[uDG] Planetfall

Posts: 834
Joined: 2002.09
Post: #1
Hi all!

I started churning out the details for my uDG entry 'Planetfall'. It's a Hellcats-inspired sci-fi air combat game (which I probably won't have the time to finish, sadly), but I'd like to see if anyone here has any comments on the design so far... I'm going to keep posting my design notes here, but consider this the first treatment:

Simplified Atmospheric Futuristic Air Combat

Ivan Milles 2003


Planetfall is a science fiction-tinted flight simulator with focus on arcade non-realistic handling, computer-aided combat and killer graphics, with weight on fun rather than simulation.

The player pilots an atmospheric aircraft fitted for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. The game pits the player against enemies in both air and on the ground, as well as in the sea. The missions are objective-based and non-linear within themselves. (The missions are non-connected and the objectives can be executed in any order.) Missions take place over the same scenery to build familiarity, and will be played under a variety of circumstances including night missions, weather conditions, poor sight and combat intensity.

The player views the world in fully textured 3D from one of two primary viewpoints - first person HUD view (from the eyes of the pilot) or from a behind-traling camera that views the aircraft from a position behind the aircraft. Additional viewpoints can be added, such as enemy cameras, ground cameras and action cameras.

The aircraft can assume any of three flight modes that suits the situation best: free flight (normal flight simulation mode), heavy ground attack mode (wings withdrawn, free fall towards the ground for optimal bombing performance) and ground strafe mode (wings angled, the aircraft points towards a ground target and circles around it).

Enemies include a variety of air vehicles, ground transports, sea vessels and different ground buildings and constructions, that not only provide mission objectives, but also acts as communication centrals for the enemy forces - strike out their comms tower and the enemies can no longer communicate and coordinate attacks.

Enemy units inform each other and call in reinforcements based on the current threat level if needed. A formation of aircraft patrolling an enemy base can alert anti-air batteries on the ground of the playerís position, call in support units to even out the odds as well as ask the base to traffic movable ground tanks to further press the player from all directions.

The player controls the aircraft from start to end - he must both start and land the aircraft, and keep it in shape enough that it is still landable at the end of the mission.

The environment mirrors the time of day and weather - night missions even require the player to use a search light to find targets on the ground. Racing down through the clouds towards a pitch-black ground, with only the altitude meter as a guide, turning on the search light until the very last moment, delivering ground bombs onto the just-illuminated targets and then getting away with it should prove exciting to even the most jaded flight-sim player.


Planetfall is designed to be easy to play. Therefore the controls are limited, as is the physical simulation of the aircraft. Enemies are weak, weapons autotarget and flight controls are forgiving - without ever intruding into the playerís skill. The computer will never correct the aircraft, only weapon systems.

As enemies are weak, they instead balance against the player on the principle of outnumbering. Since they are capable of inter-unit communication, it is very possible for them to launch coordinated attacks from both ground, sea and air. It therefore becomes vital to perform tactical strikes against ground targets, both to impair the possibilities of getting new enemy aircraft flying, as well as disrupting the enemyís communication.

Missions are played on either night or day (decided by the player on a per-mission basis) for maximum variation. Playing day-missions is easier, since the player gets more information about his surroundings - enemy craft, building positions, geographical surroundings - while night missions give more stealth possibilities, sneaking up close to a ground installment before obliterating it. During day missions, some missions are heavily fogged, and therefore provide very low visibility. During the night, point lights on the base constructions might very well prove to the be the playerís only guide.

The playerís aircraft is able to display an array of visual damage - discoloration of the hull, damaged wings, lost weapon racks, fire and fumes - as well as simulating a number of functional damages - engine failure, weapon failure, control surface failures and others. Enemy aircraft display a lesser configuration, limited to losing wings and being completely blown to bits, falling helplessly in broken parts toward the ground. The enemy can also simulate engine failure, rushing towards the ground leaving nothing but a black trail behind.

Weapons include mercury rays (with glorius shimmering trails in the air that stay around for serveral seconds! In a heavy dogfight, the argentine-crossed sky is a sign of a fight to the bitter end.) heavy copper bolts smashing the enemy craft to pieces, missiles and bombs, as well as a devious magnetic pulse weapon, disabling flight controls for a short period of time.

The playerís airplane can enter any of three flight modes:
Free Flight: A normal flight-sim mode, where bombs cannot be dropped, but flight control is good, lift is high and speed is fast.
Heavy Ground Attack: Wings retracted, nose towards the ground. The aircraft falls freely towards the ground, and only allows small corrections in course and heading. This mode allows bomb dropping. It is also a clever way to avoid enemies. There is, however, a limit to how fast you may go without damaging the wings when putting them back out.
Ground Strafe: The aircraft must be moving slow and be at a low altitude to perform this mode. The craft locks onto a ground target, and can then circle around it, dealing heavy lock-on damage. Effective against heavy ground vehicles.
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Posts: 365
Joined: 2002.04
Post: #2
This all sounds good. BTW, if you don't think you can finish it, make sure you get a simple core game up and running before you try to add too many features. Even an elementary flight sim with decent physics would make a good uDevGame entry in my opinion!

The wingless dive bombing mode sounds a bit strange, but I imagine it'll become obvious whether or not it's a good idea once you've got some playable code up and running. Also, in the strafing mode, how do you intend to allow the player to circle the target and fire at it at the same time? Does the plane have an articulated gun or something?

One suggestion - give the player one or more smart wingmen that can cover your tail and help to attack mission targets.

Do you have a sketch design for your aircraft yet?

Neil Carter
Nether - Mac games and comic art
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Posts: 19
Joined: 2002.12
Post: #3
Game sounds very interesting. Looking forward to it.

When I first saw the topic though I thought it was going to be about the old Infocom text adventure game Planetfall. Smile

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Posts: 834
Joined: 2002.09
Post: #4
Quote: make sure you get a simple core game up and running before you try to add too many features.

Yeah, I know. I've promised myself to have a pink box flying nicely before I do anything else. Smile

Actually, I'm quite excited about the dive bombing - it might be good, but as you said, it could be utterly annoying. Only testing will tell. Smile

About the strafing mode - I intend to let the player lock the nose onto a target, (the gun is in the nose) and circle around it and changing distance to the enemy. Once again, testing will tell if I kill this off.

Wingmen, I will put that on the list.

Yeah, there's a concept sketch of the plane, but it is more a graphical description of how the darn thing works. Smile

Oh... I figured that the name was already used. I'll probably change it in the last minute, though. Smile
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