I’ve been developing a simple networked mulitplayer prototype game for groworld. Not much to look at yet, but it contains one very simple gameplay mechanic – pollen can be blown out or absorbed into flowers by players, who are represented by plants. At the moment this just results in a change of flower colour, but the idea is that we could use a technique like this to distribute more complex abilities and behaviours between players. It’s also a good way of testing out network transport protocols, at the moment it’s just a couple of OSC messages, but the next thing to try is XMPP (which means a jabber chat client for fluxus 🙂 All the code is available on foam’s git repo.

Also, here’s another pluggable plants test:

3 thoughts on “Hayfever”

  1. All of this makes perfect sense and it seems like a very natural and coherent continuation of the concepts you’ve been developing over the past months… and I really like it, it sounds like this will be a game where the player’s actions will fundamentally affect the nature of their characters (something RPG’s seem to be looking for but never really get to) but I can’t help but get slightly giggly that you’re ending up doing a brightly coloured, innocent looking game where one of the chief elements is a highly unusual perspective on the reproductive process.

    Anyway, how about bees that distribute pollen? I imagine flowers could attract bees, and the pollen a bee carries could hold genetic information as well as affect how the bee moves after picking it up, like the bee getting “drunk” or like how some parasites affect the host’s behaviour. This would create a game element to long-range inter-plant communication, especially when the system that defines the information contained by the pollen would also affect the behaviour of the bee that caries it. That would lead to players having to balance two types of outcome from a single action, that always leads to interesting game-play. This is assuming you are working towards players who get to define (some of) the information contained in the pollen their character creates.

  2. The brightly coloured innocence is probably more my personal influence at this stage – I think that will develop in future in some different directions.

    Bees and insects are going to be important, I don’t think it’ll feel complete without more of an ecosystem. It’s a good idea to have a behavioural effect on the insects. If you treat them badly they could also be pests and eat bits of your plants…

    With all these decisions I’m thinking that there are two potential routes we could follow:

    1. Aim for gameplay periods of hours-days-months, add lots of goals to attain and things to unlock.

    2. Make something visually rich and entrancing, but aiming for gameplay periods of minutes rather than hours.

    There is obviously a lot of ground in the middle, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is a difference between the two, and that some of the best games are 5 minute games rather than 5 months ones.

  3. Re; “innocence”. I see, it was just very amusing to me because of how upset the ratings committees get with the slightest hint of sexuality. Decapitation is perfectly fine but don’t you dare show a nipple. In that context it gets amusing that this game is all about reproduction. It’s more modern culture that’s amusing to me here than your style; the style is fine there are way more than enough drab looking games already.

    About game length; I agree. As I get older and have less time to spare I find I’m getting more and more interested in arcade style gameplay that’s made to be fun even when you just have a few minutes over -let’s say- a game of Civilisation. I could imagine that here there would be layers, for example the long term evolution of the plant as a strategic game while also having a dexterity based game of catching and shooting pollen. That might work. Long term and short term goals are important and so is social interaction here. As I see you plans here now there are some analogies to social networking sites. With those sites many people seem perfectly happy to “play” every day for a few minutes while building up a “character” over months or even years.

    There is a lot of stuff to work with in this evolutionary battle between plants and insects. I think there are some plants that excrete this goo that’s nutritious to some ants so those ants will be their “body guard” against other insects. Then there is stuff like the chilli and coffee plants that have certain (rather nice!) chemicals in their fruit that will muck with the nervous system of insects as a way of defending their fruit. There is a lot to work with there, now that I think about it it’s a lot more interesting than -let’s say- the tactics employed in medieval battles.

    About those bee behaviours; I could see this sort of game before mind’s eye. Players would have building blocks (icons) that would express certain characteristics of plants to be placed on a grid in order to encode information in pollen. There would be different icons that would affect bee behaviour that would go on the same grid and some (maybe most) icons would have a meaning in both contexts, meaningless icons would get skipped over and ignored. I imagined the “pollen parser” would read this grid left to right then top to bottom while the “bee parser” would go top to bottom, then left to right. Basically the player would be writing a program that would parse in two languages using a limited set of options (I imagine these icons would need to be collected), I could end up with the situation where I would have the right icons to either send “red flowers” to you or to send “twisty roots” to Alex but I couldn’t send the roots to you because of the link between bee behaviour, encoded genes and my limited options. I’m just thinking out loud here, maybe you are interested in a very different direction but this sounds like the sort of game I’d like to play. Actually that sort of perspective might make sense for multi-player AlJazari as well, you’d get lots and lots of complexity out of very simple concepts. Of course that does lead to the question of balancing this complexity but then again; game balance is hard anyway.

    It’s very nice to see this project about growth and development grow and develop, BTW.

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