In these articles I aim to analyze a game from an analytical perspective. I’ll discuss the setting, themes; do a screen based analysis and what would I do if I was remaking this game. To begin I want to analyze Zeppelin Games’s Universal Warrior [1]. It is a shoot-em up released in 1993 with innovative additions. 

Setting – Cyberpunk

The game uses a cyberpunk setting. I base this claim on several reasons:

  • You play as a corporation in the game. Even the player is a firm; the first thing he does is to name his corporation.
  • The visual aesthetic in the game reinforces the setting. The city screen looks straight out of a cyberpunk novel. 
  • The equipments suggest a world where corporations are the law. Military grade and prototype equipment is tradeable without any restriction. 
  • Names of certain things (Nuyen for money etc.) are from cyberpunk novels.

Themes

  • Risk and Reward
  • Shoot-em up

Screens – Scenes

I will use the term scene interchangeable with screens throughout the article. The game has 10 screens to interact with the player:

  1. Title / Credits Scene
  2. Player Creation Scene
  3. City Scene
  4. Trader Scene
  5. Repair Minigame
  6. League Display
  7. Betting Scene
  8. Insurance (Pre-combat) Scene
  9. Combat Scene
  10. Level Feedback (Post-Combat) Scene 

Title/Credits Scene

This scene displays the people involved in the game. This scene links to Player Creation Scene.

Player Creation Scene

In this scene player names his firm. With game terms, player acts as a CEO of his company. This is for a reason. In the game world, companies compete in a combat arena. They equip their robots and try to survive the maze-like arenas. After naming their company, game loads the City screen. 

City Scene

This scene is one of the two screens players will spend their time, other being the combat. City screen has 7 options. From top the bottom:

  1. Meteor – A store selling high quality, brand new equipment.
  2. Tope – A betting parlor. Here player can bet on his performance for the next level.
  3. Big Al’s – A store selling second hand equipment, usually damaged.
  4. Workshop – Player uses this screen to refit his robot.
  5. Roy’s Repairs – This store repairs the damaged equipment. 
  6. League – This screen shows the standings of the corporations based on the score they got in the arena fights. 
  7. Sid’s Tavern – This store acts as a black market and a rumour center.

Player selects each shop with joystick and presses fire to enter to the shop.

As a summary player can do these activities from this scene:
– Buy, Sell and Repair Equipment from various shops
– Get information about next level from Sid’s Tavern
– Bet on himself from Tope
– Change equipment on the robot from Workshop
– Check his stance within the Corporate League from League

The city scene artwork, the logos of the stores and player controlled robots convey we are in the future. 

Trader Screen

Trader screen uses four sections to deliver information. On the left side of the screen we see the trader’s digitized picture and what he says in a comic styled baloon. On the top we have an option selection part. We use this section to navigate the trader’s stock. It differs in Roy’s Repairs and Sid’s Tavern. 

In Roy’s Repairs, player uses this screen to do automatic or manual repairs. Manual repair means player renting Roy’s equipment. Player buys time from him to use them. If we select automated repair, this allows him to set the repair percentage of the equipment.

In Sid’s Tavern we can get information for the next level or buy black market equipment. If we select equipment, this turns into a trader interface.

The bottom part of the screen shows us detailed information about the equipment we are going to buy or sell. We see the equipment, its name, description, price and our banking information.

Repair Minigame

This screen loads after we buy some time from Roy’s Repairs and begin repairing. The game uses a squared puzzle screen to represent the circuitry the device uses. It rotates these squares, signifying damage. Repairing our equipment means setting these to right orientation. Player uses joystick to navigate between quadrants and presses fire to rotate them.

League Display

League Display screen shows a top eight corporations taking part in the competition. This doesn’t have a functional use.

Betting Scene

There are four bet options in Tope. They change for each level. In here we see the bet ratios depending on the difficulty achieving them. Player can select many bets and can place money in varying amounts. This part reinforces the risk-and-reward mechanic.

Insurance Scene

Game uses this screen as a pre-combat scene. In here the player can sign an insurance. This covers his losses if he loses his chassis. Player had two of them in Amiga version and four in the PC version. If he doesn’t get an insurance, this will mean loss of all equipment and chassis. If he does, the insurance will cover the losses. The insurance had its own quirks as well. It doesn’t cover the illegal equipment bought from Sid’s Tavern. Player can choose how the insurance will work as well. Depending on the premium he pays, he can get new equipment or used ones.

This screen reinforces the risk and reward theme too. Player could take the risk of total loss of equipment for the benefit of having more money. More money means more player choice in the city screen. New players would play safe; experienced players can forgo the protection for money.

Combat Scene

Zeppelin Games designed the combat mechanic in the form of a top down shoot-em up with 40 levels in Amiga, 65 in PC. The levels consist from mazelike arenas with enemies.

Game uses collision detection for damage calculation. The weapons player and the enemies use shoot projectiles. The player can dodge the attacks by movement. Enemies damage the player on contact as well. Speaking of enemies there are 10 types in Amiga version and 14 in PC. 

Game builds the arenas from square tiles. Walls and directional boostpads restrict the player movement. By the way some drives allow the player to bypass – in a very crawling manner- the directional boosters. Tiles have height differences as well – ridges and slumps affect movement speed. Some tiles can damage the player too.

The maps have two layers. Player can fall into the bottom layer if he moves to an empty tile. If that happens he loses his chassis. The upper layer is where the gameplay happens. 

Collectible wise the maps have keys and other bonuses. Some provide monetary bonuses, others increase score. Keys open the gates placed in the arena. 

Combat scene ends on two conditions: Player dies or he reaches the Goal tile. It loads the post combat scene in either result.

HUD is very clear and concise. Player could see immediate data about himself in one glance. It displays his equipment vitals, time, financial status and other miscellaneous data. Shoot-em up part takes up the rest of the screen. 

Post Combat Scene

This scene reports player performance in the level. It shows these items:

  • Level Number
  • Time Bonus: Bonus for finishing the level without timer reaching zero.
  • Winnings: Player’s total earnings from the collectibles and the bets.
  • Kills: Kill count
  • Accuracy
  • Cool Bonus: Player earnings from collected cool points, again converted to money.

After reviewing these items player presses fire and game loads the city scene. With each level the stock of the traders change and Sid’s Tavern gets a new information.

Possible Remake Ideas

This game provides solid mechanics with a healthy ground for improvement. The City screen background and the shop logos can be better with animations. The betting system can include more options. An opportunity to make the player create his own bets would be golden. Combat can be better by introducing procedural generation system to the game. It can generate unique maps without manual design. That goes for the equipment design too.

A backstory and some npc background would improve the player experience as well. This would provide information about the world and answer why we are in this competition . A better soundtrack and sound effects must be in the revamp list too.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading!

Resources

  1. https://www.mobygames.com/game/universal-warrior
  2. https://gamesdb.launchbox-app.com/games/images/72013