Windhaven : fantasy air combat & bird flight sim

Long-time Escapist fan and forum lurker here. I'm in the final stages of production for an indie game you guys may find interesting;

It has a fairly realistic model of bird flight using a unique control scheme that maps one stick to each wing (triggers to flap). Once you've learned to fly you can experience the story campaign, packed with giant flying monsters, death ray zeppelins, ironclad naval battles, dogfighting vulture death cultists and other fun stuff. There are four main characters with unique magical attacks; you can switch between them at any time, and there are also some tower defence elements in the later missions. Or try the assorted Pilotwings-style challenges or finding the hidden nests in free flight mode. The game has full voice acting, over two hours of bespoke music, limited-animation cutscenes, trophies, online leaderboards, etc (multiplayer is planned).

I'm doing mission scripting and media integration at the moment, final playest and QA soon for release targetted this summer; I'm still happy to take suggestions from (potential) players where practical. The game has had almost no PR to date but I will start doing some promotion now that it's approaching release - if you like what you see, I'd really appreciate it if you could share the trailer. Target release date is August for the Xbox 360 and later this year for the PC. I'll be putting together a website for the game shortly, in the mean time, here's the screenshot gallery. Developers might be interested in this video series covering two years of development from the initial prototype.

Development has been pretty much 'stealth mode' i.e. done in a bedroom at evenings and weekends, so I'd certainly be happy to hear any feedback/suggestions about the concept & execution.

StarPoultry 64 eh :P
Well most importantly of all you need to put in "Goose, you can be my wingman anytime", just hasto be done.
Ok I don't know what the general tone will be but you could do a ton of bird jokes and references to other games, would make it a far more memorable experience.

And since it is close to other air combat games you do need to take a close look at what made them good, if combat is the main component then enemy and weapon variety is key, and I don't mean different skins I mean very distinguishable attack patterns.

That looks pretty good! Beat the crap out of all the garbage "retro" 2d platformers and "art games"....

Starglider:
snip

If you're a long time Escapist fan, surely you've read the rules? =P

I'm afraid you can't really advertise personal stuff on here, you're welcome to put it on your profile though!

Having said that, I'm not 100% sure if this qualifies or not (since it's just a video, not a link to the game) so I'm warning you by quote instead of punishment. ^^

Mr.K.:
Ok I don't know what the general tone will be but you could do a ton of bird jokes and references to other games, would make it a far more memorable experience.

I put in a few but the tone of the script is mostly serious. Xbox Live Indie Games is absolutely flooded with parodies of major games (RPGs particularly) and gamer self-referential humor. I wanted to make something that stands on its own, but if I can throw in a few laughs for long-time flight game fans so much the better.

And since it is close to other air combat games you do need to take a close look at what made them good, if combat is the main component then enemy and weapon variety is key, and I don't mean different skins I mean very distinguishable attack patterns.

I was hoping to discuss air combat gameplay design as it's something I've thought about a lot. Compared to say first-person shooter mechanics, which have had massive amounts of experimentation and effort at refinement, I think innovation in air combat has been slow, particularly outside the Ace Combat / Blazing Angels mould. I particularly wanted to avoid the spinning pointer chasing that AC and the X-Wing games often degenerate into.

Since the speeds are lower and the enemies are mostly much larger and less maneuverable than the player, the combat is more about intelligent weapon/team member use, setting up good gun passes and in the later levels appropriate configuration of the island defence. The Descent style fish-eye radar rather than a top-down one also helps to differentiate the experience. All the enemies have custom AI and attack methods for the reason you mention.

An agonising decision about this game was the control scheme; it was the very first part I designed and it gives a unique feel, but it's hard to learn, just as real winged flight would be. I'm pretty sure the need to go through a ten minute tutorial and spend an hour plus really getting the hang of it is going to turn off a lot of casual gamers. I decided to stick with my original vision for the game experience though; I'll try to tune the amount of auto-aim and auto-stablise in playtest to make the easier difficultly levels more accessible.

sky14kemea:
If you're a long time Escapist fan, surely you've read the rules? =P

I did but I don't recall that restriction; I've read many many threads various users made about their favourite games and I guess I just assumed I could talk about what I'm working on. Sorry about that; I was just really keen to actually discuss this project with some fellow gamers, enough to brave the forums at last.

It looks like it could be a lot of fun. Do you get to choose what kind of bird you want to be and if so what birds are there to choose from?

Might I recommend upgrading the "powers" bio shock style or RPG style where if one focuses on Lightning they will get better results from it?

I'll try it out, I love birds. Playing as a crow would be sweet. Might I reccomend a name for him; Carmine the Crow. (Carmine, not related to Gears of war's Carmine)

This looks really awesome. Reminds me of a game I played on the PS2 where you played as this dragon on a quest to save all the other dragons from orc captivity, and you flew around eating sheep for health, orcs for magic, and destroying various things to progress through the levels of the game.

Keep us posted! I'm super interested in this. How much will it be?

TheVioletBandit:
Do you get to choose what kind of bird you want to be and if so what birds are there to choose from?

There are eight flyable birds : bald eagle, redtailed hawk, northern raven, trumpeter swan, peregrine falcon, horned own, wandering albatross and griffon vulture. Small birds aren't included because they're problematic for the finite element aerodynamic model and they cause visual scaling issues, but those eight have quite different flight characteristics. Moreso than say the recent Ace Combats where I felt that all the planes were very similar to fly. If the game is popular I will add some more species in a patch.

Terminate421:
Might I recommend upgrading the "powers" bio shock style or RPG style where if one focuses on Lightning they will get better results from it?

This is another interesting game design question. Power/stat trees was my thought as well - e.g. Blazing Angels 2 weapon unlocks. Then I asked, what are upgradable powers actually achieving, compared to just giving all the powers (subject to story progression)? In theory it gives replayability in that different powers give a different late-game gameplay, but I think that comes naturally because players always have favourite characters and attacks. If you want to replay favoring different birds and attacks you can, and limiting that by having an XP/stat upgrade/choose power mechanism feels kind of like forcing replay by leaving out continues (something a lot of cheap XBLIGs do).

The other motive for upgradable powers is that character progression can be a reward payoff and help with character immersion (when you create your own character). This is key to RPGs, but I'm going for a relatively short but intense story experience here - I'm under no delusions of having AAA production quality and I need to pack all the gameplay punch I can into a few hours. In a game like Portal or Ace Combat 5, where there are strong characters, lots of game mechanics to learn and the story takes place over a relatively short time, skill trees seem redundant. For me Portal's lesson was particularly relevant in that training player skill is more satisfying than training character skills, and I have very much focused on training the player's flight skills.

That said I'm open to arguments for why RPG mechanics should be included. Just don't do what that mad Borderlands fan did and insist that everything should have them. :) I'd love to do a branching story but alas I just don't have the resources for it (this is an almost-no-budget production).

Playing as a crow would be sweet. Might I reccomend a name for him; Carmine the Crow. (Carmine, not related to Gears of war's Carmine)

In story mode the birds are actually humans who transform into birds with magic; you can see a clip from one of the cutscenes where they do that towards the end of the video. I do this so I can have detailed characterisation without getting into all the funny-animal/furry dilemmas of storytelling with sentient animals. The raven-shifter is Sakoti, who is a sharp, academic Hermione Granger type. However I'll see if I can squeeze in Carmine the Crow-shifter as a background character - final voice acting recording session is next weekend. :)

This is a very promising premise for a game, and if you pull it off, I applaud you! When do you plan to submit it to Microsoft? Or are you aiming for a PC release?

hmmm the flapping looks a bit off on the down-stroke, but this does look hella-fun.

kyosai7:
When do you plan to submit it to Microsoft? Or are you aiming for a PC release?

I submitted a very early prototype to the Microsoft XBLA team almost two years ago, in retrospect a bad idea as it wasn't developed enough. They turned it down, so I'll be releasing on Xbox Live Indie Games and PC. It seems reasonable to submitt the game to Steam, I need to get a decent beta build for them to consider though. Also the game is being submitted to IndieCade 2012 and Dream Build Play 2012. I don't have much hope for the later though; 3D games never make it to the finalists, they always give the prize to a 2D platformer.

Amazingly I am getting fan-art for the game already just based on that trailer;

image

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked