Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
The screenshot I’m about to show you won’t look spectacularly different to the one earlier – I still haven’t fixed the horrible protagonist bot or the laughable kid’s snow effect. But to play, it’s already close to what the finished game will be.
The main thing is randomised enemies, with visually apparent stats. Randomisation will be part of the Discovery element, and also just the fun of the game: it’s never going to be a great shooter, but it’s already kind of cool to blunder into a triple-barreled deathbot with hyper speed and discover a whole new echelon of boned.
The visual apparency – representing every stat in the shape of the enemy rather than a stats readout – is part of that too. It gives your read on the enemies immediacy, and that’s a catalyst for fun. I need all of those I can get. Hopefully you can tell which one of these enemies has more firepower, and which one is better protected.
What you can’t see, and what you probably won’t even find if you play it, is the ridiculous amount of fun I’m having with it.
Most of this afternoon was spent thrashing out the enemy movement to be more convincing and dangerous, and all of this evening was spent drawing just a few bad sprites – it takes me actual time to get pixel art to the dismal level of quality you see here.
Then in less than half an hour, I did the coding legwork to implement every chunk of art into modularly assembled, dynamically scaled, randomised deathbots. And the game’s gone from being a tame arena where I can always win through knowing the tricks, to a terrifying robot safari where things with crazy muzzle velocities can also outrun me, and I see combinations I hadn’t pictured.
It’s not exactly good, yet, but it’s an amazing thrill to see that kind of stuff come to life from a few simple maths statements. I can pretty much stomach art work if it’s for a game that can stretch and recombine it to endless different purposes.
I’ve also had an idea for how to relate the game more obviously to the Discovery theme. It’s fun to try and creep up on these bots when they’re not looking. They turn round if you shoot them, to prevent the game being too easy, but I’m going to make it so that you can subtly scan them if you get up close and undetected.
If they have a module you’ve never used before, you’ll gain the ability to salvage it if you later kill the bot. And if they don’t, you’ll be able to read their robo-thoughts. Not entirely sure what I’m going to do with that, but even if it’s just an array of pointless introspection it should be fun to write.
More Game Jams
Bret: Like the scanning mechanic. Seems the kind of game to kill a dull afternoon.
Niteowl: What are you writing this in?
Bret: He's using gamemaker, I think.
If they have a module you’ve never used before, you’ll gain the ability to salvage it if you later kill the bot.