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A Glimpse At The Space Grail

Now Playing: Salvation Prophecy

Oh my, the games are certainly coming out of the woodwork now that the holidays '13 are nearly upon us.   This includes obscure indy titles that fell under my radar until they popped up on Steam.
"Salvation Prophecy: A space epic video game," screams the title of the website.  Well, yes, it pretty much is a space epic, and a rather well done one.  It's basically a version of the game I had been trying to make for awhile, because it's an open-ended game that includes:
  • Combat and travel in space ships.
  • Getting out of the space ship and visiting planets and space stations.
  • A 4X game going on in the background where empires vie for dominance, but you're just playing a single citizen of one of the empires.
  • RPG mechanics where you're building up your character.
  • Leadership mechanics where you're able to eventually rank up within your empire to lead them.
So close, and yet so far.  This is what I'm talking about when I said that,"there's a billion little details that go into producing a game, and two games of similar concept can play remarkably differently when (contrary to standard industry practice) they're not deliberately cloning each other.   Only one person will custom-design my dream game: me."  Salvation Prophecy definitely does a few things different from what I would.

Technically speaking, it's an astounding game that is not quite as refined as I would prefer.  The texture work and graphics are quite adequate for 2013 - it's not Crysis, but who is?  The space and ground combat just flat out get the job done with minimal bugs.  Consequently, space combat is not nearly as epic as Descent: Freespace - again, but who is?  Ground combat is not nearly as epic as Sacrifice.  But the very fact that they have a space and ground combat engine, and that they function tolerably, is fairly remarkable in itself.

I think it's the limit of 20 units per side in an engagement that grates at me the most.  There's both technical and gameplay related reasons why they chose that number, but it gets in the way in the core "epic" battling mechanic of the game.  The thing is, each of the empires has a "resource point" amount they can spend, but they don't run up against that because they have plenty of resources.  What they run up against is the 20 unit limit, first.  The result is that there's no real buildup and release of forces, just shoring up lost numbers and trying again.  Rebuilding happens instantly, which defeats a great deal of strategy right there.

Another annoying factor is that there's no way to defend your assets against the other empires.  If the way the game worked was to require destroying the station orbiting the planet before invading, that would work well enough: if your space station is destroyed, get over there, blow up their space station, and rebuild yours before they can invade the colony.  Instead, you can pretty much completely circumvent the space station and attack the colony directly, making space stations largely only useful as staging areas for attacks.

The end game needs work.  You can only order attacks while you're there to participate, so your empire basically has most of its assets sitting completely idle.  You can't be in two (or more) places at once, so it's inevitable that you're going to to be picked apart.  While you're fighting on yet another ball of rock, patiently whittling away the health on the structures and enemy units, you're getting news updates about how the enemy empires are taking back what you captured and there wasn't anything you could have done about it.  I stopped playing: this is pointless monotony.

The main thing I'd probably do differently is not bother with a 3D perspective.   There's just so much more you can accomplish without that kind of technical overhead, including deeper game mechanics.  (I suppose, at this point, some people would tell me that they're really rather glad that I was not the one calling the shots.)

Overall, Salvation Prophecy was an interesting experience, and I'm glad they made it.  But, in being this close to what I wanted yet still quite far from it, it's a pointed reminder that my dream game is never going to be made unless I'm the one doing it.

Game Development Progress: I'm not doing it.

A couple more days off, and what did I do?  Screw around, mostly.  It would seem that I'm still getting acclimated  to my new work schedule, and little wonder considering I'm only half-way through the first week of it (last week being a different, training schedule).  I have no good excuse.  I really aught to sink at least an hour a day into muddling around with GameMaker or something.

I think I'm getting just a bit depressed with GameMaker, because the lack of out-of-room accessibility means that my game concepts generally will require I move the whole damn enchilada into a single room, and what a mess that is.  Yet, there really is no easier SDK for creating 2D games and porting them to so many platforms, so I might as well get used to thinking how to make things in GameMaker terms.

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