Timothy Sherman – Final Project Update

by Timothy Sherman @ 2:26 am 25 April 2011

Over this weekend, I’ve succeeded in finishing a basic build of a game using the Magrathea system. The game is for any number of players, who build a landscape so that the A.I. controlled character (shown above) can walk around collecting flowers, and avoiding trolls.

Building this game involved implementing a lot of features – automated systems for moving sprites, keeping track of what sprites existed, etc, and finding modular, expandable ways to do this was a lot of my recent work. The sprites can now move around the world, avoid stepping into water, display and scale properly, etc.

The design of the game is very simple right now. The hero is extremely dumb – he basically can only try to step towards the flower. He’s smart enough not to walk into water, and not to walk up or down too-steep cliffs, but not to find another path. The troll is pretty dumb too, as he can only step towards the hero (though he can track a moving hero).

I’m not keeping track of any sort of score now (though I could keep track of how many flowers you’ve collected, or make that effect the world), because I’m concerned about the game eclipsing the rest of the tool, and I think that’s what I’m struggling with now.

Basically, I’m nervous that the ‘game’ isn’t really compelling enough, and that it’s driven the focus away from the fun, interesting part of the project (building terrain) and pushed it into another direction (waiting as some dumb asshole sprite walks across your arm).

That said, I do think watching the sprites move around and grab stuff is fun. But the enemies are too difficult to deal with reliably, and the hero a little too dumb to trust to do anything correct, requiring too much constant babysitting.

I also realize that I’ve been super-involved with this for the last 72 hours, so this is totally the time when I need feedback. I think the work I’ve done has gone to good use – I’ve learned how to code behaviors, display sprites better, smooth their movement, ensure they are added onto existing terrain, etc. What I’m trying to decide now is if I should continue in the direction of refining this gameplay, or make it into more of a sandbox. Here’s the theoretical design of how that could happen (Note, all of the framework for this has been implemented, so doing this would require mostly the creation of more graphical elements).:

The user(s) builds terrain, which is populated with a few (3? 4?) characters who wander around until something (food, a flower, eachother) catches their attention. When this happens, a thought balloon pops up over their head (or as part of a GUI above the terrain? this would obscure less of the action) indicating their desire for that thing, and they start (dumbly) moving towards it. When they get to it, they do a short animation. Perhaps they permanently affect the world (pick up a flower then scatter seeds, growing more flowers?)

This may sound very dangerous or like I’m in a crisis, but what I’ve developed right now is essentially what’s described above, but with one character, one item, and the presence of a malicious element (the troll), so this path would really just be an extension of what I’ve done, but in a different direction than the game.

I’m pretty pleased with my progress, and feel that with feedback, I’ll be able to decide which direction to go in. If people want to playtest, please let me know!!

(also, i realize some sprites (THE HOUSE) are not totally in the same world as everything else yet, it’s a placeholder/an experiment)

screen shots (click for full):

1 Comment

  1. Comments from the crit:

    AWESOMEEEEEE!!! This is A-MAZINGly well thought out. I say ou add the score-keeping, highest scores, start, quit, make the monster troll guy laugh in your face if you loseetc. Great work! OMG DON’T REVERT BACK TO JUST LANDSCAPES!!
    Hahahah this is awesome! I think a little bit of game goal stuff would go a long way, like WIN and LOSE message, so a group knows when their turn is over. I think you should really focus on the “fun” for demo day. Think groups, couples, friends, kids.
    cuteness comments section:
    awwwwww cute
    aww Flowers
    So happy to be picking floweeeeers
    not to discredit all the game mechaics you did, which are great, but there is something beautiful about the simple interaction of the landscape – god mode
    texture a character outline the same as the sky? so then its like seeing through the landscape
    conflict between the styles
    i say stick with the more conceptual graphics of floating water in a skybox in terms of style
    “aesthetics of inactivty”
    nothingness can be interesting too
    Nice sprites, but they don’t really work with the land textures. I think it would look better low res. Think MineCraft. ++1 cohesive graphics would definitely give it a much more polished look.+1
    There’s some weird scaling issues with the sprites when they’re far in the background. I think mipmapping could help.
    I want more little dudes. And more monsters. And powerups.
    So awesome!!
    Super cute and nice. You should add other obstacles like trees.
    Add a defense gesture.
    I think its nice that they’re pretty dumb, you should be in control of what’s happening and if they are super dumb its easy to maintain that control. Although for a challenge, maybe the enemy could be harder to kill, like it could detect that its going to be drowned and run away.
    What an amazing interaction. There’s a couple directions you could go… I think expanding the game aspects, really hammering out some compelling gameplay would take the best advantage of this game. Well done, indeed.
    I think it’s great! It’s nice that it is so simple, but I think that it’s really important to get a path detection working, otherwise people will get bored of building the same playdoh path over and over again. Aside from that, it give people a simple task and a sense of impending doom, which is great. I think you need better/ more pleasing sprites and color palette such that the textures and the flowers have the same visual language.
    You need some sound effects.
    You could go for Darwinia style simple characters made out of primitives instead of textures, although you have to work out the animation yourself …
    Also, don’t throw away the different interaciton modes. You could use the ofxAppUtils scene manager to be able to cycle between different interaction modes (god, game, story telling, etc).
    Looks like you need some way to smooth the terrain vertically, or to allow the little dude to advance across greater deltas in height. Love the idea for a game, very novel and makes great use of a new form of interaction.
    I’m actually pretty happy with this. I think you should make everything 8 bit graphics rather than trying to upgrade the graphic quality of your sprites. It’d be difficult to make animations look decent once you have higher quality graphics. That’s why young game developers always go 8-bit ;-)
    What if instead of characters you just had a bunch of rolling pinballs? Then you could do something like that iphone game where you have to get pinballs into the right place without falling off the side (water.)

    get ofxControlPanel (by ofTheo on github) connected for your calibration…

    you need a sound and a sparkle when you grab the flower

    you need different colors of flowers
    the flowers seem to have a different aesthetic than the characters

    I think you need to give people objects to use to build land instead of using their hands
    Need some feedbck when you get a flower or the dude gets you. Either sound or visual or both.

    can you make the monsters incapable of climbing steeper slopes? Allow little guys to escape by climbing higher?

    Comment by Golan Levin — 1 May 2011 @ 11:34 am

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