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  • Writer's pictureBretton Hamilton

Mars - Design Goals

Mars is a visceral side-scroller with an emphasis on violence. This project is an attempt to explore gamer psychology and habit to tell an interesting narrative that is unique to games' methods of storytelling. Mars will be an on-again-off-again ongoing project. It is not intended for great commercial success or reception. It should be a 5-10 minute experience that I offer for free online with the option to donate.

I anticipate the project will take several months of development, seeing as I'm keen to do most of it on my own. I will likely seek to contract/source a soundtrack, and sound effects down the track.

Player Behaviours:

- Move Right across the screen - Attack enemies, loot all items and destroy destructible objects. - Retreat or disengage from combat to regain health (Call of Duty style)

Touchy Narrative

Mars is meant to explore colonialism, genocide, and war in a meaningful way. These are touchy subjects, so the art style, environment, and characters are symbolic representations of cultures instead of historical depictions of real world conflicts. The closest character to depicting a real-world culture is the main character who is reminiscent of a Roman Warrior. The character design is an intentional decision to allude to Western Imperialism and how Romans were renown for conquering and assimilating cultures and people into their empire.

While both Greek and Roman mythology has roots in Proto-Indo-European beliefs, Rome's conquest of Greece absorbed much of the Grecian Pantheon into Roman mythology. Ares, the Grecian God of War, was converted to Mars, the Roman God of War.

Throughout history, there have been countless conflicts relating to civilizations with superior technology seeking to 'enlighten' the 'savage or lesser' cultures. Often this quest for enlightenment was used as an excuse to commit genocide and slaughter in the name of greed and conquest. Most of these have lead to one-sided wars.

- The Spanish Conquest of America (1492) - Opium Wars (1839) - Atlantic Slave Trade (1526) - Japan's invasion of Korea (1592) - etc.

Core Encounters Front Lines - The player starts in front of fortifications and military tents. A mounted figure points their finger right directing the player towards the action. The game immediately ends if the player instead goes left instead of right.

Gauntlet - Throughout the game players will encounter native men and women bearing weapons that will attempt to overwhelm and kill the player. They may charge from the front or back. Others will emerge from behind trees or ambush the player by rising out of the knee-deep water.

Pillaging - The player may enter buildings where baskets, furniture, and people may contain loot. From the outside of a structure, players may take a torch from a nearby post to burn the shack to the ground.

Refugees - Halfway through the level, a small band of unarmed refugees of varying ages will attempt to walk past the player. An immense creature will tower above them. This creature will not interact with the player unless the player attempts to kill the refugees. Each refugee slain causes the lumbering creature to flinch and fade. If all refugees are slain, then the god they worship ceases to exist.

Cavern - At the end of the map, the player may enter a cave filled with totems and ritualistic items. Guards will charge at the player to defend the cavern before a large priest figure appears with a dagger. Behind the priest stands multiple grotesque creatures. Upon defeating the priest (with a single sword strike), the creatures fade away. Exploring the back recesses of the cavern reveal the corpses of natives en-masse. Suicide.

Return Home - After the player has dealt with the priest, the player must walk back to the Front Lines. This return allows for silent reflection. Swaths of corpses and burnt homes will punctuate the otherwise barren marsh. The game fades to black when the mounted figure salutes the player's return, and the player salutes back.

Mechanic as Metaphor

The player is clearly wearing armor, unlike the native population. Being hit by an enemy arrow or struck by a club will imply that the player has taken damage. The screen will shake slightly, the screen will begin to letterbox and zoom in slightly, and the player character will grunt and stumble backward. This aesthetic effect will create the illusion of danger. However, the player cannot ultimately succumb to damage and die. The inability to fail is symbolic for how one-sided the conflict is. The technologically inferior force cannot possibly resist, though they will try to the bitter end.

Modern games have taught players to crack open every crate, and loot everything possible. There will be plenty of opportunities to destroy the natives possessions, even though there will be almost nothing of value.

The supernatural beings found wandering the swamp symbolize the culture and faith of a nation. They will continue to live on in a weak and crippled state if even a single person escapes. Players may identify these creatures as 'bosses' to reflect the game's punchy and action filled gameplay.

Natives will traverse the swamp swiftly and use the environment to their advantage as detailed above. The player will often find themselves wading through deeper portions of the muck and significantly slowed. Swamps are iconic as "No Man's Land." They serve no agricultural, economic, or structural service for most civilizations. While I will provide no text or blatant narrative to the player, the environment alludes to the uselessness of the land. The conquest here is one of eradication, not for resources or greed.

It should be apparent by the end of the game that the player was "the bad guy" in this story. The only way to truly "win" the game is to walk left at the beginning of the game and leave. The swamp-dwelling civilization will likely be wiped out anyway by the remaining forces. However, the player can only control their own actions. Deciding to refuse participation is the closest the player can come to being the "good guy" in this story.


I will be working on this project when I have the time on and off over the next several weeks. - Generate the Environment - Implement Parallax Camera Effect - Get the full level loading - Create collision along game path - Create water shader - Create Destructible Interaction - Populate level with destructibles - Animate Player Character & Default Enemy - Implement Basic AI (Aggro Radius, Moving Towards Player, No Clumping, etc.) - Refine Combat Mechanics - Animate & Implement Remaining Enemies, Gods, and Refugees - Populate level with actors - Implement Audio - Polish (Add more animations, environmental queues, particle effects, etc.)

Stay Tuned! I will be updating my progress every few weeks for this project when I am between contracts or have free time! Thanks for your support!


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