Last week, I discussed how Metal Gear Solid was a huge inspiration to my approach to everything Project Raga, between character design and stage layout.

Today, we’ll discuss how function inspires form and vice versa. Let’s get into actual story and see how it affected my push towards design both visually and for game play!

*Turns down the lights and shines a flashlight into my face*

Rumours of a lost palace kept in the stranglehold of a deep jungle dance along the tongues and ears of many travelers across the land. These stories usually come and go, but this time around, an alarming number of rogues and explorers have gone missing after the tale. For Mirza and Yamini, rumours are all they need to start packing up and set courses towards adventure!

It would come as no surprise to those who know the couple that they would of course find the mysterious palace. To their surprise however, they find it is anything but ripe for the picking...Instead, it has been renovated to be a prison by a Djinn, an otherworldly entity that has been collecting all who enter his chambers as prisoners.

I envision the tower to be twisting and turning as if it were destroyed and put together in a very makeshift and supernatural way. The palace tower features floating architectural sections like crazy staircases, leaning towers and shifting balconies and be adorned with random entry points for windows and doors, giving people no true exit should they try and escape the building at higher stories.

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For what reason is unknown, but regardless, Mirza and Yamini have only one goal in mind - to free themselves and loot the place dry on their way down to freedom. The nature of their escape gets complicated however, when they learn of a war brewing between murderers, thieves, and spies, including Yamini’s father Rukh, who has been captured.

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As they make their escape down the prison tower, players will unravel a grand story that reveals the storied past of Mirza and Yamini, shed light on a cast of misfits whom you’ll have to decide is friend or foe, and discover the mystery that is the Djinn’s perilous plans!

What do you think? Does that get you interested in following these two or what? (Please nod and say yes). It’s time to introduce to you the biggest gameplay system the game would offer at face value! This sets into motion how the player will approach their strategy and revolves around what I’m calling...

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As the prison tower is under the control of an all powerful Djinn, expect his dark magic to caress every corner of the palace. In specific, everything that you do has a consequence and is recorded by the fates.

Mandalas light up over time that designate either good or bad karma that you develop through your actions. Kill too many guards, and The Karmic Tides will flow against you. Expect your screen to go black for a few seconds, or watch as the number of guards in the room go up.

Spare the guards and rescue inmates, and let the ebb of The Karmic Tides wash you in good fortune. Do good deeds and you’ll unlock perks like being able to see the guards field of vision or be surrounded by holy armor that’ll block one enemy attack.

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The Karmic Tides is a system that I designed to make use of the setting and culture, incorporate with the story and level, and influence how the player approaches tight situations that require strong decision-making skills. Is it worth it killing the guard and turning The Karmic Tide against you for the rest of the level? How far out of your way will you go to have the Karmic Tide against your back to buffer out the difficulty of a particular level? You decide!

The “good” mandala is full of round and curving shapes. I used peacock feathers as inspiration to design this one. The final mandalas that would appear on screen would have a chalk like appearance, and ideally would be “drawn” on the screen as the deeds were tallied.

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The “bad” mandalas have a more ominous color scheme, with harder angles and watching eyes. Both of the mandalas are rather messy but for the time being, does the job of letting people know where The Karmic Tides reside.

To recap, we now have a major system in play that guides your actions. What about your avatars that will carry them out?

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Mirza and Yamini as a duo work together to traverse through each floor of the prison as if they were a puzzle. Each stage is a single level of a giant tower that you are descending, and every 5-10 of these stages carry a specific theme that I don’t want to yet disclose. Some stages will allow you to traverse the floor as you see fit while others require a very specific strategy to reach the exit.

Certain areas of stages or an entire level may force the player to traverse the space as a couple or require splitting up. You’d have the basic stuff, like having one person stand on a switch while the other person goes through the newly opened door to press another switch to let the other in Then you have concepts that I’m still experimenting on like finding two lanterns, but having a limited time to navigate in the dark while you two are split up, using the light of the lanterns that switch back and forth between both players triggered after taking a specific number of steps!

You also get the tactical advantage of having two people against a single foe - if an enemy spots you, split up in two directions and watch as he take extra caution in approaching down the hallway. From there, set up your attack or find a way to hide or regroup!

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One of the biggest elements of the environment revolves around the prison setting. Because the game takes place in a fortress, you should obviously expect jail cells to be incorporated for your benefit and otherwise! Not all stages have cells, but the ones that do will add a unique twist to the gameplay. On the plus side, you can push an unsuspecting guard into a jail cell and go along your way with one less foe to worry about. On the other hand, a free jail cell means that one of you two can be captured and thrown in.

What this would entail is that on stages where there are no cells featured, if one of you gets captured, then its game over and you start at the beginning of the map. However, if one of you gets captured in a map with a free jail cell, you are captured and cannot complete the level until you free your beloved. In order to do that, you have to find the guard that captured your spouse and either defeat or steal the key from him and bring it back to the cell to release your spouse. Some stages have hard to reach cells, like ones hanging from the ceiling, so be careful!

You also have to be careful if there are cells already filled with a captive. Depending on the inmate, they might shout to the guard you’re there or they might help you depending on how much coin you’d be willing to part with by causing a distraction at the push of a button.

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In some rare instances, you can free an inmate if you come across the key to their cell. Freeing an inmate largely affects the Karmic Tides in your favor, and the freed individual will more than likely assist you on their way out. For example, a chameleon inmate offers temporary stealth, while a buffalo will ram through any guard foolish to try and stop him. As they offer great boon, you can imagine that the keys to their cells are well guarded, so its up to you to go out of your way and save them or not.

To wrap things up for today’s chapter, I want to showcase one last feature that the player can use to hide themselves from searching eyes:

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What can I say? I really love Metal Gear!

Next week, we’ll take a look at some more characters - heroes, the baddies, and maybe a few in between!

Thanks guys!

-Bonny

(Read the next chapter here!)