Synapse is basically a working system now, so we're trying out different game modes for the single player and really trying to establish what the most fun core gameplay is.
Here are some of the basic modes we tested quickly today...
Type A: Attack
In this game mode enemies are spread out in tactical positions around the level. The player must take his units and intelligently take out the enemy. At the beginning it may be a bit of a puzzle to work out how to get the first enemy without dying.
Type B: Stealth
In this mode you must get from one side of a mission to the other without being seen. The enemies will be patrolling the area.
Type C: Defense
In this mode you must defend a room or area from an attack. The attack will usually be much stronger than you, and you must find the right defensive places to succeed.
Type D: Assassination
In this mode, you must enter a heavily fortified area and kill one civilian in the middle of the map. These must be designed to be real puzzles - there is basically just one way of getting to the enemy.
Type E: Escape
In this mode you start off in a pretty hairy predicament, and must get out of the level safely! It should be a bit of a puzzle to even survive the first turn.
Type F: Destruction
You have a rocket launcher and there are loads of machine gunners running away - you have to kill as many as you can before they reach the edge of the screen and escape.
We worked with quite heavily scripted enemy plans today. This was interesting but turned mostly into a guessing game about what those plans were, which is inherently boring. In my opinion, the game modes which worked best were those where you weren't compelled to take out every enemy on the map - having to get from A to B or defend an area was more entertaining and felt less like work.
Tomorrow, we're trying similar game types but giving the AI more free reign to make decisions on its own. We're hoping this will add a bit more dynamism to the game and bring it back into line with the "outsmarting" fun that happens in multiplayer.
As we're going for a story-based narrative progression in single player, we're going to need a really compelling mix of missions. Doing these micro gameplay tests is great and should definitely lead us down the right path.
On another note, I started exploring dialogue trees using a simple graphing tool by the name of YeD. This proved pretty interesting and I'm trying to badger Ian into writing a utility which can interpret one of YeD's output formats so I can actually write the dialogue in it. I'm UTTERLY bemused that there are no freeware dialogue tree testing or creation utilities out there, but Ian has already knocked up one that I can use.
Currently, we're planning short, punchy dialogue sections after certain levels to get the player a bit more into the game world and do plot stuff. This coupled with some sparing in-mission events and comments by your opponent should be all we need to do a lot of interesting immerisve stuff.
I so badly want to get the artists moving on the bespoke SP art but that will definitely have to be put on hold until we have a very clear idea of the SP gameplay and progression.
We have another episode of our podcast Visiting the Village up now as well!