One day this summer I found out that it was possible to create objects in ARIS that would spawn. Half an hour later, I was out of breath, nursing a pulled hamstring after playing my first spawning game. Spawning is awesome and opens up a whole new kind of game design in ARIS.
The Basics of Spawning
Any object you create in the sidebar in ARIS can be spawned according to certain parameters instead of placed on the map. By hitting the make spawn button in each object’s settings, you get the following options:
These options are almost self-explanatory. Almost. The basic idea: There is a timer. Every so often the game checks to see if it should try spawning something, always one-at-a-time. If the rules allow, an object gets spawned. The rules you set determine if an object gets spawned and the length of the timer. I have a warning and some explanation of the actual options below.
Currently it is really easy to accidentally engage spawning. When you hit the make spawn button (even just to look at the options), it does just that. If you want to stop spawning, you have to hit the red Stop Spawning button.
Spawn a maximum of (quantity) per player/total – The total number of possible objects on the map at a time per player area or total for the game. Only one gets spawned at a time, but the game may keep adding them each time the timer cycles up to this number.What counts as a player is a little complicated.
within min and max meters of player/location – Describes a ring where objects are allowed to spawn, not too close and not too far. Of player is a little complicated; I’ll explain more later. For now, just think of it as a player or a location on the map as the center of spawning.
with a probability of (percent) every (quantity) seconds – First, probability makes my head hurt. I just start at 100% and reduce it if I want to have some chance involved. The number of seconds is the timer. Whatever the number here, that is how often your game will check the rest of the rules and decide whether to spawn this object.
Location Name – Just like with other locations in ARIS, the name on the map can be different than the name of the object it links you to. Good for surprises.
Time to live – This is how long each object, once spawned, sticks around on the map.
Nearby range – This is how close a player must be to the object to interact with it (assuming quick travel is off). 15 is reasonable but might be too tight. If you’re having trouble hitting objects with GPS, go up to 30 or so.
Delete when viewed – The spawned object disappears from the map when a player interacts with it. This is really important for games like the one I’ll describe below.
Force View – AKA Auto Display. If checked, the player automatically interacts with the object when nearby. If not, the object shows up in the player’s nearby tab.
Hidden – Hidden means the object is invisible on the map. Good for landmines.
Quick travel – The player can interact with the object by tapping the icon on the map. Does not mix with hidden very well.
Wiggle – Eye candy. The object’s icon bounces up and down on the map.
Display label on Map – Got a cool looking icon? Don’t want to clutter the player’s map with pesky words? Select this option.
If you select “per player” and “player” there are a couple of fine points worth knowing. When the game checks to see if more objects are needed, it checks the rings around players for existing objects. This means that if your player is moving very rapidly in relation to the length of the timer, you will generate a huge swath of objects. Weird things also happen if your location is wildly inaccurate and your position jumps around the map.
This also has consequences for players playing near to each other so that their rings overlap. Say two players are right next to each other with the rules above. You might think that the game will generate 10 total objects (I did). But this is incorrect. The game checks the ring, and if there are 5 objects it will not generate a new one. This is mostly a good thing. It means that settings designed to work for one player do not get wildly out of whack when more players are present.
Rupee Collector: An Example of a Spawning-Based Game
When I pulled my hamstring that summer day, it was because I knew spawning would make a fast-paced outdoor running game possible, and I had to try to make one to find out. By the end of the summer, with some help, the end result is Rupee Collector.
If you’re on an iOS device, and have ARIS installed you can play Rupee Collector right now. Simply look for the game in ARIS. I even had some help skinning the content of the web backpack and including it in the game as a high score list. Thanks Toussaint! And thanks Phil for the awesome pixel art!
The game is super simple: collect rupees. There are a couple niceties I’d like to make happen someday, but I’m pretty happy with it. I hope you enjoy it. All the little pieces came together in the little ARIS design jam we had at the beginning of August 2012. Here’s a video Shelby put together from the jam. Breanne also wrote a nice blog post about the experience.
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: Variation on a Theme
Something else that came out of the August design jam, thanks to Breanne and Phil, is a 2-player variation on Rupee Collector called It’s Dangerous to Go Alone. In this version, there are still rupees to collect, but enemies also spawn on the map. Moblins to be precise. There are two roles in this game, and the player chooses when starting. The miner can collect rupees, but will be killed by Moblins. The hunter can kill Moblins, but cannot collect rupees.
It will be interesting to see if this method of building a game around a core mechanic, and then having others workshop to create variations, proves fruitful. I’d like to think that it could make a unifying design challenge for a class or jam.