Every now and again an indie game comes out of the woodwork that shocks the world with its bold innovative take on their chosen genre, one such game in my eyes is Chainsawesome Games’ Aftercharge which released in January of 2019 to Xbox 1 and Steam/PC.
The game is very easily simplied to this statement: “3v3 hero shooter where one team is invisible the other is invincible”. The premise of the game is that one team is invisible punching robots that share “charges” with each other by giving a bit of their HP in exchange for a one time use of that characters ability.
The other team are unkillable guards who defend extractors or giant cylenders around each map (6 per map) who depend on the extractors for ammo and energy to charge their abilities. (Abilities cost energy and shooting your weapon also costs energy, which can only be refilled at these extractors).
The objective of the game is to either destroy or protect the extractors (team depending), the defenders win by knocking out all the attackers at the same time, and the attackers win by destroying all the extractors on the map. It turns what would normally be a typical hero shooter on its head with innovative ways of using your abilities and playstyles with a unique gamemode to boot.
LETS LOOK AT THE LEVEL DESIGN
In Aftercharge there are currently 4 maps, each with 6 extractor locations and wide open spaces with stunning aesthetics. I’m going to make a case study around the first map Quarry as pictured below:
In Aftercharge your always on high alert no matter what team your on, and due to the nature of the stealthy attackers camping will get you a loss real quick. Negative space in these maps is essential for both teams to operate in.
There are 3 ways to get to every extractor on this map, some from below and some from above. This gives alot of breathing room for the attackers to work with, and the use of seemingly unused space in the map or negative space gives the attackers a combat advantage.
The defenders have no clue where the attackers could come from, and have to rely on their abilities to figure out where the attackers are coming from or risk losing the match.
USE OF NEGATIVE SPACE
The use of negative space in a 3d game such as Aftercharge is amazing, there are so many places you can go and hide as an attacker that you are really put to the test as a defender which creates a lopsided dynamic thats “frantic fun” according to one reviewer of the game.
The large open area where the attackers spawn (the right side of the first image) has 3 extractors close by that could be attacked head on, or the attackers could sneak by and attack the extractors in the back, or even more confusing for the defenders would be a combination of both attack strategies.
The attackers could be hiding anywhere on the map at anytime, and in order for the game to not end in a guaranteed loss for the attackers there are many ways to approach each situation. The level design here allows for so many tactics for both attackers and defenders.
As an example of how negative space is used in Aftercharge, you can see there is a very large red crane in the 2nd image, that can be used by attackers or defenders as the highground or a route to sneak past defenders as you can climb on top of it and get behind it. Something that would normally be discarded as a backdrop prop has been turned into a key location for both teams.
WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS
How we use positive and negative space within our levels affects gameplay, every passageway and every door. Every game is different and has different level design needs, so keep these things in mind when your building out your levels within your game.