POSTED // September 20,2017

Blast from the past or creating a tactical indie game.

Greetings, my name is Karolina and I’m a narrative designer. Since the beginning of 2017 we’ve been working on Star Souls. Star Souls is designed as a tactical game. It’s mainly about fighting with the enemy’s spaceships which occurs in real time with a tactical pause. In this post I’ll tell you about the structure of Star Souls gameplay. The gameplay can be conventionally divided into 3 components: time, place and characters.

PLACE.

The playing area in Star Souls is fully open and divided into squares where the player can move their ships. The playing area isn’t large so the player can fully control it. It was quite a challenge for us to create an interesting gameplay with what may seem a minimum set of conditions. What comes to mind is the amazing example of a 64-squared game (8x8) with 16 pieces that has been entertaining people for one and a half thousand years. Every game maker dreams of achieving the greatness of chess but let’s be realistic)) In a good board game one handles a number of objects on a relatively small area and the process of it is pretty addictive.

In computer games there’s no problem with lack of physical space on the table and the playing area can be much larger. Battle City (those “Tanks” for Dendi we used to stick to in the evenings) had 169 sectors and it was really good, wasn’t it?

In Star Souls the playing area is relatively small (10 x 20 squares) and is ultimately packed with events. In order not to die within the first few minutes the player has to react to dangers: avoid meteorites and hazardous fields, hide in nebulae, make way through trash etc. Besides the ships can serve as a shield for the main ship as its loss means the end of the game.

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TIME.

Some games are steady and hasteless and can be played with a cup of coffee in your hand, others are so vigorous that stopping or distracting means inevitable death. Fighting in the real time adds to the dynamics of Star Souls and in order to make the player use their brains rather than just improve their response time the game features a tactical pause that allows to analyze the situation and give commands to ships and their weapons. Another impetus to make the player pause the game and think it over is the irreversibility of death.

However, there will be a lot of dying. So that playing the game through doesn’t feel like a groundhog day, Star Souls includes roguelike elements at all sublevels: sector map is generated randomly, lots of miniquests and battles occur merely by chance plus the player can play for any of several races with totally different ships. The outcome of quests is ambiguous and can lead to various consequences. A loss is no drama but rather a new adventure and new experience for the player.

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CHARACTERS.

Another aspect that unites Star Souls with board games is collecting – here it’s collecting ships and weapons. The game offers 30+ ships of playing races, many non-playing enemy ships, over 30 kinds of weapons and naturally the player will want to try them all. The player can own no more than 3 ships at a time and install a maximum of 4 cannons. He/she can customize and upgrade their ships as well as install various modules on them which will protect them from certain types of damage. However, the player will never customize them enough to feel safe. Ships often die on the battle field, they are expensive to buy and difficult to earn. One way or another, the player will have to level some features of the ships (speed, deviation, life score) by choosing certain kinds of weapons, modules and distinctive style on the battle field.

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Version in Russian you can find here.

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