I always talk about immutable design goals
and how they are the core of any exploratory game design project that we take on. I wrote further about the concept
shortly after we made the switch to AVWW being side-view.
Now that we've got a lot of brainstorming topics here in a new subforum, though, I realized it was definitely time to actually list the immutable design goals at the heart of AVWW. This isn't an all-inclusive list, because for some reason that's lost way back in the annals of my gmail, so I'm having to recreate it from memory. If I missed anything and think of it later, I'll add it in here. Anyhow, the list:
1. AVWW will be an action-adventure game with combat that feels fun, tactile, and as tactical as possible.
2. AVWW will be set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with a mix of magic and technology, sci-fi and fantasy, with remnants from many fictional time periods in play at once.
3. AVWW will be 2D and heavily utilizing procedural content to allow for virtually unlimited play in a single world. Worlds should be unlimited in their terrain to the extent technically possible, though there should be ongoing barriers in some form that the player has to overcome to proceed.
4. Players will never have to start a new world in order to try out a new feature. All new features will be available as in-game choices in any world.
5. Players will never "lose the game" or "win the game" in a global sense; though success and failure at specific tasks of varying scales should be possible and meaningful.
6. AVWW should have some form of "macro game" to it, which provides longer-term goals and choices, and lets the player guide their whole civilization to a degree, rather than just one individual.
7. Typical RPG time-wasters such as grinding, farming, backtracking, fetch quests, running out of inventory and thus having to return to town prematurely, and so on should be avoided where at all possible to do so.
8. Combat should not be the sole and central focus of the game. If a player wishes to pursue exploration or other peaceable actions, that should be a valid way to play for long stretches of time.
9. All of the extra "macro game" elements, like any other secondary game modes (such as hardcore platforming segments) should be optional, if encouraged. The core of the game is the action-adventure gameplay, and if a player wishes to be a loner and just pursue that part of the game to the exclusion of all else, that should be a valid (if suboptimal in many respects) play style. E.G., NPC interactions and scouting should be helpful and save the player time, but they should not be required
in order to progress. Carrot, not stick.
10. Magic is at the center of pretty much everything in this game, and the technology that is present should account for that in thematically interesting ways. (Note: In later interpretations of this immutable design goal, since mid-alpha or so, we've extended this one to include "no traditional Earth-style vehicles" and "no traditional Earth-style physical weapons in the hands of players; guns and swords and such are out." But obviously that wasn't the original design goal, so that interpretation isn't quite
immutable though it's pretty darn set in stone at this stage).
11. The game should give that "just one more turn" feel in some fashion, without putting the player on a treadmill. Similar in a lot of ways to what AI War is able to accomplish in the RTS/4X space with that same feel. This could manifest in many different ways, in terms of "just one more boss" or "just one more thing to craft" or "just one more mission" or "just one more level" or whatever. The idea here is that players have ongoing projects that are in various states of completion, and they feel that this is fun and interesting enough to be compelled to finish the projects -- and then that it's fun enough that starting a new project seems like fun, too. This is in contrast to stat grinding, where players are compelled to proceed to see the bars get filled up and the numbers go higher (not a very fun project in and of itself), or to story-based hooks that make players want to keep playing to find out what happens in the narrative (procedural narrative that is that compelling is unlikely).
12. AVWW will be a platform for having multiple gameplay modes (and even genres), with more being able to be added at later times through free DLC, expansions, or otherwise. Each of these modes should tie into the central action-adventure gameplay in some fashion, and consequences throughout the world should be as cohesive as possible, but progress in any of the modes should not be penalized if the player ignores them for a while. In other words, no "crop withering" or anything close. Players should be able to sit down and feel like Environ is an interesting place to go to do a variety of interesting things, and when they choose to go to Environ their first question is "what do I feel like doing today?" They should be able to play any subset of the game to match their mood, while the other subsets of the game remain safely in stasis until they feel interested in them again.
13. AVWW will be a cooperative multiplayer game where worlds are set up on servers in an FPS-game fashion, and players connect to and exit those worlds at will. Co-op play should be as close to solo play as possible, while of course making any concessions needed to keep the co-op experience feeling balanced and fun and responsive. Freedom of the individual should be retained as much as possible (in that players don't have to adventure together as a group, but they can), while at the same time there should be built-in safety controls to prevent strangers from griefing your server (as much as possible).
14. Bits of story and dialogue should be done in as poignant a way as possible, but these should all be kept to SNES-style brevity in individual chunks. Those sorts of older JRPGs have a form of brevity that is almost poetic, and we want to emulate that rather than the wordier western RPG style of writing for games.
15. As a general goal for the game, each menu or interface or HUD element should be condensed to its smallest, most usable, least obtrusive form possible. And, where possible, player will should be made known through gameplay actions rather than menu options (as with AI War). This doesn't mean "no menus," especially on the macro game side of things, but it does mean that we want to keep the interface extremely streamlined and quick-moving, and we want to avoid ever having Big Honkin Menus like the AI War lobby or similar.