Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thought Exercise

Here's an interesting thought exercise:

Imagine a game where reproduction is the gimmick. I don't mean human reproduction: I mean things making things.

The gimmick isn't to be used as a backdrop: it's to be used as the primary game mechanic. The point is that the player's primary action is to change the nature of the thing that reproduces. Sort of like "battlebots", I guess, except that it's about making more bots rather than killing things.

There are a lot of more advanced ideas - resource management on a "racial" level. Cooperative, symbiotic, and parasitic activities. Changing environments. Etc. But they must all be managed through tweaking the "machinery" of the reproduction.

The difficulties in this thought exercise are twofold: How do you make it fun, and how do you make it at all?

What kind of system would you build to allow a player to create reproducing things? And make it accessible?

How would you do it?

7 comments:

Ellipsis said...

The first thing that comes to mind is SimLife, which I found very amusing. You could create new species with different qualities, including different reproductive features, and then just let them run loose and compete each other to extinction. The only problem is that it was more of a evolutionary model simulator than a game, and it proved sometimes difficult to balance the species and avoid having one eat everything else and then starve to death...

Craig Perko said...

I agree, but it's not really what I had in mind.

Mory said...

I've given it some thought, and I have no idea. I have no idea how to make that concept appealing.

Textual Harassment said...

A robot factory that builds robots. Each unit has a limited amount of energy, so you must design the robot's behavior, and the factory layout, to be as efficient as possible.

But as for how to make that fun... The only obvious goal is to make the biggest, most productive factory. There's a type of player that would love squeezing the greatest productivity out of the system, but others would be bored stiff.

Craig Perko said...

That's more in line with what I was thinking, but it does have the limitation that the player has a centralized system. This makes it a bit difficult to introduce a complex enough world.

It would be very difficult to, say, reclaim a desolate world using a single factory point. Because I want to make the reproduction the main gameplay, it wouldn't make very much sense to tack on a "world map" allowing you to direct robots. That's a completely different kind of play.

You'd have similar troubles with advanced ideas such as symbiosis...

Maybe you could work around those issues, if you were clever, but I think it might be better to have the reproduction spread out in various places across the world, either in individual entities or in semi-mobile factories (which may, in fact, be entities)...

David McD said...

A friend of mine and I devised an idea for a game based on programming. The concept was that the player has semi-autonomous chunks of code that work together in combination the way an RTS player has units and buildings. Each "code-unit" does one thing with one piece of input, and the sequence in which they act produces different results -- code-units taking the output of other code-units as their input, etc. By rewriting, combining, dividing, or providing different input, new and better code-units can be created that do new and better thing. Visual representation could be dry, as in Uplink or Defcon, or it could be abstracted into shapes or symbols, such as in Rez or Desktop Tower Defense or even Tetris, where the code units are physically manifested and roam a virtual world in real-time, "eating" pieces of input and producing the effect like a cell dividing. Players could vie for control of a digital landscape, with CPUs and other hardware-like environmental attributes. Closer?

Craig Perko said...

In many ways, it's closer... but it's being sidetracked from "things reproducing" to "making stuff", which is a very different theme.

I'd play it, though!