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Greg Rice

Hack ’n’ Slash: Voting Discussion Thread

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Project Lead: Brandon Dillon

Hack n' Slash is an action adventure game focused on exploration and discovery, not just of its charming fantasy world, but also its internal workings. Based on my childhood experiences hacking on games in emulators to discover new things (and break others), Hack ‘n’ Slash is a world of puzzle dungeons based on progressively more sophisticated cheating, hacking, and reverse engineering techniques. Instead of a sword, you get a laptop, searching for and building software to help you dismantle and rebuild the world around you.

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I love this concept; any chance we can get more informations on how you are gonna implement this idea?

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Doing for my childhood 80's fantasy obsession what "Snow Crash" and "Ready Player One" did for my VIC-20/C64 obsession.

Make this happen :)

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I love this concept; any chance we can get more informations on how you are gonna implement this idea?

Here are some bullet points I typed up for the longer version of the pitch!

A classic top-down fantasy world realized in a charming Double Fine art style.
Puzzles that subvert player expectations by denying access to classic tools like bombs and arrows and requiring clever use of hacks and exploits.
A design that teaches real hacking and reverse engineering techniques, starting from simple cheat codes and exploits but working up to sophisticated reverse engineering methods needed to break into the most guarded treasure holds.
All of the tools work directly on the running game engine, not a toy system built for the puzzles. All of the hacking you're doing in the game is real. Once you find or build the right tools, you can make any change to the game you want.

The general idea is to make an open, explorable fantasy world akin to the worlds in the early Zelda games, but to base the tools you use and the puzzles you solve around hacking and reverse engineering concepts.

For example, you might get a hookshot-like connector cable that attaches to objects and lets you mess with the object's data tables. A castle may contain a royal library where each book corresponds to a game resource file on your hard drive. I'd like the world to be filled with little things that evoke memories of cheating at classic games. Genies that you can recite incantations to in order to change the way the game plays, glitchy secret areas that reveal something interesting about the world, that kind of thing.

By the late game, the tools would advance to things that let you change the running code of the game and the puzzles would be based on sophisticated software security concepts like encryption algorithms and copy protection schemes. The later dungeons would have creatures and items that actively try to fight against your hacks.

I don't want to promise too many specifics; if the game gets picked for prototyping, we'll have to figure out what we can finish in two weeks that communicates the potential of the game, but that's the direction I'd like to head.

Hopefully that sounds exciting and not just confusing! I'd be happy to elaborate on anything else you're curious about!

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This sure has a huge potential and is even more ambitious than I thought. I'd say it has a feel of a notpron/zelda meshup. Will look forward on how you are gonna balance between accessibility for people who aren't much into the hacking scene and challenge that could be devoided by allowing too much programmability control.

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I have an idea for a possible plot, here me out here. *ahem*

You are Marcus Sturlack; a skinny, unathletic, socially akward geek who loves his computer and computer games. He's constantly picked on in school by Johnathan and his gang, calling him awful names like "tunahead." His Grandfather, Arthur Sturlack, was a great inventor though myserioously vanished the day before the unveiling of his seceret 11 year project. Marcus stumbles upon what he thinks is a prtotype of the invention, (which he could stumble upon through some kind of tutorial/intro sequence/various cut-scenes) which acts quite mysteriously around his computer.

He plans to figure out what the remote actually does to show this off at the school's annual Science fair. After being embaressed in-front of Mandy, the girl of his dream when he was going to ask out the girl of his dreams, he storms off home to confine himself in his room playing his game. Time passes, still heavily engage in his game; a giant storm brews outside, taking out trees and houses one by one. Without another word of warning lightning strikes the roof of his house warping him into the game he's playing.

I have more elaborate ideas, since at first glance this sound pretty generic, though I'm too tired to write anymore; but what do you think of it so far? (Hopefully there's not already a planned backstory and I'm not wasting my time/embaressing myself.)

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Another suggestion of theme, since this idea (possibly my absolute favorite of the list) leans heavy in the meta direction anyway...

Your character begins as a periphery character in a (fictional) forgotten 80s adventure title, and somehow realizes that they are a character in a video game. They then set out to use this knowledge to their advantage within the game world.

Seems like a quick, mildly clever way to get the core concepts across. Yours to use if you like it!

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Reminds me a little bit of Avalon Code for the DS, an action-RPG where you had a book with everything in the world in it and could rewrite it to change their properties (or to create new things.)

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Ha! I was actually recently hacking through an old game I had played through ages ago using CE and was thinking that I was almost having more fun hacking then actually playing the game. I'll be really interested in seeing if a good game can be made from this.

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Would it be possible to hack your way into an unplayable state? If so, perhaps the player could go back into the 'code' that was modified and return the world to a playable state.

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So Brandon, would one actually need to be a good programmer to play this game? Or would the game help novice players to get into the hacking aspect as well and explain everything on the way?

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Would it be possible to hack your way into an unplayable state? If so, perhaps the player could go back into the 'code' that was modified and return the world to a playable state.

This is definitely one of the tricky things about the idea!

One of the items the player would get very early on is something to take a snapshot of the entire world state. This will double as a save system and a way for the player to roll back to a safe point if they mess something up in a way that breaks the game.

I'm not too worried about trying to prevent crashes, though; crashes are part of the fun of hacking the game! (as long as there's an easy way to recover)

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So Brandon, would one actually need to be a good programmer to play this game? Or would the game help novice players to get into the hacking aspect as well and explain everything on the way?

I definitely would strive to make the game playable by anyone who's interested in solving puzzles and lateral thinking. It would be important for the design to gradually introduce the hacking and programming concepts, and for the tools to work in a way that someone unfamiliar with writing code can understand how to use them.

My thought is that the main quest should be designed to teach players everything they need to know in order for them to see the entire story, but good action adventure games have lots of secrets hidden in the world, and I think it's okay for the extra stuff to be hidden behind challenges and puzzles that require a deeper understanding of hacking and programming concepts.

I'm not sure how much of that can make it in in two weeks. If the game gets picked, we'll try our best!

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I dig the story suggestions, too, folks! There's some definite overlap with my own thoughts, and the metafictional ideas would definitely fit very well with the mechanics.

One thing I would want to make sure to do, though, is not overburden the game with too much story, especially in a prototype. I really love that feeling you get when you boot up The Legend of Zelda for the first time and you're right in the world, with no one telling you what to do, free to explore to your heart's content. I think it'd be important to evoke that feeling with this game as well.

The story wouldn't be revealed up front, but the way NPCs act and the places you explore would give hints as to what's really going on. I think a story that you gradually uncover through play fits well with the theme of the game.

And it'd get us out of having to do a bunch of writing up front ;)

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There were several pitches which made me think 'nice idea maybe i will vote for it'.

When i watched yours, my thought was "I WANNA PLAY THIS NOW!"

Awesome idea, i hope you can pull it off.

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I like this idea so much I made a little fan art doodle for it. Is it okay to post it here or should I put it in the fan art subforum?

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I like this idea so much I made a little fan art doodle for it. Is it okay to post it here or should I put it in the fan art subforum?

Awesome! Feel free to post it here :D

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I actually can't express how cool this project sounds.

A game, based around hacking said game.. It's just too cool for words.

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I like this idea so much I made a little fan art doodle for it. Is it okay to post it here or should I put it in the fan art subforum?

Awesome! Feel free to post it here :D

Thanks!

I have no idea what the game is going to be like other than what you've shown and said so far, but I wanted to try pencil doodling a raw "what I picture it might be like in my head" thing and then compare it to whatever comes out.

2ewjhwl.jpg

The laptop apple is a zelda heart. :)

I always have been amused with how 8bit games would sometimes glitch out with text or sprites being garbled onscreen - I hope there's some of that going on in the game.

Anyway as I watch this thing developing I will be likely doing some proper fan art following along. It looks like yours is way out ahead - can't wait!

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Could Missingno. conceivably be an enemy or boss? Is an unintentional glitch in a videogame even protected by copyright?

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The originality of the majority of the games from the Amnesia Fortnight astounds me. I love, love, love the concept of this game. I hope it does not end up being too hard to come to fruition.

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Could Missingno. conceivably be an enemy or boss? Is an unintentional glitch in a videogame even protected by copyright?

For those who haven't seen the "let's break pokemon blue" saga I suggest checking it out: http://lparchive.org/Pokemon-Blue/

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Could Missingno. conceivably be an enemy or boss? Is an unintentional glitch in a videogame even protected by copyright?

For those who haven't seen the "let's break pokemon blue" saga I suggest checking it out: http://lparchive.org/Pokemon-Blue/

I just spent 3 hours reading that. Thank you.

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The fan art is hilarious too - though one piece I remember from back in the day puzzlingly isn't there. It's one with Ash running in terror as the world is devoured behind him by a large wall of glitch.

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Just wanted to chime in and congratulate Brandon! Looks like you're well on your way to making the top four. It seems like all of the *new* ideas in the gamespace lately are coming primarily from mashups of old ideas, but this idea feels like it breaks free from the pattern of getting new games by synthesizing old games and instead makes something that is actually a pretty fresh idea, stolen from real life.

QUESTIONS

My first question was whether you were worried about hacking the game into an unplayable state, but I see that's been covered! Next question!

Question 2. If the game makes it all the way to a commercial release, I assume DF would want to release it through the Steam platform. Would hosting the game through Steam introduce design problems that wouldn't exist with just an executable? I'm not a programmer and don't know all the particular magicks that Steam performs on the games it hosts, but it seems like a possible obstacle.

Question 3. One problem I recall coming up periodically in my old emulator-hacking days was that you could sometimes hack lines of code to get effects that, in the short term, seemed pretty harmless. But due to some hidden relationship with other pieces of the game that were not apparent in the graphical parts of the game the player sees, the hacking would create these unexpected long-term problems. For example, you might be playing an RPG and perform a hack that prevents random enemy encounters on the world map, but then when you try to re-enter a town by walking over it, you find that you can't enter the town anymore, even if you go back and reverse the code. (That actually happened to me once, and it is still a mystery to me.) Are you worried about the player getting into these kinds of situations and getting frustrated because they can't *see* what's going wrong?

That actually makes me think... a lot of game engines have debug windows you can run during testing that can show you things like all the instances and their states and so on etc. Maybe in addition to giving the protagonist the ability to hack his world, he also has this sort of x-ray vision that, instead of revealing underlying skeletons, reveals underlying programs. (I guess he's sort of like Neo in a way?) That might be a helpful/interesting tool for problem solving!

STORY IDEAS

No ideas for specific details of the story, but as for the KIND of story...

Game stories are so often about wish fulfillment, and I think this game is a perfect opportunity to explore that secret fantasy everyone has of being able to play god. Compare to a movie like Bruce Almighty (regardless of whether you liked it). Who hasn't closed their eyes and fantasized about being able to change their world just by WILLING it to be so?

This idea is cool, because it allows you to play god, but instead of playing a powerful magician god, you play a sort of cosmic engineer. You can do whatever you want! But you have to engineer it first.

Much like the path of Bastian in The Neverending Story (i.e., the book not the movie) or Bruce in Bruce Almighty, there would be a phase where the protagonist discovered his/her power and did all kinds of fun things with it for kicks. It goes to his/her head. He/she feels invincible. But then things suddenly get real. Now we enter the phase of "with great power comes great responsibility" and/or "unforeseen consequences". The protagonist has discovered a dark secret and has played with fire, and now his/her world is burning.

Can our beloved protagonist untangle the mess he/she inadvertently helped create? In the end, does the protagonist get to keep the power or is it lost or willingly given away? Does the protagonist learn anything from this experience?

Maybe not the kind of story that matches your personal taste, but there are some interesting angles you could play with it! =]

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If there is a story I think I like the idea of just absolutely wrecking it - taking some conventional story and then ripping characters out of place or shredding up NPCs to combine with bosses or monsters or items, to the point of starting to resemble a cut-ups version of a fantasy quest. In the end, having to fight the monstrous consequences of your cheating which left the world in glitchy apocolyptic ruins would be interesting.

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Hey did brandon kind of mention a female elf as a protagonist and i would rather play an elf than some human highschool student

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This is a wonderful, original and ambitious idea. I voted :)

I wonder if your idea to make it run on the actual game engine code is a workable idea. I think it may be more useful to ring-fence it, not make it a 'toy' as such, but in a way isolate the actual hacking activities from the running object code, perhaps build or use an emulated system?

I think it is something you may have to do to provide a simpler training ground with which a newbie player and coder could start with.

Also, I'm pretty sure that if, and only if the build went to production phase, Steam and almost all the other platforms would have serious reservations about allowing legitimised hacking of their protection systems (not to mention the legal issues on top of that).

But I digress somewhat, we should narrow focus to the actual prototype, what if, as I mentioned above, the sandboxed code could somehow grow and evolve as the player progresses thereby giving a sense of achievement whilst still safeguarding the IP and indeed system memory spaces from unwanted intrusion?

Just a few thoughts :)

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