I had been harboring this idea of a game where you control the rules of a cellular automata, and use that to do spells and make things happen. It was an idea that had been in my head ever since the jams had started, and in the final jam, I decided that I would finally take up that challenge.
Like all other jams, the technical part is the easy part. I had most of the basic things up and running in one day. The rest of the time was spent working on various other design features and level editing tools and things of that nature.
As I got into the second week I started to realise that the game mechanic was far too liberal. There might have been some changes that could have helped, but those would take the game away from what I had in mind, so I ended up retiring the prototype.
Here’s a video where I go over the basic rules, what was interesting, and why it finally failed.
It’s a very rich system, and designing within it really allows for a wide variety of ideas and concepts to be explored. Given that the simplest cellular automata can result in magical things like Conway’s Game of Life having more complex things definitely has the potential to add more to that space.
Having constraints in games is very important. While the levels were fun to make and solve the intended way, every level in this system had a trivial “cheese” solution that was not fun to find. And as a player that’s very annoying and boring.
There was one idea suggested where if there are multiple conditions met on the same step, the simulation can select one at random. That has the potential to get rid of one subset of cheese solutions, but not other.
Overall the more freedom the player has to do things, the easier it is to break levels, and that is something that I need to keep in mind overall, and was a great learning for me.
And with that all the jams are complete. Now we move on to working on the large project. I’m excited.