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Capstone updates 3-5

4 Apr

So, I didn’t update this devlog as much as I intended to, but better late than never.

Day/Night is now established as a force in the world. Plants, predators, and players are now all affected by whether or not they are in “Day” or “Night”. Plants bloom quicker in daylight, queens and their pawns move slower at night, and predators come out at night.
One of my goals with this system is to force players into action and have them fight for territory that’s getting more sun, and therefore growing food more quickly.

In relation to the day/night cycle and the plant blooming cycle, I added the ability for players to force plants into bloom by clicking on them. When this is done at night, the plant becomes more stressed; when this is done during the day, the plant becomes less stressed. And as the plant becomes more stressed, it takes longer and longer to bloom.
My goal here is for players to learn how to “farm”. Part of the trick is that plants gain stress faster than they lose it when farmed, but if left alone for a while they naturally come back down. I see this as part of learning to dwell within the world. I also see it as a way to increase engagement, by making the game more “clicky”. In particular, I’m reminded of falling suns in Plants Vs Zombies.

I’ve also settled on the visual motif for this game. I’ve decided I want a very geometric look, so the queens are ovals, the pawns are triangles, predators are rotating octagons that live inside deccagons, and plants are squares that fold out when in bloom. I’m not gonna lie, a big incentive to go this route is simply how much easier it is for me to do.

Because this game is based on emergence in mechanics, it seemed natural to work towards random level generation. So far, even with few constraints in place, levels are coming out interesting. I’m gonna keep refining this aspect for probably longer than I need, or until it stops being fun.

I would really like to make the game multiplayer as soon as possible, but due to constraints on my time and the limited amount of time left in the semester, I will most likely wait until May to begin in earnest on that.

Capstone Update 2

5 Feb

Not as much to talk about in terms of decisions this week. I did play around with how “succession” works, whether it should be through direct descendent only or through the broader family. In other words, should a “sister” or “aunt” of the queen be selected as the next queen. I’m strongly leaning towards direct descendent only, on account of how long a game might take if you had to kill every member of every team. I’ve also considered doing some kind of possible team splitting when a queen dies, but that would mean that I’d have to plan for quite a few more different colored sprites (which is probably less work than I’m  making it out to be, but I hate doing sprites).

I had a meeting with my professor this week to review the game. We mostly talked about introducing additional levels of ecology and environment. This is something I was kinda wanting to do as well. I think of SimAnt, its predatory spider and, to a lesser extent, the lawn-mowing humans that were environmental hazards for the player to cope with. I would also like to see an organism on the level below our intrepid colony creatures. Ones that would have an effect on the resources available(a la pollination), or possibly become a resource themselves. I’m supposed to meet with another professor to talk about what they did for their dissertation project (as it relates to ecology) , hopefully that happens and proves to be productive.

He was also really getting into the idea of different environment conditions occurring in the game, and the idea of revealing deeper systems in the game to the player. I’m totally down for trying a sort of Don’t Starve style environment system that slowly changes length-of-day, temperature, snow/rain-fall. I don’t think that’s necessarily what he was talking about, but it’s something I think could work.

Capstone Update

20 Jan

I’m going to try to update roughly every week with progress on my capstone project, Gather. But more importantly, I want to outline design decisions I’ve made and why I made them.

Since I haven’t done so already, I’ll outline the basics. The core of the game is playing with the idea of a colony-type organism that is competing with other members of its species, a la SimAnt; or you know, actual ants. I started out thinking of colony insects that generally build some kind of home enclosure, where they store resources and breed. One of the aspects of these creatures that I really wanted to experiment with, was the idea of all the different workers and soldiers behaving autonomously but still doing really cool things because they all follow patterns. My early prototypes (which might still be up on this site) focused a little too much on having all the drones function without the player, and it resulted in an interesting simulation, but not much of a game. Thus, my new version seeks to give the player more interesting choices and make them a larger participant in the game world.

Some of the main points in the new game are: that the home-base aspect is essentially gone, players can actually direct their drones to move to general areas, and the player can spawn daughter units. The home base has been replaced, so far, with the idea of a home “turf”. This makes the game more about conquering and holding down different regions. And since the base is now the mobile queen, it ultimately makes the gameplay more dynamic as players now have to move their main unit into the frontline. To help hold down regions, players can spawn new queens that produce their own drones. These “princess” units will also take their queen’s position into account when moving, so as the player moves their queen, a slight horde effect happens as the rest of the colony slowly follows. The princesses also serves as the source of re-spawning the player after death. And obviously, players having control of where they send units is a big change. I decided to make the ordering of workers and the movement of the player be the same action, since it reinforces the concept that drones work with the queen and not necessarily for the queen. It also adds a layer of strategy to picking where to eat, because you send yourself into enemy territory when you graze in their area.

I think that’s it for the basics. There are probably some other parts I’m forgetting to explain, but that always happens when I’m really engrossed in a project.

End of the year update

17 Dec

So, it’s been about 6 months since I last did any serious game development outside of school or made any posts here. The week school ended though (last week), I decided to dust off Gather and remake it in Game Maker with all the new ideas I wanted to try out. The result is that I’m much happier with how the game is turning out now. To be clear, this new game is different in a lot of fundamental ways from the older Construct prototypes. But I think they’re close enough in spirit that it’s basically a continuation of the same general idea, just down a slightly different path.

The game revolves around playing as the queen of a hive-based organism, where the queen is the hive. The player controls two different types of drones, gatherers and soldiers, by placing beacons that the drones will move to and work around. In turn, the drones control the queen by directing where she moves to in the world; as gatherers bring back food, they relay where they found it to the queen, and she moves to the midpoint of the most recent finds. The queen can also have daughters that produce their own drones and follow the same movement pattern as mum. The game is mostly about competing against other “colonies” for food and territory;
Anyways, this is the executable file. WASD moves the camera around, Q creates gatherers, E creates Soldiers, R creates daughters. Left-mouse button places the gather flag, right-mouse button places the attack flag. Clicking on the flags removes them.

Gather and Harvest

30 Jul

I sorta became bored with Gather, and broke it in to two parts. My thoughts on it were taking me further into simulating things, which is mildly interesting to see the result of, but not much to play. My decision is to go one step further with ripping off paying homage to SimAnt, and include a player avatar that imitates one of the worker roles. This will allow players to lead some units into direct conflict by rounding up a posse. There might be some other homages to the Maxis classic coming.

So, that’s where Gather might go if I actually do work on it again. Separate from that, I think I want to do another game that’s closer to a traditional RTS that uses some of the concepts that I came up with for Gather This came about because a lot of what I was doing in Gather was based on RTS principles, but at the same time I wanted to have a very simple control scheme (in the end I was aiming for too simple). So, my thought now is to just embrace the traditional mouse and keyboard ‘drag and select’ style RTS controls. Therefore, direct control over all units.

Harvest will be more about developing fields of different resources located around strategic waterholes, these resources can confer different attributes to units which will ultimately help you topple your enemy. The resources are farmed until maturity and vulnerable until then. The game is about controlling as much of the map as possible and using the mixture of attributes to boost troops as necessary.

We’ll see which one gets worked on.

Bigger sprites equals better game

31 May

Gather – WASD to move the camera around, the two big buttons in the top left build bots.

I’ve been working on getting the bots to “talk” to each other more; so that 1 bot can tell another where he found some ore, for example. And attack bots now try to pursue enemies carrying dead bots. the added base component, the “stomach”, is just a cosmetic change to show available Ore reserves. And of course, I expanded the size of some sprites because they were tiny.


Attack and Gather with Buttons, Oh My!

10 May

The updated game. – This version should work better on mobile. UPDATE: So, when I run this project in my editor, everything works fine. Exported, the game has some baffling bugs. As far as I can tell, this is because I’m on the Construct 2 beta update channel. And if there’s one thing that can be said about Scirra, it’s that they do frequent and often bug-causing updates.

On the surface, all that’s new is the interface and the inclusion of Attack Bots. Of course, in the background there was more, but it was mostly stupid bug fixing. This time around, Gather Bots care less about finding Dead Bots, and their behavior has changed so that they “swarm” less one object. Attack Bots search for Dead Bots to bring back, and, if they see another team trying to take a Dead Bot, they attack.

One of the things I had to change a while back was the Turret system used by my bots. The Construct 2 behavior plugin, “Turret Behavior”, had some real limitations as far as determining whether an object was a suitable target. So, I just use events to control which objects are targeted. I’m getting close to the point where I must just try and write my own Plugin. If nothing else, it’s good motivation to learn Javascript.

A Gather update?

29 Apr

In my last post about gather I mentioned that it might still be interesting to focus on the “ant farm” aspect of what I had built, and ignore the science subtext I was trying to force in. So, I decided to pluck away, and this is the result:

Gather – Click on the big Yellow and Pink boxes to spawn bots of those respective colors. I left all the log info commands in, so clicking on things will give object variable info.

Why pursue this?: While I think I’m using a lot of the same mechanics, my end goal is much simpler. I still like the “AI voyeurism” in watching two sets of the same instructions battle it out for supremacy. It’s also helpful for me to keep sharpening my RTS programming skills.

Where am I going with it?: The scary part is, not many of the actual systems are going to change, but the emphasis I placed on different parts has changed. Before I was worried more about the different base”nodes” talking to each other and sending “signals” with different transmitters, with bots being tools of the base. Now it’s more traditional, with the idea being that the production of bots is the purpose of the base and ore.  Resource bots still look for ore, Attack bots are going to attack enemies, and Road bots are going to connect the different nodes up. The only real change for the bots is that Resource and Attack bots are now concerned with picking up “un-energized” bots and bringing them back to base for recharging, thereby keeping up the team numbers at a lower cost.

The next thing I want to implement is the Attack bots. Their role will be to actively look for un-energized bots and to destroy enemy bots that are carrying un-energized bots.  These will take a different resource for production, so I’ll also put in the different colored Combiners.

Throwing Away My Idea – (Gather Mid-Mortem?)

15 Apr

I’ve recently decided to re-shelve the idea that I was trying to work out with Gather.

The notion behind the game was to somehow represent the physical and chemical reactions in the brain that make us behave in a way that ensures survival. This was my cornerstone design goal. Well, it turns out educational games are bloody hard to make. My problem, I think, was that I kept trying to address this somewhat complex series of interactions in the most simple and abstract fashion. Instead of specific chemicals that I would have to research or make up a chart for, I chose to design using Color Theory, so specific colors would cause reactions in the system. And since I wanted to show off electrical signals as well as chemical reactions (which is kinda technically the same thing when talking about “gated” cellular interaction), I decided to map “energy” to color warmth (warm colors had positive charge, cold colors had negative charge), which could have worked if I didn’t keep getting bogged down with making cellular functions make sense on the color wheel.

Another major aspect to the idea was to indirectly affect a relatively autonomous system until it built itself up and then you ultimately make a decision about what do with the final output. The idea went through a lot of rapid evolution in my mind while I was working on the prototype. Basically, I could never figure out in definite terms what my game was about mechanically; I didn’t know what the “fun” part about it was. I think I just wanted to make an ant farm that I could check on and fuck with from time to time, kind of like Simcity in a way, and there may be something to pursuing that.

I wanted to write this essay for two reasons though; first, it’s good to put down on paper why something failed, and second, to address why my decision is to move on instead of keep working out this idea. The second question comes from a friend of mine who remarked that I spent about a month and half on this game already. I’ve wanted to figure out how to make an educational game that teaches neuroscience for about a year and half now, and it’s because I’m so intensely interested in being successful in this endeavor, that I don’t want to attempt to tackle it before I can do it justice. And frankly, I’ve got enough other coals in the fire already that I don’t need to waste significant amounts of time on a flustering idea.

So, is everything I’ve done a waste? I don’t think so. Gather was probably one of the most beneficial failures I’ve had  recently. I only even started the project to learn pathfinding and turret behaviors in Construct, so I was successful as far as that went ( most valuable takeaway: don’t call ‘find path()’ while the object is already finding/moving along a path). More importantly though, I learned something about my own ideas and how to address some of them. And I think a lot of my design ideas are going to find their way into other games eventually.

And for the record, “Gather”, as a name, has nothing to do with what the game was about and everything to do with my complete lack of fucks to give about names.

Another Gather Update

26 Mar

Starting to see the rough outlines of a game loop now. In this, the bots are breaking down and re-combining minerals. The yellow rock shoots off by itself because it’s the “energy” component gained from the reaction. The purple rock is ultimately used by the bot to get energy back out of the system, and is used by the base to make a new bot.


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