Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Media and updates

Greetings.  I uploaded a preview video to youtube and some new screenshots are available below.  The name is officially going to "Growsim" to avoid potential title conflicts with another game.  Not a big deal, so moving on...

The grow room has been re-designed with more plants per room and new stream-lined interfaces for the different actions and systems.  There's a lot going on under the hood--more than I anticipated, anyways.  I'm pleased at the number of possible combinations and variety possible with plants and environments.

As always, if there are any comments or suggestions, feel free to pass them along!

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!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

'Grow' screenshot breakdown

Still going strong... added some new stuff today but still have a long way to go.  Here's a screenshot from a current build showing the 'Grow Room', a central hub for cultivating and examining plants.

The top bar displays green arrows for navigating various plant configurations (multiple grow rooms) and different icons for the supplies and systems in any given grow room: lights, water, climate, and fans.  The plant icons in the middle display the stage of the plant and colored bars for growth/vitality (green) and size/yield (red).  The icons on the bottom are for starting a new plant: selecting seed quality, bucket size, and rooting medium.

Also the sim will track seasons, which affects the room's temperature and humidity.  All the systems affect the environment and the plants in different ways and different strains of marijuana have different environmental preferences.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Early Details on "Grow"

The UI has been re-worked to be friendlier and include as much information as possible in a concise format.  I want to avoid drilling down through menus or navigating spreadsheet-like data, so the use of visual indicators and related information on the same page is important.  

I'm working on the mechanics and presentation for starting a new plant.  There is a tough balance between getting too granular or keeping it too loose.  I'm aiming for something in the middle, which brings me to the next point--and a question I was asked the other day.

"Will this be a hardcore simulation or more of a game?"

Gameplay is incredibly important.  Hardcore simulations, in my opinion, aren't very fun or user-friendly, but I also don't want to fall into the trap of making something too friendly and not realistic at all.  I'm aiming for a balance of playability and realism.  A simgame in the truest sense.  The old sim games like SimTower, SimEarth, SimCity, and so on all had this balance.  It was fun to play but there was enough information to manage that it felt real, it had a weight to it.

The goal is to make "Grow" easy to use but deep enough to challenge.  

One example from the stuff I'm working on now is the process of starting a new plant.  Players pick from 3 seed types, 3 bucket sizes, and 3 different rooting mediums.  There are different costs, benefits, and caveats with each choice and combination.   There isn't really a right choice, as different strains of marijuana prefer different environments to reach their full potential.

There is a nice visual presentation in place for this process and it takes place all on one screen.  One element I'll need to fit in somehow is a tooltip or explanatory text when the player chooses an item.  If they click on "premium seeds", what does that mean?  

There should at least be some heads-up about what to expect.  Sounds easy, but space is a commodity on the screen.  There's already a visual representation of the plant in it's growth stage, stats about the plant, feeding times, and so on--adding another element runs the risk of crowding the screen.  My current idea is to change the displayed stats and information about the plant to a context-sensitive help text, using the same visual field but alternating the information.

If I can make some significant progress by the end of this week, I'll get a screenshot or quick video up.

Did I mention I'm running this operation solo?  Yeah, it takes a little while.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Announcing "Grow", a medical marijuana caretaker simulation

Greetings.  No sense in boring you with lengthy introductions, right?  Let's go to the point.

I'm working on a simulation game called "Grow".  In it, you assume the role of someone who has just received their license to legally grow marijuana and sell it to patients with a medical prescription.  Success in the game is measured by several factors and ultimately it is up to the player to determine what they want to do and how they want to do it.

The design will be a simple, clean interface with icons, lists, and information-related displays.  Plants are represented by staged pictures, depending on how big the plant is and how long it has been growing.  Players decide what type of buckets to use, what medium to grow in, which nutrients to feed the planet, how many lights to use, and many other features.

Simulated factors include monthly expenses like electric bills, plant food, and rent.  Players can buy and upgrade a number of different factors contributing to the success of growing marijuana.  There are many different strains of the plant to discover and each strain will have variances in levels of THC, maximum size, ideal temperature and humidity, and so on.  Players can clone plants to try and discover the ideal conditions to grow various strains.

I will add more details, screenshots, videos, etc as the project progresses.  As of this post, the game is in very early alpha with only a couple of playable elements.  When there is a stable version, I'll open it up for people to try and test.  The intent is to release a free version and a paid version.  The finished product will not have any DRM nor will there be any in-game purchase nonsense.  "Grow" will be released for the PC desktop and web browser with a port likely to Mac and Linux desktops.

If it sounds interesting or you just like simulations, feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or interest in this project.