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Microscopic Evolution Game

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Hi, I'm new around here and am really not sure if this is the place to get this kind of help but I'm doing it anyway.

 

I have wanted to see a realistic approach of a micro ecosystem in a video game for a very long time and I know there are a few titles out there that try this but not even close to the scope I want. I also understand this is a very challenging concept and that is why it has never been done before. But for someone who has lots of free time on their hands can it be done? I have years of experience in both art and programming but have never taken on a big project. Lately I've been wanting to get into such a big project but obviously I don't want to get in over my head either.

 

What I want the game to be:

 

The focus of the game will stay under a microscope for now but I really want to emphasize the vast scale of things. The player will start as a simple unicellular organism in the early stages of microscopic life. Meaning that no other organisms will be too complicated at this point. The goal of the game is to steadily evolve into more complicated or effective organisms to compete with other evolving life as the millennia pass and ultimately just to survive. This does not mean that growing larger is a necessary tactic in this game. 

 

I want the player to have complete control on what his species becomes and let no trait be purely cosmetic. For example, increasing the size of the mouth will affect how much the creature can bite, increasing the sucking power of its mouth will increase the size of that sucking organ, increasing the tentacle length will affect how fast it can move or from how far it can grab things, increasing the size of the optic system will affect how well the creature can detect others, or making the body longer could help strike prey or coral around it. However these are not changes that can be made instantly. Evolving new traits or developing existing traits will take time which is important to keep in mind while competing with the other species(it may also require an appropriate task to be complete).

 

Once again I want the player to have the freedom to be whatever he wants to be. The player may evolve his organism to attach itself to a surface and grab passing critters or debris with its tentacles and spit eggs as a means for the species to travel. It could become a parasite that attaches or burrows inside a larger organism to lay eggs. It may crawl around on some larger organism to participate in some mutual bond or be that larger organism. They may travel around on their own or be apart of some kind of hive that works together. I want the player to be overwhelmed with possibilities but also make each individual possibility a challenge to work towards and develop over time while still staying relevant in the ecosystem.

 

An example of a mutualish relationship:

giphy.gif

 

Real Microscopic Worm:

0d544c12c37906ad10ffaaf1de72a887.jpg

 

Obviously I'm not aiming for this level of detail but as close as I can within reason:

giphy.gif

 

A video example of something similar to how I think I want the game to look: https://vimeo.com/39784233

 

I really have no clue how far I as an individual can take a project like this but I certainly want to try.

 

So now for the questions.

 

A.) This is probably the most important question. As a single amateur game developer am I in way in over my head?

 

B.) What are some restrictions I can set for myself to keep this game simple enough for an indie developer such as myself?

 

C.) There will need to be some kind of mechanic to monitor how successful the players species is or weather it's going extinct which I'm not sure about yet. Any suggestions?

 

D.) Are people even interested in this kind of game or am I a serious minority?

 

E.) What are some examples or suggestions for how progress could work in this kind of game? I'm really still experimenting with the concept.

 

F.) Any tips or suggestions would be nice.

Edited by StarShipPyro

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I think the best place to look for inspiration for this style of game play would be in something like Plague Inc, or even Agar.io in terms of how to evolve your specimen. Both are fairly simple yet popular games that allow for a branching and growing specimen to keep it in your scope of development. Of course in Agar.io's case you want more ways to evolve than just eating, but the idea of being in a set arena type area to survive in might be the best way to show this "survival of the fittest" game play while offering the option to leave that arena to go to a different arena via parasitic infection, or airborne travel. 

 

I'm imagining a system where when you first start out, you're first couple choices start you on a particular branch of a level up tree. For example, if your organisms first bouts of resource gathering involves burrowing underground for nutrients, then you'd be on the "worm" tree. 

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Pyro, I assume you know about the game Spore, by Will Wright? It starts off as you describe. As for your questions:

A. Probably.
B. That's up to you to decide.
C. Species success is measured in numbers of living organisms. If they recreate faster than they get eaten, then the population increases and that's
"success."
D. Most people will probably think "it sounds just like Spore, and that was not fun."

I don't have anything for you in regards to E or F.

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I think the best place to look for inspiration for this style of game play would be in something like Plague Inc, or even Agar.io in terms of how to evolve your specimen. Both are fairly simple yet popular games that allow for a branching and growing specimen to keep it in your scope of development. Of course in Agar.io's case you want more ways to evolve than just eating, but the idea of being in a set arena type area to survive in might be the best way to show this "survival of the fittest" game play while offering the option to leave that arena to go to a different arena via parasitic infection, or airborne travel. 

 

I'm imagining a system where when you first start out, you're first couple choices start you on a particular branch of a level up tree. For example, if your organisms first bouts of resource gathering involves burrowing underground for nutrients, then you'd be on the "worm" tree. 

I've played both of those games a lot and have felt "inspired" by them but other then being microorganism games they're really quite different than what I'm going for. Although, multiplayer is really something I could think about later on. As for travel this game is set before large life evolved and is fixed on a microscopic perspective likely in the ocean. So I think travel will be manual and large distances will be unnecessary to worry about. I was thinking a 3d non persistent randomly generated world. That would be pretty easy in this case I think since you would expect to see similar things over and over again on this level.

 

The problem with trees is just that they set you on a path. I don't really want the player to be too pressured to follow a certain path. However, I also want changes made to be difficult to undo. For example, if it is worm-like I want it to be more difficult to become plankton-like. Or basically polar opposites are difficult to achieve but are not impossible. So I was thinking about a web instead of a tree with some lines between links longer than others so it makes them harder to link but I don't know what that would look like or how much of a mess it would be. Similar to how it is in Plague Inc but you could evolve from one link to another distant link but it would take a long time and possibly slowly degrade the original trait if they were incompatible but possibly also leave some of that original trait behind and not fully evolve the new trait right away as a side effect(as you can see I like to over complicate things).

 

Pyro, I assume you know about the game Spore, by Will Wright? It starts off as you describe. As for your questions:

A. Probably.
B. That's up to you to decide.
C. Species success is measured in numbers of living organisms. If they recreate faster than they get eaten, then the population increases and that's
"success."
D. Most people will probably think "it sounds just like Spore, and that was not fun."

I don't have anything for you in regards to E or F.

I know about Spore but it is nothing like the game I described. The beginning of spore is about growing up to be a land lizard that is either a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore and the shape of your creature is purely cosmetic. It makes no attempt at a realistic approach toward evolution or microscopic life and gives the player very little freedom as to what they can be. In my game I want to try showing what life is really like from a microscopic perspective and how diverse and scary it can be.

 

Your answer for C is great for a local scale but I had a global scale in mind. How well is my species doing across the entire planet? Or what portion of the planet is my species capable of inhabiting in the first place? But perhaps I will have to monitor this locally and apply that globally. I don't really want to rely on fixed stats, though.

Edited by StarShipPyro

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I have decided to roll with this project, although, I'm not sure what it is anymore. I haven't taken any microbiology classes and probably never will so I'm pretty ignorant on the subject. Despite that, I wanted to make a game that was creative and fun yet realistic and educational on the subject.  :huh:

 

Here is a quick doodle of what I originally imagined the game to look like:

[attachment=33147:Microorganism_01.jpg]

Looks pretty simple, right?

But life under a microscope doesn't look that simple at all.

 

I started doing research over the past few days and found myself both fascinated and grossly overwhelmed with the complexity of it all. I ended up ordering a 900pg college textbook on microbiology today and am going to borrow someones microscope. Meanwhile I'm doing as much research as I can online.

 

Here is a video that gives a basic Idea of the diversity of just one single genre of microorganisms if you're interested: 

 

I still very much plan to start this project and am more interested than ever but plan to do a lot of self educating before I know exactly where I should go with it. This is why I'm always weary of trying new things, I always dive off into the deep end.

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A fairly old game Evolution: The game of intelligent life came to mind when I first read your post.

 

1) Are you in over your head? Probably, mainly because if you had to ask that question then you already have doubts regarding your abilities and current skill sets. The good news is they are things you can improve upon to the point, that what may have been over your head does not remain so.

 

2) Start with a basic set of features and very simplistic gameplay - as you master that level, add new gameplay elements like the ability to evolve tentacle or suckers and then stabilise your new dynamic before again growing the game with new elements/features. Set timelines and meet them and most importantly - recognise when you may have been a bit too ambitious and scale it back until you can build back up again.

 

3) A simple measure of success is not having you species diminish in population to the point of unsustainability or grow to the point that the environment cannot sustain the levels before failing on a catastrophic level.

 

4) Even a serious minority can make a game profitable.

 

5) Measuring progress or goals can very much depend on the type of game/minigames you develop. For example if you developed a microscopic king of the hill game where multiple players are trying to kill each other and evolve in the process - the goal would be "Alive at the end". 

 

6) Narrow down your design to what is achievable and build from there.

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A.) This is probably the most important question. As a single amateur game developer am I in way in over my head?    

 

 

graphics complexity aside - no. you are not over your head. but you'll need to figure out the rules of how things work first, and write them down, before you start to do any coding or artwork at all. you have to know what to write and what to draw before you can write or draw. depending on how realistic you want to get and how much you know about microbes, this may require a bit of research time. EDIT - from your later replies, it appears you already figured this out. <g>.

 

>> B.) What are some restrictions I can set for myself to keep this game simple enough for an indie developer such as myself?  

 

graphics complexity. also - start with just a basic set of rules with just a few mechanisms, like mouth, flagella, etc.

 

>> C.) There will need to be some kind of mechanic to monitor how successful the players species is or weather it's going extinct which I'm not sure about yet. Any suggestions?  

 

if its gong to be in a game world (a water drop on a microscope slide) with other critters (NPC microbes), let survival of the fittest decide. if the player dies out, they aren't doing so well... <g>.

 

>> D.) Are people even interested in this kind of game or am I a serious minority?  

 

it could be cool it - could be ultra niche. i think the more realistic it is, the more niche it will be. but somewhat silly, humorous, and cartoon-ey and pretty basic and simple could be the next angry birds. you never can tell.

 

>> E.) What are some examples or suggestions for how progress could work in this kind of game? I'm really still experimenting with the concept.   F.) Any tips or suggestions would be nice.

 

1. research microbes.

2. work out rules of game, write them down.

3. select dev tools (language, engine, compiler, art tools etc).

4. rapid prototype. 100-200 hours total labor max (equivalent of 3-5 weeks full time). used free DL'd assets for place holders. do not spend more than 100-200 hours prototyping! do not create any artwork AT ALL ! (yet).

5. decide if the project is viable.

6. if so, design the full code base, artwork, etc.

7. implement code, create / acquire assets.

8. testing / tweaking / polishing

9. release.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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>> E.) What are some examples or suggestions for how progress could work in this kind of game?

 

 

if you mean player progress, while they are evolving, the other microbes are as well. and progress is measured by how well they do vs the latest competitor. if they make good choices, they will dominate. if they make poor choices, they will fall further behind the competition (from an evolutionary point of view) and eventually die out (get eaten).

 

pacing will be very important. evolution takes a LONG time. you'll need to accelerate time somehow. also, evolution is driven by random mutations that just happen to be favorable. in this case i guess the player would be choosing the mutations, and hoping they turned out to be favorable.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Stormynature, that's exactly what I'm going to have to do. Originally, I was being way too ambitious and just silly with how much I was wanting to do.

 

I'll start with one very basic organism, give it a few traits the player can choose to evolve, and then add on more complicated features from there. 

 

I hadn't heard of that game before, by the way. It's was a bit before my time, I guess. Well, I was a toddler at least. lol But I have a bit more of a modern vision for the game in mind where the players can really interact with and evolve their own creatures on a very detailed level. And obviously intelligence wont be a goal or measure of success in my game but merely a factor that may help a creature survive if the player chooses to pursue it.

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if you mean player progress, while they are evolving, the other microbes are as well. and progress is measured by how well they do vs the latest competitor. if they make good choices, they will dominate. if they make poor choices, they will fall further behind the competition (from an evolutionary point of view) and eventually die out (get eaten).

 

pacing will be very important. evolution takes a LONG time. you'll need to accelerate time somehow. also, evolution is driven by random mutations that just happen to be favorable. in this case i guess the player would be choosing the mutations, and hoping they turned out to be favorable.

I asked that question while unsure what I wanted the scope of the game to be: global migration, population growth, big changes in size, "winning," etc. But now I'm leaping backwards and staying inside a drop of water.

 

My original idea with time was to think of it as a kind of currency for evolving. For example, growing these little swimmer tentacles into big grabber tentacles would cost a million years and a million years in game would be like and hour in real time. But this rapid time passing wouldn't be simulated in the game world. During this time the player could swim around as one of his creations and eat and reproduce as if time was passing normal while watching these tentacles slowly grow and other creatures around him slowly change as well. And maybe he could do certain task during this time to make the evolution finish sooner and he could choose to have multiple evolutions at once but that would cost more time. I was also thinking about some evolutions being random or at least not directly controlled by the player just to throw a bit of spice into the game.

 

And by the way, you can believe me when I tell you I am researching microbes. In fact, I'm more focused on that then the game design right now.

Edited by StarShipPyro

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