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.