Welcome to the second Fangs Out! development blog post! As you all know now, Fangs Out! is an action game where players control virtual model helicopters, and engage in living room dogfights through a variety of intense single and multiplayer contests.
The main inspiration for Fangs Out, and indeed the key ‘feel’ for the game which we are aiming for, is related to the ways in which children play and use their imagination. Children can entertain themselves for hours on end by creating role plays, stories and situations with inanimate toy vehicles. They use their imagination extensively, and we naturally tend to lose this desire and to some extent ability as we move into our teen years. Though I’m sure we all did it at one point or another! With the design of Fangs Out, we are aiming to play on the nostalgic value of childhood imagination, and bring to life the battle scenarios and stories which people enjoyed as children.
The first major stage for the design of Fangs Out was to define and document the core gameplay mechanics to provide direction for programming. At this stage our artist began creating concept art for the gameplay environment and vehicles, which you’ll know all about if you’ve read the previous blog post. This early design stage involved a great deal of research and experimentation; looking towards other vehicle combat games, examining our own resources, and then finding a gameplay system which would best apply to Fangs Out.
We decided to utilise the gyroscope contained within most modern phones and tablets, and create a motion control system for the helicopters. The game is intended to be a fast paced, casual experience; a game where players will become engaged very quickly. With this in mind, it was important to steer clear of any type of helicopter simulation design, and we ultimately created an arcade control scheme where the player tilts forward and backward to move respectively, and rotates to steer. This was combined with touch screen buttons to control weapons and the engine power (height) of the helicopter.
Content design involved a degree of research, and working closely with our artist to devise the helicopters to be included in the game, and to map out the game environment.
The helicopters are mainly inspired by real life attack helicopters, but it was important not to lose that core feel of ‘toys’ fighting one another, so I decided to fashion the default helicopter, the FO-RC mk1, in the standard RC helicopter style, and use the more ‘warlike’ helicopter styles and designs for later, potentially more desirable vehicles.
The game environment is a modified living room, kitchen and hallway area inspired by a colleague’s home. I began with some simple paper sketches to get the general layout of the level, and moved onto blocking it out in 3D using Google Sketchup. This was then passed onto our artist who modelled the environment using Maya, to be loaded into the game. Once the basic environment was in the game and playable, it was extensively tested for general playability, and then built up through a number of iterations and tweaks.
A major feature of Fangs Out! is the customisation system. The system is intended to allow for aesthetic and gameplay related customisation. All customisation items (weapons and upgrades) are kept as peripheral to the helicopters, and not associated with any particular vehicle. This gives players the freedom to use any weapon or upgrade they like with their favourite helicopter.
Two currencies are used in relation to items and upgrades. Coin is used for the initial purchase, and Experience Points (Xp) are used specifically to increase the effectiveness of each upgrade. This allowed me to gain more control over the pricing of items and the in-game economy and therefore the monetisation of the game. It also provides a greater reward to the player for playing the game, as increasing effectiveness can only be achieved by using Xp which are solely attained from gameplay.
With Fangs Out! I decided to give players two methods of attack, allowing them to take one type of machine gun and one type of missile into any one battle. This may seem fairly facile in some regards, and is common within games, but small decisions such as these result in a great deal more art, code and design work as the game moves through the development process…
Other upgrades cover Engines, Rotors and Armour. These affect the speed, turning speed, and vehicle health respectively thereby allowing the player to upgrade these attributes which should, in turn, provide a dynamic gameplay experience. E.g. you can personalise your helicopter to become more nimble, or possibly become a slower, heavily armoured helicopter.
The key is balance. The main design task with regard to the statistics mentioned above was intensive numerical balancing. I used a number of spread sheets to create tables of statistics and in some cases mathematical formulas were used to aid balancing (particularly pertaining to xp levels). This was combined with extensive play testing, to achieve the desired gameplay.
As development continues we are constantly refining the design. As the game comes together, as the programmer and artist bring the game mechanics to life, new decisions and tasks surface. The main role of the designer is continuous decision making, so I’m sure I’ll be busy. It is an on-going process. Keep an eye on this space for more Fangs Out development updates in the coming weeks and months.