To enter upon.
To give impulse.
To plunge into.
To set in motion.
To spend too much time looking at thesaurus.com. Ok so Strain is the game that I’ve had in the back of my mind for at least the past 2 years. Maybe 3. It’s hard to remember when a concept first entered your head. The original idea was a twin stick, top-down shooter featuring zombies. Pretty boring, right?
Wrong. What Strain was to do differently was use the fact that you were fighting zombies specifically in a way that makes the game fun, interesting, compelling, and different every time you play. How does it do this? Well, let me answer that by telling you a bit about myself.
I love me some algorithms. Always have. Back at Monash I got the top mark in my semester when I did Algorithmic Problem Solving. My favorite subjects tended to be where the theoretical collided with the practical. Subjects like Computational Science where we applied the theory to build scientific models. These models fascinated me to no end. I always thought (and still do) that there’s an unending amount of information out there yet to be discovered through the magic of scientific modelling.
Of course it was obvious that any game I come up with would be informed by this outlook. And so we have Strain, the zombie game that attempts to simulate a zombie apocalypse in real-time from the very start of the outbreak. Starting at patient zero, the virus would spread through the population of susceptible humans until the player decides they want to start playing, at which point they can jump into the simulation and start blasting zombies.
In addition to this, each zombie strain of the virus would be unique to the zombie, containing values that affects zombie stats that are passed on through bites, similar to a Genetic Algorithm. I say ‘similar to’ when what I actually mean is ‘identical to’. The idea is that the entire game is one enormous genetic algorithm, where the gameplay element itself is the fitness function. The theory is that statistically and over time better zombies will have a higher likelihood of passing on their strain of the virus, be it through higher running speed, higher viral infectivity, resilience to bullets, etc. than worse zombies. As the simulation continues (both before the player character enters the game and after) the average zombie will get harder and harder, naturally creating a difficulty curve.
Now this is a basic look at Strain as it stands. There are additional mechanics (that I may go into in a future post) that deal with recruiting human NPC’s, or infecting yourself with the zombie virus intentionally to gain the stat benefits of it, but the core idea is the genetic algorithm. Thursday we had our industry pitches (which we apparently just scraped through) and this weekend I had my very first game jam, which has been good at taking my mind off the inevitable meeting with the teachers in which we discuss the direction and scope of the game.
We’ve thrown around the idea of changing the aesthetic to a cellular infection inside the human body where you play as a nanomachine, which is a concept I’m actually quite partial to. I guess Wednesday will likely be the day we hash out the new direction of Strain, and I find out just how far from my original vision it needs to be taken.