In a previous article, we introduced Project Kea’s modern fantasy universe. It is now time to switch gears and talk about our vision for its gameplay.
To summarize Project Kea’s gameplay in a single (but long) sentence, it is a cooperative online action RPG, which alternates between multiplayer action phases and single player narrative phases.
An action RPG? That could mean anything!
This is true. Action RPG has become somewhat of a blanket term for any game with a dynamic combat system, experience points and a progression tree. Games such as Diablo, Skyrim or Dark Souls are all considered action RPGs, yet have little in common. So where does Project Kea fit in all of this?
We would love to say that Project Kea will feature never seen before gameplay that will blow your mind. But the truth is that we draw our inspiration from many existing genres, particularly MOBAs (such as the extremely popular Dota 2 and League of Legends). Here are some of the main characteristics we really like in MOBAs:
- Each character has something unique, which only them can do. This gives everyone a chance to shine during the game.
- There is a great mix of short-term and long–term objectives. Individually, each player must keep focused on micro – am I positioned well, what skills should I use and how, should I engage the enemy team now? As a team, players also must keep focused on macro – should I stay in my lane and push, or move to defend a structure under attack, or scout an objective? As a result, there is always something going on in the map.
- With millions of possible match-ups and all the different ways a game can progress, there are so many variables that no two games are ever the same.
- Learning new insults in exotic languages (well, maybe not that one).
Project Kea will not be a MOBA, if only because it is a purely cooperative game. As such, we do not intend to emulate every feature of the genre (like getting flamed by your teammates after missing too many last hits). That being said, it will still share many similarities with this type of games. In particular, it will have a top down view, a large cast of characters with their own abilities, dynamic fights with an emphasis on skill and team play, and a high replay value.
Project Kea’s story arcs will never be about a single person. They will follow multiple heroes, which ties nicely with our intent to provide a large choice of unique playable characters, each one with their own twist on the gameplay. Our protagonists will have extraordinary skills available but so will their adversaries. And you never know, the archvillain of a campaign might very well become the hero of another story!
So what will the players do in game?
Playing a single level from start to finish will be relatively quick (about 30-45 minutes) but we want replaying the game to always feel fresh and interesting. To achieve that, a huge effort will be put on AI development. The main idea is that your opponents will not only be packs of mobs that act independently from each other but the map itself! Think of it as a “master AI”, like the adversary in a Real-Time Strategy game like StarCraft, or the AI Director in Left 4 Dead (another great cooperative game and inspiration source). That AI will be able to direct units and trigger various effects to actively hinder players’ efforts.
Each map will have a specific set of objectives for the players to accomplish. Conversely, the opposing AI will also have their own goals, which may very well be asymmetrical. In the simplest maps, both objectives could simply consist in the good old “kill everything that looks at me funny”. In a more complicated scenario, the players could explore and try locating an ancient artifact, all while defending a point from monsters, while the adversary has to collect a certain amount of resources to win.
Our motivation is really to have each map tell its story and possess a life on its own, even without active intervention from the players. The only limit will be our imagination (and yours as well, as we plan to release development tools to the community, but more on that in a later article).
What about narration then?
A big problem when trying to tell a story in a multiplayer game is that different players (even in the same group) may have very different expectations. Some people want to immerse themselves in the story, talk to every NPC, read every book, while others just want to skip the story and get to the action. Even something like a simple dialogue can become an annoyance, as people have different reading speeds, and waiting for other players to finish reading a text can quickly get old.
For all these reasons, we decided to eliminate all sources of downtime from the action phases, so that their rhythm is never disrupted. This is not to say that we intend to separate story and gameplay. On the contrary, we believe that environmental narration is a great way to tell a story without interrupting the flow, just do not expect lengthy cut scenes and deep dialogue trees during multiplayer parts.
On the other hand, action phases will alternate with narrative episodes, which will advance the story and develop the characters. Contrary to the action phases, these ones will be playable alone, so that any player can experience them at their own pace. Here we will use more classical narrative tools, already employed for decades in various visual novels, to keep telling the story of our world and its people.
Our main goal is to let the players choose how they want to experience the story. Not interested in it? Just skip the narrative phases and hit the quick match button to get to the action! But if the story is specifically what you came for, take all the time you want to interact with your favorite characters and discover the lore!
We want to hear from you!
We hope that article gave you a good overview of our vision for Project Kea’s gameplay. Of course, video game development being what it is, that vision may evolve, but hopefully nobody will remember this article when Project Kea ends up becoming a racing game set during World War II.