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Designing an Ore Mining Game

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I love games like Terraria and Motherload, where players have to dig down and find more and more advance ores. The goal in both games is to dig all the way down, get the best items using the best ores, and beat an end boss.

 

I was wondering if you guys have any ideas or have seen a spin on this? Without making it into an open world sandbox like Minecraft.

 

In particular, as a small indie developer, how could I create more gameplay without having to add new content like what the developers of Terraria are doing?

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as a small indie developer, how could I create more gameplay without having to add new content

There are two main possible solutions to that: procedurally generated content, or player-created content.  Note that these aren't mutually exclusive and you could potentially make use of both.

 

Procedural generation allows you to provide more game-play by providing a varied experience.  It can't provide entirely new game-play systems, but it can provide different experiences by combining the existing options in new and potentially unexpected ways.  It can be tricky to tune your procedural generation to produce good results; you want things to be varied enough to provide different and interesting experiences, but you don't want them to be so varied as to provide a completely alien experience and completely trash the player's mental model of how to play the game, and you certainly don't (usually) want to produce situations that are unwinnable or completely unplayable.

 

Daniel Cook discusses the use of procedural content in his post "Content is Bad". 

 

 

Player-created content can be great if you can attract a community of creative players, but has the obvious problems of curating that content: how do you make sure the best content is discovered and used, and ensure that the worst content is hidden away.  You also have to be sure that it can't be exploited by trolls, or even worse you don't want to accidentally provide a security vulnerability.  Once again I have a link from Daniel Cook discussing user content.

 

 

I think the "Daily Challenge" in Spelunky is a very clever design that you could easily apply to a game like you're describing, assuming you have a reliable procedural level layout to exploit.  If you can come up with a large number of power-up items and/or additional abilities you could also consider gradually unlocking items and bad-guys that provide a different game-play experience as is brilliantly demonstrated by The Binding of Isaac (see the amazingly long lists of items and enemies that are gradually unlocked to keep things fresh).

 

 

Hope some of that helps! :)

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There are two main possible solutions to that: procedurally generated content, or player-created content.  Note that these aren't mutually exclusive and you could potentially make use of both.
 
Hope some of that helps! smile.png


Very helpful post! +1

While I already have procedurally generated content, I have completely forgotten about player-created content.

That is definitely a direction I want to go for more content.

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SteamWorld Dig is another along the lines of Mines of Mars.  I found it quite satisfying just to dig dig dig, without any further concerns like what I was going to make out of it.

 

I can see what you mean about the interest of procedural content, though; if it's just a random sampling of ores it can feel a bit samey. 

 

I think it might be fun to make something halfway between one of these digging games and a card game.  Like ore tiles are treated a bit like cards, and maybe you can only send a load to the surface if it adds up to 21, or if you've mined one of each, or (like those "mahjong solitaire" games) you can only remove two tiles that match.  SUM10 by Kenta Cho is basically a mining game at heart :)

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The goal in both games is to dig all the way down
I think you misinterpret the goal... Sure, these game have digging, and it's an important part of it I would say, but they do not seem like games about digging...

 

It's more about constructing (Minecraft, Gnomoria, Dwarf Fortress, etc). It's about shaping the environment. Digging is not the fun part of these games, it's merely the means to get the resources to construct/craft cool things.

Digging is more like the grind part. Not the fun part.

 

Also, not that the last version (IIRC) of CastleStory (I know, not the best example since it has such pathgetic ratings) got the digging removed altogether and instead it got fixed "mines" where you send your workers and they magically reappear with ores.

 

 


While I already have procedurally generated content, I have completely forgotten about player-created content.
I don't see how you could put user created content in there, actually, these games are purely about "mechanics" so the "content" is almost nonexistant. Unless you meant open source and thet they code the game?

 

 

Overall, I would be very cautious, these games are probably the most time consuming to make (and the work on these never ends, Gnomoria was updated regularly years after release and Towns got bad reputation immediatelly after they announced they would stop updating it). As I observe it, it's a developer's hell :D

Of course some people like doing one game their whole life, I'm not saying, it has some nice aspects to it too  :)

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I don't see how you could put user created content in there, actually, these games are purely about "mechanics" so the "content" is almost nonexistant. Unless you meant open source and thet they code the game?

I'm admittedly going on second-hand information (primarily gameplay videos on YouTube), but what Minecraft seems to have done--aside from custom objects with custom "crafting recipes"--is allow mod-makers to create some degree of custom gameplay, built around the core interactions of the game, or custom UIs--just look at Mystcraft's linking books, and their associated dimensional jaunts, or Ars Magica's spell system.

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I don't see how you could put user created content in there, actually, these games are purely about "mechanics" so the "content" is almost nonexistant. Unless you meant open source and thet they code the game?

I'm admittedly going on second-hand information (primarily gameplay videos on YouTube), but what Minecraft seems to have done--aside from custom objects with custom "crafting recipes"--is allow mod-makers to create some degree of custom gameplay, built around the core interactions of the game, or custom UIs--just look at Mystcraft's linking books, and their associated dimensional jaunts, or Ars Magica's spell system.

 

It's coding, not "content", based on "hacking" the code (which is possible in Java kind languages only). And each mod immediatelly stops working after any update of the main game. I would rather go for open source (generally, Minecraft mods system is, well... probably the worst on this planet :D I think a better example would be mods for Civilization 4, which can be installed by anyone without studying pages of twisted instructions, but it's a strategy game (so it's easier since modders, they want to change units & rules) and they simply exposed scripting language, and have separate dlls for AI).

 

Anyway, it's my opinion of course, but I'm not believer of the "let the players code/invent the game themselves".  They are the players and they paid for the game *we* made :) Asking them for both their money and then ask to make like half of the game is kind of weird to me :D

 

Plus, a small thing, before they start providing content/coding the game needs to be popular (and therefore fun and complete). So, if we already reached the point when we got player's content/coding we don't need it anymore :) It's just a bonus then.

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I love games like Terraria and Motherload, where players have to dig down and find more and more advance ores. The goal in both games is to dig all the way down, get the best items using the best ores, and beat an end boss.

 

For me, Motherload wasn't about reaching a certain location, or acquiring better items. Rather, it was about surviving in a dangerous while accumulating wealth, and constantly having to make decisions about risks vs rewards. My air tank is just about gone, I need to return to the surface, but there's two diamond ores right there. Do I have enough air to grab them? I can dig over to them, get them, and then beat it back to the surface... but then I have to execute my return trip perfectly, with much less leeway for mistakes if I take the wrong path or bump into a wall.

 

Motherload creates real risk, because death is final - you lose it all. And that risk, and that survival, is where the thrill (in that game) is for me.

 

What's the core strength of your game? Exploration? Survival? Plot? Combat? Collecting? Crafting items? Constructing/shaping the environment?

Just because a game has parts of all these doesn't automatically make it the "core" strength. What is the one (or two) "core" strengths you are wanting to focus on, that every other gameplay feature is supposed to enhance and support?

 

One thing I'm not too fond of is when games basically do "Sword+1","Sword+2","Sword+3". That gets tiresome after awhile. In limited amounts, that's fine - Motherload's better airtanks, thrusters, etc... weren't annoying, because there were only six or seven upgrades in each category, not two hundred. But I found the incremental "quality" of the ores slightly dumb. 
Copper -> Iron -> Silver -> Gold -> Diamond -> Plutonium -> Magiconium -> Incrementonioum -> Tediousonium -> Lackofcreativonium

 

Rather, I'd have liked to see every ore type still being valuable and used for different purposes, rather than just being incrementally more valuable. Different ores should still be rarer than others, but they should have different uses as far as gameplay goes.

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