The Only Certainty: An Introduction

Another recent endeavor I've been contributing to, alongside the good people at MDNL, is a game titled The Only Certainty. As always, track their development blog for some really good information on how it came about to begin with. We're stepping away from Intrepid Explorer for a little while to get our feet wet building a smaller game from the ground up.

At the moment, it focuses on the idea of the player's inevitable demise in the context of the gameplay. Most of the time a Game Over screen means you've done something wrong somewhere, but in this case it's more like there's no getting around it. The question is, how do you prolong your lifespan in the most efficient manner possible? That's one of the general concepts we'll be exploring anyway.

The gameplay at the moment has you controlling a ship around a deep space environment. In the prototype Harry allowed me to try, the up arrow key accelerates, and the down key moves you backwards; right and left rotate the ship clockwise and counterclockwise. The controls are pretty smooth so far, but of course the goal will be to refine as much as possible along the way. An early screenshot of the test build to try out ship controls:

What you'll mainly be doing in this ship is navigating and exploring separate "rooms" if you will. I made a little diagram to break down the room system.

Some of these concepts may or may not stick in the final design, but the basic idea is that the overall game is broken up into rooms (depicted as individual squares here). If you've ever played games like Animal Crossing or The Legend of Zelda (the one from antiquity, on the NES) you probably have a good idea of what it's like to have the game broken up into travelling from screen to screen.

TOC is mainly exploration based in nature, so we're trying to get the player to feel the risk involved in exploring unknown territory. For now the ship has a single meter that you need to keep your eye on at all times--the ship's Power. Moving gradually drains Power, and when it runs out, it's game over. Of course there will be things like safe stations and collectible pickups along the way to restore some of the ship's Power, but they have to be used wisely. The balance that the player has to keep is stocking up on resources to progress through the game safely, all the while conscious of their ever depleting power supply.

That's the basic idea, but it's still in the early stages so refinement and edits will come in time. With any luck I'll be able to delve into the direction of the art style soon.

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