1. Aggro Tactics: Choice of Style

      written by Ray Benefield
      I know, I know... I didn't post last weekend. Which is why I'm doing two this weekend. One tonight and one tomorrow morning. It is warranted... trust me. :P So today I'm going to discuss a very big swing in direction that just stemmed last weekend. Let's talk, shall we?

      The past

      So I don't know how many people reading this actually know, but Aggro started out as a TCG. It went through many different mechanics to get to something that I felt like building. The TCG was fun, but it was missing something. I actually got it playable and played with many of my friends from around these parts. It was a blast and definitely required some skill, but allowed for a very unique feeling game and implementation of strategy. But the game needed more depth and a lot of the mechanics weren't very intuitive. Particularly the priority row and range system.

      From there I figured I would take the obvious step forward and figure out how to apply similar mechanics to a 3D board to apply positioning and spacial mechanics... and it blew my mind. I had no idea why I didn't start with that or why I made some of the decisions I did with the TCG. But we all get the feeling... 10 years ago we were all idiots by comparison.

      The Conundrum

      So here's the problem. I'm not really a graphics creative kind of guy. On top of that, I'm not big on backend systems and as such I don't have the want to improve performance if I run into issues... and doing 3D play can cause a huge problem. Especially when one of my goals is to provide the game to mobile users for accessibility purposes. So what am I to do? I don't want to spend so much time debugging graphics for a mobile phone and have limited support for hardware due to the 3D necessity of the game... what is a coder like myself to do? Work inside the means that I have access to. Let's do 2.5D... or more commonly known as Isometric.

      2.5 > 3

      Hehehe... I like that header. Anyway there are a LOT of benefits to going isometric over 3D. But before I go any further I want to explain a bit. Isometric is a very special type of Axonometric projection. Instead of things vanishing to a particular point based on distance from viewpoint, everything stays the same size no matter how far away or close it is. It is how Final Fantasy Tactics and games like it look the way they do. Also Isometric games aren't true Isometric. In true Isometric the angle of all of the axis are the same, but FFT and other SRPGs use what is called Dimetric projection. Dimetric means only 2 of the axis are at the same angle. This was to compensate for limitations of hardware. Dimetric allowed games to use an axis at a slope of 2:1 ratio which worked perfect for pixel presentation.

      So what's great about it? First of all it looks awesome. I love the feeling of dimetric games. Not only that dimetric games have a GREAT history with classics like Fire Emblem, FFT, Tactics Ogre, etc. That gives it a great initial glance feeling. It is also MUCH easier to draw and to be exact. I'm a coder with a very mathematical background and exactness is a thing. Also it is totally doable in 2D which heavily cuts back on the processing power needed. Sure I could do it in 3D, but saving processing from the get go is also a thing. There are some issues with it, flexibility of view just doesn't really exist and because of that more advanced terrain could be a pain when characters are behind cliffs and what not. It is also a completely different way of doing things, which means more to learn.

      The difference

      With a similarity to classics also leaves the possibility of comparison. So Aggro Tactics has to stand out. The first trick is using hexagons over squares. That's tough to do in isometric... and there have been some that have tried it, but they've tried it with the flat hexagons, not skewed. My style is skewing it so the orientation at start feels similar to typical tactics games. So this is what I mean... the first is how most approach isometric hexes with the flats parallel to the bottom of the screen and the second is some sample diagram graphics of what I'm working on for tomorrow's post (note all the 3D models are not my own and are just being used for prototyping).

      Tomorrow's Post

      So what's tomorrow? I get to show off some of the diagram graphics I have been working on for the past couple of weeks when I find and use them to start talking about Aggro Tactics' combat system. What makes the combat in Aggro Tactics varied, but simple. The depth that comes from the mechanics, may not be apparent at first. But as time goes on and I introduce other parts of the mechanics I will start to show how each mechanic interweaves to create a truly unique gameplay experience. I'm totally pumped as I have a lot of the graphics ready and I already know how some of the blog post is going to turn out. Creating interesting scenarios to show off the mechanics are going to be fun. And I am thinking about hosting contests that allow those who have read the rules to win stuffz. Creating puzzle scenarios for players to solve could be a blast.


      MrGreenWithAGun said...

      I agree, isometric is a very cheap/optimal and beautiful solution to many geographical game models. This is exactly how I would go if I were building a 3-D style game board. But i seriously recommend you consider using only a 2-D game board for mobile. This has to do with what games work best for a given platform, and mobile device screens are so small that they are more like the Mario Bros of old. I am currently working on an Android game myself (well, I put it off for a while so that I can get into the forge contest and all, but...), and it involves a very very expansive map. I have the graphics rendering engine in place where I can move about, accelerate, decelerate, turn, etc., and the performance is well over 30fps at all time. I think trying to bring isometric into mobile will stress the player's ability to adapt to the smaller screens. I think the smaller screens feel better to play on when they are like the old Mario Bros style 2-D. I think people would feel that way.