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Let’s Make a Game: Short Circuit April 23, 2014

Posted by eric22222 in Game Development, General.

Things are about to get really interesting.

I was adding more sprites to shoot at and drew up a little red and white target. It would just hang in the air, get shot at, and drop some easy loot. Then I thought a little variety would be good, so I added a target with a gemstone emblem, the idea being that it’d drop lots of loot. While drawing that one up, I threw in some other symbols for other targets. A star, an exclamation mark, a question mark… I started thinking of what these other targets could do, and I got a cool little idea which slowly morphed into a cool big idea.

The little idea was a pretty simple set-piece: hit a target over a door, and the door opens up. Really simple gameplay, not challenging aside from the difficulty of aiming properly. But maybe if the door was far away from the target it would be more challenging. So now there’s the matter of indicating to the player that interacting with trigger A will affect object B. You know what game did that well? Portal.

Pictured: not actual gameplay

Pictured: not actual gameplay. Sort of. It’s complicated.

Portal is filled with buttons and switches that activate all sorts of gadgets, and each cause is paired up to its effect by a string of dots across the floor. No puzzles require you to use those clues, but they can help you keep things organized in your head while solving the puzzles. As soon as you hit a button, the connected set of dots light up immediately, and you can follow the line to see what happened.

What if instead of lighting up immediately, the circuit moves through our bubble wires at a walking pace? Now the idea starts evolving. Entire levels could be designed around hitting a trigger and following it through the stage. Tiles that have a circuit pass through them could trigger blocks appearing or disappearing. This would be a simple way to implement the door idea, as well as a bridge that appears after you flip a switch. Even the block snake from Super Mario World would be easy to set up if the rules are well-defined.

It takes me about a week’s worth of evenings to get this working the way I want it to, and I’ve still got other circuit tile ideas to add. Here’s a brief overview, followed by a video demo.

Circuit blocks come in a few varieties, but they all have two states: off and on. Circuits are currently created whenever a carrot hits a trigger block (the target-colored tiles). The head of the circuit begins following the path. When the circuit is six tiles long, it begins to disappear at the rear, so it sort of snakes through. It will always travel straight until it hits a wall, then it will turn. Still deciding what to do in the case of T-intersections. A dead-end prevents the circuit from moving, and it is deleted when its tail catches up.


One special block is directional circuit blocks. If a circuit hits a directional block, it will attempt to travel that direction. If coming from the opposite direction, it acts as a wall.


My favorite blocks! Blue blocks can be passed right through until a circuit powers them, then they become solid. Red blocks work in reverse.



Here’s an example of a circuit-based platforming challenge. Not only do you have to keep pace with the circuit, you have to jump over the gaps that won’t have blocks filling in.





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