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Indirectly Changing the World

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In my occasional scribbles of game designs, there are often a few particular vague designs that stand out to me as particularily interesting in concept or 'implementation'. This is one of them, transcribed into this topic for opinions on the gameplay it creates and how it interacts with other aspects of itself. PHOTON Photon started life in the most unusual of places - a physics class. More specifically, a physics class on electromagnetic radiation. This probably influenced Photon, which is a puzzle game based around indirectly affecting the environment. The protagonist of Photon is - well, not a protagonist at all, actually. The character that the player controls is a small ball of light; a member of the fictional species of Ams. The Am can move around the 2D levels and accomplish different tasks by manipulating various types of signal (but not the actual world itself). For example, the first type of signal that the player learns to control is infra-red - heat. Simple tasks are given to the player to complete, such as boiling water with heat in the air. However, the player's actions affect the world in unexpected ways; drawing heat from the body of an organism may kill it if too much is taken, while heat taken from the air cools the air down. The tasks that the player is set may become impossible if the environment is affected too much - for example, if you have one human in a room and a pot of tea, and the objective is 'Make [Name] a pot of hot tea.', the player cannot afford to kill the human to gain the heat. Instead, a more indirect solution may be called for - for example, taking heat out of the nearby air (or out of the human in small amounts) will cause the room to cool down, making the human turn on the central heating. This gives the player a great amount of heat, and from there he can simply siphon heat from the radiators to boil the tea. Time stands still while the player manipulates waves, and they can place siphons that continue to function in real-time, adding to their supply of that resource over time. For an example of this, another wave that the player may manipulate is light. A siphon placed in front of a window will cause the rays of light that fall upon it to be absorbed into the player's light supply, but will also cause a noticable, inexplicable dark patch on the floor by the window. The player's activities must not be noticed under any circumstances - if too many humans notice unusual occurances, the level is failed and must be attempted again. To facilitate the easy manipulation of the various waves, the player has a variety of effects that accompany each manipulation mode, making it easy to see where abundances of that resource lie. The infra-red manipulation mode, for example, shows the level in shades of colour that range from black to white depending on heat, appearing like a thermographic camera's output, while manipulation of sound shows sound as large waves that move through the air and can be squashed and stretched to change the sounds that they correspond to. The game is essentially a collection of intriguing situations that have specific objectives, but are otherwise completely open, much like a physics game. There could also be the option for a sandbox mode, where objects like humans, animals, and buildings are placed by hand and used to create strange and amusing scenarios. Thoughts? Opinions? Has anyone heard of a game like this before?

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Wow... that sounds very interesting and fun.

How would the player know when alternative solutions are available? Say in your heat example. How does the player know that the thermostat is an option? Will there be a visible thermostat and a mention of what it does? Also how does the player know when things like taking heat out of the room will be a bad thing (such as it is the middle of summer)?

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Original post by Andruil
Wow... that sounds very interesting and fun.

How would the player know when alternative solutions are available? Say in your heat example. How does the player know that the thermostat is an option? Will there be a visible thermostat and a mention of what it does? Also how does the player know when things like taking heat out of the room will be a bad thing (such as it is the middle of summer)?


Thank you.

Visual clues would be used (and I think you mean the middle of winter?) in the level to help the player catch on. In the middle of winter, for example, there would be open windows in the background and snow falling outside. A thermostat would be shown somewhere in the backdrop and have little logos depicting heat (for example, red for hot, blue for cold, and a little flame icon).

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Original post by Delphinus
Quote:
Original post by Andruil
Wow... that sounds very interesting and fun.

How would the player know when alternative solutions are available? Say in your heat example. How does the player know that the thermostat is an option? Will there be a visible thermostat and a mention of what it does? Also how does the player know when things like taking heat out of the room will be a bad thing (such as it is the middle of summer)?


Thank you.

Visual clues would be used (and I think you mean the middle of winter?) in the level to help the player catch on. In the middle of winter, for example, there would be open windows in the background and snow falling outside. A thermostat would be shown somewhere in the backdrop and have little logos depicting heat (for example, red for hot, blue for cold, and a little flame icon).


Actually I did mean summer ;). So for example you suck out enough heat that it is 32 degrees inside and the airconditioning is off... Seems rather suspicious, much like your dark spots of light when you are siphoning light.

I do really like the way you are setting this up. It sounds innovative and fun with quite a bit of experimenting and exploring. One thing to consider is building up your levels in a manner similar to portal. Each one teaches some concept that is used in a later level. All while allowing multiple ways of doing anything.

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Awesome idea I would definitely play it.....I like for games to be designed outside of the box....hellz yea

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Original post by kodecraft
Awesome idea I would definitely play it.....I like for games to be designed outside of the box....hellz yea


I also really like your gameplay concept.

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awesome idea!

You could also think of implenting other physical entities like sound or maybe electromagnetic fields.

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Original post by Delphinus
for example, if you have one human in a room and a pot of tea, and the objective is 'Make [Name] a pot of hot tea.', the player cannot afford to kill the human to gain the heat. Instead, a more indirect solution may be called for - for example, taking heat out of the nearby air (or out of the human in small amounts) will cause the room to cool down, making the human turn on the central heating. This gives the player a great amount of heat, and from there he can simply siphon heat from the radiators to boil the tea.


This is an interesting concept. I have been interested in games where you don't manipulate the environment directly, but try to influence it to grow as you wish. In some respects, this may have been the reason behind SimCity's popularity.

In any case, just so you know, as I was reading your example, I thought where you were going was that the human would feel it getting colder and then feel compelled to make some tea to warm up.

That wouldn't really fit with the game design already presented, where the player is gathering heat in order to accomplish a task.

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