Distress Call: Damzel

Wil 2011 be the year for procedurally generated indie-cities? Let's hope so.

This is much earlier than I’d normally cover an indie game, especially one without even some flashy bells and whistles for you to coo at, but Damzel caught my attention, so I thought I should bring it to yours. (Checking around, Indiegames said close to the same thing, which says much). The work of ex-Team 17 Veteran Phil Carlisle, Damzel is basically a bodyguard game played from (primarily) the first person. You’re basically escorting a famous bod through simulated crowds in a procedurally generated city, deciding how much force is appropriate. Its reference points are Syndicate, Ico and the early planning-heavy Rainbow Six games. And if I were going to choose a short list of three entirely disparate RPS-iconic games I’d like to see mashed together, that trio would have come up pretty early. A few more details on the site and some very early tech stuff on Phil’s youtube channel

Here’s a debug view of one of the cities…

… though it’s worth stressing that this is before any of the art assets have gone in. I did say it was early.

Anyway – we’ll watch for further developments. I suspect it won’t be for a while, alas.


  1. Wilson says:

    The ‘a few more details on the site’ link is dodgy. But it looks interesting.

  2. airtekh says:

    The concept is interesting, even if it is a long ways off.

  3. somnolentsurfer says:

    You said Syndicate meets Ico and I got all excited. Then I looked at the site, and it just sounds like escort quests in an open world environment. Hope I’m wrong.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Looks like Phil’s faced that concern before.

    • zoombapup says:

      Escort quests check!
      Open world check!

      Yeah, I’m pretty well aware of that since the indiegamer post. It never really struck me that people would see it that way, but I can see where youre coming from. I dont like typical escort missions either. So I’ll avoid that little trap.

  4. Jase says:

    looks alot like subversion in its current form. Cool premise although I think the idea of a assassination game with similar mechanics could be fun too

    • zoombapup says:

      If it ends up with a similar sort of vibe to subversion I’d be happy (looking forward to that myself). You might want to look at Chris Hecker’s stuff with Spy Party, thats basically an “assasination” game set in a social context. I’m going for a more “squad command” vibe, so it will be interesting to learn what I can from Spy Party and Subversion.

  5. Duality says:

    I remember playing a very similar game obtained from a PC Gamer cover disk – where you would play as a bodyguard defending someone in a randomly generated city – and you lost points for shooting innocents etc. There was a zombie mode and all! It was very basic block based graphics – which gave it a very distinct look and feel – kind of like the above screenshots. I just can’t remember what it is called :(

    • Ging says:

      As duel90 has mentioned down below – sounds like you’re describing Black Shades from Wolfire Games

    • Duality says:

      Thats the one, thanks :)

    • jeremypeel says:

      I was just about to namecheck Black Shades after reading this, I’m glad someone else remembers that game!

      I believe it was made in two days or somesuch silly-short time, but somehow ended up pretty amazing. Best thing Wolfire have done to this day, in my opinion (apart from the Humble Indie Bundle).

      Maybe Damzel will share the same balance of frustration, tension and relief – probably not much else. Still, looks exciting!

  6. AndrewC says:

    I don’t really have a good history of this sort of crowd management game, especially ones that aren’t just ‘kill large crowds of people’ but more ‘observe large crowds of people’. Coz I keep coming back to Assassin’s Creed with this stuff, and want to point to it as an example of a console game being full of ideas that PC and Indie Devs nab for themselves.

    But maybe it’s just one of ‘those’ ideas that everyone’s sort of had on a back burner until the tech made it feasible. I dunno.

    It seems kind of nerdy and possibly academic, but i’d love an idea history of this batch of ‘crowd’ games. Especially as there are often waves of similar idea’d games all hitting at the same time. Physics a while ago, time manipulation last year and so on.

  7. jonfitt says:

    The target audience will generally read online sites for gamer news such as RockPaperShotgun

    Aw, it’s made for us.

  8. rnx says:

    reminds me of black shades:
    link to wolfire.com

  9. duel90 says:

    Makes me think of ‘Black Shades’ Which was another first person bodyguard game in a city.

    It’s really quite a good little blocky shooter when you get the buttons down, have a play – link to wolfire.com

  10. ItsGoodToBeBad says:

    Quite frankly I feel the world could do with a few less save and a few more kill / raep / destroy the princess/damzel/bod games.
    It gets oddly boring doing the same thing for 30+ years.

    Bring on more Evil Genius, Dungeon Keeper, Carmageddon and friends.

    • Wilson says:

      @ItsGoodToBeBad – I agree with you to a point, but I’d like more games about playing as various emergency services too. Games about good guys who aren’t necessarily heavily armed one man armies, or commanding heavily armed one man armies.

    • zoombapup says:

      Do you not think we’ve had enough “kill everything that moves” shooters already though?

      I’m trying to basically have a bit of tension, so a conflict between wanting to let rip and just blast everything (nominally bad when you rail at a crowd, outside of the MW2 thing) and you wanting to actually think your way around a situation.

  11. robrob says:

    Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Black Shades yet! Black Shades Black Shades BLACK SHADES

  12. tomeoftom says:

    Oh, YES. Unngh! *screaming fist-pump*
    This, (and probably Subversion too), are bringing software one step closer to my dream game. Picture – an RTS where you control an entire (procedurally generated) city’s emergency services and military in the midst of a Godzilla/Giant Robot/DEATH WORM! attack. Elucidations follow:

    -Highway congestion, power outages, fire breakouts
    -Storms/floods/dust clouds
    -Physics simulation of falling structures and debris, which would mean being very careful with, say, skyscrapers and artillery firing lines
    -The ability to pause time and control individual units in first person, so each catastrophe can be recognised and analysed in wincing, awful slow-motion
    -Complex physiologies for Godzilla and pals: armor, blood loss, weakened limbs, procedural animation for when knocked over or stumbling, sight impairment etc.
    -Prototype weapons that are so large and unwieldy you need to funnel the beast into an open park or river to fire the weapon safely
    -Nukes, to cut one’s losses and run, (but not without evacuating first)

    I think a campaign that saw you managing cities across the world a la X-COM’s bases would work really well. The cost of rebuilding the places that were ruined would act as good incentive for balancing out-and-out destroying the beast with preserving human lives and the urban surrounds.

    Oh, man. I am now shaking.

  13. a says:

    It looks like he’s left bits of template in his sales pitch. Quite unprofessional! Still, something to keep an eye on. Oh and have you heard about this game, Black Shades?

  14. zoombapup says:

    a: I left it in deliberately. Figured it might help a few other indies who were doing a similar “pitch” to see the parts. But I take your point. I’ll go and clean it up.

    Every: YES I KNOW ABOUT BLACK SHADES :) and yes its fun, but this is nothing like it (which will obviously emerge over time).

    The way I see the game is more about tension than a typical escort mission that you see in FPS games. If you think space hulk (the early one on the PC), then you’ll see what I am aiming for.

    The main thing I’m aiming for is for you as a player to care about who you are protecting (so making sure theyre not just a pain in the arse) and for you to feel the tension building as you move through the world. Just like when genestealers could pop out at you from nowhere.

    Hard to get that across with one image though I have to say. Youtube channel will be more revealing.

    Thanks all.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    That city looks beautiful already, art assets be damned.

    I hate escort missions as much as anyone, but I think I’m already sold on this. If the Space-Hulk-but-in-an-open-city-and-with-free-movement description is accurate, it could be something special, especially if he keeps everything nice and open-ended.

  16. Rugged Malone says:

    Those reference points alone are almost enough for me! Especially Ico which was just wonderful.

    Also: I’ve never played it, never even heard of it before, but for some strange reason I feel compelled to mention BLACK SHADES…

    • Rugged Malone says:

      Ah woops for some reason I keep mis-remembering the name of Oni as Ico.

      I was thinking of Oni above, not Ico.

      An Oni remake/reboot would be quite welcome.

    • zoombapup says:

      I always thought that Oni was a bit empty for some reason. Certainly never expected Halo to come out of them straight after that either.

      Golden years for PC games though I think.

  17. Matzerath says:

    This has SHADES of a free indie game I played long ago … I’m BLACKing out on the title, though …

    • robrob says:

      Let us know if you remember what that game was called, it sounds awesome.

  18. zoombapup says:

    Did I mention that you are all GITS!!! :)

  19. zoombapup says:

    Incidentally, today I modelled a new box-guy (always use box guys to test animations, its the law) and I gave him some BLACK… SHADES! (its true, I’ll post a vid on sunday with a squad of em in).

    • RogB says:

      Hey Phil, nice to see you. I’ve been wondering what you were up to since we got together on that WW2 fighter game :)

    • zoombapup says:

      Heyup Rog! You still at TT? (or whatever that sattelite was)??

    • RogB says:

      aye still at TT / Warner bros!
      I still keep pondering over the indie route, a mate of mine left to do the same last year but it didnt work out so he’s coming back. Ive got 2 twin girls now so any chance of me doing indie stuff in my spare time is basically zero!
      good luck with the new project!

  20. Tetragrammaton says:

    Reminds me of a weird indie game i had years ago where you were a body guard and had to defend a rather blocky looking man as he traipsed around a rather blocky looking city where every once and a while a rather blocky looking assassin would run out of the blocky crowd with a gun or a knife. And every minute or so of your charge surviving, the assassins would get more and more numerous until the entire civilian population turned into zombies and headed straight for the unfortunate VIP. For the life of me I cant remember what it was called though.

  21. Burningpet says:

    Love the potential here. what will be the graphical style eventually? are you aiming for realism?

    • zoombapup says:

      No, definitely not realism. The style isnt completely settled yet, but I’m going to try out some textures on the city blocks and add ambient occlusion to them. My original thinking was something akin to Mirrors Edge. The characters I’m not 100% sure about either. I want to do something akin to the guys from Elite Beat Agents (for the agents) and something a bit different for the protectees. So I think it will look fairly weird (hey, thats normal for me).

      I’ll have to see once it firms up a bit and I get a proper artist on board.

  22. Jones says:

    Reminds me a lot of (as in this-game-sounds-exactly-the-same-as) Black Shades from Wolfire (they’re also making a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth).

    link to wolfire.com

    Black Shades was fun, but unpolished (it was made for one of those limited timespan indie competition things, so it’s understandable).

    I am keeping an eye on this game, looks like it’ll be a blast.

  23. terry says:

    Very interested in this, the clean style of that first screenie is sublime.

  24. Jakkar says:

    … This does indeed just sound like someone is remaking Black Shades before Wolfire get around to it…

  25. JellyfishGreen says:

    PowerPuff Girls: World In Conflict