Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity, Part Seven

By James Carey on December 17th, 2009 at 8:29 am.

Time for the seventh post in our series covering the making of Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity– a game we’re putting together in two months using the now-free Unity development suite. Last week’s bug fixes seem to have been more successful than not, so this week it’s time to get back to adding content. What’s the plan for Build 04? Find out below.

The continuing effort to squish bugs and generally tidy up is all well and good, but we’re still one key element short of our gaming picnic, one weapon short of our Tri-Farce – the Paper. The basic plan for Shotgunity has always been to try and create a game based on the three elements of the sites’ name, to see if that could be done, and so the idea of three weapons around which we’d try to build puzzles was formed. The Paper would grant you invisibility in exchange for forced blindness by way of the classic ‘if I can’t see them, they can’t see me’ idea. Coupled with baddies that can only be destroyed with rare ammo or distracted by a time-limited rock, the trio would let us construct our puzzlesome levels.

Now I’ve already got a basic prototype paper working, and so far it’s been a good start to the week, but by Build 04 on Saturday I hope to have something prettier (go go Art forumites!), and more robust, in place. Like all the weapons there’s much tweaking and polishing to be done, but the core mechanic is in. The question now is how to balance it. How do we make it work as part of the trio within the framework of our levels? At the moment the paper can be used at will, but by Build 04 it will only be readable for a limited time (per level), a finite amount of invisibility to be used judiciously. You can only read a paper for so long after all…

This time limit has got to be balanced against a whole host of variables. In fact all three weapons are going to have to work in harmony with the level design if I’m to stand any chance of delivering something vaguely enjoyable to play rather than just a messy experiment in learning Unity. It’s here that I want to start getting you all more involved. There’s already been a fantastic contribution to code, art sounds and ideas on the forum but after Build 04 all the main mechanics should be in and working, which means the next step is getting them to work together.

So let’s plan some puzzles. To do this we first need to establish what the challenge imposed by each type weapon will be. What the negative would be for using a certain tool at a certain time. For example using the invisibility function of the paper to get past some enemies would be the thing to do ALL THE TIME if there weren’t some negatives. Therefore if our negatives are:

a. The finite amount of reading time.

b. Forced blindness and

c. Environments hazardous to the blind. (things like thin causeways, pits, etc),

…then how do we make sure this is balanced with ammo count? With rock availability? We will have to place ammo pick ups carefully. We will have to place Rock dispensers and triggers that need those Rocks cunningly. It seems to me that the only way to really work all that out is to play. To make levels filled with those puzzles and see how it works.

Now I can certainly rattle off quick proto-levels post Build 04 and get you all to playtest them but I thought it might be fun if you all got stuck in to the design too. Draw them on paper, in Photoshop, build me Sketchup levels, use the Shotgunity Project files and actually create prefab Shotgunity scenes if you have the will. All you need to bear in mind is the mechanic for each weapon. I’ll be laying those out more clearly in saturday’s Build 04 post and I can balance the details of ammo count versus enemy hitpoints, of trigger distance versus rock timer as we go. For now why not sketch out some levels?

Here’s a starting point for the confused. If you look at the second level in Shotgunity Build 03, you’ll see the trigger that stops the killer sphere is placed at such a distance that the rock timer runs out just as you near the end of the spheres’ corridor. This means you only have just enough time to get out. These are the kinds of puzzles I’m after. We can elaborate on this so that a level presents us with options. Do I go for the ammo to blast my way through those baddies on that narrow ledge or do I risk using the paper and plummeting to my death? Is said ammo stored behind a series of rock timer traps? How does that all link together? Grab a pencil, go scribble and find out…

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  1. The Sombrero Kid says:

    you should try and think of ways to scrap the timers, no offence but they’re lazy substitutes for actual balancing.

  2. smokingkipper says:

    The bad guys, initially foiled by your paper reading trick, gradually become more aware of you, the more you try to pull the stunt off.

    There comes a time, when you are just walking about with a bit of paper in front of you.

  3. Sir Digby says:

    For the timing mechanic of the newspaper, perhaps actually have it limited to the time it takes you to read the newspaper – so a set time to read each page, and when all the pages are read that’s it!

    You’ve probably already thought of that but I thought I might as well mention it…

    • James Carey says:

      I like this, and the idea above. Perhaps we can display this visually with the anims rather than use some numerical timer. i.e we have pages that turn in the anim, then when you run out of pages, you run out of paper to read…

  4. Mike says:

    That way, you could actually pick up additional pages to read, in a sort of Jedi Knight-style skill upgrade.

  5. Sir Digby says:


    To improve on my suggestion, have a fixed reading speed rather than a fixed time to read a page? So the more text there is on a page that longer it takes to read?

    And perhaps have the text highlighted red as you read it? It would serve both as a feedback mechanism of the time you have left and as a pun that’s too good to miss. This would, however, probably mean limiting the paper to just being in black and white.

    • Wolfman says:

      When a newspaper has been read then you might lose it forever. Levels have limited newspapers dotted around. Each newspaper is different – i.e some can be broadsheets that take a while to read, some are tabloids that don’t take long to read.

      This would add strategy – do I attempt this tricky section where the only bonus is a broadsheet which might help me later, or do I instead save my current tabloid for another point in the level and hope it lasts?

    • D says:

      The POV should of course move slighty left and right to scan the text, first on left page, then on the right, thus correctly simulating the eyeball movement of first persons. But it will likely be discarded due to nausea. Still I think it’s better than red text O.O

  6. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i like the idea about the timer pages thing, it’s helps keep immersion.

  7. AbyssUK says:

    How about a simple fire hazard (laser guns, torches etc..) that set your paper on fire, making you visible to the enemy! Or an enemy pair of scissors cuts it away ?

    Paper can also be used to wrap a rock, defeating it. So you can either choose to be invisible for a period of time or wrap that rock that hides an ammo cache..drops a crate.. rolls a ball.

  8. Upsilon says:

    Or maybe, instead of disappearing, it could take you less time to read each time you reread it?

  9. Upsilon says:

    Maybe it could take you less time to read The Paper each time you reread it during a level?

  10. Zerrick says:

    And to make the paper really useful and provide another connection with the site: it could show the last two articles posted here instead of a never-changing image. This way you can use it to check for updates, and maybe even actually read it (by sitting on a bench, thus pausing the timer).

    I don’t know if this is easily done, or even permitted (because it generates a page view that isn’t a real page view), but it would be cool if this is implemented.

    • James Carey says:

      There’s actually a function in unity that I’ve thought about using for exactly that. We’d need to take a snapshot of the frontpage every hour or something and upload it to a location, but there’s probably a way to automate that.
      link to

    • D says:

      RPS should totally support this function. A small amount of php can create your image files from the top number of articles. Given that the can retrieve the images and text easily (like directly from the RPS database). And it would be best to run the script from the RPS host whenever a new article is posted. So yeah get someone to hack into RPS I guess, they’ll never get it done :D

    • D says:

      Looked it up. You can do it in .NET, so that means any ASP.NET capable hoster. 1) Instructions and download a dll from 2) Read and implement link to

      You can also take a gander at link to where you first have to create a user (I didn’t), but it seems free and they promise 800×600 resolution ‘thumbnails’. For good measure, looked interesting too but fails to render the awesomeness of RPS.

  11. DMJ says:

    Unity has the ability to load data from the Web. I wonder how feasible it would be to make the “paper” show current RPS stories?

    • DMJ says:

      Curses, I got distracted half way through my post and by the time I’d got back to it I’d been ninja’d!

  12. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i doubt it’s possible unless theres a way of rendering web content

  13. Taillefer says:

    I intended to be one of the giant robot genre pioneers, and then spent more time messing around with them than the game itself. See: Stompy Bots.
    Anyway. I don’t think the unlimited invisibility is a problem if you introduce enough hazards or visual clues into the level design. If puzzles require you to see codes written on walls, electrified floors, etc. Then using the paper becomes a hindrance to progress. What I’m visualising is some sort of [3]D-Generation. Which could be awesome.

  14. Fetthesten says:

    That whole paper-reading mechanic sounds shaky to me. A sufficiently skilled player will be able to negate the challenge provided by the blindness, breaking game balance. And speaking of balance, this sounds like a nightmare. Make it too easy, and lots of people will breeze straight through using only the paper skill. Make it too hard and lots of people will get frustrated. Getting it exactly right will likely be a major pain.

    How about taking a leaf out of Metal Gear Solid’s book and make the paper act as a disguise a little like the (in)famous cardboard boxes? Place it over your head and enemies will only see a face-down newspaper lying about and not looking at all suspicious. For extra comic effect, enemies could pick it up and start reading with the player still wearing it as a disguise. Or, you know, just toss the paper on the ground to distract enemies.

    Vary this challenge by making different enemies prefer different reading materials. The heavy-duty machinegun-toting thugs naturally prefer Extreme Knitting Magazine, while the common grunts enjoy Milk Carton Collector Weekly. For example.

    • Hermit says:

      Or, for that matter, have the paper only work when stood still. Think Assassin’s Creed with the benches – you sit down on one and guards will wander right past. In this case, using the paper will lean you against a wall. Guards will walk past, and you can peek the camera left and right round the paper to see where they are.

      While it doesn’t sound as impressive as rocks or shotguns, an end-of-level score bonus for both Time and Number of Times Spotted could balance that out. Do you kill a death-ball with the shotgun for a faster time, or use the paper at the cost of a few seconds but not being discovered?

  15. Garu says:

    I’m going to be blunt: drop the blindness part. Even if it perfectly balances the paper’s power, it is still a terrible idea. Being stripped of you vision in a game simply isn’t fun and is far more likely to frustrate players than to challenge them.

    I like the idea of using paper as a disguise. Perhaps you could give the enemies hats of some sort so that the player can fold his paper into a humorously inaccurate facsimile?

  16. DMJ says:

    All the people trying to think of ways for the newspaper to avoid obstructing vision are overthinking the problem. Cut some eye holes in the paper.

  17. WilPal says:

    What about if you lose health the longer you read the paper?
    Reading papers can sometimes be life-draining.

  18. Ursid says:

    While the blindness mechanic could be interesting I’m thinking using it more like the rock. Perhaps a secondary ability.

    You can hide behind it and move for a limited time while blinded OR you can stand there like a newsstand or web kiosk and the enemy may just ignore you, or they will come up and read for a while. Take interest in the paper much the same as the rock.

    To make it look good you’d need a player model though. I just think it would be funny to pan the camera out and have your model standing perfectly still holding a paper out while an npc/enemy is standing there reading it.


    Ye Olde Cartoon trick. Give the paper away as a distraction much like the rock. I also just think it would be funny to pan out and have your model wearing an old news boys hat yelling EXTRA EXTRA…

    problem being my ideas require modeling and are maybe too close to the rocks abilities.

  19. Taillefer says:

    Or or or, the paper only hides you from specific things. Maybe you have security cameras or equivalent and you can avoid detection from them. But people with sense will investigate. Then you have the situation of needing to avoid the camera’s gaze, but you’d have to consider enemies patrolling down the corridor.

    Plus, throwing a rock to distract the guard, then sneaking through a door with a paper in front of your face so the camera can’t see is exactly what James Bond would do.

  20. HybridHalo says:

    A super item could be a filthy magazine, where you can stare at any page for several hours though eventually your heavy breathing starts to give you away.

  21. Ed says:

    I for one think the blindness-for-invisibility idea could work really well if done right.

    Like on the old TV show Knightmare, the player would have to at least be able to see directly beneath them.

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