***I’m copying the e-mail on the blog. It’ll be easier to comment! I also included the sketches I talked about (I know, probably not worth the wait 😛 )***
Ian, Saleem and I met this afternoon to talk about basic game mechanics. We came up with a few ideas that we think fit well within the project, so here is a recap.
We briefly touched the subject and, because water seemed so popular Tuesday, we agreed that the game should probably take place in an abstract representation of the underwater world. The main song will be The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea”!…ok, that’s just my fantasy.
Like it was mentioned at the first meeting, a constant vocal input to move the player around would get annoying pretty fast. So we established that it would probably be better to let the player control his avatar via the touchscreen. We think a tap’n move dynamic, where the character goes where the last touch was registered, would be adequate and straightfoward, but it’s still up in the air.
We were wondering if the game should use a side-scroller view or a top-down perspective. Side-scrolling would be great, but we want to make sure that our game doesn’t get compared to much to Aquaria, which also happen to take place underwater. This question is still up in the air, so we would love to know what you think about that.
The first control scheme we came up with revolves around the idea of ripples. Like sound, ripples are waves that spread out all around its emitter. We think it would be a great visual representation of the player’s input, almost to a 1 : 1 basis. It is very immediate and related to what the player is physically doing. On top of that, it gives us a lot of room to make some interesting level design.
The player would be able to reach his goals by using the different kinds of ripples he can make. Those may move objects out of the way, break obstacles, etc…However, some kinds of ripples will be more appropriate against certain situations, which is where the player will think, to reflect on how to modulate his voice. This will be where the fun begins!
Another great thing is that the sounds and music of the game could have an impact on gameplay if they also lead to the creation of ripples that may hinder the player’s progress.
The second possibility would be to use bubbles as the main action device. With vocal input, the player would create a bubble with certain properties.
Then, by dragging the bubble around, he would accomplish actions that would let him progress. Some bubbles would be thicker, but harder to move around, or others could be thinner, but would pass through slits or whatever. In a way, the action happens in two steps : bubble creation, which is solely vocal, and bubble manipulation, which is solely tactile.
As with Ripples, environment sounds could also be represented by such bubbles and have a great impact on gameplay. In a way, in both cases, the gameplay interaction becomes the meeting space of the player’s vocal inputs and the game’s outputs.
Finally, we thought about giving players the ability to directly manipulate the environment. His voice would have different kinds of influence on objects, depending on what these objects are. This would let us design a lot more of gameplay interactions using voice and, possibly, gesture or tactile input, as the focus shifts from the player to the environment. It also keeps the aspect of novelty throughout the game, because the player will keep exploring and discovering new causes and consequences as he play. The fact that one kind of input, like volume, would have an impact on two objects at the same time would create a nice interdependance that would be great for puzzle design. Possibilities are endless…maybe too endless. This may be quite a handful to program, as every kind of object will have a unique behavior.
OVERWORLD / CIRCUIT-BENDING
Like we discussed at the first meeting, the game would have and overworld, through which the player would have access to the different levels.
What we thought was that at the end of each level, the player could receive a new “tool” that would let him 1) do some awesome circuit-bending with either music or voice samples 2) progress in the Overworld by, like Ian put it, “tuning his own voice”.
This gives kind of a meaningful purpose to the game. The player must use his voice to complete the levels, but that’s not enough. He has to “tune it” to get understood and progress. This seems like a very strong, though abstract, theme / narrative that really ties together neatly the voice input and the gameplay mechanics.
So that’s pretty much it! Please feel free to comment on any mechanic, as it will only get better with everyone’s input.