Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Glimpse into Navigator

"So, what is all this Navigator business?"
Navigator is PxC's 1st publically released project, a puzzle game starring the titular Nav, a pioneer in virtual reality. He works alongside Professor Claire Nova, building the first-ever virtual reality survival puzzle game.

"Survival Puzzle game?"
That's right, the nature of Navigator is two-fold. The aim isn't soley just to rack up the highest score by creating clusters and chains of coloured blocks, but to keep Nav alive as the steadily rising tower of blocks threatens to crush him against the ceiling.

"How cruel!"
Isn't it just. But Nav isn't entirely helpless, he can move about the playing field, pushing blocks around and maneuvering over obstacles to get to a safe spot.
He's also backed up by the Block Cannon, loaded with an infinite supply of colourful ammo to beat back the cube conquest. By matching up at least four blocks of the same color, you will create a cluster that explodes after a short period of time, dropping any mass above it down to a lower level, and gaining points.
By creating clusters bigger than 4 blocks, you get bonus points, and by breaking a cluster that drops down and forms a second cluster, you create combos that add multipliers to your score bonus that double for each cluster formed in the same combo!

"And I'm responsible for both Nav and the Cannon? Sounds tricky..."
Don't sweat it. While controlling both tasks is difficult to begin with, it'll be no time at all before you're using the two in tandem. The highest scorers use Nav and the Cannon co-operatively to set up huge combos.
Higher-level players will take advantage of Nav's Block Push ability to create combos as well, since creating a cluster using the Block Push is an instant 1.5x combo multiplier!
You can also use Nav's Power Climb to continue to help him navigate to other areas.
If you're still finding it tricky, you can give up control of one aspect to a friend. Working together is the key!

"So how do I rack up the big scores?"
If you're used to games like Tetris Attack or Puyo Pop, then your skills will come in handy here. It's not just about laying down blocks quickly, being able to read the playing field, and see where the clusters are in advance is the key to making lengthy combos. The target reticule of the Cannon will match the colour of the block to be placed, so you needn't draw your eyes away from the action.
Don't forget about Nav! His ability to push blocks around can save you from a Cannon misfire, or to keep your Combo going just a bit longer. The period where a cluster is frozen and glowing is your chance to set up something big! It's a risky move, but manually raising the stack of blocks is also a possibility. Being able to see more of the field means you can keep combos going for that much longer.

"Working with my friends is one thing, but how about competing with them?"
But of course! For those of you with a bloodthirsty streak, a Vs. mode is in the pipeline. This allows you to directly compete against a second navigator in both score and survival. By creating large clusters and cluster chains, you can attack the opposing player with "garbage blocks" that clog up their field of play. This mode can be played cooperatively as well, meaning 4 players can get in on the action in teams of 2vs2!

"Do I get kickass music to listen to while saving Nav's life?"
A6: Absolutely; Navigator features completely original music for every level, each song fitting the atmosphere of the stage itself. The music is composed by Chris "Søda Meløn" King, also known as "GreenDragonXIII," and all of it is very well done. We believe the music will also be a big part of creating a unique experience with Navigator.

"Awesome. So what modes are on offer?"
A6: Navigator includes a couple of gameplay modes for many types of players; there's the Tutorial Mode, where Professor Nova herself teaches you the rules of the field, the Endless Mode, the basic survival gameplay mode that doesn't end until you lose, the 1v1/1v2/2v2 Competitive Mode, and a 1-2 player Puzzle Mode, where you solve advanced puzzles based on the gameplay mechanics of Navigator, but with unique twists!

"And lots of different stages, right?"
There will be at least six stages to play in. In Endless and Competitive Mode, each stage has its own predetermined block setup on startup, adding enhanced variation to each game, and allowing the more advanced players to set up high-level opening strategies. And if you're not the competitive type, each stage has its own graphical style. Whether you're a fan of the clean circles of Energy Cells, or the gritty industrialism of Field of Cogs, Navigator can scratch that itch.

"Nav is pretty expressive, how long did his design and animation take?"
A6: That's an interesting question. The basic idea for Nav was originally to just be a simple little guy pushing blocks around. His design is fairly simplified as well; a black-haired guy in a navy blue shirt and green pants. As development continued, I wanted to put more life and personality in both Nav and the entire game as well, which lead to the conception of Professor Nova, a cooperative design effort by myself and our digital artist, Joe Ryan. Having two characters in the game like this really allows us to explore different personalities for them and make them expressive, to give the game another layer of depth outside of gameplay, without overcomplicating things.

"What about the two characters? Will we get to see interaction between Nav and Prof. Nova? Any chemistry?"
A6: Workplace romance is strictly forbidden, especially in the lab! However, there will be plenty of conversing and interaction between the two in both the tutorial and puzzle modes. There's a little more interaction with Professor Nova personally, as well, but we'll just keep that a secret for now!

"So when do I get to play this, and on what?"
The 1.1 beta is available for PC right now! You can find it Right Here. The final release won't just be on PC, but also on Windows Phone 7 and potentially even XBOX Live Indie Games. You can fire blocks and detonate clusters both at home and on the go!

Look forward to seeing Navigator during the third quarter of 2011.
 This article can also be found at PixelXCore.

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