This week’s game was inspired by this cutie right here.
I was staying with a friend in Nottingham for the week before Game City – and she, among her many other accomplishments in life, is the proud owner of a super adorable bunny named Chomsky. It turns out, however, that even though bunnies are adorable and soft and cuddly and cute – they are also little poop machines. They tend to leave trails of tiny little poop balls everywhere they go in a manner that can only be described as “reverse pac-man”. Because reverse pac-man sounds like a fantastic idea to explore, it very quickly became the basis of this week’s game.
The basic plan that I started this week with was to create a game where a bunny would hop around a grid with the ultimate goal of leaving a tiny poop nugget in every square.
What went right
The idea of a reverse pac-man came with a decent number of fun design exercises. Some of the questions I had to ask myself were: Is the bunny in a constant state of motion? Are there equivalents in this game to the ghosts in pac-man? If not, what is the challenging part of covering every square in a grid?
I toyed around with a few different iterations of the idea. The first was almost exactly pac-man: I wanted to have paths and walls that the player would navigate around, with dung beetles that would roam the board and roll up the poop trails left behind into large balls that would block the bunny’s path. After tying that out and feeling as though it was lacking *something*, I decided to try out the same thing, but without the walls (i.e. an entirely open grid).
I liked the feel of this style better, but now the idea of dung beetles blocking the bunny’s path was completely useless. To solve this, I altered the purpose of the beetles. The beetles would no longer wander around the board, but they would randomly appear off the grid and traverse in a horizontal or vertical line eating up any poop pellets left in their path. This created a very frustrating dynamic because there was currently no way to stop the beetles once they went on the war path of eating all of your finely laid poop.
To solve THIS problem, I added a new mechanic to the game. Now, in addition to leaving poop pellets around, the player could choose to dig a hole in any of the squares of the playing field. The holes would trap the beetles and then disappear (with the beetle) after a certain amount of time. This meant that you could now mitigate the damage done by the beetles, which created a fun little dynamic.
At this point, the final thing I had to solve was the fact that there was no driving sense of urgency to covering the entire board. Because the bunny had unlimited poop laying powers, the player could simply keep moving and trapping beetles until the entire board was covered. In my mind, this felt less like an active “game” (which is what I was going for) and much more like a passive waiting game. To solve this, I added one final thing to the game: a poop meter. The poop meter represents the number of poop pellets that the bunny has left to dispense across the board. Because the bunny is constantly moving, and leaves a poop pellet behind at every step, the player now feels as though they’re constantly fighting against something finite to cover the entire board. I also added an item that the player could consume in order to replenish a bit of the poop meter. Randomly, across the board, a bunch of carrots appear every few seconds. The carrots grow larger the long they are left alone, and if the player eats the carrots, the bunny’s poop meter is replenished with an amount that grows with the size of the carrot bunch.
All of these things combined created a really fun (in my opinion) resource management game. The player is constantly torn between having to cover the board with poop pellets, stopping the beetles, and finding carrots to eat.
What went wrong
Most of this week’s game making was spent adding little new mechanics to solve problems, which I feel could have gone horribly wrong very quickly. Luckily, all of my decisions very nicely cascaded into one another and created an interesting and fun dynamic, but throwing new things at a game to solve a problem felt dangerous to me. I would have liked it if I had been able to come to these conclusions in more of a thought-out way (however, I am pretty happy with how this one turned out regardless!).
What I learned
Bunnies are adorable and are basically a reverse pac-man.
Also happening this week was 0h Game Jam! Just in case you don’t know what 0hr Game Jam is, it’s a game jam that happens right as daylight savings time ends. You have one hour to make a game the hour before the clocks reset an hour. This means that from 2am until 2am, you have 1 hour to make a game (in 0 hours). Obviously, an hour is not a very long time to make a game, but it’s a fun exercise in creating something silly and quickly – and then tell everyone that you made it in zero hours. This year, I created a game about a flying penguin shooting little moles out of the sky. The moles were being carried around by balloons and…well…that was it. It was super simple, but a nice little break from what I was doing the rest of the week!