3.9.2018 - FIFTY SHADES OF SLAY
Gone Viral is a heavily combinatorial game. Your character and your run go through changes that effect gameplay, both large and small, and the combination of those changes can add up to madness as they all interact together. Every run should be different!
This is a staple of some really good roguelites. If you're 1,000,001% of the way to having butt-burns from sitting on a radioactive throne with Dragun scars, you know why that's cool. We're speaking the same language (we love that stuff too) and want to add to the conversation.
Gone Viral has fundamental rules for how things work. Every new life and new arena run starts off with similar basic (but interesting!) ways of interacting with the enemies and the environment, thus kicking enemy butt.
Putting the "Fun" in Fundamentals - Wallops and Projectiles
Wallops - Positioning enemies through melee is a fundamental concept for us. Smacking a guy with a sword does some damage, but that damage doubles if he slams into a wall across the room.
Basic Wallop and Harpoon
Even better, hit a baddy into their buddy and both take damage or knock him back into a pack to cause mass havoc. And most stuff is more damaging than a wall! Traps often kill outright or otherwise mess with an enemy's day.
Projectiles - Most weapons allow you to shoot projectiles and you start off firing Harpoons. Harpoons can damage enemies outright (especially immobile ones) but they also pull the enemies back towards you, opening up more options. You can pull arena denizens into pits, grab the leader of a pack so you can wallop him back into his friends, pull a barrel into an advantageous position, and much more.
There are additional basic interactions with the world including your Dash (to move quickly to get into and out of trouble), Powered Attacks, and collecting Carnage. Physics will knock objects around whether you use your sword, dash, or just push stuff with your body. There are lots of ways to interact with things, and we try to build on all these.
But let's keep it simple for the moment. With just the two fundamentals of Wallops and harpoon Projectiles, skillful players can pull off a lot of crazy combos to wow the psychotic audience. These basic rules combine, opening up the possibility of bonking enemies into death traps, bouncing explosive barrels spinning into hordes, and provoking mass wallop collisions (for mass Carnage!) - all sorts of stuff. After all, you want the basic rules of how the game works to be easy to pick up, but take a lot of skill to master.
But those rules are just the starting point, and that's where Mutations come in.
...Are Made To Be Broken.
Once you've learned the basic rules, it's curveball time! Everything in the game is intended to bend, spindle, fold, or mutilate our fundamental rules.
Enemies - Mutating Over the Long Run
Each enemy works with or against those rules. Bomb Spiders light their fuse when walloped and explode when it burns completely. Spike spiders are prickly - hard to melee (or safely harpoon) without getting hit, but those spikes cause extra damage when you smack them into their buddies. Some creatures throw projectiles you can wallop, like saw blades, giving you extra defensive and offensive options. So at the base level, each enemy should have an interesting interaction with the combat - some making life relatively a little easier for you, some harder.
Every run builds up combinations of changes to the enemies on top of this as you progress. Each new level of the arena applies some new stats or rules for not just the enemies on that level - but also those on all future levels. One run might have a final level with creeplingly slow enemies that can one-shot you while the next ends with super fast enemies and bosses that spam lots of little love-taps.
Change Starts With You
Changes to you matter the most, though. Gain fans and the audience rapidly starts sending you stuff - weapons, for instance. Weapons allow new attack patterns, projectiles, or wallop mechanisms - changing quite a bit! But weapons are rare and you can only wield one at a time, so even more important from a combinatorial standpoint are strands of the Mutation Virus.
Every Mutation you get affects your gameplay directly, and they all stack up. Some of this is mucking with your stats and just changing stats up and down can give a surprising amount of variance. A run where you can knock enemies across the room but can only attack slowly plays quite differently than a run where you fly like a butterfly and sting like one too.
But stat changes are only the beginning of the madness. Mutations are coolest when they start manipulating fundamental rules in combinatorial ways.
Putting the "Mental" in "Fundamental" - Mutations
Mutations can add or modify very different rules to the standard ones you're used to. Walloped enemies might sprout spikes when you hit them, or curve around in a circle on a wallop, or explode on contact with the walls. Your trusty harpoons might start homing, or bouncing, or even go away entirely and get replaced with spiked balls, laser beams, or bombs. Your dash might leave a fire trail or knock spare change from the pockets of enemies you run into. You might gain the ability to start deflecting laser bullets back into your enemies or slow down time itself.
But let's give an example or two to make it less abstract.
Bomber Wallops and Projectiles
Bomber is a mutation that changes both your wallops and projectiles. Your harpoons are replaced by exploding bombs, allowing you to do more damage and pull off multi-kills, but limiting your ability to position enemies. Walloped enemies explode when they collide with things, allowing for some pretty cool combos but maybe exploding some things you would rather not explode.
Spike Strike Wallops FTW
Spike Strike makes any enemy you wallop sprout spikes, causing extra damage in a radius around them.
Tracker Shots layering homing death onto other attacks
Tracker Shots occasionally make enemies attract things you shoot or wallop, making aiming easier!
As with many mutations these things stack up and work on various kinds of weapons and projectiles, allowing for a lot of crazy combos that can make for very powerful (or very dangerous!) runs.
Mutations are the life-blood of the game and so they're intended to combo together in as many ways as possible. This helps each run (and near-inevitable death) play differently based on whether there are strong, weak, or outright kooky synergies formed by combining mutation effects together.
One run might be almost entirely based on melee. The next might be all about rapid-fire projectiles like a twin-stick shooter. Both of those runs change when your enemies and/or projectiles start looping back at you, exploding, or a rare combo makes dashing into enemies your best attack of all.
Mixing It Up Even Further
This is all before the audience decides to cause their own chaos, adding new rules on a per-room basis with Viewer Events. Those mutant shotgunners are normally pretty tough, but when they start firing bouncing vortexes of extra-powerful bullets, it's time to quickly figure out some clever ways to survive.
The Low Tolerance mutation means that syringes (one of our common consumables) do double their effects to you for good or ill. Useful! Or deadly! But when you fight the crazed medbot Doctor Death who throws syringes as projectiles at you, things change up. You'll find knocking his syringes back at him and his bodyguards with your sword duplicates them but if they hit you it's twice as nasty.
From a design standpoint, our goal is to really allow as many crazy synergies as possible. Every run should be different and unique, because where the real pride and accomplishment (cough cough) comes in games is reacting skillfully to a unique situation that in part the game presented you, and in part you chose yourself.
A goal of ours is that rules should be understandable, but still able to create unique situations and reward experimentation. As we're adding content over the next months, we'll regularly call out new combos we're adding or even finding ourselves. We have built this thing generally enough that emergent synergies often happen on their own.
We are striving to make an action-y game that still allows for thinking and strategy - where clever and skillful players can really shine. If we do our jobs right you should see combinations that make you fight in new ways, see new things, or just boil your brain a little, even after a ton of hours of play. It's why we are spending a bunch of time adding new mutations, traps, monsters, events, and more to the game and making sure they interact well.
We want a game that's still fun to play (and fun to watch played!) after you've "mastered" it.
Anyways - back to coding and thanks for reading!