Trimester 3 is here! So is the Rapid Prototyping course. We’ll be tasked with putting out 4 rapid prototypes within the next 9 weeks, with each one allocated around 2 weeks of time. The briefs we will be receiving typically will be combining some strange and tough constraints.
So we’ve just received our first brief and we’ve been tasked with creating a game with an internal economy and procedurally generated level design. Two additional requirements are that the controls should be keyboard only and that we are allowed to use only text or icon menus.
I’ll be working with one hell of a game designer this trimester, Ben Herron. His past work speaks for itself so please go have a look at the link.
Below is basically a vertical slice of what the game will look like.
I’ll explain what that all means in a minute.
Our approach to the brief begun with Ben’s seed of the idea [pun very much intended], which in short deals with the internal economy of a plant’s biology. Basically, the absorption of sunlight and water by the plant and turning that into nutrients through the process of photosyntheses, our “converter” in game economy terms. These nutrients are basically growth mass, if you will, that the player must choose to grow from either the roots or the branches [see figure below].
There are however, dangers and punishment to allowing things to fall out of balance. First of all, a certain ratio of sunlight and water is required for photosynthesis, so having an over abundance of one over the other will not reward a player: its a bottleneck. Furthermore, in growing too many branches it will damage the roots and visa versa. Absorbing too much water will drown a plant. Absorbing too much light will burn it.
On top of that there will be randomized, surprise events such as changes of weather and introduction of pollutants that will damage branches or roots, creating an imbalance that a player must rectify.
Our aim is for Tree to have a semi-serious tone. It will have themes of the “cycle of life”, and ecological conservation, while the graphic design visuals help eleveate some of that tone and attract casual players to it. Some influences on our aesthetic and game play approaches can be found below.
Initial imagery that came to mind when first discussing the theme and game mechanics were that of Eufloria and Pixel Junk Eden: minimal and stylized. Delving into the message we want to convey with the game we also looked at typology and typology collages specifically. The irony was not lost on us that trees are eventually converted into paper on which type is found. The result was expressing the trees as growing typology collages as above.
Some game play peers are shown in the above slide. Euflora and Gorg are both examples of balancing resources. Tomaguchi, like pets and and farms, are experiences based around  persistent care personalization and  ownership.
The pitch has gone well so now its down to work, work, work!