23 Jun Sprouting the idea
Hello, Sam here! Last week, I talked about how we came up with our game concept as well as some justifications for using some tried and tested techniques in the market today. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first iterations of our game and some features we wanted to change, as well as my (in)experience with making the game in the Unity game engine.
The one thing that stands out most about Unity is its powerful physics engine, which can easily simulate falling, throwing, gravity and force in its interface, which can all easily be edited to suit your taste.
Overall, I recommend using Unity if you want to get stuck into development quickly because it’s very intuitive and user friendly, especially for someone like me who has just started to implement code!
When we first decided that our game was going to revolve around a gnome bringing a dead world back to life, we didn’t imagine a running/survival game. Our first draft of the Gardener was to have the gnome flinging seeds at dead plants in order to score points. It was very much like Smash Hit, shooting seeds at plants would gain you more seeds to shoot and the game would go on until you ran out.
A very early version of the game.
But we realised it wasn’t very engaging because it’s difficult to lose and there would be no point in having the gnome there in the first place if all he did was run in the middle of the screen and play an animation or two. It works in Smash Hit because it’s visually appealing and the first person view makes the player feel a sense of urgency when a big block of glass approaches. Not to mention there’s a real difficulty in Smash Hit’s stages; we’re limited by our theme and we’d thought that it would be strange to have plants appearing on walls because it would break the immersion.
So we changed the formula so that the player could interact with the gnome and to also have a more challenging aspect to it, as well as have a real sense that the player is doing something. We would use a 3 lane system and obstacles that most running games use but we came up with the idea that the floor would come to life under the player’s feet to show to them that they are making progress.
A concept of the 3 lane system.
Our next challenge was deciding what form of world the Gnome was going to run on. Typically with most running games on the mobile market, you have three lanes (Minion Rush, Subway Surfers), a single lane (Temple Run) and then variations of camera angles or world shape. A 3 lane system works better with our idea to have life spring up at the Gnome’s feet because you could see that the path you didn’t take would still be dead, while the path the Gnome did walk on would have the effect.
But how would this world look? We had 3 main ideas:
We didn’t entirely scrap the idea to throw seeds at objects yet, so the 1st world idea was created to facilitate it. Much like our 1st draft (see the pic above with the cubes stuck to the walls), the Gnome would have thrown seeds at plants to score points. We also had an idea that there would have been a vine the Gnome could grow so that it could run on the walls and rotate the world. Of course the problem with this and having a 3 lane system is that it complicates the controls.
Swiping is the main function to control the Gnome and we thought that adding tapping to that was only going to make things annoying and unintuitive. Imagine if you wanted to dodge an obstacle but you ended up tapping and throwing a seed? That would have been extremely annoying. Not to mention the 1st world idea looks very claustrophobic and it didn’t really make sense to us for the Gnome to run in a room. That was the main problem, it looked more like a room than a world and that’s why we didn’t go for it.
Our 2nd world idea came to us when one of our animators at the time (Darion Leigh, very talented and eccentric!) showed us a music video made by Beeple which has a beautiful world with objects popping out at you and making a music track. We loved this idea because you can really get a sense of things popping out at you with that sort of spherical world and it really fits nicely, especially with the video’s ‘green’ feel. We ultimately decided against this idea because to get that perspective we’d need either a small spherical world, which would get in the way of the Gnome’s speed and spawning, especially if we wanted the Gnome to run faster as the level went on, or a certain camera lens which, sadly, Unity is limited on.
We chose the 3rd world idea because it’s simple and the player doesn’t have to take in as much information. You can easily see objects coming at you and the lanes are more defined. It will definitely give Daryl (our 3D animator) more room to work with in terms of environment and skyboxes (made during the process of creating backgrounds to portray the illusion that the game’s world is three-dimensional).
That’s it for this blog post! Join me next week, where we’ll look into more about scripting and making the Gnome move in our world!