I think I started this project in the early '90s when I first played the Paradroid 90. I remember drawing my own droids in Deluxe Paint and having all sorts of (then) unrealistic ideas of what could be done. It's 2019 now, and thinking back, what appealed to me about the game was probably just seeing a bunch of cool robots doing stuff. It wasn't really the specific game design of Paradroid. Currently I'm playing an online MMO called C21-online where you can switch between multiple robot characters (a party) and it sort of satisfies the same need.
It's doubtful that the Japanese C21 devs have even heard of Paradroid as the C64/Amiga/Atari were not a thing over there, but the terrain here reminds me slightly of the bevel style used in some Graftgold titles. Also, the official name of this robot is パラボロイド (Paraboroid), which likely is just a reference to the paraboid head. C21 allows you to rearrange limbs and recolour your robots in pastels, but there are not a lot of spindly limbs like in C64 Paradroid.
C21 has been around for quite some time but uses a low poly style so it doesn't look dated the way a more realistic limit-pushing game does. Here's a stock robot next to one of my characters which has been customised with new limbs, weapons, colours, and even a custom texture. C21 textures are very rectilinear and bevel/panel line focused. I wouldn't necessarily like to see robot customisation in a Paradroid game though. The chubby NPC is an older model.
I've seen a lot of Paradroid fan projects, but they tend to focus more on core mechanic of C64 Paradroid, featuring ball-robots with numbers on and scoring mechanics. Perhaps it's a viable concept nowadays, I don't know. I think, even if I had played Paradroid 64 a lot, it would probably have been for the same reason as I played Paradroid 90 - exploring on a spaceship with robots on and poking around in databases. Therefore I wouldn't be upset if I saw the designs and setting used in a different type of game.
I wanted to piece something together here using fragments of the official background stories. Here are those for reference.
According to the Paradroid 90 (Amiga) manual (or at least 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:
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. 2019 cleanup happened. The C64 droids are quite "chibi" so I thought I'd try that.
Paradroid C64 sprite reference.
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.
2017 art. BabyMETAL edition?
For reference, Paradroid Metal ed. No, wait, It's Competition Ed. It has a very atmospheric intro with a colour flash effect. There's a Heavy Metal ed. too, anyways. That one has different walls with a harder metal look (based on another game called Morpheus apparently).
Boring front view concept failure, tho more pixel faithful.
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).
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:
I don't really know anymore. Play as a Raider (chaotic neutral?) who can hack into droids, taking control of them directly, or just making them 'friendly'. Amassing armies could be tricky to implement, causing a cascade of design problems. The original solo setup is fine too I guess. Trimorg beasts might beam in (replacing the Raiders of P90). Camera... Twinstick sort-of-topdown is quite appealing. I like Robotron 2048.
In C21 there are multiple camera systems but the most practical one is the shoulder-cam. I've set the controls to WASD+mouse. The game is PvE and not primarily about shooting. There's a lock-on function to assist in firing the many weapon systems a robot might have (offering some variation). First person shooting works poorly in a game with flying, platforming, and melee, all requiring situational awareness (and there's lag too). One carries a party of 5 robots but only control one at a time. I suppose they magically "phase" in when switching, but the point is that it offers variation and strategy similar to Pokémon. Paradroid solved it with the transfer game and degradation, but sometimes it's nice to have persistent characters. A hybrid solution might work. The player has a somehow limited supply of "anchors" to inject into droids, and can then swap between these bodies (Like a 476 on deck 4, a 614 on Deck 9), or respawn into if destroyed, or just use as fast travel.
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:
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, or perhaps several.
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 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. Certain droids could 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 reminiscent of the C64 graphics.
Quazatron is set a different game universe I think.
Fooling around with a schematics styled lineup for the droid database but it looks a bit noisy and dull compared to P90's colourful portraits. Font is just half size P90 gold font in 1-bit with cleanup (101 text, not 614).
There has been some confusion regarding the whereabouts of the rights to Paradroid. Rights are not a monolithic thing so it gets complicated. As I understand it, Graftgold was liquidated at some point. I believe their "IP" was sold to Jester Interactive. I downloaded their Paradroid trailer in 2001. Looking at their IP section in 2019, I see they claim to own the "full software back catalogue of Graftgold" specifically mentioning Paradroid. However, several others may hold publishing rights (Rebellion?), which is a different thing. Also, old royalty agreements honouring the original developers may still be valid regardless of publisher, but I suspect they have been forgotten, or "forgotten". Source: WWW and Twitter statements by Braybrook.
As a side note, a trademark name can be separate from all this and they tend to expire if not used. For example, I remember that Atari owned the "Star Control" trademark but not the IP which had stayed with the developers, so when the trademark was about to expire Atari hired some devs to rush out a generic browser game (in days) carrying the name just to demonstrate use of the name so they could renew the TM. Then Atari went bankrupt and their stuff was auctioned off. Some company then picked up the rather flimsily retained TM but wanted to treat it as if it was the complete IP package.