I’m mid way through the design of a zombie game just now where the hero is surrounded by advancing hordes of the undead armed only with a shotgun. I’d pretty much settled on the graphic style and had had some success in spriting the majority of the game’s characters.
Then something happened.

The other night I found myself wandering around the house in the small hours with just the light of my mobile phone. Possibly through playing far too much Doom/Quake etc 20 years ago I found myself thinking “hm, could be something around that corner / behind that door !”
It occurred to me that this is how you should approach a game containing zombies and or mutants.

I target mobile with my games so my first thought naturally turned to how on earth would I create a game in the first person perspective that was convincing and responsive enough to do the concept any justice.
I’d been down this road before a couple of years ago and given up. OS/canvas implementations just weren’t up to the amount of drawing I’d wanted to do. Back then I also deliberately didn’t try to move the game at speed down corridors. Further to all of that I really couldn’t be bothered with coding the other niggling things like occlusion.

This time around I’m coming at it slightly differently.
I want to move the player between waypoints. At every waypoint I then give the player options for which direction he can take.
So essentially the corridors are prerendered and take up around one third of the game screen. In portrait I’d probably letter box the main playing area in the centre and hand over the top and lower regions to present the player with icons for weapon selection and movement. Not sure yet.

So to try and explain what I’m thinking imagine that you are walking down a plain corridor.
You can give the illusion of movement quite simply by having lines in the wall scale. Since there’s no freedom to look around you’re only concerned with moving the content past you until you’ve moved the set amount and the animation stops.

The way I’d figured it you’d only need to prerender a certain amount of scenarios.

  • straight forward corridor progress – no doors or turns
  • corridor movement to a crossroads
  • corridor movement to a T-junction
  • corridor movement to a left or right facing door
  • corridor movement to a closed door

I would really want to instil a sense of “there could be something just around that corner or behind that door!”
To do this I’m thinking of having a simple HUD that displays two sensors:

  • motion sensor
  • life sensor

Both mutants and zombies trigger the motion sensor but only a mutant will trigger the life sensor.
This presents the obvious scenario of being able to frighten the bejesus out of the player.

So what do I have so far in all of this theory.
Firstly I have the creepy environment. A prerendered facility with gloomy corridors and the occasional neon light. Two sensors beep and blink intermittently to alert me that ‘something’ is nearby.
I have the option to move first and foremost.
The game tells me the options: forward only.
So I move forward. The game runs through its animation sequence and I’ve moved probably around 10 steps. I’m in a new location. What do the sensors tell me? Well the life sensor is blinking quickly. Something is VERY close!
I have the option to move forward or turn right. Whatever it is that’s nearby is most likely around that corner or 10 steps straight ahead.
I select the option to turn right.
What do the sensors tell me now? The life sensor is red and the motion sensor is now blinking rapidly.
I’m looking in to the darkness of the corridor ahead. My shotgun is readied. I have 3 shells…

For the emergence of the monster I want to run through another little animation.
Since the corridor is always soaked in darkness I can present a simple 3 or 4 step animation showing something emerging from the shadows until I get enough of a view of it to take action.

If I sense something terrible then I simply tap the screen where I want to shoot. If I hit the ‘thing’ before me it should drop to the floor and I can loot it and move on.
But wait… It’s not as easy as all that.
What I really need to spice all of this up is the option for friendly fire. Yup, civilians!

If I paint a backdrop of being on a rescue mission then gunning down the good guys is clearly counter to the objective.
So the player is faced with that awkward ‘is it or isn’t it?’ scenario. Which I love.

Rescue on Fractalus - Alien Attack

Rescue on Fractalus – Alien Attack

Older gamers may remember the awesome alien-at-the-window sequence in Rescue on Fractalus. This is without question the influence for this sequence. It’s a moment in computer gaming that has stayed with me since I first saw it as a teenager back in the 1980s.

It’s a huge thrill to be designing again and I’m excited by the promise of such a game.

What’s more this kind of execution is possible on current hardware. Add a few creepy audio effects and simple touches like muzzle flashes and blood spray and I reckon I’m on a winner.
As always the concept needs proving so I shall now take myself off to Photoshop to see what I can dream up!

2 Responses

  1. I love hearing your thoughts on this. Real life experience are always the best information for intuitive ideas.

    I would be really interested to see how that goes. It’s tough to do the pre-rendered fps thing without alienating younger or more casual audiences, since it feels clunky to them. I’m wondering if the right amount of tweening and general sense of fluid movement between frames or while figures approached could counteract that feeling.

    Civilians are a great idea, especially since your previously mentioned sensors would work so perfectly for them. I always try to include an element of “should I or shouldn’t I?” in my games.

    Thanks for your thoughts, I look forward to seeing what you come up with!


    • Thanks, Ryan.
      As I think you’ve identified the challenges within the game are not linked to the effects of the corridor. I suppose I could just as easily write a banner on the screen saying “You are moving.. please wait.” Then 2 seconds later present the next scenario. But that really would seem empty to me.

      No it’s the “what’s around the corner”, “what’s behind that door” effect that intrigues me the most. Those are the challenges and I am simply moving the player between them.
      It will hopefully become as much an exercise in judging the sensors and ones instincts as it is in ensuring accuracy with the weapons.

      The best part is of course that I can animate a transition to darkness just as easily as I can something emerging from it. Ammo would be sparse but when the shotgun fires I want it to be LOUD! I want the monster to ROAR. Better still I want the player to feel tremendous guilt when they gun down a good guy.


Leave a reply

Photo of Atari VCS console and pre-order information
Playstar graphic
Minecraft Global CD Key
%d bloggers like this: