Relic : An Exploration in Impermanence
“To change with change is to remain in the changeless state.” ~ Bruce Lee
Download the Prototype(Windows Only) : Here
In the zip file is a 3rd party folder. This contains Visual Studio 10 run time files. If you don’t have VS 10 on your system, you will need to install either the 32 bit or 64 bit depending upon your os.
It doesn’t have sound but the engine requires OpenAL.
When looking at ideas for what to explore at this jam. I kept coming back to things like commitment, drive, tenacity. As I thought more on it, I began asking myself what do these things have in common? To me the big thing is that they are all components to achieve something, specifically for me, these things relate to my goals as a game developer of being able to operate my own studio. But why are these things important and why is there such an urgency from these things? The answer, impermanence. Impermanence could be looked at simply as change. We are all impermanent, we will live for any undermentioned amount of time, and we will die, at least at this point, all of us. Now what death is and what actually happens there is another topic entirely. But what can be said is that for any of us, dealing with impermanence is something that we must all endure.
In my life, I’ve recently had some people pass away that were seemingly young, in good health, and then suddenly, they were gone. That can happen to any of us, and while we shouldn’t waste time waiting for death to come, we should let death serve us as a reminder to make the best of our daily lives and help us have a sense of urgency in accomplishing the things that we set out to do. It should also serve to allow us to enjoy the now and to be present in the company of others and to really share who we are with one another.
Impermanence is not something to dread or be feared, but rather accepted, and used as motivation for each of us to reach our potential.
So, It Begins
Putting the idea of impermanence into overall gameplay could be handled in many ways. During our initial brainstorming session for the jam we came up with many good ideas. We had to settle for something that was small enough in scope to attempt to tackle over the weekend. We decided to take a hero character and have them seek out an item that was causing fluctuation in the land. The item, or relic as we ended up calling it, was the source of said chaos and was responsible for releasing wraiths into the game world as well. These wraiths (in design/theory) were wreaking havoc in the land. The relic itself was causing the world to flip upside down and rearrange itself causing mass confusion.
The game would have a relic, a player, wraiths, other obstacles. The players goal would be to find the relic before it drained enough energy from the land to cause another surge of fluctuation. If the player failed to do so, the world would be turned upside down and everything would be thrown around again. This would continue until the player would find the relic, destroying it and restoring balance to the world.
At the jam I had some technical issues that I’ve blogged about and talk about a little in the presentation video. The important part being, I kinda missed a complete day of dev time. This resulted in a more then unfinished prototype. I have sense then gone back and put about 7 hours into it to get it to a complete prototype state.
The game is close to our initial concept. Originally obstacles where supposed to generate in such a way as to make navigation through the game world more difficult. I could have spent more time after the jam working to create a system to group these items together and put collision checks on them, but I didn’t want to spend more time on it then I thought we would have, had my computer been working the entire time of the jam.
The gameplay itself does deliver a message of change, there is the impermanence of the gameworld the relic resets it every 7 minutes if the player does not find it. Then there is the drive of the player to want to restore the game world to it’s normal state. This is a change to be made to the world by the player. While the prototype ends after this point, the normal state of the world is restored. I think I would have liked to have made a variation of the timer being random so the player didn’t know when to expect the world to change.
It could be suggested that there is a conflict in the intended design as the player is trying to stop change from happening.. That statement is false in the sense that the player is instead driven to change the rapid changing of the gameworld, so through impermanence the player restores order to the world which at the beginning of the game is in persistent flux.
Visual and Audio Components
There is no sound in the game at all. Music would have helped set the exploratory mood of the game more. And sound effects would have made it more interesting when finding the relic and struggling against the hordes of wraiths. We simply didn’t have time to create or even find music or sound effects to put into the game.
The graphics were a combination of custom sprites created by Nick and some random textures that I grabbed off the net. Nick did a good job on the sprites he did. The wall graphic which was supposed to be used make wall segments that would have been obstacles look out of place in the game. Also the playing field stops at certain points and no terrain is drawn so you just see the end of the grid layout and blue space. This does not serve well to enthrall the player in the game. Overall the graphics are pretty bland, but they serve the purpose of the prototype. I would have liked to have seen Nick have enough time to do custom graphics for the entire game. I really enjoyed the relic sprite that he created and would have really like to have seen him tackle the terrain texture(s).
It has been argued that fun should not be a deciding design factor for meaningful games. I tend to lean towards the other side on this one. While I think that it isn’t necessary and is some cases could even take away from the design, I am a one designer who will probably always have the player want to have an experience they enjoy, so fun will probably always be a goal in some form for me.
This game I find somewhat fun in trying to avoid the wraiths, but this becomes somewhat tedious and as intended causes a feeling of frustration at times. (it’s the struggle to reach ones goal in the face of impermanence) I think having solid controls and being able to not get frustrated with interfaces can have a player enjoy the experience and to me that also qualifies as fun.
A Quick Note on The Jam
A general challenge that I see that comes from a jam like this is that meaningful gameplay is a challenge to really design. If you come to a jam like this without a solid design already, one becomes hard pressed to design and implement things. This is why I believe that events like this should either have people bring solid concepts and designs with them, or that it would work best as a week long event. Multiple iterations of prototypes was an overall goal that was proposed for the jam and only one participant, Gianfranco of GBGames met that goal. In order for successful designs and analysis to be reached, I would simply propose more time in either preparation, or actual implementation to be given to participants.