White Facade (Old Project)
White Facade was a group project I worked on while at SCAD. It started when a programmer (Jake), a very precious commodity in an art school, said he had a game idea. The smart people in the class all jumped on the project. His idea was to make a game based on Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. For those of you who have not played it, the game is a split between base/organization building and running small missions. The idea Jake had was to make the game for mobile platforms and to fix the problems he saw with Peace Walker, namely complexity without depth.
He wanted me on the project as the lead designer so he and I sat down and discussed what he was looking for and what we should do to make it happen. If you have no frame of reference for the type of gameplay that Peace Walker (PW) has I will briefly describe it for you. Your first task was to create a base of operations for a team of super soldier spies. This means that you had to build research facilities and barracks to house and equip the spies. Then you would hire spies based on their strength and send them out on missions to earn money and stuff. Certain missions required a personal hand and you would send out Snake, and the player would actually play that mission.
Like I said above his problem was mostly with the complexity of the game without enough depth to warrant it. This was most obviously manifested in the stats (called parameters) of the spies. Look at the image below for a second:
The main problem here is in how many of the parameters there are. Now this is not normally a problem, there are plenty of games with lots of stats that define a character that do not suffer as PW does. The main reason PW struggles is that only a few of the stats are used regulary and every other stat up there is used in seemingly random places throughout the game. This is what we wanted to avoid in White Facade. Below is the video we made for the final presentation of the game. It goes over features of the game.
If you are still with me most of my efforts were on the base side of the game. I was mostly in charge of designing; how the units worked, how the mission structure worked; how the player earned resources, and some of the combat in spectate mode.
Unit Design was all about simplicity. Jake wanted to have very few stats per unit. So I came up with 3: Attack, Defense, Skill. Attack determined the damage that a unit dealt, Defense determined unit health and chance to avoid being hit. Skill determined chance to hit and critical hit chance. I felt that for what we wanted to do 3 stats were all we required. The units are all randomly created when the game is launched and randomly assigned 3 stat points. As the units went on missions they would level up. Every level up the unit would earn a new stat point that was randomly assigned. Future plans had a base structure that would allow the player to choose where the point went after each level up.
To make the game as visually clear as possible we used pips to describe a units proficiency in a stat. So the only numbers to think about for each stat was 0-5. This meant that we could easily explain how good a unit was at a certain role or how hard a mission was by how many pips were required to have the best chance of success.
Mission Design was set up to be the same as unit design. We wanted it to be simple, both visually and conceptually. Like everything in the game the difficulty is randomly assigned and the rewards for successfully completing it scale based on the difficulty. To make sure the player knew what they needed to bring in order to have the best chance at the mission. While on a mission the units sent could succeed or fail. If you did not spectate the mission then the outcome was determined by a dice role based on how well the units met the diffuculty requirements of the missions. The missions difficulty had values based on the unit stats that had to be met to ensure the highest chance of success (which capped at 95%).
In the image above is a screen for a hard mission. The name is randomly created for a big list, and the time is how long the player has to start the mission before it disappears for ever. Each mission had a stat associated with it. The %chance of success was determined by how many pips of that stat were required to fill. The side objectives were bonuses that if you could complete gave you extra resources. They followed the same rules as the primary objective, but their failure did not result in a failure to complete the mission.
Resource Acquisition was a tricky one. At first we were going to have multiple resources that would be used to purchase various things around the base to give your operatives a better chance at survival. This would include stuff like guns and armor that would enhance the stats. I decided on having only 1 resource to keep with the simplification theme of the rest of the game. The player would just spend money for everything, much like real life. How the player earned money was pretty straight forward, they went on missions, the harder the mission the more money earned. The only thing I really needed to balance was how much they earned as compared to the difficulty. Sadly we never got to a point in the development where we had anything to spend money on, so money was basically a point system for play testing.
Spectator Missions were a weird thing to design for the game. I had very little to do with it to be honest, that was another designer. All I did was come in and decide how the stats affected the "combat" and to help design the systems that drove the combat behind the scenes. Spectate was designed so that players could watch their operatives, and if we had gotten further in development they could influence the outcome. The ideas behind influencing the outcome was that we could not directly impact combat, but could enhance the operative's decision making. I had designed a lot of ways the player could affect the mission but none of it made it in. Mostly I was thinking of ways for the player to help the operatives not be complete idiots.
All said and done the game was actually fun to a point. The concept is actually really strong, and some more time would have seen this as a great time waster mobile app. My favorite thing to do was pick the hardest missions that my operatives had any chance of completing and sending them, then picking 1 soldier with 3 blue pips and spectating him on the hardest mission available. The reason was that 3 blue pips meant that he had a high chance to hit anyone he came across so he would win most fights in spectate mode. Spectate mode had the highest chance for success with 1 soldier, and since the map was randomly generated it would often make winning very easy. It was strangely tense watching your chosen operative slowly make his way past guards and narrowly avoid being seen to reach the elusive rotating purple cube, the place holder that is still there. It kept the player in the flow zone, the balance between tension and boredom, better than I thought it would. There was once the legend of an operative so skilled that he lived through 50 missions and we found out all sorts of bugs, he was 6 levels higher than our "Max Level" and had maxed out every stat and then some becoming an unstoppable killing machine devoid of mercy, because no operative had lived that long.
If you are interested download the game here