Terminal Rain: A game where you search for meaning in a city sprawl world, avoiding the crushing influence of mega-corps with only the neon light to guide you…

Hello again! In this devlog for Terminal Rain, I’m going to go over my progress on the design of the game. I’ve come to learn that I’m doing a decent job of making something visually striking, but it might not be clear what you actually do in this game. Well it wasn’t clear to me either for a long time, but lately I’ve come a lot closer to defining what this game is really about.

Terminal Rain motel exterior

Lights wash over the streets with a lot more intensity than before. Some of the tiles have been updated, like the windows and avatar.

For me, Terminal Rain has always been about the world – about the question “What would it actually be like to live in a cyberpunk dystopian sprawl?” When I watch Akira, I imagine myself as one of the bikers, a nihilistic witness to great powers duking it out in a world past saving. I think of the scenes where they’re going to delinquent school, or hanging out on a balcony, or racing motorcycles, and think, what’s the rest of their life like?

What’s challenging about this kind of idea is that it doesn’t come with an obvious direction to create compelling gameplay. But little by little, I’ve been finding ways to add gameplay that supports this vision.

Terminal Rain motel interior

My first attempt at ASCII motorcycles

First, if I’m going through the trouble of building a gigantic procedural cyberpunk world, I want the player to be motivated to explore it, and have fun doing so. Allowing the player to travel through electrical lines opens up a lot of possibilities for making movement interesting. Putting mission objectives and valuable pickups around the world makes it worth doing.

Additionally, If I’m going through the trouble of populating this gigantic world with generated people à la Watch_Dogs, then I’d want to tie gameplay into that too. Yesterday I added a simple mission: given a first and last name, find this person in the motel. Right now accomplishing this is simple, you just use the hotel computer and look through the room records to find what room the person is in.

Terminal Rain motel interior

Just walking up to the computer raises alert levels and brings in the cyber-police, so you’d actually want to access the computer through the wires.

But what if the person isn’t in their room? You could conceivably be able to bribe the concierge if they helped them make travel plans. You could put a tracker in their room that alerts you when someone enters. You could even sleep in their bed and let them find you. These kind of twists are what will make simple tasks like this interesting and allow player expression in completing them. Ideally, the player should be able to think “What would I do if I was a real person in this cyberpunk universe?” and be able to do whatever they think of. Building more of a real world simulation makes this more of a real possibility.

I think this will all tie into a nice loop when I add the cyber-police. If missions force players to spend resources and put themselves at risk raising alert levels, then I can make it a game of cat and mouse by putting the cyber-police on their tail. I think that finishing tasks under that pressure will create a really exciting game loop.

Terminal Rain motel wiring

The view inside the wires.

Now it’s up to me to create a variety of interesting tasks and twists, as well as continue to build up the game world. It’s a lot of work ahead of me, but it’s starting to come together into a game I can understand and get excited about. I’m hoping you feel the same way!

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