An FPS about love

Intrepid Cupid is a game I’ve worked on for my prototyping class, at my second term of my game design program. It’s the only one of the four games created in the context of this course in which I’ve contributed to the design (on top of programming, as usual). 

I was starting my fourth week of work on the previous prototype (Blood Cell, an action-adventure game) when I started thinking about what I’d like to do for the next project. I hadn’t liked working on this game very much, and one of our main obstacles was that we took too much time settling down on a game concept, which didn’t leave us a lot of time to implement it. Therefore, I wanted to get around this problem this time by looking in advance for an idea for the FPS, especially since I don’t really like this genre and thought it would be difficult to find a fun idea.

As it’s often the case when I’m lacking inspiration for a game, my first question was “how can I make it about love?”. It’s not obvious at first how to do to that in a genre where the main mechanic is to shoot projectiles. After asking myself several times “what things related to love would it make sense to shoot?”, I ended up thinking about a mythological character everyone knows: Cupid. He shoots arrows to make them fall in love, makes sense!

I didn’t want the design to simply consist of replacing the bullets with arrows, a gun with a bow, and to make people fall in love instead of killing them and call it a day: it that was the case, the gameplay would remain identical to any generic FPS. I didn’t want this game to be a simple reskin of the FPS genre; I also wanted slightly different mechanics that would reinforce the theme of love. 

Among the mechanics I designed, there were the aromantic characters, who get in the way of Cupid and serve as obstacles, not being able to able to fall in love. They wear a grey shirt; if I were to make a complete version of Intrepid Cupid, I’d find another way to let the player knows who’s aromantic (for example, there could be a halo around them that Cupid can see thanks to his powers of god of love). It would make it less weird than to have all the aromantic characters of this world walking around in grey shirts, and it might make the game more accessibles to colorblind people.

Another mechanic that I like and that is at the core of the game is that, just as in real life, love doesn’t last forever (it often shocks people when I say that, and I find it funny. Weirdly enough, my partner is the only one to have heard this statement and to take it with serenity). What that means in the game is that when a couple is made, a love bar appears above them: when it’s empty, the couple breaks up. Cupid can revive their love simply by throwing an arrow at them (if the bar is not yet empty). The goal of each level is to make every character falls in love (except the aromantic ones), so the player has to be vigilant and “maintain” old couples while trying to form new ones. We end up with what I think is a dynamic that is very different from usual shooters, where you don’t have to be mindful of characters you already dealt with (dead characters). 

When I presented my idea to my team (different from the Blood Cell on - we changed teams for each project), I thought they might find it silly or be confused as to what the game would be (which doesn’t prevent me from sharing my ideas, as I love them and don’t mind if people find them stupid or don’t understand them). I was positively surprised to see this wasn’t the case, and that they were super enthusiastic to explore this design.

Having only three weeks to do this prototype, we obviously weren’t able to push the concept that much, but we still had a blast working on it. It’s probably the team project I enjoyed the most working on (apart from Shade maybe, my final project): everyone was doing their part and we were all encouraging each other. 

While programming this game, I asked myself a question early on: how would the matches work? Can we only match girls with boys? No, that would be super heteronormative. Do the characters have a sexual orientation? If so, how to convey that clearly to players? Well, I can’t think of a way to do it clearly and beautifully, and I’m sure it’d slow down tremendously the game pace if we add that. We would also need to consider that this would make the game into a kind of puzzle game (which isn’t necessarily a problem, but I don’t see how to make it interesting, and we had enough on our plate with what we already had). Can we match anyone with anyone then? This isn’t very realistic. Would the players care about the realism in this game? Probably not.

After considering all options, I chose the last one. Firstly, for the reasons mentioned above. Secondly, because while it might not be obvious to non-programmers, it’s a lot less work than the other solutions. In fact, the more constraints you have, the more variables and conditions you’ll have to write (What’s the first character’s sex? What’s the second character’s sex? Is their sexual orientation compatible? You have to code all of that, otherwise the game won’t guess the genders and sexuals orientations itself). 

I have to admit it, it’s not THAT much longer to program, but it’s still additional steps, and at no point did a designer from my team told me the characters had to be matched in any specific way. I therefore went for what the code does by default. The more transparent way to act would have been to tell my team about this design issues and to ask their opinion on the topic, but I knew it might turn into a very long conversation, which risk leading to a less simple solution that wouldn’t even be more fun than the one already there. This was my confession of the time I exploited my position as the programmer of the team to implement a feature the way I wanted to, please forbid my sins. 

Tout ceci étant dit, c’est un des rares projets d’école qui a à mon avis suffisamment de potentiel pour être étoffé. Je considère un jour y revenir pour en faire une version complète. 

Anyway, it’s one of the rare school projects that has enough potential to be expanded in my opinion. I’m considering going back to it at some point to make a full version out of it. 

Get Intrepid Cupid

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