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Scoring points in a cat-and-mouse game


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#1 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 09:42 AM

Hi,

I am currently developing a networked version of a cat-and-mouse type game (Read: Pacman) where 1 player controls the mouse and all 3 other players control the cats. The mouse must collect cheese around the maze to collect points. The cats must catch the mouse as quickly as possible (obviously).

The cats only have a limited vision of the maze (they only see a small area around them. They also have shared vision. The mouse has complete vision over the complete maze.

The mouse can score points by eating cheese, or by eating the cats with a powerpellet type mechanic.
(Obviously, this game is not meant to be sold, as it is more of an educational project for me)
The mouse's score multiplier increases each time it eats all the cheese of the maze (and then all the cheese will reappear for a second round).

When the mouse is caught, the game changes round, changing the player who is controlling the mouse. The game ends after 4 rounds, after everyone had the opportunity to play as the mouse. The player with the highest score wins.

Problem:
-I am looking for ways for the cats to score points, to reward good mouse-hunting strategies. Obviously, there will be a bonus for the cat catching the mouse, and the amount of time it takes to do so.

-I am also looking for ideas on when to increase the cats' score multiplier. Currently, the only way to increase a cat's score multiplier is to not get eaten when the mouse has eaten a powerpellet (Allowing the mouse to play strategically when eating cats)

-I also have items for the cats to collect, to help the cats catch the mouse quicker, like a temporary radar, a dash (which can destroy maze walls), a temporary ward, a speed boost, etc. I am looking for ways to reward cats with these items without interrupting the search for the mouse. I don't want to give out the items randomly, because it would be unfair for the other players and I want the game to be based on skill, not luck.

Anyway, any ideas will be greatly appreciated!

Edit:
I'd also like to talk aboout a problem which a lot of games have: teaching the mechanics.
How do you guys think I should explain to the players the details of the game?

Obviously, almost everyone knows Pacman and knows how to play. That's why the tutorial aspect of this game is important, because I wouldn't want the players to skip the tutorial, thinking that this is a simple Pacman clone.

I'd like to avoid text as much as possible (Who reads text tutorials anyway?)
I was thinking of a serie of panels, each containing a little animation explaining a particular mechanic (with a title containing a few words), that could be viewed by the played in the loading screen.
Unfortunately, this is a very boring alternative which can be skipped, especially if the loading time is very short.

Do you guys have any original ideas? I'd like to hear them!


Edit: I've added some images of my project. I'm currently using Pacman sprites and I may change them in the future
Spoiler

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Edited by Msonic, 18 September 2012 - 08:37 PM.


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#2 Telcontar   Members   -  Reputation: 893

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 11:34 AM

As a start, cats could accrue points for the amount of time they have the mouse in their view. It could be shared, or each cat has their own point total and this adds to it. Conversely, the mouse gains points for each moment it is not seen by any of the cats.

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#3 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 11:52 AM

Interesting idea. The game could check every second. If the mouse is seen, every cat gets [Z] points. If not, the mouse gets [Z] points. It would both reward good mouse hunting for the cats and good hiding for the mouse. I could add a (!) over the mouse when it's being seen.

Edit:
Since the mouse moves faster than the cats, I could have a bonus ramping up for each consecutive second the mouse is seen.

Edited by Msonic, 17 September 2012 - 11:57 AM.


#4 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2069

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 12:11 PM

Is there anything wrong with just keeping two different scores and show the mouse and cat scores for each player? A player's skill as a cat would be reflected simplest by the number of times he catches the mouse. If one player is faster than another at catching a mouse, his score will naturally be higher. If a player is able to avoid being eaten when vulnerable, whatever penalty he experiences for being eaten won't get in the way when the mouse is vulnerable again and the score will likely reflect that.

#5 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 12:35 PM

Is there anything wrong with just keeping two different scores and show the mouse and cat scores for each player? A player's skill as a cat would be reflected simplest by the number of times he catches the mouse. If one player is faster than another at catching a mouse, his score will naturally be higher. If a player is able to avoid being eaten when vulnerable, whatever penalty he experiences for being eaten won't get in the way when the mouse is vulnerable again and the score will likely reflect that.


While it is true that I could keep the scoring like it is, I think it will be more interesting for the cats to get some points while chasing the mouse, instead of only getting them when the mouse is caught. Plus, this is what's going to make the difference between a great and an excellent cat player.

I could also drop the secondary scoring system and reward items based on skill. This is a brainstorm kind of question, I'm just trying to see what possibilities we can come up with and choose the best one.

Edited by Msonic, 17 September 2012 - 12:36 PM.


#6 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 12:10 PM

Anyone else has ideas? I'd be interested to know what people think about this.

#7 CommanderZorvox   Members   -  Reputation: 126

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 01:18 PM

What if you fused the in-sight/out of sight idea with your item idea? Instead of rewarding the sight concept with straight-up points, it could fill up a special meter. Once the meter reaches certain points, you could spend your acquired “MP”(meter points) to activate one of 3-4 “items” or skills in your arsenal (if you waned to make the game even more in-depth, you could add pseudo-RPG elements, where a player’s built-up scores from many past games could be used to buy new, slightly more potent skills).

This could add a bit more strategy to the gameplay, as 1. Players might decide to focus more on increasing their MP as opposed to going straight for points (example; the mouse could spend more time avoiding cats AND cheese altogether until he/she has some tricks stacked up before making a rush for the cheese). And 2. Focusing more on increasing your meter wont always pay off.

#8 DaveTroyer   Members   -  Reputation: 1052

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 01:23 PM

You could give the cats a score bonus at the start of the round and deduct points when they collect/use power-ups. This way the player (cat) that uses no power ups to catch the mouse will get more points for catching than the player that needed help.

There could be a potential problem with this though in that if a single player is really good at being the mouse AND cat, they could rack up the most points over the rounds and pretty much lock out the other players. Though, if the other players are playing multiple rounds as cats, they would be getting that bonus over and over, making it more viable to pick up a power up and use it to catch the mouse.

I dunno, just my thoughts. Sound like a fun project though.

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#9 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 03:24 PM

What if you fused the in-sight/out of sight idea with your item idea? Instead of rewarding the sight concept with straight-up points, it could fill up a special meter. Once the meter reaches certain points, you could spend your acquired “MP”(meter points) to activate one of 3-4 “items” or skills in your arsenal (if you waned to make the game even more in-depth, you could add pseudo-RPG elements, where a player’s built-up scores from many past games could be used to buy new, slightly more potent skills).

I have indeed thought about unlockables (skins, powerups and color themes) via a system of achievements.

Your idea is very interesting, although it's missing a few elements. Who is getting meter points when pacman is being seen? All cats? Only the cats in range? That would only encourage plainly following Pacman to rack up MP. Plus, why would you need items when you're very close to catching pacman?

I had an idea while studying yours though.
What if the cats who can currently see the mouse got points, increasing every consecutive second (up to a cap, to make it not too profitable to plainly follow the mouse), while the other ones would rack up MP, based on how far they are and to help them catch up? When the bar is full, they would get an item (like you said).
Obviously, when no cat sees the mouse, no points nor MP are awarded).
The cats would have to choose between chasing the mouse head on, or waiting and striking at the right moment.
The AI controlled cats (when there's less than 3 cat players) would obviously follow the mouse blindly (to put pressure on the player)

Meanwhile, the mouse could receive MP for every second it is hidden, and when its meter is full, an additionnal power pellet could appear for him to use.
Do you guys think that's a good idea?

I was also thinking of a quicktime event, but I wouldn't know where or when to trigger these events.

You could give the cats a score bonus at the start of the round and deduct points when they collect/use power-ups. This way the player (cat) that uses no power ups to catch the mouse will get more points for catching than the player that needed help.

I don't know about this. I don't want the cats to feel penalized for using items, especially if the effect is game changing (like destroying walls). I feel like the powerups should be rewarded on good plays and the cats should feel good using them.

I really appreciate your insight, keep those ideas coming!

Edited by Msonic, 18 September 2012 - 03:29 PM.


#10 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2069

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 04:54 PM

In those cases, I don't see what would motivate a player to go for the actual capture. It would be more worthwhile to just get as close as you can and stay that way until you either hit a cap, get bored, or the mouse leaps into the cat's mouth for something to do.

What if the cats each had specific cheeses to protect? Assign one type (or even just a color) of cheese to each cat to protect. Scatter the cheeses randomly throughout the maze (not grouped together in one area) and every piece of cheese that the mouse eats deducts points from the appropriate cat. This encourages cats to move throughout the entire maze and capture the mouse as efficiently as possible. You could still theoretically camp on one piece of cheese, waiting for a mouse to come, but you loose any points that you may have gained as a mouse.

#11 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 05:32 PM

I don't see what would motivate a player to go for the actual capture. It would be more worthwhile to just get as close as you can and stay that way until you either hit a cap


The cap is going to be significantly lower than what the mouse is making by eating cheese, so it is penalizing to not capture the mouse (Plus, there's a bonus for the time it takes to catch the mouse, the lower the better)

What if the cats each had specific cheeses to protect?

I hadn't thought about that. However, I can't think of a way to make this not a camp-fest kind of thing.

Thanks a lot for the great tips. Keep them coming!

#12 CommanderZorvox   Members   -  Reputation: 126

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 07:06 PM

I had an idea while studying yours though.
What if the cats who can currently see the mouse got points, increasing every consecutive second (up to a cap, to make it not too profitable to plainly follow the mouse), while the other ones would rack up MP, based on how far they are and to help them catch up? When the bar is full, they would get an item (like you said).
Obviously, when no cat sees the mouse, no points nor MP are awarded).
The cats would have to choose between chasing the mouse head on, or waiting and striking at the right moment.
The AI controlled cats (when there's less than 3 cat players) would obviously follow the mouse blindly (to put pressure on the player)

Meanwhile, the mouse could receive MP for every second it is hidden, and when its meter is full, an additionnal power pellet could appear for him to use.
Do you guys think that's a good idea?


Edit: (oops, I really misinterpreted what you said ^_^)

So, what if you rewarded cats for being closer to the mouse, but didn’t reward them at all when the mouse was in their sights? You could give them a little detector that tells him if he’s “Cold”, “Luke”, “Warm” or “HOT”. The closer you get to mouse; the quicker you gain MP. That way, your giving cats a boost when they struggle to close distances on the mouse, without giving them an advantage when they shouldn’t have/need it.

Edited by CommanderZorvox, 18 September 2012 - 07:35 PM.


#13 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 08:26 PM

but didn’t reward them at all when the mouse was in their sights?

Then nobody would want to have the mouse in their sight, would they? What's complicated is that I have to find the right balance between competition and cooperation between the cats. In a majority of cases, there has to be a cat following the mouse to keep it pressured, so I can't punish a player for taking on that role.

I think we're getting closer to a suitable design, thanks for helping out! Any other ideas on how to deepen the strategy (while keeping the complexity not too high)

I have also edited my question, because I'd also like to talk another topic of interest: the tutorial

#14 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2123

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 08:38 PM

Hmm, you could give the cats a bonus for getting continuously closer to the mouse, or for blocking the mouse's path (reducing pathfinding options), or for time kept mouse away from cheese.

#15 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 07:30 AM

or for time kept mouse away from cheese.

What if there's only a few cheeses left in the maze? How do I know that the cats are actually preventing the mouse to reach the chesse, or the cheese is just far away?

#16 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1540

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 10:04 AM

To add to the blocking points idea the cats could earn cornering and surrounding bonuses encouraging team play, stalking points could be useful as well (as mentioned). This would keep the cats from just turtling around the cheese and power pellets, which should always outnumber the # of cats in the maze and jump locations (like the fruit in pac-man). The cats could each have unique abilities as well (like the different ghost AI in pac-man). One cat could have speed boosts, one could have boosts of wider vision and one could have a single wall jump ability booster. If the mouses power pellets were collectable and had to be activated by targeting a specific cat then the stalking and team play of the cats would play a greater roll as well. I'm thinking a fat princess mechanic could shake things up as well, as the mouse gathers more cheese he relies more on power pellets more since he gets fatter and slower. Perhaps he could gather cheese and return it to one of the many mouse holes around the maze (again greater # then the # of cats).

I like this project, do you have art assets already?

#17 Msonic   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 11:19 AM

The cats could each have unique abilities as well (like the different ghost AI in pac-man)

Not sure about this. I will have to balance every ability to be exactly as powerful as the others (Because a speed boost is going to be better than placing wards in most cases, so you will cringe your teeth when you get the "ward-placing" cat because you're at a disadvantage. I don't want that, do I? )
I want each cat to have an equal chance of capturing pacman: giving cat-specific skill would introduce a great amount of luck into the game (for getting the right cat)

I'm not sure either which item to give the cats. Should I give a random item, or let the cat choose their next item? Should I give out items depending on the situation of the cat? (Like a dash when close, but separated by a wall, a ward when far away, etc)

This would keep the cats from just turtling around the cheese and power pellets

I should mention that each time a half of the maze is eaten, a fruit appears. When it is eaten, the cheeses of this half will reappear.
When all pellets are eaten, there will be 2 fruits and 2 power pellets to defend, so the cats are outnumbered anyway
(If I implement my idea of powerpellets appearing when the mouse is hidden, it would discourage turtling, because the cats would not want additionnal powerpellets to appear)

as the mouse gathers more cheese he relies more on power pellets more since he gets fatter and slower

I currently have a mechanic like that, but the opposite. For each 1000 points the mouse gains, the cats get faster and they have more vision, which will make it more difficult for the mouse.

I like this project, do you have art assets already?

I am currently drawing all the art by myself.
I'd like to get rid of the Pacman theme someday (although I haven't thought of a replacement theme yet) and additionnal artists would be nice
(I'm not a very talented artist, so I usually keep the art at a basic level)
If anyone is interested in participating in this project, feel free to pm me, we'll see what needs to be done.

Edited by Msonic, 19 September 2012 - 11:23 AM.





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