I recently watched a couple videos, and read a couple articles, about the language of games… breaking things the player does down into verbs, the nouns those act on, and the results of those interactions.
in terms of Mysterious Space, you might for example say that the player can DROP things, such as a BATTERY, the result of which is the creation of a timebomb that destroys a ton of stuff on the screen when it blows. the player can also DROP… ANYTHING ELSE in order to create a crate containing that item, allowing some other play to pick up the item.
unlike some better games, however, Mysterious Space’s interactions often end after just one step. (the timebomb example is actually one of Mysterious Space’s exceptions, in that it can have some cascading effects, such as its EMP shots going on to disable a forcefield.) for the most part, you can SHOOT an ENEMY, causing it to die – end of story – or you can TRACTOR BEAM an OBELISK, and that takes you to a crazy sub-level, and that’s cool, but still: end of story.
compare to a Mario game where you can JUMP on a TURTLE, causing it to turn into a SHELL; you can then JUMP on a SHELL, causing it to go flying off, where it might kill some enemies, break some bricks, hit some “?” blocks (which in turn might do any number of things: release a power-up, a spring block, etc).
think about the kinds of things people can make with Mario Maker, and then think of what a Mysterious Space Maker would be, and what players could make with that… … yeah… Mysterious Space Maker would be pretty boring, really >_>
that pretty heavily suggests that Mysterious Space could benefit from an expansion of its verb/noun interactions.
for example: what if a button could trigger something other than a forcefield?
what else might it interact with? the fact that there’s no good answer to that question right now is part of why we have this problem!
so: what if we had objects that spawned enemies, but were tied to buttons, so if you put a crate on the button, it disabled the enemy-spawner?
or: you could have powerful vents controlled by buttons.
what other verbs do we have? shooting… tractor beams… okay: thinking back to Mario’s turtles becoming shells which can be carried, kicked, etc: what if killing certain enemies in Mysterious Space yielded debris, which fell to the ground, but could then be tractor-beamed around, for use elsewhere on the level? (perhaps the debris even occasionally fires off bullets, or lightning, or has some other effect.)
or what if there were other things in levels with their own tractor beams? enemies tractoring items that you must yank away, or structures that just constantly tractor beam things, to cause trouble (and perhaps these are tied to a button, or can be shot with EMP to temporarily disable).
colliding is another verb available to us. currently you can collide with buttons, pickups, and enemies, but there’s also areas-of-effect, like lava and vents, that you interact with by “colliding” with. (thinking about it, “colliding” might be one of Mysterious Space’s richer verbs.) could we have other areas of effect, like shield-regen-boosting, which are perhaps created by players, or enemies, or, again, effected by buttons, or tractor beams (a crate that emits a zone wherein things move FAST).
put some of these ideas together, and you start being able to create some interesting things: an enemy, which on death, creates a temporary zone of “things move fast in here”, which you could use to rocket yourself away from danger. or an inconveniently-placed zone of “can’t tractor beam here” which is created by an object which you can temporarily disable with an EMP shot, which you produce by dropping a battery, and there’s another object on the level which generates a battery for you to collect when its button changes from being unpressed to pressed, and rather than repeatedly press the button yourself, you place a crate on it, and above that crate, a block which periodically activates a tractor beam…
and that situation might be a bit contrived (… maybe!?), but if we had the verbs and nouns in place to support such a construction… what else might be possible to construct? what clever solutions might players devise to the problems the game presents? there’s an awesome possibility here for emergent and clever gameplay.
and all of these things are possible to code, and in many cases, would be quite easy to code. and with a bit of EXTRA work on my part, such elements could be used to create some more-interesting challenges (with multiple solutions) beyond our current “button-triggered forcefield blocks fuel!”
unfortunately, this is not something I’ll be implementing for release this month (gotta’ get this new sector map and alien civilization stuff done first!) but it’s absolutely something I’ll be thinking about more in the months to come!
thanks for reading, and thanks for playing Mysterious Space!