Saturday, September 12, 2009

Empyreal: A Closer Look

Hi there gamedevs, I'm Chris Hooe, fourth-year BACS major and director of Empyreal. I'd like to take a moment to more thoroughly introduce the motivation for and goals of the project.

The goal of the Empyreal team is to take the game's spiritual predecessor, Skies of Fury, and expand on it in every way possible. The most evident expansions to the player to begin with will be the shift from 2D sprite-based graphics to 3D rendered graphics, and the freedom to roam this world on a 2D scale (in Skies, the player was locked to constant forward progression). Many changes are planned for the game mechanics as well; rather than extreme arcade-style gameplay, Empyreal will provide a more tactical slant of air combat, as players will have multiple choices of aircraft with clear strengths and weaknesses, choice of weapons loadouts (with great differentiation between available weapons), and enemies who (you guessed it) have their own strengths, weaknesses, and AI routines.

Another game mechanic to push towards this goal is the introduction of missions. Missions will consist of multiple pass/fail objectives that the player must complete to pass a particular level. Mission scenarios might potentially include: standard sorties, where either a specific group of targets or all in-range hostiles must be neutralized; escort missions, where the player must protect an NPC from being destroyed by hostiles as it navigates through a series of waypoints; base defense missions, where the player must defend a stationary target for a slew of enemies; and finally, assaults, where the player must take out a heavily-defended stationary enemy base. Ideally, several missions could be played in sequence for a campaign mode, and icing on the cake would be a story loosely tying all the missions together.

As one can probably tell, game options and variance is of utmost importance to this project; if this goal of clear differentiation and strategy beyond what was establised in Skies is not met, then this project cannot in my mind be considered a success. As such, making sure all gameplay additions add a clear, concise, and unique function to the gameplay will be mission-critical and emphasized through the development of the project.

There has to this point been significant work done on the base engine, and a preview video is embedded below:

Features showcased in this video include:
  • 3D environment generated from a heightmap, texture applied to generated mesh
  • 3D player character (the green cube) flies around the environment; player can turn, and player character model rolls to the side a bit during a turn
  • non-player characters (the larger two cubes) are present; currently they have no distinguishing features. Non-player characters can include enemies, NPC allies, NPC characters to be escorted by the player, and environmental props.
  • Culling of 3D game entities that are outside of the player's view screen; the camera is intentionally zoomed out too far to show this effect
  • Spritefont messages can be drawn on top of the 3D gameplay screen
Be sure to check back for updates on the development of Empyreal soon!

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