Archive for June, 2016

Game Idea a Day – Week 25

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Sorry for the delay on this post (and the short writeups)! Here are the game ideas from last week.

6/17 – A pen-and-paper game with destructible element mechanics. Kind of a complicated last-man-standing tic-tac-toe variant. Co-credit for this game idea should go to Zach Johnson.

6/18 – A connect-the-pipes game in VR. Thoughts on mechanics and UI.

6/19 – A mountain-climbing game, where you realize the mountains you are climbing are actually human fingerprints.

6/20 – A Poi simulator for the Vive. (This came out of the news that the Blarp! source code is available on github.)

6/21 – Some thoughts on shared mechanics in table top games Splendor and Ticket To Ride. I then outlined a game that does something slightly different but draws on those elements.

6/22 – A VR bird-simulator. I’m pretty sure I’ve had thoughts along these lines in the past, but apparently I didn’t remember that at the time.

6/23 – I actually didn’t write an entry on the 23rd. (3rd or 4th missed/skipped day, I’m not sure.) I wrote two the next day to make up for it, but you’ll have to wait till next week’s writeup for those!

Game Idea a Day – Week 24

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

My game ideas for last week:

6/10 – Three rhyming ideas: Weasel Easel, a drawing app where everything turns into fuzzy animals. Cube tube, a puzzle game played by swapping adjacent tvs, what’s playing on the tvs is how you match things. Two episodes of the same show, for example. Cop Mop, a game where you are the janitor of a police station, and have to clean up messy (bloody) jail cells and solve crimes.

I also wrote an entry about shoving giant blocks around in VR, and how it might best be accomplished.

6/11 – An intriguing idea for a two-player abstract where you move a piece, and then choose a square anywhere on the gameboard to raise. Once a square has been raised, the other pieces on the board would slide away from it, assuming the spaces beyond them are empty. I first started by thinking of this as a chess variant, and it works as that, but I think it also works with simpler pawns and I could imagine any number of different victory conditions. The first thing that came to mind is the last player with a pawn remaining on the bottom level would be the victor. One interesting aspect of this idea is that it would likely be rather difficult to play with a physical prototype, and yet, unlike a lot of my other digital board game ideas that meet that criteria, I didn’t start out trying to think of a game with it in mind from the beginning.

6/12 – A brainstorm that started with the title “VVVVVR”… The obvious idea is just a 3D version of Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. You are in the platformer, but you can teleport around for movement, and if you teleport onto the ceiling, the whole universe flips upside down. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a literal translation of the mechanics from the original. That clearly wouldn’t work, but it might be fun to take inspiration from as many mechanics as possible. I even thought a bit about one of the possible levels or areas.

6/13 – More thinking about my VR RTS idea from 5/22. I outlined some details for 5 different ship types: Fighter, Scout/Sniper, Shield Generator, Destroyer, and Miner.

6/14 – More thinking about the idea from 6/11. I basically just wrote down more of the details, and outlined some specifics for the non-chess game.

6/15 – A brainstorm devoted to video in VR. Thinking about how we might capture a scene in realtime, both with standard cameras and kinect. This would enable lots of game ideas, charades, hacky-sack, social dance games.

6/16 – A game where you play as a turtle swimming around in a murky swamp. I outlined rules for how you might control a 3rd person turtle character that swims in front of your HMD (head mounted display), avoiding Crocodiles and looking for other turtles.

Today (after doing my brainstorm) I started re-reading Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun, and got to the part about how games take place in a “magic circle”. This reminded me that I had picked up The Magic Circle back at Indie Cade last year, but hadn’t played through it yet. I spent most of this afternoon doing so, and highly recommend it. I think it’s probably the kind of thing where I shouldn’t talk about it too much, or I’d be spoiling it for you, but obviously, it’s (at least somewhat) about game design. This led me to wondering what other games there are out there specifically about the making of games. I can only think of The Beginner’s Guide, and some others that are more accurately summed up as “game developer simulator” games. (Game Dev Story and Game Dev Tycoon are the ones I’m familiar with, but it looks like there are a bunch more on steam.) If you know of any others, please let me know!

Protocols all the way down

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

As a programmer, one of the things I like to argue against is the concept of “magic code”, code that works because of some unseen bit of code elsewhere. In iOS, the principal is exemplified by “magic” methods you can include in various subclasses that do rather important things. Want to handle touches in your UIView? Just implement the method touchesBegan:withEvent:, touchesMoved:withEvent:, touchesEnded:withEvent:, and touchesCanceled:withEvent:, and you’re good to go. Want to set up your UIViewController‘s visual layout? Make sure you do so in the layoutSubviews method.

But how do you know about all these magic methods? This is definitely one of the questions that I found the most difficult when I first began iOS development. Learning about all this magic is basically the same thing as learning iOS development. Knowing Apple’s APIs is how you develop iOS apps. Knowing their quirks is how you get to be an expert.

But if you’re just starting out, it’s important to know that most of these magic methods are (generally, not always, but generally) defined in a protocol. When an object conforms to a protocol, it basically says that it (or one of its subclasses) will implement some set of methods. Want to know what protocols UIViewController conforms to? In Objective-C, you would simply open up its header and check it out. (Of course, a protocol might be defined even further up the chain, in one of the headers for a class the view controller inherits from.)

But how do you figure out what protocols a class conforms to in Swift? As near as I can tell, the only way is to open up Apple’s documentation. This seems like it would not be enough, since you might be working with a non-apple framework, or worse… it is possible (gasp) for Apple’s documentation to be spotty or outright incorrect. (I’ve done a few google searches, and read about 20 tutorials and blog posts, and I still don’t know how to figure this out from code alone, so I’m really asking this question. I’ve also started a stack overflow question on the topic.)

I don’t want this to be a “I think Objective-C is superior to Swift” post, but I do think there are legitimate reasons for header files, and this is one of them. Once you get beyond a certain level of iOS proficiency, poking around in those header files is akin to using the “view source” as an intermediate web developer. It’s one of the ways you learn how other people approach a problem.

Game Idea a Day – Week 23

Monday, June 13th, 2016

This week was Eyeo Festival, and I felt inundated with a million interesting ideas. I don’t know if any of them made it into this week’s game ideas, (looks like maybe some from 6/8) but I did post some really interesting stuff on twitter.

6/3 – Writing up last week’s entry inspired a comment about puppet shows in VR. It would be cool to make a marionette game in VR. So tilting your controller would pull the strings, and make the puppet walk and dance. Maybe you would play the whole game that way, a platformer or some other running/moving forward game might be cool, but the puppet only walks if you make its legs walk. Maybe it’s more of an obstacle course, and you have to move the puppet around and through the space.

6/4 – I played Bloxyz for the first time, and it gave me lots of ideas about in-VR controls for block puzzle games. I don’t think it quite nailed the controls, but it was better than I was expecting. I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t really need to be in VR, but it was a solid experience nonetheless, and gave me lots of ideas. Three that I wrote down.

One is that simply every wall of a space is filling slowly with blocks. Maybe even the floor and ceiling. The blocks simply fade in, or appear with a *pop*, or something, and you can grab them and move them to a different space, attempting to make 3 to 5 in a row of the same color, whereupon they’ll disappear. Easy enough.

A second idea is that you would have Tetris-shaped transparent trays in your hands, and you could only grab blocks in a configuration matching each tray. You can then put them down wherever they fit, again, attempting to make large groups of the same color. (Maybe more than 3 in this version.) If you ever grab a tray full of the same color, you also clear them, and get some bonus for doing so. Since you only have two hands, you would pretty much be looking for ways to grab some blocks with one hand, put them down in such a way that you make a group of the same color matching the tray in your other hand. That sounds like a much more interesting game to me.

A third idea is that you would have a “block fountain” in the center of the room. You grab blocks from it, and place them around the room, trying to make specific “target” shapes out of them. If the fountain overflows, game over, so you have to be fast.

6/5 – This started by thinking about using the cardboard API camera in conjunction with text input and 3D models of the alphabet to let you type in a sphere around you. (And then maybe letting you “save” the sphere to read/view later.) Several game ideas came to mind: you could have a crossword that is a full sphere around you, (with “visual” clues that are just images floating behind the text boxes). Or maybe it’s an elaborate 360 photo, and there are clues hidden in it, one for each letter of the alphabet. You have to “tag” the part of the photo with the correct letter before proceeding to the next photo.

6/6 – This is one of those meandering entries where I started out with one idea and ended up with another. I think I knew as I began that I was just starting from my idea on 3/14 (which I sometimes think about).

A game with a grid of physical spheres set in rollers (so they can be freely spun in any direction). Maybe there are 9 spheres, maybe 16. The spheres all have white at one pole, and black at the other, and are a full color spectrum around the middle. You start by aligning the spheres to all black or all white. Then in turn, each player can spin one sphere. They choose how hard to spin it, but they can’t keep their finger on it for more than a second. It’s a sort of dexterity game. You try and match the colors shown on the other spheres, or maybe the color of something in the room. If you see something in the room that is basically the color of the sphere, then you get a point or something. Maybe we only need one sphere for this game. That might make mass production easier. The sphere should be very well balanced, and freely spinnable, like a ball bearing.

6/7 – A game called “this little light of mine” about a candle flame that has the power to set things on fire and turn into a monster (a big red one, with horns). The bigger the flame the longer you stay as a monster. Levels involve timing events where you have to transform, then beat up something or someone quickly (maybe “enemies” are cherubs and Angels) before the thing you set on fire runs out of flames. The music for the game is already written! The trailer should have the second verse about hiding under a bush, and then the bush lights on fire and then you kill a bunch of folks. The game should have a clear anti-religion message.

6/8 – First idea: Take the 9-up video camera work of David Hockney as a starting point, and build a camera system in VR where you are looking at a scene from 9 perspectives, essentially the middle one is basically from the user’s eye position, but the others are all offset some significant amount of space, and all are visible in the user’s periphery. Then the game should involve noticing minute details of something. Or maybe there could be something you wouldn’t even be able to see except from multiple vantages at once.

Second idea: Extrapolate the previous idea into hexagonal bee-vision. 8-cameras / eyes.

Third idea: simulated physical augmentation. When you move your tracked controllers, a skeleton also moves with you. The skeleton might include: 8 arms arrayed around the player.

6/9 – A team-on-team game in VR. (VR MOBA, or VR Killer Queen.) Maybe the “play space” is relatively small, 1×1 meters, and appears in the center of each player’s room-scale tracked space. Players then control different avatars of their team color within the space. The avatars move around as in a 3D platformer game, but there are multiple ways to win. Level design would (obviously) be very important.

Game Idea a Day – Week 22

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

I missed/skipped a day again this week, only the third time this whole project, I believe. I did three (shorter) entries 5/30 to make up for it. My enthusiasm for the project was pretty low last week. Not necessarily the idea of it, (I’m committed through at least the end of the year!), but enthusiasm for actually sitting down and doing it. It’s definitely natural to loose enthusiasm for any long-term project, or at least I expected it. I find (as with most creative endeavors in my experience) it does help for me to get away from my desk and be someplace different while I’m brainstorming. Ironically, the day I missed was (again) a day I was traveling.

5/27 – Missed a day.

5/28 – I was playing Factory Idle, and the same developer’s older game, Reactor Idle, and this idea was essentially to bring the gameplay from Factory Idle (which is apparently pretty similar to Factorio, but I haven’t played), to VR. You would connect different components with tubes, and then watch resources flow from one component to the next, but you end up with physical building blocks that you can stack in VR. And later, you might find there’s a use for them, so you have to feed them to a new machine, or stack them on top of something that will use them in some different way. Much of the game would be organizing and storing the blocks you’ve created.

5/29 – In this, you have a map and a magnifying glass. Each location on the map can be zoomed in on to see a scene (photo) that can in turn can also be magnified. But in the photos, a puppy might be made out of wooden sticks and a concrete sidewalk is made out of cathedrals and ancient roman pillars. Everything has things that it is made out of, repeating every-day objects, and later in the game, which things and where they are located is important in some way. Maybe there are dialogue mechanics too and you have to answer riddles about what things are made out of.

5/30 – You wake up only to find out your parents switched your gender while you were asleep the night before. You have to figure out what prompted them to make this change, as well as decide if you want to stay this way or go back to the way you used to be. Maybe this is a point and click adventure game, but there are character creation screens at the beginning, only after you’ve picked your gender you find out you used to be the other way (or maybe the opposite, your gender choice turns out to be who you were before the night before). Either way, gender is presented as fluid (and a choice) in this future-set teen drama. You can play the game with either gender from the beginning and ultimately decide to stay or switch back based on your choices and story decisions.

5/30 – Second entry: A game set on a space ship filled with an alien zoo. There is a room full of pedestals, with a different animal on each one, specimens from each of earth’s species preserved in stasis. Maybe you are one of them, and wake up unexpectedly. You have to explore and find your way back to earth.

5/30 – Third entry: A worker placement board game with mechanics like the factory/machine games I’ve been playing: essentially buying components to place on your board that produce resources and convert them to other (more valuable) resources. Turn-based video game variant: You only “win” when you are an order of magnitude more productive than your opponent, so two very close players might play for a very long time.

5/31 – Just some thoughts on a Game of Thrones RTS. Different races to play: White Walkers (Protos-like, VERY powerful, lots of cheap minions though, when you cast the spell to raise your enemy’s dead). Daenerys Targaryen’s Army (horsemen and dragons and unsullied), House Stark (dire wolves and powers that let you take over enemy units (warging), ultimately pretty pathetic, sorta like humans in Starcraft). It remains to be seen whether it’s worth separating out the other human GoT “houses” as playable races, maybe the class/race should just be “human”. (Note that it would still not include Daenerys.) Maybe the Children of the Forest could have a few levels toward the end of some campaign.

6/1 – Thought of this one in the shower, later, before writing it down, I realized the original idea was a bit like Journey in VR (which would of course also be super cool). The only really unique mechanic was that instead of teleporting, you can only move “one playspace away”, and you see your character roll or jump to that location. There might also be a cooldown during which you have to recover from that exercise. Initially I imagined you shooting at other players, but then I was imagining you helping them out, getting to floor switches so they could open different puzzle/exploration elements, and vice versa. There was definitely also a Tarzan / jungle theme in what I was imagining in the shower.

6/2 – More thoughts on my VR game idea from 5/15. I had forgotten about the holding two hands out to show the hoop between them, and was thinking you’d have two hoops, one for each hand, and you would be able to manipulate the size of the hoop with the trackpad. I was also thinking about perspective, and how it might be interesting to look down on the player as you manipulate the hoops, so you are almost more of a puppet master. I didn’t explore this (yet), but a VR puppet show simulator might be kind of cool.