About A.S.S.

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Accessories Sold Separately (The Game)

A Sci-fi Bullet-Hell Metroidvania coming to PC, Mac and Linux.

This is an overly-long ramble about the game concept for those interested (and very much not an organised press kit):

I absolutely adore metroidvania games and have played many over the past decade (Super Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission, Castlevania S.O.T.N., D.O.S. & A.O.S., Cave Story, Aliens Infestation, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, Shadow Complex, Guacamelee, Axiom Verge and Valdis Story to name a few favourites). Super Metroid, however, was special; after playing hundreds of ‘classics’ that I missed as a kid, this one stuck with me when I played it years ago as an adult using the Wii’s classic controller.

With A.S.S., I want to recreate the feeling that I felt when I discovered that gem for the first time: the atmosphere created by the visuals and the music; the sense of exploration & isolation created by the level design; the discovery that i could jump off of walls or propel myself into the air with bombs if timed just right; the experimentation of trying out different setups of equipment that I had discovered; the mystery of hidden secrets such as the special moves that are available to all but known to few on their first play through; the fact that I was rewarded for straying from the beaten path and finding all of this out.

But I want to do it using modern technology and techniques. As much as a masterpiece as Super Metroid still is, it was released in 1994 and was cast by the limitations of the time. We can do things now that those developers only dreamed of at the time, however, most of the time metroidvania games are not seen as profitable enough a venture for publishers to back and so it is all too often left to the indies…

Plot/Setting:

A.S.S. takes place after humans have been wiped out by their own creation: Evil Robots. The exact nature of humanity’s downfall is currently a mystery; you will start your life after they are already gone.

You are a toy. A bootleg toy made with love. You’re modelled on the robot that was meant to save humanity, however you are made somewhat insecure as you see the remains of trailers and billboards showing the might and power of the robot you are supposed to be. He has miniguns, claw hands and thrusters and he destroys all the bad guys while still looking cool. You have one arm and a paunch.

But you do both have the ability to transform any of your body parts into any other that you might collect on your travels about the killer-robot-infested future. Even your paunch. And there are a lot of cool new robots in the future that have awesome weapons and body parts ripe for the picking.

So you must set out to discover what happened, destroy the robot scum (not you), reclaim the earth and maybe think about finding a way to restart the human race.

Oh yeah, and you might not be the only toy left over from the past…

(NB: there will be no expositional cut scenes or dialogue in this game (except maybe a very short dialogue-free cut scene at the very beginning to set the scene): all of the storytelling will be done through the level design, character design & animation, the incidental and dynamic music and the player’s actions.)

Gameplay

A.S.S. will emphasise gameplay above all else and so, everything else in the game really serves as something to support the high quality of gameplay aimed at.

You start off the game made of plastic, very small and with very few abilities. you can move, jump and have hands that can pick up things and throw them at other things. In typical metroidvania fashion, you will find other abilities (in the form of other body parts) that you can equip in order to gain access to new areas.

A few of these include: metal body parts that are affected by magnets; the ability to use thrusters (like a jetpack), and later the ability to fly; spider legs that can walk on walls/ceilings; grapple-claw hands that can crush enemies and pull the player towards objects or vice-versa; a head with sonar that can temporarily ‘light’ dark areas.

I want to focus on action and combat as the main source of a player’s fun outside of the exploration so you are able to move quickly and aim precisely as in most dual-stick shooters. The left stick on the controller is tied to one arm’s movement as well as the character’s movement, just like most 2D platformers. The direction fired in using this stick cannot be changed while ‘fire’ is held down (unless certain other conditions are met such as activating an ability that stops the player from moving or holding down the ‘stand still and aim’ button as is standard in many 2D shooters).

This is where I think things get interesting, however. As a kid, I always wanted to move both of my character’s arms. So the right stick is tied to the other arm’s movement and firing on top of this, allowing the player to fire in two different directions at once (eg. L.Stick + L1 = right arm/R.Stick = left arm). The idea is to maximise the number of tactical options available to the player at any given time while not overwhelming them with complex controls.

On top of all of this, the player has two setups which they can customise in the menu instead of the usual single setup. The reason for this is that, after they are both equipped with body parts (with either the same or different parts), the two setups can be switched between at the touch of a button, making the player transform on the spot into a different robot and, should the player wish, an entirely different play-style.

You could have a long range setup with accompanying close range setup; a heavy tank setup with a scout mode; an exploration mode and a combat mode – what the buttons do when you press them is your choice.

Body parts also have weight & health stats that affect the player and greatly vary in size so great thought must be put in to finding the best setup. I want items found by the player to have importance so there are no ‘minor increment’ upgrades such as ‘Range Increased +2’; if you get the thing in the game that says it increases range and you equip it while your laser sword is equipped, you’ll have a massive laser sword.

Your shield will regenerate in order to keep the pace flowing quickly, however, you can still die quickly once it’s gone and if you do die, you will have one chance to retrieve the currency dropped where you fell before it is lost forever. If you retrieve it, there will be no penalty.

There is a health mechanic underlying the shield that does not regenerate, however the regenerating shield should hopefully avoid those annoying moments in metroidvania games where the player is forced to backtrack to the last save point due to a small error in judgement, thus disproportionately penalising the player with 20+ mins retreading ground for what might be a niggling mistake.

The currency collected from dead enemies (probably scrap metal) is used to upgrade your power requirements so that you can equip new body parts (ie. you have 2 hand slots + 2 power units supplied. You have 2 nail guns that use 1 power unit each and a laser sword that uses 2 power. You can equip both nail guns at once but are already maxed out as soon as you equip the laser sword. If you upgraded to 3 power supplied, you could equip the laser sword and a nail gun at the same time. Awesome).

Secret areas, enemies and weapons will be littered throughout, and though I don’t want to say too much about how the player will be discovering them yet, I will say that it will be based off of rewarding observation and memory as opposed to blindly stumbling into them or having cryptic and indecipherable puzzles.

Enemy types will be varied and some will have up to 5 different attacks that are all fully telegraphed (though not necessarily obviously) so that dealing with them becomes more a matter of reacting and less of memorization. Moves that are performed by enemies very rarely will also be used to this effect. I want to keep you on your toes…

Bosses also play a large part and I wanted to mix up the traditional formula of finding one specific character setup that kicks ass and thus sticking with it for the entire game. So, the bosses, all being connected, will remember what weapons or strategies you used to defeat previous bosses and adjust accordingly – making later bosses require differing strategies depending on your actions earlier in the game.

I’ll be going through these ideas, as well as others, in more detail in the posts I’ll be adding to the website frequently throughout development. Feel free to subscribe to the website and follow along, or even offer your own ideas in the comments if you think I’ve missed something or just got something plain wrong and you’d like to help. I am only one man and so any constructive feedback is appreciated.

Thanks for reading,

Robots Will Destroy You

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