Author Topic: Graina : A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment  (Read 3739 times)

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Offline multiplex

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Graina alpha v0.5 is out

Take a look in your browser on itch.io https://multiplex-games.itch.io/graina

Edit (20.11.2016)

You may have a look on my latest post here for some details.
____________________
Hello everybody,

I was googling Lemmings-like games and found this forum, and better yet it seems really active :thumbsup:

Anyway, I'm an amateur~ish game developer, playing with a concept like Lemmings with falling sands/powder toy mechanics. It's called "Gnomes of Graina".

 At the moment, I'm not really sure how to proceed further, which features should I add, how does the game looks overall, etc..

I would really love to have some feedback from fellow Lemmings fans. There isn't any playable version at the moment but you can take a look at the tech-demo here:

https://youtu.be/f35BOPNflE4

Currently the graphics, music and pretty everything else is under development, so it doesn't look really good and polished.

P.S: I hope I'm not violating any forum rules.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2016, 12:44:24 pm by multiplex »

Offline bsmith

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2015, 09:01:17 pm »
This looks very interesting!  Just watching the demo I can see puzzle potential, like a level which you need to fill a reservoir with water to let the gnomes across to a safe holding spot and then drain the water afterwards.  It would be pretty easy to add a difficulty curve by limiting which kinds of grain you can use for a given level.

I think the graphics look good enough, I think the screenshot at the top of your website blog is almost perfect for a puzzle game like this.  Puzzle games usually have a Goldilocks relationship with graphics - I need enough visuals to be able to easily distinguish different elements but not so much that the eye candy becomes a nuisance or even a hindrance.

I suggest getting a playable build put together once you get the mechanics working.  I would not add any new features yet, it looks like you already have enough different types of grains to make some good puzzles.

Offline geoo

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2015, 09:32:49 pm »
I think this looks quite interesting, but at this point your game lacks the core mechanic that keeps the user hooked to the game. So you got gnomes, but unlike in lemmings they just walk around and you can't assign any tasks to them. So I wonder if you should drop the gnomes and go for a physics game instead. Imagine balls of different materials that interact differently with the different stuff that you can fill in (so you control them by the stuff you add), and of course the balls are affected by gravity and all the corresponding real physics. E.g. wooden balls swim on water while metal balls sink. Wooden balls burn in lava, etc, all balls roll down slopes and accelerate on the way. Then you need to think of a goal for the game, like getting the balls somewhere, or just getting certain balls somewhere while allowing to sacrifice some other balls.

Just some ideas, but I dunno, if done right this idea could maybe turn into a game that I'd personally enjoy.

I've actually seen a lemmings-based game where instead of controlling the lemmings, you could add and erase terrain randomly. I didn't play it for long, it wasn't very fun and I didn't see much decent puzzle potential.

Offline multiplex

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2015, 10:42:09 pm »
Both ideas have some good points. I'll sleep over them and think. Please post again if smt. else comes to your mind.

@bsmith: Graphics: One thing I couldn't really decide is how big should a grain be? it's at the moment 4x4, which leaves no space for visual clues (think of difference between stone and cobblestone in minecraft), only color. It should be atleast 8x8 to make some patterns but then they seem too big for fluids, i.e. water. Hmm

@geoo: "game lacks the core mechanic": yup. The original intention was just to make a physics game. Then I played with it and it was boring...after a few minutes. One idea is to have limited supply of grains. i.e. you need to collect them first before creating. But let's see, if I can make some interesting levels with this mechanic. Ball idea is interesting, maybe I can add some iteracting items like that to the scene to complicate the puzzles. A little bit flavor like the incredible machines perhaps.

Offline namida

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2015, 02:04:38 am »
The grains don't have to all look identical. In Lemmings (at least L1-based engines; ie: actual L1, (Neo)Lemmix, (Super)Lemmini), each pixel is (I think) similar to a "grain" as you describe it. It's not the individual grain (or pixel), but larger shapes that make up the visually apparent details - a pixel of Marble set steel is impossible to tell apart (on it's own) from a pixel of virtually anything else in that set; but when they're actually together and you see the whole piece (not just an individual pixel), it's fairly apparent what's what.

And for the record: You haven't broken any rules, it's perfectly fine to post this here. :)

Offline multiplex

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2015, 08:20:57 pm »
Ok, got your point. In Graina, each grain (the pixel) has a main variant (i.e. sand) with a specific color(yellow), and then I added different shades of the same color for flavor. Basically, it's then possible to make some shapes, i.e. a sand castle using these flavors of the same grain. This would take a real pixel-artits though :)

Offline multiplex

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2015, 08:19:59 am »
Play on your browser: http://multiplexgames.com/play-now/graina

I've just put together a playable level. It's far from complete, most graphics are still placeholder, no tutorial, no tips.

BUT the level is completely playable and solvable :)

Use the left-click to change tools and pan the camera. Use right-click to use the selected tool.

After you play, could you please give feedback, especially about the gameplay ? Are there any specific points that needs to be improved, like controls, or I don't know anything ???

Thanks :lemming:

Offline namida

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2015, 09:07:10 am »
It took me a while to work out how to operate it.

Left click for scroll / right click to use tool seems very counter-intuitive to me. IMO, the two should be swapped.

The game desperately needs a Pause feature (how exactly applying tools during pause could work is another question; but even if applying them is disabled and during pause the player can only select tools or scroll the screen). A way to restart the level without refreshing the page would be nice; but I am guessing that's more a result of the work-in-progress nature than an omission as such.

It needs to be a bit more obvious where the "drains" are (the areas where, if water reaches, it's removed rather than gathering up). At first I was wondering why it sometimes disappears and other times starts to form pools.

Overall, I would say this definitely shows potential. :)

Offline multiplex

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2015, 06:00:48 pm »
"Left click for scroll / right click to use tool seems very counter-intuitive to me. IMO, the two should be swapped"
=> Definitely true. I was trying to make one unified interface both for mouse and for touchscreens and this scheme fails on both :))

"The game desperately needs a Pause feature"
=> Good idea, will implement. Pause and pan but no tools.

"A way to restart the level without refreshing the page would be nice; but I am guessing that's more a result of the work-in-progress nature than an omission as such."
=> Yep

"It needs to be a bit more obvious where the "drains" are"
=> Yup. So I assume, the lava and water 'springs' are pretty obvious to locate. I'll put a similar graphical clue for sinks also.

Out of curiosity : Were you able to complete the level, even with a single Lemming Gnome or just had a look?

Offline namida

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2015, 11:00:25 pm »
I got about half way through it; I'd guess I probably would've completed it eventually if I kept trying.
In regards to the pause feature, I would say it should be possible to at least *select* tools while paused, even if they can't be *used*. Even better; instead of requiring the player to unpause and then use the tool, simply unpause when the player tries to use it.

Offline ccexplore

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2015, 12:46:51 am »
This vaguely reminds me of Disney's "Where's My Water" game.  Sure there are obvious differences, but I think it's not hard to see where I notice the similarities.  The idea could work but the mechanics definitely need to expand a bit for a complete game; you can try the Disney game (or better yet, just search Youtube for solution walkthroughs if you don't mind solution spoilers) to get a sense of how they gradually build up the mechanics starting from the basics, for inspirations on how you may apply to your game here.

Like namida says, use left-click for as many things as you can without causing mix-ups; right-click should pretty much only be used for scrolling based on what you have so far.  I'd also add that it may be useful to show a software mouse cursor within the level area itself, one that changes graphics for example based on which tool is currently selected (so user doesn't have to keep looking at the bottom and away from where the action's at to see which tool they are currently using).  Audio cues on reaching full/empty bucket will be very helpful, since again the user's eyes will likely not be looking at the bottom while using tools.

I think it's fine to use gnomes and not have them do anything.  I mean, sure if you market the game as related to Lemmings, inevitably some people will expect the gnomes to be able to do things on their own and perhaps get disappointed that way.  Avoiding the lemmings association might actually help a little in this regard I think.  There are plenty of physics games where the main character(s) doesn't really participate much in the level action except for basically being the goal (eg. Cut the Rope).  That being said, even without directly assignable tasks to the gnomes, it is probably worth exploring some ideas of having objects in the game that gnomes can interact with (beyond the deadly lava), for example switches activated by a gnome walking past, to turn other things on/off.

I do have to wonder whether the core mechanics of, basically, shuffling sand around may get a little tedious at times.  In comparing with Where's My Water for example, IIRC there the main moves are basically turning spouts on or off (so a fairly lightweight, binary action), and removing terrain by swiping your finger around to create a path for the water.  The latter is interaction-heavy but helps that there, it was designed primarily for touch so it feels intuitive and even somewhat fun; I imagine that even just having to use the mouse to do the same would probably already feel less fluid.  In that sense I felt that the sand-shuffling in your game can potentially get slightly tedious, even though I realize it's not completely avoidable as a core mechanic.  It might help if earlier levels at least feature much larger bucket capacities so that user is not forced to switch between sucking and dumping sand so much.  Or maybe add a keyboard shortcut to make it more lightweight to switch between the two tools.

Anyway, I completed the level.  It was not bad, I think I enjoyed it overall.  Looking forward to see how you expand upon these initial ideas into a more complete game. 8-)

Offline 607

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2015, 08:26:38 am »
This looks great already, and I think it really has potential. Unfortunately, I can't play the demo, though, as it freezes for 2-3 seconds every few seconds. I don't know why, and this doesn't occur to me in any other games.
If I am finally able to play it, I might also try to compose some music for it, if you tell me what you want. I'm by no means a professional, but I'd like trying to make something, and if you don't like it, it's not a problem either.

Offline multiplex

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2015, 07:45:13 pm »
@namida: Today I forced a friend of mine to play through the complete level without giving any tips, so I realized that the level was indeed much harder than I intended. He tried to dump sand into the lava pool for the first 10 tries or so, then I had to point him to the right direction and so on :)

@ccexplore: I played that game maybe a year a go and totally forgot it. Indeed it resembles and I agree that core mechanics should be given step by step, then more complicated puzzles should form in the course of the game. For the mouse controls, I think I'll do like this; Mouse-wheel to switch between the buckets. Left click always put, right click always suck. Also you can switch faster with hotkeys 1-2-3 so on. Camera-panning with middle button or the w-a-s-d.

@607: The game might be a little bit CPU intensive, but it should work fine with any intel i3 (even with older Core2 CPUs) and Chrome or Firefox. For the music, I'd be happy to get any help I can muster. Actually I'm looking for a variaton of this music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTRfIUMbTas for some desert-sand levels. In general, it can be a chiptunes music like the one I used in the game.

Offline ccexplore

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2015, 08:19:21 pm »
@namida: Today I forced a friend of mine to play through the complete level without giving any tips, so I realized that the level was indeed much harder than I intended. He tried to dump sand into the lava pool for the first 10 tries or so, then I had to point him to the right direction and so on :)

I did the exact same thing.  The next thing I did is to dump sand to completely cover up the entrance so the gnomes stop going into the lava, then try to dump sand into the lava. :P Eventually I worked out the right thing to do.

But that's understandable.  The level is clearly not a tutorial/beginner level by any stretch of imagination.  A beginner level should not start off putting the player immediately into a critical situation where things start dying while they are still fumbling about trying to figure out what their first step is and how to actually perform it (unless maybe if the level is so simple that there is literally only one thing they can do and one place they can do it at).  The level is also probably too big and introduced too many things at once to ever work as a beginner level.  On the other hand, it works quite well as a way to showcase everything you have designed and implemented so far, since everything is included.

The reason a beginner is likely to dump sand into the lava in your level is because you have a big pile of sand to the left of entrance and the lava pool right of the entrance.  And you start off in a critical situation.  The player has practically no choice but to immediately focus on the most prominent things closest to where the action's at, and so inevitably the first reaction is to try sucking up that giant pile of sand and dumping it into the most immediate danger of the moment in hopes of neutralizing it.  Clearly, in the real game this would be a more advanced level, coming only after a series of carefully crafted tutorial levels plus a few beginner levels.

So terrible for a beginner, but in terms of giving an overview of what the game could be like once you get past the beginner fluff, it is effective.

For the mouse controls, I think I'll do like this; Mouse-wheel to switch between the buckets. Left click always put, right click always suck. Also you can switch faster with hotkeys 1-2-3 so on. Camera-panning with middle button or the w-a-s-d.

This sounds good, as long as anything that's mapped to mouse other than the most-common left and right buttons also have a keyboard equivalent, since some mice might not have mouse wheel or middle buttons.  Have a dedicated mouse button for put and suck is great, assuming that you don't plan on adding other types of tasks the player can perform.

Offline 607

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Re: A Lemmings-like sandbox game with dynamic environment
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2015, 07:01:25 am »
I set the priority of the chrome.exe process to Realtime, and then it worked wonderfully! :thumbsup:
The first few times I did the same as most other people, but after I had figured out the beginning, the rest wasn't too difficult either. And it was fun! It did take me a lot of time, though. Getting the water and Gnomes up slopes is quite tedious, but I didn't mind it. Seriously, those stupid beings will sometimes turn around for one pixel high of a slope! >.> But oh well, I pushed them up there, using sand. I saved 2 Gnomes, I don't remember where the others died.
As to the music: this and this are examples of what I made, so you know about what to expect. I like chiptune, so if I can find good samples, I might indeed go for that style. The Egyptian tune is slightly cliché, but if remixed/improvised on enough, it might be a good theme (I mean, most of Lemmings themes have cliché songs as the base, but in my opinion the soundtrack is great). I'll try going with that as inspiration for sure, perhaps even incorporating the entire tune (not that I have time to do it now, the new school year is starting for me in somewhat over an hour).