Shogo came out at about the same time as Halflife and it has been suggested that the game suffered for it. Halflife may have had the polish, but it felt stale and depressing to me (I was more into Tribes and Quake than military shooters). Shogo was colourful and exotic, especially then when animé stuff wasn't that common.However, it was also lacking something I can't quite put my finger on. It could be that the world building felt a bit claustrophobic and confined... like a comic without establishing shots. Early FPS games were often just a string of levels like that. Shogo's models were a bit weird but had character... memorable in a way.
Nu-uuh, you're on duty.
I couldn't install Shogo from CD on 64-bit win7, but dragging the files over to SSD worked. I set the .exe to win95 mode (maybe pointless). I had no graphical issues and no flickering mouse cursor. I had to manually define mouse button actions in options menu. The game loaded fine from SSD for a while but then suddenly begun chugging on the CD instead.
Framerate on my (2013 PC with some gfx card) seems to be steadily below 80, dipping to 37, in both D3D and software render mode. I don't remember it being particularly slow on my average machine at the time. Two years after Shogo's release I had 10x the minimum memory. Computer specs still moved fast then. I probably played it on this: http://androidarts.com/starsiege/XPS-T500.htm
The software render has Playstation 1 style triangle texture distortion. And lovely dither explosions. I might prefer it (the clarity) over the early 3Dfx'y look. Maybe GOG/Steam couldn't use OpenGL version because licensing issues (with Hyperion which iirc are often fighting with Cloanto over Amiga licence stuff).
It appears models are mostly textured by quads from some atlas, kinda like Total Annihilation. This makes the textures fairly hirez but also nondescript. The MCUs look quite garbled because of it.
While Monolith doesn't seem to have any intention of touching Shogo again, I'd hope for the following updates/fixes:
Shogo has some sort of random crits which regen health. Enemies can crit too, and often shoot before you open a door or round a corner... which is sort of a thing a good player might do I guess, but it can be frustrating. Enemies are also often positioned out of view up on ramps, killing you before you can spot them.
It can be satisfying to BRATATA right into enemies, but hitscan combat is missing the reactive dodge component, and, aiming becomes this whack-a-mole thing. Blood II and Shogo both have unavoidable HP drain and frustrating sudden deaths. Personally I'd keep hitscan weapons as low tier where they do less damage, and make high damage weapons more dodgeable. So, early game you BRATATA, then the game changes and you PCHEOW PCHEOW because the hitscan weapons mostly ping off armour. I think having different play-styles in a game like Shogo works.
Shogo can actually be pretty difficult even on Easy because of cheap shots and deadly bazookas. I'm not a fan of scaling health stats by difficulty in games because it feels like inconsistent world design. I'd rather see a system where enemies are replaced with tougher ones, perhaps also breaking some items and weapons at higher difficulty, using explosions and cave-ins. A "super-powers" (framed positively so) checkbox system to help disabled players would be nice, e.g. the ability to somewhat slow down time during hectic action, Crack shot (slight auto aim), Super-toughness, etc.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Some thoughts on Shogo's intro level. It needs to communicate some details. There's a ship near a planet that's not Earth. It's a living planet with vital resources (I smell Spice). There are people, large mechs and some sort of desperate military conflict, and lastly a reason to move and take action.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Leviathan redesign and layout. Main feature is the Kato cannon and lifts/landers. Crew: 150-300? An IRL carrier has 3000+ but that's a lot of NPCs.
Establishing shots ( for location transitions) are pretty rare in Shogo. I didn't quite realise I'm on a ship even though the window views suggest it, because I skimmed some dialogue explaining it. Anyways, the early game takes place aboard the Leviathan, a rather large ship judging by the command bridge map and use of a train. The ship has section signs but the map layout is a bit oldschool FPS-ey and I often find myself lost even on small maps. I don't know if "section 56" is just a name, or if there are 56+ sections.
The Leviathan is never seen from the outside in space, though there's an unused(?), lowres 3D cell-shaded movie showing it, and some concept art by Matt Allen featuring a different design, which is what I used as a base for my redesign. I removed or rescaled some parts of the hull to focus the design a bit, and added new elements suggesting function.
I don't know much about modern engines, but I'm thinking maybe some sort of 3D-tile-based approach would work to lay out the decks. It would use little memory compared to a BSP and might help visibility and pathfind calcs too. Each tile could also have some custom furnishing/props to reduce sameyness.
Tiles kind of makes sense for a ship because it's easy to imagine it was built using modules for crew quarters etc. It's not very organic. Each section of the ship would still need some theme'ing: Dirty engineering, mass produced crew quarters, clean officer deck, etc. Unique custom modules/sections would help too.
Quite a heavy workload (less so with older style assets). Shallow NPC behaviour with them just dumbly standing/walking around tends to ruin these type of open world experiences and it's not a problem easily solved. A more stylised and primitive graphical style might help.
As for ship missions, I think it would actually be fun (and more bang for the buck) to not force ship exploration but only have simple "report to mech bay" mission (not hard to find) then there's this big fascinating distraction available offering a different type of experience from the shooting.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Left: Haphazard armour redesign with hints of Samurai. It's tough to make heavy armour that fits a person, without it ending up looking very trunky/bara. The heavy armour suits in Shogo have very wide hips and shoulders but addressing/fixing that sort of ruins the silhouette likeness. Here I just turned the design into a larger piloted "scopedog" mech or cyborg thingy.
Right: Light SHOGO mechs (MCAs). Heavy ones might gain a meter or so. Tachikoma style cockpit at back. The Andra 10 with the shield flails around a lot in the game for some reason, rather than using the shield like a kite shield which could rest on the ground when in a defensive stance.
The MCUs are maybe 6-10 meters, I don't know if there are any specs out there. It's hard to tell ingame. Monolith did orthogonal drawings/concepts but perhaps never published all of them. Might be lost now. There are some found ingame (e.g. the Enforcer), as pixelated textures.
To me, the soldiers look a bit small and off-scale when I'm in robot mode. Perhaps bringing the man<->robo sizes closer together, as well as having some in-betweens could allow better mixed-scale play where mid-sized stuff can either be bosses or grunts.
I guess one has to rely on object familiarity to communicate scale in first person games (otherwise I tend to read stuff as smaller than they are). Shogo had the cars, doors & neon signs, but I suspect the polygon limit made it difficult to decorate with other "natural" objects.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
More SHOGO thinklets. The Shogo MCAs can transform into vehicles, but it's more of a new-transformers jumble & scramble morph which I don't like. It also meant the designs had to be broken into chunks which make them look very fragmented. It's tough to design a realistically transformable robot which looks good in all forms. I guess Sailor Moon style transformations could work (as lampshading). Just do a completely separate vehicle model, and have a little fun glowing sparkly spinning sequence as tween (time freezes during transformations of course).
I never much used vehicle mode ingame because you're unarmed and easily get zapped turning a street corner. The game has hardly any areas where you just need to travel. Sliding around on the feet like in some other games (Heavy Gear) could be more useful.
A disposable truckbed mode was an early idea I had. Now I'm thinking it could be used for MCUs which can't transform, equivalents of the cheap "GMs" of Gundam.
Faces and suits.
If the areas around the joints are designed a certain way to disguise clipping, it's possible to animate the models using separate parts, like shoulder, upper arm, elbow, lower arm, hand. I think that's how Shogo did animation. C21-online does it too, but gets away with it better because it only has hard-surface robots. C21 also has a nice dynamic palette system enabling a lot of variations. Something like that could be handy in Shogo for e.g. NPC hair colour, skin tone, factional armour. Sub-models like pouches and emblems could create further variation, as could body part swaps like bionic arms and different head types.
What if Shogo was Mass Effect but instead of Mako you had giant robo? There's already a headquarters space ship and relationship intrigue. A fast travel vehicle mode makes more sense in a ME game.
Potential alien crewmembers (from Blood, sort of).
Cothineal might be the only known alien in the Shogo setting. Perhaps after the end of the game, a bargain is struck that if the humans help Cothineal to colonise new worlds, she'll allow mining. And so, "sprouts" of Cothineal join the crew. Some sort of rowdy beast/gargoyle brutes would slot in nicely too. An advanced cyborg race is another archetype to sculpt from. Rag tag mercenaries could contrast uniformed personnel.
That SMG on the SHOGO cover shares some similarities with one in Blood II. Not sure if the two settings have any relation... it might just a little happenstance/homage/artist's-habit. Blood II has some nice weapon and character designs overall.
More alien designs, also from Blood.
There could be complex factional divisions and shifting allegiances. I like when designs sometimes are given character contrary to their appearance, so the uplifted spiders could be quite sophisticated and polite for example. Perhaps they became something more than intended. They're like Starflight's Spemin, but opposite. An occult cenobite-ish faction working towards some monumental dark goal could be interesting.
A large population of worker robots, the black and boxy model, have allegedly shown signs of sentience and creativity, so they are given sentience status & a low-value home system in an early recruitment-type mission. Perhaps the player is pressured into making the "choice" by some political figure (backed by a vocal Robots' Rights campaign). One robot joins crew, but it soon becomes clear it's dumb and laconic.
The robots have mostly just been shuffling around on the surface of the dead world they were given and the crew jabs the player for like, maybe being duped by a bunch of hippies. The crew robot just barely does its job. Eventually the previous owner of the robots (some corporation) wants their property back, and this triggers the robot's loyalty mission.
The black box opens during the last battle. The robots were afraid of showing their hand until they had a defence up, and have been hard at work building a deathstar-cube flagship in secret, perhaps in the asteroid belt of their system. This flagship will help out during the final space battle. Of course, everyone else in the gathered fleet gets really nervous upon seeing the massive thing, so perhaps the robots were quite correct in playing dumb.
Not Kett, but another alien crusader. Bird people?
I really did like the Kett Archon face/head design in ME:A and every cutscene felt like that now we were going to get a sad backstory or perhaps some deep personal reflection or motivation. But nothing came forth.
The Kett were supposedly some sort of crusaders, but appeared too simplified and abstract in politics and process (similar to the Borg). It made for more palatable baddies I guess. Perhaps the simplification was also a way to skirt around self-reflecting on practical implementations of colonialism, cultural genocide and mass indoctrination. It becomes morally complex... but perhaps that would've provided useful foothold for the story. Had the human refugees arrived after the Kett had already indoctrinated many Angarans into some shonky and harmful belief system, then how would one deal with that? What weaknesses does the political, economical and intellectual systems of the Kett have?
What if one day a human crewman shows up, saying "Hey commander, I've been reading about the Kett and how we are the Children of Kett... actually from the same planet but we were like, separated. So anyways I made a donation to the Kett... all the stuff in cargobay 4. The Kett need it to save us. Now... let me save you, commander. The people in block 8 would not let me save them. What a shame. And I tried so hard."
One might suggest then that the Kett must be using mind-beams, but that is a kind of sci-fi trope... a refusal to acknowledge common stupidity, because then you have to deal with that rather than the mind-beam which somehow seems more likely.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mysterious precursor aliens and ancient ruins can be interesting, but it sort of has been done a lot. One novel approach is to make Humans and the Cothineal the firstborn. They are seemingly the only known advanced life in the universe from what I understand of Shogo's story. It's also a realistic and desperate situation that we can sympathise with. In Star Trek, the ancient progenitor race decides to seed the galaxy out of loneliness. This method, along with 2001 style monoliths, allows for introduction of new races which conveniently mature at the same time.
Mass Effect 3's optional ending where the cycle continues has an emotional bit where you get to see an alien race in the far future telling stories of the ancients, and I think that's an interesting perspective. I guess there would have to be a few simple missions for the player to bond with the human characters and locations. The player also learns how to play the game during this prologue.
190 000 years later (or more, but the evolution might be somehow guided) a foot crushes the fossilised skull of the player. A clumsy, primitive alien caveman has entered the cave carrying a torch. The monolith whines and churrs (linking up to others (network lights?)). It projects the image of a tool and the alien studies it.
40 000 years after that, the monolith is surrounded by a lab. There's talk about new archives appearing (as big as the FTL find, or bigger?). The now reconstructed skull sits on a shelf (very fragmented and brown). This was a main site where the human ancients were also archived. The player's character creation is actually the alien archeologist selecting a file for a growth pod.
The game begins anew as the mature human player is thrown into a world of alien politics, intrigue and romancing. Humans (and sprouts of Cothineal) can't be all that advanced for this setup to work. Perhaps the archives degraded. It's not like normal modern humans can build a jet plane or CPU either. Ruins might survive a long time on planets with no erosion, or in space. WMDs were probably not archived. The old plague, only affecting humans, could resurface as a sub-plot.
Based on a True Story.
Quarian face. I think when you don't show a thing and let it build in people's imagination, there's really no way to satisfy later. I'm using a minimal surprise approach here. A soot black face with wide set small eyes and a nose ridge is about what can be seen through the visor. The demon horns are my little surprise, but it works with the goat legs. I thought an mark on the lower lip might reflect the talky-light on the visor, bit it looked too Queen Amidala so I moved it to the chin.
Suitless Tali, using few colours. Various sheens of black.
Quarian mouth. Taking the demon theme further.