{Bounty}

{Game Idea}

Thesis: A 1st-person spaceship piloting action game where the player takes on the role of an ace bounty hunter tasked with handling high stakes space bounties. In the far future, long after mankind has colonized the stars, an interplanetary military industrial complex has manifested far and wide throughout the stars. As a part of the interactivity of this intergalactic corporatocratic engine of galactic wayfaring, commerce and conflict, jobs are produced. These ‘jobs’ entail the hunting and capturing of rogue agents, squelching dealers, and rival terrorists haunting the zones between the control of the companies and their far-ranging interests. These jobs can only be completed by the best of the best: ace pilot bounty hunters. The intergalactic companies whose assets are at risk from such complications, are staffed with elite patrons whose job it is to fund the production of genetically-engineered, fearless and peerless aces. These aces, while becoming more common as the demand for their production arises, make up the most elite starship pilots in the galaxy. These jobs are for them.

This is where you come in. You take on the role of such an ace. You have several choices before you: 1) what kind of starship will you pilot? 2) what kind of mission will you undertake first? 3) If you survive that one, which will you undertake next? 4) Repeat 3 as many times as you can, until your ship is shot down somewhere in the void of space…

Each bounty is a new challenger, where the pilot may face unknown odds and enemies. Every bounty is an opportunity for the player to experience great fortunes or utter ruin, with only a razor’s edge of some combination of luck and skill to hash out the odds of either scenario. All the bounties are steps upon a ladder to glory and to death. Every ace knows: it’s only a matter of time. Your final job is awaits you even now.

Setting: Far future | Space | Spaceships. The player character will be positioned within the cockpit of customizable spaceship. These spaceships are designed for battle, but in different ways, depending on the preference and style of the pilot. The settings for the battles between hunters and the forces of their bounties consist of the long, dark passages of space in and around planets / space stations / the void. Some missions involving infiltrating, fighting and escaping from the fields where battleships, destroyers, dreadnoughts make their battles.

Playable Character(s): The roster of ships for the player to control within the game is practically infinite, due to the presence of in-depth customization. In a more general sense, you can choose between piloting starships that are fast but easier to fall {jets}, slow but wield heavy weaponry {bombers}, or pilot mechas that can shift between middling starships or float in space and dish out more versatile kinds of damage (including using laser swords!).

Gameplay & Story Premise:

  • Real-time 1st-person and 3rd person action from the seat of a starship with a variety of maneuvering and weapon capabilities. In the same vein as the space battling games of Freelancer, Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen, the player assumes a large and satisfying amount of control over their starship and battles a variety of enemies in a challenging pilot simulation experience.
  • After making / choosing a starship, the player is tasked with taking on a bounty for their hunter to pursue. On a daily basis, after the player logs in, a random selection 5 bounties are produced which present the options for the ace to undertake.
  • Every mission drops the player into the world from a starting point where they may have to explore the surrounding area of space to find their target, or it will already be before them and a battle will commence immediately. Other times, they may be tasked with taking something from point A to point B, avoiding dangers en route. Some missions will be intricately designed and will focus on narrative beats; others will be procedurally generated and more repetitive in nature to previous missions the player might’ve experienced.
  • The duration of any given mission will be less than an hour. All missions are completable by any experience level and ship design. The more experienced players, with more robust ship capabilities and pilot perks, will elicit more experienced tactical decisions from the AI-controlled ships. The AI system progresses along with the player {or tries to}.
  • Missions and their objectives are designed to be completed in a variety of ways, attacking ships and extracting from the battlefield using any number of maneuvers.
  • Over the course of the game, you progress your ace and your starship with the more missions you complete, enemy starships you shoot down, enemy attacks dodged, highest speeds attained, etc. Progress comes in the form of increased starship capabilities – weaponry, shields, speed, and other misc. capabilities. Additionally, your ace, as long as they continue to survive and complete mission after mission, gain perks which increase their piloting effectiveness in a variety of ways.
  • The campaign of missions, or bounties, is unique to each individual ace and your playthrough with that ace. You make the run for as long as you can go, until the bitter end, as is traditional for this profession of bounty hunting.

Endgame: Working for a faceless and relentlessly influential intergalactic corporation, go after bounty after bounty, improving the ability and stature of your chosen ace, until you are inevitably shot down. Then, take on a new ace and a new starship and begin again, trying to get further in the galaxy than you did before.

Inspired by ~

Freelancer

Elite Dangerous

Star Citizen

Concept & Story

The concept for Bounty is drawn both from the hyper-realistic space combat sims from above as well as the roguelike genre. In a roguelike, the focus is one randomization and replayability. Games like FTL, Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac, Into the Breach presents some of the best entries within this genre: well-designed, highly variable, highly addictive. These forms of games have created an extremely satisfying gameplay loop {likely tirelessly iterated by the devs eventually into a kind of formula}. These loops are made consistently fresh by both challenge and the chaotic chance inherent to the genre. I would also add part of what makes the roguelike so popular is an aspect that might go under-appreciated: quick playability. All of these games are ones that you can hop in, play for a half hour, have a substantive experience and move on, leaving off at a good stopping point.

Similarly, Bounty offers up a gameplay experience where one can jump in and jump out, sometimes completing only a single satisfying mission of semi-random complexity and challenge. The purpose in playing short sessions is that the primary investment lies with the gameplay itself. This focuses and simplifies the development experience into crafting a satisfying gameplay loop for the player to engage with – in this case: piloting a starship for dogfights with opposing starships. For the player, it means that their attention does not become divided so far that they lose interest. When the player flips on Bounty, they know the kind of experience they are going to get, and the kind of gameplay narrative that will be delivered to them for as long as they want to engage with it.

The primary story within Bounty, like the gameplay itself, takes place in a run. A run is the single campaign of an individual pilot, making up all the missions they fly before they inevitably fall in battle. Each run is unique in the sense that the pilot is, as well as the ship and the series of jobs undertaken {although players can make similar pilots, ships and play the same missions, due to the complexity of the flying and battling, and the roguelike elements in place within every mission, no two players’ experiences will be the same.}

The Ace: The choice of the pilot the character wishes to start a run with can be customized, such as choosing their gender, their simple physical appearance, as well as their inherent talents and tendencies as a pilot. Alternatively, the player can always randomize their pilot at the start of each run. Their personality and their background is left up to the player to develop for themselves. Within the context of the game, they are just another genetically engineered person designed to pilot a starship, reading the complex sets of codes required to fly them like language and navigating the vast void of the starscape as only an expert wayfarer might.

Over the course of their run, a player progresses the skills of an ace and through the revelations afforded from their jobs, learns more about the nature of galactic geopoliticking and the intergalactic corporations they run for. In almost every job, no matter how far the ace is along in their run and how prominent their stature is, they will be given choices in how to proceed in the nature of completing the objectives within a job, including directly undermining or turning against the corporation they work for. However, with this comes the expected consequences … Every ace doing their runs know their time will come to its end. It’s just a matter of when, and how.

The Ships: Every ace pilots a single ship, and like them, it is designed from the ground up to fit the mental and physical makeup of the human set to fly it. The intergalactic corporations develop both man and machine concurrently, in a kind of mutualistic hybrid of long-planned engineering and asset management. The player can hand-design their own ship, completely overhauling the kinds of weaponry it holds as well as the engines and its aesthetic appearance. Alternatively, a player can run a completely randomized ship design. There is a starter set of components available to a player to start a run with versus all the upgraded component parts to customized a ship with earned during the course of a run.

Jet – first one in, last one out, most dextrous in battle and most precise in its method of attack.

Bomber – slow and steady, has to build up to launch its more powerful attacks.

Mecha – more versatile fighter, capable of transforming between starship and mech; the methods of their attacks lacks specialization and can thus be less effective depending on the circumstance.

The Jobs: Each set of missions is generated daily. A player is presented with five to choose from the first time they log in. Every job is a bounty of some kind – whether it be on a person, a ship, an item, and whether it needs to be retrieved or destroyed. Jobs range from hunting down a single defecting executive, and the corporate assets on his personal ship, to entering into the middle of a galactic conflict of battleships, cruisers and dreadnoughts in order to find a starmap on one of the ships under the guise of the chaos.

Jobs never repeat once they are played {on an individual run}. Some missions are entirely procedurally generated, using the building blocks of the game’s engine to throw together a scenario for the player to complete. These kinds of jobs are typically lightest on narrative and the most repetitive, but no other player will experience exactly that kind of job in their own unique playthrough. Other jobs are hand-designed by the devs and are featured at some point within every run {if you live long enough to see enough jobs to cover all of the designed ones.} Every job is timed and scored, thus players can compare their scores to other players with ease using these metrics.

All jobs are playable in multiplayer, up to 6 players total, with the difficulty increasing for each player involved. The more players, the more AI-controlled ships there will be.

Design / System / Mechanics

The gameplay design of Bounty is based upon balancing the hyper-realism and complexity of space combat / flight sims with the fun-factor of an arcade railshooter. The core gameplay centers around flying your starship through space from location to location, from dogfight to dogfight. The control scheme is smooth enough to be operated with mouse and keys, controller or flight stick in equal measure. The pilot has to worry about many things simulataneously – their surrounding threats, their shield and engine level, their damage accuracy and resulting output, as well as the time to complete the mission. As a result, all of the most vital information is prominently displayed on the pilot’s HUD within their cockpit and monitored in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. All of axes and sensitivity metrics are customizable on sliders, as well as the game’s graphical detail; every light, explosion and sun glare can be amplified or scaled back depending on the player’s preference for their own gameplay experience.

All combat is relatively fast-paced, takes place in real time and features a wide variety of animations and effects. To help contain the chaos of battle, each starship, no matter how advanced, has three primary weapons – laser, missile, electro. The game’s targeting system – for their starship’s lasers, missiles, electromagnetic pulses is the bread and butter of combat; it should be easy to learn, difficult to handle in the heat of serious dogfighting bout and nigh impossible to master. Depending on the nature of your attack strategy in your own ship, and the type of firepower you bring to bear, the necessary components to make the assault successful are dependent upon the situation; some lasers are easier to hit with but do less damage unless they target the specific areas. Most missiles are difficult to hit with, the enemy must be led, but they do massive damage. Electro pulses are most effective when timed with a coinciding enemy attack. Each of your starship’s weapons is based on varied cooldowns; in the meantime of their use, the ace must pilot their ship with evasive maneuvers and feints. The combinations and cadences for these weapons and their attacks are practically infinite. Through the completion of jobs, your intergalactic patron rewards you with increased firepower as well as improved shields and engines for your starship.

Through the course of every job, and every run, each of your ship’s many activities are logged, quantified and placed upon a leaderboard visible by all players.

Endgame: Bounty is a game meant to capture the core essence of being a starship pilot making their way in the farscapes of space. Take the reigns of your ship and make your run.