The core game-play of the game is a matter of taking objects that begin in your start area, and somehow getting them from there, to a container located somewhere else in the level. The game is considered over when all the throwable objects have left the starting area, and are at rest. The player is considered to have won the level if they reach a certain score for that level. Players score points or earn money by getting items that begin in their start area into the container.
In addition, there are numerous factors that both work for you and against you in accomplishing this goal. Terrain is a large factor for both. The type of objects that can be thrown is another factor the goes both ways. throwable objects come in all varieties, light and heavy, rounded edges and sharp edges, bouncy and less bouncy.
The starting area will be a unique space where no force other then what the user exerts will be applied, not even gravity. The size and shape of the starting area will differ from level to level, but in relation to the level itself it should be kept small. If a user starts to exert their force on an object, and then continue to do so after the object leaves the starting area, the force being exerted will be cut off, regardless of the users efforts, when it leaves the border of the starting area. To maximize options, and minimize tedious setbacks…objects within the starting area should pass through each other. So if you need a bit of space to fling an object and there are several other objects with you in the starting area, you don’t knock all of them out and ruin your chances at completing the puzzle in that attempt.
The largest feature of any terrain is the shape of it, which is the primary and first thing any player should notice about the given level. It should go without saying that the amount of different ways to iterate the terrain is simply too much to document here. However common structures in terrain can easily be things like loops(think sonic the hedgehog), and slopes. The significance of these structures is incorporated when factoring in the shape of the objects being throw. A square box obviously has a hard time rolling, unlike a circle. The type of ground also would have a significant impact on how it interacts with objects. For example, rubber has a hard time bouncing on grass, but an amazing ability to bounce on concrete. This can be used to fine tune some puzzles where we want the player to use rubberised materials on the map for whatever reason that may be, that’s entirely up to the map designer. For example we could have one area that has a small strip of concrete and surrounded on either side have their be grass, so the player has to bounce off the concrete specifically, hence they need good aim, in order to deliver the object in question to the container. Lastly, the friction of the terrain can have an impact on the behavior of objects, like if we wanted players to be able to use square objects in similar ways that circular objects would be used, but didn’t want them to actually use the path intended for circular objects. Thus allowing different intended paths for certain objects.
Basic Throw-able Objects
I’ve already covered the significance of two of the features of throwable objects in the previous paragraph. Mass and density are the other two significant factors. Mass should be fairly obvious in some of it’s applications. The more mass an object has the more force there needs to be exerted onto it to get it moving. Perhaps a little less obvious to some is that also the more mass it has the more it’s movement is preserved when striking certain objects. What this means for map makers is they can introduce parts of the map which are closed off… forcing players to go around, unless they take an object with high mass and fling it at, for example, a wooden plank that when hit it’ll move on it’s hinge and can become a new bridge making a more accessible path for the player to get their objects into the container. This would likely come at the cost of the object thrown, and likely best implemented as an optional approach to a solution. Density would likely only come into play within gas and/or liquid environments. Like you could have a pool of water and one of your objects that you need throw is ice. Most objects that would get throw would sink to the bottom and be lost, but the same path would be open to the ice. Just another method of the earlier concept mentioned where you can implement different paths for different objects in the same map.
Up to this point, the only forces we’ve discussed are the ones exerted by the player. It should also be assumed at this point that gravity is the other force in play. The force exerted by the player, or any force that is one thats local and limited in duration (even if it can be reset) is an active force. Gravity on the other hand is a field of a force that is in constant action. Always, on, doesn’t reset, but is frequently weaker then an active force. This is an example of a passive force, and gravity isn’t the only one in nature, so why should it be the only one in our game? An easy example would be magnets. Magnets are also the most versatile of the things explained in this section, as they can be easily deployed as terrain(a strip along the ground of negative magnetic pull), throwable objects (a ball that has been magnetized to have a positive magnetic pull), or even as a small object within another or inside terrain, depending on the type/style of field that is desired. Magnets are also fairly easy to execute as a puzzle designer cause they have a very intuitive function. Anyone that can use a computer ought to be familiar with a magnet and it’s behaviors. Getting back to gravity, there is no reason we can’t have multiple gravitational fields, just like we can have multiple magnetic fields. Another thing you can do with “bubbles” of gravitational fields is change their direction along with force. In a magnet you can only change it’s force, but the direction in which it applies that force is more or less fixed, either towards or away depending on polarity. Technically gravity does have it’s own laws that we need to adhere to, but at the same time people are more willing to accept funky gravity then they are a funky magnet. So map makers can place bubbles of gravity in different forces and directions throughout the map it get irregular actions off of basic objects. A simple example would be to have an incline moving upwards inside a field that turns the direction of gravity 90 degrees to the side so that the side wall becomes the floor for objects in that field, so an object rolling along that surface would be able to preserve it’s momentum as it moves. A more advanced example would be to place a smaller pocket of gravity along the surface of the loop so that at any given point within the loop it would seem to the object moving along it that it is going downhill, allowing it to pick up speed at it passes through the loop. Lastly, you don’t need to tie the gravitational fields to terrain at all. You can suspend several alternating gravitational fields together in a line so that when an object moves into one at one side of the line with the proper angle and speed, it moves through the full line of gravitational fields in an “S” pattern.
Advanced Throw-able Items – (Item Shop Items)
In a previous section I mentioned the basic throwable items. Here as the name implies I am talking about the advanced throwables or Shop Items. There are two important distinctions to be made between the items. First basic throwable items will give you points/cash when you get them into the container, Shop Items do not. Secondly, basic throwable items are a part of each level and appear automatically when you start a level, however Shop Items are given to you when you purchase them. The item shop items are optional items (or if the map makers desire, mandatory items) that the player can purchase using points they have acquired in previous levels to help them solve a particular puzzle. See the Shop Items page for more information on these, and a running list of ideas.
Outside Active Forces
As described before, an active force is a local strong force that overcomes most if not all passive forces, but is only applied once so it “decays” as it comes in contact with other forces. User input is the most basic active force in the game, and no other active forces can readily be made inside the starting area. However there isn’t anything that should stop map makers from making machines outside of the starting area that can be used to apply additional active force. One example would be a simple lift, when something moves to it or when something impacts the switch(if it has one, could have either trigger) it begins to move upwards slowly and upon reaching the top it can tip it’s platform to force whatever objects on it to move in a particular direction. Another example would be a simple wind tunnel. With the wind tunnel you could have an entrance at one end that would suck in things around it and have an output somewhere else in the level where it would shoot the said object back out. This could be used to build/restore momentum to some objects as well as offer another form of path restriction, as any object that is too light would gain too much momentum and overshoot the target. Same applies to an object that is too heavy, but in that case it would fall short.
The user interface should be as simple as possible, allowing the players to take in as much of the puzzle at once as they can. There should be an area where it displays their current points/money, and a button to access the item shop and another button to access the menu. When players purchase an item from the item shop it should display the object as the cursor and allow them to only place it within the starting area, possibly dimming everything around the starting area to help them clue in on that. Once the item is placed the money is deducted and there should be some kind of indicator, like a bright red light, on the object to indicate it’s center of gravity. That should allow players to make more educated guesses about how they need to throw an object to give them the desired effect.