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19 April 2009

BFTSS - The game that never was

When I had completed my first draft of HONOUR OF THE KNIGHTS, during that period of downtime where it is good to distance yourself from the project so that you can approach it with a more objective point of view, I decided it would be fun to make a game to go hand-in-hand with the novel.

Rather than base the game on the events of the novel (that would create a considerable number of spoilers for would-be readers), I decided to base it on an element from the story instead.

When the White Knights are first selected to partake in the ATAF project, they are taken to a planet called Xalan in the Temper system. Here they undergo training at a place called the Obex Research Centre. The centre, by its nature, has a number of buildings in which a number of simulation suites exist. I figured that this could form the basis for the game.

The player would take on a role of a pilot who is using the simulators to hone their skills - It would feature a number of "real" missions and some ones that were just for fun. The fun missions would have gameplay additions not featured in the "real" missions, such as enemies dropping point and health pods when they were destroyed. They would also also require the player to finish the mission in a set amount of time, with grades being allocated at the end depending on their performance.

To begin with, the player would create a Pilot Profile. They would enter their name and then select a flight group to belong to. This was done by combining various words together, typically verbs and adjectives with a noun.

So, Golden, Fiery, Hidden, or Raging could be combined with Snakes, Bakers, Nightmares, or Banshees.

It didn't serve much purpose, other than being there for kicks. One thing I did add in, however, was to disallow the player the ability to choose a flight group that already existed within the universe of THE BATTLE FOR THE SOLAR SYSTEM. For example, the player could not choose White Knights, Red Devils, Yellow Dogs, or Silver Panthers. It would also prevent the player from choosing a name of one of the characters from the book - They would be unable to continue if they entered their name as Simon Dodds, Estelle De Winter, Patrick Dean, David Turner, etc. Curiously, it didn't block Copper Beetles or Chaz Koonan...

Once the player had gone through this, they would be able to select from a number of different missions to undertake. To start with the list would be small, but other missions would be unlocked as the player progressed through the list.

The gameplay itself was quite simplistic - Using a top-down view, the player would turn their craft (defaulting to a Tactical Assault Fighter to begin with), and chase after their enemies. The world would turn around as they did so, so that their fighter remained in the centre of the screen, facing upwards. It worked very well and was very easy to play.

As missions were completed and flight points were gained, the player would be able to purchase access to other craft, including the Dart, Ray, and eventually the ATAF itself. There was also a nice mix of different gameplay types: some missions would be the standard affair - blow up the other crafts. Others required the player to disable to vessel (such as a stolen TAF) and ensure it remained undamaged until the end of the mission. Another mission type required the player to raid a pirate base, with the aid of a number of wing mates. Multi player was something I was definitely going to explore implementing for the game too.

I envisioned building binaries for the game for Linux, Mac, and Windows, and hosting it on www.battleforthesolarystem.com. And, since the game would be licensed under the GPL, it would mean that it could be ported to a great deal of other platforms, where the fans of BATTLE FOR THE SOLAR SYSTEM could enjoy it.

I never got very far with the game, as the screenshots show. I decided that my time would be best served writing the novels and working on the writing skills. The issue with making the game would be that it would take a considerable amount of time to get right - I would have to fix bugs, test the gameplay, balance it, etc., and that time would be better spent on writing. So, in the end, I decided to push it aside and leave it be. It was a nice idea, but wasn't really worth the time.

Maybe one day I will return to it, once all the books are written, or when I have made significant progress on the second novel to warrant a break. Maybe.


  1. "I decided that my time would be best served writing the novels and working on the writing skills."
    - SS

    Really?,... you are very skilled programmer... I think this game would have been a great one!

  2. Thanks for the compliment. However, writing games is still very time consuming and I just couldn't devote myself to coding that and writing a novel, so one of them had to go.

    I figured that since I had already written a number of games (Project: Starfighter, Metal Blob Solid, and Blob And Conquer), I had happily move on to other interests.


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