Selecting singers and their traits
Forenote: this is a dolphin discussion (Odontoceti; Delphinidae) and not regarding alternative singers like Mysticetes and other whales.
So we have about 32ish dolphins in the world today. Most people on this forum or supporting ecco will be like "YES ALL OF THE DOLPHINS" but I'd like to hear thoughts on the matter.
Of course there are two types of dolphins to think about, and that is the oceanic and freshwater ones. So how could freshwater species (Tucuxi, Boto etc) be handled, if at all? Would it be too much to have all 30+ dolphins featured as playable in this game?
I also considered the idea of having different traits for each singer. Duskies and Pacific-sides are known to be fast, so should they be able to swim faster in game? Orcas are more resilient, so they'd be less vulnerable to attack compared to Commerson's and the Cephalorhynchus bunch. Should the deeper water species like Risso's and Rough-toothed be able to stay underwater for longer?
Let's hear some discussion.
Given the planned scale of the Big Blue, I don't think having 30+ dolphin species is really out of the question. I found the Ecco games fascinating at 3 years old, and now in my 20s I find them kind of educational, going on the internet to look up information on whatever creature I just saw or find out what it's even called. I had never even heard of dunkleosteus or knew that trilobites were carnivores until I played Ecco. Heck, at 3 years old Ecco taught me a lot about dolphins!
They've said they want the whole "What is THAT" feeling to be part of the game, so I think having 30+ dolphin species would work well with that. For example, up until I recently I had never even heard of the Yangtze river dolphin. It will be interesting to see how the dolphin species has evolved in the fiction of the game, we saw some interesting examples in Tides of Time.
In the Ecco the Dolphin manual, it says that dolphins can ram so hard it can knock sharks out of the water. That would be fascinating to see in the games! One thing I would like to see with the singers, is dolphins helping each other and their intelligence, other than it just being sidequests like in DOTF. For example, the Ecco manual said that one time two dolphins were seen pushing another dolphin towards the surface so it could breathe.
I would be curious to see how balleen whales are handled in the game, specifically how they would defend themselves from creatures such as sharks.
I would also be interested in seeing how warm and cold waters would effect certain singers, like how in the Ecco games you visit a variety of environments.
How do you think similar species could be handled? Species like the Delphinus complex (delphis, capensis and other possible splits) and Tursiops (truncatus, aduncus and australis) are nearly identical from a visual perspective.
If the decision was made to only include one Common and one Bottlenose that might cut the roster down a bit.
Lagenorhynchus obliquidens vs obscurus might be another one to consider. The two are just about separable but they inhabit different types of water (colder vs temperate/tropical) which could be an interesting feature.
Since all dolphins have different ranges and habitats, maybe a possible mechanic could be eating certain types of fish heals certain singers more or less than others, based on their usual diet.
Maybe a way to include freshwater species would be to have a scenario where you have to swim up a river to a lake? Like how the St. Lawrence river connects to the ocean.
Even if multiple dolphin species are very close visually, they probably have different things that physically differentiate them. Maybe one could swim faster, take more damage, have a further range of sight or hold their breath for longer.
It would be interesting to see porpoises included in the game, because I don't know a lot about them. In the Ecco games we got to see dolphins and whales interacting, but not porpoises.
Compared to dolphins and whales, porpoises live a relatively short life of around 10 years. That would be an interesting angle to feature in the story if they are included in the game. They also live in smaller pods and don't commonly breach the water like dolphins do. The Finless Porpoise would be an interesting creature to control in the game since they pretty much lack a dorsal fin.
Finless porpoises don't necessarily lack the swimming ability just because of a lack of dorsal fin. They may be a little slower and less agile but they still manage to get around fine.
But yes, porpoises could be interesting. There's nothing wrong with being able to make them breach (though I imagine dalli will be the only one that could really achieve a high enough speed to breach enough). Social aspect you brought up is a good point, but it will depend how the story line of Big Blue works.
The idea of controlling the story line or changing it based on what species you play would be quite neat.
So off the top of my head we end with Lagenorhynchus as the fastest (and most acrobatic in terms of dusky and pacific white-sided) of the dolphins.
Our familiar bottlenose should probably be the general average I find. It isn't the fastest, it can take hits sure. Stenellas (like Spinner) would in my mind be faster but less durable than a bottlenose.
The smaller ones like Cephalorhynchus are not quite as fast and I imagine them being less durable than the others. Freshwater dolphins I picture as the same, as they don't need speed and they don't need durability.
Risso's and Rough-toothed are a similar case I find. They both do better in deeper water, they are average in speed, they are not so acrobatic.
Orca...well how do we not make them overpowered? Well they are not as fast as say Dusky but they are probably quite invulnerable to most anything.
Since this is taking place in a fictional version of Earth a million years in the future, I'm sure they could make new natural predators for Orcas. There's also the Gyreforms to think about as a threat. They could also make some gameplay mechanics to balance out their power, like how in Ecco Jr. the orca character is heavier and a bit slower.
It would be interesting to see how blue whale songs are featured in the game, since they can be heard from hundreds of miles away.
If a Gyreform is dangerous enough to hunt Orcas then the smaller species aren't going to stand a chance?
Its a tough situation to make realistic. The only thing I can think Orcas would be weak to that can be balanced is noise; any singer would be dazed from high-pitched sounds. Since Gyreforms are also microbe based we could suggest a phytoplankton like approach where they make the waters poisonous if they occur in large enough numbers.
That's a good point. Though, I would like to see Orcas featured in the game as playable creatures somehow.
-Ed has said, for example, that with the jellyfish, they will simulate its blindness by having the camera very close to the creature. All whales have different ranges of sight both underwater and when spyhopping. I wonder how they could feature this in the game? DOTF did a good job of simulating murky underwater environments with the limited range of sight. But these games will play in 2D from a side view. I don't think visual filters would work well in a 2D game.
-Some whales hide in kelp forests to prevent themselves from being detected by the songs of other singers, as the songs bounce off the kelp instead. This could be a cool game mechanic.
-The bends/decompression sickness. For the player, this would be a bothersome mechanic to include, especially with the need to rush to the surface for air. I'm no expert on the subject, but I know it's part of the reason why scientists have trouble researching and retrieving deep sea life.
-Whales have to be awake to breathe and only rest for short periods at the surface. While they have evolved to adapt to the underwater environment and live for 60+ years with very little rest, there could possibly be a fatigue mechanic.
-Since this game will feature deep sea exploration, they will have to work out a formula for some sort of timing mechanic with the oxygen. Sperm Whales can hold their breath for 2 hours and dive 1000 metres.
-If porpoises are included, since they have trouble moving their necks, this could be one way they play differently from dolphins.
So I composed this chart I was using for my own dolphin game, perhaps it would interest people. It has five traits, speed being maximum speed, power being attack power and dash speed, stamina being ability to survive damage, air endurance (how far down they can go without running out of air) and acceleration.
I determined it based on my knowledge of the species and taking into consideration studies and data done on them. Maybe it will help you Ed.
Bottlenose Dolphin (truncatus)
--- Speed: = , Power: +, Stamina: +, Air: =, Acceleration: =
Common Dolphins (both spp.)
--- Speed: = , Power: =, Stamina: ++, Air: =, Acceleration: =
Pacific WS Dolphins and Dusky (obliquidens, obscurus)
--- Speed: + , Power: =, Stamina: =, Air: =, Acceleration: +
Atlantic WS Dolphins (acutus)
--- Speed: + , Power: =, Stamina: +, Air: =, Acceleration: =
Cephalorhynchus Dolphins (all spp.)
--- Speed: + , Power: -, Stamina: +, Air: -, Acceleration: +
Stenella Dolphins (all spp.)
--- Speed: =, Power: =, Stamina: +, Air: =, Acceleration: +
Risso's and Rough-toothed Dolphins (griseus and brenadensis)
--- Speed: =, Power: =, Stamina: +, Air: +, Acceleration: =
--- Speed: -, Power: +, Stamina: +, Air: =, Acceleration: =
Freshwater dolphins (all spp.)
--- Speed: -, Power: =, Stamina: +, Air: -, Acceleration: =
Pilot Whales and False Killer Whale types (all spp.)
--- Speed: =, Power: +, Stamina: +, Air: -, Acceleration: =
Fraser's Dolphin (hosei)
--- Speed: =, Power: =, Stamina: =, Air: =, Acceleration: =
Right Whale Dolphins (borealis and peronii)
--- Speed: +, Power: -, Stamina: =, Air: =, Acceleration: +