I often joke that pushing boxes is my all time favourite thing to do in video games. In fact, I made a whole game about pushing boxes. It’s called Machinata and it’s on Google Play. I don’t know how true it is that is my all time favourite, but there is a point to the statement. Pushing boxes around like this gets right down to the flavour of spatial puzzle-solving that I really like. So it was never a question of whether there would be pushable boxes in this Elephant Game.
You’d be surprised how many different ways you can handle boxpushing in games though. Zelda often uses a button to grab the box, and then lets you push or drag it. That was the solution I used in the now cancelled Project Caesar. In a game jam from a while ago, called Thieves Beneath the Face, I had a more Pokemon-like approach, where you would simple push your sprite against the box and make it move. The problem I had with that was that the effort was too small. You could basically just look at a box, and it would immediately bend to your will and start moving.
To fix that, I have now added a sort of fake inertia. Now you have to push yourself against the box for a short time before it even starts moving, which is very satisfying. For a while I played around with a system, where once you had the box moving, you could keep pushing it for as long as you like. But that led to a lot of issues, where boxes would get stuck on edges, or go halfway where they needed to be and so on. So now I have instead made it so that a box will move exactly one grid space each time you push it. This is great for precision pushing, but might be tedious if you have to push it a longer distance.
That wont be much of a problem though, since I plan to make puzzle really streamlined and snug.
In addition to various actions, such as headbutting and picking up items, the Elephant also has a handful of Abilities at hand, and they all centre around his trusty trunk. This is the first and most basic one, which simply consists of blowing a gust of air in front of you. Later, you will be able to charge your trunk up with for example water which can then be sprayed out, but that’s a story for another time.
For now, let’s talk about the air ability. As seen, it can be used to blow on dandelion balls, but it can also activate pinwheels and windmills, and it is a powerful knockback, which can be used in combat to blow enemies away.
In an early prototype I thought of these abilities like items in Zelda, which is to say, once you have found them you can use them any time. But when I moved to 3D, I streamlined a lot of the puzzle design. As I have mentioned, I changed the inventory into carrying only one item at a time on your back. Similarly, you do not unlock abilities, but rather use whatever you can find in the room you are currently in. If there’s a source of water, you can charge your trunk with water. If not, you can always fall back to blowing air. This means that you will never have to go all the way back to the starter village to pick up that one treasure you couldn’t reach before. It also mean that the elephant never gets stronger as the game progresses, he only gets smarter and learns new things, which fits very well with the story and general message of the game.
Here’s a clever and simple solution to make the grass more lively. The grass simply notices when the elephant comes near, and when he does it rotates away from where he is. A friend of mine helped me out with the math behind the rotation, so I’m grateful for that, and in the end the effect got pretty damn neat. Now I can put all sorts of dynamic grass, foliage, flowers and so on in the world.
Many of these plants will be for decoration only, but there are also those that are interactable…
The trusty headbutt! This little trick serves as your standard attack, in case you have to fight something nasty. It can also be used to crack big rocks, incidentally. As I write this I have not started working on the combat yet, and there are no enemies inside the game, but I do have a plans for where I intend to take this.
The aesthetic and feel of the combat in this game will be that of two goat kids wobbling around trying to bump into each others, or bumper cars at an amusement park.
This is the first feature I worked on, once I got the elephant to walk around. If you face an item you can pick it up and carry it on your back. Early designs and prototypes of this game were a lot more like a point-n-click adventure, and the elephant had a whole inventory where you could carry around lots of random items. But I have streamlined the design to a point where you can only carry one item at a time, which might sound like a step back, but it will actually make puzzles much more contained, understandable and clear.
The game will have a bunch of quest items, which you can give to the right person to get a reward. I’m thinking of making side quest in the form of trade-chains, where the reward for helping one npc out is an item which another npc wants. But this carrying mechanic will also be used when you’ll need to find keys to locked doors, or throw bombs on enemies, and much more
Or, as in this case, just to pick up a jar and run around with it for a bit before breaking it and find a treasure inside!
I’m making a game. It has an elephant. And puzzles. And weird npc:s, monsters and adventure. It’s inspired by such games as Zelda: the Minish Cap, and even though it’s a 3D game I’m trying to think of it as if it were for something like a Gameboy. The camera never rotates, the environment is built inside a grid and I try and think of the 3D models more like sprites (if that makes any sense).
The game is obviously quite adorable, but my intention is to treat the story and world with quite a lot of respect, and make it an advanced and complex experience. Not to mention how many clever puzzles and adventures I have planned down the pipeline!
This is my development blog, and I will post .gifs and updates as often as I can, showing off cool new features and all the love and attention that goes into all the little details.