Mechs & Co.

We’re back with a new chapter about the development of ZHEROS and this time we want to share with you one of the areas that created us (and still does to some extent) a few issues along the way but also a lot of fun. We present you our Mechs!

Since the very beginning of development we started playing with the possibility of our heroes having for a short time devastating power. We liked the idea of empowering the player with mass destruction weapons and we wanted to explore a few ways of doing so.

The first idea that came up was: “why don’t we introduce transformations?” That of course sounded cool and we started immediately sketching and playing with it, but it soon turned out to be a challenge that most likely was out of our reach, at least with all the crazy ideas we had connected to it. We thought that if we were going to introduce a new feature like that in the game we had to make sure that:

 

  • it was going to be well integrated with rest
  • we had the time to implement it right

 

After spending some time considering the transformation another idea quickly took place, as cool as the first one in our opinion: let’s add giant Robots!

What was our inspiration? Well…

Fan of the beat em’ up genre are very familiar with Golden Axe, a game that marked a generation and a lot of people remember because you could ride big dinosaurs!

Even though it’s not technically a beat em’up but more a platformer/shooter, Metal Slug is another game that we played a lot back in the days and that still inspires us, especially with his tank mechanics.

Those two games were probably the biggest source of inspiration but of course one thing is to have a general idea of what to accomplish, another one is to implement it.

Adding a mech to the game introduced some concerns related to the gameplay and more specifically:

 

  • Can both players have one?
  • What actions can it perform?
  • Does it have the same range of movements of the players?
  • How long can the players use it?
  • How do we balance it?

 

And many more that would take too long to add in here!

While defining a basic rule set for the Mech we started working on some designs and as usual we had plenty:

MEchs

 

One rule we set was: we want this vehicle to be able to fight both melee and with weapons. Each design was explored more in depth and we analyzed the different weapons and attacking capabilities.

 

Vehicles_concept_02

Vehicles_concept_03

Vehicles_concept_04

 

At this point with many possibilities available we’re more and more convinced that the mech idea was solid enough and we started finalizing the design mixing and matching parts from different concepts. Take the arms from here, the legs from there, this weapon, some photoshop and finally had a robot that we liked and ready to be modeled.

And this is the final result where you can probably recognize some of the elements that we took from the concepts above:

 

Vehicles_01

 

During the planning phase we decided that we wanted to have mech customization. Three areas are customizable:

Arms, Legs and Secondary Weapon. “Why only the secondary?”, you might wonder; well the first weapons is a super BEAM (who doesn’t like beams?!) and we decided to always have that but allow improvements in the form of power instead of swapping it around.

 

Vehicles_weapons_01

 

We had the art, a nice up-gradable system planned but still a long way to go with implementing all this and balancing it in game.

This tasks has proven to be more complex than we anticipated and we went back and forth many times before deciding that, at least for the time being, we wouldn’t be able to have the custom mechs as we imagined them. Keeping the vehicles in the game was a must for us but we also wanted to add variety so we opted for another solution: we’re going to have a set number of vehicles that the player will find exploring the level and different location in the game.

As often happens during development not all the great ideas work or are doable, for many reason, but we are happy with what we implemented in the game and we’ll talk more about the vehicle and the challenges we faced in the gameplay department in another chapter. Till next time!