Love to solve puzzles, discover secrets, and explore non-linear narratives? This is the video game for you!
Update - Get Hands On!:
We find that explaining the concept is not easy through just show and tell, so we created an interactive prototype you can play with in your browser, works with the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome.
What's This About?
Anti-Flare.x is a 2-D, side-scroller with an emphasis on puzzles, exploration, and non-linear gameplay in which the hero—named Anti-Flare.x—traverses the inner world of computer systems trying to find a way to stop the Flare computer virus.
Think Super Mario World in a Tron-like setting, with a gameplay twist.
Target platform is Windows, with Linux and Mac as stretch goals. We are committed to having zero DRM for this game.
Release date is planned for 2014.
What's So Special?
What makes this game any different from others?
- Your hero is AI controlled. You manipulate the environment to cooperate with your hero’s movement and abilities.
- Customize your hero’s abilities to gain an edge in combat or to force your hero to do what you want.
- Nonlinear gameplay allows you to choose your path to the end through a world with over 50 areas.
How to Help?
Pledging money is the most direct way to help this project. You won't be charged until the end of this KickStarter campaign: 7-Jan-2013 at 3 PM EST, and only if there are enough pledges to reach our goal. You can change your pledge anytime before the campaign ends.
You can also help by letting your social network of friends and family know about this project. Spreading the word is a big help!
Questions, do you have them? Then feel free to ask. If you have a question, then others might have the same one. Your questions can help us provide better information to help people make a decision.
How Do You Feel When Playing the Game?
Playing this game fills you with a feeling of curiosity and intrigue.
You feel compelled to proceed from one area to the next to discover new questions and tie up loose ends.
Tactics are at the forefront of your mind as you learn to use your abilities and learn how to work with your hero.
Urgency and dread are far from your mind as this game is not about speed and survival.
Death is not an issue for your hero yet you still feel fear as the wrong moves can set your progress back.
Satisfaction lifts your spirit as you figure out the best way to overcome an enemy and how to reach that area you could not earlier.
What's the Story?
On D-42, an experimental computer virus known as Flare is stolen by unknown hacker(s).
On D-35, Flare is out of the zoo, roaming the Internet and infecting computers worldwide.
On D-30, No one knows Flare’s purpose, but security experts find ways to detect and remove the virus from infected computers.
On D-7, twenty-three known variants of Flare are loose in the wild. Anti-virus companies are barely managing to fight Flare and all its variants.
On Day-Zero, the twenty-fourth variant—named Flare.x—is discovered.
On D+7, nobody knows how to stop Flare.x, no manner of bug-fixing and anti-virus technology has slowed the virus down. People are advised to disconnect their devices from the Internet. The world’s digital way of life is under attack!
On D+23, the original creators of Flare, working independently, create an experimental anti-virus technology known as Anti-Flare.x.
On D+24, the journey of an anti-virus trying to save the world begins…
As the story progresses, open questions such as who created Flare, who stole and released Flare, and what purpose does Flare have, are all answered.
Who's the Hero?
The titular hero, Anti-Flare.x, is a creation of the same organization that created the Flare computer virus. Derived from Flare virus technology, Anti-Flare.x could be considered another variant of Flare but one with a different purpose. As a next-generation, experimental anti-virus technology, Anti-Flare.x is the best chance for stopping Flare and its variants.
Anti-Flare.x is such an advanced weapon because of its ability to adapt to new obstacles. And this same capability is what makes Flare so hard to fully stop.
Do Tell More!
This game takes place in the hidden world of computer hardware and software. Environments are physical manifestations of abstract objects and concepts found in computing:
- Explore and navigate a pyramid shaped library. (File system hierarchy)
- Catch a ride on a bus to the lower levels of a computer. (Drivers)
- Bypass walls made of fire. (Network firewalls)
Customize your hero by selecting which abilities are available to use at any given time. Your combination of selected abilities guides the AI controlled movement and AI controlled combat tactics of your hero.
Your hero gains new abilities from finding power-ups and stealing skills from defeated bosses. There is no concept of ‘leveling’ up your hero or ability. Your hero either has an ability or not. Clever use of combining different abilities allows your hero to overcome increasingly difficult challenges.
There is no concept of hit-points or death for your hero. Enemies don’t kill your hero, instead they impede your hero’s progress. For example, enemies can prevent your hero from moving forward by knocking your hero backwards or by immobilizing your hero.
What's the Gameplay Like?
You view the game from the side, like a 2-D side-scroller. Most levels begin from one side of the screen and your hero navigates towards the other side. But some levels progress from the bottom to the top or top to bottom. And some levels have more than one exit point.
You, as the player do not directly control the hero, you use your mouse to control objects in the environment instead (clicking on devices and dragging and dropping objects). As the environment changes, the AI controlled hero responds to those changes by moving towards newly opened paths, moving away from closed paths, attacking enemies, or retreating to safety. To conquer obstacles and navigate through areas you can do the following:
- Activate buttons, switches, and items your hero can’t reach.
- Strategically move and place objects to give your hero landing platforms or favorable combat terrain.
- Rearrange walls and floors to define paths your hero can and cannot take.
Figure 1 is a diagram of a simple level design.
Starting from the left, the hero is immediately blocked until the player rotates the first barrier to provide a path. Then a pair of moving platforms needs something to bridge the gap between them. This is where the player rotates the center platform like a handle of a clock.
Now the tricky bit: need to get through the fire. Platform A can be put over the fire to block the flames, but if the player does that right away, the hero might go straight to the exit without grabbing the power-up. Therefore, the player can first use platform A vertically to allow the hero to grab the power-up first.
If the hero grabs the power-up, there needs to be a way to get back up. Rotating Platform B as shown provides a path for the hero to reach the narrow part of the gap where a few wall-jumps back and forth brings the hero back up.
Now Platform A can be rotated to block the flames and provide a clear path to the exit.
Defeat enemies by helping your hero maneuver into favorable positions. Some combat abilities are activated at certain times or places; putting your hero in the right place at the right time is crucial to victory.
Enemies can be defeated in two ways: bypass them or destroy them.
Bypass enemies by changing the environment in such a way that the enemy cannot impede your hero’s progress such as placing barriers between your hero and enemies.
Destroy enemies by exploiting each enemy’s weakness or vulnerability. For example, some enemies have weak spots, which if attacked, obliterates the enemy. Another example, some enemies are slaves to a master; slaves cannot exist when their master is destroyed.
This game is divided into areas where each area is connected to one or more different areas. There is no linear progression through the entire game; go wherever you wish as long as you have the skill and ability to forge the path. Some areas are unreachable without use of required abilities (or clever use of different abilities) while other areas require obtaining passwords and other security credentials to gain access.
Your one required goal is to stop Flare, but new optional goals arise as new items, information, and areas are discovered. Some of these optional goals are achievable as you go along your path towards stopping Flare, but to accomplish all goals and discover all secrets, backtracking through previously visited areas is required. Some goals are mutually exclusive, picking one over the other may change the game experience and may ultimately change the ending.
This game is strictly single-player. Any plans for multi-player are queued for post-release updates or a sequel.
An ability gives your hero unique capabilities when activated. There is a limit to the number of abilities that can be activated at one time. Selecting which combination of abilities are activated at any given time is an important tactical decision. Some combination of abilities give derived abilities (capabilities derived from the use of two or more abilities).
For example, the Grappling Hook ability increases mobility by allowing your hero to reach areas that cannot be reached by a normal jump and the Electric Pulse ability gives your hero a short-range combat ability, but when combined, your hero can attack long distance enemies by grappling onto an enemy and transferring electrical shocks through the grappling hook wire.
Which abilities are activated can be swapped in and out any given time, but this process happens in real-time, so preparation and planning are essential to overcoming some challenges.
Throughout the game you can collect bits of information in the form of emails, memos, pictures, and other digital files. Information gathering provides you with clues on where to search for Flare, what abilities are out there and how to obtain them, and they unfold the story at your own pace.
Enemies and Frenemies
Unlike walls and locked doors, enemies are obstacles that actively try to impede your progress. They have their own abilities and weaknesses that your hero needs to counter and exploit. Enemies do not try to confront you in the usual sense as there is no concept of hit-points; enemies confront you by trying to get in your hero’s way, by preventing your hero from using certain abilities, and by hiding key items from your hero.
Do not think of enemies as mere fodder that you can easily destroy or bypass. Think of enemies as oppositional AI with its own set of strategies and tactics. You must outwit them with cunning tactics and proper preparation.
Some enemies are generic and faceless while others are characters with their own motivations and ambitions. You’ll encounter these characters several times. Depending upon your choices enemies may turn into friends but beware that friends can just as easily turn into enemies.
You will find bosses that are manifestations of the Flare variants. Boss encounters require a good understanding of how best to use your hero’s abilities.
Defeating bosses is optional but the rewards can be great. Bosses may guard the only entrance to certain areas while other bosses can give your hero abilities that cannot be found anywhere else. And some bosses act as master to slaves (weaker enemies), so defeating a master would clear the way in different areas.
Flare is the virus that started this whole mess, the ultimate boss. Defeating it ends the game. How you combat Flare depends upon when you choose to fight and other choices you make throughout the game also affect the final encounter.
Where Is the Money Going?
KickStarter funds allow us to work on the project full time! That means food, rent, and sleep. Wait, forget the sleeping part, we can sleep after this is done!
They also go towards purchasing development tools: game engine, graphics software, and programming tools.
We are musically challenged, so we will pay a professional to create the soundtrack.
We need servers to distribute releases (including Betas and pre-Betas) and a website as a point of contact between developers and the community.
If there is money after development costs, some of it will go towards getting the word out about this game. A commercial success allows us to create free updates to this game, create more games, and gives an opportunity to push some of the profits back into the KickStarter community.
What's the Plan?
For Now: Design and Prototypes
Initial prototypes are currently being created to test out design ideas and technical details. Intelligent looking AI is the key to making this game work, so we need to figure out what the behavior should be like in different scenarios.
That's where our crude prototypes come in. What do you get when you strip out the fancy graphics, engaging audio, and eye-candy? You get behavior, just the gameplay. Each prototype focuses on answering one question about gameplay because if the gameplay is solid, the rest will fall into place nicely.
For the Future: Full-Time Development
If this KickStarter campaign is successful, then we can start full-time development in Feb 2013 with a release date targeted at the second quarter of 2014.
Closed Betas are planned to start rolling out in second half of 2013 while public Betas are planned for first quarter of 2014.
Development will be a highly iterative process where we incrementally add and remove to figure what works best. We want to release these early builds as soon as possible. It won't be those crude prototypes shown in the video as those are more for development work but we will push out anything that's not polished yet playable; therefore those who choose to have early access will be a valuable resource for shaping the final design of the game.
Nope. Not really.
We want to manage the risks associated with this project as much as possible. To have the highest chance of success, our project will not have feature creep. The goals and scope of this game will stay focused and narrow.
Stretch goals are nice if they can be simply added on after the initial scope of the game is complete. But in reality, stretch goals may have to be considered from the start of a project as their inclusion or omission could change the overall game experience. This increases risk and we don't want to deal with that just because we have extra money.
Our only stretch goal is cross platform support. We intend to support Windows but want to support Linux and Mac as well. Our game engine should in theory take care of cross platform issues, but we still have to test the game ourselves on different platforms to ensure quality. Additional testing and dealing with platform specific features all add to increase cost and development time.
In general, extra funds will be used to polish and fine-tune the game without increasing the scope and risk of the project. That means outsourcing some of the artwork, additional music, and more testing on different hardware setups. And as noted earlier, some extra funds might go to marketing as well.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Quasi Meta Studios is an unknown quantity, we don't have a track record of creating games that we can point to. We do not consider this a risk for project completion since we plan to keep this project focused with a narrow scope and have practical targets. But our lack of credentials does play a big risk in acquiring funding.
Creating a compelling AI could be a technical challenge. Your hero must be smart enough to do the right thing so as not to frustrate the player. But what is the right thing when the AI does not know your intentions? Smart level design and intelligent algorithms will be key factors in determining if the co-op experience with an AI is frustrating or delightful.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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