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Rebelstar: Tactical Command - Dev Diary #1 (GBA)
In our new series of dev diaries for Namco's tactical GBA game Julian Gollop talks origins, influences, and more.
By Julian Gollop | May 27, 2005

It is safe to say that many of my game ideas have had a long gestation period, with quite a lot of thought put into the story, gameplay, and technology. Rebelstar: Tactical Command, however, represented a sudden departure for Codo Technologies Ltd, not so much because of the game design, but because it is our first Game Boy Advance title. After working for many years on PC games, it really feels like going back to the early days of the industry when I was working on the 8-bit and 16-bit home computer formats.

Another connection with the past is that Rebelstar is very loosely based on a game I originally created for the Sinclair Spectrum way back in 1983 called Rebelstar Raiders. Yes, I really have been working in the games industry that long! However, don't be fooled into thinking that Rebelstar: Tactical Command is some retro 8-bit game. I think it represents the height of evolution for turn-based tactical combat on any platform. It is an evolution of the original Rebelstar and also our classic PC game X-Com: UFO Defense. I will explain a little about how we created the game design, but first I need pay homage to a GBA title that made it possible for us to develop Rebelstar for the system in the first place.

I first played Nintendo's Advance Wars a couple of years ago, and I was hooked immediately. It was my kind of game -- a classic and addictive turn-based strategy game. Normally such games are regarded as the preserve of "grognards" who are essentially the ´┐Żber-geeks of the game playing world. Fortunately, Intelligent Systems (Advance Wars' developer) had created a very well-designed and accessible system which blew away all those preconceptions about stuffy turn-based strategy titles. So thank you, Advance Wars, for making such games possible on a great platform like GBA. I was also a great fan of Fire Emblem, with its greater emphasis on role-playing and story. Despite these influences, Rebelstar is distinctly different, and those of you who have played the original X-Com will probably be most familiar with the tactical battle system we have developed for this game.

Rebelstar is a story-driven tactical RPG, somewhat like Fire Emblem, but with a sci-fi theme and a unique, isometric tactical-battle system. I will be delving into the technical aspects of Rebelstar later, but the first part of the design was the storyline. The game is set on Earth in the near future, and an alien race has enslaved most of the human population. This race of aliens is not entirely unfamiliar to those who had encountered -- and even experienced -- abductions by these beings throughout the ages. They are the small grey figures with large eyes and huge heads, reputed to have unusual telepathic powers.

In this future world these aliens, known as the Arelians, are rarely seen. Instead, they employ other aliens -- particularly the savage and ogre-like Zorn -- to do their dirty work. All humans are fitted with a brain implant at birth, and once they reach the age of thirty, they are taken away by the Zorn, never to be seen again. The Arelians claim that the humans are being taken to a better place on another world in return for the service they have given the Arelian Empire. Most people passively accept their fate, and perhaps even believe that the Arelians are telling the truth. Some humans reject the brain implant, either because their body rejects it naturally, or because they have it removed surgically. Many more people flee to join one of the small bands of resistance fighters plotting to overthrow Arelian rule on earth.

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