Hovercraft Game

This was a short lived experiment in my early year in game development. I was just trying to learn what I could do. I had was starting to familiarize myself with Unreal4, and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to make. From what I remember I worked on this for three months at the beginning of 2017.

I based this idea mainly off of Freelancerspace trading and combat simulation, released in 2000). You could mod you ship, it was an open world. You fought space pirates, trade, take missions. All good stuff.

I also borrowed some of the mechanics, and a lot of the vibe, from Forsaken 64. Specifically it’s 6X flight systems. That was a game that had a relatively simplistic premise (the earth is uninhabitable, taken over by ‘The Machines’, You want it back) and some truly wonderful art design that absolutely sold a really interesting and hostile world. Unfortunately it had terrible box art.

There was also a dash of the Matrix in there, since you can’t put in hovercrafts and hostile robots without some crossover. It was basically a much of inspiration from that era when our biggest fear was, robots would get too smart and not like us.

One of the first things I tried to make when I started on this was an equipment UI. I didn’t get super far, but the idea was, you have a chassis, and you could swap out parts for different stats. So like engines, power core, weapon pods, Each could be swapped out to change how the hovercraft performed. Now a chassis had limitations on what was compatible with it, so they would each have limitations and encourage a different playstyle. Different pods had different sub-slot as well, which would add further complexity to the system.

I had a basic drag and drop UI and I was trying to make a proxy version of my ship that I it would generate a screenshot of an put in the corner of my screen when it changed. (I’m pretty sure I actually made it a real-time camera feed of the proxy ship)

In my mind the game would be open world. Large highway tunnels, populated by friendly cargo freighters, defenders, and so forth. Team Human. All traveling between the shielded strongholds of on this planet.

You would gather scrap metal, fight the robot drones, sell the broken bits of salvage, maybe find a good components, or weapon, you could add on to your ship in the process.

In my musing I imagined that the player could clear a passageway through the drones, and cleanse a trade route between two strongholds, allowing you to progress but also enabling npc traders to start generating on that passageway. However, if the drones where given time, they would return and start rebuilding their pylons, and little factories, until they have recovered their forces and would become hostile again. While they were still in building mode they could be ignored, but the player would have a harder time clearing them if left unchecked.

I was fairly sure I could design a system that worked with level loading that could calculated the previous population against the elapsed time since last entering that zone, and regenerate the structures based on that scale. If I had a way of contagiously passing an infected zone into a cleared one, I could have a front line and safe zones. I wanted a living world.

If we’re digging into world building, this is a desolate planet with with a deep crust full of caves, and no atmosphere (except what humans made). Deep down in the rock, is an ancient, hostile AI of unknown origin. It’s trapped down there. The planet was a prison designed to hold this AI, which was made a long time before humans arrived. When they did, they accidently triggered the defense systems, an array of autonimous weapons satellites in orbit. If anyone tries to go up to the surface and take off, they auto-fire and destroy them. So no one has been able to leave for generations, and they can’t be rescued. (A number of my storylines are build on a concept of total isolation from a larger society. Curious.)

Thankfully the AI can’t get out of its barrier, but it can send out drones. Those drones don’t do much on their own, but if they can establish relays back to they AI they become hostile. I think in one version of the plot the drones were made by humans, but taken over by the AI, so now they don’t us drone robots anymore.

One of the earliest recorded prototypes.

I was not diligent with my documentation at that time.

I think part of the reason I chose not to pursue this project further was that it was heavily reliant on my ability to make complex and functional AI flight pathing. A thing I have no idea how to do, and probably still don’t. These floaty fellows did ok like this, but try leading them through and obstacle course and they will just run straight into a wall.

I did like the way they bobbed up and down as they moved though. That was really cool.

I think I made the right choice in setting this down, because the alternative was way beyond my scope. The issue is that I always thinking the next idea will be more manageable and it always becomes more complex.

There was something here though.

I was able to open the project files to grab a few screenshots and poke around in the code a bit. I can tell I had no idea what I was doing when I made this. Most of what is here was borrowed from tutorials that were not ideal solutions and some major misunderstanding about the best practices.