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How we bring the game world to life

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Exoplanet: First Contact is being developed as Action/RPG, where each genre is represented in proportion 50/50. We strive to pay сlose attention to the both: the action part (fights and gunplay) and the RPG part (giving a player wide range of choices during the mission as well as the chance to upgrade his character)

Today I’d like to shed some light on our approach to the nonlinear gameplay in our quests and tell how our dialogues and missions will be different from those common for most RPGs.

One of the main goals of game development is creating a convincing and captivating game world, in which a player will not have time to be bored. It would be naive to think that a small Indie team like us aspires to create a giant world with independently living creatures and enormous number of storylines – in other words, K’Tarsis planet simulator.

What is more, such “simulators” may look interesting at first glance; however, if one looks at them closer, it leads to the discovery that the giant world is nothing more than a “fake set” – where genuine characters are replaced with dummies whose destiny never worries a player, and the vast spaces are filled with rather predictable “dungeons” and quests. Working upon Exoplanet: FC, we do our best  to depart from such predictability, so we stake on thoroughly elaborated locations and various chances for the player to interact with the game world.

We are to show a player that his choice does matter and that the importance of his decision is not illusory or somewhat relative but very significant for the game world and the destiny of his character.

We don’t  want a player to resemble a funfair visitor having a ride in the wagon of the attraction called “The World of the Game”. The game world ought to readily react to any actions of a player, be significant for him, make a player listen out for it. Only this way the world beyond the screen will be brought to life and will plunge a player into unforgettable adventures.

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We don’t want to follow the trodden path where a player is offered conventional roles and standard methods of problem solving and every attempt to explore more than planned is strictly restrained for this way a player might go beyond the “fake set”, where the uncomfortable emptiness of the fake world has stretched itself.

Trying to avoid such scenario we decided not to make it wider, but deeper. This way Local Nonlinearity  and Unique Motivation and Background principles were born.

The principle of Local Nonlinearity is based on two important things:

  1. Each choice of a player leads to unique gaming experience.
  2. The choice doesn’t always significantly affect the main story line, but in all cases has a certain impact on the narration in the nearest or the furthest future.

Unique Motivation and Background of a character:

Following this principle we would like to emphasize that these are not only main characters who have their unique image, but also all the NPCs: they also get into funny situations, do foolish things, they may help the main character and may as well stab him in the back. Each of them has his own world outlook, convictions, attitudes, dreams, different “points” and so on.

An attentive player will definitely use it to his advantage.

To demonstrate how these principles work I will tell about one of the adventures of the main character (spoiler alert!):

Some insane scientist asks Jack to take his servant, an aborigine (let’s for now call him Friday) out of the cargo bin with the valuable equipment as the aborigen has locked himself from inside and is not willing to get out. A player has several choices:

  1. To explode the container’s door – the approach will definitely suit an impatient player who would like to act as real bad guy.
  2. To talk to the aborigen through the ventilation hole – this will help to get to know Friday closer and understand why he has locked himself up in the container.

Having chosen the second variant, a player learns that the aborigen has spoiled a sample which was represented in the laboratory in a single copy. Now he’s afraid that the scientist will hit the roof as he finds out. The professor beats him for the least thing and sometimes locks him up in the cage with the bugs which terrify the poor Friday to death.

Having found in Friday’s hut his diary, the main hero discovers that the only joy for the aborigine is smoking local herbs, which allows Friday to relax and forget his misfortunes.

A player now has the following new options:

  1. To find the bug and throw it into the container – Friday will be scared, will unlock the door and run away.
  2. To humbly replace the spoiled sample with its copy. Searching for the copy is a separate adventure.
  3. To find the right herb, give it to the aborigine, and when he relaxes to persuade him to open the door. (To find out where the herbs grow the main hero will have to help another NPC – nothing comes for free on K’Tarsis)

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Each variant will have its impact in future:

Aggressive - it is the fastest solution with the help of explosives. In this case Friday will be killed and the equipment will be damaged. As a result the main character will get the lesser award from the Professor than it was promised –  blowing up a container, with valuable equipment and living beings in it, is not the best solution. A player might foresee such an outcome and try to avoid it.

Stealth - a player will have to do his best to get the right materials and unnoticeably replace the spoiled sample with them. In this case the aborigine will be most grateful. In case of failure the main character will have no other option but to try another variant.

Neutral - using a bug. This is also more challenging way than blowing up the container, and as a result the main hero will get the promised reward from the professor. However, the aborigine will harbour enmity against the main hero, which will come out later in the narration.

Diplomatic - Jack searches for the herb, being at the same time involved into a submission. This way will allow the main character to receive the promised reward from the professor and to get into the aborigine’s good books as well. In future the goodwill of the aborigine will  inevitably come out: the aborigine will help the main character in difficult situation or will share some important information.

The exact details of all the outcomes you will learn after playing Exoplanet: First Contact. :-)

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However, not all the characters in the game are so open and so easily share information about themselves.

If you wish to foresee the possible outcomes you will have to reveal the hidden sides of their personality, drawing conclusions from their habits, rumors, news, and sometimes driven only by intuition. Having made a step, you will have to only wait for the characters feedback to see if your guesses about their personality were right. So remember, not all the rumors are true. A single thoughtless world on K’Tarsis can lead to getting shot between the eyes, a stab in the back, or a pinch of poison in your favourite joy juice.

Not always will it be obvious what the help to an NPC will turn out for the main character in future: not all the characters are equally grateful and some of them might act only in accordance with their own egoistic motivation.

We cling to this tiny details about characters personality not without purpose: this way we try to make the game world more convincing and interesting for exploration. What is more, working upon such a crucial element of the game we would like to base our judgements not only on our gaming experience, but on yours as well. Surely, most people reading the entry are RPG fans, and they have their own visions and attitudes towards the game worlds.

So let us know what you think about our approach to characters and dialogues. How interesting does it seem to you?

2 comments

  1. Bruno

    It’s a very good idea! This will make the game more dynamic and you will have more things to do, so then when you complete the game you may want to replay it to know the “passive” way or to just do it fast with the “agressive” way.

  2. false3d

    Thank you!
    You’ve got our main goal!
    We think this approach should really increase Replayability.
    And it is relatively easy to implement. =)

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