I didn't write an update last week, and I bet so many people are sooo bothered by that! It's because I've been obsessed by a game about gods and sex. Making one, I mean. Apparently.
I was supposed to be working on Miasmon... but while I was getting work done, I can't say that my heart was in it; I was distractable and prone to procrastinating and worrying about my uncertain future and my lonely present. And such. But then for whatever reason, on a whim I suppose, I remembered something I'd made a while before...
It started as a little experiment based on a stray thought, while I was at university. I can't remember why, but I got wondering about how to generate a face using code; perhaps it's because I was trying to draw and model faces and wondering about the proportions or something. Maybe I thought it'd help me with my art in some way. Either way, I dove in and created this:
Which is crap.
It does generate things that could very, very roughly be interpreted as a 'face' if you click it, and the results are random each time... but obviously it leaves a lot to be desired.
So, with a 'hrm', I tried once again with a different approach and, within a few productively focused hours, had this:
It's much better! The faces actually do look like faces, though I think they look a bit odd or creepy or something. They're also all male, and some results are rather silly.
I was rather proud of it, because I didn't draw a thing; each face is generated by a bunch of code which basically tells Flash to draw a line between point A and point B and fill the resulting shape with colour; it's all a matter of coordinates. My understanding of faces from my art studies allowed me to know the proportions and such, so I was able to come up with something that translated my art understanding into code. Or something.
I stuck with it for a bit longer, adding things such as procedurally-generated hair:
I then got a bit carried away, I think. I tweaked the code to allow the generation of female faces as well, and then thought that since I was doing that, why not make simple bodies too?! And how about if you could 'breed' two people together, producing a result that was somewhere in between the two parents?
With all that in mind, it only took me a few more hours to come up with something that looked like this:
I actually uploaded a working version of this thing to deviantART; it can be found here: ∞ LINK ∞
It was interesting, I thought, though the people looked like bizarre little goblin creatures due to their weird proportions. I found it satisfactory as a conclusion to the "can I make Flash draw random people with code?" thought I'd had, but I found them ugly so I just stopped there and was actually scared to look at it again later due to embarrassment.
I DID look at it later, though, and my interest was sparked again. I can't remember why, but it was, and strongly.
First of all, I saw to fixing the proportions to make them less uncomfortable, but then I also made more and more tweaks - going mad with a perfectionistic focus and working at it for much longer than I intended to - until eventually there were variable hair colours, more face options, and - something I'm particularly proud of code-wise - a possibility for wavy hair with random degrees of waviness.
Soon, it looked like this:
I think those people are MUCH nicer-looking than the goblin things from before (though to eyes that aren't my own, perhaps they still look grotesque), but I felt I was on to something and kept at it. A fairly minor tweak to the code - less than an hour's work, I think - allowed me to do this with them:
Aging! Ah, the joys of procedural generation! Since nothing is drawn by hand, it's easy to just tweak the numbers to produce startlingly different results...
I thought that maybe I could make a game of this - or at least a toy of sorts - so I kept at it, playing around with several different ideas. I initially thought of something similar to a game I started but never finished called 'Marooned', where you played as a person who was, well, marooned, and wandered around text-basedly through rooms, finding randomly-generated monsters and people and things and, uh, fighting them. I thought maybe in this, you'd wander around and find other randomly-generated people to interact with... and you'd all start relationships with eachother and have children and grow old and die, and you'd be able to pass people in your travels and think "he's the grandson of that other person! I see that family's become successful!" Essentially I had grand designs to make some entire world simulator... but of course that would be getting carried away just a bit
I'll stop rambling now about the journey, and just talk about what I've ended up with after a single week's worth of work.
It's a game that's tentatively called 'Yden' (which was planned to be a major city in the very first incarnation of the Alora Fane concept, though I don't think this will be set in the Alora Fane world), where you play as an unseen god who manages a tribe of people. Who worship you. Making you more powerful. So you can make more people to worship you. Yes.
It looks like this:
It's largely a simulator with very basic rules that's based on looking after peoples' basic needs, and getting them to breed with eachother in order to increase the number of people in the tribe. There's no story or adventure to go on, but it's something I've been finding very appealing - addictive, even - because I've become attached to the 'people' in my care and particularly interested in their relationships between eachother... But I'll go over that more in a minute. First, the basic rules of the game.
You are a god, as I said, and you have the ability to magic up new people from scratch... though this is limited. You have a 'divine level', and each time you level up, you get to create one new person. You can create one at the start, of course.
When you create a person, you can tweak their appearance using an editor, allowing you to create people you find attractive or amusing or who are based on people that you know or know of ("I'll make one of me and one of my (girl)friend and see what their children look like!!").
Or you can just press the 'randomise' button repeatedly until you stop getting bizarre-looking results and have something you want to use. I've actually found that I don't want
to tweak the random person that comes up because they're so often so full of their own character that I'd never have come up with myself; this guy here for example was the first one that came up when I opened this window to take the screenshot, and he amuses me! I can imagine a voice and personality for him, just at a glance; one I'd probably never have thought to make from imagination.
Anyway, with that one person created (as an adult), you have to tend to their basic needs. You have a food collection and must 'forage' to acquire more, which you feed to hungry people. Fatigued people must rest. And people can pray, too, which increases your divine experience gradually. Getting to level 2 is really quick, so your first person doesn't have to pray much before you reach it.
Once you level up, you can use the editor to create another person... and then you can have them interact! People don't move, but they're each placed on a sort of grid; eight people to a row. You can have eighty in total, I think. A person can interact with the two people adjacent to them; if they do the same activity, they're counted as doing it together, and they also have a relationship stat that goes up over time by being next to eachother. You can use actions like 'talk', which increases this relationship level between two people when they do it.
When their relationship level is high enough, they are able to 'flirt', which puts them into an aroused mood if successful. With this mood active, they can "rest" beside eachother and have a chance of producing a child, which inherits their name and appearance. That child will grow up over time, of course.
I think that's basically it as far as gameplay goes... but as I said, I've been finding it rather addictive because I come to feel that I recognise - or even 'know' - the people I've watched be born, age, have relationships, etc. I recognise all the people in that first screenshot; each has a place in my mind. They aren't a bunch of faceless 'units' defined by their role (like 'Soldier 1' or 'Soldier 2'...).
You can analyse the people in great detail by clicking on the Status option, bringing up this screen:
Each person has a different set of personality stats that determine their performance at certain things (for example, spiritual people are better at praying, while practical people are better at foraging), as well as how compatible they are with other people. Compatibility determines how quickly their relationship value increases. Each person also has a series of likes and dislikes, which affect compatibility too (teehee, he likes big boobies), and how the happiness stat thing changes when doing a task.
Each person also says what's on their mind, using another thing I'm somewhat proud of in terms of programming; while everyone uses stock lines based on certain conditions, their personality leads to slightly different wording so it sounds like they have their own voice.
You can check the relationships with other people on this screen:
The green bars show compatibility, while the pink ones show familiarity; this bar must be maxed before mating can occur. Relatives are also marked. People only get to know those adjacent to them, but of course you can move people around so they can make new friends. Relationships decay over time if not kept up, though, so it's not really possible for someone to become best friends with everyone in a big tribe.
And here's the family tree! Here you can see who the person's related to quite easily... I personally love looking at these things; I could probably spend all day doing it, actually. Looking at the familiarity between the faces, thinking about the bonds between the people on there... "Oh, he's her son? I don't remember that!"
It's also fascinating how the family resemblance is definitely there. Compare that one - from my second playthrough - to this - from my first - for example:
It's apparent at a glance that these are different families of people!
Speaking of glancing at things, you may have noticed the coloured tattoos on their arms. These are family markings! When a new person is created, they have two rings on their biceps, both the same colour unique to them. A child will inherit the top ring colour from their mother, and the bottom ring colour from the father. Whenever a person mates and has a child, they also add a ring from their partner onto their forearm; a man adds his female mate's 'mother ring' colour to his arm, and she adds his 'father ring' to hers. Each person can mate up to ten times, and you can see easily who's a virgin and who's promiscuous by the rings on their arms. I thought it was a nice little thing that I'd like to use as a tradition in other settings like Alora Fane.
Oh, and people can't mate with their family members!!
You can also look at a timeline of their life:
Each of their child-producing matings is marked with the portrait of the partner and the child. Also, when you scroll up and down the timeline, the person's appearance changes to how it was back at that age, so you can see a grown-up's child form, or see that someone used to be fatter or thinner or had a period where they were particularly unhealthy-looking and so on. Quite fascinating, I think! Especially since the children all look fairly ugly and weird and first, but grow up into interesting-looking adults, so you can look back and think "THAT turned into THAT?! Wow!"
Oh, and Gamoe here apparently had a child when she was aged 7. Unlike real humans, these people reach sexual maturity at age 5, though that's when they're considered teenagers; they become full adults and stop growing when they reach age 10. It's possible for these pubescent teenagers to have children, though it's less likely than when they're adults.
I have no idea how this game sounds to other people, especially young males who might not be into something that's got probably a similar sort of appeal as a doll's house. There's no death and destruction, no killing or fighting, no grand objective quest to complete... Just people and the bonds between them, which you watch and control and analyse in obsessive detail until you realise it's 5am and you've spent the whole week hunched over your computer trying to make Quac mate with Ofea again just like in the good old days but ooh he's getting on a bit and how would her new partner feel about that and he's like right next to her but he's busy flirting with her sister Ossia and that's fine because they have more in common anyway!!!!!! ...Or maybe that's just me.
SO YES. People game. Much fun. Though it's become like a drug to me, I'm unsure what to actually do with it; somehow I can't imagine it thriving in the Flash games scene, but I wonder whether it could work on mobile devices with a few tweaks. Despite the wizardry of the procedural generation code, though, it's pretty low-tech, and that might be off-putting; due to how they're generated, the people can't move, and all you basically do is click on them and juggle numbers around. But I suppose that could be said of a lot of other games anyway...
I'd be surprised if there isn't already a whole market saturated with these kinds of sims, to which mine couldn't exactly compare, so I'm hesitant to make a fool of myself by trying... But hmm. I think I might start by uploading a playable version of it here on this site very soon... though first I'd like to clean some things up a bit, to make it more user-friendly and presentable.
If I stuck with it as an idea, I'd surely add more things over time. Something I'd like to do is the ability to send people off on missions or quests, some diplomatic equivalent to battles, where you'd compete against another tribe, possibly convincing them to join yours if highly successful (or you'd lose your people to them if they wooed them away). Other stuff like items, clothing, etc, are all possibilities.
Sorry that I've been doing this instead of working on Miasmon, but the difference in my mind during the process has been astounding. While Miasmon was fun as an idea, it felt like a chore; with this, I've been so focused that they days have shot by and before I know it the night is upon me, yet I stay up for several more hours because I want to keep going. Motivation and enthusiasm like this is hard to come by, especially recently for me, so I had to make use of it. I had to!!
It seems to have died down now though, so I'll return to Miasmon shortly. Or AFC. One of those! Congratulations if you still follow my work and read all this, by the way! You are a star!!1