The hall of disposed ideas, and the idea that survived

So, while planning for this challenge, a number of very ambitious ideas crossed my mind, but I've participated in Pyweek enough times to know that when pressed to launch fast, you should perhaps aim low and polish the result. And thankfully I don't have the benefit of soul-crushing unemployment to give me extra development time.

Still, on Sunday I spent most of my time procrastinating. Rather than coding, I spent most of my time exploding trolls, orogs and other humanoids in Baldur's Gate. The problem, of course, was that even when I decided to aim low, my idea still seemed too big, and some parts of my brain were trying to tell me that by draining all my motivation away.

So, here's perhaps a list of ideas that I've considered before picking the current idea. Mind you, they were all platformers:

  • A game where you're given charts about the level overlaid on the level. These could be bubble graphs, pie charts, or bar graphs indicating information. There could be a bar chart indicating different level statistics, such as number of enemies killed, your health, number of times died, for example. And the idea would be that you'd be able to use said bar chart as stepping stones in order to reach the goal, and perhaps would have to deliberately die N times to increase that bar high enough so you could complete the task.
  • A game where you're shown snippets of code, or perhaps just a list of functions you could toggle on/off or call at will in order to navigate the level. Disabling the "updateEnemies" function lets you paralyze them, but you can't kill them either, for example. Calling "spawnEnemy" with the appropriate coordinate parameters might allow you to spawn that hole-digging enemy that might open the tunnel to the goal for you.

  • While those might still be feasible for other styles of games, their ideas are way too tied to platforming in my head, and getting the platforming right alone might be more than I'm capable of in a week considering full-time work and other personal life things taking my time. Those are ideas I'll think about, but not now. Now I need something simpler.

    That's where the current idea comes in. I can easily display you a grid. I can also easily let you move left, right, up, down unconstrained or constrained to a grid, doesn't matter. I can also very easily check your intersection with rectangles, prevent you from walking over solid objects, harming you when you come in contact with harmful things, rewarding you when you come in contact with rewarding things, and so on. The world without gravity is incredibly easier.

    So, I get that done in a couple of hours. Put on a simple straightforward visualization of maps and challenges on the screen so I can design the level, and then the actual fun of the competition begins. How many ways can I find to display to you the information about this map without downright showing you the map? Vertical and horizontal histograms of solid blocks? Noise frequency to indicate distance to the closest enemy? A detailed text description of the level and of your location?

    I have a very strong feeling that in terms of being fun, this game will fail miserably. We typically don't like unfamiliar interfaces and we also typically don't like unfamiliar presentation of data, and this game concept has both in spades. I do, however, hope that the idea can at least feel fresh and that despite the general suckiness of the controls, that I can come up with a couple of interesting mechanics and level designs that will make it at very least a fresh experience.

    The good aspect of the idea is that its core mechanics get done fast. And everything else in the game. Each new information visualization I can show you constrained entirely to how much time I have available to polish this idea for the game. And should I run out of ideas, I can always just work on the quality of the presentation of the data and menu. Sounds like the kind of game idea I should have tried to work with many competitions ago, but only now had the clarity to work.

    Or I could simply be completely wrong and this is going to be another DNF for my belt. :)