GT Multitude

2010, February 18th 5:53 PM

I had an idea for a game design. It turned out to be . . . shall we say . . . dubious.

Windows (.zip version available)
Mac OSX (10.6 or higher)

I'll just write up a postmortem here.

The theme for this month was Rejection. The idea I had was to take some basic swarming behavior, then make the creatures in the swarm gradually pay less attention to you. Your "livelihood" depended on influencing your friendly swarm creatures, and thus, as they ignored you, you'd die.

The problem with behaviors of this sort is that it's tough to accomplish both "interesting behavior" and "sufficiently controllable with the user". Even in the current version – the best balance I was able to get – some of the interesting swarm mechanics go away when the user gets close. I had some versions where the player was fundamentally unable to interact with the creatures in a predictable manner, I had some versions where the creatures essentially became mindless slaves of the user.

Fundamentally, I wasn't able to come up with any really interesting mechanics. Nothing I did was fun, and I didn't find myself enjoying playing my own game. That's a bad sign.

I don't think anything really went directly wrong with this – it was an experimental concept, and it didn't pan out. These things happen. Hopefully next month will be a little more successful.

So hey been a while. Let's get this thing wrapped up.

I've gotten a curiously small amount of commentary on this game, and I'm not quite sure why. Doesn't give me a lot to go on, and it worries me that, perhaps, I did something wrong that I will be unable to figure out.

Who knows!

What Went Right

I decided to tackle hardware shaders and higher-end graphical effects in this game. Overall I think this was an amazing success – there are a lot of effects in this game that are done entirely via hardware and on the graphics card, and the game comes across much better thanks to those. In fact, even something as simple as the lit-up paths are hardware processed. Wonderfully powerful and I'll be using similar stuff in the future as needed. Huge success.

I feel that the sound effects turned out great as well, which is surprising because I maybe spent two hours on sound for the entire game. I wasn't intending to end up with such a meditative soundscape but that's kind of what happened, and I really rather enjoy it. Happy accident there.

The basic game design . . . I'm a little uncertain. I've had a few people suggest that it would be better with a touchscreen interface and a countdown, and I think that might be true – the "falling tiles" behavior doesn't lend much of interest to the gameplay. However, the actual idea, linking things via wires one way or another, seems to be pretty dang fun. I think it's got potential for tweaks and improvements.

What Went Wrong

Nobody anywhere has commented about the achievements. Did people not notice them? Did people not care about them? I have no clue! Tell me what you thought of them, or even if you noticed. The idea was to give people suggestions towards things that might increase their score, or towards things that they might not have thought of – essentially encouraging people to explore the bounds of the game mechanics. Hopefully it worked.

The hardware shaders ended up turning into a huge code and efficiency problem, and I ended up spending a week before the game making them work, plus a week after the game making them work fast. Ugh. On top of that I'm still getting frequent crash reports. I'm not sure if this is thanks to the hardware shaders or what – I'll have to instrument some codepaths better to figure out where this crash is coming from. It may simply be that a lot of people are trying to run this game on low-end graphics systems.

I also still don't have OSX crash reports working.

I didn't have time to play around with the game mechanics much further. I wanted to have things like "score doublers" that you could drop in, that would double any points gotten "through" that link. Didn't happen. I had some ideas about ways to modify the board layout after placing pieces, or letting the player stash a piece. Didn't happen. This game was a huge time crunch from beginning to end, and I'm glad I did it because I ended up with some great infrastructure in place, but the game design suffered.

The Bottom Line

I feel like I've made my prettiest and most atmospheric game yet. That's cool. I feel like the game design itself was kind of a failure, and I'm pretty much just gonna be moving on to whatever's next.

Which, lately, has been an iPhone port. Getting close to the point where I can (relatively) easily build iPhone games!