I haven’t updated y’all on the progress of Project Y4 for some time now, so I think I probably should (it is not dead).
However, looking back at all the previous development diaries, there are actually a devilishly large number of features that I promised, or at least hinted at, which have been surreptitiously abandoned along the way (in as much an effort to curb and reverse the flow of feature creep as to sidestep raw technical limitations).
Since the project is now pretty much solid in terms of how it goes about its business, now is probably a good time to go back over what’s hot and what’s not — and confirm once and for all the core features the game actually has and will retain.
The hero of the game has gone through a fair few changes since the beginning. While it has kept all of its original special abilities, it has had a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle visual enhancements along the way.
It still has four module attachment points — blades, shields, artillery mods and undercarriage units. Shoulder guns are the missing fifth pieces that were planned but ultimately canned, due to the fact that abilities ignore Resistant Skin damage reduction (so shoulder guns could never function as “normal” weapons).
However, this was visually fortuitous as it opened up the model’s shoulders for an additional joint: the arms now pivot inwards a little during attacks, so the mech looks like it is actually hitting what is in front of it (shocking). The front EMP cannon (which would have been snapped off if an enemy so much as looked at it) was then moved into the shoulder spaces as two permanent shoulder guns (close in next to the cabin, rather than further out where detachable guns would have gone).
The flexibility of the new shoulder joints allowed a second critical hit animation — a blade-sweep that covers the area around the mech, making for a sweet Pulverise-based close burst damage. Of course, there is, naturally, a head-butt animation for a more traditional single-target critical hit. Hai!
The Cold Shoulder
I think the saddest casualty of all the technological wrangling is the loss of the Cryo artillery shell mod. In early drafts of all the models I included a special Stand Defend sequence where the model was overlaid with an icy texture — the idea being to play this animation when the unit became frozen, and also to make weaker units explode into icy shards when struck.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t for the life of me guarantee that the sequence would play correctly. On top of this, I couldn’t quite get the shattering to work reliably. Alas, freezing just had to go.
(Having said that, the ice-themed bonus mission Operation: Gala’s Trench is still well on the cards.)
And then I replaced it with something even more tiresome to build, but far more widely visible (and so arguably worth the effort) — dead units now hang around, as I have bitten the bullet and embraced Warcraft‘s standard decay system. All units leave wreckage (even the highly explosive Firegun leaves a smoking pair of feet) which gently fades out after a while. Large units such as Alpha mechs leave solid wreckage that blocks movement until it is destroyed (in several stages).
(Might be taking a swatch at some kind of scavenger undercarriage mod that turns wreckage into spiderbots or somesuch — watch this space.)
I talked a lot about support units in the old days (oh dear, I can talk about “the old days” of this project), and they’ve changed considerably since then. Although I’ve always wanted a satellite calldown undercarriage mod (there is a giant spaceship full of supplies above you, after all) I’ve just never found the right place for it (plus it’d be useless in the underground segments) — so the originally planned heroic support units are totally off the cards.
However, enemies drop loot (natch), and one of the loot items is an instant-activate Spiderbot who can aid you in your travels (the Spiderbomb is also an artillery mod I promised early and have actually delivered (zomg!)). Civilian vehicles will also join you for free-form escort missions, though they don’t have any guns.
There have been considerable shake-ups in terms of bonus missions.
Battleships-style procedurally-generated Asteroid Wars is still on for the finale, though I haven’t worked on it in a while (read: since the last time I mentioned it, which was… a long time ago). I am intending to shift the scale a bit, so the battling will be between medium-sized ships rather than fighters and tiny drones (because that was a bit daft). The ships will still be small on screen, just… Big ships. Small big ships. You know what I mean!
A number of bonus missions have been amalgamated. The geographical areas of Meteorite, Biohazard and tiny defence Outpost have been clumped together into a bigger area outside the east wall of the facility — this will be some kind of composite action-RPG mission (tentatively titled Operation: Clean-up as a series of events immediately after the main game has been completed).
On the other side of the facility something similar has happened; Mausoleum and The Lake of Fire have been spliced together and are now accessible via the underground areas of the north annex as parts of Operation: EY43. Dustbowl in the south-east has also been applied to the main game as the G1 assault zone.
Along the south edge, Overlook is going to be added as a prelude to Zeus Rising to make a smaller composite mission. Rather than procedurally generating the Zeus Rising parts, though, I think I’ll make some large destructible prefabs for a more reliable mission structure. I still haven’t told you anything about Zeus Rising, though, so I hope that whets your appetite some more.
I’m a contrary soul and I’m sure there will be plenty more features to add before the day is done, but by and large I am extremely happy with the way the game plays (even that awful early-game difficulty seems to have dissipated nicely).
Recently I’ve been concentrating on the G1 Technology attack on the facility (as a counter-point to the paltry HoverCon surgical investigation), building all their vehicles and props from pretty much the ground up. I’m not sure how much space there might be for other company attacks; I’ve got some nice sketches of Cybrid Corporation tanks and I keep dreaming of some kind of genetic engineering-focused firm (despite my continuing inability to model organics).
I think very soon, I’ll need to get a fresh pair of eyes or two to actually test this. May as well get told it’s terrible sooner rather than later so I can give up, right?