Problem Machine

[Released] The Convergence Compulsion

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I came up with a bunch of possible ideas for this jam at the end of December, but right now this is the one that really catches my fancy. I had originally imagined something really fast paced, like Super Hexagon, where you rotate objects around to make them line up... or something. However, reflecting on that idea, I came up with a variation on it which I like much better. I'm thinking of a first-person puzzle game somewhat along the lines of The Incredible Machine: Each level has a goal that must be achieved by placing a few pieces of equipment or machinery, all based around the proper usage of SOUL ORBS. Soul orbs spray a steady flow of SOUL POWER in all directions: This power is tremendously useful, but before it can be used it must be concentrated. Thus, you place level elements to guide and channel this power where it is needed, by attracting or repelling, reflecting or focusing the soul particles. These then power machines which either are the objective of the level or affect the level in some other way.

 

I'm hoping to get a basic prototype going within a few days, because what's actually going to make this project live or die is its level design. Right now I'm planning this as a solo project but if anyone else is interested I can adapt it to bring more people in. I'm hoping to stream some of the development, but I'm not sure when I'll start doing that -- regardless, if I do stream it, it will be at twitch.tv/problemmachine .

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Oh, this sounds neat! The idea description reminds me of that one music game where you have to redirect streams of music bits or whatever...can't remember the name.

 

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Oh I'd be interested in knowing more about that music game if you happen to come up with a name! I had a similar idea for a game based around music at one point and if their idea is close to mine I'd be interested to see how they approached it

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Spent today experimenting with particles. I currently have the emitter for the soul orb and a gravity well for the converger, and have a pretty good idea of how I'm going to handle the lens/focuser/aggregator (not sure yet on terminology), reflector, and collectors (the machines which are powered). Most of my time, actually, was spent wrestling with the IDE (VSCode), trying to get code completion working properly. Still haven't figured that out, and having to look up every member function is incredibly tedious, so hopefully I can get that ironed out tomorrow.

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On 1/11/2019 at 5:51 AM, Problem Machine said:

I'm thinking of a first-person puzzle game somewhat along the lines of The Incredible Machine: Each level has a goal that must be achieved by placing a few pieces of equipment or machinery, all based around the proper usage of SOUL ORBS. Soul orbs spray a steady flow of SOUL POWER in all directions: This power is tremendously useful, but before it can be used it must be concentrated. Thus, you place level elements to guide and channel this power where it is needed, by attracting or repelling, reflecting or focusing the soul particles. These then power machines which either are the objective of the level or affect the level in some other way.

 

 

Please make this

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5c3bfeb8b8eb6_TCC-WiP000.thumb.jpg.f04f84a875f9972debba5b22056fec9b.jpg

Got the particles looking a bit more the part today, and got the collector elements working -- that is, the box on the right is absorbing those souls for power, though so far all it does with that power is output however much of it has to the console. A bit more difficult to see, in this default-texture hell, is the little orb to the left of the box: This is the converger, and is what is making it so those souls are flowing into the box instead of haphazardly around the level. The lens/aggregator and reflector elements are still in progress: I think I need to set them up with their own emitters which, after they collide with a particle, create the same type of particle with the correct new position and direction.

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5c3d61ab7adbe_TCC-WiP001.thumb.jpg.65c82755bc5cfd8644010a6acd9fc8b7.jpg

Worked on the appearance of the different elements today. Had a lot of trouble getting reflections to work well, and the reflector, which is supposed to look like a big mirror, still kind of doesn't. Other elements are starting to look pretty good, though. I also got the aggregator (the big lens-looking thing) and the reflector (the big rectangle on the right) working, though the effect isn't quite what I'd like it to be. However, right now I have a design issue where the converger's gravity forcefield tends to overwhelm everything else -- you can see that immediately after bouncing off of the reflector they just start to curve right back around, and I had to put the reflector right up against the aggregator here to even demonstrate its functionality. I probably just need to spend a couple of hours carefully tweaking the parameters of the converger's force field, but I may also need to do something weird where the reflector and aggregator actually spawn a different kind of particle which isn't affected by force fields that then switches back to the normal particle after a few seconds.

 

More immediately, though, I need to get the code for picking up objects and moving them around working. Once I have that and the particle tweaks done I can start building levels!

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Today sucked.  Spent 2-3 hours trying to figure out what was going wrong with my particle system -- any time there was a second camera active in the scene (including reflection probes), which I needed to make the reflective surfaces work, the particle trails would bug out and either get way too big or disappear into a line. Eventually I came to the conclusion that this was probably a Unity bug rather than something I was messing up, so I reported it and can move on with my life.

 

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Next I need to make it so the player can pick up and move objects, then create some mechanisms for them to play with. Still need to finish the code for placing objects. Also need to make some machines to be powered, which I forgot last time. I think the gameplay is largely going to revolve around trying to corral 'Civilians' to where you need them, sort of like Lemmings, and constructing the apparati you need to make that happen.

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That effect looks really nice! The intricacies of the particle system have always been a mystery to me, so it's cool to see someone making them the central part of the game.

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Well, the bug with the particle trails ended up costing me a ton of time overall -- first a day trying to fix it, then a few more days of distraction while I communicated with the Unity bug report department and tried to replicate it in other versions of Unity and other hardware configurations (it still happens in Unity 2019 beta but not on my other PC, so it's presumably hardware specific). I also lost more time because I stupidly did not make a backup when I upgraded the project, so it took a while to roll it back to a version that mostly worked and then fix the things that had gotten broken somewhere along the way. So it works again, and most of the gameplay elements are functional: The different ways of manipulating the particle stream all work, and it's possible to move around the level picking them up and moving them and rotating them. The devices the particle stream can power all basically work now, except they don't have any gameplay effect -- but they turn on and off properly. Here's a soul-powered television:

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There's a few things left to do to get the basic gameplay functional. The biggest one is to create the Civilian game object, which is going to be the most complex in terms of behavior since it will actually move around under its own power and try to get near things that it finds interesting. After I have that, I need some sort of system for knowing when objectives have been met and transitioning to the next level, I need a way of communicating objectives to the player (I'd like these to be notes which the player can carry around and which either appear on the GUI or just can be held and looked at in-game), I need to finish the conveyer beam, and I need to tweak some issues with highlighting interactive objects, changing their settings. Once I have that stuff done I can create finished levels, though considering how much time is left I may want to start in on the level design before I get there. Music/sound would probably also be nice to have.

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I did some work on materials and pulled in some asset store prefabs to be game objects. These were listed as "sci-fi batteries", but they stand in quite well for generic machines. I've got placeholders for everything in now, and just need to make the machines and civilians actually functional -- probably fairly easy in the case of the machines, likely pretty tricky in the case of the civilians. I also need to create a bit more UI to give feedback on the state of the machines. Once I have that stuff done I'll start building levels (agh so little time), and can develop the objective stuff in parallel with that. I also need to add sound, which will probably be something I do in a mad dash on the last day.

Anyway here's a soul-powered conveyer beam:

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It still doesn't convey, so I'll be tackling that tomorrow along with the other stuff I mentioned. The thing I'm happiest about from today is adding a normal map to the aggregator lens. I think the effect is pretty nice.

 

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It took me a long time to figure it out, but I finally got the UI overlay working. It's technically not an overlay since it's in world space (which is technically probably not ideal), but it's fine for now, so at least I can move on to other things.

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Alright, version 0.1 is up! Over the next few days, up until we hit February and I move onto another project, I'll be adding a few more levels and intro screens conveying the objectives. I may be adding in bits of behavior to the civilian and music and additional game elements if that's feasible -- most of those elements are actually already in, but don't work without a civilian who does things.

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https://problemmachine.itch.io/convergence-compulsion

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Hoo boy. Well, over the past week I've basically worked 8-12 hours every day trying to bring this thing to life. It's still not quite where I want it to be, but I hit most of my goals. However, to get this finished today I had to basically work for 14 hours, so I'm really looking forward to doing not this for a while.

As of now, we're in 1.0, and the game has 7 levels and an epilogue. The puzzles range from elementary to fairly tricky, though the mechanics aren't quite refined enough to support really elegant puzzle design they do have an organic feel that seems a bit unusual to me.

 

Anyway, here it is. I may decide to pick this back up in the future just to do another polish pass and maybe add another level or two if I get inspired, but right now I'm pretty proud I got it to where it is now over the course of 3 weeks and also feel like never opening unity again

 

Screenshot03.thumb.jpg.16534fd243c5b1b4acc64ae29feab535.jpg

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This game is super ambitious! I really like the core interaction ideas about controlling the beams. I got stuck on the 2nd last level though.

 

Spoiler

The concept of controlling customers with entertainment is really good, too. I got them all to watch the TV, and pushed them around a bit with the conveyor machine. The 2nd last level, I found it cumbersome to finely tune the position/rotation of the objects, and had no idea how to get the customers or objects off the other platform.

 

Really cool ideas and a solid thing I had fun puzzling out for quite some time :)

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I uploaded a 1.01 build tweaking level 6 based on this and jonbjohns' stream. This is the one level with the most specific solution, and I realized watching his stream that the note at the beginning could describe another solution which I wasn't thinking of and which the level wasn't scripted for. There should be more clarity now

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I'm really impressed how many features and concepts this game has! You really put a lot of work into this.

 

It took a while to figure out what each thing did, but it was still a lot of fun to fiddle round.

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Yeah I spent almost all of my dev time building game elements, and then the last several days were a mad scramble of building, testing, and debugging levels :lol:

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