From Stealth to Robyn HUD

May 27, 2016

When working on a computer game there are several transition points where you as the developer introduce some new aspect into the game that makes it feel more like an actual game. Maybe you add in animation, or sound effects, or music. In my case, in the last week I’ve gone through two such transitions with my game codenamed Stealth. First, it’s not just limited to a codename anymore and second it’s actually starting to look, and consequently play, closer to the experience that I want players to have.

Previously I was using the name Stealth to refer to my latest game. I knew the game was going to have a stealth aspect although I didn’t know how heavy an aspect that would be once the other ideas I had started coming together. So Stealth was always just a placeholder name until I found something that fit better. That something has come from the characters of the game. Let’s meet them.

HUD (Heads-Up Display) is the player character’s hacker alias. HUD is a lover of technology and a computer wizard. An automobile accident caused the loss of use of HUD’s legs as a child. HUD turned to the use of computers, rerouting security systems and redirecting online funds. A cyber thief, HUD is the character whose shoes the player steps into.

Robyn Chambers is a skilled cat burglar. Some police agencies are unsure if she even exists. She slips into her targets, loots them, and escapes without anyone the wiser until it’s too late. Robyn loves the thrill of the adventure and often bestows the spoils of her thefts on those less fortunate in society than her targets. The player does not control Robyn directly but, in the persona of HUD, helps guide her through their joint thieving adventures.

Having characters with names like HUD and Robyn, obviously my first thought for a name for the game was HUD Robyn but it didn’t seem to have the right ring to it. After a bit of pondering, I reordered the names to Robyn HUD (yep, I went there). Given how at least Robyn robs from the rich to give to the poor it seemed appropriate. And HUD? Well, it will be up to the player to decide how altruistic HUD is.

[Robyn HUD logo (WIP).]
Robyn HUD logo (WIP).

I like the Robyn HUD name, although if something better comes along I’ll probably take it. I mean, why wouldn’t I? If it’s better. One thing with Robyn HUD is it does feel like it’s missing something. A subtitle perhaps. Well, I’ll keep working on it.

While I’m working on that, I’m also still working on the prototype level for the game. Things are nicely on track for having the prototype to a playable-by-others state by the end of next week. At the outset of this blog post, I mentioned that the game was starting to look like what I wanted players to experience. The game is still very much a work in progress but let’s take a look at some of that progress, shall we?

As the character of HUD, player’s use a number of computer systems to help Robyn in their joint thieving. Here’s an early screenshot of the game interface before I started sprucing it up a tiny bit for the prototype. This screenshot shows several of the systems including a security camera view, an email system, a blueprint/map for navigating the level, and a keypad for entering security access codes. This is from the earliest build of the game.

[Stealth systems before they look like windows.]
Stealth systems before they look like windows.
Click to view larger.

In the past week, I’ve improved the display of the different computer systems so that they actually start to look more like applications in an operating system, rather than a jumbled mess of random components. Same systems, but with slightly improved visuals.

[Robyn HUD systems after they look like windows (still WIP).]
Robyn HUD systems after they look like windows (still WIP).
Click to view larger.

The visual look of the game still has a long way to go. Even so, the improvements I’ve made in the past week have inspired me and given me renewed confidence that this is going to be a fun game to play. Even in these early stages it’s already pretty fun and getting better daily. There are several moments in the development of a game where it feels like you’ve taken it to the next level and this has been one of them for me.