At My Game Company, I've been quietly working for 2 years on a sequel to my classic-style platformer, Dirk Dashing: Secret Agent!
Dirk Dashing is a spy working for G.O.O.D. (Government Operatives On Duty), whose mission is to thwart the diabolical plans of the criminal organization known as E.V.I.L. (Exclusive Villains Intelligence League). Unlike many other spy-themed games, in which the hero is a super-realistic CIA type or a bungling idiot, Dirk Dashing is designed to be a cool action hero with fun weapons and gadgets. The game uses cartoon graphics to emphasize the fun aspect of the game, and it allows you to do a lot of cartoony kinds of things, like tricking enemies into running off ledges, running into each other, or knocking themselves out in a variety of ways.
My first Dirk Dashing game met with mixed reviews. People enjoyed the hand-painted 16-layer parallax backgrounds, but they didn't like the flat characters and the sparse building interiors. Also, many of the cartoon gags that I built into the game went unnoticed because I didn't make them discoverable enough, so the game was criticized for not having enough weapons or ways to take out enemies.
So for the sequel, I utilized the improved graphics engine from my 1950s style space shooter, The Adventures of Rick Rocket, to provide richer graphics with lighting effects and shadows. The characters have all been redrawn with cel shading applied and greater detail added. And I've painted a much wider variety of building interior textures and drawn dozens and dozens of furniture pieces and little details for the game backgrounds. As a result, Dirk has never looked better!
Dirk also has some new moves, like the ability to climb ladders and hang from wires and pipes. He has new weapons, including a tranquilizer dart gun, which helps him feel more like a spy to the player (as opposed to throwing stun gas grenades). He has a new inventory system that allows you to pick up multiple weapons and gadgets, carry them with you, and use them whenever you want - a feature that was highly requested by the fans. And he has a new health system, which means he can be hurt several times before he dies (no more instant death)!
In addition to retouching characters from the original game that will make a return appearance in Dirk Dashing 2, I've animated many new characters for the sequel. My latest creation is this new E.V.I.L. agent - the Ninja. He has abilities no other characters have, including the ability to jump between ledges and chase you almost everywhere you go, two attacks (throwing stars from a distance and a deadly Ninja sword for close range), and the ability to duck to avoid your weapons.
One of the features that players enjoyed from the original game was the pseudo-stealth elements, like the ability to sneak past an enemy while his back was turned. I've played up the stealth aspect for the sequel by adding security cameras, laser trip wires, and other such obstacles that Dirk must sneak past undetected. If Dirk is seen by a security camera or trips a security sensor, an alarm sounds. All enemies become awake and alert and start hunting for Dirk, more enemies spawn in various strategic locations, and parts of the level may get locked down - making it more difficult for Dirk to complete his mission. Players who sneak through a level undetected will earn huge bonus points at the end of the level, so I think the addition of these stealth elements adds some wonderful dimension to the gameplay and really plays up the secret agent theme.
Dirk Dashing 2 will be available for pre-order in August for Windows, Mac, and Linux for $19.99 USD. The game story consists of 5 stages. The first stage will be released as a free trial/demo. Those who choose to pre-order will be allowed access to the beta version, containing all of the levels for all of the completed stages. Right now, 2 of the 5 stages are finished. As each new stage is completed, pre-ordering customers will receive a game update containing the new levels, as well as new features, enhancements, bug fixes, and more. So it will be a lot like playing an episodic game - with each new stage or "episode", more of the story will unfold. And, of course, since the game isn't finished yet, you'll also have the opportunity to give feedback, make suggestions, etc., and possibly influence the remaining development of the game. I will also be giving pre-ordering customers a free copy of the planned strategy guide once the game is finished, containing level maps, hints, tricks, concept art, and more.