FPS Side-Mission: A Cyberpunk-y Prologue
The "Protagonist" has been offered a new life, all they need to accomplish is to sneak into a guard tower in the slums and assassinate the mayor of the city. Everything has been prepared, the correct guards have been bribed to ensure an opening in the patrols exist, just sneak in, take the shot and get out alive, what could possibly go wrong?
Create a Sneak based level with multiple paths.
Create a WoW moment the player would remember.
Never let the player feel like they are in control
4 weeks half-time
Created using Unreal Engine 4
Blocking till I have a start
I block fast and rough with primitive shapes, I try and discard different types of paths. I make long corridors, I try making a singular building and I experiment. I do this to get a feel for the player character I have for the project, to get a feel for what level of parkour feels good.
After getting a feel for the player, I start building a zone, in this case a slum area just outside "the wall", and when the main beats are there I take some screenshots and start planning a more exact route, as by this point I feel I understand what I should and should not do with this player character.
Some parts are impossible to tell through pure game-play, in fact some story beats actually hit better when presented as a cut-scene with no player involvement.
Starting a level sequencer as the player reaches the car during their escape, and taking away all input from the player. This will instantly remove the tensions the player feels, as they start thinking "I've won", very similar to how "The Protagonist" would be feeling that they have escaped.
Then when the the sequencer ends with the death of the player character, both "The Protagonist" and the player will feel how unfair the situation is.
To keep my work tidy I split up actors where I'm able and use a mix of Event Dispatchers and Direct Communication to work my big set piece.
After the death of the mayor I needed guard stations to activate. I needed missile launchers to activate. I needed my lookout tower to topple. I needed to load in the level that has all the escape enemy placements and checkpoints and I needed all of these to trigger 1 after the other in sync. I am a very needy person.
To achieve this, the death of the mayor activated a Event Dispatcher, and then other actors communicated when they were done with their thing to trigger the next.
I think of it as a Rube Goldberg machine.
The beginning of the downfall of us all.
I wanted the player to truly feel like they were a downtrodden citizen rising up, and to really establish the power imbalance I made it so for the first part of this mission the player does not have a weapon.
I've planned out for scenes of guards raiding houses, to keep the player feeling like they are doing something dangerous.
Guards can search whatever apartment they want, and on the day this mission is set they are out in force.
The people who set up this opportunity to assassinate the mayor could only set up an opening, not throw wide the gates.
Around every corner
Nearly wherever the player goes they will catch glimpses of more guards.
I envision this mission to serve as a prologue to a setting, one inspired by cyberpunk. And as such the very core aspect of oppressing the common man is something I really need to establish.
The goal is in sight, some guards are acting suspiciously unaware, have they been payed off? Or are they just a cog in the machine doing their job with no enthusiasm?
The Shot heard across the World
The mayor is dead, and this brings the end of the city.
I have exaggerated the idea of "Some lives are worth more" present in the setting, and have made it so indeed the mayor had a plan to explode the city, should he ever die.
Everything goes wrong
Even as the citys destruction is inbound, I really wanted to hammer home that the player can never let themselves feel in control for a second, and made the guard tower they're in collapse.
This takes the player from a rather commanding position up high, all the way back down to ground level, where they will have to fight for their chance to flee the city in time.
Actions have consequences
During the desperate escape the player will bear witness to just how wide spread the impending destruction is, missiles embedding themselves with an even spread.
Fight like the cornered animal you are.
There is no time for you
Time is running out, within a few minutes the missiles will explode, and take everything with it.
But maybe, just maybe
To get a feeling of true despair, I cant just beat the player over the head over and over again, I need to let them have some victories along the way.
Things going wrong is sad. Things going wrong just when it seems like you've made it, is extremely sad.
Fate is cruel and uncaring
The inevitable end, it couldn't have ended any other way.
This is when "the real game" would start with another player character in another city, preferably someone with some relation to the protagonist of the prologue.
With this I have established world mood and many of the mechanics to be featured throughout the game.
The journey so far
The main beats - I am quite pleased with the mayor story beats of this experience, the journey and swing in tension along the way of going from unarmed civilian to assassin that caused the erasure of the city has some good pathos for how they should feel about the powerful in this world. A player could've conceivably felt bad for the mayor, as there is very little time to establish their character as this is intended to be the prologue, but the actions set to automatically trigger upon his death really tells everything you need to know about his character.
Staging - The general staging of everything I am happy with, with 1 very major exception. When the white guard-boxes extend their bridges and slam into the slums, there is one that slams into the tower the player is in, that's whats causing it to fall over. But its not as clear and obvious as I would've liked. If i was to refine this project this is the number 1 issue I would solve, and I already can think of 2 ways that could work, would just need to test what fits better.
You're not allowed to die until the game wants you too - This classic video game problem, win in game-play and lose in the cutscene. I did not even make an attempt to solve this problem, I just want to say that I am aware of what I've done, and judged it acceptable due to all the other good things this prologue establishes for the world building and the game.
Thank you for reading!