This is the first post in a series that will detail various stages of the development of Orbital Decay. I felt “postmortem” sounds ugly or maybe way too common, and since this is the unusual blog, things are getting done a bit differently than in the gaming industry 😉
This part will detail the idea and the sources that influenced the design of Orbital Decay.
It’s difficult to tell exactly how this idea sparked up, but sometime after the development of That Word Game finished (in autumn 2008), I was searching for an idea for the next game. I had a couple of them written down in a text file – use to write down everything game design related that comes to mind – but none of them was appealing enough to me (= original game-play). At some point, I wrote down an idea that was similar to the Casual Collective The Space Game, that is a deep space star station that could be expanded with upgrade-able sections in the tower defense style, the goal being to repel, what else, alien invaders 🙂
I remember that I was bouncing ideas with my girlfriend, her being a complete stranger to hard core gaming makes her the perfect casual gamer and thus able to spot good or bad (from a casual point-of-view anyway) game ideas. During this conversation, I came with the idea of replacing the star station with a huge ship and setting it in a side-scrolling scenario.
That was the beginning, but I think a lot of other inspiration factors had their role in the process. In no particular order:
Nocturnus. I am a long time fan of this death metal band and I consider Thresholds, with tracks like Subterranean Infiltrator and Arctic Crypt, one of the best musical acts I have ever listened. Beside the music, which is technical for a death metal act, their lyrics are very well put together, they are like little universes waiting to be explored and this combination is able to draw you in and keep you there for a long time. The title of the game, Orbital Decay, is a tribute to them and is actually the name of a track from Ethereal Tomb. Even if the story has nothing to do with the the lyrics of that track, the title holds a metaphor that fits very well with the game story (that deals with inevitability or, simply put, fate).
Star Wars, the Battle of Endor. “That blast came from the Death Star”, priceless 🙂 Aside from watching Return of the Jedi a couple of times on VHS (understatement – way too many times), this particular battle sequence remained in a corner of my mind. From the ship designs, to the camera work and the actual combat maneuvers up to the sounds and music that wraps everything together, well, it’s simply perfect (for the geeks, at least 🙂 ). The way that fighters work their way between the capital ships that pound each other to death, I just wanted to reproduce this feeling. Also, as a tribute, there a several dialog lines that make a reference to Star Wars (red squadron/blue squadron).
Tie Fighter, the game. Mostly the same as the above, at some point there was a mission where a Star Destroyer was trading fire with a Mon Calamari cruiser, while the player in his tiny fighter had to accomplish a mission. Also, this was the inspiration for sub-system targeting and damaging – many space sims have implemented this, but as far as I know, this was the first.
Homeworld. Powerful game, I enjoyed playing and finishing it. The player ship is loosely inspired by a Vaygr ship, and also, as a tribute to Homeworld, there are several references in the story and game (Fleet Command, RU=resource units, the game currency).
Transformers, the G1 cartoon series. Back when I was a kid, living under a communist regime limited the access to information. I remember that I got my hands on a 180 minutes VHS containing various cartoons. Among them was an episode from Transformers G1 called Forever is a Long Time Coming, that stuck with me from that day on for it has a very nice combination of story telling, action sequences and music. As a tribute to the Transformers cartoons, the enemy energy missile in Orbital Decay was designed to look and feel like a Quintesson star bomb, while in the story there are several dialog lines that reference this particular Transformers episode.