Pikmin based Adventure/RTS

This game idea came from the Gain Jam ‘Minion’ wildcard prompt and has gone through quite a few genre changes as I tried figuring out how it would work. (Which has unfortunately led to some conflicting overlap with overall direction) It has since grown much larger in scope than I originally planned and unfortunately because of life obligations occurring at the same time as the Jam, I don’t believe I can finish even a working tech demo in time. So I’m deciding to put it up as a project idea here and ask you guys for critique, assistance, and other kinds of help to get the project going as I think it’s too neat of an idea to not try simply because I’ll miss the deadline.

As a personal limitation, early on I decided to use free assets as a means of quick setup and ended up with ImpossibleSnail’s free SFRPG sprite pack and that has led to some creative thinking about how I went about things and led to something that I feel is kinda neat. If this project takes off I plan to remove the limitation but for now it works and has formed a fundamental basis on the game’s concepts. You can find the pack here:

The current idea is a ‘camera locked behind the player’ kind of view, in a 3D world with the characters as 2D sprites akin to games like Paper Mario. Ideally, I’d like for this to be able to work as a multiplayer game and that is WAY beyond my abilities but I’d like for the option to be there if possible. As a compromise I plan on going as a ‘campaign mode’ vs a scripted ‘ai’ though that is, also, a bit beyond my skills but still at least in the realm of possibilities.

Basic Concept Outline

  • You control a character that is in charge of a swarm of smaller creatures and use them to move, alter, affect, etc., everything in the map. Originally inspired by this sprite sheet. I’ll refer to them as Spirits. There is a maximum population you can have and I’m aiming low-ish of around 50-60 or so.

    • candeez
  • The spirits have weight classes of (for now just 3) light 1lbs, med 3lbs, heavy 5lbs that would alter how they interact with the world. Light ones could be thrown up high and weigh the least, med thrown less so and weigh more, and heavy barely throwable if at all and weigh much more.

  • The map would have obstacles that are affected by weight and spirit count. Examples being a brittle floor that has a weight and unit limit (5 total spirits at a time with a combined weight of 10 lbs), a river crossing that can be made with enough heavy spirits to walk on (to fill the gap a unit must be heavy in order to not flow away), most areas have slopes but some have stairs that heavy units can’t climb, a crushable wall that requires a high enough weight to break (max 12 units can fit on it and needs a weight threshold of 25lbs), and other kinds of things.

  • The spirits are used to move and transport large objects such as Food and also what I reffer to as ‘Hero’ units.

    • en_gatergoth1
    • en_gatergoth2
  • Hero units I envision as, from an RTS viewpoint, mobile buildings to be used for attack/defense purposes as I don’t plan on having the spirits capable of combat themselves. Heroes are either incapable or unwilling to move themselves and have the status Immobile and Carried. Heroes have values for Carry Load and Surface Area. Hero units would specialize in Attack/Defense/Support/Runner as I currently have mocked up (still open for change). They must be Fed in order to use abilities or else they stop providing benefits until their hunger is sated.

    • Immobile status means they are now planted in position and can take action until picked up or they run out of food. They are also only able to be fed while Immobile. Carried status means, well, they are being carried and might be unable to use abilities depending on class.
    • Carry load is how heavy they are and how many spirits would be minimally needed to lift them and surface area refers to the max number that can fit around them to determine how much you can surpass the default carry speed by. ( X/10 spirits to pick up, and only 20 able to fit around them). This is to prevent spamming tactics of 100/10 to rocket things into place. A Fed Hero weighs more than an Unfed one so planning on when and how they move becomes important.
    • Classes is the area where I’m still working with balance/fun/ability-to-implement, mostly because of the aforementioned genre flip-flopping, and am open to suggestions here. Attack Classes are able to take out opposing units while Carried at a reduced melee range and at an extended range while Immobile. Defense Classes are able to Physically block off narrow routes while Immobile and take damage for other units in the area while Carried. Support Classes are able to store and retrieve food for other units while Immobile. Runner Classes are used to harvest map resources while Immobile and Carried back and forth from Main Base to deposit them. Main Base is the Win/Lose condition for you and your opponent that when Immobile also functions as how you progress along upgrade trees and create Hero units. Main Base is able to be Carried.
      • Alternative option 1: Support Classes function as resource Harvesters while Immobile. Runner Classes collect from Support Classes in order to transport to Main Base. Main Base takes over function of original Support Class as well as its role as Main Base.
      • Alternative option 2: Main Base functions as resource harvester and converter. Runner Classes function as solely food transportation.
    • Fed Status is basically a health/ammo/energy/storage bar in one for Heroes. There are currently 3 (technically 4) stages 0-Defeated, 1-Hungry, 2-Full, 3-Stuffed. Defeated is self explanatory of when they run completely out of food or are defeated by enemy attacks. Hungry is the default state and offers no inherent benefit or detriment until another stage is reached. It’s mostly a preparatory for later stages or a buffer from defeat. Full is when they are able to use their abilities and can be made useful. Stuffed is a special case for Main Base units once upgraded that can unleash unique game changing abilities but require heavy investment and management in order to utilize.
  • I’ve cobbled together 4 Factions of units with unique specialties and upgrade paths. They still need work but they have a solid (I feel) foundation to work from. They all follow a basic upgrade path, with some variance.

    • Tech Tree works as follows:
      Tier 1: Unlocks Main Base, Runner Unit, Support Unit
      Tier 2: Upgrades Main Base, Unlocks Attack Unit, Defense Unit
      Tier 3: Upgrades Main Base, Unlocks Ultimate Ability. Ultimate Abilities still require ‘filling’ once unlocked in order to be activated.
    • Factions are as follows:
      • Barn Buddies: Bunnies, Chickens, Foxes, Cows. Designed around the Runner class with a focus on many weaker/lighter units. Main Base: Cow with Ultimate Ability ‘Milk Tap’ raises Spirit lift strength by 1 for faster unit movement.
        Main Base Unit:Cow
        Cow2
      • Diet Demons: Mummies, Witches, Vampires, Succubi. Designed around the Attack class with a focus on sacrificial offensive units. Main Base: Succubus with Ultimate Ability ‘Hellfire’ performs a map wide AoE damage spell on enemy units.
        Attack Unit: Witch
        Witch1
      • Gator Grub: Gators and Reptiles. Designed around the Support class with average units who specialize in sustained output. Main Base: Snack-Shack, Ultimate Ability ‘Gator Glut’ allows regular units to become Stuffed upon unlock. Main Base does not Upgrade.
        Support Unit: Delivery Guy Hungry/Full
        en_delgater1
        en_delgater2
      • Wallstreet Wolves: Dogs, Wolves, Bulls. Designed around the Defense class with a focus on preventing opponent play. Main Base: Boss with Ultimate Ability ‘Bureaucracy’ allows all units to temporarily inherit Defense unit blockade ability.
        Defense Unit: Suit
        Suit1

Um, I think that about covers what I got so far. I was planning on doing this in Unity but the last time I did programming was with actionscript years ago. I’m currently trying to wrap my head around how the hell Unity does things and with all the version changes and mismatched, outdated, and randomly ineffective YouTube tutorials I’m trying to piece together, it’s slow going. And while I CAN program it is not an aspect I enjoy doing but am trying to work through. I have a relatively solid grasp on the logistical aspects of how the mechanics can function, I just can’t figure out the proper words and steps needed to implement them in code properly.

There is still plenty to work through and implement and ironically, one of the things I’m having trouble with is, who is the character you control? As imagined, the Hero Units are very large and the Spirits are really small so the character needs to be kinda small/medium sized. They also ideally would have multiple animations but the limited selection I’ve got of sprites limits that severely. My thoughts were to use just a bigger spirit or one of the alternate versions but that doesn’t quite feel right. Another thought I had was to use the WG mascots as the character which could work but they only have a single image each. But if I ignore traditional animation techniques and go with math based ‘squish and rotate by a set amount’ options it might work.

Anyways, if anyone has ideas for things to implement or solutions on problems that you see feel free to voice em. I hope to work on this as I can but life is currently not being as agreeable to game design as it could be for the moment.

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not to bad kid (sorry i called you kid i did it because of the word limit)

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hey, I’ve seen these sprites before!

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After reading this over a couple of times, there’s a pretty big core issue I noticed, there’s almost no point the the spirits.

The only thing that they do is just allow your other units to move and interact with the map a bit, they cannot interact in any other way, so all they do is exist to just make it so hero units can’t move by themselves and to prevent them from interacting with the map.

Everything else you mentioned just effects hero units or the home base, from the actual weight gain mechanics to the unit differences and the faction differences, so why have spirits at all? Just give hero units the ability to move and just make it a traditional RTS at that point.

If you give the spirits the ability to have more impactful role in the game,(For example spirits can attack enemies and have weight gain mechanics as well just not as extreme as hero units but are weaker than hero units, so hero units act more like traditional structures but also powerful but risky units for better combat units and spirits act more like a source of early aggression and also proper support for hero units.) I can see this concept working a lot better

There’s also some more minor stuff I noticed, the demon faction doesn’t fit with the other three, the hero units not being super exciting in their roles, and that you need to use a hero unit to do something simple as gather resources and return them to a drop off point being somewhat pointless, you could have a hero unit be both a harvester and drop off point that you use spirits to move to a new resource point, or just make it so spirits can do that instead.

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The whole inspiration of the spirits is from the game Pikmin in which you control a small swarm of individually very weak units that are entirely dependent on you for action and you have a finite amount you can manage at any given time. In that game you can have a maximum of 100 at a time and as such need to manage if you should spend 50 of them to carry that thing or keep em all to fight an enemy in the other side and whatnot. And the important difference in this game relative to traditional RTS games is that your character has to physically interact with them to order them around. They literally represent a finite limit to what is able to be managed based off of both your physical presence there and a numerical value of what you determine is more important than other things.

While I grew up with RTS games (War/Starcraft, AoE, etc.) I wanted to shy away from, for example, the SCII meta of continuous mapwide micromanagement in the form of actions per minute in an omniscient manner and focus on the purely strategic management of assets from a single ‘boots on the ground’ point of reference.

My concern with giving spirits a more offensive role was that 1) it would give way to a hyper aggressive gameplay which I’m personally hesitant to gear towards. It also encourages early game zerging to cripple an opponent before they have time to develop. For that reason alone is why I have Tier 1 without any combat units in order for players to setup and position themselves which hopefully allows BOTH sides to develop a foundation before combat arises. 2) My current setup has spirits as basically unkillable because I couldn’t come up with a decent solution to work with the case of a total failure on a players part of losing them all in a fight other than a complete loss considering they are integral to every other game function. As well as I’d have to invent more mechanics around spirit vs spirit and spirit vs hero mechanics and I’m already way past what is doable in a Game Jam. I’ve given thought to that kind of thing but it quickly got complicated fast. (Not that I’m entirely opposed to it, its just I’m just one person) 3) My first draft of any game was actually a virtual board game where spirits were pieces to move around with some Rock/Paper/Sciscors balanced combat and some of this is legacy concepts from that and I was trying to keep things relatively simple by limiting factors.

Now having said all that, I agree that they could do more and the spirit combat can introduce some interesting mechanics. Some earlier concepts I had, especially when I was struggling with figuring out Attack/Defense/Runner/Support balance with spirits being able to be killed was that spirits are able to go past Enemy Heroes except for Attackers who would attack them or Defense units who would physically prevent it. It led to a lack of uniqueness between the two with Attack units being overall more useful than the others. I also had the concept of spirits being able to move opponent Heroes, which still has some promise, but if population caps are put in place then an opponent could grab units and then shove em in a corner and deny any way for an opponent to do anything about it other than a full assault with a weaker force or just ignore it and go with a handicap.

One of the things I was envisioning they would be useful for was clearing shortcut paths that only them and the player could use. Using MOBA terminology, it would be like cutting through the jungle to help another lane as opposed to running the long way. The shortcuts would require certain methods to open and would in turn cause a choice between developing it now with potentially sideline development at the cost of developing frontline units, developing frontline units now and it later, or ignore it.

Either way they definitely have room for improvement

Also, they do have weight gain mechanics with their weight class of small, med, heavy though I’m still working on how that is actually done. Referencing how Pikmin does it, their units have a lvl 1,2,3 system as well but it makes the individual units faster but here, weight runs sorta counter to that so I’m unsure how to handle it other than unit strength but that in turn leads to faster speeds. It just logistically felt weird but not unreasonable.

For the first part here, I was working exclusively with what was provided here so if themes don’t fit or units don’t seem that exciting its because NONE of them were designed AT ALL to be what I’m using them as. I’m still kinda surprised I managed to piece together 4 Factions with relatively balanced aspects from an unrelated story even if, like you said, the demons aren’t exactly the same theme wise. (The reason Gators don’t have a true Ultimate Unit is because I couldn’t find a sprite to use)

For the second part while yes something a simple as gathering isn’t ‘heroic’, I can’t use the term ‘building’ with a creature so I went with hero. They are essentially a building you construct first for a specific purpose (attack/defend/gather/transport/provisions etc) and then place/move later. That said, I sorta see what you mean. I was aiming for it to be another resource that required management by the player rather than an automated process they could forget about and having a unit be needed to transport to and from seemed to fit the bill. They would gather until full, then sit there not gathering to wait for the player to transport, empty and then replace to fill up again. It could technically just be a harvesting unit, possibly the Main Base, and gather until moved or the node is empty.

The prospect of spirits doing the gathering oddly enough I didn’t think about that much as I was looking at Heroes doing all the unique tasks and I was trying to avoid it being a ‘standard’ RTS but that’s a route that could be looked into. But then Runners wouldn’t be ‘runners’ anymore and might need a different sprite, eh, that can probably be worked around.

You’ve given me some good things to work with and consider so thank you for that. I’ll be looking into it and maybe even draft up some simplistic diagrams of gameplay as well to help illustrate these unorthodox concepts better and help with concept generation. Much to think about now.

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I do love me some Pikmin, Overlord too (I wish that series lasted longer)
Just posting a comment so I can keep an eye on this project, best of luck to you and I hope it turns out well!

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