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Thought Experiment: Fix Project H.A.M.M.E.R
 
So most of you remember the ill-fated Wii game Project H.A.M.M.E.R. that was announced at the first Wii E3. In it, you play as a grisly cyborg dude who runs around hitting things with his gigantic hammer, which is motion controlled using the Wiimote.

The game is pretty famous vaporware, as it was worked on in some capacity for 5 years before finally getting the axe (or is that the hammer?).

There's a fantastic rundown of the behind-the-scenes wrangling between NCL and NST over Project H.A.M.M.E.R. at this youtube link:



If you haven't seen this yet - or haven't checked it out in a while - definitely give it a look. It goes over some of the challenges the development team faced and the flaws in the core design of the game. (I should note, here, that we should take some of the allegations in the video with a grain of salt. While this investigative report may be 100 percent accurate in its details, it does tell a very specific pro-NST point of view that may or may not be fair. I'm totally up for having a discussion about this video, so feel free, but the goal in bringing it up, for our purposes, is to establish the flaws in Project H.A.M.M.E.R. that should be fixed, not to have arguments over whether NCL did right by NST or if the allegations in the video are fair.)

The primary argument made in the video is that simply swinging the remote to plow through mobs wasn't fun. But is that necessarily true?

So here's the goal of this experiment: Knowing what you know about the limitations of the Wii and the problems with Project H.A.M.M.E.R. specifically, what changes would you make to the game to make it an acceptable Nintendo release and an asset to the Wii's library of games?

You can take this in any direction you want, but there's only one rule to it - Change as little as possible to make the game worthwhile. So don't just say "Cancel Project H.A.M.M.E.R., make Geist 2," or whatever your current pet franchise is. The goal here would be to rehabilitate a flawed game, not replace it.

And, remember, our goal isn't to make a perfect game. We just want fix it's flaws and make it into an acceptable game, not necessarily a great one.

I've got my thoughts, but I'll introduce them later today. I'm interested to hear what you guys think. Someone might want to start by listing out what they think the flaws of the game are. Then we all have an idea of what's being fixed.

Oh, and from now on, let's just call it Project Hammer or PH. This typing out H.A.M.M.E.R. each time is beyond tedious.

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Posted: 02/11/17, 18:09:33  - Edited by 
 on: 02/11/17, 18:16:23
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Nothing to fix it is awesome release it now.
Posted: 02/11/17, 19:15:53
Mix in a little ARMS action, and maybe add in some ranged attacks and we're good to go.
Posted: 02/11/17, 19:26:13
I've seen other games released with a similar concept on PS360, but no Wiimote controls there of course. So I don't see why this one couldn't have worked as it is.

I've never tried to play one of those Warriors games, how do they try to keep things interesting? They could come up with some sort of scoring system to try and rack up big combos or something. Add in various missions with different objectives. Have different characters with slightly different abilities, maybe add in some kind of leveling / upgrade system for them.
Posted: 02/11/17, 19:28:36
Some good suggestions, so far. I think Mop It Up is right to mention Dynasty Warriors, which I'll get to in a second. That is a good series to kind of bounce off ideas for Project Hammer.

But first, here are some of the main flaws that I would try to fix:

- Swinging the Wiimote constantly gets repetitive and isn't fun.
- The environments look dull and uninspiring, especially when compared to other grimdark games on other consoles from the same generation.
- Frankly, the main character is a boring 90s comic book cliche, all the way down to the robotic eye. There's nothing about the character that's even remotely appealing in the context of 2005 or beyond. The fact that he got out of the art design stage is kinda laughable to me.
- Both Project H.A.M.M.E.R. and Machinex are terrible names.


So on the first score - Waggling the Wiimote constantly isn't fun. So what do you do?

So there are two games I'd draw on for inspiration: Dynasty Warriors and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.

Part of my design philosophy would be to look at PH as a game similar to Dynasty Warriors. Now, PH is not exactly the same game, in the sense that you need to have Mr. Cyborg hitting 300 guys at the same time to be fun. But a big part of the "fun" of Dynasty Warriors comes from a sense of empowerment. This cyborg dude should be pretty hard to kill and should be able to wreck his way through a few mobs. The player doesn't feel vulnerable most of the time. There are games where vulnerability is an asset, but not this one.

Also, on the fun score, one advantage is that I think by the time I'm theoretically taking over Project Hammer, the Wii has already been out for several years. So the game no longer needs to serve as a tech demo for the capabilities of the Wii. The idea that you need to constantly be waggling the Wiimote to play is no longer necessary. So I would map the standard hammer swing to the A button and then give the character upgradable special attacks that are on a cooldown system that get activated by swinging the remote.

I think this helps bring the fun back. The whole point is for that big-ass hammer swing to feel empowering. But it's diminishing returns if you just do it 10 times a second as your standard attack. Instead, if you're doing a big hammer attack every minute or so, with button pressing the rest of the time, those swings start to count for something.

We'd also get it on Wii Motion Plus, of course.

Beyond that, I think he looks slow and dull in motion. I'd give him some movement - specifically a big Incredible Hulk style jumping mechanic. This can be mapped to the nunchuck and would also be upgradeable. It starts as a little leap and, by the end, you're shinesparking all over the place in chaotic fashion.

Just this little bit of movement could really amp up the freedom of movement and increase the "empowerment" angle that I see as key to the "fun" in the game.

So that's a start.

As for the environments, I think I'd try to brighten them up in some spots. But a big part of what I'd be looking at is to redeem the bad decisions made at the game's initial conception through context. That is - my version of Project HAMMER would be a damn funny game.

Basically, I see the design as so laughable, so terrible that the only way to redeem it is to make it a parody of grimdark games. It could be similar to No More Heroes, in this respect, though not as off-beat. I would surround Mr. Cyborg with a cast of characters who basically don't take him seriously. They would communicate with him over his comm system, a bit like Solid Snake's compadre's and they would constantly be carping on him about his grimdark attitude. Maybe a bit of the Kid Icarus: Uprising treatment, where sometimes what's going on in the comm is more entertaining than what you're actually doing. This serves both as a distraction from what could be otherwise some repetitive gameplay in Hammer, but it also makes the dull environments and uninspired lead character a virtue. Suddenly, it's all on purpose to make fun of the idea of these sorts of games. You could hide little easter eggs throughout, etc.

This doesn't make my version of Project Hammer a great game, but these are small changes that might make it an acceptable game. I think it would beat Wii Crush or whatever other plans they originally had for it.

Anyway, I may offer some other ideas - I haven't decided on a name for Mr. Cyborg or a title for the game, yet. But this is a start.
Posted: 02/11/17, 20:00:11
I think No More Heroes actually came up with one of the best systems for Wiimote melee... "regular" moves are button presses and "special" moves are motion. Feels really nice together and HAMMER could do something similar.

Honestly with the right design HAMMER could have been a definitive Wii game. But... it'd probably need a better developer.
Posted: 02/11/17, 21:07:59
@kriswright

Yup, I thought specifically of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction as a way to liven up the rather dull action seen in the short demo. And of course, give the cyborg guy some variety of enemies to fight. Huge bosses, like the one hinted at in the CG trailer. Jumping around, knocking off body parts and weapons of this enormous threat could be fun.

Also, maybe give the hammer itself something more to do than just be a blunt weapon with which to hit mooks with. They seemed to be hinting at that with the "shockwave" special attack they had in the demo. But I'm talking about also being able to add something like... I dunno, fire attacks and lightning. Use the handle of the hammer to swing from ledges or the like. Have the ability (or learn the ability later in the game) to kind of "scoop up" enemies with the hammer and then fling them at other enemies or environment targets.

Speaking of environments, they should start off in that kind of downtown, "grim dark" city area. But then the game gets progressively more crazy with where the adventure is going. Sure, the player starts off bashing cannon fodder in the streets of New York or whatever...but then later he's fighting flying foes while surfing on a nuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean while a giant mutant robot whale is chasing him below. During a lightning storm. And everything is on fire.

No, it wouldn't make sense, but sometimes you can get away with some kinda-sorta boring gameplay if you can wow people with some flash and unbelievable crap happening all around. And it wouldn't be outside the Wii's capabilities. Think of the crazy stuff Kratos goes through in the God of War games. And those were done on PS2.

Anyway, just some thoughts...
Posted: 02/12/17, 00:00:12
I had to triple check that this thread wasn't six years old.

Hmm, this could actually work with HD Rumble and improved motion control... As far as the action, it shouldn't respond to flailing. Combos should be based on precise timing. And the swings should be deliberate, like a Great Sword in Monster Hunter. Every game should be like Monster Hunter. And Spelunky. By which I mean, a sandboxy, physics-based world could be fun to take a giant hammer to. Maybe a puzzle-y game with multiple solutions? On the BOTW engine? Maybe?

But these changes are probably too extreme for a quick fix. I definitely think making the world interactive would add some fun in. As for the murky graphics - Cel Shading!

Anyway, what I really want them to resurrect is Roll-o-Rama!
Posted: 02/13/17, 23:20:29
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