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Procedural/Random Character Mutation

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Hi all,

DISCLAIMER: I'm just brain storming and have no ironclad design here - I'm really just trying to get fresh perspectives on this idea:

I've got an idea for a basic 2D platformer/shooter and I'm trying to figure out how you would approach having a player/npc mutate in a none uniform random way (see 'The Thing' inspiration). The idea is essentially that as the player collects food items, they build up a meter indicating how much of that resource they have gathered. When a mutation is triggered (either by the player or at random periodic intervals - I haven't decided), the level on the meter dictates how severe the mutation would be.

For example:

A mutation occurring while the player has 5 food would perhaps grow an extra mouth or something small, whereas doing it with 20 food would cause the player to double in size or grow more limbs etc...

I want the mutations to be randomised to make them ugly, unpredictable and weird, but I'm not sure how to go about it.

Games like spore seem to do this well, as the random element its the player's imagination - but I'm not sure how their mechanic is broken down.

My thinking is that you could equip the game with a bunch of different modular 'parts' that differ in value, these could sprout at random.

The problem is, say you grow fifteen legs - how do you coordinate all of them/devise a character controller for that?

Keen to hear how anyone else would tackle this.

Could approach it like an army in an RTS? They are essentially a complicated single mind organism that varies in form - but it might get a bit clunky controlling all of that?

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Using the fifteen legs example, You wouldn't necessary need to do much with them as you could always control the character in terms of movement, You would just be looking at 'pinning' animated extra legs Unless having extra legs meant you'd move in a different way? If the legs effected anything like speed, you could incorporate a 'leg count' then speed = 5 + (2 * legcount) and then increase your legcount randomly sort of thing. 

I'd say it'd only get clunky if you were trying to 'use' all the legs for something, You could look into having a 'parent' leg that has all the information required and new legs would 'inherit', That's just like any game with more than one instance of an enemy with predefined variables and instructions kinda thing. 

I think if you break down exactly what 'effect' you want to achieve from having extra limps like more legs = move faster, more arms = hit quicker or harder or anything like that then I'd suggest the 'legcount' or 'armcount' or any 'count' based on limbs that 'do' anything and then still use 1 'parent' controller for them all. If its just a visual thing then you merely would need to 'pin' extra items to your player. 

This is what I'm currently thinking from what you've wrote. I hope it helps in someway. 

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