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?