is forced to creep around to avoid being seen. It was a fantastic feature of the game and something that has just the right amount of suspense and anticipation to be appealing as a challenge to casual gamers.

I’d very much like for my game to strike a balance between the stealth of the guard stage in Zelda, the arcade action of  Pac-Man and the overall challenge of Castle Wolfenstein.

So with my game (which I continue to call Castle Adventure) I am looking on playing with these game dynamics of stealth and occasional attack.
My character currently has the ability to take objects and will ultimately have the ability to use objects. I’m thinking along the lines of collecting a bomb, for example, (which then appears as a graphical button / icon that the player taps to active) and using it to defeat bad guys and unblock passageways.
I also want to add the classic find the key – open the door mechanic which is a useful way of having the player walk around the map without the “locked” item to find the key. In many cases the locked item may be a bomb or other object that hands the advantage to the player. Gun, ammunition, health… you get the picture.

The ultimate goal will be to leave the castle after completing a set number of (possibly randomly generated) levels in which the sub-goal if you like is to steal something or things. This is a direct link to Castle Wolfenstein and something that I think is an excellent motivation for the player.

I figure if I can appeal to the player in this way I’m probably getting something right.

More to follow.

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