Super Hot: puzzle-shooter - Games Weekly

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Super Hot: puzzle-shooter

At Gamescom 2014, Doom co-creator John Romero announced that he’s working on a new first person shooter project, and also took the chance to voice his frustrations at the  lack of innovation in gaming’s most overexposed genre. According to the designer, we’ve “barely scratched the surface” of shooters. Perhaps he’s never heard of Super hot, though, because the team behind it is carving out a deeper groove than most.

Originally developed in August last year as part of 7DFPS, a week long game jam organised to find new interpretations of the well-worn FPS template, Super hot includes all the staple ingredients enemies, guns, 3D environments but has one monumental twist: time only advances when you move.

“When I first saw Doom, I remember thinking that games couldn't be any more realistic than this!” creative director Piotr Iwanicki says. “But I think there’s still a lot  to discover in first person shooters, and Super hot’s time mechanic enables you to do things that I haven’t seen before in the genre.”

It certainly adds an uncommon layer of  strategy to combat. Being able to plan your movements through a room of enemies with such clarity has the capacity to deliver the kind of empowering, Hollywood esque action sequences that are normally the preserve of third person shooters such as John Woo’s Stranglehold or Max Payne. But while the manner in which time passes is central to Super hot’s gameplay, Iwanicki doesn't want it  to define the game.

“The time just adds this layer of things that wouldn't be possible without it, but it’s not like it’s the main focus,” he explains. “For example, in our prototype, you picked up weapons simply by walking into them, just like Doom or Quake an old school way of doing things. Now, though, it works a bit differently, because you have to click on weapons to grab them. It’s a very simple design, actually. It’s not any more realistic, but together with the fluid time mechanics it becomes this little ballet of you looking in the direction of the weapon, picking it up, and then aiming. It’s a tactile way of
representing the action of picking up a gun.”

And this seemingly modest evolution opens the way for the kind of gun battles that could have been dreamt up by the Wachowskis. “Imagine shooting a guy above you,” Iwanicki says. “He dies, his weapon drops in slow motion and you run towards it and grab it out of the air. It’s an awesome moment! Those kind of things work really well in our current build. There are a lot of those tiny details that are possible thanks to the time mechanic, but it’s not like they’re based on it; it’s not like this game is an exploration of the time mechanic.”

For that reason, don’t expect the final game to include much in the way of puzzles. Despite its nontraditional pacing, Iwanicki sees Super hot very much as a fast paced shooter, or at least one that will be played in intense bursts. “We could go with this very tight puzzle design like Braid, but we focused more on action while providing those slow motion moments that would be impossible in a normal shooter game. So it’s not a slow motion shooter, but instead a game that you can play however fast you want. It’s about finding the right speed for you and, of course, doing awesome shit in slow motion!”

Indeed, Iwanicki feels  Braid  buries the simple joy of platforming too deeply beneath its elegant puzzle designs and he doesn’t want to lose sight of  Super hot ’s shooting core. But that doesn’t mean you have to solve every problem with bullets. Though originally a by product of the need to provide challenge in a game where headshots are trivial, the limited ammunition of the prototype build has inspired a blunt tactical option.

“You have guns that you pick up and then you throw them away when you run out of ammo,” Iwanicki explains. “So expanding on that idea, you can now throw that gun at your enemy and stun him. You can even throw a gun at an enemy’s bullet and deflect it! All these little tiny interactions in Super hot become valid tactical choices. It won't always work, but it's the right choice in some places.”
 “His weapon drops in slow motion and you run towards it and grab it out of the air”
 One thing that won’t change is the game's look. While the team has experimented a little with more realistic aesthetics, the stylised minimalism of the browser version worked so well with the stylised gameplay that the team has decided to stick with Super hot's original approach. “When we tried to make it a bit more high fidelity, it didn't really work well,” Iwanicki says, “because the simplistic style provides this springboard for imagination.” He does, however, admit that the spaces in the demo were slightly too abstract. “Now, we have a compromise. We want to make you feel like you're in a real place, but we always try to not show you too much. For instance, an elevator is simply a small room with a door and maybe a rail. 

You see those very simple [elements] and understand that you’re in an elevator. And we’re trying to achieve the same for all spaces. I’m surprised that not many other teams are actually doing this sort of stuff I think  Super hot  proves that it really works.”

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