Buffy The Vampire Beta: Slayer Shock

Slayer Shock [official site], the latest game from David Pittman, creator of procedural Lovecraftian stealth game Eldritch and cyber-sneaker Neon Struct, is now available in beta form. It’s a game about assembling a monster-killing squad, who operate out of a coffee-house, and it mirrors episodic television shows structurally as well as with its obvious nods to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Each mission you take part in is an episode and a full campaign makes up a season, with its own objectives and boss to overcome. All of this takes place in a procedurally generated town. The beta is available via itch.io and the full release (Steam included) is scheduled for September 29th.

As in Pittman’s previous games, missions play out from a first-person perspective and involve stealth, slaying and getting clobbered. Importantly, failure is not final – regrouping and learning from mistakes is an integral part of Slayer Shock, just as it is in the TV shows that inspired it. Ideally, you shouldn’t succeed the first time you encounter a particularly nasty threat, and that’s where your team come in, helping you to develop new weapons and skills.

One of the major changes from Eldritch, the structure of the campaigns aside, is the setting. Here’s Pittman discussing that in a devblog from back in May:

For Eldritch’s Lovecraftian worlds, messy and chaotic levels were somewhat desirable. Or frankly, I used the theme as a crutch to avoid solving some hard problems. Brick walls would join to caverns or ancient ruins with little regard for spatial or functional coherency.

In Slayer Shock, I’m trying to model more familiar spaces. For example, here’s an early WIP shot of the suburbs level. It’s not the most complicated thing, but it’s coherent: streets intersect in a reasonable way, and houses are oriented to face out onto an adjacent street.

And here’s how that those spaces work to facilitate stealth and combat:

Designing spaces for stealth is weird, because levels are procedurally generated and enemies are spawned dynamically and don’t have prescribed patrol paths. Since I can’t design specific stealth encounters the way I could in NEON STRUCT, I’m trying to populate regions with just enough stealth opportunities (occlusion and foliage) so there’s always a visible safe spot but movement is still risky. The experience changes a lot depending on the (procedural, systems-driven) enemy population, so I expect I’ll be iterating for a while on things like the distance between safe spots.

Combat is meant to be Doom-y, more about movement than cover; and flat, open spaces are fine for running and shooting. But uniformly open space is boring, and I’m still learning what makes an interesting combat space for this game. The player has a lot more mobility than enemies do, so the challenge is to make arenas that afford interesting tactical choices without completely hampering enemy movement.

Now we can see all of that for ourselves. I’ll be playing as much as possible this weekend and hoping it hooks me in the same way that Eldritch did. You can see Slayer Shock in action right here.

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  1. lglethal says:

    I know “Procedurally Generated” is the current buzz in game design, but I’ve yet to find any games that actually come across better then a hand designed game space. True in my case, I play RPG’s mostly, so I’m there for the story and the action, so a crafted set piece makes a whole lot more sense. But Procedurally Generated this and that are being pushed by almost everyone now across all genres and I don’t really think the results back up its status.

    Perhaps in the future, hand crafted levels will be the selling point on the box again, just like procedurally generated levels is currently…

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I was procedurally generated, and I turned out alright.

    • lesslucid says:

      Different people like different kinds of things, and I’ll take Spelunky with it’s procedural levels over dozens of handcrafted platformers… but even with handcrafted stuff, often procgen has played a role. A designer will procedurally generate landscapes or other spaces until it “looks like” the kind of thing they want, then start tweaking it and adding specific content deliberately. The result would never be called “procedurally generated” and yet some form of procgen played a crucial role in its formation.

    • Jerkzilla says:

      Well, really, procedural generation is only as interesting as the algorithm at its base, which isn’t all that interesting to begin with. For the time being, at least, proc gen environments won’t tell any good stories the way handcrafted ones can. In fact they can only really do one thing well: provide endless variation mixing a bunch of pieces together (metaphorically speaking). You can also get good atmosphere out of them, if you configure it properly.

      “Exploring procedurally generated planets” should have been a big red flag from early on, because procedural generation is intrinsically devoid of meaning. The best you can make out of it is as context for something that does have meaning.

      Frozen Synapse and every other game with a heavy emphasis on positioning thrive with PG, combat flight sim Falcon 4 still stands out after like 15 years in good part because of its dynamic campaign, Minecraft forces you to search for resources and decide how build your home/castle/dungeon because its different every time you start. In none of these situations is procedural generation the main .

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    With everyone throwing a fit over No Man’s Sky’s perceived failings, there may be a cooling down in public perception of procgen in the near term but the fact is it’s a very useful tool for game design and many games could not exist without it.

    You could not have Spelunky without its procgen levels, you could not have Left 4 Dead without its AI director and its procgen encounters, Diablo’s dungeons, Binding of Isaac, etc etc. Even meticulously handcrafted epics like The Witcher 3 use procedural generation for some things like trees (link to blog.speedtree.com).

    I’m a big fan of handcrafted detail, but when used judiciously procedural generation can add a lot of replayability and surprise to an experience that would otherwise be very limited.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      (this was meant as a reply to lglethal)

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Like every mechanic and “buzzword” thingy, it works well in some cases and with people who know how to use it, but it becomes a problem when it is perceived as the ultimate solution, a mandatory part of every game. I’m not saying that every game nowadays has procgen, but the trend is beginning to become so mainstream that it leads to fatigue. Just like people get a hissy fit whenever they see the word “crafting”, procgen is dangerously close to becoming yet another trigger word for complaints.

    • Bull0 says:

      Well you could have L4D without the procedural bits but it would be fucking awful.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    I really like the sound of this and it looks like it’s really coming along design/code-wise but I can’t help but be a graphics-snob and think a more well-developed art-style would really make this sing. Right now it all looks a bit placeholder… Gothic urban vampire settings are nothing if not all about the atmosphere.

  4. April March says:

    Kind sirs, I do believe you missed a quote box in the article.

    I love Eldritch so I’ll be paying attention to it. Although I didn’t even finish the demo for Neon Struct – not really my piece of cake.

  5. TΛPETRVE says:

    I do hope there’ll be some more work in the visual department, though. Both Eldritch and Neon Struct had a solid and consistent art style, which nicely masked the more amateurish parts such as animation. This here on the other hand has some extremely rough stuff going on esp. in terms of character/monster models. That aside, it once again looks highly playable, so I’m definitely keeping an eye out.

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