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Our game focuses on exploring a city searching for clues and learning new skills to reach new locations to find something very valuable to the protagonist.

The game design is based on two ideas:

  • Choices through gameplay. Instead of explicitly making the action of "choice", the outcome of a level objective is what makes the choice. For example: Gary's Eevee evolves into 3 different Pokémon depending on your previous battles with him in Pokémon Yellow. It's not something you chose; it's something that happened while you tried to win or lose against him.

  • Real time actions. While you are doing an action (i.e. Jump over a fence), you may be interrupted by something or some NPC, and the resulting outcome differs a lot from the one expected by the player.

When we started testing the first levels, we noticed that the player may get bored exploring the streets of the city. The protagonist is a small sized animal (like an adult pet dog), and we wanted to make the scale of the city realistic relative to the main character, so in comparison the size differences of both protagonist and levels are huge.

So we thought of adding stealth and pursuit mechanics (the protagonist, as an animal, would have to avoid animal rescuers). Both of these mechanics seem to fit very well within the two main game ideas. But when it comes to implementing them, it becomes a huge hassle.

  • Firstly, the player will be forced to escape once a pursuit sequence happens, trying to find a good hiding place, and will not stop to think where they should go.

  • Then we have the problem that the game doesn't have a proper Game Over concept, but just bad endings, so we don't know how we should handle what will happen if the protagonist is caught. The only current possible "Game Over" situation is to starve (which on a normal gameplay would be almost impossible to achieve), and you'd have to start over from the very beginning because its considered a bad ending of the game. Getting caught might happen much more often, so if we do the same as for starting, it would be extremely frustrating for the player to play all the way from the beginning.

  • Another problem, which is more production wise, is that it may turn out to be so time consuming to implement the AI of each NPC that may chase over the player, since we'd want to include factors such as personality, number of encounters with said NPC and the time the player has been within that NPC's FOV, and make a variation of pathfinding for these kind of Al's (we have to do it manually since we're using a custom engine).

  • Also, we may have to rethink the design of certain streets and areas, which may alter the layout of the town, which is tightly designed after the branching story, the main axle of the game.

Is there a better way to include these stealth and chase mechanics, that minimize the occurrence of these problems? If not, would there be anotjer workaround?

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closed as too broad by congusbongus, Philipp, Kromster, Alexandre Vaillancourt, Anko Jan 6 '17 at 21:48

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The issues you list aren't specific to having an exploration/branching game, they are issues anyone making a stealth/chase game will have to solve. The only workaround is to clone an existing game, since they have solved the design problems. \$\endgroup\$ – congusbongus Jan 5 '17 at 6:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ You have multiple problems here, which are all very interesting on their own: 1. how to telegraph the player to flee towards the mission objective, 2. how to emphasize the difference between "Game Over" and "Bad Ending", 3. How to implement convincing NPC personalities as chase behaviors when on a budget, 4. how to project-manage map iterations without conflicting with the planned story. They should really be asked as separate questions. I voted to close this question as too broad. Please don't be discouraged by that and split your question into multiple ones which you post separately. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jan 5 '17 at 10:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ One note: Why does the game have to end when caught? You could make it just a delay. E.g. if it's a dog, it could get caught and (in a tiny montage) end up in a shelter for a few hours, then sold, and then run away from whoever bought it at first opportunity. That way it would merely be a delay and partial restart from a savepoint (wherever it escaped from its owner). \$\endgroup\$ – uliwitness Jan 11 '17 at 9:08
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I find the first two "problems" not really to be big issues, in fact i think they can be positive experiences. I'll explain myself:

Firstly, the player will be forced to escape once a pursuit sequence happens, trying to find a good hiding place, and will not stop to think where they should go.

If stealth is a mechanic, being spotted should have a punishment, in this case it is implicit, you must get out of your planned route to escape, thus you'll need to plan a new route based on your location after success.

Then we have the problem that the game doesn't have a proper Game Over concept, but just bad endings, so we don't know how we should handle what will happen if the protagonist is caught. The only current possible "Game Over" situation is to starve (which on a normal gameplay would be almost impossible to achieve), and you'd have to start over from the very beginning because its considered a bad ending of the game. Getting caught might happen much more often, so if we do the same as for starting, it would be extremely frustrating for the player to play all the way from the beginning.

Being catched doesn't need to mean you get a game over, instead you might be taken to a different place, where you'll need to escape before you can continue with your main quest, this expands on the implicit punishment from my previous point.

These two concepts combined already give you two levels of punishment, which i feel are actually pretty balanced, as long as both the hiding from your pursuer and finding your way out of "jail" are fun experiences.

both punishments consume the player's time, which you could potentially use to alter the player's path towards one ending or another.

Now for your fourth point:

Also, we may have to rethink the design of certain streets and areas, which may alter the layout of the town, which is tightly designed after the branching story, the main axle of the game.

you don't need to redesign the branching of the streets, instead you only need to find a way to implement hiding spots in the places that are already there. Also, this further enforces my second point in my opinion, if you get caught, you can potentially send the player to a 'jail' in a specific area that will potentially make the player get a "worse" ending.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The idea of getting out of jail seems like a fun one for the player,but considering the size of the world, wouldn't the player feel lost when they teleport to a location where they don't know where is it located? They don't have any map access of the sort and even if there were more than one "jails" for reference on where they currently are, it concerns me that it may end up being too frustrating for the first time players. \$\endgroup\$ – Yonic Jan 5 '17 at 23:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't feel irritated, i would enjoy having to figure out which jail i landed in. Actually,as long as there were a significant amount of possible capture locations it could be even a fun part of the exploration. i should also mention riding in/escaping the detainment vehicle on the way to said station could add a whole dofferent dynamic AND alleviate the issues of having no clue where they took you. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Hedges Jan 7 '17 at 6:00

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