Aug
22

Campaign Overview

5 years, 4 months ago 0

2009-Q1 Missions

Presented here is a slightly older version than the last one I drafted before the layoffs. It features 12 missions involving two Fire Teams as they progressed southwards into the city.

Fig 4: Level Locations

Disjointed Sequences

This Campaign happened to be my favorite version. It had the right amount of distinctive events and variety to make the experience dynamic and memorable. One thing that set it apart from the other versions were several disjointed sequences that took place before each Day began.  The player was thrown into the middle of intense situations lasting 60-120 seconds, playing a different Marine each time.

In contrast to regular Campaign pacing, there were no tutorials or forgiving second-chances, no reloads.  Experienced players would be quick on their feet, recognizing their position and gear.  Inexperienced ones would be caught in the chaos and fear of the moment. You dealt with whatever the outcome was.  Did you survive?  Were you wounded? Did you save your team?

Location Revealed

When players began the final level of the game, they would realize those sequences were flash-forwarding to this final location. Familiar buildings, sights, and sounds from those frantic moments were now all connected.

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Several Fire Teams were present during Hell House.  Each flash-forward recorded your choices and assigned them as goals to supporting AI Marines.  They now retraced your decisions while your own Fire Team attempts to suppress the conflict.

In a multiplayer session, each player would experience these flashes individually.  The game would randomly choose which “recording” to use, based on the number of participants in the final level. When the game was complete, players were allowed to replay these series of events and attempted a different outcome.

Like the rest of SDIF, this feature was not meant to trivialize the tragedies or heroism of the Marines who were there.  It was developed to teach players the choices and reality of war.  Training simulations have been doing this for quite some time.  SDIF was an attempt add an emotional narrative within in a high-quality product.

Pacing Chart

To give players a satisfying experience in any game, you need a stage for each feature to shine. It lets the players recognize the unique aspects it offers without shoveling on several new features at the same time (a lot of games do this).

My pacing chart was a way to maintain a bigger picture and how each feature has its moment in the spotlight. This also ensured each encounter offered something slightly more new than the last one. No encounter was just there for the sake of combat (another thing a lot of games do).

When a new feature was introduced, it typically occurred this way:

Sneak Peak Let the player see it from a distance. This builds desire. Items have more value if you work for it, rather than given it freely. For example, see a different Fire Team use an RPG to collapse a building.
Full Intro The player is given full control over this feature in a safe encounter built specifically for it. This lets the player digest the new item at their own pace to understand its advantages. For example, lobbing a grenade around a corner to remove a Fatal Funnel because direct fire isn’t an option.
Full Use From here on out, the player is fully aware of the feature and can mix and match how he uses it in future encounters.

Some variations exist beyond those core points:

Limited Use Similar to a Full Intro, but more loose. Sort of a taste of what he might be able to use more frequently later. This also encompasses fixed location events (such as a turret).
Last Use Is a feature never going to be used in the game again? It should have a special moment devoted to its final appearance. When involving characters, this doesn’t necessarily mean death, however.
Could UseNot Used Something I added later to prevent the level team from using every feature available. By limiting some features, it clarifies gameplay choices and increases desire for missing features.

When the team began a new level, they could read the level’s column and know immediately what was in the pantry for cooking up new missions. Reviewing what happened immediately before and after the level helped influence their designs.

(The following charts uses terms like Action Zone, described in my Design series.)

Fig 5: Pacing the weapons, enemies, and game types

Fig 6: Layering in the narrative and events

The Action and Fear chart was something I learned from Turok. It helps scenarios develop in a way to guarantee the overall game experience has emotional highs-and-lows. It’s a loose rule, more relevant to pacing what comes before and after the current level.

The remainder of the information pictured was how real events were applied to each mission. They either directly influenced the encounter(s) or provided bookend moments between missions.

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