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Alexandre Martel

Scoring points in a cat-and-mouse game

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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]Title screen
426723_356702051077303_1827684897_n.jpg[/spoiler]
[spoiler]Mouseperspective
574595_356702064410635_1257972950_n.jpg[/spoiler]
[spoiler]Cats perspective
523266_356702054410636_1114010623_n.jpg[/spoiler] Edited by Msonic

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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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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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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

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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.

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