Keep it Simple, Stupid!
The main idea behind the XRay goggles was to have an element that could be repeated over multiple puzzles. I really want to give he character a ‘tool box’ that he can use certain items multiple times. It just makes sense, that he would go over to the ship prepared…or as prepared as he can be!
Ill admit, the XRay goggles, while a cool idea on paper, have been an absolute nightmare to impliment. Each object in the scene essentially had to have a value linked to the XRay system, which would turn it on or off depending on if the XRay system was implimented or not. That means that every button, switch, animation, or element of the puzzle needed specific implimentation of the XRay system.
Then, from a gameplay point of view, the XRay system would have to be able to XRay every puzzle in the game-unless I thought of some hokey reason why certain things could be XRayed and others couldnt. Its a sci-fi game, so radio-active areas, non-x-rayable materials, and lead lined computers ARENT out of the question, but that really seemed like quite a bit of effort to come up with a system that LIMITS the player.
Having it as a set tool in the game just created more problems than it solved. Now, Ill admit that it was incredibly cool to XRay items, and the fading to see the circuits and stuff was pretty damned awesome…but it really just slowed down the game creation process way to much-and just got to complex to be able to impliment on the larger scale I’d imagined.
SO! I came up with a decent, equally cool, and easier to do ‘schematic’ system. The idea of the XRay goggles was to give an extra layer to the puzzle solving…to be able to see inside a device, see how it worked, and then use that knowledge to use the device. Instead of seeing through the objects, I thought it would be cool to have some sort of HUD overlay displayed over the object in question.
I did a few tests, and came up with something which I think works well, and is a pretty cool gameplay element. Essentially, your system comes preloaded with numerous schematics from a few companies. Using the HUD, you choose the company that made the object (be it a security system, weapon, camera, surgical computer, or even a subsystem like a mother board, or specific microchip), then browse through a series of schematics until you find the correct one.
Finding out the name of the corporation responsible for the tech you are trying to bypass, aswell as the name of the system is part of the puzzle. It could be written on the side of the device, in a maintenance log, or on a scrap of paper.
For the design of the HUD, I went with a VERY retro feel. Marachecks technology is old, but reliable…thats why he uses it.
Later in the game, there may be certain upgrades that you find for the goggles, or you may have to download different schematics for the more ‘proprietry’ hardware on the Groomlake.
As a game design lesson, this entire ‘fiasco’ has made me realise that getting stuck on one small element really can cause an indie production to grind to a halt. Not having someone there to say “Listen-this just isnt working” is a definate hinderence! But now that this particular hurdle has been crossed, I can focus more on the puzzles and the design, and less on the technical aspects of getting something ‘cool’ to work properly!