God game — a scrapped idea

This is a new col­umn about scrapped games.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in game soft­ware devel­op­ment, and I write down ideas for games all day, some of them, like this one, I start look­ing at more seri­ously, and I deter­mine that for what­ever rea­son I should not make this game some­where along the line.  It may be while flesh­ing out details, or it may, as in this case, be after mock­ing up a basic pro­to­type of some part of the gameplay.

The plan here was to make a god game, sim­ple enough, but I was going to start at the cre­ation of a galaxy.  In the­ory, the player would start with a “young galaxy” con­sist­ing of a large object in the cen­ter, and a ton of very small objects.  All of these would attract each other in a grav­i­ta­tional way.  The algo­rithm I came up with was effi­cient enough to do this, and real­is­tic enough for any­one who isn’t a NASA sci­en­tist.  I had planned to include stars that would even­tu­ally “go nova”, caus­ing smaller objects to spread from the stars, and a smaller husk of a star to be left behind.  The object of the game would be to move things around, cre­at­ing as many earth-​​like plan­ets (not too hot, not too cold) for as long as pos­si­ble, with­out let­ting too many aster­oids hit them.

In short, the object was to cul­ti­vate as much life as pos­si­ble, and allow that life to become more advanced.  My prototype’s engine was good, and the game­play would have been quite emer­gent, with stars form­ing from objects that become too mas­sive, and given a ran­dom life-​​time before they release all of that excess mass, but once I ran a test with around a quar­ter of the objects I was plan­ning on hav­ing I real­ized it was WAY too chaotic, no mat­ter what was done there were aster­oids fly­ing every­where, and stars explod­ing left and right (they were given a max­i­mum mass because when a star gained too much mass it would suck up the rest of the uni­verse like a vac­uum).  In the end what I had cre­ated would have been a very nice screen saver, but a god game it wasn’t.

The plan to fix this is to almost scrap the emer­gent qual­i­ties com­pletely, going a more scripted route, mak­ing orbits work a bit more like “rails” (objects in orbit would just fol­low a pre-​​calculated cir­cu­lar path), and spawn­ing aster­oids at ran­dom for the player to swat away.  But then it becomes a tad too sim­plis­tic, so then the focus would turn to micro-​​management of indi­vid­ual civ­i­liza­tions on each planet, and while that does sound like it could be fun if done well, it’s a far cry from the sim­ple arcade-​​like qual­ity of the orig­i­nal idea, much slower paced, and quite frankly I don’t have an artist, and that would require a lot of addi­tional art assets (build­ings, char­ac­ters, vehi­cles, etc).

So for now, this game is scrapped, it lead nat­u­rally into another game idea, but that’s all it is right now, the sec­ond game (with micro-​​management) doesn’t even have a design, the para­graph above is lit­er­ally all that exists of that idea, while the first game was fully designed.  I just didn’t expect the dif­fi­culty of being god!


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