Step into the role of a hitman in a busy, dynamic city. A pistol, a mobile phone and a contact at The Agency are your tools. Use them well. Keep a cool head and maintain your cover, or the next hit could be on you.
Your primary weapon will be a 9mm pistol. Suppressors will be available, but the emphasis will be on realism, so you'll never be as silent as you are deadly.
All agents carry a smartphone, which will be your only way of contacting the Agency when you're in the field. It comes with a smart map and a camera, which you can use to photograph other people in the city, and even call your own hits!
More equipment will be added if the stretch goals are met, including more weapons, explosives and a modular equipment system that will allow you to create a huge variety of specialist tools and weapons, turning your agent into a regular James Bond.
The City is your hunting-ground, a sprawling metropolis populated by thousands of people. Anyone could be your prey, be they an office worker, a taxi driver or a rival hitman, controlled by an AI or even another player. Whoever it is, be fast and clean, and remember: the Agency is watching.
NPCs are also watching, and may notice if you have your weapon drawn. They could even phone the police or panic and alert other players in the area, so keep it out of sight until you're ready to pull the trigger.
The game opens as your train pulls into the City. It's a cold winter, and the night is drawing in as you exit the station. Far off across the silent city, you can hear the sound of screaming above electropunk rhythms, and the voices of a thousand fans screaming back. Good, that means the streets will be empty, of people, police, distractions. Your phone bleeps an announcement. It's your contact at the Agency: "Find a place to stay. await further instructions" she orders, and you start off down the street, looking for a cheap hotel.
In The Hit, you play a recent recruit to The Agency, a powerful and shadowy covert-operations organisation. Over the course of the game, you'll ascend through its ranks, gaining new equipment, meeting new contacts, and making discoveries about the Agency's true agenda.
I'm developing The Hit with an 100% focus on gameplay, and on making every player feel like a total badass. I'll carry on refining the graphics to make it look as good as I can, and if I reach the £60,000 stretch goal, I'll be able to hire an artist to work with on developing the style further. The visuals are designed to make it easy for players to read complex situations. I've considered using more realistic graphics, but rejected the idea because it would slow down the gameplay and make it harder to read.
The current city environment is placeholder art, and will gradually be replaced as I improve the auto-architect and scene maker tools. The aim is to have unique interiors for every single building (and every floor, every room) in the city, and I'm optimistic that I'll be able to deliver that before launch day.
With a powerful set of tools, you'll be able to create your own 'mix' of the city, and personalise streets, buildings, interiors, signs, the various factions which operate within the city, as well as the rules the city operates by. Every image in the game, from the Agency logo to license-plates will be editable with a simple image-editor. You'll be able to make buildings, complete with interiors, with the auto-architect tool, and it'll be possible to make your own items and weapons with the object creator.
If I can hit the £60,000 stretch goal, I'll be able to include the Scene Maker tool, which I'm developing as part of the dynamic narrative system, and currently looks like this:
but I'll bring it in line with the rest of the game before launch. I'm working on adding editable textures, and more variation in the types of pieces available to build with. Objects can be tagged with smart labels, which will enable integration with the narrative and AI systems, basically making a set of coloured shapes behave like a gun, telephone, door, explosive briefcase etc.
Tools and techniques developed specially for The Hit mean that crowd scenes with thousands of NPCs are now possible. Hits can take place in densely-populated environments like concerts, rallies and demonstrations. Riots and parades can fill the streets, providing cover and confusion for quick-thinking agents, and gameplay you've never experienced before.
Dynamic Destruction and Interiors
Dynamic, data-driven pseudo-voxels allow for realtime destruction and damage. Explosives can open doors, crack safes, destroy vehicles and provide well-timed distractions. Crashing vehicles will be able to destroy walls realistically, providing further gameplay options.
The same technology also allows for the creation of building interiors, with a dynamic level of detail.
Player-Driven Dynamic Narrative
The Hit is being developed alongside a new player-driven dynamic narrative engine, and an ever-expanding set of authoring tools will be available to craft your own games, and tell your own stories. In The Hit game itself, I'm aiming to deliver a new kind of narrative, halfway between an authored narrative and an emergent, player-directed experience (Gamasutra article).
The idea for The Hit initially came to me back in 1993, when my teenage self was hooked on Bullfrog's Syndicate and fantasising about videogames of the future. I imagined a fully-dynamic city with reactive citizens and traffic, seen through the eyes of the agents: my friends and I playing together in complex, multi-stage missions. It seemed obvious that videogames were moving in this direction, and I'd be playing games like this as soon as the technology made it possible.
And then AAA videogames happened, and first-person shooters became an industry staple. But with their 'corridor' structure and non-interactive stories, they weren't the games I wanted to play. Open-world games came close, but a design philosophy which valued accessibility over depth meant those games were more collections of simple minigames than a deep exploration of a possibility space. So I waited...
Then, a few years ago I encountered Tarn Adams' incredible Dwarf Fortress, and the Unity Engine (and especially the Unity Asset Store), and I began to see how it might be possible for one person to make the game I was waiting for, and I started to plan and design in earnest. I also started to reskill. I've been coding since I was 11, but I needed to know every part of the process if I stood any chance of making The Hit. So I left my job and began to learn as much about game design as I could.
The Hit has been in development since January 2013. In that time, I've prototyped most of its features, and developed a data-driven workflow which will accelerate development on the rest. There's still a lot of work to do, but I'm confident that I can complete the core development by December 1st 2014, which gives me another year to recruit a team (stretch goals permitting) and make the game I've been wanting to play for two decades.
I hope you'll join me.
A variety of rewards are available in addition to the game, including the Remix Kit, soundtrack album, 'Making of The Hit' art book, t-shirts and CDs (£100 tier and upwards) and a set of tools for Unity developers.
The Hit is being developed for Windows, Linux and Mac, I'm not ruling out a console release, but right now I'm focused on making the game as good as possible for these three platforms.
Risks and challenges
The Hit is an ambitious project, and relies heavily on a number of original tools and techniques, any one of which could be a development risk. But it's also the game I've been wanting to play for the last 20 years, and nothing is going to stop me making it.
So, in order to make The Hit a possibility, I've spent much of the last year and a half designing, developing and refining the tools and techniques I'm using. All of the core gameplay mechanics, and most of the advanced features I'm planning to add to The Hit have already been built and tested, and a few of them have already made their way into some small games and prototypes.
Everything so far has been created as a solo project, and if this Kickstarter is successful, I'll be able to finish the project as I started it. I've planned out the final stages of development, and I feel confident that I can release the alpha version in December, followed by the full game a year later.
If I can meet some of the stretch goals however, I'll be able to step up development a notch or six. Each goal will allow me to add more members to the team, and build upon the systems which have already been designed and prototyped. Most of the remaining work will be optimising these systems and refining the gameplay.
I have a plan. I have the tools. If this Kickstarter succeeds, I'll have everything I need to bring you The Hit.