Succeeding at Prototypes

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Hello, thanks to a suggestion from Remelic on the last post I’ve tried prototyping with a smaller board this time (13×13 spaces) & it worked. It was pretty cool finally getting to do this. It was kind of like being a kid again, except I took notes of what I was doing.

The prototype had these aspects:

  • A player critter
  • About 20 resources of one type – you need these to lay an egg (I really need to think of some other uses for resources).
  • About five each of three kinds of critters: a charger, a shooter, & a ‘rail shooter’ that charges up per shot – the odd critter respawns in a area out of sight of the player.
  • About 20? impassable ‘solid rock’ spaces.
  • About 10 ‘hazard’ spaces that damage all adjacent spaces when hit (I imagine these to be clumps of sap or gelatinous acid).
  • ‘Earth’ spaces which filled up almost all the rest of the board. These can be dug out.

All of these were randomly scattered on the board except for the player, I don’t want them starting near a critter.

I went into this intending to make up the mechanical rules as they arose. The most apparent challenge that came up from this is how to simulate live action in a turn based manner. This leads to other questions like:

  • How long should an action be taken in relation to other actions?
  • What about fast moving things like projectiles?

I have read about a few methods, like in arena type games having players draw an action card at the same time, e.g. move 3 spaces, shoot, etc. For this prototype I came up with rules like these:

  • Critters moves one space at a time (I can imagine this getting tedious with many things happening)
  • Only move critters when they are active, e.g. when the player is in range of seeing/interacting with them.
  • All critters have their attacks delayed by at least one turn (I imagine the player being more responsive than the AI in the actual game).
  • Decide where a critter randomly wanders towards using a dice, e.g. 1-2 = no where, 3-6 = orthogonal directions in clockwise order starting with up. This only happens if they have nothing else to do.

& more I can’t remember right now. It’s a good way of designing minute things ahead of time, like critter AI. Otherwise I was generally fluid with the rules as I tried to balance things on the go, e.g. I found I was able to lay eggs pretty easily to I spontaneously set a max total of three.

I noticed at the end that I was lacking a long term goal. I didn’t have anything like an exit switch or an objective to strive towards other than kill critters & lay as many eggs as I can.

I’m actually not sure if I want to include something like this. I personally prefer to let the player decide what their own objectives are, but at the same time as the designer I need to put elements in the game the player may want to strive towards. This could be something like hunting a unique critter or searching for a rare resource that does… something cool, maybe. Yet I feel like there should be something, like an exit leading to the next area; something that marks a level being complete.

I’ll end with an interesting situation that arose that I’d love to see more of in the final game. I was chomping through earth & came to a small open passage. To my right was a shooter critter & to my left was a hazard tile. I simulate panicking & try retreating. The critter shoots past me & hits the hazard. It explodes damaging everything adjacent to it, killing me & triggers another hazard to explode killing a distant critter. Fortunately I had two eggs laid & I respawned at the nearest one :).

Farewell

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