Paradroid redesign project

Story

New setting

In 3408 the war between Man and the Trimorg was still raging. Although the war was mostly fought with droids, civilians had become more and more affected in the form of stricter rationing and occasional Trimorg deep strikes.

After the Beta Ceti and Basmyth incidents all droids were equipped with a Radionic shield brain case. To counter this the Trimorg soon developed a Neuro-beam which worked on humans instead of droids. The idea was that once the humans were under control their battle droids could also be controlled, indirectly.

Around Beta Ceti orbits a Relay Station, a form of warp hub which uses the X-Ray emissions from Beta Ceti to form a stable and very accurate warp gate. Anyone who controls it gains a vital logistic advantage. Because of this the Relay Station is strongly defended and frequently attacked.

This is where the Trimorg deployed their new secret weapon, but not quite achieving the intended result. A Neuro-beam bomb was detonated in the proximity of the fleet defending the Relay Station, affecting all humans permanently. However, many victims just became ravingly mad, and others became vegetables. Only a handful could be controlled by the Trimorg.

Still, with a large Neuro-beam field deployed around their fleet, and control of the Relay Station, the Trimorg had turned the tables on Man. It was only a matter of time before they would stabilize the situation and gain control of all the Gate Codes. The council of Man, realizing there's not a single Robo-Destroyer ship within a week of Beta Ceti, sends out a desperate call to an unexpected ally - the Raiders.

The Raiders, human only by origin, were nomads who often engaged in Piracy and various activities which the council of man found disagreeable. What made the Raiders suitable as allies for this particular incident were:

  1. Their re-engineered bodies are immune to the Neuro-beam.
  2. From technology scavenged during the Basmyth incident they had developed a short range Radionic beam weapon which was capable of penetrating even a shielded droid brain case (operating through quasi subspace manifolds).

Original setting

According to the Paradroid 90 (Amiga) manual (or atleast an extract I found), Paradroid 90 is set 2390 and space travel, probably Star-Trek style, is possible. The frontier world of Basmyth is under siege by the Trimorg empire (it's unclear to me what they are). A fleet freighters are sent to Basmyth to assist. The freighters carry a basic crew of various droids and humans and their cargo consists of battle and security droids. However, on their way to Basmyth they pass an uncharted asteroid field. Some kind of signal coming from it makes the droids go nuts and attack the human crew. It is now up to the player to regain control of the ships by destroying the droids, lest they fall into the wrong hands (Trimorg or Raiders?). There are also Pirates / Raiders who will try to loot the ships.

The story for the C64 version is similar. A fleet of Robo Freighters are heading for Beta Ceti system when powerful radionic beams coming from an uncharted asteroid field hit the ships. It made the droids go nuts and kill the crew, and the (8) ships also changed course to enemy (not man?) territory. These ships carried a valuable cargo of battle droids to reinforce the out-world defences.

Beta Ceti is a giant fluffy orange star some 96 l.y. away. Lots of X-ray radiation.

This gives me a few factions to play with:

Preferences of mine with impact on plot development

It always irked me how you had to destroy your old droid after transfering. I wanted to amass an army of droids, although it would give the game a larger scale similar to a skirmish RTS. I suppose it could be scalable, so some levels are more solo, and others are designed around controlling large amounts of units. It's always cool to watch two factions fight on their own.

I did not like the transfer game. I suck at it, and I feel it interrupts the action gameplay too much. Maybe there are (also) other methods to take over droids, such as beams. I like the idea of giving the player a little choice, making the game accessible to more people.

I did not like how the time limit on droid control was done. It's obvious that the Rogue droids (affected by the Radionic beam) did not have a time limit, only the ones the player touched. Supposedly the influence device is somehow special. The entire setup is too gamey/arcadey for me. I prefer to see a more natural solution if the player must be prevented from becoming godlike for too long.

The influence device design... I'm not sure what to think about it. The P64 001 doesn't seem to be able to fit on the head of all the droids. The P90 101 has tentacles so it might work. If an intangible influence software virus is used, then transferring (not copying) doesn't make much sense.

Art direction

Droids

Below are some rough concepts based on the original graphics from Commodore 64 and Amiga Paradroid. I'm of course using the database pictures from the games as reference here. The C64 version didn't have any graphics of the droids for the topdown action part, and that prevented me from getting into the game. I can understand if people liked that though, as it gave them a chance to imagine what was going on.

Paradroid 90 Amiga redesigns art concepts

Paradroid C64 redesigns art concepts

Paradroid C64 sprite reference. I'm not sure if it was ripped properly. The game might have been packed so I have not bothered dumping anything myself. Apparently the palette varied between different machines because of some analog stuff.

Paradroid C64 sprite reference

Here are some ideas for how to expand upon (or paraphrase) the Paradroid designs.

Parallel Paradroid concepts

New 2012 art! Straight top-down views works super-poorly with animated humanoid figures. People look like bars with blobs oscillating in and out (limbs). Perhaps I made the mistake of trying to design these droids from the front before. They need to read and look good from above first and foremost. Also, it's a lot easier to get forms right when working in perspective, since you're more aware of the three dimensions and have to solve more of the design problem, unlike with 2D orthos. Of course, I haven't really solved the problem here (too rough still), but it's a "feel" iteration in the right direction, I think.

Isometrical C64 Paradroid concepts

Color coding

In order to make a droid's function more readable, color coding could be used. This would however reduce similarity with the source material (C64 profile pics in particular.The P90 droids change color a little depending on ship).

Ships and playfields

Paradroid actually had some relatively plausible environments. I dislike when games present an obstacle course for me to run through, it kills immersion. However, I do think that the environments in Paradroid were a bit garbled with no overall structure or theme to anything. Here are a few ideas for interesting places:

Locale:

State:


Game mechanics

General idea

3D topdown. Play as a Raider (chaotic neutral?) who can hack into droids, taking control of them directly, or just making them 'friendly'. Amass forces of droids. Trimorg beasts might beam in (replacing the Raiders of P90).

Droid control time limit replacement

Can a player control a droid forever, and would this result in the game becoming static after the player has the ultimate droid? Possible solutions:

The transfer game

I'm not a fan of this... intrusive little mini-game. It's frustrating to die because of it. It's a bit like the Monty Python wizard throwing you into the abyss after you've made it so far. It's easy to think of many types of transfer games which could be 'skinned' to fit the hacking theme, but I'd rather see some other mechanic.

Transfer game replacements

I'd like to keep the mechanics of transfer as much 'ingame' as possible, giving a more seamless experience. With this I mean, taking over droids should not involve a process which interrupts the game, possibly killing immersion. Imagine for example that killing a droid gives you a transfer point to spend and the more points you have, the more powerful droids you can take over. What bothers me with such a system is, who is counting the points? It would seem like a rule God outside the game does, and that is what kills immersion for me.

The following method involves both player skill and character skill:

Other ideas are:

A rather knee-jerk-idea method to restrict transfer could be keys (programs, whatever) which grants instant free access. Collecting things is often fun in games. It gives us a sense of progression.

All of these methods could be used. Perhaps it varies from map to map which methods are available to the player.

Line of Sight

Line of Sight was a nice aspect of Paradroid. In P90 all droids had various sensors, but any droid you controlled just used regular line of sight. Here are some ideas to expand on that.

For example, one droid might see 270 degrees with a movement sensor. When using this droid, the screen is drawn differently, like a 'predator' filter. You see the magnitude of movement or whatever, and tempo. Since you can't see walls, you overlay the blips on a schematic of the level. As a player you might learn to differentiate between different droids based on movement, magnitude and pulse frequency. This droid would see through walls to some extent, making it easy to hunt for campers. The 999 droid would have all kinds of super powerful sensors, making it hard to hide from. Some droids might see the ID numbers and get a visual reminding of the C64 emboss graphics.


Byline: Niklas Jansson, 2007 - 2009, Paradroid was made by Graftgold and published by Hewson.