March 30, 2009

Three New Prototypes

Stuff I've been working on / playing with:

1) Auralstride:

An echolocation game. The player tries to navigate a maze strictly through audio cues (though the game will graphically display the player's orientation). I'm thinking of having the player go through the maze collecting limited-frequency bands of audio tracks that can be combined into a full song after they've all been collected. I worry, though, that this mechanic is too shallow. If I want to sustain the player's interest over several levels, I need to gradually increase the difficulty of this task, and simply making the maze more complex won't cut it.

So far I've got a working prototype of the basic echolocation gameplay in a maze composed of squares, but it's a long way from a functional game.

2) Maestro

I've written about this one before. You move the mouse to match a song's waveform. My goal is to smooth it out and fiddle with the data until that's fun, and then to allow the player to input any MP3 song to play. It's showing promise, but this sort of thing might be above my skill level. Look at Audiosurf and how imprecise its game-to-song matching is. Maestro works very well for some songs and very poorly for others.

It's currently the furthest along of any of these prototypes; in fact, I shouldn't even be calling it a prototype at this point. I'm still trying to find a good way to display the waveform and such graphically (since just displaying it as a graph seems inelegant), but the basic gameplay and song-importing works fine.


Imagine a simple conversation game wrapped in the skin of an IM program. MUTE is a backronym for Madup University Text Express, since I imagine that the first conversation will be set in a college social context. Nothing's been implemented on this one, to my shame, but I've been working out the conceptual design since the idea came to me. The basic gameplay is simply picking a response from a preset menu.

The big flaw in any branching-conversation game is the amount of text that needs to be written. It increases exponentially with conversation depth if (as I intend to do) you avoid looping back to earlier parts of the conversation. But I'm hoping that this will be a plus, since I hope to flex my writing muscles and possibly to bring in other people to do writing (maybe within a custom-built authoring tool).

There are a couple of basic features beyond the basic conversation gameplay that I'd like to include. I hope to have several computer actors that you can initiate conversation with, as well as actors that will sign on to the IM program and contact you. I'd like to have persistent game-wide variables that can be turned on or off within the conversations, such that an ambitious author could expand the game into one involving concrete goals. And I'd like to programmatically ensure that no conversations in the game will repeat dialogue within the same game session. The point of putting this in a mock IM program is to build immersion cheaply, and I don't want to throw that away.

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