Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Topia: Herding and Emergent Gameplay

The gameplay side of Topia is still very much in the experimental stages but since the herding went in we've found ourselves losing a lot of time to it, even though it really isn't what could be called a 'game' yet.

Josh made a video of himself playing and it's up on Touch Arcade.




He seems to get something very different out it from me, in fact he seems a little fixated on building mountains under herds and watching them slide off, often into the sea. I think he finds this soothing...

I found 'playing' it distracting in a slightly different way. I'd been working on the herding for a while and have certain types of creature tending to join with others into small herds (that's what the little red hearts are about) and these small herds join together to make big ones.

I was trying to take some pics of a very big herd for the previous post but it turned out that a bug had turned into a gameplay feature: When a creature dies I have to do a little maintenance to make sure that it's removed from any herd it's in. I suspected this 'herd maintenance' code was causing a problem so I quickly hacked it out and replaced it with something to make the entire herd disperse as soon as a single creature drowned.

So there I was, trying to get as big a herd as possible together but trying to avoid any of them falling in the water (instant death, for now) which becomes virtually impossible when there are more than 100 creatures in the same herd. The 'game' became trying to keep track of the entire herd, building land to stop the stragglers falling into the water and dying.

This 'game' proved strangely addictive. Each time I failed to save them all the herd would 'explode' into a crowd of confused individuals who would then start to reform in a sea of hearts. After a minute or so there might be a herd as big as the original or maybe it would be split into three, all moving in opposite directions so I'd move back to coaxing them back together.

Two hours later I grabbed a few screens and made myself stop wasting time.

This really wasn't even part of the planned gameplay though now people have seen and enjoyed it, it may end up becoming part of it. It's at times like this that I'm glad I'm not working to some designer's plan.

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