Here, I'm attempting to create a project twice - once as a 4-directional bird's eye view Zeldalike, and once as a sidescrolling platformer, and the level design of each will change a bit to reflect that. They're both otherwise identical in premise, although they may each grow some gameplay elements independently of one another.
So far, I'm using stock Game Maker assets, and some of Antiferea's RPGesque sprites from OpenGameArt.org, as the number of humanistic roles is roughly equal to the number of character class-types produced in it. So I can shuffle an array to mix up appearances, and give every adventure the chance to keep players on their toes. Ideally, I would love to use sidescroller rolling animations as well, but it's doable without them.
The majority of the gameplay world will be made up of 9 biomes, interconnected through specific passages between them, which house bonfires. The bonfires don't make savegames, but they will restore your health/condition in addition to respawning food, enemies besides bosses/minibosses or important NPCs, and finally, a "Hometown" screen off to the left where you begin, and a "Temple of Judgement" off to the right where your journey may end.
The biomes themselves also comprise themselves of shuffling "level chunker" content, with each type of screen geared to alternate between three focus points: combat, navigational challenges, and traps. Additionally, I'm planning for each biome to have a monstrously bad boss creature, that you should probably avoid for awhile until you're powered up a bit, at least one Mystery Container that you can apply to your choice of three meters, and seven hidden "Gemeralds" which will open the Temple of Judgement. Each biome will also determine what gameplay elements are generated within it.
It's a rather open-world game, and while the biomes may have an order of natural progression about them, if you want to take them on out of order, you're completely within your rights and abilities to. Ideally, you'll be capable of navigating about 3 biomes every 10 minutes, and depending on the player's decision at the end, you should be able to win a game by going through it once or twice (making for convenient 30 or 60-minute adventures).
You begin in your "Hometown" square where you acquire your starting equipment, and a few Mystery Containers to build your starting character with. As forementioned, Mystery Containers will add one point to any of your three main bars:
-Vitality hearts are basically your HP.
-Stamina (anvils?) recover over time, and basically define your attacking and blocking power.
-Magical stars determine your magical projectile attack ammo.
I may make these two points apiece, depending on how balance plays out. They can all be cursed, and brought to half their max power, and toggling 1 and 2 point values may be one method of doing so.
There's also a food timer, which encourages the player to move around in pursuit of food. It's 2 minutes long, and will reset at the cost of 1 HP if you somehow fail to consume any. It's another shuffling array with only one bad outcome type, which is to drain your stars and stamina, the others' effects are somewhat various but always good. This is also placed in the areas manually, enemies don't drop food, so you can't farm enemies in hopes of scoring some, but usually you'll find more within 3 screens or so.
Movement will be momentum-based, somewhere between Mario and Sonic level. Fast enough that you can traverse upward curves at higher speeds (in the platforming sense), but managable. This will also involve navigational curvature in the Zeldalike, and there will be some momentum play in that too.
Your character can equip and toggle any two weapons or magics at bonfires, or upon discovering one in the world, you can swap out a current weapon slot for the newer one.
Weapons come in 4 varieties, each with their own attacking tactics and tool-like usefulness, as well as carring an effectiveness against certain brands of enemies. Each type is scripted with 8 attacks (similar to fighting game specials), although each *instance* will be capable of executing two of them (and maybe a basic strike?), openly comboable, with more powerful moves simply requiring more stamina to fuel them.
-Swords cut stuff (this is taken into consideration in other gameplay elements too), and thus do more damage against fleshy enemies. Their moves have a bit more mobility about them to make up for their shorter range.
-AxeHammers can smash obstructions that only bombs would otherwise, and are effective against more solid enemies, like steel or stone. They're all about incurring extreme hit reactions too, making enemies more jugglable.
-Whips are more about tying down enemies' mobility, and have good range that's balanced with a fair bit of windup and/or cooldown. They're also effective against undead (yes that is a deliberate homage), and can be used to swing or grapple around the environment.
-Spears and staffs are geared more at zoning, and can be used for vaulting, which is basically a form of double-jumping (vault first, jump second). They incur double the stamina-draining against blockers, too.
The different magics are simply geared towards projectile variations, and various effects upon connecting - wind attacks incur more knockback (blocking or not), or electromagnetic will drain stamina in proportion to damage, for instance. And like weapons, more powerful techniques will drain more stars. But stars don't recharge by idling, they must be replenished with food, bonfires, etc. So use them with discretion.
In the beginning, your Hometown square gears you up, and then is attacked by the big bads (the 9 boss monsters), and your Love is taken/missing. Your mission is to recover the 7 Gemeralds, and travel to the Temple of Judgement, where your fate is to be decided.
Once you make it to the Temple of Judgement, there's an upper and lower cell, each with triggers that will react in the other. Below is your Love, which you can rescue and end your game somewhat victoriously, although your Hometown is torn asunder, and the two of you must begin your lives anew.
Above is the ancient symbol of power, the Quake quad-damage powerup, with which you can gain the power to vanquish the 9 demons of your world and bring back peace to your Hometown. But at the cost of sacrificing your Love to the Pit of Eternal Despair (C), who will leave but a minute reminder of their once-endearing presence. At that point, it becomes your goal to do just that, destroy the 9 beasts, and return to your Hometown as a hero, and perhaps find a new Love.
Secret outcome #3:
What choice is left to make? You'd ALREADY beaten the beasts 35 minutes ago! Cue "inform the president" joke, as you walk over to victoriously claim your Love. It starts off all "happily ever after" ...until she gets you somewhere secluded, and quickly turns ecchi. They get about halfway through their second act, and their dad shows up.
Love then pulls a concealed gun from their boot, fires a warning shot, points it at Daddy, and tells him "DO NOT RUIN THIS MOMENT FOR ME!!" Daddy gives the "I'll be outside, get me when you're done" thing... and Hero wonders why Love didn't just do that during the abduction instead. Love gives a cheeky "don't worry about that now" look and continues molesting Hero.
Yes, it turns out the entire thing was constructed by Love to score with Hero.
Secret outcome #4!! (and 5?!):
So you kicked all the bosses' butts, and you're at the Temple of Judgement. Maybe you make this move out of curiosity, maybe error, or maybe you just KNOW that in spite of Hero's feelings, that Love is behind this calamity. So even though you've cleaned up the world, you take the Amulet of Power anyways...
Love is then sacrificed to the Pit of Eternal Despair (C). Lighting crashes, and the world shakes - as something is now very, VERY WRONG!!
Level Chunker scripts kick into second gear - the world is no longer stable, it becomes more akin to the Doc Robot levels from MegaMan 3. Every biome is now repopulated with TWO boss monsters, and once-miniboss enemies populate the landscape quite regularly now. Trap combos change, and the effects of some of them become absolutely sadistic. Boulder traps, for instance, now drop boulder-sized bombs that can REALLY wreck your day - in addition to their expanded blast radius, they also shoot off shrapnel everywhere too.
At this point, it's all about racing back to Hometown, while there's still one left to get to. And once you do, like a bat out of Hell - Love explodes back out of the Pit of Eternal Despair. And they are PISSED. One epic showdown with them - perhaps like a 3-round Touhou or something (not totally solid/sold on that), and then a final race with them *back* to the Temple of Judgement. Beat your Love there, and you'll get one (the stellar) ending, if they beat you there, you get another.
Well, that's the pitch so far. What do you think? Reasonable scope? Worthy concept? Think it can work in both sidescroller and Zeldalike perspective? Ideas, suggestions, influences? Catchier title(s), even?
Speaking of, I do want to include some kind of geometry play (like Yoshi Eggs) and factors like Koopa Shells in the mix, too. Doing so with level designs that include curvature factors could be quite fun!