King, Witch and Dragon is a fantasy platformer with 2.5D perspective (3D characters and environment, but gameplay constrained to 1 plane) developed by one person (me).
In this game player takes role of Prince - young, selfish and arrogant son of King, that has to save the kingdom from Dragon. At the beginning of his journey he will get several special abilities that will help him to navigate through game world and reach his goal: double jump, dash, wall climbing, grappling hook, etc.
Sounds like metroidvania? Here is the twist.
During his adventure Prince will constantly lose his abilities and will become weaker. Player can choose in which order Prince will lose them, but there is no way to avoid it. Through this sacrifice young selfish boy will become true king…
In the game where avatar become weaker and weaker, the player has to become stronger, more skilled and get more knowledge about game world in order to succeed.
That is Antivania.
Is it too punishing and hardcore?
At first glance, losing abilities may sound quite punishing and also limiting gameplay opportunities and depth.
I have a couple reasons to try this approach regardless.
Bullet sponge problem
In games that have leveling system or abilities unlock system the character becomes stronger and stronger throughout the game. To maintain level of challenge and difficulty game developers have to compensate character badassness. Usually it is done by making enemies more tough (more health, more armor, stronger attacks, etc.). This approach leads us to “bullet sponges”. For me this is lame design and I want to avoid it.
Character vs Player
There is another way to maintain level of challenge - keep enemies constant and degrade character.
My idea is that player (person in front of a monitor/TV) is getting stronger to compensate character weakness. In that context stronger means better skill and better understanding of game mechanics and rules of game world.
For me the great example here is “Shadow of the colossus”. In this game all the bosses always the same as well as main character (except slightly increased stamina at the end). This means that player has to master sword, bow, climbing, stamina management and controlling Agro. And this what makes me feels good about this game, the feeling of “I’ve become badass, not my character”.
Adding puzzle element
Here is an abstract example.
The character has 2 abilities: to run and to jump. Lets say he is running and see a pit in front of him. If player knows that character can jump then he just jumps over the pit and moves further. But what if character approaches another pit and he doesn’t have jump ability anymore? Player has to start thinking. Maybe he needs to find a wooden plank, build a “bridge” and run over the pit (he still has ability to run). Or he might fill pit with water and swim across (if he has swim ability). Or just backtrack a bit and try to find another way around.
This is another thing that game depth can come from.
There are tons of videos and streams like “Beating Dark Souls without parry”, or “without dodge/roll”, or “Defeat Ganon with a mop” in Breath of the Wild. Hardcore players like these kind of challenges that limit character abilities, and other players like to watch it. I just decided to make this optional challenges the main (and mandatory) part of the game.
At the moment I have Character Controller with all special abilities implemented and tested on playground level:
- double jump
- wall stick, wall climb, ceiling climb
- dash in 8 direction
- dash in complex shape tunnels
- grappling hook in arbitrary direction to the walls of handles and enemies