West of East is a Tarantino-inspired RTS game with a semi absurd plot, set in a cyber western environment.
You follow Curtis and Irene as they seek revenge on The Stallion Bandits, a group of thugs clinging to the style of a forgotten age.
When beginning development on West of East there were three requirements we had to take into consideration.
It had to be a strategy game.
It had to take inspiration from one of the movie directors listed to the right.
A playthrough should not be longer than 10 minutes.
Although this is the longest project we've had, we still didn't want to take too long in the conceptual phase.
We settled on Tarantino pretty early on and had decided to go with a Desperados 3 like RTS game soon after.
The wester setting felt almost obvious but we wanted to put a twist on it so we merged it with sci-fi.
The story in short
Curtis, destined for a low-class life, took faith in his own hands and created an untethered life. He takes what he wants, he does what he wants and he works for no one.
After being out on a supply run he returns to his camp to find it raided. It doesn't face him until he finds his family portrait destroyed in a puddle of water. He finds a coin with the stamp of The Stallion Bandits and in a fit of rage, he starts his journey to kill every last one of them.
On his way to get clothes to blend in among the bandits, he runs into an old friend, ex-mercenary Irene Holt. Their friendship has always been quite destructive but they work well together. She convinces him to let her in on his mission. When they arrive at the town of Oatman, all they find is the security AI roaming. Their new goal becomes to find the Admin bot to extract the information of where the bandits are headed.
A helping hand
The narrative in West of East was made to make the game experience richer.
It helped the 3D artists to get a feel for the world and it helped make sense of some design decisions. Along with all that, it also helped set the tone and guide the player.
Since we didn't yet know our limits within the team it was difficult to nail down a definite concept. However, the base concept of a revenge plot stuck throughout the entire project.
The goal of the dialog was to show the personality of the characters as well as the love-hate relationship between them.
The dialog was also in the game, partly, to remind the player of certain key features.
Quentin Tarantino is famous for his exaggerated style. Strong language, gore, sensitive topics, sarcasm, and a hint of humor are the pillars of his movies.
What we took from that was mostly the gore and the absurd over-the-top style. Our narrative follows a person that is willing to risk it all to get revenge on the thugs that destroyed his family portrait.
When I first made the dialog system, it had a typewriting effect. This was mainly to grab the players' attention. It did, however, have a lot of problems coming with it.
After experimenting a bit with the typewriting dialog, I decided to scrap it and went with a static dialog instead. This would later slide up from the bottom of the screen to ease in on the player as well as grab attention.
To finish the dialog boxes we experimented with different fonts that would be easy on the eyes and readable.
Our systems designer also added portraits to make it even more clear who was speaking.
For the first builds of the game, the tutorial was part of the dialog. When we decided to have a dedicated tutorial, the first idea was to have a "part of the environment" tutorial similar to Desperados 3.
Feedback told us that this concept was easily missed and felt out of place, especially with the more text-heavy ones, like the camera movement.
After scraping the first concept, I decided to go for a more "over explanatory" approach.
I made a tutorial system that displayed a looping video in context with the text since a lot of players had a hard time understanding how some abilities worked.
The biggest issue with the tutorial is that it becomes very intrusive. It doesn't ease onto the screen, it pops up and pauses all gameplay.
With more time, I would have made it so the tutorial had some sort of indicator that the player could click. That way revisiting players could also skip the tutorial.