I have some 200+ people on my friends list (several who bitch to me about stuff daily, and others I intentionally grief with my presence). When working on a project like this, especially with fine youth like yourselves supporting me/us all the while, there's a certain level of "expectation" from others that comes from said role. Such as the case with this "I need an update now or I won't love you anymore" update. Yes, you heard right; a friend is holding my love hostage unless I pop out an update -- you can thank him for this, because I was not planning for it. Honestly, I don't know why the following is even worthwhile to mention. It's nothing special...at least, I don't think so. =P
VHEL's gameplay - part 1...no, I'm not joking. T_T
VHEL is unique in many ways due to it's immediate focus on real-time tactical gameplay and story elements that blend into said gameplay. Unlike many games within it's own genre classification or outwardly, VHEL focuses on the units (the characters) in a much more intimate manner. Character movement, planning, micromanagement of time, and foresight, are vital to success along with being knowledgeable about the Ragnic, weather patterns, and the environment. Thanks to this focus, having a superior plan to challenge the odds can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
[stress] : strain felt by somebody -- mental, emotional, or physical strain caused, for example, by anxiety or overwork.
The world of Nor Prime is a very unforgiving place teeming with dangers and unpredictable encounters. Being a courier in this world means being one part survivalist and part tactician. As so, VHEL has a unique system built around this concept to capitalize on the true essence of wasteland traversal called stress (sp). Stress is a role-playing (RPG oriented) system that determines how much physical and emotional damage a character can take before forcibly retreating, as well as maintain a particular pace and momentum. It’s quite literally designed to identify matters that will “stress out” the player and the player character. Additionally, various field conditions can and will become a more predominate factor in the decline and increase of stress. Due to these tense circumstances, an alteration in play style will occur frequently, validating both action oriented and stealth oriented gameplay styles.
- How does Stress work? - Stress can best be described as a type of morale system. The more threatening the environments and enemies become, the less successful the player will be. Stress starts from 0%. When entering a dangerous environment during a storm or the like, stress will increase to a set variable (15%-30% dependent on energy). The larger the enemy presence, the higher stress will grow. When in a combat driven situation with little progress achieved, stress will continually build up until the player is forced to retreat. Though this system may sound very conditional and unfair, it's design is to encourage the player to "evade" the enemy and/or use clever tactics to better resolve situations quickly.
Energy [énnərjee] : the ability or power to work or make an effort
A fixed amount of points designed to take enemy damage, as well as function as a stamina system. Every action Khana and company commits to consumes energy. Character’s who are severally weakened will preform poorly on the field. Response time is highly dependent on energy, so maintaining energy is critical to keeping up a solid momentum. Characters do not die from having zero energy left. In fact, this only deepens the number of strategies possible...and the number of ways to fail later, as well.
Note: Future methods in which energy will be recovered are currently in discussion.
The controls to VHEL follow a simple “1 button, one action” philosophy. Each button carries out a specific functionality and despite which situation Khana finds herself in, each button will work accordingly. There are no quicktime events within this game; the controls are always the same. Listed below is the default control scheme. All control options can be changed, if necessary, through the “settings” option.
Mouse 1 - Khana
Mouse 2 - Nolan (partner)
Space - Gambit Note: I'm not talking about this special system right now. ;D
1 - Execute Khana's Gambit
2 - Execute Nolan's (partner) Gambit
3 - Traps
Character movement is dependent on a simple click of a button -- literally. The player is able to control up to two characters at any given time using both the left mouse button (Mouse 1) and the right mouse button (Mouse 2). Move the cursor along the field, click on the button that corresponds to the character intended for movement, then repeat.
Just like in most RTS games, edging the mouse on the corners of the screen will cause the camera to move an adjust, as well.
To interact or attack an enemy, click either Mouse 1 or Mouse 2. Khana and company won't fight until they're told to directly, despite the RTT feel to the gameplay. Not too complicated, right? Dropping traps on the other hand invites a different level of depth and strategy. Press the 3 key to toss 3 traps per character. In all, 6 traps can be laid simultaneously. Traps cannot trigger on their own, so they will require that special touch to get them started up. Press the 3 key again to detonate all traps on the field. Repeat this entire process as many times, and in as many ways, as desired; traps are infinite, though additional effects can be used and added further into the game.
Taking cover and using vantage points in the environment is crucial to success in the wastelands. To take cover, simply move the cursor near an object of interest until one of two cover spots appear. Click either Mouse 1 or Mouse 2 -- dependent on who you really want to go where -- on said cover point(s). Though Khana and company won't be dodging bullets or the like, cover is much more important in a different respect -- more on this later.
All controls mentioned above can be used at anytime, anywhere, on the field without restrictions on movement. If Khana is needed at the far end of a map, while Nolan is needed further back, do it. There are no restrictions here. However, since the camera is not stationary on any one character at a time like a traditional RTS, the need to recenter the camera is available, and also recommended. To quickly switch between viewing Khana and her partner, press the Tab key. The camera will automatically go to the character further way from the cursor to keep up the flow of the gameplay without tedium. This all means that if Khana is closer to the cursor after the camera recenters on her, but if the player decides to manually move the camera closer to Nolan, then recentering the camera with the Tab key will go back to Khana, and vice-versa if Nolan were in the same situation. A similar rule also applies to the placement of traps. Having characters grouped together closely and near the cursor, means that all characters will toss out traps. If by chance Khana is further away from the cursor even though Nolan is closer to it, then Nolan will be the only one who will react. In other words, grouping up and isolating characters has a direct impact on play.
With two characters in the control of the player at once, keeping up with both at once is vital -- as with most of the others things in this game. This is made easier thanks to mechanic called "grouping". Grouping allows two characters to move, attack, react, and do everything else as like one. For example: if the player wants Nolan to move from his known position to group up with Khana, move the cursor over Khana and click Mouse 2. Nolan will move right to her, shifting control over to him directly to Mouse 1 itself. This applies to Khana as well if the player moves the cursor over Nolan and clicks Mouse 1. To disband, click Mouse 2. The order in which both characters are group together does not determine which buttons are used for movement as a group. Mouse 1 will always be for movement and attacking as a group, and Mouse 2 will always be for disbanding the group.
There are many more control options, including the gambit system, still to be discussed, but I'll leave this information out for now until the time is right.
Field of Occupation
The area in which a character’s presence is known. Dependent on a character’s choice of movement and/or positioning, the field of occupation will either increase or decrease. The smaller the field, the less noticeable a character is, and vice versa. Cloaking is very important to playing correctly, so knowing which factors effect each characters' field of occupancy is paramount to success.
As shown, each character has their own field of occupancy -- all of which are based around oval hit boxes. Having Khana and company too close together will cause their field of occupation to increase greatly, making separation a far more ideal method of traversal when in cloak. In the case of enemies, lower field occupation means skewed player visibility, making Ragnic such as the Masque capable of avoiding detection unless very close up, and vice versa for bigger Ragnic with higher field occupantion. As aforementioned, grouping Khana and a partner together will cause their field occupation to expand as so:
Though damaging, greater field occupation can lure in Ragnic for possible ambushes setup by the player. This is where the use and abuse of cloaking can become a weapon in onto itself.
Like in most RTS games, VHEL follows a methodical, rock-paper-scissors system. Known as “Triadic Rule”, success on the field is determined by advantages, in-game tactics, and player motivations. The fist represents "combat". The blackened face at the top represents "cloak". The knife represents "cunning". The arrows indicate which action beats what in an in-game context. This system makes it easy for the player to figure out the best possible solution to a problem reflexively versus guessing. Since the core gameplay revolves around "evasion", actions in the game force you to look at situations in a methodical manner.
Like the gambit system, triadic rule will be discussed in full in time.
Getting Things Done
What every courier should know
With all the aforementioned systems and mechanics listed above, now comes the part where things come together and make what is played. Evading the enemy under relatively long time constraints -- that's what VHEL: Courier is all about at it's heart. How is this done? By using very clever methods of cunning, combat, and cloak, to otherwise out think the enemy. There are 2 couriers at the player's disposable, an assortment of cover points to use at any given time, a number of special items to use, 6 diversified Ragnic with their own special abilities and traits, and a slur of contracts layering a number of unique events for the player to complete.
The pace of the game is largely dependent on how fast confrontations are ended. Staying in cloak is useful for keeping track of the enemy and moving along without going into combat. In the case of the common Nidaria, simply avoiding the mass that flies in and around Khana and company is enough. However this won't always be the best way to traverse. In the case of the Ragnic Masque, staying in cloak is alternatively more dangerous due to their inherent ability to ambush their enemies and move about with a small field of occupancy. The use of traps in such circumstances, as well, will decline in functionality since Masque can proactively avoid and disable traps, unless deterred in an offensive manner. This is where being headstrong about combat and gunning after anything that moves, is useful (at times).
In other, more radical cases, Ragnic like the Planula focus on overwhelming their enemies and exploding like suicide units. Though similar to the Nidaria, Planula are much more dedicated to land-based confrontations, setting up zones to ambush, and generally sticking to bigger Ragnic like the Geist. If there is one thing that makes the Planula like the Nidaria, it's their immunity to one-on-one combat. This makes the use of cunning and cloak just as important as ever. Other Ragnic like the Geist and the Echopraxia focus on range combat, stopping damage, and distractions.