Xerra's Blog

Drunken coder ramblings

New competition, new game —

Syntax Bombs next game coding competition started on May 4th so I’ve had this bank holiday weekend to have a think about what I’d like to do this time. There are three category mixes to go for and the idea is you have to pick one of them and follow both the types of game:

Option 1 : Retro / Strategy
Option 2 : Puzzle / Endless
Option 3 : Arcade / Open World

I had to think about this for a while as I did a retro/arcade game last time which, while not applicable this time, it would be all too easy to just do the same kind of thing again and pick an old game to remake. However, I’ve already been on and on about how I maybe shouldn’t have actually done this last time and gone for something a little more original. Certainly everyone else did and I felt that maybe Envahi might have been looked upon better if it was something truly different.

So I’ve no intention of going with some kind of arcade shooting game, or anything remotely like that, in all honesty. So out of the three options we’ve been given, I pretty much ruled out option 2 almost immediately. A puzzle game isn’t really a puzzle if you can’t complete it, or it goes on endlessly just extending it (is that even viable?). The categories were chosen randomly and that one is a no-brain skip. I’m glad that wasn’t the only option.

Arcade / Open World does not work for me based on my earlier decision and I’m not sure a game to be written in 8 weeks can even be made open world, as you’d have to have a clear end-goal very early on and code to the limitations of the deadline.

So, Retro / Strategy it is. Coming up with a game idea was much easier once I had that set in mind.

I did have an idea of a kind of puzzle game I wanted to recreate as a coincidence before the competition was put in place but I don’t think it would actually impress anyone so I skipped the idea as something to create myself another day, outside of a deadline and any kind of judging.

With a game idea in mind I’ve definitely set my sights high in what I can realistically get done by the submission date. I wanted to use the old home computers from the 80’s as a theme and I always thought doing it with some kind of card game might be the best way. Top Trumps was a core idea to build on, I always thought, so I’m now swinging towards that but with ideas to expand on it to have a game that has several ways to play – including a chapter-based story mode, if I can pull that off.

I don’t think I’m completely there with the whole design as yet so I’ll elaborate on some of the game modes I’m planning in a later update. For now the core mechanism is going to be the four categories of each card and picking what you think is the best stat to capture the opponents card. I’m adding a couple of extra stats onto each card which will be used for other game modes that will mean the strategy to win the game will be different. For example a seperate value stat that obviously bigger is better so you would want to hold that card and perhaps try to lose the cards that have a lower point value deliberately, even if the other stats are good. That part will still need more thinking, however, as a card with any points value is better than losing one altogether, so maybe cards are swapped instead.

Another option will be a good/evil stat on each card. Every one has a number of one type and, if you’re looking to win the game for good, then you really do want to dump the evil cards as soon as you can, and certainly before the number of rounds expires.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been tinkering with the start of a project framework that’s now got the the useful stage, in that it saves a fair bit of time getting a new game up and running. I’m now using this as the start point for the new game – name to be decided although I think I’m set on it now.

The first three days have been accumulating data, such as free wiki images of retro computers, and getting all the data for the four main stats that the cards are going to have. To add to this, there’s a trivia line on each one, and possibly some other information that will be used in the final csv export of this data. I’m obviously using a csv file instead of coding the data within the game as it makes it a lot easier to make adjustments once the actual card code is written and gameplay can be tested.

Yes, it’s really taken 3 days of work before I even started on the game code, there’s so much design work to do for this game. I’ve got an idea of implementing a freeplay mode additionally, which is where the player just plays matches to earn coins and has to save enough  to purchase each part of their own super computer. I might need some graphics work commissioned to be able to get that done, however.

I have until June 30th to get this done and submitted so early days yet…


Categorised as: Competition | Development | Game Studio 2 | RAM | Syntax Bomb | Writing

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