Even though Exile came out in 1988 for relatively primitive computers such as the BBC Micro, C64 and Amiga, it's still a surprisingly deep game. Describing what it's about is a bit tricky. First of all it's a two dimensional exploration game. You begin the game aboard your ship. Immediately, an evil guy steals your warp gizmo, stranding you on a planet. While there are things to shoot, I think the appeal of the game is the cave exploration and atmosphere.
My idea here is to make my own version based mostly on the C64, Beeb versions. It will feature very open gameplay, and a map with a lot of hand painted graphics.
Random screens from the C64 version. It uses some anti-aliasing (using brown) which unfortunately gives the graphics a muddy and blurry feel sometimes.
The early part of the game (Orotund cave) has the most landmarks and is quite open to explore.
This is painted like one big chunk. However, Smaller chunks could be painted, then rotated and scaled by the engine. These chunks could have gibs, which in turn have gibs. Every chunk/gib have a polygonal collision shape associated with them. A bucket or quad tree system keeps track of them. A chunk which takes damage and does not overlap with anything too much, counts as loose and... does some physics stuff until it settles.
No parallax for the background. I don't like parallax because then the BG is not in context with the FG. the BG could be made out of chunks too.
I'd like to see some pebbles and plants, acting as destructible superficial sediments. This might be enough to give the player a feel of terrain destructibility, even if there isn't much of it.
Partying with my pals Purple Robot, Bench and Cow-Ant thing over at Eriadnus.
These things might be hard to implement, but I'm still going to suggest them.
As for a damage system I would propose something like...
Damage = rnd(Damage) + rnd(Damage) + rnd(Damage);
...which would randomize the damage but keep the values somewhere in the middle. The armour penetration could look something like...
if(Damage < Armour) Damage = Damage * (Damage/Armour)^2;
Projectile weapons could just be metal objects flying really fast, and thus the damage factor would be the collision velocity multiplied by the weight, or something like that. This would make the game easier to mod, since fewer variables has to be set. It would also make it harder for modders to set unbalanced values. A set of pseudo physics could be written for laser and plasma weapons. Energy weapons would probably have little recoil and a damage factor that isn't affected by velocity.
I decided to write my own story instead of using the one from Exile (or doing a sequel). Ingredients: Oppressive empire, rebels, ancient / precursor race, Han Solo type hero. Since I'd like the game to be nonlinear, I think it's best to tell the story in 3 ways. Background story (into), Background story snippets which are found when playing the game, and then possibly an extro. I want to have an ancient civilization in there, but I think it should be found later in the game so I don't throw it into the player's face right away.
What the hero (or heroine) stumbles on first is the remnants of a previous expedition. Unlike the Exile story, I'd like to see an evil Empire behind the expedition. It feels better to blow stuff up if it's all evil. In Exile it felt a bit like you were blowing up your own stuff. The animal life should be neutral though. I think being friendly or hostile to the imps is an interesting choice.
So, the hero is an outcast, making a living through questionable means. Now when I think about it, it sounds a bit like the Firefly/Serenity setup. By chance, the hero finds a planet which has a bunch of abandoned ships sitting on the surface. However, when landing, a mysterious lighting bolt strikes the ship. The planet is also surrounded by some kind of field which prevents communication. The hero barely manages to land in one piece.
On the surface, abandon ships have sat lifeless for decades. Not all of them are empire ships. The hero ventures into a base, finding traces of firefight, barricades. Mission logs reveal a 'Mines of Moria' scenario. The empire had constructed massive drills, digging deep into the planet. This explains why some caves look artificial (straight/square). The drills can still be found, inoperative. Perhaps they suspected that whatever is stranding ships (and them) on the planet could be hidden below ground.
There are also traces of a primitive civilization found. Stone tablets, several thousand years old, indicate that the civilization had been destroyed by something from deep below. The imps, mischievous creatures, were pets or slaves used by this lost civilization.
An even older, and very advanced civilization was rumored to have existed a hundred thousand years ago. Little proof of it exists, mainly because the empire does not wish it. In reality the empire rose to their current position of power because they found and reverse engineered ancient technology.
Our hero has ties with the rebels, who up until now have been easily defeated by the empire. If ancient technology is hidden away on this planet, it could prove useful in defeating the empire. Retrieving this technology is not an easy task. First the hero has to defeat the defense mechanism and barricades put up by the empire, then challenge an ancient guardian (a robotic 'Balrog'), repair the ship, and find a way through the planet shield.
If Triax exists (Exile main vilain), he's probably an evil empire agent who have survived. As for a damsel in distress (crew of Pericles), maybe the empire uses slaves, which have survived somehow. Rescuing them is optional. There could be several ways to complete the game and leave the planet.
The ancient technology could be something like advanced teleportation. This would make it possible to outmaneuver the defensive lines of the empire and deal serious blow to certain key points. If Triax survives, the ending might be different.
These are found in a console aboard an empire ship.
First entry: We've established a base of operations, and hopefully we can survive long enough to find a way to get out ships operational again. Hanzo speculates that the entire planet is actually surrounded by some kind of shield or force field, and this is what disrupted the power generators aboard our ships.
Expedition week 1, summary: There seem to be traces of several different cultures here (besides our own). First, there's an impressive temple structure and several tombs. It appears to be remnants of a primitive human culture about 3500-4500 years ago. Inside we have found a cathedral, living quarters, a crypt and deeper down there's large cave structure that is perforated by mining shafts, but much is unexplored. We don't know how deep the mines go.
Secondly, it appears an alien explorer (or several) landed here some 75 years ago, and mysteriously disappeared, leaving a derelict ship behind. Under the ship we found an elaborate lair with a maze like structure, which we're exploring now.
Well, there's also an abyss, we don't know how deep it is, because our first probe was destroyed by the pressure. We're working on getting better shields for the next one. There's also a platform a bit down, and something that appears to be a sacrificial chamber. Ludwig says they might have made sacrifices to the abyss.
Glory to the one empire!
- Overseer Jarl
Expedition week 2, summary: Our spelunkers has come up with some really interesting findings, possibly there are remnants of the ancients deep down under the temple regions! If we could get our hand on new ancient technology we could gain further advantage over the rebel forces, maybe even weed them out permanently! Unfortunately the planet shield makes it impossible to contact the empire science division.
We have now explored most of the temple structure, and our findings in the crypts suggest that we're dealing with a race of large lizard-like beings. Their brains are slightly smaller than ours, but we estimate that their intelligence might have surpassed that of a modern human. If these creatures had survived whatever wiped them out, they might had be a dominating force in the galaxy today. However, the pets of this race seems to have survived, and they demonstrate some intelligence. When provoked they either attack or go into hiding. Recommending purge after the examination of this culture is complete.
Glory to the one empire!
- Overseer Jarl
Expedition week 3, summary: Most of our efforts have gone into the construction of the base. Some of the men have shown signs of paranoia, saying that they are being watched. I've increased their dosage of Polamine-12 to keep them in order. Personally I think it's the imps which are pranking us, but we've been setting up some doors and sentinels just in case.
As for the alien ship, we have still not found any traces of the alien explorer. We did find some interesting clues though, but right now our priority is to investigate the ancient remnants, so we're allocating most of our resources to constructing a set of drills. Jefferson is in his essence, working the slaves around the clock.
Oh yes, Ludwig found strong indications that there was a substantial increase of the number of sacrifices made to the abyss towards the end of the lizard culture. We still don't know why the culture disappeared, but we do know it was sudden.
Glory to the one empire!
- Overseer Jarl
Expedition week 4, summary: Things are really busy! An intact ancient control room has been found, and in it an ancient artifact. Ludwig has deciphered some writings which seems to indicate that the artifact is protected by some kind of security system.
Expedition week 5, summary: A guardian robot appeared when we tampered with the articact. We've built additional security level 3 doors, but the guardian can teleport right through them. Half of my men are missing, and most are probably dead. The rest are unorganized and tired, and we've run out of Polamine-12. We're not sure if we managed to contain it. Knut improvised some security robots that we'll be deploying.
Most games today are extremely linear, even if advertised as 'open'. Perhaps Exile is quite linear too. My idea of a nonlinear game is not a game which can be 'sequence broken', but rather a game where there often is no sequence to break, and no set path to 'backtrack'. A skilled player pushing himself should be rewarded for his efforts. An important part of the replay value for me is to play around with the order in which I acquire various items.
I don't like games which nannies the player. The player should be responsible for his own actions, and is allowed to lose important items, or get stuck in a dead end. Just like in real life, there are useless objects and pointless locations. If the player runs into a dead end, it's a dead end, not 'there's a hidden item here' or 'come back later with the super bomb'.
The game world rules shall under no circumstances be violated to restrict the player from doing something, like taking a shortcut. Also. the story should resist the player doing crazy things. The rules should be constructed to be as consistant as possible and yield all sort of emergent clever puzzles.
Imagine that you can dive into an abyss. As the player gets better suits, he can dive deeper. This is a much more natural puzzle than say a magical gauntlet which can break the special marked tiles you've been seeing scattered around the levels.
Most people are familiar with the concept of water pressure, and it would be exciting to push the suit to its limit, the blackness closing in around, the suit squeaking. These kinds of puzzles does not break the fourth wall like tiles with key holes on them risk doing.
Another example of a good puzzle solution is simply being able to blow up stuff with a large amount of explosives. If you are not able to do that, it's obvious that you are being herded and this breaks the fourth wall. Of course, explosives can be limited in supply, like the grenades are in Exile.
Yet another simple example is high jump boots. If you can jump higher you can reach new locations. In quake explosions push people away, and this allowed people to perform 'rocket jumping'.
The map will not be designed like a puzzle, instead locations will serve a purpose within the context of the story. For example, the mines will look like mines, and the crypt will look like a crypt.
The Odysseus expedition (empire aligned) has placed several doors and sentry robots to keep a hostile entity, the guardian, at bay. However, the guardian was able to teleport through doors and eventually killed off the entire crew. Because of the chaos, many expedition items are now scattered all over the place.
The map layout allows free roaming, and there's no planned path. There are both robots and doors restricting the hero, but the robots can be defeated with a little skill, and sometimes there's ways around locked doors. The doors can also be blown up. The hero can level up by finding better weapons, energy pods and other gear. It will make it easier to get past some of the more deadly robots. Convenience and curiosity will lead the hero, not impregnable forcefields and scripted events.
The hero is probably the only one equipped with an emergency teleportation device (the hero might have come over an ancient device in some previous adventure). If enemies had such a device, it wouldn't be possible to get rid of them.
The map is very large as a rectangular canvas, but less than 15% is used. I'm thinking the map could be built from little chunks, similar to how the game Aquaria does it. The blue square is screen size. I'm not sure if I should use a large temple, or a large empire base as the first thing that the player encounters.
1: The surface - This is where the hero starts. There are some explorable regions, like the upper part of the abyss, but the energy/jetpack will make it a dangerous trip that require resting on various ledges. The cave over the base is a bit hard to reach too. The alien ship and maze is a bit of a mess and doesn't offer any valuable objects at this time. The expedition ship was plundered by Triax, but has some interesting logs that are apart of the intro story (if the hero bothers to read). There's a grenade in a bush, and it can be used to blow up any of the doors into the base.
2: Base area - There's some nice equipment available right away, like a gun and a better energy pod. The doors are still causing trouble, but a few weaker ones can be penetrated. A few robots cause trouble too, and there's a particulary nasty one guarding one area. To get past it the hero needs to level up or be skilled. After some exploration, a remote, some logs (revealing both codes and story elements) and a better gun is found. It's possible to explore better outside now aswell.
3: Exploration - Now the game is really opening up, the hero can get through low level doors, the more massive ones can be destroyed with a bit of inventivity. If the hero wants, he can get to the ending but that will require quite an effort. Instead, it's better to explore and level up the gear, maybe find some more logs. The hero can go into the abyss but will not be able to get very far underwater. It's possible to run into Triax clonetroopers and maybe even Triax himself (who is deadly at this point).
This might also be the time to rescue some slaves (or other explorers) which are held in a force field prison.
4: End game - The deep ruins can be explored and the abyss may be visited, although with trouble. Even fully equipped, there's some nasty areas off limits to unskilled heros. Triax has withdrawn at this point.
There's a room or area with group of clonetroopers camping out, and the hero will have trouble defeating them. It's possible to defeat them by throwing in a lot of grenades, maybe a coronium bomb (which is rare), sniping them off, just being well equipped and skilled, maybe bring some reprogrammed robots into the battle, or do other wierd stuff, nothing is set.
The troopers are guarding a device (an advanced warp core) which they haven't dared to touch. Doing so attracted the guardian the last time (but it eventually went away). Triax is at another location (his morbid workplace), working on a way to disable the security system of the ancients. The hero might hold the key to at least disable the planet shield which prevents them from leaving. To leave, the hero also needs to repair a ship (maybe the power core of the ships were drained by the shield). The guardian will hunt down the hero, who has to carry the warp core to a ship (in Exile it's not possible to teleport away when holding large objects). It might be possible to sic the guardian on Triax and his troopers, or just kill everything beforehand.
On both sides of the map there are steep cliff walls. It's possible to fly up, a bit, but after a while the air will get so thin the jetpack will lose its boost. On the surface there's four ships. From left to right, the ships are, Empire ships, Hero ship, Alien derelict ship. To the left a temple is built into the cliff. Above it, there's a natural cave that might have been used for something, and a bit higher up, a plateau with an altar for worshipping... something.
The abyss is partly filled with water. Because of its depth it's really hard to explore it. A bit down there's a sacrificial chamber and a platform jutting out. The ledges along its steep sides are littered with stuff that has tried to make its way to the bottom (subs and sacrifices). There's some exotic creatures deep in the abyss, and treasures of course. Maybe a depressed robot too.
The temple has several entry points, and it's here that the empire guys built their base. Above the main door there's a eagle head with a door, which leads to a crypt. Inside the temple there's some smaller living quarters, a long hall, and under it the storage and mine shafts.
Image right: A beak-gate leading to a crypt. Flipped graphics here. Maybe I'll put this thing indoors or under water.
There's a couple of caves and cracks under the temple/base structure. These were once used by the temple people, but also more recently by the expedition members. Many strange creatures inhabit the caves. There's a crack that leads all the way to the deep temple. Also, the empire guys might have done some drilling.
The ancient race that once were active deep down under the temple/base area has a number of valuable artifacts to 'offer'. Unfortunately the key that opens their doors was tossed into the abyss along with some unfortunate guy. It ended up on a platform not too far down though, and is retrievable. It's possible to get through their doors by using a two component coronium bomb.
The player can find an efficient energy pod and a nasty lightning bolt weapon in this area. Triax has placed extra troops here. Some of the doors might have been locked when the empire guys tampered with them, explaining how the empire guys got into some rooms in the first place.
There's a vent / cooling canal attached to the abyss. Behind a grate a bit in there's an item that almost got flushed out. The warp portal chamber is a circular structure, above it there's two generators.
Under the derelict alien ship, there's some kind of lair. Maybe the alien made a nest then perished.
Great place to loot and find logs.
The designs here are vaguely based on the look of the C64 sprite. Finn is blue, Triax is red, and his clonetroopers are yellow. The rest can be expedition members. This is old art and I don't particularly like it anymore. There are a number of suits you can find in the game. Some make you immune to radiation and stuff.
Triax is an evil scientist, and the player might run into him occasionaly during the game as he goes about his business. He's quite powerful, like a fully equipped player.
These are controlled by Triax. Although clones, each one has developed it's own personality. the top row has plasma guns, the middle row has special weapons, and triax is to the left, in a commanding pose.
Old art, but I like the barrel / hazard suit helmets. Yellow-orange is sexy too.
The guardian is a very nasty robot built by the ancient culture. To defeat it the player needs luck, planning, good equipment, and skills. During the end of the game it will roam the map, this will hopefully create a scary atmosphere. The guardian can warp, so doors and walls are no protection.
I'm not sure if it's possible, but it would be really sweet to have an eco system thing going on. Creatures that I feel belong in the exile universe are: Imps, Wasps, Frogs, Piranhas, Crabs, Deep sea fish, Jelly fish, Larvaes, Clams, Mushrooms, Plants.
The art here is now junk (2003).
Each and every robot is unique, because they were assembled in a rush by the threatened expedition members. They mostly look like a barrel on wheels or treads. Turrets are stationary so move orders are irrelevant. Orders can be given with a remote control loaded with the right control code.
Weapon orders: Shoot everything, Ask then shoot, Don't shoot. Move orders: Follow, Spot, Patrol, Roam. Forcefield orders: On, Off. General orders: On, Off.
Doors can be opened with buttons, keys (remote control), or they can be destroyed. They're quite bulky and open with telescopic sliding of some sort.
Door orders: Open, Close, Open and close. Forcefield orders: On, Off.
All items has a weight, and is affecting the player's weight when carried. Also, all objects can be destroyed, including important items. There's also useless items, and decor items like crates, pots, treasures and skeletons. Destroyed things will leave debris.
Remote controls are used to control the equipment which the empire left behind. There's three different types of control codes, an unique one that only works on that specific object, a security class code that works for a number of objects of the same class, and a master code that works for everything. The control codes are 6 digit numbers that are randomized at the start of the game. They have to be manually punched into the remote, and can thus be guessed.
Expedition Logs made by the empire troops can be found (stored in their PDAs). Most of the unique control codes have been written down, and they can be found in the various logs. Unfortunately, Triax took the master code and erased it from the log aboard the expedition ship. There'll also be notes about creatures, cave layout, personal experiences, horror stories, jokes, clues to where some items are, etc.
Personal forceshields are used by robots, turrets, doors, and the player of course. Forcefields are one-way, allowing objects to pass through in one direction. Objects (bullets, blasts, explosions) stopped by the forcefield will drain the field's energy buffer. Once the energy buffer is low, the field will become unstable and can be passed though, and damage can be dealt to the object protected by it. Damage greater than the remaining forcefield health will 'trample' through. When attacked, a forcefield will spark in a color based on the remaining health. From strong to weak, the colors are: white, cyan, green, orange, red.
Since a forcefield recharges, a certain amount of damage must be inflicted in a certain amount of time. It's likely that someone attacking it will deplete his energy first, because the forcefield buffer is greater than weapon buffers. Many doors have several energy pods providing boost to the buffer, a luxury the player can't afford because of the weight.
There's two types of Energy Pods. Those who produce free energy and those with a finite supply. The first kind can be used forever, because they extract free energy from the air. They do not actually store energy, but produces it at a certain rate. There's many types of energy pods, and their recharge rate varies between 1.0 and 5.0, but most energy pods are around 3.0. There's also the rare alien hightech energy pod that produces 12.0.
Logically, there should also be energy pods with a finite energy supply. These have values around 3.0 to 7.0, but they get depleted of course. Robots often use the first kind, but there are a few robots who have depleted their energy pods. Once rebooted, they'll ask for control codes and orders.
The jetpack, weapons and forceshields have energy buffers. These are recharged by the energy pod, and each buffer can get different shares of energy. The energy recharge rate is quite slow compared to normal energy drain. The buffers assure there's no sudden shortages.
Energy pods as they might look. Megaman inspired? Indeed. Remote on the right. Old art.
Various ammunition is used by... various weapons. There is a finite supply on the map.
The PDA can take notes, copy logs, and do other PDA things. It could have a 'GPS' (X,Y) that stops working deeper into the cave, but functions in the abyss because it's outdoors.
Possibly it could even have a little drawing program. In any way there will not be an 'auto map' since that ruins the whole exploration deal. It's more authentic to improvise with the means you have. Also, by not having a map, the game will seem larger, as you might forget where you've been. The game will never be 100% explored, even if you've actually been everywhere.
The SaveState Machine uses energy, but allows Finn to save and reload the universe. Umm, yeah it's just a save and reload thing, but by using energy it won't be abused too much. The game has two difficulty settings, easy and hard. Hard is without this item, ie. the player only have one life (and can die, somehow).
The symbols below is not real weapon stats, but just pointers to how the weapon behaves. For example, a weapon's reload rate depends on the buffer size and mechanics of the weapons such as cooling, charging up, etc. Weapons that use ammunition will not have the buffer problem of course, but they do run out of ammo eventually.Uses (or is) ammo.
Grenades are really powerful, and quite rare to come by. Low security doors can be destroyed by just one. Medium security doors require a few to be detonated at once along with some weapon blasts maybe. High security doors require more grenades than the player is likely to normally have, plus grenades weigh a little so the player will have to bring them in batches and pile up. The grenade can explode on impact, or be set to 4 seconds, or be set not to explode at all. Grenades will explode if damaged.
Coronium two-component bombs can destroy just about anything. There's only one or two in the game, and the player has to gather different components to make them work. Since Coronium is radioactive the player also needs a shield modification or he'll take damage.
The Blaster pistol is a simple gun that fires a small bolt of plasma.
The PlasmaGun is a versatile weapon because it has several settings. It can act as a 'machine gun', or shoot stronger charges at a slower rate. The plasma bolts rapidly dissolve so the range is pretty poor. The dissolve effect should have texture and not just be a simple scale/fade.
The PulseLaser shoots a short beam, or a row of particles that looks like a beam. It doesn't diffract as much as the plasmagun, so it has a better range.
Inspiration: StarWars - Blaster.
The ThunderBolt is found in the deep ruins. It fires a strong bolt of lightning which might scatter around a bit and diffract. It has a poor accuracy and range, but the bolts are slightly homing.
Inspiration: Arc Welder - StarTrek elite force, BFG - Quake 2, Lightning gun - Quake 1.
The WaveGun is an alien weapon that emitts a wide of wave beam of some sort. The beam looks a bit like hot air and is not easy to see.
Inspiration: Arc Welder - StarTrek elite force, BFG - Quake 2, Lightning gun - Quake 1.
The StarBuster Cannon fires a charge of superdense plasma at a high velocity. Slow reload, high damage.
Inspiration: Buster cannon - MegaMan Legends II.
The P-821 is similar to a shootgun. It fires a burst of small plasma particles.
Inspiration: Electro-Bolt - unit 821 - Paradroid 90.
The Flamer is, well, your regular flamer, except it uses superheated air and plasma. Easy to hit with.
Inspiration: Haven't really seen a flamer weapon well done. Perhaps there is one in a WW2 shooter.
The BoltGun shoots a bolt and is normaly used to attach things. Since the projectile isn't aerodynamic it'll tumble and quickly lose accuracy and speed.
Inspiration: Nailgun - Quake 1, Stapler gun.
Grenade Launcher shoots an exploding projectile at low speed, which gives the grenade an arced trajectory. The grenade can explode on impact, or be set to 4 seconds. It's not as strong as a hand grenade.
Inspiration: Grenade launcher - Quake 1.
The RPG Launcher shoots a Rocket Propelled Grenade with no guiding. It doesn't lose altitude and thus has a straight trajectory. It's not very fast though. Also, any remaining fuel will boost the explosion slightly, so it's an advantage to hit things at a closer range.
Inspiration: Rocket launcher - Quake 1.
The Mini Missile is mounted in some robot sentries. The missiles are homing, but not very fast. Also, any remaining fuel will boost the explosion slightly, so it's an advantage to hit things at a closer range.
The Mini Cannon rapidly fires an exploding projectiles, and has a significant recoil.
The Old Rifle was brought by an expedition member as a nostalgia and 'just in case' option.
The Old Revolver was brought by an expedition member as a nostalgia and 'just in case' option.