Testing out Unity with a little Zeewolf-like thing

Growing up in the era of 16-bit computers gave me the chance to play a lot of excellent Amiga games. One of them was Zeewolf, an arcade 3D helicopter shooter. I use Unity 3D to prototype a game that would capture Zeewolf experience.

Things have been really slow on the Through front lately but the project gradually transforms into a proper game. I’m currently in the process of expanding and refactoring the level editor. In the meantime I’ve had the oportunity to get acquainted with Unity and decided to take a shot at a little idea I’ve had for quite a while, an arcade 3D shooter.

Growing up in the era of 16-bit computers gave me the chance to play a lot of excellent Amiga games. One of them was Zeewolf, an arcade 3D shooter game where the player pilots an attack helicopter, performing various objectives like retrieving captured vehicles, rescuing POWs, and bringing mayhem and destruction to enemy units.

While Zeewolf definitely is an arcade game, it’s not as hectic as a typical shoot ’em up. It has a slower pace and requires more tactical thinking, especially considering that ammo and fuel resources constantly deplete and require resupply. This makes gameplay less about pure manual skill in delivering destruction and more about clever planning how to approach given tasks and combat situations.

The theme and gameplay of Zeewolf resemble an earlier Sega Megadrive hit — Desert Strike (which turned into a series of “Strike” games) but differs in few key elements, like 3D graphics, semi-automatic aiming, more varied missions and ability to pilot other types of vehicles. The third dimension made it possible to also control the helicopter’s height, particularly when using mouse-based controls (default joystick-based controls were much easier to learn but more limited when it comes to movement freedom).

It’s worth mentioning that Zeewolf’s 3D rendering engine bears a strong resemblance to the rendering engine of Zarch/Virus, a game developed by David Braben (of Elite fame). In spite of all the similarities, Zeewolf is in no way related to Zarch.

Zeewolf and its sequel, Zeewolf 2: Wild Justice, were relatively little known games, especially considering that they were published in the beginning of the end of Amiga’s era (1994 and 1995 respectively). Nonetheless, in my personal opinion, they were one of the most innovative, unique, and fresh games in the Amiga’s shooter genre at their time with virtually no true successors.

Returning to my prototype and arcade 3D shooter idea, up to this day I have not found any game (be it PC, console or mobile) that would truly capture the spirit of Zeewolf experience. Of course it has many irks, shortcomings and annoyances by today standards but the design has aged suprisingly well and I’d love to revive it in my prototype, to see how it fits into today’s gaming landscape.

And this is how the prototype looks in motion right now. All the assets used in this scene come from the Unity Asset Store and are just placeholders that will definitely change. The purpose of the prototype is mostly to capture the feel of Zeewolf.

The post originally appeared on Vigeo Games blog.



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