One Becomes A Monster
Hey backers what's up, Tom here, designer on Jet-Getters! If you've not seen our new Kickstarter pitch video, check it out! Also keep it locked to the KS for more info on our official tinyBuild PAX booth (playable Jet-Getters???) and our awesome kickass Ouya deal!
35k so far oh my god can it really be a videogame???
So today I'm gonna talk about turning into a giant monster who eats people and barfs out kamehameha.
The Spark of an Idea
Feature ideas come from all over the place; sometimes they're a solution to a problem and arise out of necessity, but I think a weakness with me is that a lot of my ideas start with "Wouldn't it be cool if..." and I'll come back to why that's a bad thing later.
So wouldn't it be cool if there was a class who would exit their jet, and then irreversibly transform into a giant beast who could no longer enter jets. He could leap to other planes and smash them to pieces like The Hulk. The only way to stop this monster would be to ditch your jet, or fly straight down into the ocean. Wouldn't it be fun if he shot beams when he roared, and ate pilots to regain health? He'd be like a wrecking-ball vampire, desperately leaping around and causing havoc for everyone. Doesn't that fit into Jet-Getters so well?
I noticed this working on SpeedRunners, when we were brainstorming new weapon types. I came up with the idea that there's a weapon called the "piggyback" where you sit on another player's back and get a free ride for a while. The idea was that you'd catch the most skilled player and make their skill in the game work for you- and I got really excited about the idea because I wanted to draw all the SpeedRunners characters as dumb sausage-pigs that hug onto people's backs. It added so much funny personality to the game that this was a locked-in feature to me.
It was only when Casper, the designer on SpeedRunners, got back to me that I realized I am an idiot. You cannot GET AHEAD with this weapon. The most likely result from this item would be to not play for a few seconds and end up behind someone. Strategically it is a dud, and it's not fun. It's 100% novelty.
Being hyper-analytic and critical of your own ideas is a real bummer in how it applies to just about every aspect of life-- apart from design, where it's extremely valuable. Lucky you!
I put the Jet-Getters Monster-class on the shelf indefinitely, and dodged a bullet.
Then It Came Back
I was reading into multiplayer design much later, and discovered the importance of un-balancing a match. We would test and demo SpeedRunners and run into problems where 2 evenly-matched players would run the whole track for 10 minutes and nobody'd get ahead or behind. For as well-balanced as your game is, this isn't fun. We tweaked sudden-death and certain weapon types to have more impact and bring matches to an exciting close when they needed to.
You can see a parallel of this in how most shooters have bottlenecks in their map design, and heavy weapon-spawns, and kill-streaks; or ultra-combos in Street Fighter. The invul mechanic in TF2 is a class-assisted management of cadence, in that it tips the scale when pressure is building between two teams. We didn't have any pressure-valves like this in Jet-Getters yet. So I dug up the monster, who was way too powerful to be it's own class, and considered him for this new role.
First instinct is to put him on a meter on the healing class, just like TF2. That's short-sighted, for a million reasons, but we're brainstorming. This class's role is to be a long-term strategist who lays traps and repairs vehicles, so the players attracted to this class would not make best use of a giant destructive hulk. This is true when applied to most classes.
What if you could inject this monster into another player on your team from the healing class? Well that solves the above problem, but the downside is that your target might not want to transform. The gameplay in this state is very different, and it could likely be an unwelcome change.
Maybe the whole team could build a meter, and then unlock this class as a one-use option. This solves the problem that he is only ever used when welcome, but I hate the idea of teams arguing over who gets to use it- the winner would usually be whoever hits the re-spawn screen first.
I dropped the idea again, for a while, to start focusing on the Kickstarter.
If you look at our early artwork on the Kickstarter page, there is a class listed as HAVOC. Like I said in the class design article, these classes fill the roles that people naturally project onto multiplayer shooters. One of those, from experience, is some douchebag who's goal is to flip the table and ruin everyone's plans- and that's fine, I get why that's fun. It doesn't have to be damaging if we just think ahead and accommodate it- so his abilities right now are to turn any jet he enters into a disposable nuke, and to stop in-place and strafe.
When I started thinking about Aggro: attracting attention and damage to yourself, absorbing damage, digesting other players' wrath as a positive resource, it finally gave this flimsy class a much stronger place in the game. Thinking about the application of this also ticks a lot of the boxes on our Monster idea:
- The goals of the Monster and the Aggro Class are both to upset the balance of a stalemate game.
- Becoming a giant tank-beast would be a fitting reward for an attention-seeking player playing their best.
- A wild-card spanner-in-the-works is exactly what this class is working towards for the whole game already.
- Tying a move this potent to the guy who can benefit from taking damage means that this bar will be easier to build if you're on the losing team- which could inspire some fun comebacks!
I still need to refine this a lot, and it'll definitely be something we'll keep an eye on in testing, but I'd be really happy if the werewolf beast-monster equalizer made it into the game. For the sake of having a more exciting cadence across the long-view of a match, and also because aesthetically it'd be sick as hell.
And That's How Design Decisions Get Made!
Maybe in future I'll go over the idea of transforming jets, or some of the more unique game modes that have come up. Jet-Getters has been on the shelf in pre-production for a long time, and it's really exciting (and tense!) to see spikes in our funding over the passed few days. Will it be a videogame in real life? WE'LL FIND OUT BY APRIL 17th!!!!!
STOP BY OUR PAX BOOTH IN BOSTON THIS WEEKEND! The first tinyBuild tinyBooth will be showing literally A BUTTLOAD of videogames! Including this one!
-Tom! <3 <3 <3