Agent // Operator is sci-fi based Stealth/Hacking game for co-op players. With a focus on teamwork, one player plays as an Agent undergoing missions while the other player plays as the mission Operator. The gameplay focuses on the separation of physical and abstract/digital challenges that can only be surmounted through cooperation and communication.
Research for this project was broken down first into broad areas of interest to the project, focused on aspects of the project which would help define the concept further. These areas of investigation can be examined under the following criteria:
- Experience- What kind of experience are we attempting to emulate. To gain perspective into the relationship at the core of the idea several pop culture examples were explored. Television shows such as Alias, Chuck and 24 explored the relationship between Asset and Handler and provided insight into the dynamics and challenges of either role. Films such as Mission Impossible, the Bourne series, Body of lies further expanded on this with the focus being on gadgets and problem solving rather than violent interdiction. The warner brothers animated series Batman beyond showcased a simular relationship between an elderly Bruce Wayne and his protege. William Gibsons Neuromancer, George Orwells 1984 and Alan Moores graphic novel V for Vendetta all helped shape the experience we would attempt to present.
- Atmosphere/Aesthetics- What manner of setting and more importantly what kind of feel should the gameplay and environment present. With the decision made early on in development to host the game within a scifi setting ( thus allowing for a wide choice of deus ex machina technologies) given the nature of the covert gameplay it was felt that a somewhat dystopian view on this near future would best serve in establishing the visual style and feel of the project. Anime features such as Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell proved to be a great source of visual inspiration. Along with the feature films Blade Runner, District 9 and the remakes of Tron and Total Recall helped inform this process. Games such as the Deus Ex series, with its technology centric themes and the buzzing neon environments of Sleeping dogs furthered this exploration.
- Visual Communication- How would we quickly and cleanly represent the information needed to the players. With partitioned gameplay, the communication of information became a primary concern, with the focus being on creating a uniform “language” for the game play common to both parties, both to facilitate the easy incorporation of game feed back but also to help create a uniform world for both player to partake in. In exploring the GUI requirements the Iron-Man Hud from the feature films as well as the television series Continuum and Batman beyond we investigated, with the later holding a strong position in our consideration owing largely to its abstracted simplified style and strong visual appeal. From these explorations the decision was reached to go with a symbolic approach to delivering information based on established visual ques and symbols.
- Gameplay- what balance/combination of mechanics would create an engaging experience for the players. The game play of the Agent was explored to though existing genre examples such as the Splinter Cell and Metal gear series, though this only provided to be marginaly usefull as the focus of our project was to be as non violent as possible, while these examples were both very combative in nature. Portal 2 and Tom Clancy's Rainbow six was looked at for its implimentation of cooperatively dependant challenges and dual problem solving tasks. The logic board game Mastermind proved great insight into making the hacking puzzles more interactive and enjoyable.
- Technical limitations- What could and could not be achieved within the given time frame. This was an ongoing process, though only as a means to explore and area the project may progress into, rather than have technical limitations curb potential ideas, ideas were to be explored in their own right before being vetoed for technical concerns.To This end several processes were explored and disguarded most notably being Unity's Mecanim Animation system for the Agent, which proved to be problematic when synced over a network and Ngui which was original ment to manage our gui proved to be unsuitable due to the volume of gui data we wanted to display on the Operators interface.
Though the skills and insights of our peers were of great use, they all so are more overly familiar with game systems than the average person, to meet the needs of new or casual gamers, and to ensure that our product was understandable and fun to the outside world we enlisted the use of family and friends outside of the college environment to assist in this process and provide an alternative point of view.
What could and could not be achieved within the given time frame was always a concern, give the team size and scope of the project. This was an ongoing process, as a means to explore the areas the project may progress into, rather than have technical limitations curb potential ideas, ideas were to be explored in their own right before being vetoed for technical concerns.
To this end i personally believe that though this was an hugely benificial experience in terms of knowledge and skills gained that i personally do not yet have the skills to meet the brief as i would like. Though much has been learned from this project there are a number of ways in which this projects development might have been improved upon.
The decision was made very early that we would not shy away from attempting something perhaps beyond our abilities. Given our place in the first half of the course it was felt that there was a leeway to make mistakes and upskill in preparation for final year, and that these were the primary experiences to be taken away from the project. Though multiple angles of the idea were explored through a variety options the process was still experimental. This process could have been far more productive and insightful in retrospect with more oversight and better notation of feedback from peers and players.
To this end the first build serves more to point out short coming than successes, with this in mind the second build will be a approached buy tackling these weak points of interface/game play as a matter of priority.