We've been super busy building the final systems for FranknJohn before it moves into alpha, so over the next few weeks we'll take a look into the design process behind them and how they fit into the game to make it better.
This week: The Hub!
When I was thinking about the level structure and character upgrade progression for the game, certain questions kept popping up. Would you be able to upgrade during gameplay? How about an upgrade interface that only appeared after completing a level? The latter seemed like the better option. After all, I didn't want the reoccurring scenario where players would collect marbles (in-game currency, no microtransactions, I promise), pause, and open the upgrade menu to spend them. This would slow down gameplay dramatically and result in an entirely different experience. It would also remove some risk/reward decision making from the player.
There wasn't just the upgrade system to consider. The Headotron, a machine where players equip new Skullcaps was also removed from the levels so that we could facilitate more Skullcap drops per level. I also wanted to implement a shortcut system to levels you had already completed. At this point it made sense to create a physical space for these systems to live. Hence the hub was born.
The hub just so happens to be hidden beneath FranknJohn's grave. Nobody will think of looking down there, right? It's broken into three wings. The first, is where you can interact with the Headotron to purchase previously discovered Skullcaps and the Surgical Table, to access the upgrade trees. The second wing, contains the access tunnels to the various floors in the game. This wing must be unlocked and each access tunnel require items to open them. Access tunnels are styled around the theme of their respective floor.
The hub doesn't just serve as a glorified menu. The hub is your safe place. A place for you to rest and muck about between levels without any threat. The last of the three wings is FranknJohn's bedroom. Here you can play around with your toys (physics objects ahoy!), admire your trophy cabinet (trinkets from fallen bosses) or simply hang out with your pet dog, Roxy.
Other playable characters will also hang out here. We are also toying with the idea of having unlockable items for the hub and there may even be some secrets to discover ;) This will be a very physical space with lot's of stuff to interact with. It's all about adding a little flavour and personality to the experience.
With all of this documented, I began work on the whitebox for the hub. Being able to visualize it is one thing. Translating it into a physical space is another.
There are so many considerations. Is the space too big or too small? Where should I place the Headotron in relation to the Surgical Table? What area will players spend most of their time in? Of course, I can't answer most of these questions without testing and feedback. So that is where it's at now. I've created a general structure and layout for everything and hopefully it will now evolve organically. I'll gradually replace the whitebox with proper geometry, art and lighting.
That's it for now, next week we'll take a look into the upgrade trees that Robby and Ralph are busy implementing.
Reminder! We have opened preorders (www.franknjohn.com) to help get us to PAX2015 next March. We need 220 sales for the trip to be feasible and so far we have sold 69! That's great going, but we need to pick up pace as we will soon have to decide on whether or not we want to secure a booth at PAX. Thanks a million to those who preordered and to those who have shared the word.
Until next week,