RoboWarrior was one of those game that I liked as a kid, but it never really made it onto my TOP-list for various reasons. I do believe the game idea of an adventure-style Bomberman has a lot of potential though. Lately, Bomberman has seen a lot of arcade style action so I don't want to take that route with this project.
RoboWarrior was called Bomber King in Japan and it's related to the Bomberman series. There was a sequel to Bomber King released under the name Blaster Master Boy. Other than a jumping and licking frog boss, a super deformed helmet'ed protagonist and the SUNSOFT label, it has nothing to do with Blaster Master (aka Meta Fight). If this isn't confusing enough, I've prepared this image of Bomberman's lineage: Bomberman's origins research, 400KB.
In order to craft a redesign of RoboWarrior I must understand the origins of the series (as I've attempted to above). I must also research all the games in the series. Since RoboWarrior (hereby referred to as Bomber King) is the game that I've played the most, I'll try to structure up my feelings about the game:
The sequel for the GameBoy addressed some of the problems with the original. It featured X,Y scrolling, Bomberman style bomb laying, different bomb variants, a better health system, etc. It also had good sprite animation and design, but felt a bit claustrophobic with the limited screen area and grayscale.
I think a top down 3D view of a 2D playfield would suit this game well. Most modern Bomberman games already look this way.
The playfield could be a 2D array of the entire game world. The 3D tiles (such as blocks) go on top of that. Larger cliffs, buildings and unique landmarks could be made from larger models, to prevent an overly tiled look to the game. Perhaps the array could use one byte per cell, and larger objects (which always cover several cells) reference the neighboring cells. Also, there could be a low-rez Zone array which is used mark down different terrain themes (such as Green forest, Temple grounds). Further more, models could be rotated differently (4 angles) depending on their coordinates and perhaps a random seed.A 1024*1024 playfield would be 1MB of course, but perhaps a larger playfield would be needed. Movable objects could have their pointers in low-rez 'buckets' (linked lists) and global lists. With proper management for stationary and moving objects, it would be possible to simulate the entire game world persistently. A thousand or so movables wouldn't be a problem given their simple behaviour. If pathfinding is required, it doesn't need to be run very often. Most of the enemies are rather daft anyways.
This projent is based mostly off the visuals and game mechanics from Bomber King 1 & 2, but I'm also using a few elements from Bomberman for the MSX and NES. Right now I'm leaning towards something less cute than Bomberman, and about the same scale and detail as the Bomber King ingame graphics.
^ W.I.P. Line up. I like the Walking 'cherubs' (4 faces/beaks). The ones in the Gameboy version looks the best, but I'm not too keen on the side beaks, so I tuned those into Dogu-like eyes.
In this case I'm not sure if the Japanese version of Bomber King has a different background story or not, but the one in RoboWarrior wasn't much to work with, so I'm going to make my own. To do that I need to be aware of what gameplay elements I'm dealing with.
The player could actively participate in uncovering the history of the Bombers. Several theories could be supported by NPCs and clues in the game world.
1: Scientific. The Bombers came to the planet on an ark spaceship. This ship crashed, and the wild robotic creatures onboard escaped first. When the Bombers emerged they were treated as an abnormality by the already established enemies. These had also stripped the ship, leaving the bombers without their powers.
2: Religious. The Bombers were once powerful warriors created by a supernatural entity. However, an evil entity tricked them to sacrifice their powers, and then used these powers to make the enemies which are meant to keep the Bombers from regaining their powers. According to prophesy, a Bomber Queen will emerge to save them all.
3: Sceptic. The Bombers never had any real powers. It's a myth. Who cares anyways?
4: Romantic-Tragedy. The Bombers and enemies were made by a species which disappeared long ago. Something went awry and their creations destroyed them. Perhaps the Bombers were created as a countermeasure to the enemies, but it was too late and the Bombers never got to realize their full potential and save their creators. Some say the 'Lost Ones' are still around, or exists somewhere in a frozen state, but perhaps all the Bombers have now is themselves and the eternal conflict with the enemies.
5: Combo theory (discovered eventually, perhaps). Long ago, the Lost Ones came to the planet in a spaceship (1). Traces of it can be found in a crater-like formation. The Lost Ones were strange worm-like silicon life forms known as the Ur (temporary name). They created many mechanical creatures (4) which helped them create farms. The Ur would eat the blocks that their 'Growers' made. This explains why the blocks are grown back in a very structured way. The Bombers were factory workers, miners and demolishers.
However, the Bombers were corrupted (from the Ur's perspective) by the Black Bomber (2) who, perhaps rightfully, felt that the Bombers were slaves and held back from becoming something greater. The Black Bomber taught the Bombers to tap their potential. There was a rebellion and a conflict that escalated. The Ur created many military units to guard their farms and Growers. However, with their farms turned into battlefields the Ur eventually perished as things went out of control.
The Bombers have been warring with the Growers ever since. With the Growers dominating the land and resources, the Bombers have been pushed back, losing much of their powers. The power level of the ancient Bombers had been greatly exaggerated though (3).
At some point during the conflict the Ur tried to escape into caves. Here many farms and installations were built. Deep underground the master factory can be found. This is where the Growers come from. Possibly they use a network of short distance teleporters (gates) to distribute themselves across the world.
Since the Growers has to be antagonists of the Bombers, they must somehow limit the Bomber's access to powers. Perhaps the same power source that the Growers use to make the food blocks can be used to make Bomber powers (planet core power?). The Growers now dominate this power source. Occasionally, the Growers make Bomber powers by mistake, but they tend to stow these away (treasure chests?). There are also a form of currency, maybe some for of power pellets ('medals'?), which are useful to the bombers because they can be used to make things. They run the town power plants and factories, and can be converted into Energy pills (health) and Power-ups. Maybe the player can donate resources to a Bomber guild of some sort. This guild would use these resources in the battle against the Growers, and that would make the player feel like s/he's participating socially (an not just on some ego-trek). The Growers could siege the town at intervals, requiring that the town is well defended, repaired and kept stocked.
The Bombers live in a town retreated up against a cliff wall. Since the Growers can't be allowed to invade the town, the own is surrounded by a wall with turrets on it. There are also Bombers patrolling the perimeter of the town. Maybe there are also mobile turrets called Sentinels. As the player progress, the town NPCs will try to expand their territories by placing Sentinels at key positions. Perhaps the player can recommends these positions, which would give the game a slight RTS slant.
One problem in Sci-Fi is that the settings often feel like a few actors on a small set. StarGate did this a lot. Often the protagonists would arrive to a new planet/civilization which consisted of 4 huts and 12 inhabitants. It's important that the Bomber town appears to have a life of its own. There could be a number of obscure things going on (e.g. group gatherings). The player will put a meaning to these even if there is none. There could also be an economy that the player can affect via contributions. Also, there can be ruins outside the town (it has shrunk in size because of the Growers attaking), giving the player a sense of history.
There could be NPC adventurers who wander about in safe areas, having their own little adventures. This would serve to bring the universe to life. It's not just the Player who is alive.
The player is a Bomber who was created with extraordinary powers, which is why the opportunity to strike at the Growers is now ideal. This also explains why the player is alone in many areas, the NPC adventurers just aren't powerful enough. If they were, they'd ruin various puzzles, get stuck, and blow up the player because NPCs are generally retarded.
The player could start with the player's character, the Bomber Queen waking up in an underground factory (or prison) (similar to the original game). Maybe she was put in stasis for a long time. This is a classic lost-memory style setup which serves to explain why the player is new to the environment. It also suggests that the player is somehow special.
The Factory is just a few floors deep, and the exit is close to the Bomber town where the player is briefed.
The game world is a small island, the only one on the planet, perhaps. This explains the confinement and the Ur's inability to escape. The planet is completely devoid of organic life. The Ur's food blocks are sometimes superficially similar to trees, but they are placed in a clearly artificial manner. The illustration here is just a color feel test.
Most of the following environments come from Bomber King.
Very few of these caverns would require a light/torch/lamp. There could be artificial light present already (darker than in the Over world), maybe not fully covering the entire playfield. This would make it possible to have a few dark nooks and crannies for the player to light up and explore.
A big paragraph just about blocks? Hmmm. The player needs to feel that s/he's getting more powerful. Larger bombs is not the only way to do this. There could be blocks that are tougher to destroy. This is a risky mechanic because it can actually make the player feel 'static' if the blocks level up at the same pace as the bombs. This however is only a problem is the game is linear. Another problem is that Bomberman has relied a lot on the abstract clean gameplay where blocks always are destroyed when in contact with a bomb blast. However, in an exploration game with RPG element I think blocks with varying degree of toughness could be useful to naturally control the path of the player without forcing choices on the player (invisible forcefields, keys, etc). The player could visit a difficult area too early, realize that it is too tough, come back later when more powered up, and this get a sense of progression. This wouldn't be possible in a linear game where the opposition scales with the player. Also, skilled players could navigate this tougher area prematurely, and this is good because it means that the game is scalable to veteran players. A lot of the player guiding could be done by NPC's who suggests (or insists) where to go.
Since it would be messy if Growers placed new blocks randomly, a few behavioral rules would be useful. Also, there need to be rules which prevent Growers from getting stuck often. Before placing a block, the Grower could do short path-find to ensure there are places to go. Another way to solve it is to give the Growers a life time, after which they die or teleport home to pick up new 'seeds'. Also, the soil could be marked so blocks are only placed on certain spots. The Growers could also have a preference to placing blocks adjacent to each other.
I'm thinking the Growers are the balloons. They suck the land dry of power (perhaps evolving into different versions) and plant the blocks. The blocks are of course useless since the Ur are no longer around.
These were left by the Ur and provides clues to the history of the Bombers. They're found scattered about, mostly in caves. Megaman Legends is a good example of a game which gave the player a sense of being an archeologist in between blasting stuff to bits.
While the Grower mechanic explains where the blocks come from, it's harder to explain where the Bomber power-ups come from. The idea is that the Growers is blocking or tapping the resource which makes the Bomber power-ups. Why are these found under/inside the blocks? What are they made of? Do they respawn?
Perhaps the power-ups are buried under the blocks (like treasures in cartoons). If the player drops another bomb on the marked spot (an X or whatever), the treasure is revealed (Bomb upgrade or whatever). If the power-ups are finite, then the incentive to explore the same area again would be lost, which is both good (player moves on and can't grind) and bad (reduces re-playability of that area). However, the blocks could each release a power pellet (PP) when destroyed. These could be used as funds. As the player becomes more powerful, more destructive bombs will increase the PP income. To prevent the player from grinding an area for PP, blocks can have different maturity levels, and freshly planted blocks give no PP.
This however does not explain how the Growers are preventing the Bombers from getting powerful. If the Bombers get PP from the blocks, then the Growers appears to be providing funds for the Bombers.
I need to do a diagram describing the flow of the player on the map. Since I prefer to restrict the player not with keys and doors, but with player and character skill, this map should be more of a difficulty level 'height' map. Keys and doors could be used in some cases to give access to more power-ups or progress side stories, but I'm not too keen on using them too much for the main plot. I'd like to be rewarded for being kickass awesome in a game, and if I'm not I should not have to get stuck replaying the same boring area over and over again. In fact, if I find an area boring I should not have to play it at all. Games are supposed to make me have fun.
I like to think that the ideal game restricts player progression in the game world with ratios like 45% Player Skill, 45% Character Skill, and 10% keys&doors. I really like to be able to be skilled in a game and get rewarded for it. This is why I like exploration games where I can skillfully run ahead and do things I'm not supposed to. It's also fun to have a character to level up and see how powerful it can get. Bomberman is certainly about player skill as well as character skill. Since this is an exploration-RPG, I need a little slower pace and more dimension to the character skill leveling.
The suits could have certain stats which can be leveled up.
These are rare (possibly unique) things which are used up permanently.
The health system in Bomber King had the same problem as the one in Diablo. If you didn't remember to refill your health you died, despite being stocked with 'potions'. I prefer to simply have a long meter for the health, or E-tanks like in Metroid.
Player death is always hard to tackle. For a non-Arcade game like this, I think I prefer a system which is more lenient with health, but doesn't have any player respawning (meaning, you have to start over from some save). Usually I'm annoyed by having to restart from an earlier position, but at least it's not as bad in an exploration game where you can go and do something else if you get stuck. Also, if you really only have one place to go, the RPG mechanic will allow you to grind up in case it's too hard.
The Gun in Bomber King was used mostly for dispatching enemies. Maybe it can be used to wear down blocks, so it doesn't feel like it has no effect. Blocks and Enemies could share the same hitpoint system (blocks are much more durable). The gun needs to be a compliment to the bombs, otherwise the player will just use the bombs, and I don't want to make bombs finite in order to force use of the Gun. To make it a compliment it must properties that bombs do not have.
The gun could have several modes. Two of these modes could be mapped to buttons, say A and B. It is good to have quick button access because it makes improvisation easier.
This way the player will quickly be able to use a weapon which suits the tactical situation. Having to go into a submenu to change weapon would interrupt the 'flow' and perhaps the player wouldn't even bother
The bombs are really the main armament of the Bombers. I prefer the bomb laying system used by Bomber king 2 over the one used in the first game. In BK2 you lay bombs where you stand, but can't pass through them once you've moved. This is also how it works in the original Bomberman.
The Bombs cold come in several flavors, and if mapped to the X and Y buttons the tactical aspects of each bomb would be easier to exploit in realtime while playing. The bombs are probably generated by the Bomber on the fly. They can be leveled up just like in the classic Bomberman.
As the war went badly for the Bombers and they started to lose their powers, the Black Bomber became more and more secluded, and eventually disappeared. Some speculate that he never existed and was just a symbol of the Bomber's spirit of rebellion.
In actuality, the Black Bombers had withdrawn to work on increasingly esoteric projects. One such project included a human who had crashed on the planet and died. The Black Bomber resurrected her by turning her into what he thought was his ultimate achievement, a biomechanical bomber. For some reason, she never activated, and the Black Bomber disappeared. In the end, the Black Bomber returns to reveal the true nature of the Bomber Queen.
Normal end, addendum: The Bomber Queen takes off the armour and reveals that she's human (Metroid style). When a Bomber asks how she didn't notice that she was a strange human underneath the armour, she replies that she thought all robots looked like that (she's kinda new). The Bomber faints/foreheads.
Hard end, addendum 2: The Bomber Queen scratches her head in embarrassment and finds a button that opens up her human face (Masamune Shirow style) revealing that she's a robot underneath, after all.