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!