Lazy Robots

April 02, 2012

So I had a conversation with my hot wife the other day about how long it's going to take to finish Gathering Storm and how that fits in with writing this blog and having some sort of fan base, by which I mean a group of people who know who I am and enjoy playing my games. Now, I'm not here to create an empire (which is what we call what she's trying to do with Zumba), but it would be nice if I had some readers. You know, people that might comment on my development posts, giving feedback about what looks or sounds cool and what looks or sounds like it could use more work.

So I thought about releasing another, smaller game before I spend another 2 years working on the beast of a game that is Gathering Storm - a smaller game that would be more about novel mechanics than complexity. Something that would be able to start drawing possible fans to the blog. Something like a nice little puzzle game.

Okay, so this is going to sound weird, but in the basement of the physics building where I have been working for the last 4-5 years, whenever I go to the bathroom and sit down on the can, I look down at the floor and see these tiles - maybe 1cm square and one of three different shades of brown - and I start moving them around in my head, thinking of ways to make cool patterns with the least possible movement. And ever since I started programming in Flash, I've been thinking of this as a puzzle game I could make and actually move these tiles around for real. Well, not really for real, but a step up from completely in my imagination.

The general idea I've pretty much already described: in each level, you start off with a set of blocks and you have to move them into the required design using the least amount of energy possible. Now, initially I know you are thinking that that sounds lame and easy. Just pushing individual blocks around, it should be fairly straightforward seeing which blocks need to me moved to get the fewest moves possible. But notice that I said least amount of energy and not fewest moves, for you see there will be ways to reduce your energy consumption beyond just moving single blocks around one at a time. For instance, if two blocks are adjacent, you can move them together for an amount of energy lower than if you had moved them separately. And there will also be a mechanic to rotate blocks 90 degrees about any point in the playing area for an energy based on the number of blocks rotated and the distance from their center of mass to the center of rotation. Eventually you will also get the ability to teleport blocks, which for a single block will only be efficient over large distances, but the teleportation will become far more efficient the more blocks you teleport at once.

What I really love about this idea is that, similar the Zachtronic games I love so much, there won't be a single obvious solution on how to solve these puzzles (after the first few introductory levels). There will be an energy threshold that you can't go over in each level, but the rest is up to the player, and the most efficient solution will probably only be realized after thousands of iterations by hundred of different players comparing their own unique solutions.

And so I want to call it Lazy Robots because the basic story is that you've got these three robots in this warehouse arranging crates - one who pushes the crates, one who rotates, and one who teleports - and they, you know, just want to get their work done expending the least amount of energy possible. Just like the rest of us.

I haven't decided to actually start working on the project yet. I'm still generating art for skill menus for Gathering Storm at this point, but I'm thinking about it...

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