Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hypershift - Engine Nearing Completion

I'm back, folks, with another update. I hope you like good news, cause this post is full of it!

The game engine for Hypershift is nearing completion. What does this mean for you, the player? You'll get to try out a demo sooner than you might think. Let's talk about what exactly a 'game engine' is for those who can't picture a logical machine that makes games work when it's oiled properly and in the right gear.

Most games have a basic set of mechanics (a fancy word for rules) that need to be followed in order for the game to work. For tower defense games, like Hypershift, those rules are fairly simple. Creeps must stay on the path, towers must fire at creeps, and so forth. Now, these rules don't enforce themselves. There have to be systems in place to keep track of everything and make sure it's running the way it should be. These systems are collectively called the game engine.

For example, the wave system keeps track of the creeps, places them on the map or level, and makes sure they don't all enter the map at the same time, which as you can imagine, would be disaster for even an experienced tower defender. It's not exactly an easy job, to be honest. Many a good wave system has cracked under the pressure.

In addition to the wave system, there is the tower placement system, which allows the player to place towers, but also prevents them from being placed on top of other towers, outside the level or map boundaries, or on the path itself. Another system is the projectile system, which keeps track of the bullets, and uses trigonometry (a specific field called ballistics, actually) to make sure the bullets actually hit the targets. Remember, if you fire at the spot that a creep is now, two seconds later when the bullet arrives, that creep will have moved, and the bullet will be way off. Ballistics makes sure the bullet is shot towards the creep's anticipated location, taking into account its current speed and direction. Of course, if the creep rounds a corner just after the shot, the bullet will most likely miss anyway.

That's just a handful of the many other systems involved in a game engine. To put it bluntly, the game engine itself is a lot of work. But once it's done, the rest of the work in making a game is simply designing levels, images, music, sound effects, and fitting it all together into a cohesive experience. Then beta testing makes sure that it's a fun experience, and your game is ready to show to the world.

Whew! You learned something new today. How about that. Game design is a fascinating subject, as is software development in general. Being a software developer, however, I doubt I could ever think otherwise.

Anyway, on to some more juicy game details! (Boo to all you cheaters who scrolled down just to read this part). You've waited over a week, and here's your reward. The next few elements of gameplay.

Since you're probably most curious about the multi-dimensional part, I'll start there. Hypershift doesn't really use five dimensions, as you might have guessed. It's hard enough displaying three dimensions on a flat, 2D monitor. (Although Miegakure boasts that it's a 4D platformer, which I'm quite excited about). Anyway, in Hypershift there are five dimensions, you just can't see them all at once. In fact, you can only view one dimension at a time.

Dimensions add a whole new...er, dimension to tower defense. That is, they add variety and a bit more strategy to the mix, and that is what makes Hypershift unique. Creeps come in several varieties, but all of them belong to one dimension or another. Now, they can be seen in any dimension but the one they belong to. Confusing? Here's an example...

You're looking at the light dimension. Some dark-colored creeps begin to trundle nonchalantly down the path. You can see them, of course; they're from the dark dimension, so here they stick out like a sore thumb. If you were to swap visors and change to the dark dimension, however, they'd disappear. That's because, well, they're the same color as that dimension -- black. Starting to get the picture?

Swapping dimensions efficiently will comprise a good deal of gameplay. It also adds an element of strategy not found in other TD games. Do you stay in one dimension long enough to kill all the creeps you can see? Or do you let a few of them survive so you can damage other creeps that are slipping by in another dimension? It's all up to you.

On the other hand, there might be certain towers that can help you out with this...

Ah, but I've said too much for one post. Next time: SCREENS!!

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