Since games like Ethan Carter and Gone Home have shown that first-person exploration games (not just walking simulators) definitely work and the combat isn’t really missed, I’m a little less paranoid about doing it in Scout’s Journey.
I’ve always approached it from the environment and story side, even when it was still, in my mind, a shooter. Naturally the story grew bigger, the environments were in large part redesigned since Remake Quake, but the importance of shooting things diminished.
An exploration approach makes total sense even in a game that definitely does include combat. You know what? I tend to think that games like Bioshock and Stalker would have been better without the guns. I’ve stated before that I really like Bioshock, but I never thought it was a good shooter. And that’s because that game mostly thrived on its incredible setting and the process of exploring the underwater city and finding out who your protagonist actually is. The combat was lame (except the Big Daddy thing), it existed probably because the developers at the time thought it was kinda expected. Many people seem to think that this mismatch between brilliant atmosphere and crude, simplistic combat was even bigger in Bioshock Infinite.
Stalker mostly lives on its exploration and portrayal of the Zone of Chernobyl. Even at the time, there were people who said that it would be a better game with less combat and more exploration. And I think that is true.
Some of you might have wondered why there hasn’t seemed to be much progress with Scout’s Journey for a while. Well, a large part of that was due to an identity crisis, and I really only realized that when I finally dropped the Quake engine. While I still had the idea of working on a shooter, I really struggled with the fact that I seemed to write a disproportional amount of story and that the game seemed unbalanced towards being environment-heavy. People were asking me when they could finally shoot something, and that was kinda distressing because I feared the whole time that the true answer was, “it’s not that kind of game.” But then, what kind of game was it?
I think it’s starting to make sense again. Slowly. It’s a story based exploration game with occasional combat, or something. And that’s OK.
Old habits are hard to shake.