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  Mechanic #023 - The Long Road

Category: Tactics
Posted: 05/31/07

A tactics game which takes place on a single, long road in which the linear progress forward also represents linear time.


(Click for more!)

This is a really simple idea that is pretty cool (well, I like it). Basically, it is a side scrolling beat-me up on one VERY long, narrow stip of land. It is only 5 tiles deep, but could be thousands of tiles wide. You constantly move forward fighting your way towards the distant end. The twist is that it is turn based and that moving forward on the map also represents moving forward in time.

  Roguelike Movement


In an effort to keep the beat-em up feel, play takes place on a hex grid. You control only one person (allies are computer controlled) and one turn is equal to one action. An action could be something simply like moving a square or drinking a potion.

The idea is that the quick back and forth turns creates something quicker and more actiony without giving up the methodical nature of turn based - all while avoiding that damned real time pausing crap. I hate that. It is the type of movement-combat system used in your typical Roguelike.


You can only move one square at a time, and only into one of the three squares in front of you. To change facing requires a turn. If you use a numberpad for control, 9-6-3 would move you forward (if facing right), 7-4-1 would turn you around, and 5 would be pass. These are also the squares you can target through melee. I think just holding down the shift key would work.


After you move, all the other enemies move simultaneously (the ones that have chosen to move as their action, at least). Then play progresses as each enemy that did not move plays out their action, such as fighting. Enemies have the exact same action-movement restrictions you do.


Different weapons have different abilities, frequently attacking more than one square at a time. For instance, on the left we have a spear. It attacks for two squares in three different directions. On the right is an axe, which does a sweeping motion, attacking a three square arc around the character, centering on the attacked square. Because of the wide arc, it can even hit a few squares that are considered behind the character.


Ranged weapons work a little differently. They extend in the front three directions like the spear, but cannot hit the immediately adjacent square. When you tap the button to attack in specific direction, the archer will start pulling back on his bow. You can then continue tapping the button to move the target reticule along the path - if you go too far, that's too bad. Using ranged weapons require careful aim and timing. Get used to it.

  Linear Time

The cool thing about linear motion is that you can fake time effects with it. For an example of moving forward in space = moving forward in time, watch this Lemon Demon video. This wasn't my original inspiration, but I think it makes the perfect demonstration of it.

The idea is that the entire game is this one long road, and that by moving down it, you are taken through some sort of history in the making. For instance, you could represent a zombie apocalypse through it. Early on, you might be walking down a path during the day with other civilians around. As you move forward, you encounter a few zombies attacking people. You go into a mall, and walk through it, the zombie numbers increase. By the time you are out of the mall, it's now dawn and you walk towards the outskirts of the suburb. By the time you've reached the interstate, it's day time. When you reach the city, it's evening, and there are soldiers fighting the zombies with you. Eventually, you reach the military outpost and the whole city is bombed.

While staying on a single, linear path, you've experienced the passing of time and coming across events (sort of like Half-Life). If done properly, it would most resemble a theme park ride as in the video. But mostly, I just like the idea of a 40 hour game played on one continuous board.


  Reader FAQ

Submitted by Adduc

Couldn't the user dodge all the battles?

Sure, if he were so inclined and capable. Progress in this game is gained by moving forward, not by eliminating all the enemies. So, I think it'd be really cool if you could win the game without ever killing a single enemy. It'd require stealth and superior tactics and it would require sacrifices, but I think it should be possible.

But as with most battles, I don't think an enemy, having seen you run by, is going to sit back and let you keep on running without trying to catch you. Since it's one long board, I guess you could theoretically aggro the entire game!


Submitted by Adduc

If they wanted to fight, but say move back in a fight for better positioning, would that be allowed?

To some extent. I think there'd have to be some control so that you aren't, you know, moving backwards in time. But if the time changes are subtle and take a few hundred tiles to happen, you still have some breathing room. I'd probably make it so that you could only move back, at most, a few screen fulls. That should be plenty.



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