Making Decisions

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An essay is finished when there is nothing left to take away, right? Well a video game is nothing like that, but you have to make some decisions and I need to make a few, even if you later decide that the earlier decisions were dumb. Iteration is the name of the game, so let’s get iterating, open-ended, and see where it takes us.

 

In the original Chimera, the room drawing code never moved beyond drawing a 3d array of blocks. There was no mechanism for including walls, the likes of which were to be found in Knight Lore, Alien 8 and the subsequent Head over Heels.

So the first decision is to allow for walls. A side-effect of this is that there would be more play area.

The essential elements of Chimera are:

1) isometric graphics, geometric shapes

2) puzzles

3) great audio and music

 

Only one animated sprite other than the player was in the original game, this limitation should be removed.

So the second decision is to allow for multiple animated objects.

Another artificial limitation was not allowing movement vertically. There was no good reason for this.

So the third decision is to not artificially restrict movement in the y-axis. If it’s needed, use it.

There were food and water elements in Chimera. I don’t know why. I think these were hacked in as well as the timer. These should be replaced by energy. So now we have time and energy. We could probably include another variable, but that might make things too complicated. Let’s make energy the currency through which many puzzles have to be solved. Every move takes energy.

So the fourth decision is to have every move or decision in the game require energy.

People seemed to love the music, there are at least four re-mixes of it available. Might be worth featuring them again. The game is my copyright, but I don’t remember what the contract said about music ownership. In any case, it’s been years (decades!) since I last spoke with Rob Hubbard, I should contact him and ask him if I can feature it, or perhaps re-write my own version?

Interesting bit of history, I asked for Rob Hubbard specifically for Chimera because a few weeks before the C64 version was done, I’d heard the Krazy Komets slap bass and being a bass player myself, wanted to know if he could do fretless bass. I’m very pleased with what he achieved for Chimera.

Fifth decision: Feature original music in some way, plus remixes, youtube videos, interviews, etc.

The game was a 64-screen open-ended map. The game could probably be played through in a very short time, maybe 10 minutes, assuming you knew how to do it. A Rubik’s cube can be solved in seconds too, if you know how to do it. Allowing for multiple, smaller maps gives a level-based approach and allows energy to be managed more easily, with bonus for saving energy for later levels. The game had a slow pace, a faster pace would actually suit it quite well.

Sixth decision: Have multiple levels, each with a smaller map than the original.

Seventh decision: Increase the pace through better placement and player motivation

Eighth decision: Keep the heartbeat proportional to energy expenditure to allow for player tension management.

Ninth decision: Have a lot more events that require energy expenditure. It’s a resource management game and your resource is energy. Every verb uses energy. (Verbs in games are not Crawford’s idea, I described them as a way of describing games along with nouns, adjectives and adverbs in 1996 at a Games Awareness Day at BITS, though Crawford remains one of my heroes and he will always be way, way smarter than me)

Tenth decision: Have energy displayed as a bar or other visible, linear metric indicator, not a number. Numbers are so 1985. Actually, they were probably out of fashion then too.

The verbs in Chimera were:

Rotate (right)

Rotate (left)

Move forward one tile

Pickup/Use

 

Consider adding:

Drop

Push

Energise (block in front)

Levitate (player)

Materialise (block in front)

Dematerialise (block in front)

 

New objects:

Energy packs

Artefacts

 

How about a score? And multiple paths through the game? And randomly generated levels?

 

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