First… well, touch controls are hard. I've got a partially written post exploring the use of touch controls for stealth games, but I haven't been able to hone in on something I'm 100% happy with. I've got something that I like better than any stealth-based iOS game I've found, but it's still nowhere near being shipworthy. Part of that is because this type of game grew up in the console world, where you have controllers like this:
Have you ever thought about the sheer amount of input that you can take through one of these modern joysticks? The Xbox 360 controller, for example, has two analog joysticks, each of which allows analog input on two separate axes. That's four inputs that accept a range of values each, letting you (for example) not just specify that you want to move forward, but to actually specify the speed at which you want to move.
But there's actually another two analog controls on top of those. The left and right triggers are not buttons, they're also analog controls with one axis each. The harder you press them, the higher the value received. The DPad is the equivalent of eight tac buttons. There are four standard buttons (A,B,X,Y) and two shoulder buttons (RB, LB). Even without counting the start, Xbox, and back buttons, and without using combinations of buttons, we're talking about 14 buttons and 6 analog axes. Oh, but wait… each of the analog sticks can be pressed down and used as a button, so it's 16 buttons and 6 analog axes. If you count all the buttons, it's 19 buttons and 6 axes. You can also chord the A/X, A/B, X/Y, and B/Y buttons, allowing the equivalent of an additional four inputs.
That's an awful lot of input. These controllers are well designed, so you don't think about just how much data you're able to submit to a game using them, but as a game designer, it's something you have to think about.
If you look at the most successful and popular iOS games, they're not (generally speaking) copies of console games. There are exceptions, of course, like the recent Deus Ex game but, frankly, that one got by on its production value and franchise nostalgia. The controls are actually quite frustrating. A sloppy combination of direct manipulation, virtual joystick, and on-screen buttons that's hard to learn and hard to use.
I still believe that there's a way to do a stealth game on a touchscreen well without using an external controller, but I haven't found it yet. I think I'm going to put this idea on a back burner and return to it in a little while, maybe for the second or third game in the series.
Another reason I haven't blogged recently is because I've been busy recruiting some pretty amazing artists to work on Turncoat. Pretty soon, I should be able to start posting some concept art and pictures of game assets. I'll tell you more about these artists in a future post but, for now, I will say that I'm super excited to be working with them and I can't wait to start showing you some of the art they create for the game.
So, where are we going from here? Well, we're probably going to be focusing on some high level look-and-feel stuff for the next few weeks and are also going to explore alternate game mechanics for the first game. It's important to me that the first game be really solid and also that it be produced in a timely manner. I just don't think that's going to happen with our original concept.
I'm also thinking about getting away from the prequel idea. There's something in the backstory that I was going to have to reveal if we kept going the prequel game as originally imagined, and it's something I really don't want to reveal yet for a couple of reasons. Instead, I'm thinking about focusing on origin stories for the main members of the squad. Everybody who gets recruited into The Squad, did something to get noticed. Some act of heroism, selflessness, or brilliance that caused the Squad's Commander to recruit them.
So, instead of going a hundred years in the past, we're going to only go back 2-5 years. We're in the same universe, dealing with a lot of the same characters, but they're not on The Squad yet. These will be fairly self-contained stories that can be told without having to reveal any of the secrets of the universe.
At this point, I know which character's origin story we're going to do first, but I don't know for sure the game mechanics that will be used to tell that story. I've got some ideas that I'm going to explore, though, so look for future posts.