In addition to learning Game Maker, I’ve been trying to analyze a bit what makes a particular game good, in the hopes that it will increase the quality level of my own games. Lately I’ve been looking at one of my favorites from when I was in high school- Crusader: No Remorse.
In Crusader you control a guy in a red Boba Fett-esque suit from an isometric perspective. You’re a former bad guy who’s now working with the resistance against a generic 1990’s style evil company that rules the world. The story is conveyed in the kind of awesomely cheesy video cut scenes that only a ’90s game would dare attempt. The controls are a lot more awkward than Diablo, and encourage thoughtfulness over twitch.
What really makes the game work is the interactivity of the environment. In the screenshot above, for example, you can twist the wheel next to the pipe to let off a gust of steam that will kill the guards. Some of these interactions are elaborate (find the right remote control and you can use an attack robot to terrorize the enemy), and many of them are hilariously over the top with the level of gore.
The alarm system is also a neat twist. Many enemies (and some neutral civilians) will try to go to an alarm panel when they see you. If they hit it, more guards will start arriving. Depending on the level, it may be easy or hard to turn the alarm off again. The game even combines the interactivity and the alarm system in places. For example, throughout the game you see Star Trek style transporter pads that guards can beam in on. In one level you see one with an out of order sign on it. If you switch it back on and then trip the alarm, the guards that beam in die graphically in a transporter room accident.
There’s also some destructibility and choice as to how you can get through a level. A door may have a keycard requirement. You could go and find the key, or you could use a bomb to blast the door. Of course, the number of bombs is limited and using one will trigger the alarm.
So the lesson here is that even simple interactivity will make a game better. If the game had just been you shooting the guards, it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
The other thing I notice is that the game did is making the objectives feel real. Every mission has some unique goal that’s reflected in what you see and do. For example, in one level you’re supposed to destroy a killer robot factory. and as you get towards the end you go past the production line until you reach a central area where you put your bomb. Small touches like that can make it seem like what you’re doing matters, and provide a sense of variety. Oh, and one more observation: blowing stuff up is cool.