One Game A Week
Game #3 - The Marker Game
November 2nd, 2018
When I think about the reasons I became a game developer, I inevitably start thinking back to my childhood when I would create games for my little brother. I didn't know how to program in those days, so I would make up stories and write them down on sheets of paper. We had a large collection of action figures, and I would use them as characters in my games. I'd write out rulebooks for my brother to study and I would sit and enforce the rules of the game as he played along.
One of my fondest memories of those creative days was a game that we simply referred to as "The Marker Game". I would take a few brightly-colored markers and I would draw several pages' worth of maps -- green for the land, blue for the water, and I'd decorate each of them with mountains and trees and cities. My brother would collect a team of heroes and battle his way across the lands, using a turn-based tactical battle system I invented where each player could move in any direction, based on a certain number of "steps" -- basically dashes of the marker to show where the footsteps had been. It was sort of my version of a Fire Emblem game -- I'd never played Fire Emblem when I was younger, but I do recall reading about it in Nintendo Power and imagining what it must be like. There were some other elements to the Marker Game -- some storyline, mixed with exploration of the overworld.
When I picture in my mind the kinds of "dream games" I'd like to make someday, some version of the Marker Game always comes into my mind. So I decided that for week #3 of One Game a Week, I was going to make a prototype for some variation of the marker game.
Outline and Constraints
In trying to design a game that would play similarly to the Marker Game, I always struggled with how to translate the functionality and aesthetic to a video game. My dream was to actually make a 1:1 mapping, using visual resembling marker-on-paper and actually drawing the footsteps the way we'd done back in our childhood. That might be a really fun aesthetic to try and work with, someday -- but for the purposes of One Game a Week, I quickly dismissed this as far out of scope. I thought that stripped down version of the Marker Game might work on something like a hexagonal grid -- not quite as constrained as a square-based grid, but still constrained enough that I could work with it programatically. I also discarded the idea of the marker-type artwork -- I thought that building a more traditional turn-based strategy game might be more straightforward. I could always come back and update the art and just re-use the codebase. So, with those constraints in mind, I was ready to start designing the game.
Creating the Level Editor
One of the biggest lessons I've learned in game development is understanding the worth of good tools to help you develop. In this game, I planned to create several "terrains" on which the players could do battle. Assembling these by hand in Unity would be a huge pain point -- I went through similar struggles while creating all of the levels for Omnicube. I put off dedicating some time to truly building a level editor for Omnicube until I'd created 85% of the content and once I finally bit the bullet and made the level editor, I had a huge amount of regret about not investing time up front to just do it right in the first place. I decided that my first priority was to construct the level editor.
I found a great set of minimal hexagonal tiles on the Unity Asset Store. This was a perfect match for this project, given my deliberate priority to try and avoid spending too much time on creating art assets -- these tiles had a great look and pretty solid variety, and so I decided to work with these.
Play the Game!
Well, since this is just a demo page so far, and since the game is not yet done -- you can't play it yet, silly!
However, make sure to check back in a few days when the game is complete, and I will have a download link ready.
In the meantime, check out some of Trykon Studios' other projects -- you might be interested in our commercial puzzle game, Omnicube!