Prototypical: Aquamancy

When I get ideas, I make pro­to­types. While a lot of these cre­ations are inter­est­ing and poten­tially fun, few have that ele­ment that makes me want to stick with the idea and not move on to some­thing else. Today, I share one of these ideas that I am really excited about. You can go ahead and watch the video at the end of the post or read some of the idea first.

My biggest inspi­ra­tion for Aqua­mancy is The Lost Gate, an Orson Scott Card novel that I recently read. In it, Card devel­ops a world with magic. Some of these mages — sea­m­ages — have mas­sive pow­ers over water. Some­where in that land, my brain came up with a desire: to spawn great, big bub­bles to cause objects to float.

I tried that. It was rather boring.

But while play­ing with the par­ti­cle sys­tem I devel­oped for the pro­to­type, I tried another idea: cre­at­ing a cur­rent, push­ing the water in an indi­cated direc­tion. This cur­rent abil­ity, or flow abil­ity, has so much more free­dom. You can move par­ti­cles up, down, left, and right. These move­ments can cre­ate wave-like for­ma­tions. They can cre­ate voids, evac­u­at­ing the liq­uid fast enough to leave an empty space behind. They can also cre­ate great cir­cu­lar motions that eas­ily spin other objects. They can carve slopes to ride. They can push other bod­ies up hills. One can even use them to help ori­ent a ship float­ing on the par­ti­cle sea.

Alto­gether, the flow abil­ity is awe­some and has a lot of great play in it. But there is so much more to test. Two other abil­i­ties in the video below are the water void and the sin­gu­lar­ity.

The water void cre­ates a space where the fluid can­not go. Many pos­si­bil­i­ties arise from this: water ramps, water walls, and — espe­cially chal­leng­ing — water tunnels.

The sin­gu­lar­ity con­sumes liq­uid it touches until it reaches max­i­mum capac­ity and then explodes. The imme­di­ate use­ful­ness of this abil­ity is not obvi­ous until we get to the mana system.

With­out con­straints, these abil­i­ties eas­ily sur­pass the capac­ity of the engine to sta­bi­lize. Addi­tion­ally, hav­ing the power of God is fun, but it lessens the feel­ing and mean­ing of play­ing a game. For now, the con­straints are a magic point sys­tem — mana — used to cast abil­i­ties; sim­ple and known. But, I want to keep the focus on being on the water, so the points only gen­er­ate when your boat sits on water.

I already men­tioned the sin­gu­lar­ity and its cloudy util­ity. In an exper­i­ment to make the sin­gu­lar­ity power desir­able, I made the power an addi­tional method to gen­er­ate mana, but at the same time it can only be cre­ated close to the ship. I think this cre­ates an inter­est­ing dilemma with a set of pros and cons to its use, but I am still a bit uncer­tain about it at this iteration.

This ver­sion of the pro­to­type does not have any explicit win or lose states, but it does con­tain an objec­tive: pro­gress­ing a ship in a pos­i­tive, right­wards direc­tion. This first objec­tive is a sin­gle piece of the flow abil­ity: pro­pelling mat­ter into a wave-like for­ma­tion. With­out using any abil­i­ties to calm this motion, the ship eas­ily flips, which could be a pos­si­ble loss state if you can­not cor­rect quickly enough. To some degree it can be easy to counter these waves with the water void power. How­ever, if I bal­ance the game well enough, you’ll need to recharge your mana faster than the fre­quency of waves, thus adding the need to insert usage of the sin­gu­lar­ity.

There are many more obsta­cles I want to try and con­sider, but I have already found one that I will have to revisit later. I first thought that maybe the meta layer of the game could be a trad­ing game or a smug­gling game wherein you must also safely pass ships of the state or guard tow­ers. I tried a rudi­men­tary ver­sion with float­ing plat­forms hurl­ing explo­sive and destruc­tive balls. It resulted in a kludgy feel­ing and did not feel right for how the aes­thetic of play was start­ing to form. It was messy and chaotic, which admit­tedly is also the case with just the waves, but the explo­sions were too dis­rup­tive when they landed near, or hit, the ship. It had to go.

I still like the idea of a trad­ing meta layer to this game, but instead of fight­ing “the man,” you must fight nature and her cruel chil­dren. I sus­pect many of the “nat­ural” haz­ards would be reuses of player abil­i­ties in spe­cific ways. But I won­der, what pow­ers may arise out of cre­at­ing some haz­ards with their own unique ele­ments?

Now, grab some pop­corn for this short 4:59 flick.

What would you like to do in such a game?

Z God­dard

Z, a fan of hats and danc­ing to bad music, devel­ops games and code in Unity3D and WebGL. Always look­ing at new tech­nolo­gies for games, he has big dreams for Go.

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