II. Game Mechanics


Overview

Atomic Sam is a third-person , floating camera 3D action game in the tradition of Super Mario 64 or Spyro the Dragon . Atomic Sam is different, however, in that the gameplay focuses less on exploration but instead on the player battling his way through the levels, avoiding the robots and other adversaries that try to block his progress. That being the case, the game mechanics are designed in such a way as to allow the player intuitive and extensive control of his game-world character while enabling the player to appreciate the interesting and compelling game-world in which he is placed.

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Camera

In the game, the player will control the character Atomic Sam. At all times, Sam appears in the center of the screen, with a floating camera above and behind the character, in an over the shoulder type of view. The camera will be at such a distance that the player has a reasonable view of Sam and his current environment. The camera will be smart enough to avoid penetrating objects in the world and will always give the player a clear view of Sam. If necessary, in tight situations, the camera will zoom up closer to Sam. If Sam is too large on the screen and prevents the player from viewing the world adequately, Sam will appear translucent to the player, thus giving the player a clear view of the world. This translucency is apparent only to the player, and has no effect on the game-world or how the enemies react to Sam.

The camera will try to stay behind Sam as much as possible while providing a smooth visual experience for the player. If Sam turns around in a hurry, the camera will slowly catch up with his new direction instead of suddenly jerking into the new position. If the player changes Sam s direction for only a brief period of time before returning to the original position, the camera s orientation will not change at all. This allows the player to make minor adjustments to Sam s positions without having the camera swinging around wildly.

In-Game GUI

The majority of the player s screen will be taken up by a view of the game-world with the player s character, Atomic Sam, near the center of that screen. A few other elements will be overlaid on top of this view in order to provide the player with information about Sam s status and goings on in the game-world.

  • Current Projectile + Count: In the lower left corner will be displayed an iconic representation of Sam s currently readied projectile. Next to this will be a series of chits or ticks representing how many of that projectile Sam has in his inventory. More information about the projectiles used in the game can be found in the Projectiles description below and the Game Elements section.

  • Selecting the Current Projectile: When the player presses and holds the Next Projectile button, the player will see a horizontal display of the projectiles in Sam s inventory along the top of the screen. The player can then scroll through this list and select the object he wants Sam to ready. The weapons will be represented as icons. Once the player releases the Next Projectile button, this display will disappear.

  • Flight Time: Sam s rocket-pack has a limited amount of flight time. This will be represented by a horizontal bar next to an iconic picture of Sam s rocket-pack in the lower right corner of the screen. The bar will appear full when Sam s rocket-pack is fully charged and will slowly go down the longer Sam stays airborne . For more information about the rocket-pack and its functionality, see the Flying Movement section below.

  • Current Dialog: Different people will talk to Sam during gameplay; the friends Sam has accompanying him on his adventures , the Electric Priestess via the radio she gave him, and other characters Sam encounters may all say things to Sam. All of this dialog will be prerecorded and played back to the player. In addition, however, in the upper left-hand corner of the screen a 2D cartoon representation of the character will appear with the text appearing next to it. This will be important for players playing with the sound off or who did not manage to hear the dialog as it was spoken. This GUI element will disappear a reasonable period of time after it appears, allowing enough time for the player to read the text. When the game is in a non-interactive cut-scene, however, the dialog will appear at the middle of the bottom of the screen, as it would in a subtitled movie.

Replaying and Saving

The player has no lives in Atomic Sam . When Sam is incapacitated by one of the robots or another adversary (always in a relatively non-violent way), the player is able to go back to the last checkpoint and play that section again as many times as he wants until he passes it. Checkpoints are scattered throughout the levels, and the game automatically and transparently remembers when the player has reached such a checkpoint. The checkpoints will be carefully placed so as to enhance the challenge of the game without making it frustrating for the player.

During the gameplay, the player will be able to save at any time. However, when the saved game is restored, it will only start the player back at the beginning of whatever level the game was saved on, instead of at the exact location (or checkpoint) where Sam was on that particular level. This encourages players to finish a given level before they stop playing the game.

Control Summary

The player will use a number of different controls to maneuver Atomic Sam and to navigate him through the game-world. These controls are discussed in detail below. First, however, is a summary of the different commands, which will give the reader an overview of Sam s capabilities. The controls are designed with modern console controllers in mind, and can be easily adapted for whichever system Atomic Sam is developed.

  • Up, Down, Left, Right (Analog Controller): The player will use this control to maneuver Sam along the horizontal plane in the game-world. Utilizing its analog nature, if the player presses the control a little bit Sam will move slowly, while if he presses it all the way in a given direction Sam will move quickly in that direction.

  • Fly Up, Fly Down (Left and Right Back Triggers): The player will use these controls to propel Sam vertically in the game-world.

  • Throw (Right-Pad Down Button): This throws one of Sam s currently readied projectiles.

  • Next Projectile (Right-Pad Right Button): The player uses this button to scroll through Sam s inventory of projectiles.

  • Action (Right-Pad Up Button): The player uses this control to perform miscellaneous actions in the game-world, such as flipping a switch, talking to a character, or picking up a large object.

  • Look (Right-Pad Left Button): The player uses this button to activate the camera-look functionality.

General Movement

While Sam is on the ground or in the air, the player can move Sam forward, backward, left, and right in the game-world. The player will control Sam s movement in these directions using the analog controller on the game-pad. Control is always relative to the camera s view of the world. Therefore, pressing forward or up on the controller will move Sam away from the camera while pressing backward will move Sam toward it. Similarly, pressing left or right will cause Sam to move in the corresponding direction in the game-world relative to the camera.

Moving in a Direction

When Sam starts moving in a direction, he will at first maintain his current facing before turning to move in the new direction. For instance, if Sam is facing away from the camera and the player presses to the left, Sam will start side-stepping or side-flying in that direction. Only after the player holds that direction for a short period of time ( approximately one second) will Sam then turn his whole body to face the new direction of movement. The same applies for moving backward fromthe current facing: at first Sam moves backward, and then after a second he will spin around 180 degrees and keep moving in this direction. This will allow Sam to reposition in small amounts in any direction without actually changing his facing.

Variable Movement Speed

Use of the console system s analog controller for movement in these directions will allow Sam to move either slowly or quickly in a given direction. If the player pushes the analog controller fully in a given direction, Sam will move in that direction at high speed. If the player presses it only a small amount in that direction, Sam will move much slower. This will give the player precise control over Sam s position in the world.

Flying Movement

Key to Sam s navigation of the game-world is the rocket-pack he wears on his back. The player has Fly Up and Fly Down buttons to control this rocket-pack, which allow Sam to move vertically in the game-world. Once in the air, Sam will hover at a given altitude if neither button is pressed.

Moving Up and Down

Sam will not move up and down at a constant speed. When the player presses up, at first Sam will move slowly, gaining speed the longer the player holds down the Fly Up button. This speed will eventually (after about a second of upward movement) reach a terminal velocity after which Sam will not gain any more speed. The downward movement functions in much the same way.

Stopping

When the player stops flying either up or down or in a given direction, Sam will not stop immediately, but instead will coast to a stop. Sam s animation when stopping will show him quickly shifting his weight to change the direction the rocket-pack faces. This means the player will have to practice flying Sam in order to get him to stop precisely where she wants.

Flight Speed

Sam s pack is not an extremely fast device, providing a maximum speed approximately 1.5 times Sam s speed when he is jogging on the ground. Whenever the player maneuvers Sam to the ground Sam will return to a walking/jogging animation and will move at the slower speed associated with being on the ground.

Directional Flying

Sam can, of course, move forward, backward, left, or right while also moving vertically. The player can accomplish this simply by pressing the analog control in a direction while also pressing the Fly Up or Fly Down buttons. Sam will appear to pitch in the appropriate direction to correspond with his overall movement.

Burst Speed

The Fly Up and Fly Down buttons will both move Sam at the same maximum speed, but tapping either button twice quickly will result in a burst of speed in that direction, moving approximately 1.5 times faster than the regular maximum speed for a short period. But moving at this high speed will also use up more of the rocket-pack s charge. This can be helpful for quickly dodging enemy attacks.

Limited Flight Time

The rocket-pack has a limited amount of flight time, though fortunately it can recharge simply through not being used. The rocket-pack s charge is used up whenever Sam is not standing on the ground, whether he is flying up, flying down, or just hovering . The amount of charge remaining in the rocket-pack will be represented by a small bar drawn on top of the game-world view in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, so the player will always be able to know when Sam s flight time is about to expire. The rocket-pack s charge will be decreased different amounts depending on how Sam is using his pack. The ratios of usage will be approximately as follows :

Usage

Charge Depletion

Flying Up

4

Flying Down

2

Hovering

1

Burst Up

6

Burst Down

6

On Ground

“3

Landing

Since the rocket-pack s charge is limited, the player must land Sam periodically in order to allow the pack to recharge. The player lands Sam simply by maneuvering him close to the ground or any flat surface he can stand on. Because Sam has a limited flight range, the player will have to plan Sam s movements accordingly in order to get Sam from one location to another. This will allow for puzzle elements in the levels where the player has to figure out how to navigate Sam to an area, given Sam s limited flying abilities . The as the crow flies route will often not be the route that Sam must take to reach a far-off platform.

Falling to the Ground

Having the rocket-pack run out of charge while Sam is in midair will not result in his death. Sam s outfit includes specially made shock - absorbing boots with extra thick soles, which will allow Sam to land safely when falling from any height. But when his rocket-pack s charge runs out, Sam will plummet at a great speed, providing a very disorienting experience for the player when Sam falls from a great height.

Limited Altitude

The rocket-pack will also only be able to attain certain altitudes. If the player tries to fly Sam too high, the rocket-pack will start to sputter, indicating that Sam cannot fly any higher. Because of this limitation, the levels can have open skies without allowing the player to actually fly out of the levels.

Rocket-Pack Upgrades

Throughout the game, Sam will periodically find rocket-pack upgrades. These will either be attachments Sam can add on to his pack, or Sam may find game characters that will be able to tinker with Sam s pack in order to improve it. These changes will provide a variety of enhancements to Sam s flying ability.

  • Longer Flight Time: Sam can fly longer without having to land. This means Sam may have to acquire certain upgrades in order to reach certain locations.

  • Faster Burst Speed: Sam can fly faster using the pack s burst functionality.

  • Faster Overall Speed: The pack s maximum speed and acceleration are increased, allowing Sam to move vertically faster.

  • Improved Maneuverability: The pack is better able to stop on a dime. Instead of coasting to a stop, Sam can now stop as soon as the player lets go of the control stick.

Surfaces

Generally Sam can walk or land on any flat surface, whether it is the sidewalk or ground or a platform high in the air. Sam will be unable to land on surfaces that are significantly rounded or sloped. If Sam tries to walk up or land on a curved or sloped surface he will instead slide down the surface, stopping only when he reaches flat terrain.

There will be certain substances Sam will not be able to land or walk on. These include water, tar covered areas, or electrically charged floors. If the player navigates Sam onto such a surface while on foot , Sam will start an animation indicating the peril of the surface. For instance, if Sam comes up to an electrically charged floor, he will play an animation of starting to be shocked by the floor. If the player does not shift the direction of the controller to direct Sam out of the surface, Sam will quickly become incapacitated. Similarly, if the player tries to land Sam on such a surface while the rocket-pack still has charge remaining, Sam will start to be shocked, playing an animation early enough to indicate that the surface is perilous and to provide the player a chance to navigate him out of harm s way.

If the player runs out of charge while over such a surface, Sam will fall onto the surface-and be incapacitated without any chance for the player to save him. Of course, whenever Sam becomes incapacitated, the player will have to start playing again from the last auto-save checkpoint. In order to succeed in the game, the player will need to avoid both navigating Sam onto such surfaces and letting the rocket-pack s charge run out while Sam is over such surfaces.

Picking Up Objects

Whenever Sam flies close to an object he can pick up, he will automatically pick it up if there is enough room in his inventory. The objects Sam can pick up include projectiles, rocket-pack enhancements, and the Electric Piranha. Sam will play an animation and a sound will be played to indicate that Sam has picked up the object.

Sam can also pick up certain larger objects but cannot add them to his inventory. Sam may need to move these objects for puzzles or may want to drop them on enemies to incapacitate them. The player can have Sam pick up these objects by pressing and holding the Action key while Sam is near them, and then can drop the object by releasing the Action key.

Throwing Projectiles

Key to dealing with the robotic adversaries Atomic Sam will face throughout the game are the different objects that Sam can find and throw. Though Sam will never find or use any sort of a gun, he will obtain different objects that can be hurled at enemies in order to incapacitate them.

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Inventory

Sam will have a simple inventory that can hold up to fifty of each type of projectile. This is where projectiles Sam picks up will be automatically stored. The inventory is simple to use since the player cannot make room for another type of projectile by carrying fewer of another type of projectile. Sam can only remove items from his inventory by throwing them.

Picking Up Projectiles

In addition to starting the game with a small number of projectiles, Sam will find more projectiles throughout the game. Usually when Sam finds a projectile, he will find a group of them; for instance, ten Water Balloons or twenty Goo-Balls. Sam will automatically pick up these projectiles by maneuvering close to them. If Sam throws and misses with his projectiles, he may be able to retrieve them by going to where they landed, ideally after that particular encounter with enemies is over. In this way, players who are not very accurate at controlling Sam s throwing will get to retrieve their projectiles so they can try throwing them later.

Readying Projectiles

When a projectile is readied, the player will see Sam holding whatever his current projectile is, and an icon and counter in the lower right corner of the screen will reveal how many shots are left of that particular projectile. The readied projectile is the projectile that Sam is prepared to throw as soon as the player presses the Throw button.

The player will be able to select the readied projectile with the Next Projectile button. If the player quickly presses and releases this button, Sam will switch to the next available projectile in his inventory, if any. If the player presses and holds the Next Projectile button, the player will see a horizontal display of all the types of projectiles currently in Sam s inventory at the top of the screen, with the currently selected weapon appearing in the center. The player can then use the left and right directional controller to select previous and next projectiles, respectively, with the list of projectiles sliding left or right accordingly. The list will wrap around such that the player will be able to get to any projectile by pressing right or left repeatedly. Whatever projectile is in the center of the screen when the player releases the Next Projectile button will be Sam s new readied projectile.

Once selected, the player will see Sam holding whatever the current projectile is. If the player then does not throw the projectile or select a new readied one, after five seconds Sam will appear to put the projectile away. This is so that, visually, Sam does not appear to travel everywhere ready to throw a projectile. However, even if Sam does not appear to have a projectile ready, hitting the Throw key will instantly throw the readied projectile, just as quickly as if Sam had his arm out ready to throw.

Throwing the Projectile

The player will be able to throw Sam s current projectile by using the Throw button. The projectile will travel approximately in the direction the player is facing, though Sam will not have to be dead on in order to hit a target; the game will auto-target his shots at the closest adversary within the general direction Sam is facing. The current target will be labeled with a cross-hair so that the player always knows what target Sam will attack. It will be important to balance this auto-aiming so that it does not result in the projectile hitting targets the player did not want to hit, or in making the game too easy.

Throwing Speed and Distance

Releasing the Throw button will cause Sam to throw a projectile. A simple toss can be accomplished by a simple press and release of the Throw button by the player.

However, if the player holds down the Throw button, Sam will be able to throw the projectiles faster and farther. This will be represented by Sam s arm starting to spin while the player holds down the Throw button, moving in a motion like a softball pitcher s windup, except continuing in a circle. Eventually, once Sam s projectile is going to leave his hand traveling at the maximum speed, Sam s arm will appear as a cartoon-style blur because it is revolving so fast. Though the auto-targeting will line up the player s shot with an adversary, if the player does not throw the projectile with enough force it may fall short of hitting this target. Part of the game s challenge for the player will be making sure the projectile is thrown hard enough to reach its intended target.

Projectile Capabilities

All of the projectiles in the game will be able to disable different types of enemies. For instance, the Goo-Ball projectile will cause enemies who are walking on the ground or on the walls to stick to the surface they are on, rendering them immobile. The Goo-Ball will be useless against flying adversaries. Another projectile, the Water Balloon, will be best used against non- waterproof robots, causing their wiring to short-circuit . Heavily armored robots or human adversaries will be invulnerable to the Water Balloon. The player will have to pick carefully the correct projectile to use in a given situation. A more detailed description of the capabilities of the projectiles can be found in the Game Elements section.

Electric Piranha

In addition to the projectiles and improved rocket- packs Sam will find in the game-world, the player will also find a special object that works in a passive way to protect the player against attacks. The Electric Piranha is a metallic green fish-shaped mechanism which, when found and picked up by Sam, will float or swim around him as if in orbit . This Piranha will be able to block incoming projectile attacks from adversaries by throwing itself in their path and eating the projectile. If the enemies attempt melee attacks while Sam has an Electric Piranha around him, the enemies themselves will be incapacitated when the Piranha sinks its teeth into the attacker. A Piranha explodes when it successfully defends Sam from an attack. Sam will be able to collect up to four of these Electric Piranha at any one time, and they will be key for his surviving particularly hairy situations.

Actions

The player will have a special Action button that will cause Sam to perform different actions in the game. The Action key will provide a variety of different actions, and the game will automatically determine what the correct action is for Sam in a given situation, if any.

Flipping Switches and Pressing Buttons

If Sam is near a button or a switch and the player hits the Action key, that button will be pressed or that switch will be thrown. The switch may do something as simple as opening a door or raising a platform, or it may perform a more complex action such as activating a crane or turning on a steam vent.

Pushing and Manipulating

Certain objects can be pushed by Sam, and pressing the Action key will allow him to do so. These may include crates, barrels, and balls of various kinds that may need to be pushed for a variety of reasons, including the blocking and unblocking of passageways.

Picking Up, Carrying, and Dropping

Sam will be able to pick up certain large objects using the Action key. This is different from the projectiles Sam will automatically pick up since he will not add these objects to his inventory, and while Sam holds one of these objects, he will be unable to throw any projectiles until he puts it down. When near such an object, the player can have Sam try to pick it up by pressing and holding the Action key. Once Sam has the object in his hands, he can carry it around with him, only dropping it once the player releases the Action button. While Sam is holding an object, particularly a heavy one, his movement may be slowed significantly. The player will want Sam to carry objects in order to aid in defeating adversaries. For instance, Sam could pick up a large anvil, fly with it up into the air, and then strategically drop it on a troublesome robot.

Talking

Some of the non-adversarial characters in Atomic Sam will be willing to talk to our hero, if only for a sentence or two. If the player wants Sam to talk to a character, he should press the Action key when near that character. These characters can fill in some of the back-story of the world of Atomic Sam while making the levels seem inhabited and interesting. Included among these characters will be information robots, inventions of Sam s age that provide helpful advice to humans . Beyond just obtaining information, Sam will also want to talk to the characters that will be able to provide him with rocket-pack upgrades.

Reading

The player may see different informational signs or posters displayed on walls. In order to quickly zoom in and read these signs, the player can hit the Action key. These signs may include maps, which will help the player navigate the levels, or tourist information, which describes the history of the area that Sam is in.

Interactive Combat Environments

In addition to throwing his projectiles at his enemies, Sam will also be able to defeat them by using parts of the level against them. The player can use the Action key to activate different events that will help incapacitate the various adversaries Sam is battling. The levels in Atomic Sam will be full of these contraptions, some of which may take on a Rube Goldberg-like level of complexity. Spotting and using these different setups correctly will be a major component of defeating the different robotic adversaries throughout the game. Indeed, the player will be unable to defeat certain adversaries without using these devices. In a way, these contraptions are combat puzzles in that the player must solve them in real-time in order to figure out the best way to defeat Sam s enemies.

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These contraptions will be designed and set up by the level designer in order to best suit the level in which they are going to be used. Some key devices may be repeated throughout a level, perhaps in different configurations. Some of the devices will be usable only once, while others can be used repeatedly. The use of devices that operate multiple times gives the player a better chance of figuring out how to use the device through trial and error. When creating these contraptions and environments, the level designer will need to set them up in such a way that the player has a fair chance of figuring out what they do and how to use them correctly. A few examples of potential devices include:

  • Steam Vent: A switch next to a hot steam vent may cause steam to shoot out, stunning or melting whatever is in its path. If the player waits until the precise moment when an adversary is in the path of the steam jet to flip the switch, the adversary will be disabled by the steam.

  • Fan: A switch next to a large fan will be able to turn that fan on for a moment. This can be useful since it may blow whatever is in its path in a certain direction. For instance, if a steam vent is in operation across from a fan, a well-timed blast of the fan could force a creature into the steam vent.

  • Oil Drum and Lever: Sam may come across a board laid across a steel box, creating a simple lever. A large, empty oil drum could then be placed on the lower end of the lever. If the player hits the Action key while Sam is near the higher end of the lever, this will cause Sam to press down on the lever, thereby causing the oil drum to flip through the air and possibly capture an enemy or two in the process.

If any of these devices are used incorrectly, they may backfire and end up hurting Sam. For instance, if Sam hits the steam vent switch when he is in the path of the steam, his rocket-pack may melt in the heat, sending him hurtling to the ground. Of course, a big part of using these contraptions effectively will be getting the enemy in the right place, and luring the robots and other adversaries into these traps will provide an interesting challenge for the player.

Looking

The player will have a Look button he can press. This functions similarly to Look buttons in other games such as Super Mario 64 . While the player holds down the Look button, the camera will zoom in to be inside of Atomic Sam s head, and the player s forward/up, backward/down, left, and right controls will now pitch and turn the camera in those directions while Sam stays in one place. This will allow the player to get a clear view of Sam s surrounding environment, without Sam getting in the way of the visuals. This will be useful for examining puzzles and combat contraptions. As soon as the player releases the Look button, the camera will return to its normal gameplay mode.

Friends

Atomic Sam will not have to battle his way through all the game s levels alone. In each of the three intermediary game sections ” Benthos, Harmony, and New Boston ” Sam will meet game characters that will help him battle the robots and other adversaries he encounters. In Benthos, Sam meets Xeraphina the flying girl, in Harmony he hooks up with Scrap the robot, and in New Boston he is helped by Dulo the Moonie. (For more information about these particular characters, consult the Game Progression section of this document.)

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These friends will not be as good at defeating the robots as Sam, but they will be helpful in taking out some of the enemies, warning Sam about impending attacks, hinting at solutions to puzzles, pointing out items that Sam can pick up, indicating hidden areas, or showing the best direction to go next. The friends will talk to Sam frequently as they make their way through the levels, providing back-story, useful information, and amusing chitchat. These friends will never actually die or become captured during regular gameplay; they will always be able to fend off the enemy attacks directed against themselves. For more information about the AI for these friends, consult the Artificial Intelligence section of this document.

Speaking

A big part of making Atomic Sam an appealing and memorable character for the player will be the lines of dialog he speaks throughout the game. These won t occur just during cut-scenes, but also during actual gameplay. Not controlled by the player but added in order to color the gaming experience, Sam will have a variety of generic utterances he speaks as he defeats various adversaries. These will fit both his age and the optimistic retro-futuristic setting of the game. Some of these slogans will include: You can t stop the future! , Atomic is the answer! , Infernal machine! , and You re outdated technology! Sam may provide useful, informative comments when he s running out of projectiles or his rocket-pack is close to being out of energy. Sam will also have lines of dialog specific to special events in the game, such as when he first walks on the Moon s surface or when he first encounters a particular boss monster. By keeping Sam talking during the actual gameplay, the player will grow fond of the character and will be even more concerned for his welfare in the game-world.

Cut-Scenes

Brief cut-scenes will be used in the game to help convey the story line to the player. The game s 3D engine will be used for these cut-scenes, so there will be a consistent visual appearance between the interactive gameplay and the non-interactive cut-scenes. The cut-scenes will include talking between Sam and different characters such as the Electric Priestess, the different friends Sam has accompanying him, or other characters he finds in the different areas to which he travels . For particularly short conversations consisting of only a few lines, conversations may happen during gameplay without the use of a cut-scene.

Cut-scenes may take place between or during levels. Between levels they will explain upcoming environments and challenges, usually through information provided by the Electric Priestess. Cut-scenes that briefly interrupt the gameplay mid-level will include short, conversational exchanges between Sam and the characters he encounters. These mid-level cut-scenes will be visually seamless with the gameplay environment; their primary difference will be the change in camera angles. When Sam first travels to a new area, the player will see Sam traveling by blimp, auto-gyro, monorail , or other means of transport to the different locations in the game. On the whole, the cut-scenes will be as short as possible in order to get the player back into the gameplay quickly.

Storytelling

An important part of Atomic Sam is the story, and various devices will be used to convey that story. One, of course, is the aforementioned cut-scenes. These will convey all of the key information the player needs to be successful in the game. However, since they are non-interactive, they will be strictly kept to a short length so that the player can quickly get back to the gameplay. In order to convey more story, more sections of the story will be revealed through devices used during the actual gameplay.

Environments

Of course, the environments (levels) themselves will provide a key storytelling component by conveying a sense of setting. Special care must be taken to make sure the levels fit with the world of Atomic Sam and do not conflict with any story components .

Friends

The friends Sam meets and who accompany him in the various worlds will share the information they have with Sam while they are flying around with him. The characters may explain the history of a particular environment or some interesting data about the world of the future. Sam, after all, is a young child and still has much to learn about life. Of course, these friends will only talk to Sam during non-combat situations, when the player is focusing on exploration instead of defeating threatening robots. All of the speech that the friends speak will appear on the screen via the in-game GUI, as discussed earlier in this document.

Radio

After they first meet, the Electric Priestess gives Sam a small radio, which he can wear clipped to his ear. The player will hear information broadcast to Sam via this radio as he explores the levels. As with the friends, the Priestess may explain to Sam about the culture of the areas he is navigating and the nature of the adversaries he is facing. All of the dialog that the player hears over the radio will appear on the screen via the in-game GUI, as discussed earlier in this document.

Signs

As discussed earlier in the Actions section, Sam will also find static information displays that he will be able to read. These signs are yet another way to communicate the story of the world of Atomic Sam .

Levels

Atomic Sam is different from other console third-person action/adventures in that the gameplay focuses less on exploration and more on Sam s battling his way through the levels, avoiding the robots and other adversaries that try to block his progress. Certainly the levels will be interestingly designed and appealing to look at, but the player s motivation for continuing in a level will be more to confront the next interesting challenge than to merely uncover more of the level. Overall, the gameplay in the levels will be frantic and harried, and the player s split-second decisions and manual dexterity will be key to Sam eventually finding his parents. Sam will generally fight robots in two ways. The first way will be multiple robots at once, with all of the robots being of lesser power. The second way will be fighting a single, much more powerful or boss enemy. Usually the battles with the boss enemies will involve figuring out a particular method necessary to defeat the enemy, and will involve a bit more thinking than the battles with multiple adversaries at once. The method through which the player will maneuver Sam and the ways he will interact with his environment have been discussed earlier in this document.

That said, not all of the game will be frantic and combat-oriented. Between the battles-with robots there will be calm, safe moments in the levels where the player can rest and regain his bearings. It will be in these calmer sections that the auto-save checkpoints (described later) will be included. This will allow the player to restart her game in a relatively safe area. Some of these safe sections may also require simple puzzle solving in order for the player to progress in the game.

Critical Path

All of the levels in Atomic Sam will have a definite critical path to them, a particular route the player is encouraged to travel in order to complete that level and move on to the next one. Though there may be bonus or secret areas off to the side, the critical path will remain strong throughout the levels. For each of the different sections of the game ” Gargantuopolis, Benthos, Harmony, New Boston, and the Ikairus ” the player will have to complete the levels within that section in a specified order; this will help to communicate the story line effectively, to build tension appropriately, and to ramp up difficulty over the course of a series of levels.

Training Level

The very beginning of the game will also provide a special training opportunity for players who want it. When Sam first returns to his apartment and finds his parents missing, he will decide to don his rocket-pack to go after them. The rocket-pack came with a helpful Instructobot ”a pint- sized robot that speaks in robotic tones and instructs Sam how to use his rocket-pack. In fact, the Instructobot will encourage the player to experiment with the rocket-pack to get the hang of controlling it. In the safe environment of his house, the player will be able to experiment with Sam s different maneuvers before venturing into the more hazardous outside world.

The Electric Priestess Home

The most calm section of the game is the Electric Priestess bubble home. A mini-level where there is no combat, the bubble home acts as a hub between the worlds of Benthos, Harmony, and New Boston. In the Electric Priestess home, the player will talk to the Electric Priestess and will be able to choose one of the different sections of the game to progress to next without any threat of harm. For more information about the Electric Priestess and the different worlds found in the game, consult the Game Progression section later in this document.

World Order

The player will get some choice in the order he experiences the game s different main areas or worlds. After completing the Gargantuopolis levels at the beginning of the game, the Electric Priestess will present Sam with a choice of which area he will travel to next: Benthos, Harmony, or New Boston. Each of these areas will be fairly equivalent in difficulty, though due to the different challenges present in each area, different players may find one of the three harder or easier than the others. As such, the player can choose the one he finds easiest first. (In the middle of a given section, the player will have the ability to instantly revert the game to the Electric Priestess bubble home, from which the player can choose a different section, if the one he was playing proves to be too challenging or he simply grows tired of it.) For more on the flow of the game, consult the Game Progression section of this document.




Game Design Theory and Practice
Game Design: Theory and Practice (2nd Edition) (Wordware Game Developers Library)
ISBN: 1556229127
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 189

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