My story continues…

So we finally had a lot of the ground work behind us in terms of admin but we had only made a few of the design decisions, mainly that it would be a 2D top-down shooter. In terms of content, details, and platform, we were still fairly unsure. Now from what I’ve seen, a lot of people frown upon using other games as derivatives for ideas and inspiration. But the truth is that is exactly how we came about our core game play and its mechanics. Most of us had followed or played Crimson Land while some of us had also played some tower defense games from DoTA to web/flash games. So after discussions based on these two denominators, we decided to make a hybrid shooter/tower defense game.

Another important aspect to the design process was the target platform, which is something we still debate to date. We ended up deciding to focus on Xbox360 as our main platform simply because we mainly visualized Zita Asteria (ZA) being played by a bunch of friends having a braai (barbecue for the internationals reading this) with a good beer or two playing a game for some good team work on a ferocious shooter. So a group of friends playing a team based shooter was an important facet which the console catered more for, and Xbox 360 was obviously easier to develop for considering our experience and base framework was already written using the XNA SDK.

Those decisions behind us, we started throwing together a list of features, functions and aspects that we wanted to put together that would be complimentary to the “group of friends” concept. Without giving away too much, we came up with some ideas and weapons that worked on the team play idealism. In hind sight, this was probably one of the largest scope creep propagators. Just from what I’ve seen from other game developers though, scope creep is a regular part of any creative work. Another point of debate was the name, which at the time was still “Pilot Project”. We eventually set up a poll on our project website to vote for various names that we had brain stormed. Ironically the name we ended up voting for was taken after doing some research, and we ended up with the name Zita Asteria, not even in our original poll but we were pushed for time before giving a basic demo to the local IGDA group. Simply a derivative and play on Greek words meaning “Searching the Stars” if I remember correctly.

So with the development underway, our simple “2D” top down arcade shooter had begun building up momentum at least amongst the team as well as with some of the friends and family we had told about our little project. Enjoying the work and getting into the game concept, we continued to grow the scope and change/add features to best suit the game. One of the largest initial changes which we didn’t plan for was a 3D terrain engine. You read that right, 3D, with 2D sprites rendered over the terrain. When I first saw the guys developing the terrain engine propose the idea, I loved it. It gave the game a sense of quality and depth (yes I just said that) that I really liked. I had little to no idea at the time how this would affect the scope and design. Bear in mind this was supposed to be an after-hours project that would be simple and relatively quick to put together(3-6 months). To be honest, despite the amount of extra work that the 3D terrain decision caused, I don’t regret it. The level and quality that we could step up to would not have been possible in a purely 2D, sprite based world. The process of refactoring design and code became periodic and habitual eventually, but my own experience in business systems has shown me this is a fact of software development, not only game development.

The next leg in ZA’s development brought us to a more competitive point in the project’s development…… but you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out J

( I promise to try put in some legacy screen shots if I can find them J )