Monday, November 20, 2006

Steal This Game Design: Harry the Fridge Repairman


Harry the Fridge Repairman:

Cold Day in Hell


The Story

Harry is the best fridge repairman you've ever met. He knows everything there is to know about refrigerators and freezers. After months of tinkering, his freeze gun is finally complete: it might look like a flamethrower, but it shoots out the coldest air ever. It'll freeze you to the bone before you even realize it!

After shopping his freeze gun to various companies, even the military, Harry throws his prototype in the closet and forgets about it for a couple of months.

Until a crack opens in his backyard, and he sees lava pouring out, along with all sorts of demonic-looking, devilish things that start turning his neighborhood into a place worthy of their presence. Harry gets pissed-off, remembers his freeze gun, straps on two large tanks of refrigeration gas, and starts going after the demons, freezing up the lava as he goes along.

Turns out the demons don't like the cold! Who'd'a thunk it? After single-handedly saving his town from a demonic invasion, he goes down into the crack, with the whole neighborhood cheering him on.

"When will you be back, Harry?" asks his next-door neighbor's little girl.
"When hell is frozen over, Lucy, when hell is frozen over."

Then he jumps in.

Gameplay

The game is played from a somewhat standard 3rd-person 3D platformer perspective. Harry's moves are halfway between realistic and cartoony: exaggerated, but not entirely unrealistic.

Harry can jump, walk around, run around, and shoot his freeze gun in three different ways:
  • the gun quickly condenses water from the air, freezes it, and shoots it really fast using compressed, super-cooled air. This is used to shoot down demons, or hit specific targets with some force. Uses a very small amount of refrigeration gas.
  • the gun shoots a short burst of super-cooled air, which can cool down a small target, like a platform, or stun an enemy. Uses about twice as much gas as an ice bullet shot.
  • the gun shoots a continuous stream of very cold air. This will keep enemies away for a while, freeze lava pools and lava flows, and temporarily cool off the air in places where it's too hot for Harry to breathe. This mode can also be used to propel Harry or slow his fall, if pointed down. Maneuverability is limited, however. This mode uses up a lot of gas and should not be used too often.
Fortunately for Harry, there are some "veins" of coolant gas trapped in some walls in the caves that Harry goes through. Harry can use those to refill his tanks. Harry might also get help from "above", but this only happens rarely, and at specific moments.

The game is played in stages, with the first quarter or so of the game happening above ground, in Harry's neighborhood, and the rest happening deeper and deeper down in hell, with a boss "fight" every few stages, which must be fought by judiciously using the freeze gun, and a final battle with Satan himself.

Graphics and Visual Presentation

The neighborhood should look realistic, but also like an exaggerated version of suburbia, as seen in many Hollywood movies. All the characters Harry meets are clich├ęs from the common Hollywood vision of suburbs.

Once Harry jumps down the crack, environments tend to use a red-yellow-black color scheme. On cooler walls, stones of other colors are sometimes visible, and in particular, bluish walls tend to hide veins of trapped coolant gas that Harry can harvest.

The demons themselves vary greatly in size and style, from small little imps, some of which can fly, to huge fat purple beasts that shoot napalm slime at you. Each demon type has its quirks, strengths and weaknesses.

Humor

While this game may look somewhat realistic, it should always feel a little over-the-top. Harry is a hardass who always has an ice- or cold-related one-liner ready. The demons all have quirky personalities: some will be sneaky, some are more likely to charge straight at Harry, and some others will band together and try to surround him. Some are particularly stupid, which should help create lots of funny little moments in the game.

The game should also have a physics engine that exaggerates the consequences of some actions. For example, some rocks can be shot at, causing them to tumble down and bounce around, possibly flattening a few demons in the process. When such a flattening happens, a cartoony "splat" sound is heard.

Damned Souls

In some areas, Harry will meet damned souls, doing slave work. It's his choice whether he decides to free them or not, but this choice will have consequences later on in the game: for example, souls he frees might give him some useful tips, or they might double-cross him, and some souls might help him during boss fights, but some may turn into nuisances during those same fights.

Puzzles

In order to get around in hell, Harry will have to figure out how to get past some burning hot obstacles, such as lava rivers, burning-hot floors, and so forth. Harry will have to figure out what he can cool off with his gun (some lava rivers, for instance, flow too fast to cool off) and find breakable walls, rocks that might tumble down when shot at, and so forth.

Combined with those cold-related puzzles, Harry will also face interesting jumping puzzles, which will sometimes require the use of the freeze gun's hover mode.

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