Week 1 Game: Curious Castle
Hello! I wanted to give an update on my progress so far for week 1 of OGAW 2019!
I naturally started out the week doing one of my favorite activities -- brainstorming some game ideas. Even though I have all the world's modern technology at my fingertips, I still tend to write down game ideas in a physical notebook when I'm brainstorming -- I can't explain it, but there's some strange magic to writing ideas on real paper. I feel like it stimulates a different part of the brain or something. Maybe the free-form nature of writing on paper lends itself to better creative ideas? Some scientists should look into this if they haven't already.
After ruminating on this week's theme (MYSTERY), I found myself thinking a lot about detective novels -- I imagined the player tracking down some clues and trying to solve a murder. That sounded fun, but I didn't want to have to model an entire city -- I decided I wanted to narrow the scope down to one specific location to make it easier to create the environment. I started to think more about a game that resembled one of those murder-mystery-and-a-dinner things -- I've never participated in one before, but my impression is that people each play a character and everyone tries to talk to each other and figure out what happened. A game in that sort of vein really appealed to me, so I tried to think of how that would work mechanically without getting too crazily out of scope. (I'm trying to learn my lesson from back in 2014 when I consistently chose over-ambitious projects!)
I liked the core layout of having a bunch of eclectic characters in some common setting that you would talk to while you try to solve some sort of mystery, but the idea of setting up a really free-form investigation seemed like a complicated way to tackle the mechanics -- too unstructured. I thought that I might be able to simplify the puzzle design if modelled the game after one of those classic logic puzzles. You might remember playing these kinds of games in puzzle books where they give you a list of clues, and then provide you a grid to rule out certain possibilities so you could eventually try and deduce what color shirt which person was wearing on what day (or something of that ilk).
I was always kind of terrible at these games when I was younger -- I'd try and figure out all the possibilities, but I never could quite get a good grasp on some of the deductions you needed to make in order to solve the really tricky ones. Nonetheless, I thought this would provide a really good basis for a puzzle game -- you could talk to different characters and they would tell you certain pieces of information, and maybe other clues could be found throughout the environment. You would win the game by deducing the correct configuration of values.
As a bit of an aside -- this concept also kind of reminded me of the board game Clue (or Cluedo, as it is apparently known in other parts of the world). It's a fun game, but the one downside is that you need a group of people to play it. My partner has often expressed over the years that when she was younger, she always wished she had a one-player version of Clue where she could try and solve some sort of mystery without needing to organize a group to play along with (this is how she discovered logic puzzles). So when I pitched her the idea for this game, she was over the moon -- it's like one-player Clue, she said!
To be honest, my idea isn't exactly like one-player Clue, but I really liked the sound of that as an elevator pitch -- so let's go with it. This game is going to be like one-player Clue!
Searching for Characters and Setting
I've always struggled with the balance between wanting to make my own art versus trying to find some art through some online resource. I've spent lots of time learning Blender and other tools, but as I mentioned in my preview article, I decided that in my One Game a Week games this year I'm going to try and avoid spending too much time creating art. Instead, I planed on making it a priority to finding good assets created by other people. For that reason, I quickly abandoned the notion of creating my own art for my detective and went off in search of some cool looking assets to work with for my one-player Clue game.
I sometimes feel a bit paralyzed with options when I'm looking for art -- there are so many places to look, so many assets in so many styles. To reduce my anxiety about this I decided to mostly focus my search to the Unity asset store, and I tried to restrict my search to a consistent art style. I've always been a fan of art with the low-poly look, so I did a search on the Unity asset store for some low-poly art packs. I was blow away -- I found some incredibly beautiful assets.
The first set of assets I found was created by Synty Studios. They have produced an almost overwhelming amount of content, all of which is very high quality and captivating. They've got art kits for pirate games, fantasy games, city games, sci-fi games -- I spent over an hour poring over these incredible creations.
One of the things that really grabbed my attention was a low-poly "mini" fantasy character pack. It provides a great diversity of different types of fantasy characters -- knights and kings, wizards and witches, vikings and skeletons and goblins and all kinds of other characters. I thought that this pack would be super reusable for all kinds of different games in a fantasy setting, so I had my mind made up pretty quickly to buy this pack.
I also found another great set of resources created by Meshtint Studios -- they had a pack called the Medieval Interiors Mega Pack. I was absolutely floored by how gorgeous these environments were -- there was a throne room, an alchemy lab, a library, all kinds of different sample arrangements. And of course, each individual object within those scenes could be rearranged or incorporated into any custom scene that I were to devise from scratch. So this was another asset that I decided to buy.
Already, the game setting was starting to take shape in my mind -- I would set the game in some sort of castle, and all of these fantasy characters could be the guests at some sort of royal summit. I started doing some research into how to create one of those classic logic puzzles, and I began to sift through the characters in the fantasy pack to decide which ones I would have attending this royal summit.
I started brainstorming some names for the game -- since I was trying to frame it like one-player Clue, and since the game was going to be set in a castle, I thought I could call it "Clueless Castle"!
I pitched that to my partner, who was not a fan. "But...the game is all about finding clues! That name doesn't even make sense!" We went back and forth, debating some alternative names, when she suggested I call the game "Curious Castle" instead.
Well, when you're right, you're right -- that was indeed a better name. So thanks to her input, the name of my first game for OGAW 2019 will be Curious Castle!
I've had a chance to plan out a rough outline for the castle interior and the cast of characters I plan to use. I've mapped out the basic structure of the puzzle and where I'm going to hide some of the clues -- so the actual puzzle design and content is largely figured out. The next big thing on my agenda I started to work on was implementing the player character functionality -- being able to walk around and talk to the guests and check items to see if they contain any clues. I've made some progress on that, but I think I'll cover the programming tasks in the next article.
So that's where I'm at so far! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
If you plan on joining in and making something this week or in future weeks, please feel free to reach out or share your work via #onegameaweek or #OGAW on twitter!
I'm having a blast so far -- and I'm excited to see this idea turn into a playable game over the next few days!