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Constructive (as opposed to destructive) Gameplay Concept

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For the past week, I've been mulling some ideas for a game around. At the beginning, the game had one stipulation: no violence allowed. I'm tired of shooting, punching, decapitating, blowing up, running over, and otherwise mutilating my adversaries to progress through a game. I believe there needs to be adversity in a game for fun's sake, but there's more to problem-solving than blowing the **** out of stuff. And yes, I think non-violent games can be quite fun. Here's what I've come up with: - The player is tasked with getting a robot from point A to B - There will be obstacles in place to prevent the robot from making an easy exfiltration - The game will have no destruction; the robot does not have destructive capabilities - The robot will solve problems by being constructive (literally) and clever - The robot will be 'programmed' by the player - The robot will have a small, but orthogonal set of programmable capabilities - The game must be playable and fun to a layman - The robot is upgradable as the game progresses - The robot will be granted new programmable capabilities with better sensor upgrades - The robot will be granted new constructive capabilities with better mechanical upgrades - It will be 2D (top-view and tile-based) When I say 'constructive', I mean that the robot may need to build a simple bridge or a ramp to overcome an obstacle. When I say 'clever', I mean that the robot may need to turn 90 degrees to the left when it comes within X feet of a wall. Here is what I consider the greatest challenge: making scripting for the robot as simple as possible (so it seems like a game) while still being powerful enough to make this game viable. Any ideas?

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Quote:
Original post by Kevinator
- The robot will have a small, but orthogonal set of programmable capabilities


You don't literally mean the Orthogonal programming language do you? THAT would be something to see in a game. I've often mulled doing something similar to what you're talking about, but then I concluded that far more people get addicted to blowing the crap out of things than get addicted to moving robots around. It would appeal to the programmers for awhile, as a neat little way to pass the time, but ordinary people aren't likely to mess with it. They'd go play solitaire or something.

Do not take me as being critical of your idea though. I would certainly be interested in something along these lines. I'm just saying the hardcore gaming populace wouldn't be.

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By orthogonal, I mean that the scripting language will have a very small number of constructs, but those constructs can be combined in many ways. This way, I can keep the scripting interface simple enough to make it a GUI, yet powerful enough to make the game viable. I don't expect most gamers to like this game, but I do want to make it simple and fun enough that they would give it a try (and be able to succeed without too much effort).

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Well, go ahead and try it. I would really love to see Orthogonal (the language) used in games. That, or brainfuck.

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Maybe I'll have a version just for hardcore programmers that requires you to program the robot in Brainf***. [lol]

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Sounds good to me.

From the sounds of what you've said, the player will need to examine the level, program the robot, and then watch it attempt to solve the level using that programming, is that correct?

- Will the levels need to be completed all in one shot, or can the robot be given new instructions part way through?

- Will the player get to try again if they fail to complete the level first try? Will there be a disadvantage to failing attempts, or simply an advantage to finish on the earliest attempt possible (More cash towards upgrades for finishing first try for example)?

- Will there be more than one way levels can be solved, or will players need to figure out some specific method for each level?

Quote:
- The game must be playable and fun to a layman


How will a layman be able to interact with the scripting of the robot - some kind of graphical programming system, like a drag-n-drop flowchart that controls the script or something?

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Those are all excellent questions. [grin] I'm afraid I haven't gotten to that level of detail yet.

Quote:
Will the levels need to be completed all in one shot, or can the robot be given new instructions part way through?


Initially, I was planning to let the player program the robot between levels. Perhaps I could include a hardcore mode where you have to make the robot's programming robust enough to be able to handle any obstacle, and an easy mode where you can repgrogram it between levels. Something to think about, anyway.

Quote:
From the sounds of what you've said, the player will need to examine the level, program the robot, and then watch it attempt to solve the level using that programming, is that correct?


That is correct. I'm worried about the lack of interactivity once the player presses the 'go' button, however.

Quote:
Will there be more than one way levels can be solved, or will players need to figure out some specific method for each level?


You bring up a good point - multiple solutions are a must! I remember playing Sierra's The Incredible Machine and marvelling at the number of ways a problem could be solved. I had some pretty far-out-there solutions to some of the levels. It is my hope that the game will be complex enough to allow the satisfaction of a range of solutions, from convoluted to elegant.

Quote:
How will a layman be able to interact with the scripting of the robot - some kind of graphical programming system, like a drag-n-drop flowchart that controls the script or something?


That was my original thought. I'll certainly allow the user to code if they want, but I would like to provide some kind of GUI for the less-experienced. If it's feasible.

Quote:
Will the player get to try again if they fail to complete the level first try? Will there be a disadvantage to failing attempts, or simply an advantage to finish on the earliest attempt possible (More cash towards upgrades for finishing first try for example)?


I hadn't thought about this but I like your idea about more money for less attempts. I'll be sure to give you credit if I use that idea.

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Sounds like a good idea, a little like the game where you have to build pipes from one point to another before the water starts, just more complex.

About the scripting language, if you intend normal (those who think the Internet lies on their computer) computer users to play the game you either need to make the scripting language very simple or provide different ways to program the robot. If you want to make a real good game providing a "visual scripting language" would be a good idea, of course a text based language should be an alternative to the user. What I mean by visual is that your robot might have some predefined senses, lets just say it can check whether there is something is in front it and behind it. These might be represented by:

+--+
|/\| OBSTACLE IN FRONT
| |
+--+

+--+
| |
|\/| ONSTACLE BEHIND
+--+

Then you'ld also have pictures for various actions, maybe for "Turn 90 degrees left", "Turn 90 degrees right", "Move 1 unit forward" and "Move 1 unit backwards".

Then "Obstacle in front" and "Obstacle behind" would have a list of actions, here you could drag the actions. It should also be possible to create actions by combining other actions.

You'ld off course need much more options to create the actual game, but here is already some of the basics for a visual language.

Hope that helped a little.

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Have any of you seen colobot? Its a game where you can operate a bunch of robots to build things on other planets though either first person or a c like script. Very interesting game but I haven't had time to play with it fully yet...

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Quote:
Original post by Drethon
Have any of you seen colobot? Its a game where you can operate a bunch of robots to build things on other planets though either first person or a c like script. Very interesting game but I haven't had time to play with it fully yet...


Similar to this idea, while reading this thread I couldn't help but think about the guys sitting at JPL and sending packets to the Martian Rovers(Spirit and Opportunity). Could be a way to go with a game of this type and might bring added interest to your project[rather than Robot X moving around the forest or some abandoned warehouse]. I think the key would to have a simplified scripting language but not overly-simplified solutions to puzzles. Force the gamer to be creative in their solutions and possibly offer various manners of solving a problem as well.

These aspects will make your game much less of an exercise in programming in your pseudo-scripting language and more of a "strategy"/"puzzle" game. Which people gobble up by the thousands[Reference: The $10 video game rack at Wal*Mart filled with Card/Puzzle games].

Anyway, that would be my preliminary discussions on possible avenues for exploration in your endevour(no space-based pun intended). Good luck!

Vopisk

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I'm sure I've heard about a game that has robot programming as its theme. From what I remember, the game consisted of programming a robot (or maybe an A.I. agent, I can't remember) to do a whole range of different tasks, such as navigate through a maze, or race around a track. Can't remember much more about it though.

I think the general game idea is a good one (was actually thinking about doing something similar as a game at one time too). But as you said, the tricky part is making the programming simple enough for non-programmers to use. I'd go with a visual language of some kind, similar to the simpler forms of Lego Mindstorms programming. If you can drag-and-drop icons that refer to sensors, link them up to logic gates or simple arithemtics operators, and have some kind of simple visual debugger or testing system, then I think it would work quite well.

Make the robot sensors something simple. In real robotics there's a lot of error involved in sensing, which is where a lot of difficulty arises. You can make the game a lot easier to understand if the sensors are always right. You can also make the game a bit more classic puzzle-like by having really well defined symbolic style landmarks (such as flags, coloured plates, etc.) scattered all over the place in strategic locations (this is what I was planning on using in my theoretical design).

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I believe the game you're referring to was... Robot Warriors? Or something along those lines... Some examples can be found here: http://www.the-underdogs.org/genre.php?name=Strategy&subgen=Programming

Gotta love the Underdogs!

Anyway, it ~has~ been done before, but so has every other "type" of game. The key is to make yours bigger, better, faster and stronger. Much like the Million-Dollar Man I know, but if the shoe fits right?

Anyway, I think a system whereby a player could begin knowing next to nothing about programming whatsoever[Insert first graders here] could begin to pick up the basic "structure" of writing functions and whatnot to move their character around, through the use of a visual language, and progress to eventually writing out their own functions for moving and manipulating their robot.

This could be an entirely new avenue of exploration, educational games are all the rage, and if you can get every grade school in the world to pay $1 for a license to use your game to teach the "next generation" how to program computers, you'd be a rich man(maybe not but one can dream).

The key is to make the game fun, while still being educational[Pause to fondly reflect on games like Reader Rabbit, et al.]. Look at programs like "Robot Wars" and "Digimon: Digital Monsters" and the like and use the inherent interests of children and to large degree grown adults to stimulate them into WANTING to play your game, then make them learn while they're doing it(You sly bastard you!) and you've got yourself a real leg to stand on.

I know that when I first got started down the road to learning how to code I looked for games and such that would test my ability and also teach me at the same time, I wasn't looking for a cartoon-ish video game that was necessarily fun, more functional, but that's not to say that there isn't a huge market for it.

Doing something like this would be something that many people would look for and would I imagine capture the hearts of programmers as well, perhaps if you just use any scripting language or high-level language so as to make sure that the learning experience does not go to waste.

Anyway, I'm rambling cause it's past my bedtime, but I really like this idea the more I think about it. Good luck once again and I hope that there is further discussion down avenues such as this. We've blasted mutant zombie's heads to pieces for quite long enough, perhaps it's time to actually be productive with our colossal wastes of time and energy?

My two cents, something to chew on.

Vopisk

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If you are worried about lack of interaction after hitting the "go" button, why not allow the player to indirectly control the robot through stumuli such as turning lights on and off (which could control a light sensor), moving objects around, flicking switches, etc. Of course, you'd have to be careful not to give the player so much control as to make it easy and you'd have to make sure that the things the player can alter are fun to do so as I'd imaging flicking 100 switches on a level would get somewhat dull, so perhaps you need to add a comedy element in or something like that. Just a suggestion anyhoo!

Cheers,

Steve

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Quote:
Original post by Kevinator
Quote:
From the sounds of what you've said, the player will need to examine the level, program the robot, and then watch it attempt to solve the level using that programming, is that correct?


That is correct. I'm worried about the lack of interactivity once the player presses the 'go' button, however.


This brings to mind an old puzzle game called "Laser Light", in which players had to place various prisms/mirrors/etc into the level before firing the laser beam, with the goal of making one or more beams hit one or more specific targets (and occasionally making sure they don't hit some targets.

Although the player didn't get any interaction with the beam while it was being fired, this didn't take overly long, and they'd get to see the effect of thier actions, so it was still quite entertaining. If you can make sure interesting things will be happening in the levels and that it doesn't take too long for the robot to make it's attempt I don't think players will be bothered too much.

The idea of being able to indirectly influence the robot with lightswitches, etc. could also be a decent possibility to introduce some interaction.

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Quote:
Original post by Kazgoroth
This brings to mind an old puzzle game called "Laser Light", in which players had to place various prisms/mirrors/etc into the level before firing the laser beam, with the goal of making one or more beams hit one or more specific targets (and occasionally making sure they don't hit some targets.


Actually, I was reminded of "The Incredible Machine", but I forgot to include that in my post. In that series of games, you had to put together a whole series of weird gadgets together in order to complete an objective. However, you couldn't change anything once you pressed "go". Sometimes the contraption would take a while to run before failing, but it didn't seem to matter. If you failed, the game just reset so you could try again.

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