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The Two-Piece Puzzler And The Nitty-Gritty Of Implementing Imagination

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by EternalAmbiguity, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Hello all. I apologize if this is the wrong place for this--if so, please let me know where I would put it. I'm working on two different game ideas off and on:

    1. A "survival sim" that makes heavy use of procedural generation and advanced AI to generate a million (or as many seeds as there are I suppose) different worlds which will then, based on their topography and a player-selected biome, will be populated with a simulated ecosystem and NPCs to act in that world, a la S.T.A.L.K.E.R., though with far more agency (NPCs can select jobs based on stats, build permanent buildings in the world, and basically run a micro-economy).

    ^^^ This is a hobby project, by the way, which I fully expect to take several years (I'm not crazy).

    2. Slightly more realistically, a fairly small walking sim/puzzle type game where the main focus is the player's interaction with me, the creator (I'm going to be the only character in the game, and there will be many, many conversations with the character about a bunch of different, non-game subjects). I've been stumped for a while on what to implement for the actual gameplay of it--just fetching McGuffins wouldn't grab anyone--but writing up something about the game caused me to come up with the idea of making a co-op puzzle game, where the player and the NPC have to work together on solving puzzles.

    I've played my fair share of puzzle games like the Myst series, or Portal, or the Sherlock Holmes games, or the The Talos Principle, but I'm not really sure on how I should start designing the puzzles.

    I'm open to something like The Talos Principle, where the puzzles are a part of the environment and involve moving elements around. However, I'd prefer to stay away from something like Portal where player motion and momentum is the big focus (plus, it's set in an open world and I would prefer for the puzzles to be outside, rather than in a building or buildings--I would also prefer puzzles did not require specially handcrafted terrain spaces like Portal). I would personally prefer something like the Sherlock Holmes games or Myst games, where the puzzle is some small object that you interact with--but I don't really think that would effectively use the idea of an AI partner.

    For a couple of details about the game world, it's as I mentioned an open world and I would prefer to make most everything outside if I can. It's 3D as well, first person perspective with standard FPS controls. Additionally, the idea of light and darkness plays a part, with the player and the NPC not being able to move around in the darkness without losing health and eventually "dying." The player however has a torch that works for some as-yet-undetermined amount of time in the dark each 24 hours before going out.


    Apologies for the long post. I guess I'm curious if A, anyone thinks this is an interesting idea and could work, and B, if anyone has any suggestions for brainstorming puzzle ideas that involve two parties, where one of the parties is scripted (or could be instructed to do things by the player).


    Edit: In retrospect, this almost certainly belonged in Game Design, didn't it? I can't delete it so if a mod wants to move it that would be great...
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  2. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Stealing a page from Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design, what "essential experience" do you want to give the player? The victory of solving clever puzzles, like The Witness? The excitement of learning more about a character, like the text game Galatea? How does light and dark play into that experience?
     
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  3. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    The game really isn't about the puzzles. The game is mainly about interacting with the NPC and getting to know them through extensive conversation. I want to give a player the sensation of really knowing the NPC as a person. I plan to use extensive dialog for this (through a nifty asset that lets me design dialog around both the character and the NPC moving around, in real time :p), with many different varied conversations. As a general example, the player and NPC will be walking towards an area, and the NPC will bring up some topic like, say, imperialism, and the two can discuss it at length and argue its benefits and drawbacks.

    In addition, I have a rough idea of a simple plot, which involves the player collecting these "McGuffins" of some type (and 4 different endings, based around how the player responds to the NPC). Obviously though, I can't just have the player run around and pick up things.

    I feel like making some type of co-op puzzle system would allow the player to interact with the NPC in a slightly more...literal or physical way than just dialog, and could thus serve the main concepts. I'm just not sure where to start with designing the puzzles.

    The light and dark thing is something I tossed around on its own before incorporating it into the idea of this game. I suppose, upon initial design, it didn't have much to do with the character interaction. I'll go into a bit more depth on it, here, but I'll put that in a spoiler tag because I'm long-winded.

    The game world is basically a simulation, set up to imprison the NPC for a crime he committed. The way I'm thinking the game will begin is with a black screen and a woman's voice, saying: "I have given you the key. Set him free." The player will then "wake up" in the world, and will have the torch, though they won't be told this (the hotkey for this will not be shown in the "Options" or anything, but if the player knew the hotkey, they could select it). Over time you will collect a few fundamental things like a backpack (an inventory). Once you can access your inventory you can see the torch.

    As mentioned the torch will work for some relatively short amount of time, so the player can use it in a pinch, but it would go out eventually (so the player has to "camp" for the night--I'll allow them to sleep to skip time).

    The NPC is trapped in some area, perhaps a cave, where they have light, but to move out of it would require going through darkness. Thus they can't escape. However, the player has the torch, and thus can move through. After the two meet, the NPC will travel with the player outside of the cave, allowing them to work together on puzzles or some such.

    Additionally, in the second "part" of the game, the NPC will betray the player. If the player doesn't recognize it, they die and that's the first ending (I hope to make this more likely by the previously mentioned repertoire established between the two). If they do and escape, the NPC will attempt to hunt the player, though they will be hampered by the fact that they cannot move through darkness while the player can.

    So basically, the light/dark mechanic I feel is an interesting idea that can serve the gameplay in some sense, but I'm not totally confident on how it would serve the story or plot, or main "focus" of the game (the character interaction). I've thought up more and more outlandish things (such as having the proportions of day/night be based on the NPC's mood, and have that mood change based on the player's interactions with the NPC), but that's getting a little out of hand I feel, and I would rather try to focus on getting the main ideas down first before going in those directions.
     
  4. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    That's the idea that really caught my interest. If the game is mainly about interacting with the NPC, then it's more interesting to me if light & dark are intimately connected to the NPC, rather than acting as an external obstacle. To me, dealing with the NPC's mood would be more novel than simply navigating areas of light and dark. It seems like you have something there that could serve as the core theme of a unique game.
     
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  5. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Initially I thought of second life, but after reading all the posts - for some reason - poltergeist - kept popping up in my mind when you were explaining the light/dark element.
    Thought Id share in case it could spark another idea. Maybe npc or player is trapped in light/dark side and the other is trapped in the other. Through conversation points or optional gameplay the npc/players have to learn how they can find each other?? Idk - just something that was in my head as I read.
     
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  6. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Alright, I could go with that. It certainly wouldn't be difficult, and I could get creative with weather and such (as an example--when the NPC is hunting you, it might be all dark and storming, while at another point-I-hadn't-yet-mentioned where the NPC basically gives up and accepts their death it might be simply raining constantly).

    The main problem I'm having though is I still need the actual gameplay element. Puzzles seem like a relatively non-stressful yet interactive element to use, but I don't have any experience designing them. I'm not looking for help designing them, just a suggestion or two that might help get me started (or of any resource that might help--I'm checking out gamasutra now).

    It seems like a cool idea, but the light/dark thing isn't separate parts of the world, just day and night. And a big part of the game is the two personally interacting. And for this iteration I see them both being unable to "face" the night as a bit part of it. I do really like the idea, though.
     
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  7. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Gamasutra is my go-to for ideas like that, also. :)
     
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