Project for minimalistic game: In need of feedback and advice.

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meromann77 101 Oct 05, 2012 at 03:45

Hello, I intend to make a minimalistic “not”game explaining my thoughts and personal experience on the matter of self-isolation, using the mechanics of the gameplay as the narrative itself. I’ll proceed to explain the main concept and mechanics of the game, but I wont go into deep detail because spoiling the entirety of the mechanics, in this case would be spoiling the narrative, and right now I want to be as secretive as i can with it. At the end of the post I’ll ask for your advice in different matters about it:

First of all, I got HUGELY inspired by Jordan Magnuson’s Loneliness, so as for now, the visuals and main mechanic (moving from point A to point B in a straight way) will be based on that, but i’m completely open to suggestions about how I can make this better or more original.

The game would be titled Isolation, but i’m still not totally happy with that name.
The user would be a 10x10mm black square, which would move in a vertically scrolling screen, populated by other squares, some bigger, and some smaller.
The player’s square would interact with the others by being repelled or attracted to them.
The player’s square will be able to change sizes depending on the interactions with the other squares.
At some point in the game (it will be fairly short, lasting an average of 3-4 minutes), some of the other will start changing their colors.
The game will have several endings (5, 6 counting “death/lose” as an ending) depending on how the player plays it.

Now, I would like to ask you to tell me what you like about the concept, or what you would change about it, if it’s too dull, tell me, or if you want me to be more specific about the mechanics tell me, and I’ll PM you about them; I even have some pencil sketches that I can send to you once I translate them from Spanish.

The hard part: I know some things about programming, I can manage with the basics of C++, C#, and Java, and am going to learn Flash and some AS in the next few months; but I don’t really know how to graphically represent what I want to show to the player: What libraries should I use, and how do I employ them? How can I simulate the “physics” of attraction and repulsion? How do I change the colors and sizes of the figures I’m displaying?

Thanks in advance to everyone who reads and who replies; I intend to publish the game on Newgrounds and similar media once it’s done.

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Reedbeta 167 Oct 05, 2012 at 05:10

(Here’s a link to Loneliness if anyone wants to play it - it’s a short, simple flash game.)

You could get some more title ideas by using a thesaurus. For example, “isolation” in the thesaurus leads to: aloofness, detachment, exile, privacy, quarantine, reclusiveness, remoteness, retreat, seclusion, and solitude among others. Do any of those words sound like a better fit?

The mechanics you outlined sound workable, but of course the success of the game will depend on the details of the execution and on doing something interesting with those mechanics. Within the context of Loneliness, I don’t think the mechanics sound “too dull” - on the contrary, compared to Loneliness, your game sounds positively bustling! :)

I’ll admit, when I first read your post I was concerned about the idea of making everything be squares - I thought it would make the game look unfinished, like “programmer art”. But Loneliness uses squares and only squares, so if you’re intentionally riffing on that it would be appropriate. Fortunately for you, this also makes the programming quite a lot easier than if you had more sophisticated graphics. I don’t know Flash/AS myself, but almost any 2D graphics API will have a built-in “rectangle” function that takes pixel coordinates and just draws a rectangle there, so that’s about all you will need to do to render your game world. :) Such APIs also have functions for setting the RGB color of drawn objects, so that’s no challenge either. I doubt you will need any libraries beyond what comes built-in with Flash.

For attraction and repulsion, based on what Loneliness is doing, it looks like each group of squares loops an animation until the player gets within a certain distance, at which point they stop what they’re doing and just run straight away from the player. This is simple to calculate using vectors. If you’re not familiar with vectors, read this series of blog posts (3 parts). For attraction you’d just reverse the vectors so they’d run toward the player instead of away.

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TheNut 179 Oct 05, 2012 at 11:05

To simulate attraction and repulsion, look into electromagnetism, specifically Coulombs law. It will give you a more dynamic and fluid animation than what Jordan did.

If you use Flash, you will want to look into using Flex. IMO a better choice would be to use HTML5 and canvas. Your JavaScript app would only be a couple kilobytes (compared to Flash’s minimum ½MB app size), portable to more platforms, loads faster, and is in line with the web standards.

You didn’t go into details about your notgame (is this doublespeak?), but you mentioned self-isolation. I take it you want to spark an emotional response with this? It’s fine to use squares as your subjects, but a black and white game without creatures and god like powers will simply be too boring for the average person to spend time on it. You’ll want to add some colour and even some images to help convey the psychological state of the person playing. A social butterfly for example would see bright colours with flowers and butterflies on the screen whereas an introvert may see darker colours with a more sinister theme. Whatever you do, it should be worth 5 minutes of someone’s time, not 5 seconds :D

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meromann77 101 Oct 05, 2012 at 20:52

@TheNut

It’s fine to use squares as your subjects, but a black and white game without creatures and god like powers will simply be too boring for the average person to spend time on it. You’ll want to add some color and even some images to help convey the psychological state of the person playing. A social butterfly for example would see bright colors with flowers and butterflies on the screen whereas an introvert may see darker colors with a more sinister theme. Whatever you do, it should be worth 5 minutes of someone’s time, not 5 seconds :D

Good idea, i was intending to make the squares colored (red and blue, and i’m telling you too much with this) if the player decides to act in a more social way, but adding some background colors and colored effects would look really nice for that kind of player. As for introverts, I’ll try to stay with black and white, and gloomy music, which is also the starting point of the game. Still, there will be several ways to play the game, and I want to try to differentiate them as the player progresses.

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fireside 141 Oct 05, 2012 at 23:47

For myself, I don’t like to get too much input at the start of a project. I have a concept and work it out until people can really see what I’m doing rather than trying to imagine it from an explanation. It’s after I get a version with most bugs worked out that I like to get input.
FlashPunk is a pretty nice free library that’s fairly easy to use, Flixel is along the same order. They both can save you quite a bit of time. If you know Java, you won’t have any trouble with AS3. If you plan to release on the PC, Flash, or Flex really, is one of the best options for a free browser game. There are still more portals for Flash, I think, than html5.

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alphadog 101 Oct 10, 2012 at 21:11

Have you played Osmosis?

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meromann77 101 Oct 13, 2012 at 06:14

@alphadog

Have you played Osmosis?

Not really, gonna check on it.