Game Idea Giveaway - Pique

...continued from The Game Idea Giveaway Thread

Request by Incrue:
  • what sort of game idea you're looking for
    A puzzle that dont looks like a tetris variation, something like gimme friction
  • what your goals are in making this game
    To make cool game ;)
    I mean, it would be a puzzle very very simple to learn but the things that are going make the game more complex came from the movements of the player, not from a level pre designed
  • what games you've made already
    Only one point n click
  • your favorite Flash games
    samorost,gimme friction, sylvaniah, heli attack3
  • your abilities in game design, programming, art, and sound
    This game is not suposed to have sounds, i dont like sounds.
    Also, im not good with phisics engines, so no advanced phisics or falling blocks
  • your preferences in game design, programming, art, and sound
    Anything but sounds.

The idea: Pique

In short, this idea is a Minesweeper-like puzzle game about the processes of evolutionary search. Your goal in each level is to find the highest peak of an invisible height map, by taking peeks at one spot at a time.

a height map...

At the beginning of each randomly generated level, you are presented with a blank and unknown map, a grid waiting to be filled in. It is like Minesweeper, but instead of randomly placed mines, there is a hidden landscape of peaks and valleys to chart and uncover. Your goal is to locate the highest Peak. You start by clicking a spot on the map to place a Peek, revealing the height of the landscape at that point. Placing several Peeks would allow you to have a rough idea of what the landscape looks like. The challenge is essentially in inferring the shape of the terrain based on limited information, as fast as possible and with as few moves as possible.

This would be a good opportunity for a simple 3D display.

might look a bit like this...

Now this could be the entire game. In fact, I'd encourage you to start by just getting this basic system up and running, and see if it's fun. I don't know. It might be fun, or it might not. I suspect a lot of the fun at this stage would depend on the particular algorithm you use to randomly generate the height map.

There's a bit more to the game though. This is supposed to be about evolutionary search, remember? Here, the player takes the role of evolution in the search for the high peak in a fitness landscape. Each point in the landscape represents a simple genome, and the height represents its fitness. Let's give the player a few extra tools to help them out. The two most basic tools used by any evolutionary algorithm are mutation and crossover. So, let the player use them.

Here's how it would work. You start off with a limited number of Peeks at your disposal. When you place a Peek, in addition to revealing the height on the map, you get some amount of money proportional to the height you just found. You can then spend that money to use your special abilities. One ability would be Mutation. You select the Mutation ability and click on a Peek that's already on the map. Then a handful of new Peeks pop up around it, scattered randomly within a short radius like mushroom spores. Money from these new Peeks would be added to your total, as usual. Some testing would be necessary to ensure that the cost of a mutation is balanced with the likely payoff.

Crossover is the other basic action. You'd select two existing Peeks on the map, and several new Peeks would pop up somewhere in the line between the two. Just like Mutation, it would cost some amount to use, and each of the Peeks created by it would earn you money based on their height.

The controls for this could actually be very minimal. Click an empty space to place a new Peek. Click an existing Peek for a mutation, and drag from one Peek to another for a crossover. Though you'd have to be sure that you give plenty of information by the cursor icon and text. If you mouse over an existing Peek, it should tell you clearly that this is a Mutation, and how much it will cost, and in what radius the new Peeks will be distributed. If you start dragging, it should tell you that you are starting a Crossover, and how much it will cost. You'll need to introduce each new tool through the introductory levels. It might be better to have a toolbar on the side where you can select Peek, Mutation, or Crossover explicitly, with some explanatory text that comes up when you mouse over them. Otherwise the players might not realize what options are available to them.

Once the player finds the highest Peak, the level is won. It would be nice to then reveal the landscape with some sort of nice 3D rendering, perhaps using ray casting.

Let me know what you think. If you're unfamiliar with the idea of evolutionary search, I'd recommend that you read this interesting excerpt from the book Out of Control.

Want an idea? Make a request on The Game Idea Giveaway Thread!


Krystian Majewski said...

Argh! I just wrote a long comment but it was swallowed. ;-(

I think the idea is GREAT! I Love it!

I can imagine that it need some element to flesh it out. Evolution is an automatic process where no intelligent decisions are made. The game would turn out to be a dull game of chance: select a few spots randomly, evolve / crossover the highest to figure out the local maximum. In the end, you either were near the total maximum and win or there was a higher peak somwhere else and you loose. Too little information for informed decisions, too little verbs, too severe punishment.

But it could be solvable: adding external information like in Picross for example. The game would change from representing Evolution properly but it would be more fun.

axcho said...

Ouch, sorry to hear your comment was swallowed. :( I would have liked to read it.

Wow, glad you liked the idea! I didn't think people would like it, really, for the same reasons you mentioned about evolution being "an automatic process where no decisions are made."

I think it would definitely need some sort of external information for the player to draw on, whether that's explicit like the Picross example or some human-recognizable patterns in the height map. Did you have any specific ideas for what that might be like?