For my final project, I will create a new artgame. The purpose of this game is to explore issues of the environment, especially how capitalism incentivizes the destruction of the environment.
The player will take the role of a ranch owner who invites NPC adventurers to their property and can issue challenges to the adventurers in the same spirit as mmorpg quests; kill x number of a certain monster, collect a bunch of a specific herb. Unlike an mmo world, however, the ecosystem in my game will not regenerate after a few minutes. Instead, it will be simulated through actual environmental models. The player will have to balance maintaining the environmental stability of the ranch property with making money off of the adventurers and maintaining customer satisfaction.
The player may choose to issue plenty of quests and make tons of money from the people coming to prove themselves at the ranch, though the environment will quickly deteriorate. Once the ranch starts to deteriorate, the player will have the option to import flora and fauna from other places. Of course, there will also be a negative ecological impact on these places. The game will continue into the player has completely ruined the environment of this world.
The second way to play the game is to tend the ranch and nourish the environment without handing out many quests. Developing this way will be very slow in comparison to maximizing profit, though I can imagine a player getting the same kind of relaxed enjoyment out of this as from a game like Stardew Valley.
This game is extremely ambitious, and I know that I definitely won’t have all the systems working in time for the final. However, there are a few basic mechanics that I believe I can have completed. My goal is to have at least one quest that the player can give out as many times as they like and have this quest deplete the environment accordingly. I also want to have stats for how much money the player is making, and the satisfaction of the adventurers. The two stats going up should be in stark contrast to the actual visuals of the environment.
Since I envision the game as mostly UI based (the player uses buttons to indicate which quests to issue, to buy more land, to import more animals, etc.), I think that Unity 2D will be the best choice. I will utilize many of the button UI features that Unity offers, such as event listeners. To represent the state of the environment, I will create a simple plant sprites using pixel art, and primarily use color to indicate the environment’s health. The plant sprites will start out a very deep green and transition to yellow and dull brown to represent decay.
I knew from the beginning that my artgame’s concept was extremely ambitious. Although I did not accomplish everything that I set out to do, I’m pretty satisfied with what I managed to accomplish with the time constraints.The biggest change that I made from the proposal to the final is using React.js instead of Unity. Because my game is essentially all UI, all of the physics and other features of Unity were overkill for my needs, and React allowed me to prototype much more quickly. There is, however, one big downside to React. It does not have a built-in loop, so the passage of time cannot be represented properly. Change only occurs when the player submits some input. As a result, I had to remove one of the main ideas listed in the project proposal, the accurate lifecycle simulation in which birthrates and aging are affected by the ratio of male and female animals, children and mature animals, and habitat limitation. This type of simulation is not only very complex, but also dependent on time.
Despite this big change, my game still adheres to the core idea that I wanted to explore, the interplay between the environment, consumption, and business. Although the gameplay mechanics weren’t completely clear or developed in the project proposal, I think that the systems I have now do a good job of reflecting my intent. On the surface, the gameplay is very direct. The player issues a quest to slay animals. This makes the adventurer happy, negatively impacts the environment, and makes money for the player.
The game becomes more complicated once the player wants to improve the environmental conditions. One quest allows the player to get the adventurer to tend to the ranch. This quest will improve the environment and add an additional animal if the player has at least two of a species. The downside is that the player must pay the adventurer the maintenance fee, and the adventurer gains no satisfaction. However, I also programmed it so that it the environment has an A rating, the adventurer actually will gain satisfaction. I included this to show that there is intrinsic value to having a beautiful environment, even if business’ see little monetary value in it.
Another system that affects the environment is how animals are replenished. There are two ways to add more animals to the ranch, the aforementioned quest to tend the ranch and the shop tab. Only tending the ranch actually improves the environment rating, however. If the player simply imports animals in from other places, it doesn’t actually make the environment better. I chose to make the game work in this manner to highlight that it is unsustainable to keep taking in resources from other places after we have already depleted our own. Instead, we need to take care of what we have and establish stability.
When considering where to take this game in the future, I would definitely start by remaking my current progress in an actual game engine. After the current prototype is ported, I will start working on the realistic simulation elements mentioned above. Another change to include comes from something I noticed during playtesting. Everyone tries to click on the animal sprites, but they are not clickable at present. This has caused a lot of confusion for players, and in the future, I will definitely make them clickable. Selecting an animal will bring up detailed information about it such as its age, species, species’ birthrate, and how many other animals of that type the player owns.
More changes to be made that will affect both the current state of the game and future iterations are numbers tweaks to adjust the overall flow of the game. This includes changing the amount of gold per quest, the pricing on each animal, and the effect of each quest on the environment. Determining how much to tweak these values will require extensive playtesting, but I’m excited to move forward in this game. Finally, I would like to make the adventurer’s satisfaction rating more expressive. Currently it is only a number, but I want to consider more ways to reflect the satisfaction visually. Ideally, the happy adventurer and the decaying environment will create a powerful contrast that will encourage players to get involved and active or at least start thinking about their consumption habits and how they can influence businesses.
Sourcing: None of the art was created by me. The background forest https://i.redd.it/j8zsbbvrdrn01.gif, deer https://piq.codeus.net/picture/301166/deer, moose (I can’t find the moose again for some reason), and adventurer http://adventuretime.wikia.com/wiki/File:Link_pixel.png were all images that I downloaded from online.
As a framework, I used React.js, but no other outside libraries. All of the game code was written by me.