18 Aug Unseen Ninja Theory: Razer
Note: This post is not about Hellblade, but a concept of a different Ninja Theory game that never made it into production.
For more information on the context in which Razer was created and why it didn’t go ahead, please read The Independent AAA Proposition
Razer is a game concept designed for Xbox One, PS4 and PC that sadly didn’t make it past publishing green light. It was a game we designed in conjunction with a publisher to satisfy their desirable feature list. At the time we were developing an iOS game, an online multiplayer melee game as well as exploring next-gen art pipelines.
Razer was a game that was to bring all these elements together into an epic massively co-op sci-fi adventure. It involved the idea that a huge alien creature had enveloped our planet. It would take thousands of players months if not years to coordinate guerrilla-warfare on a massive scale to kill this beast.
We worked on the design docs and several previsualisations in house over the course of about 3 months. Most games never made it past the concept phase and the public is never the wiser. In general, publishers will never release these to the public. As we own the IP, we felt that there would be value in sharing this work on a wider basis as there are so few examples of game design in the public domain.
Here are selection of documents and assets from Razer that, until now, have never been seen before:
This is a previs trailer to show how the published game might feel like. We always create trailers like this for our games and they are never intended to be shown to the public. They serve to get a feel for the gameplay, story and the way you might play it. They are always entirely produced in-house and this one features our own staff as actors. The trailer was created in Unreal Engine 4 and After Effects.
Razer Art Style Test:
Because you will fight in countless missions, we needed to create a way to procedurally generate landscapes. We developed a procedural tech within UE4 and created this art style test.
Razer Gameplay Pre-vis:
We often create gameplay previs for our games before we start prototyping. Previsualisation is always built upon a design spec and is planned out by designers and animators working in tandem. It is a great way to rally the coders, designers and animators behind a single vision of what we are trying to achieve.
We tend to create our design docs in a very visual manner that can be easily communicated and understood by any discipline or any publisher without having to read hundreds of pages of text. The details of the design, the specs, programming TDD’s, Art bibles, animation bibles etc are worked on collaboratively in a wiki (using confluence) and can number the 1000’s of pages by the end of a project.
This document gives a high level overview of the project. It is designed to be understood by everyone at a publisher including sales and marketing people. It references other games so that the publisher can better understand elements of the project in a high level fashion. At the time, the publisher we were working with wanted a concept that was taking advantage of emerging elements such as cloud gaming, communities and second screen gameplay. We thought that cloud gaming means very little to people and that it might be cool to turn it into a giant monstrous AI creature that you have to kill.
This document was mapping out a 5 year plan for the franchise. Unlike usual AAA console games, the idea was to constantly evolve the game over time to organically grow bigger rather than launching a new game annually.
This is the high level window into the game: the drop ship. It gives an aerial view of the different aspects of the design.
Self-explanatory doc describing the principles behind the community building in the game. At this point in time, we did now know what next generation features would entail on console so much of this was guess work.
This document covers the Razers themselves, how they work, upgrade, rank up and equip. We were designing a system and control scheme that would work for both melee and gun play. The idea was that you can play in whatever style you wish whether you’re a god of war die-hard or a gears-of-war die hard. Ultimately, whichever style of play suits you, you would have to find complementary team members and cooperate with them to complete missions.
This is a macro doc, with several tabs giving you a complete picture of how a razer would upgrade over time. The macro design is intended to work out the scope and variation of the design for the Razer.
The beast you are trying to kill is a complex organism, akin to a giant brain made up of a network of countless nodes, each of which represents a mission. This was going to be a creature that would reside on a server under a complex evolving AI system that we as developers could control to turn the tide of war. As a result, the missions would have to be largely procedurally generated from a series of templates.
This document outlines the principles behind the design of the enemies. They were to be continuously adapting to your combat so that you have to change things up and be creative in your strategies.
As the game can be played on console and phone/tablet, we illustrated how a player might coordinate a mission throughout the course of a typical day.
This gives a high level view of the gameplay loops and how a person might be expected to play the game.