Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Grow" update: plant strains, materials, actions, and timing

Greetings!  Since the last post, a lot of work has been done on the simgame.  I'll try to summarize some things and give out some information about where the project is going.

- Strains: there are 3 categories of seeds available for purchase, and each seed can sprout into any one of six strains of marijuana.  All the strains are fictional, albeit loosely based on real ones.  Each strain has its own variances in maximum size, growth rate, THC potency, and preferences for temperature and humidity.  Figuring these values out is part of the game.  Plants can be tested as they mature to learn the current THC potency and trying different configurations of buckets, growing medium, and environment can lead to different growth rates and yields.  Of course, once cloning is in the game, you'll never have to lose that special strain you discovered.

- Materials: new plants are rooted in 1 of 3 mediums, each with different properties pertaining to maximum size and growth rate.  Some strains of marijuana just don't get huge, so using a big bucket is a waste of money--but you'll have to discover what works and what doesn't, just like a first-time grower trying to figure it out for themselves.

- Actions: as the plants grow, different contextual actions become available.  Icons appear near the plant with a descriptive text appearing on mouse-over.  For example, a seed that has sprouted can be planted in the grow room, or a flowering plant can be tested or harvested.  I thought of leaving all the actions on screen from the beginning, but screen real estate and the specter of a player harvesting a juvenile plant seemed to just invite problems.

- Timing: days tick by at a measured pace, which can be adjusted by the player; likewise, each individual plant has its own timer to note how many days it's been growing.  Colorful bars track the relative size of a plant in relation to its maximum (unknown until you discover it by filling up the size bar) and growth rate (% of size increase per week, also unknown at first).  The game can be paused, slowed down, and sped up to manipulate time.  It's possible I may add in aging factors so plants left sitting too long when they reach maturity, drying, or other stages could start to degrade.

There's a lot more to do, but I'm liking how it's coming together so far.  Keep in mind this is a sim-game--part simulation and part game.  It's not intended to be a perfect replica of the real art of growing marijuana, nor does enter the realm of casual gaming.  There are a lot of interactive systems, but not so many as to bog the player down in details and min-max micro-management.  Hopefully, I'll find the sweet spot of depth and playability.

As for the game pricing and release style... I'll do a demo/free version (not sure what the limits will be just yet) and a full/paid version with all the bells and whistles (and some extra goodies).  I won't charge more than 5 bucks for it, despite the time and energy spent, because I know it's an indie game and simulations aren't necessarily blockbusters.  I like cheap, fun games, too!

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