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Author Topic: Devils in Heaven  (Read 1854 times)

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James Edward Smith

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Devils in Heaven
« on: January 20, 2008, 02:19:28 PM »

At work I am forced to work on a word finding game called Word Mole that is sort of a garden themed verson of Boggle with all the extra bells and whistles that it being a video game affords it. It's an okay game as far as boring puzzle games that try not to scare away anyone and appeal to as wide an audience as possible go, but it is what it is and I will probably throw a little party when it's done and I no longer have to look at it anymore. It's just not my style.

While I've been working on it, I have also been working on what I believe is a much better mobile device game in my spare time which is a game that I currently call Atlas' Stone. It's a sort of Marble Madness meets Zelda 3 meets Cave Story Blackberry game that stars a little beetle called Atlas who is forever pushing a ball of muck around that he can increase in size by rolling in mud causing it to pack more punch when it hits things but also become generally harder to control. He has adventures using this mechanic and tries to not get his ball broken or lost. I think it's clever because it uses the Blackberry's trackball or "pearl" as its only input and it's a cool scrolling game in a world of puzzle games, card games, and lame sim games that is the mobile gaming world, at least in a general sense.

But as I am sure most game developers or would be game developers do, I have many other games in my head and although no one other than I has played them because I have never told a computer how to simulate them for you, I still enjoy them often in my head. The framerates are amazing. The game I find myself playing most often at the momment is called

Devils in Heaven.

The title is dervived from the reflection of the Japanese Airline trainee turned natural born killer Shin Kazama, the main protagonist of Kaoru Shintani's manga series Area 88.


"We fly in heaven but we are devils, everyone of us."

Tricked into a contract to serve as a mercenary fighter pilot during a civil war in the fictional North African Country of Asran in 1979, Shin finds himself forced to constantly take the lives of enemy pilots just so that he can survive and earn enough money to buy out of his contract and return to his sweet-heart Ryoko back in Japan. Shin constantly struggles with his morality as he tries to convince himself that he is only killing as many people as he has to in order to free himself from this deadly situation he is trapped in but often realizes that even though he spends his days in the heavens, he is no angel, he is a devil and may very likely die like one, plummeting to the ground in a flaming wreck before he ever sees the shores of Japan again.

It is this world of mercenary pilots flying whatever jet fighters that they can afford to purchase and keep flying, hoping that their experience and skill will keep them alive long enough for them to upgrade whatever they have to something better so that they stand a chance of surviving and getting through the war both alive and with some money in their pockets, that I wish to recreate. But in a way, the other thing I want to recreate is fun we had as ten-year-olds holding micro machine Migs and Tomcats in our hands and dragging them around in the air infront of us making cannon noises with our lips and wishing that those little planes really flew and actually shot missiles at eachother.

The game will be a 2D side-scrolling jet fighter game that in many ways will be akin to the old bi-plane starring #finalfight favourite Sopwith2. But as more advanced as a Su-27 Flanker is to a Fokker triplane, this game will be to the afore mentioned CGA classic. The game will control predominantly with your mouse which will move a cursor around the screen in the center of which sits your jet. Wherever you move your mouse on the screen, your jet will manuver itself as best it can according to it's flight characteristic so that it is flying towards your cursor again. Moving the cursor to the edge of the screen will cause your view to zoom out where as moving it back closer to your plane will cause it to zoom back in again. By holding down the ctrl key, your cursor now becomes a "looking" cursor and will behave just as already stated except that your plane will no longer follow it and will just keep flying in it's current direction. Letting go of the ctrl key will cause your cursor to go back to where you had it when you pressed it. This will simulate the head cranking that you see pilots doing in Topgun and stuff like that where they are looking for hostiles above and behind them, etc. Your air speed is dependant on the position of your throttle which is controlled by the scroll wheel on your mouse. This throttle will correspond directly to your mouse wheel such that one complete scroll downwards will deploy air brakes and one complete scroll up will put you back to full throttle. A left click will obviously fire the currently selected weapon where as the right mouse button will deploy the currently selected counter measure (flares, chaft, etc). The rest of the controls will be on the keyboard and probably assigned to the number keys (weapon, counter measure selection) and the basic "wasd" cluster that most PC gamers know and love now (barrel rolling control, auto landing, radar, hangar, and radio hot keys, etc).

The way your jet manouvers to get itself pointed back at your cursor will depend on what plane it is. All planes in the game will be modelled after the performance and characteristics of the real jets. Obviously this will be far from perfect since the game takes place in a 2D slice of real airspace and all the planes will be able to do is dive or climb, but my goal is to make the planes really feel different (or similiar depending on the case) from one an other based on how the real planes actually fly. The game will include a list of pretty much every fighter, multi-role, and attack jet that there has been from about 1950-199X. In addition to this, all the planes will have their real armourment capabilities from fighters with their guns and air-air missiles to attack aircraft with their bomb loads and air-ground missiles. Fuel consumption will be based on the real jets too as well as perhaps somewhat fudged maintanence and rearmourment times so that planes that can be in the air longer or can get back up there faster can have an advantage against other planes that maybe better in terms of straight up dogfight performance.

How do you afford these planes and who are you fighting them with? The game will be played online by connecting to a server that is running a chosen map. In this respect the experience will be similar to Counter Strike or Team Fortress 2 or what have you. Players will be divided into two teams each of which has an airbase. The game will be some what DotA inspired in that each team will have numerous forward bases that extend towards the middle of the screen which separate their base from the enemy base. All of these smaller bases have automatic defences that get progressively tougher as you get closer to the main base. Each side also has "Ground forces" which will operate much in the same manner as creeps do in DotA. They will spawn automatically at the main base of each side and then charge towards the enemy side. There may also be some airbased creeps as well, but this is yet to be determined. Without any player intervention, these computer controlled ground forces will fight to a standstill in the middle of the map just like the creeps in DotA do.

Each player starts with enough cash to buy their choice of bottom rung jet. They can buy a fighter and go after enemy players, they can buy an attack aircraft and attack the enemy ground troops and bases, or they can choose a multirole aircraft and try and do both. A player can buy as many planes as they like of whatever type the like and they will be stored safe in the base except for the one he is currently flying. He must also pay for his fuel, his ammunition and weapons, and his repairs/maintainence. If a pilot is shot down or crashes while flying, that jet is gone. They can immediately take off in one of their other jets if they have any but if they have none they are grounded until they buy another one. During the game every player receives a salary as a merc pilot, this is reflected as a small automatic increase to their balance that happens slowly over time. in addition to this any time they kill anything they receive a large bounty for doing so. Destroying enemy ground troops is worth the smallest amount, while destroying enemy bases or enemy player's planes is worth a much larger sum. Thus being shot down is not always a terrible thing if you were killed while destroying a wave of ground forces and an enemy plane or two. The game would end when one side had destroyed the enemy base and then you could either start a new game with some other people if this was handled like WC3 or wait for the next map to load up if it was more pick up and play like TF2 say.

I think this game has the capability to appeal to people on many levels; the fun of a mouse based dogfight, the fun of trying out all the planes and weapons, the fun of trying to find the best "build" strategy to get the better planes and armourments the fastest, and the team dynamic that it allows for where certain people can focus on ground strikes while perhaps other players in fighters can focus on escorting them or seeking out the enemy.


Originally, I visuallized the game as looking like the old SNES era shmup based on the manga that first inspired me, Area 88/ UN Squadron. I saw little sprite based F-8 Crusaders chasing after little pixelly Mig-21s that had just attacked their A-4 Skyhawk flying teamates. The background of the level scrolling by in majestic mode 7 style paralax. The retro feel of the graphics was sort of one of the things that got my excited about the game since this game would sort of be an over the top SNES game that the SNES itself probably would never have been able to run itself and that seemed really cool to me. But after realizing the reasons for the current trends in game developement, and realizing the possibilities that open up to a 2-D game that uses a 3-D engine I've sort of changed my idea for the visuals. The game Undertow is a good example of just what this game could be. Replace Untertow's watery lighting effects and rocky underwater caverns with dog fights happening infront of beautiful, thick, mountainous cumulonimbus cloudscapes and attack craft swooping over wonderfully detailed desert airbases or majestic fleets after taking off from their completely dynamic aircraft carriers with radar dishes spinning and tiny little ground crews running around their little F-18s and you can see just how cool this game could be running on a 3-D engine while still running just as well on the same machine. Planes could gently sway from side to side as they flew, impressive explosions from dropped bombs and smoke trails from fired missiles could be accomplished far more easily, Laser guided bombs could cause a little PIP CNN-Desert-Storm style bomb camera display to come up on screen as they raced towards their unfortunate targets, planes could have truly dynamic death results with wings flying off sometimes, engines jamming and planes going down in flames other times, and planes being split in two after being the unforunate receiver of a SAM in their belly. I'd have plently of over the top  anime style effects in the game of course such as lots of visible shockwaves and air currents and jet wash.

movie 1
movie 2

The UI for the game would be very fighter jet HUD looking in appearence with scrolling airspeed and altitude meters, identification and missile lock on boxes appearing over other aircraft, bomb targeters, and a trailing gun sight "pipper" appearing and shaking around showing you where your bullets will actually hit once they reach the distance of the currently targetted plane or perhaps once they get as far away from your plane as your flight cursor currently is. Your flight cursor would probably just be a simple crosshairs sorta dealy.

Yeah, that's the game. It's a highway to the danger zone.

* None of my images from the original post on the OTHER BOARDS work here because they are hosted on my site which is on pyoko and someone's hilarious text altering macro on the word pyoko fucks up all of my URLs.
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Bal

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2008, 07:39:35 AM »

Read the whole thing.  I assume from your description that it is top down, not side-scrolling, and also that your plane, once in motion is continuously in motion? It sounds pretty damn cool to me.

tl;dr
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James Edward Smith

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2008, 08:26:35 AM »

You comprehendin': Awful

It's side scrolling with the ground on the bottom and the sky at the top, hence my comment about the planes only being able to climb or dive. Yes, your plane is always moving cause that's what planes do or they crash.

I'm glad you like it, most people seem to think it's a pretty good idea.
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Bal

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2008, 11:49:47 AM »

I guess the DotA mention threw me. It just seems like an awkward angle for the game to be played as you described it so I switched it in my head.
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Sharkey

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2008, 12:16:56 PM »

You know, I could go for either point of view, but I'd much prefer side-on. Something like Sopwith with plane-tries-its-best-to-get-to-where-you're-pointing control would fanfuckingtastic. Again, a lot like Undertow or Aquaria. Funny how those kinds of things always seem to be underwater games.

Actually, have you tried Jets n Guns? It's not identical to what you're describing, but it shares some similarity. It is, at the very least, worth playing the demo.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2008, 07:31:11 PM »

Meh, It's a cute effort but I'm not a huge fan of shmups. The level of customization of your ship is pretty cool but the levels are fairly dull looking, the music drowns out and sound effects and the art style is pretty gay. Devils in Heaven is to be more about dog fighting human opponents and less about holding down a fire button constantly while trying to line up with endless unmoving or patterned enemies before they or their gently thrown paper airplane resembling shots get too close.

I want my planes to look very small and almost cute in their arcadey 2d world but at the same time very detailed and "real" other than their over the top jet wash, sonic booms, and wing tip trail kill celebrations.

I've thought of a lot of cool music for the game but I almost feel like it would be cooler to just include an in-game mp3 player and let people dog fight to whatever they want while the game just provides lots of engine noises, explosions, cockpit klaxxons and the occasional bit of ground forces radio chatter whenever bases are under attack or allies get shot down.

"Blaze crashed, Blaze crashed!"

People can say whatever they want over voice chat but the codec will be intentionally crackly and if you're ever playing with me, expect to hear something along the lines of "I've got him on my nose, I've got tone, Fox 2! Fox 2!" at least once per game. Hell, my callsign will probably be "TooCloseForMissilesImSwitchingToGuns".

The only non-retarded response I got about this on Pyoko was from Kazz who made some really intelliegent observations that indirectly gave me what might be some pretty cool ideas. You can read them over there unless you'd rather I just copied and pasted them here.
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Kazz

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2008, 05:09:52 AM »

The comparison I made was to Armor Alley, which I'm honestly shocked Geo hasn't played because it's what he described.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2008, 01:21:15 PM »

I found a download for it but I'm at work.

Poking and prodding like a good dick (private detective) does, I found out that Armor Alley is a remake of an even older Apple IIe game called Rescue Raiders and that a GBA rip off was made by a French developer right when the DS came out called Glory Days. Atlus sold the game under the title Super Army Wars or something like that because they love to rename everything they publish. Due to when it was released, poor reviews and high difficulty (flying a plane/copter and controlling deployment of ground troops at the same time all with the limit buttons on the GBA was pretty awkward) The game basically went unnoticed. The developer wasn't deterred though and they released a DS sequel with a new UK based publisher.

Glory Days 2 looks a lot like my initial vision of the game graphically but it has Armor Alley's gameplay and mechanics basically exactly. Even the previous game was actually reviewed favourably by some reviewers who gave it a serious chance, but the sequel has actually been pretty well received by critics. I believe a big part of this is the fact that the difficulty progression seems to be handled better and it uses pretty much my desired control scheme for Devils in Heaven of cursor chasing.

The game looks pretty good, but I think my game would be a lot more fun and a lot more accessable. For starters I can see a big problem with Glory Days 1 & 2 and to a lesser extent, Armor Alley; the screen is very claustrophobic. Your plane in GD is very big in comparison to the background and to make things worse, you can't fly any higher than the top of the screen. I think that my concept of more realistically large skies with a scrolling view point that can move vertically as well as horizontally and the smaller size of my jets on a PC screen combined with the cursor based variable zoom and "look" key will make my game seem a lot more open and make locating the enemy and attacking them effectively a lot less of a hassle than it looks like it is in this game. The other thing is, you can't dogfight in this game, there's just no room for it and the planes don't really move around well enough for it, plus there's no concept of gun sights or aquiring missile locks and I think that aspect of my game will make for a much more fun experience.

In GD and Armor Alley, your money is spent on your ground forces and you have to actually deploy them. I think that trying to micro manage ground forces even limitedly in this manner, is more annoying than it is fun and distracts you from flying your plane. I think the role of the player in my game as a member of a squadron of other players who get their ground forces to the other side simply by supporting them and defending them from the other team's players is a lot less complex and a lot more fun as you can achieve both satisfaction from your team taking over ground as well as from your own personal victories. I also like the idea of using your money just to take care of your plane(s) and not having to worry about your ground forces. I'm fairly convinced of this from playing and enjoying DotA for so many years, sometimes it's a lot more fun to just be a single powerful character on the side of an auto attacking army than it is to have to control that whole army.

The other more superficial strength of my idea is just that I think it will look and sound far cooler which is perhaps not a huge deal, but I do think it will make things more exciting.

Anyway, I plan to download at least Armor alley when I get home for inspiration. A lot of people seem to remember it with fond memories.
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Sharkey

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2008, 02:40:50 PM »

I like anything remotely resembling Sopwith, and these are essentially Sopwith with a helicopter and ground forces to sort of manage and little men to pick up. Soplifter, if you will. My main points of criticism however, are:

1) I don't give a tinker's cuntshit about managing ground forces in any capacity. I'd much rather be upgrading my aircraft a little bit. Like a kind of Counterstrike in a Fokker.

B) Most of the damn funs of Sopwith were the crazy stupid loops and dives you could make, and the weirdly ahead of its time physics, especially in what you could do with the proper momentum and angle on bombs, or even your own flaming fuselage. Also, shrapnel, birds, cows, and an environment that's just a whole hell of a lot more interesting than a flat plain.

What Geo's talking about sounds a lot more like the game I'd like to see. I would, however, recommend focusing on making a rough, minimalist, playable version before duding it all up with whiz-bang 3D graphics and THX sound and whatever.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2008, 03:22:57 PM »

3d graphics will be handled by a 3d engine developed by an other developer(s). Current plans are to use the 3d game-specific engine that my boss and a coworker are making which seems to be coming along quite nicely. My work will be to get the core game actually working and then to work on getting the netcode just right but then most of that will probably just be handled mostly with an open source solution that I will customize as need be.

Actual prettiness of graphics in terms of designing models, textures and detailed environments and the addition of sound will obviously be a next step thing once I am happy with how the game controls and how physics and game balance pan out. I don't know how much of that I might even be able to do myself given enough time but one would suspect that I will need to seek out people who make it their business to make artsy stuff like that and then yell at them for doing it wrong until they quit, ask for too much money, or satisfy me.

I might work on this as my year long project that I have to do next year to finish up my diploma in which case I'll have the help of a fellow student or two. I just need to see if I can design a project out of it with a reachable goal that actually looks like something at the end of it. I'll probably try pretty hard as I'd rather work on this and end the year with something that is well on its way to becoming this game than work on anything else.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2008, 02:21:47 PM »

Just some fucking around with Ogre


3d graphics with no textures, huzzah!
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James Edward Smith

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Re: Devils in Heaven
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2008, 07:45:47 AM »

Just some more musing on this since I've been thinking and talking quite a bit about it with a guy off vent who might work on it some with me after I finish D-beetle (I need more sprites of little insect Spartans for the evil Phalants army).

I was looking around the Internets to see if anyone had actually made any thing like a modern take on Sopwith 2 that wasn't just a remake made to run under a new version of windows. I wanted to scope out possible competition and also, finding something with multiplayer would be nice too so we could all play. I found one such game in Triplane Turmoil 2.

The game is essentially Sopwith 2 but with 3d graphics used in a 2.5d perspective and with an emphasis on multiplayer. There's a couple of problems with it though, for one thing it was released in 2006 and is still only available as shareware with the multiplayer being the privilege of buyers only, and secondly... it's awful.

You know how Sopwith 2 is cool because your little biplane sort of has pseudo real aerodynamics and it has believable biplane thrust levels and so you can't just rocket into the sky or you'll stall and so forth. Well this game takes that sort of idea and for whatever reason makes your plane's engine so weak that the game is just unplayble. YOU CAN'T DO THE SIMPLEST OF LOOPS OR ANYTHING without diving at the ground for a few seconds first or you stall so hard you'll be shot down for sure if you don't just crash first. It wouldn't be so awful if you were in a real plane and could turn from side to side to avoid fire, but in a 2d game where your only options are to climb or dive, it pretty much makes you dog meat if you ever take fire from more than one source at a time. If the red baron doesn't get you, the ground fire will.

The other problem is that any time you die, which is going to be about every 10 seconds, you have to sit there and wait for the screen to slowly scroll over the map back to your airfield from where ever you crashed. I have no idea why this is necessary, but it sure is agonizingly slow to the point that it probably takes longer than your actual ill-fated flight did in the first place. Then to add insult to injury, you have to wait for two little assholes to push your next plane out onto the strip before you can take off.

Forunately I don't forsee any of these problems arising in Devils. With all the planes being jets, you should always have enough thrust to manuver decently. The better planes will just do so faster, and will gain back their forward momentum more rapidly after doing energy-spending upward manuvers. I also don't plan on forcing you to watch painfully slow scrolling animations everytime you die before you can get back into the air again. When you play my game, you will be PLAYING THE GAME the whole time, with an instantaneous return to the hangar screen after any crash or annialation. You pick your plane, change the weapon load out if the last one you selected isn't satisfactory or available, and then click the take off button or hit the hotkey.

I was thinking about the NPC force that each team has yesterday. Originally I thought I'd only want NPC ground forces that fought eachother to a stand still without the support of the players altering that balance, but I was thinking that I might want to have NPC planes too. One of the things that I really like about the creeps in DotA is how they affect combat with enemy players, especially early in the game when player characters are not much more powerful than the creeps are. You need to attack when your creeps out number theirs or in ways that will ensure that you don't take too much fire from their creeps, etc. This whole dynamic leads to interesting strategies and I don't know if ground forces would have enough of an effect on enemy players to create a similar strategic situation in Devils in Heaven.

So, I was thinking it might be cool to have little NPC squadrons that take off at regular intervals that you can support or not and thus attack the enemy with some help. Ideally the AI of these regular air force guys would be fairly crappy and simplistic such that player planes are much more dangerous, but they still have missiles and whatever, so they can't be completely disregarded, especially if they completely outnumber you. Hit and Run tactics would be needed to thin them out and so forth. Someone also suggested the idea that you can maybe recruit planes from your team's little NPC squads to follow you as wingmen with a hotkey when you are flying near them and then dismiss them in a similar manner which would cause them to fly back to their squad. If they were with you and reached bingo fuel they would tell you so and then fuck off back to base too.
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