EDIT: There’s a tl;dr version of this post now available. You can find it here, but it’s missing a lot of information.
I’ve realized recently that I haven’t actually explained what exactly the indie game, Turtles all the Way: A Shell Game, will be. At least, not all at once. I figure this is a good a time as any to provide coherent information in one convenient package, retread of previous statements it may be (though I’ll likely mention more than that, this will be >90% information I have previously stated at various places).
That said, the visuals are in no way ready to be publicly displayed. Do not expect very many images. None of the images that are in this post are indicative of the game in question, either. This is also my longest post yet by far, so brace yourself. I am also not putting the usual tagalanche, because then I’d have way too many, mainly due to length.
Turtles all the Way was born from a combination of ideas from when I was a child playing with random toys and game elements I like. Of course, many of the game elements were found to be incompatible (turn based and platforming, for instance). One such connection was when I was playing with a small turtle toy that had a single wheel for movement, legs lifted into the air and spread out. There were also two flat, irremovable screws with no grooves for a screwdriver on them beneath it. Being the kid I was, I mistook them for magnets. This is where Magnet Zakame, the game’s main protagonist, got his beginnings.
Being the eccentric person I am, however, one player character wasn’t enough to satiate my creativity (and what I ended up with still wasn’t enough). I needed more of them. That said, unlike a lot of people, I see story as extremely important except where it isn’t, so I needed a reason for there to be so many characters, and they needed to be compelling reasons.
As such, I ended up with the “Perfect Girls” plot. Highlight the white text for spoileriffic plot details: The main villain can see into the future. Among other things he uses this power for, he raises some girls from birth to be each male protagonist’s ideal partner, and molds them into only being able to love their chosen match. Then he sends them in to trick themselves into the mens’ lives. They then use their new-found positions as their best friend/girlfriend to have them unwittingly move in a way that furthers the villain’s plan.
Using this plot to run my story forced me to use a certain plot element that tends to be a real pull in stories I enjoy (though not entirely necessary for me to like a story). Romance. Although I don’t personally give two sh!ts about love in real life, false love (rather fitting, given what I wrote – I meant something else when I typed that) interests me immensely. As such, I find that some elements of romance weasels its way into nearly everything I write.
But enough about that. The gameplay also makes use of many old and new ideas, distilling them in a way that matches my tastes well. The characters, five couples in all, have similar but different playstyles. One has a team of a glass cannon and a healer, both of which use primarily ranged moves for attacking for example. The second character won’t just be following you around and doing nothing, or just be fodder for team moves, however. The teammate will keep as close to you as possible while trying to attack enemies that get in range while generally following you.
You can also switch with your partner at any time, but you can’t just ignore them and decide to use one character for your entire run through a certain route unless you’re trying to fail. The game runs on an almost rhythmic system of timing your switches between characters. If you switch too slowly or too fast, your Sync Points get penalized, and you get stat penalties/boosts for your Sync Point (SP) total, along with money bonuses/penalties at the end of any given level, so you have to be careful about it.
How does that work? Simple, if you’ll forgive my algebra. If you switch before X seconds have passed, or after Y seconds have passed, you get a penalty equal to how far away you are from the ideal switch time (W). If your time between switches (Z) is more than X but less than Y, you gain points equal to how far Z is from W. In addition, if you spend some ridiculous amount of time past Y without switching (V), you’ll receive an exponentially increasing penalty every second until you do, so you can’t maintain your current SP and not switch ever, since after V seconds you’ll be losing lot of SP – you only want to even reach V if you have no choice, or again, you’re trying to lose. The current build (and likely the final version) has you hitting the lowest negative allowed a mere thirty seconds or less after passing V, no matter your score.
Yes, SP does go into the negatives to a certain extent. And you need a decent SP total to use team attacks. Of course, we’ll try to balance V, W, X, Y and Z to be as balanced as humanly possible. I believe I have noted the similarity to the Touhou fangame Mystical Chain. Sadly, it implements this in a way that has a far different effect than what I’m doing.
In addition, lives aren’t just lives. You pay for them on the spot, in the form of mercenary healers from the Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot Association of Magic (NinPiZoRo) showing up to heal you every time you get knocked out, stealing their fee off of you beforehand. As such, balancing your stock of lives with paying for stat boosts becomes very important. Yes, you pay to buff your stats, within a certain cap, between levels. The designer and I decided that this would be the best way to make people think carefully about their money and not just buff themselves to the max or horde them for lives unless they’re Asian, in which case we can’t predict WTF they’ll do (I kid, I kid). The cost of lives was originally intended to scale upwards every time you die, but the level designer talked me out of that.
The game is a 3D platformer (with some cues taken from third-person shooters and beat-’em-ups) where every character has:
- A Physical and/or a Ranged attack. Unless the character can change forms or modes, in which case they may have several or the move is altered by the mode.
- A Special, which is a move unique to that certain character that costs a lot of stamina. For example, the main character’s Special is an AoE attack with the center of the range being his position. Meanwhile, his partner’s Special is a healing/revival technique with a small use window before NinPiZoRo does the honours.
- A Levitation or flight technique, or something similar like making an invisible platform in the air.
- A Defensive maneuver. This can be as simple as a block or as complex as a net of lightning.
- A Combination move with their partner.
Each of these will be a single button press – no difficult combinations. This makes it easy to use whatever technique you want to without using another by accident (which happens with me in many a fighting game, and in some Action RPGs).
As for the specific characters and setting, the game takes place on a planet called Hephaestus, which has four magnetic poles. Yes, I did indeed look up just what effects this would have. I have accounted for all of them.
The four poles have some quite interesting effects. The magnetic field is unstable, with constantly moving poles, but has been forced into relative stability through a mix of magic and technology, to keep the environment stable. The planet is colder than Earth, though not significantly. The air is primarily ozone, and thereby extremely foggy. The highest peaks have constant lightning. Random fires and explosions go off for seemingly no reason. There’s no moon (though admittedly that’s because of how much hell it would be to include a moon in the calculations), so light at night comes from the four aurorae, since you can see one just about anywhere (even in daylight) and how they’re extra bright.
As you can see, I’m doing my research. Magnetism would be uncounterable unless I did – I found out that I needed to make use of magnetic shielding, so I made one of the villains a metal foam mech named FΩ (I’ll leave figuring out what the name means to the smart people until I release the game or feel like explaining). If you don’t understand what I mean, imagine Lex Luthor running around in a kryptonite vest and never taking it off. This would not be immediately obvious unless I did indeed do my research. No, rubber does not block magnetism. I will not throw bullshit into the story, either.
The world is technologically advanced, and one day, a scientist was told by the goddess that is commonly worshipped on the planet, Suzanne Owoh, to alter all animals on the planet to recieve intellect and lifespans that surpassed humans, as well as giving them superpowers. In retaliation, just about every fantasy and sci-fi human invention you can think of was pushed to the max in a war against these animals, who fought for their rights. The plot takes place some time afterward, and the main character is the son of the leader of the animal forces (who has gone missing), who has to take down the terrorist organization “DOGS”.
I will not throw bullshit into the story compared to the norm established within the story.
The player characters are as follows:
- Two turtles. One with control over magnetism (which he mainly uses to generate implosions on the spot, subverting what you’d usually expect) and with artificial, bladed wings, along with wheels, named Magnet. The other is a half-phoenix with, of course, fire and revival techniques, named Spark. Magnet (the guy) is fast, but defensively weak, unlike what you’d expect. That said, Spark (the girl) is an absolute tank, with speed within reason to keep up with Magnet.
- Two cats. Shock is of a yet undetermined species of cat and has control over electricity. Paisonya is a pure white snow tiger and has sound and nature control, and uses the nature control primarily to construct puppets on the spot to amplify her techniques. I wanted her to send them to do stuff in Pikmin-like fashion instead, but the level designer said that would probably break the game. They’re the two fastest characters in the game, with the ability to turn INTO lightning and sound respectively. that said, they’re defensively weak and fatigue easily.
- Two Hephlings (humans, essentially). Ruyo is a ninja mage, and a Goza Ranger (think Power Rangers, no relation to the village in Pakistan), who can transform into a robot, pirate or a zombie, as well as all at once. He carries a weapon known as the Shadow Magic Cutlass Shuriken Blaster (Shamakashubu) that can do all of the things it’s named for. The girl, in this case, is a samurai named Shi. She dual wields a long sword and a short sword, and can capture smaller enemies in the hilts of her blades (one per blade at a time). She can then fire them as projectiles. She’s also a master of shields, wearing them all over her body and being able to generate them out of thin air.
- Two mice. Torn has the power of wind, casually throwing miniature tornadoes and the like around. He has no physical moves, but he can ride inside one of his tornadoes. Milly spins herself extremely fast, making her body act as a floating drill. Funnily enough, that’s literally all Milly can do aside from move and jump, meaning she only has the single, swiss-army knife physical move.
- And, finally, two birds. Haidrow, a parrot, controls water, but refuses to do the obvious and simply drown his enemies on the spot, much like how Torn refuses to suffocate all enemies on the spot or blow up their lungs. Sage, however, opts to control earth. Trapping her enemies in premature graves and creating a wave of pillars is standard issue, there.
The player will need to use these characters in tandem to reach the end of the levels as quickly as possible. However, I’m taking a small nod from beat-’em-ups by including swarms of enemies that you must defeat before progressing. In this case, since your teammate relies on whatever stamina you left them with (not infinite, as some games do), this will introduce another balance issue into the equation for the player to figure out. Do you use up all of your stamina and switch, leaving your partner helpless, or do you leave them some? In that case, keeping good track of your SP is a good idea, since one of the stats involved is the speed at which your stamina gauge refills.
Why yes, this means that the game will require some degree of skill on Normal, why do you ask? I am not without mercy, however. The game will have a few difficulty levels: Casual, N00b, Normal, Hard, No Life and Asian. The density of the enemies and to what extent you have to worry about SP and stamina is determined by each, with Casual making SP, HP and Stamina stay at max with no enemies at all, and the story being turned off by default with no ability to turn it on to accommodate for this. Your stats will also be maxed out from the get-go on Casual, and you’ll have infinite money. Balance issues, however, will be focused solely on Normal, since you wanted a challenge/a breeze if you picked the others. In fact, I will personally make sure Asian difficulty is a living hell, so as to actually attempt to provide Asians with a challenge (again, I say “Asian” in a tongue-in-cheek fashion).
The story will be told in the form of five short and focused routes, comprising of six levels each with a varying amount of bosses. That said, some enemies can evolve in a Digimon-eqsue fashion mid-level into boss-like enemies, so the actual challenge in each will be kept roughly equal. This will culminate in a final route which reveals the main villains plans and how they were being set up all along, along with a level per couple and six bosses. I believe I have already revealed how the main villain’s plan involves solving an infinite regress issue in some capacity, as the title implies to those who don’t dismiss it as randomness and/or stupidity.
I’m not, however, overloading people with cutscenes. They will be kept relatively short with generally one between levels, the start and end of each route (plus the narration) aside. Anything that doesn’t strictly need to be a cutscene will either be gameplay when it fits the game or chatting in a fashion similar to Kid Icarus: Uprising, during levels (yes, I’ll let you turn that off — I’ll also let you turn cutscenes off if you don’t care for context). A lot of snark and over-the-top comedy will be involved, but I will make some half-hearted attempts at keeping the plot serious. I, myself, will be making an appearance as the writer to do things such as censor a character that’s means to be based on all the twelve-year-olds on Xbox Live, who do nothing but swear and belittle you. In fact, said character will even use the N word, in full, uncensored glory in reference to me (I’m half black), just before I censor him, in reference to how you can block these idiots, but generally won’t until they say these things.
There were tons of jokes and references in the script, including one of the “WHAT THE FU- *explosion*” meme, as well as AYBABTU and “You Are Already Dead”, in the original script. However, most of these were cut due to the density being far too high and the story receiving a heavy rewrite.
I’m not ignoring the music and visual arts, however. It’s just that visual and musical arts are my weakness (in those fields, I can visualize but not create nor adequately describe). Therefore, I simply lack the proper skills to do more than attempt to describe for the latter and fail!singing out the songs with lyrics for the former (I won’t link the unlisted YouTube videos of me singing for the sake of your eardrums) so the musicians can make the score for them and I can possibly pay a better singer to handle it after. That said, I will be including a song that’s done a cappela by me, to be used as my theme song, which is currently available on YouTube in HD (though it will be re-recorded when the game’s done):
The opening theme’s lyrics is among the ones I sang. As I said in a recent post, I believe that they are an effective, overlooked tool. To save your ears, however, (unless you actually want to hear my bad singing in order to get what the beat is) I’ll just show the short version of the lyrics to Soaring Wind as of the latest revision:
As you find a way to that great blue sky…
As you find a way straight up to the sky,
Just go straight up to the night-time!
If there is no way at the end,
C’mon, fly up to the wind!
It’s that thing that we always see!
That thing you can never hope to be!
When there’s time flowing as you fly,
When there’s hope there are dreams,
That is all that you can see,
But there’s no way that can be all!
An epic journey leads to another big end,
So there must always be a fall!
It’s that thing that you always see!
That thing you can never hope to be!
When there’s time we will never die,
Though we may find out our way, we
Have many things that we’d rather be!
We’ll find our own chance in our own lives,
Fly up to the wind…
Fly up to the wind!
As you can probably tell from the post I linked, the intention behind these lyrics tell you the story without being up-front about it while tricking you. That said, I feel I haven’t hidden the plot as well as I could have, though I did throw one or two red herring lines in. However, it’s apparently quite catchy, despite my terrible singing voice (though some say it starts being catchy on the second time listening because they got used to my voice after it ruined it the first time), so I’ll avoid messing with the beat or the lyrics too much. I may go over what each individual line means when the game is close to release, if enough people are interested.
I believe that is an adequate summation of what has been revealed, along with a handful of new information for those who already knew most of that.
I am always looking for more people to help out. Right now, I have a team of two musicians, a level designer, a 2D artist and me doing the coding, storywriting, and other design work such as… nearly everything you’ve just read. And every single person other than me only decided to help and join Those People You’ve Never Heard Of (TPYNHO) out of boredom, so having someone serious to help out, especially if said person is a 3D modeller, would be nice.
I also have that donation button if anyone, on the off chance, wants to donate funds, since I can’t use Kickstarter as a Canadian and obviously am nowhere near the point to go to IndieGoGo for crowdfunding. Yes, I am not prematurely going to a crowdfunding site because I have an idea, even if I’ve been working on it in my spare time for three years, which has been scarce since I’m a law student and work in the summer to cover transportation costs (sometimes full-time). Take note, 90% of people on crowdfunding sites. You need to learn Sturgeon’s Law, Finagle’s Law and Hofstadter’s Law, which I abide by. Respectively, taking a few liberties:
90% of everything is complete and total garbage.
Anything that can go wrong will do so at the worst possible moment.
It will always take longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter’s law into account.
Consider all of these before wasting Kickstarter’s bandwidth with your mere idea. Especially since ideas are a dime a dozen. Just like how all good writers will tell you – the premise doesn’t matter, it’s the execution.
When can you expect the game to be released? The first April after the game has been completed and polished. I will spend the time in between making preparations and getting the word out there. If the game is completed too close to April, I will push it back to the next year, or move it to a different date entirely. Why April? Primary reason’s a secret. A secondary reason is that April Fools’ Day matches the whimsical, near-nonsenseical nature of the dialogue well.
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