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Efimero

mutant cat laboratory game

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Hello. I was designing a new game just for fun and I got a bit stuck when looking at the mechanics involved.

I am writing it as a text adventure in javascript. I have most of the basics done, but to continue I need to straight out and define some mechanics.

The theme of the game is you're a scientist gone rogue in a futuristic lab, working undercover on your own after the lab has been closed on a dangerous project involving mutant cats.

The main mechanic I wanted to include in the game (and this is already coded in a fairly solid way) is the cat breeding you do (via machines) to get new species of cats with different traits. This includes from normal cats to ridiculous fantasy cats that are barely cats 8but I still call them cats because I find it fun that way).

So you can make hybrids and get new ones that way or you can risk it and edit the genetic code manually aminoacid by aminoacid (or with shortcuts like full gene swapping, etc), but you risk messing up and creating a horrible mutant though data corruption (like if you type in an extra aminoacid).

The objective of the game is, in theory, to discover a kind of cat that was supposed to be very powerful in some way, but also was the cause for the oppressive government to close the lab. Effectively, though, no player will reach that discovery, because bad things will happen. You could look at it like a roguelike. You play with the hope that you will get the amulet of Yendor, but you will most likely fail in the way, and that's still fun.

 

The problem, though, is that the main mechanic of the game, breeding clonic cats until you get something new, is pretty dull on itself, even with whatever help you get from the game in the form of tools or data.

 

I would like to ask of you what would you consider could be a good way of improving the fun while dealing with this mechanic as a central point.

 

If you have questions about the game, I'll gladly take them, since it's the best way I find to improve. Questions will make me think about the things I wouldn't have thought by myself.

 

Thanks.

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Oh hey, I'd actually play a game like that. smile.png   May I assume you've already played Plant Tycoon (and the earlier game in the series, Fish Tycoon), Celebrity Pedigree, and Monster Breeding?  Of the many breeding games I've played, those seem the closest to what you have in mind, so I definitely recommend you play them if you haven't yet.  The tycoon games are under $10 and the other two are free online.

There's also a section about genetics systems and pet breeding in my tutorial about designing a game by making a game design document, if you haven't seen that in the links in the sidebar on the right of the game design forum's page: http://www.gamedev.net/page/resources/_/creative/game-design/developing-your-game-concept-by-making-a-design-document-r3004

 

As far as breeding games go, I have two main pieces of advice: DON'T use realistic genetics, because they are less fun than less realistic systems, and DO give the player a use for their pets (a way to profitably get rid of the results of many many breeding experiments).  Selling the pets is the most obvious option, used by all three example games I mention above, but mulching unwanted pets into ingredients, consumables, or lab upgrades helpful to breeding better pets is also a good option.  Using pets in permadeath combat is another possible way to use them up profitably.

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Thanks, sunandshadow! I haven't played those, but I'm surely going to. I will read that tutorial. Sounds like a good refresher.

I didn't plan on having a specific purpose for the creatures, since they're the purpose in itself, but I guess I will consider it for the sake of fun. If anything, i's a good starting point. =3

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Well, in a game usually the main activity and the goal and sub-goals aren't the same thing.  Goals (and their rewards) are how you measure your progress at the main game activity, especially in a game that doesn't have death in combat or a linear journey through a story and/or a series of physical levels.  Roguelikes do the series of physical levels thing, but personally they're a little too goalless to hold my interest.  The only roguelike I really like is one like Azure Dreams (PS1) where the dungeon delving is something you do in between sessions at a persistent home base, and your progress at upgrading the home base doesn't get erased if you die in the dungeon.  So, if cat breeding is the main activity, you need breeding goals and rewards to motivate the player and recognize the player's efforts and progress.  But if you want specific cat variants to be be rewards, then you need a crafting system or a minigame or something to be the main activity, so that the cats can be the rewards for progress.

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Ah, right. That makes more sense. Treating it like a board game instead of a role play is a perspective I hadn't considered, who knows why. I love board games.

I feel much better about this now. =)

But I'll have to work a bit on it before I can show anything. =/

 

In the meantime, I wouldn't mind some ideas about what could some of this mechanics be represented by. For example, I had an idea to have a market where the player could buy new specimens at the cost of a resource and the risk of a penalty for the higher tiers. However, I'm not sure it makes much sense thematically. What could be a differen way of introducing new resources for the player to utilize while restricting it so it's not a make money - get resources - make more money loop?

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This is perhaps not the direction in which you want to head, but one idea might be that the cats generated are a hazard to the player: reaching the "target cat" may involve going through some rather deadly versions, each of which is released (or escapes) into the sealed base in which the player works. The player then has to both continue working towards the "target cat" and attempt to survive the depredations of their various creations.

 

To prevent the player being overwhelmed by sheer numbers, deadlier versions might kill off some of the weaker cats.

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Actually, yeah, that was the direction I was going, Thaumaturge. =D

I think I forgot to mention the story is that kind of gritty cyberpunk where you're never sure what option is worse. =P

 

Right now I have a set limit of 5 cats you can have jailed. While jailed they'd be mostly safe (except the worst ones) and you can control them. But if you want to have more, you could have them loose. That would mean many risks, even for the tamest ones, though obviously very little for those. Now that you mention it, though, I could see about making the lab bigger so it has areas for the creatures to roam.

 

When I started this, I had a small framework that didn't allow for that, but now I've made a new one that has actual room objects, so I can extend it, make it bigger and scarier. That's gonna be fun, for sure. =D

I'm glad I posted here. I'm reconsidering things that had just slipped my mind due to the time that passed since I first wrote the story in spring. =3

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Ah, right. That makes more sense. Treating it like a board game instead of a role play is a perspective I hadn't considered, who knows why. I love board games.

I feel much better about this now. =)

But I'll have to work a bit on it before I can show anything. =/

No hurry. smile.png  With indie game dev projects, half the benefit is always what you learn, both objective things you learn about game design and subjective things you learn about how to clarify your own ideas about what you want and what you like, and also learning to lead yourself step by step through a development process.  The end product is your leveled-up design ability, as much or more than the game, if it ever makes it to a playable form.  (Though, I suppose some people might say I'm too zen about not finishing things and not product-oriented enough... eh, whatever.  I'm here because I think game design is fun.)

 

As far as money, I don't think that would be out of place as a motivation for a character who is basically a supervillain.  Mad scientists know that cool science gizmos cost money, and so do security systems to keep pesky police or heroes out, and mutant monsters in.  Even minions who could automate or speed up some of the more boring work for you cost money.  And mad scientists are commonly employed by people who want weapons.  Mutant cats could be sold as weapons, and breeding cats to be better weapons would create a situation where the danger you are in (from cats, law enforcement, and customers) would steadily increase.  On the other hand, you could easily remove money if you wanted to change the scenario around a little.  Perhaps you have a theory or historical knowledge that once upon a time a demon or alien cat interbred with the regular cats of Earth.  Each descendent carries a few of the demon or alien genes, so if you breed the descendants together carefully you could eventually get a pure demon or alien cat.  In this scenario your goal is for yourself, so you wouldn't be selling cats, but instead dissecting them to gain knowledge or crafting ingredients or both.

 

As far as having only 5 cats at a time goes, that would be pretty tough, but do-able IF 1. The cats have no gender or inbreeding restrictions, AND 2. You have cryogenic storage or computer storage of all cats you have bred so far, or all distinct types of cat, and some way to create a clone cat from this record if you need one back for a new experiment.  The higher the percentage of aline/demon in the cloned cat, the more resources it might cost to produce because it would need a special environment or nutrients that a mostly-normal cat wouldn't need.

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I appreciate your efforts, but I'm not new to game development. XD I like your way of looking at it. I see it the same way. =3

I have worked on several small projects before (for maybe 15 years?) and I've talked with many devs. I've also been participating in the CataclysmDDA project recently.

I'm an artist, though. I draw and write. Coding and level design have been my main focus, and I've worked on some pen&paper RPGs and board games. I have never finished one, but as you say, it's about the journey. XD

With this I wanted to make something fairly simple to code (that's why I use javascript, so I don't have to worry about handling rendering and event pools) and with a focus on the story and a single solid mechanic. Obviously, the mechanic will need some expansion from what I first considered, but that's ok. =)

 

About the money, I don't mind how the resource is called, but what I don't want is for it to be a "everything can be derived from" kind of resource. And since I looked at it in a more board game perspective, I realized some games that do it the way I want, like Arkham Horror. So I think I know how to attack that front now. =3

Due to the background of the story, minions are a bad idea. Besides the point that I don't want exponential progression to happen too aggressively, if at all, you're supposed to be alone in this enterprise, not being able to trust anyone but you. Reading your document I realized that's a pivotal point in the story. It is you alone, fighting an abstract entity that is not even a single person or organization. You could call it fighting society, but it's also not quite right. You're mostly fighting the statu quo, like heroes and villains do, but as the story unfolds you'll see that's not really what you're doing, though the ending depends on your actions, of course.

Also, you are supposed to have an almost limitless supply of basic materials, so the reason to breed cats is not because the cats are important or useful directly. It's because it's the only way to see what a given genetic makeup produces as a phenotype. In layman terms, making the creature is the only way of telling what it can do from a cryptic, uninformative piece of data. The important part is the genome, but that's (easily) inferred information, not given straight to the player.

 

And it is not "alien cats", though some shapes they take might suggest that. It's mere greed that spawned the ultimate genetic manipulation technology the player will encounter. =P

 

So I would say you could sell cats(genome), but only in order to obtain other breeds that you didn't have access to. Maybe later you could obtain a tool that makes some task easier, but not if it's as a limitation to the way the game starts. Though tying into the above idea of expanding the lab, maybe you could buy too some automated weaponry to prevent infestations. That sounds like a deep puzzle mechanic that could be easy to implement.

 

Having a limit of 5 cats is a tentative and could be as easily 10 or 7 or whatever number. Of course, you can store as many as you want, but you can have only a limited number active. Or risk having them loose. The point of that is both to tie in the mechanic of creatures being potentially dangerous with the aspect that you're not actually caring for the creatures. They're a means to an end. And there's also a path (several) in the story where you're forced to ignore that limitation, thus balancing risk of losing the game in two different ways.

 

And furthermore, thinking about that made me realize I could include a feature similar to a New Game+, but instead of having it when you win, you have it when you lose, so you can recover faster from a loss while not breaking the story or mechanic progression. Whatever genomes you store away in a game you lose could be available on the New Game+ at some kind of black market. That way you can get back to the part of the story you failed at as soon as you have the ability to potentially do it, but without going though all the process again.

 

I don't mind savescumming, but I guess it would be nice if it just is not necessary. Also, the idea of the player having the improbable possibility of chancing upon a endgame creature by typing randomly in the genetic code machines is too amusing to pass up. =P

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Oh sorry, didn't mean to mistakenly assume you were a newbie.

 

I like the death game+ idea. :)

 

If the theme is you all alone, maybe it would fit in well to set traps for random feral cats.  And it might fit the dark sense of humor to use meat from failed cats as bait for new ones.  Similarly, maybe you can upgrade your cat jail cells with body parts from mutant cats, like "bones of steel" to make the jail be able to safely hold medium-power cats, rather than low-power ones as I assume the jail cells would be able to hold by default.  Also, maybe consider having a female protagonist.  A dark, powerful version of a crazy cat lady could have huge marketing appeal.

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I'm a newbie to the forums, so it's fine. =D

 

Re-purposing mutant bones for profit? Man, that's dark. XD If I include that, I'm sure it will lead to a whole different path. =3

 

And the protagonist is of unknown gender. The player fills that variable. I believe I can write genderless in English, even though it's not my first language. Hopefully I can pull that off. =)

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I had forgotten about this, but I uploaded a prototype to my domain before the summer. It doesn't work right anymore and it stops at the "print a test cat" instruction, but it has the intro to the story. Maybe you find it interesting if nothing else, to see what the writing style is. =3

http://puramaldad.com/CAT/CAT.html

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