We're starting work programming a new title which will be borrowing some ideas from our previously mentioned Rush Bros. game, but now we'll be applying the engine in a new format: Free-roaming space shoot-em-up!
This is actually a pretty dramatic alteration as with Rush Bros. you have so many control schemes to work with: Running, jumping, sliding, ground-pounding, wall-jumping, etc... With this game we want the controls to be a lot simpler so even if it's your first time playing a video game you could pick this title up and immediately understand what it's all about.
Harkoning Back To Old Times With A Dash Of Something New: N.A.S.S. is a lot like a fine dish. It's a mixture of retro vector-graphics games from the 1980s with some newer ideas you've probably seen in shooter games as of late.
One thing we definitively want to avoid people feeling about this game is that it is a "Side-Scroller" by any means. We prefer the term "Free Range Explorational Shooter".
Freedom to fly around & explore: You'll be flying in all 4 directions at your own pace. You can play alone, with a friend, or even race against a friend. Race modes will feature a split-screen format that will work both online and in the same room so you can always know where your opponent is. Your ship will be a basic vector graphic ship which will freely roam about and should feel fairly intuitive. Unlike most shooters it will be safe for you to touch the walls, but we will be sure to make some surfaces dangerous to touch (and we'll communicate this with their appearance) eventually we may have entire levels made out of this dangerous surface material.
It's all about getting from Point A to Point B: The real emphasis on the game, though, while exploration is there, is about speed-running. Not just racing against yourself, though! We wanted to absolutely maximize replayability, so in-turn you may play against your friend and then say "Hey I wan't a rematch! best 3 out of 5!" We're going to be putting controls in the game which allow you to do this very easily, as well as track your stats and race against a ghosted ship of yourself or a friend in time-trial, or race head-to-head in a live online environment where you can use power-ups to slow down somebody who may be way ahead of you!
You are your own worst enemy, but that other guy isn't helping much either: Designing the levels is requiring a lot of finesse but we hope to have 30 delivered at launch. To be honest if we can't fit in 30 on day one we can at least pack in as many as we can and give you the rest as free DLC.
The reason we want to do this is because the levels, themselves, are going to be a little challenging with a difficulty arch that actually starts to sky-rocket around level 5-or-so. Essentially you will die. A lot. Especially if you don't know what you're doing, but on the bright side, so will your opponent. Anyone who has played a lot of games will tell you this probably won't be a bad thing- And hey! If you prove us wrong, more power to you! We look forward to seeing what two absolute professionals might do with this game in their hands racing against each other.
Mean or Nice: Its your choice. At Xyla one thing we're really big about is allowing players to customize their own play experience through communication. As such players can choose to race through all 30 levels in a row, have rematches on those levels, play them in any order they choose, etc... We're not locking anything down to menus beyond your ship, some power-ups, and how the levels will be laid out.
Now we're not promising this at launch, but we may also give you the ability to customize what power-ups are usable in stages and possibly even include a level editor, but bear in mind that's a very long-term plan as right now we're essentially building the stages using pure math (for now).
Groove to your own tunes. While the game will come with its own sound-track, we feel it's important to add to replayability by adding a custom music feature which will also impact the game's visual style. We're trying to find a nice middle ground between a vector game of the 1980s and music-driven shooters like Beat Hazard, it's not going to be so noisy you won't be able to tell what's going on, after-all it's a racing game at it's core, but even if you want to play a nice relaxing shooter game with a friend while grooving to some tunes of your choice it's all available to you. The backgrounds, just like in rush Bros. will feature visualizations which will work in time with the pace and beat of the songs you upload & include! These effects will sometimes be subtle, such as your ship pulsating to the beat of the song, and other times heavy, such as when your ship is destroyed or you defeat a large mini-boss ship that was holding a key you needed to pass through a door in the stage.
When you'll get it in your hands... We hope to bring this title to a trade show floor in the coming months, though we are actually planning for a release date sometime in January if possible, so this game is coming out a lot sooner than you may think. The reason for this is because a majority of the mechanics such as the split screen, Xbox controller support, control tweaking tools for the designers and other handy features have already been implemented and now we're just getting into the meat-and-potatoes of level design & play-testing.
From a design standpoint one of our level designers had this to say:
"It's kind of like making a single player game where you get to say, 'This would be cool to see done as a puzzle' but you don't have to worry about player 2 stepping in and interfering directly, maybe outside of stunning you or reversing your controls or flipping your entire screen as a minor annoyance for a few seconds, these things will only happen to you if you're in the lead, though, to try and balance games if one player is getting way too ahead of the other, the loser will be able to use power-ups. You can think of these as our equivalent of the 'purple turtle shell.' Again, though, the levels are kind of like single-player and co-op levels in design. You don't just worry about enemies but your own pacing & behavior. We keep saying this over and over but it's so true: you are your worst enemy. Part of the fun for us is as these levels get harder we essentially get to be meaner and meaner to the player. I feel almost like a bully at this point late in the level design process. I'm putting in a lot of things that will make you ask, 'Why would that jerk make spikes shoot out at me THERE of all places!' It doesn't make the process less fun for the player, though, as the more frustrating a game can be we feel the more rewarding it is at the end of the day. The future level packs and expansions we're going to be doing for this thing will continue that vision. Personally I'll be happy when we have a level count closer to 90 or beyond, but even with just one level, playtesters had a good time for nearly two straight hours constantly trying to one-up each other. We think we're stumbled upon something really cool here in terms of maximizing replayability and turning a very simple game which most people will at firs think, 'This isn't really my cup of tea,' into something that's going to knock people's socks off."
We hope you all find a lot of fun to be had in N.A.S.S. as well as our other upcoming line of games.
Our logo designers really wanted us to ask you: What color scheme do you prefer out of these 3? We're going to be animating the thing soon so we wanted to make sure it looked the way that people wanted to see our "Xyla Guy" carving himself out of stone.
Thanks for reading our blog and we hope to have some footage & gameplay to showcase in the coming weeks! Have a good weekend, everybody!