07 December 2019

Alienacs

Whats all this about? Turning an old ZX Spectrum game named Maziacs, into a sci-fi setting with a few gameplay twists.
Last Update: Dec 2019



Mazeiacs was an 80's game where you run around a maze, avoiding creatures finding some gold and bringing the gold back to your starting location. Moving around in the maze and fighting monsters consumes energy so the player is always under pressure to act fast and win the game with minimal moves possible.

Enemies can be defeated if the player is carrying a sword. Swords are found scattered around the maze and each sword can only be used once before it breaks. A sword cannot be carried at the same time as the gold, meaning once you grab the gold you better remember the shortest way to your starting location and avoid enemies as much as possible.

There were also prisoners who would highlight the correct path to the gold (or the exit) for a short period of time once the player touched and rescued them.

This pretty much sums up Maziacs. I had nothing better to do in life so I began wondering what happens if we try it the other way round? What if the player controls a monster who is trying to avoid humans? What if, instead of plundering gold, this monster is trying to acquire or save something that is confiscated by humans?

These questions made me come up with Alienacs... You are an alienac, (a race of alien maniacs?) who lives an uneventful day to day life, cleaning your hive, gathering food, baby sitting larva and other chores every other aliens do.

Life is good until a human science expedition arrives to your planet and decides to confiscate your eggs in the name of science. Such savage action from humans gets you seriously upset, you lose your fertility and enter menopause. Unable to reproduce, you have no other choice but to rescue your eggs as the future of your existence depends on it.

You sneak into the human research facility to find and rescue your eggs from the clutches of evil human scientists.





Screen layout for the C64 version of Maziacs. I like the C64 version as I prefer the muted C64 palette compared to the bright Speccy. I also like the layout of the c64 health bar placed at the bottom of the screen compared to the side bar of Speecy




Game Rules

The player starts the game on a teleporter tile. Find and bring the eggs back to the same teleporter tile before you run out of energy to win.

Every move you make consumes energy and you die if you run out of energy this way energy also acts as a time limit. Energy can be replenished by eating scientists.

Game over if the player runs out of energy or the Hunter reaches the eggs before the player can find and bring them back.

Main Menu

Nothing much to put on the main menu; New, continue, settings, achievements and maybe a summary of  each completed playthrough (like high scores, kills, damage dealt  etc) These can be nested inside achievements or have their own page.


 

Map Layout, Maze Generation and Tile Placement


Map layout is a maze full of single tile corridors. Map starts unexplored (black fog) and is revealed as the player moves around. Maybe explored parts of the map remain visible but only the enemies in the same corridor as the player can be seen?



Fog - Adding fog to this game can give more of an exploring the unknown facility sort of feeling. ıt would also boost up the difficulty since the maze doesnt start visible.

Fog can either be Type A - that reveals 2 or 3 tiles around the player as he walks around or Type B that is blocked by physical obstacles such as walls or doors. (characters, barrels and brain pods should be see through).

Also the paths shown by the brain pods should still be visible even when the area is covered with fog.

Another good reason to have fog may be to do with the tracker enemy type. If you snatch a tracker marine you could use his tracker device (the same way as you use a pistol) to see characters and objects in the the fog? 

Fog can be optional and turned on / off from the main menu.

Walls - Maze wall placement should be random.

Eggs and Teleporter should be as far away from each other as possible so the player wont be able to finish the game quickly. (specially with the addition of explosive barrels or rocket soldiers who can blow holes in walls.

Doors can semi random. As long as a door doesnt open right into a wall it doesnt have to have some logic behind doors. Maybe its just an empty room or a dead end corridor. What happens if there are no human bodies to snatch and open the doors? Maybe the doors should be attackable by the player so they act as a time limit barrier instead of a physical barrier?

Barrels and Brain Pods and enemies should be random.

Scientist should be evenly spread across the maze. They will move around anyway so it would give a balanced randomness (is that even a real thing? Balanced randomness?) to the medkit and health supply  

Interface


Very basic. Blue health bar at bottom, constantly drains as time goes by so it also acts as countdown timer to finish the mission. Red armour above (only if a human body has been snatched) weapons on side (again only if a human body has been snatched)





View Modes

Player will always be positioned at the center of the screen

There will be two types of views in the one. One is the default (full colour) view when the Alienac is in normal mode and the other would be the focused view when the Alienac consumes a brain pod.



Focus view (or can be called path view) activates when the alienac has consumed a brain pod. The green scent shows the closest path to the eggs while colours are darkened and important objects are shown in a more focused way.



This mode only lasts for a short amount of time and should be used wisely as there are only a limited number of brain pods per map.







Tiles

Couple of tiles, maybe few types of each for the sake of visual variety.

Teleporter - Player starts the game on a teleporter tile, find and bring the eggs back to the teleporter tile to win the game.

Wall - cannot be passed, can be destroyed by shooting explosive barrels. (shooting requires snatching a human that carries a ranged weapon)

Door - can be opened by walking through if the player snatches and controls a human body or can be destroyed by blowing explosive barrels (shooting requires snatching a human that carries a ranged weapon) Human enemies and the hunter can pass through the doors.

Explosive barrel - blows stuff around it, can be shot to destroy walls and cause mayhem for fun. will block ranged weapons and explode if anyone tries to shoot behind it. The player can push the barrel in alienack mode or shoot it in snatch mode

Brain Pods - Containment pods with a strange alien race that resemble a brain with eyes. When the player touches the pods the brain creature inside the pod is consumed and the path that leads to the location of the eggs gets revealed for a short time. (ground tiles will change colour to show path).

Each pod can only be used once. The Hunter will also be able to use the pods to find the location of the eggs so its better to hurry up and find the pods (and eggs) before The Hunter does.




 

Moves

Every move you make consumes energy and you die if you run out of energy. This way energy also acts as a time limit.

Moves that can be performed in alien mode (the default mode);

Walk / Attack - Alienack can move 1 tiles up down left right per turn. Walk on tiles occupied by the enemy to attack armed enemies, or eat scientists

Snatch - Tap at the right moment during combat to take control of the human enemy (see combat section below)

Moves that can be performed in snatch mode (when you take control of a human)

Open doors - player open door tiles by walking on them

Use weapon - use the weapon carried by the human body



Character Properties


Each enemy has the following properties ( none are visible on screen)
Health - damage it can take before death
Speed - how mobile the character is
Vision - number of tiles it can see (detect) the player
Weapon Type - weapon is ranged or melee
Accuracy - How accurate the character is with every hit
Damage - random roll between min and max damage
Special - if the character has special properties or not

Player has the following properties
Health -100 (+50 extra health in snatch mode that represents the health of the human host and can be considered as armour, once the player takes 50 damage the body is destroyed) Using weapons or human abilities should also decrease the armour
Accuracy - 85% - player attacks have low chance to miss.
Damage - 10 (does 10 damage each time the combat bar reaches the end) - see combat section below for details)

 

Enemies





There are 2 types of enemies; humans and another alien called The Hunter. I thought of adding mechanical enemies such as various types of robots who were very similar to humans but cannot be snatched by the alien, however no need to over complicate things. 

Enemy AI - should be very simple and follow these steps;
- Checks empty tiles around it before every move.
- Moves to an empty tile or doesnt move if no free tile around.
- Checks if player is in its vision, attacks if true

Marines are the most common enemy in the game. They have the ability to open doors by walking through them.

Scientist - Moves randomly, cannot hurt the player. Eat scientists (by moving on the same tile occupied by the scientist) to replenish depleted health. Scientists act as moving health packs and they cannot be snatched.

Health - 10
Speed - slow (moves every few turns)
Vision - 3
Weapon Type - no
Damage - no
Accuracy - 0%
Special - gives health to player when hit, panics (stops and hunkers down) or runs random direction when it spots the player

Civilian - Moves randomly, has melee attack only

Health - 20
Speed - slow (moves every few turns)
Vision - 3
Weapon Type - melee
Accuracy - 80%
Damage - 10-15
Special - panics and runs random direction

Tracker Marine - Moves randomly, has melee attack only, calls marines nearby for help

Health - 30
Speed - fast 
Vision - 8
Weapon Type - melee
Accuracy - 80%
Damage - 10-20
Special - calls for help (enemies near 5 tile distance will try to move towards this location)

Teleporter Marine - Moves randomly, teleports to random location every few turns

Health - 30
Speed - normal
Vision - 5
Weapon Type - ranged
Accuracy - 70%
Damage - 10-20
Special - teleports, cannot be snatched  

Pistol Marine - Moves randomly, has ranged attack (attacks 5 tiles away but his accuracy decreases with distance to target

Health - 30
Speed - normal
Vision - 5
Weapon Type - ranged
Accuracy - 65%
Damage - 10-20
Special - follows the player for a few turns

Heavy Weapons Marine - Moves randomly, has ranged attack (attacks 5 tiles away but his accuracy decreases with distance to target

Health - 30
Speed - slow
Vision - 5
Weapon Type - ranged
Accuracy - 65%
Damage -10-30
Special - weapon does splash damage

The Hunter - Hunters are an ancient race of aliens that hunt Alienac eggs. Each game has one hunter who starts at a random location, and tries to find the eggs before the player does. The Hunter has no idea about the location of the eggs but can interrogate Brain Pods to learn where they keep the eggs.

Health - 80
Speed - fast
Vision - 8
Weapon Type - melee
Damage - 20-30
Accuracy - 85%
Special - uses pods, regenerates health, chases player, chases attacker, cannot be snatched

Hunter AI should walk around randomly until it bumps into a Brain Pod. Once it bumps to a pod directions to the eggs will be given just like they are given to the player but probably for a shorter amount of time. The Hunter will follow the directions towards the eggs so the more pods it finds the closer it moves towards to reach its goal.

Hunter is distracted from its target if attacked by and enemy. It will move towards it's attacker and terminate it before starting to wander randomly. Hunter will chase the player if the player enters the hunters line of sight. 

Hunters have very high health and cannot be snatched. It will also regenerate lost health in time.


Combat


Combat can be divided into two parts, Melee and Ranged.


Melee Combat - Happens when player enters a tile occupied by another character. Combat is similar to a reflex test quick time event. A bar will appear on top of the player showing a sweet spot for a snatch.


The marker slides very quickly and the player can perform a snatch if he manages to press the attack button when the marker is at the sweet spot. If not, the player and enemy will perform regular attacks to each  other when the each time the marker reaches the end of the combat bar.



Combat continues until one of the two characters die or the player manages to snatch the enemy body.

Other enemies (ranged or melee) cannot move or attack the player If the player is already engaged melee combat with another enemy.



Since melee combat only happens between two characters at a time, another option can be to add a background image (like a corridor or something) and treat it similar to a pop-up. Background fades to black and combat plays in the middle of the screen.

Im not fully sold on the combat screen idea, it feels more suited for a slow paced strategy game rather than a real time maze kind of thing. It's also a bit annoying if you are surrounded by the enemy from north, south, east, west and pop-up activates again and again as you kill them one by one. Maybe this can be an on / off thing in the options menu.


Ranged Combat

When the player enters the range of an enemy they will take a shot and hit or miss depending on their accuracy.




End Game and Scoring


The player starts the game on a teleporter tile. Find and bring the eggs back to the same teleporter tile before you run out of energy to win.

Game Over if the player runs out of energy or the Hunter reaches the eggs before the player can find and bring them back.
 


Regardless of the outcome, end game will show the scoreboard. Score system should be simple, no need to over do it with crazy statistics;

Time spent - Time spent until death or victory. Less is good. -5 points per minute to be deducted from total score

Kills - number of enemies killed by the Alienac (Barrels, explosives, splash damage and friendly fire or Hunter killing the humans doesnt count) More is good. Each kill is worth 5 points added to total score

Snatches - number of humans snatched. More is good. Each snatch is worth 10 points added to total score
 
Pods - number of pods activated by the player. Less is good. 10 points to be deducted from total score for each pod used.

Survived - did the player manage to find the eggs and escape? -25 points if no +50 if yes

Total Score - more is good : ) Top 10 scores will be recorded.


The top 10 scoreboard should be easy to read (unlike the image above)

Replay Value


Replay value is on the low side. The game has no stages or progression. It is a 15 minute pick up and play adventure where each map is randomly generated but the rules are always the same so once you see every enemy and bring the eggs back, you pretty much see the whole game.