[Original Game] Microbes!

Discussion in 'DragonBox Coding Compo 2012/2013' started by _wb_, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    For the 2012-2013 DragonBox coding compo, I'm going to participate with an improved version of Microbes. In this thread I'll document the new stuff as I'm adding it. The version on the repo is 0.8, but the latest release before the compo was 1.0rc2, which is available here: http://boards.openpandora.org/index.php?/topic/9515-pandora-microbes/page__st__140#entry189906

    Compared to the 0.8 repo version, the 1.0rc2 didn't have that much really new stuff, it had mainly some bugfixes and minor improvements like better level previews in the main menu.

    So what is new in the compo version?

    • Highscores! (local ones, no global highscores because it's impossible to prevent cheating and I don't want to make the game need an internet connection and set up a server and all that). For each level, you can get 1 to 5 stars, depending on the difficulty setting (5 stars for insane, 1 star for easy, no stars for very easy and trivial). If you don't use the "show paths" and "build while paused" options, it's called "advanced mode" and you get golden stars. Otherwise it's called "simple mode" and you get silver stars. You only get the stars if you complete the level (duh), but even if you don't complete it, you can get a highscore based on how many epidemics (waves) you survived. The highscore also records how many lives and how much energy you have left at the end, so even if you already have the gold stars, you can still try to improve your highscore. There is a new screen (in the "Information" submenu) to view your highscores, and the silver/gold stars are also shown in the main menu (in the level previews).
    • Cool down time between epidemics: Previously the epidemics (waves) would keep coming one after another, so it felt like one long wave. Now there is some time between waves, depending on the difficulty setting. In "insane" nothing changes (no break between waves), in the other difficulties there is a waiting time (the harder, the less time), and in "trivial" and "very easy", the next wave only starts when all microbes from the current wave are killed. This makes "trivial" and "very easy" much easier, so to compensate these difficulty settings are made slightly harder than before (in terms of microbe HP/damage/speed scaling factors)
    • Help screens: This is still work in progress, but some improvements have already been made. The help screen used to be just a list of the enemy microbes with their stats, and a very compact representation of the units tech tree (without any info, just the icons). Now the help screen will consist of several panels: one for the microbes, one for your own units (a scrollable list, showing detailed stats), and one to explain the game controls (Christoph.Krn has offered to help me with that one).
    • "Mutated" microbes: There are 3 new microbes, which are "mutated" versions of existing microbes. Besides having better stats (more hp/dmg/speed), they are also "smarter": instead of taking simply the shortest path to the destination, they take a path that tries to avoid taking damage from your units. So they might take a significant detour if that means they get no or less damage. They also avoid poisoned terrain if they can. The mutated microbes are implement, but it's currently work in progress to make some new levels in which they occur.
    • Replays: This is still work in progress. The idea is that at the end of a game (whether you lose or win) you can save a recording of the game. You can then replay the recording, with fast-forward and pause. The replay files are small files, stored in appdata so you can relatively easily share them with others.

    That's it for now. Of course I'm open to further suggestions and feedback. Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions so far! Most of the stuff mentioned above was based on forum suggestions, I really appreciate that!

    Update January 3rd:

    • New units: adaptive immune system cells (small lymphocytes, plasma cells): they automatically specialize to target the first microbe type they encounter (and kill). After that initial exposure, they can only do damage to those microbe types (e.g. berserker bacteria), but they become very effective at destroying those specific microbes: the more kills they get, the more damage they do.
    • New units: Basophils: they cause allergic inflammation, which means they locally do quite a lot of damage, but also some damage to nearby friendly units.
    • More strategy: existing units are being re-balanced to make the game more interesting. Neutrophils (which were a bit overpowered) now only target bacteria, and Lymphocytes (which were very overpowered) now only target viruses. Eosinophils now only target "big" microbes, so they're great for slow long-distance "artillery" attacks, but they can't even target the small microbes, let alone kill them.

    Update January 22nd:

    • Quick-build shortcuts: If you press B and hold it, you can quickly build advanced units by pressing a dpad combination: e.g. hold B, press up, up, up, up, release B and you'll get a Basophil.
    • Dpad repeat: If you hold a dpad direction for a while, it will auto-repeat.
    • Quick level editing: In the level editor you can hold Y or X while moving the dpad or left nub to quickly "paint" or "erase" tiles.

    Update January 31st:

    • Customizable keyboard shortcuts: If you press a letter key (a-z, except s,c,p which are already taken) while a unit is selected, that letter key becomes a shortcut to build that unit type. If you press that key again while an empty tile is selected, it will build the unit. To change a shortcut, press the existing shortcut key for the unit while the unit is selected (this will remove the existing shortcut), then press a new shortcut key (as explained before). The shortcuts are shown in the help screen, as well as in the unit description when a unit is selected.
    • (Level editor) Epidemic source infection setting: A fixed algorithm was used in the past to determine which infection area the microbes are coming from. Now you can change this: the default is still to use that algorithm, but you  tocan also explicitly assign an infection area to a wave (epidemic), use all infection areas in a predictable way (e.g. 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3), or use all infection areas in a random way (order will be different each time)
    • Gradual unit unlocking: You now start the tutorial with a very limited set of units, and more and more units become available gradually during the tutorial and the 3 Microbes level packs.
    • Briefings: These are additional information screens; they are shown when new microbes or new units are introduced. They can be consulted through the "Info" submenu.

    Final update, February 15th:

    • New unit: Mitochondria, they produce energy at a constant rate, and give an extra energy bonus if a microbe is killed in its area
    • New enemy: Cancer cells. They regenerate (so they grow) constantly, when they're big enough they multiply (split in two), and this process of exponential growth keeps on going, so you'll want to kill them fast. Also, they can change your boosting units (monocyte, macrophage) into self-damaging units (basophils)
    • Quick high-scores: Press and hold the right shoulder button in the main menu (or most other menus) to quickly check your highscores.
     
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  2. Askarus

    Askarus Hardcore Member

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    Great to see you're working on microbes again.


    If I wouldn't have so much work for university and Pandora I'd make you some maps.


    Maybe Christmas holidays will allow at least some maps.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2012
  3. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    I'm considering to share prize money (in case Microbes wins any prize that is, of course) with level designers. Only problem might be that it could be inconvient for ED to have to split up the vouchers.


    I was thinking about sharing something like 20% of the prize (that would be 50 EUR if it wins first prize, 30 EUR for second place, 10 EUR for third place) with level designers, but of course only for new levels and only if the contribution is significant enough (e.g. not just 1 map). If there are multiple level designers, I will give all of them a part of the prize (again, assuming there is any prize for my entry of course), but with a maximum of 50%. So if two level designers contribute a great new level pack, they each get 20%; if there are three, then they each get 16.66%, if there are four they each get 12.5%. I also reserve the right to adjust the ratio to reflect the size of the contribution.


    So let me know if you want to contribute new levels to Microbes; besides a potential part of the prize money, I'll also give you my latest development snapshot of the game so you can use the latest features like mutated microbes.
     
  4. Askarus

    Askarus Hardcore Member

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    I'll help you after christmas.


    One map a day is surely not too much I think.


    Willl be about 10 then within the hollidays.


    I still love your game. It's simply to much for me to do 2 jobs and helping with games.


    In holidays I will help you.


    You don't have to share any money with me :) as you already included some of my maps.
     
  5. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    Here's the title screen :)

    Some more new features I'm currently working on:

    • New units: adaptive immune system cells (small lymphocytes, plasma cells): they automatically specialize to target the first microbe type they encounter (and kill). After that initial exposure, they can only do damage to those microbe types (e.g. berserker bacteria), but they become very effective at destroying those specific microbes: the more kills they get, the more damage they do.
    • New units: Basophils: they cause allergic inflammation, which means they locally do quite a lot of damage, but also some damage to nearby friendly units.
    • More strategy: existing units are being re-balanced to make the game more interesting. Neutrophils (which were a bit overpowered) now only target bacteria, and Lymphocytes (which were very overpowered) now only target viruses. Eosinophils now only target "big" microbes, so they're great for slow long-distance "artillery" attacks, but they can't even target the small microbes, let alone kill them.

    When these changes are done, most of the human immunity system is covered. I'm not trying to make an educational game, but I like how the game tech tree resembles the biological reality:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/Hematopoiesis_%28human%29_diagram.png

    title.png
     
  6. fusion_power

    fusion_power Advanced Member

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    Do I need a doctor in biology to play this game? :D Looks incredible complex, I hope it is noob friendly, at least at the beginning. Are some kind of Tutorials included?
     
  7. Monkfish

    Monkfish Active Member

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    It's a really neat tower defense game themed around biology, if you've played Sqdef then you have some kinda idea whats going on. Theres a nice tutorial level pack to help get to grips with stuff (using energy to upgrade cells, learning how different viruses behave etc.), it's nice and original and not too taxing at first.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2013
  8. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    I know nothing about biology except what Wikipedia tells me about it :)

    It is not needed to know anything about biology to play the game. Like Monkfish said, there is a tutorial (with a reduced set of units). I'm also planning to introduce all the units and enemies gradually - at the moment, you get all the units at once in the first "real" campaign, and that is probably a bit much.

    There are 7 difficulty settings (Trivial, Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, Insane), so you can play the game at Trivial or Very Easy and pretty much win without having to think at all. On Very Hard or Insane, I'm not even sure if all the levels can be beaten, and if they can, you'll surely need to be very familiar with the game.
     
  9. fusion_power

    fusion_power Advanced Member

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    Wow, seven difficulties, should be enough for everyone and every skill, very nice. ^^

    I've played alot Sqdef back then on my good old GP2X, I've even suggested some features for the game and made some levels. :D  Was also my last TD game I guess, maybe I start again, this time with Microbes here, when I find the time. :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 4, 2013
  10. b_o_b

    b_o_b Advanced Member

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    If you liked Sqdef, you will love Microbes. It is a great TD game :)

    Just beat Level Pack Microbes level 3 on hard without losing any lives! I have played this level a lot and every time lost one or more lives. _wb_ told me he beat it in his first attempt without losing lives when I was still struggling and even wondering if it was possible to beat it. That basically was a great goal, it took me a while but I finally did it. 

    Sure sign of a fun game if you will keep on playing even if it is hard. 

    Looking forward to an update _wb_, certainly having the highscores and the stars rewards will add even more "re-playability"

    My most played game of 2012 on the Pandora (and since I am using Pandafe it is scientifically proven :) )  
     
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  11. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    Here is a raw development snapshot of the updated Microbes:

    http://people.cs.kuleuven.be/~jon.sneyers/microbes1.0rc3.pnd

    Still quite a lot of polishing and balancing needs to be done, so be aware that this is a beta version and it will most likely not be compatible with the final compo release: e.g. if you save a replay with this version and try to play it back with the final balanced version, it will probably screw up because the units will behave a bit differently.

    I'm just sharing the link with you guys so you get a sneak preview of what will be in the upcoming compo release; all the new stuff I wanted to add is in there (in terms of code), but now the more boring work of bugfixing, balancing and polishing has to be done.
     
  12. dummi

    dummi Still Fresh

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    I played your game today in the train. It's really fun. I will give the new version a try at the weekend.
     
  13. b_o_b

    b_o_b Advanced Member

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    New version comes with some good ideas and improvements _wb_! 

    That the Basophils also damages the nearby cells is my favorite. The Basophils are pretty powerful and by adding this you are forced to surround it with enough mast cells (repair units). 

    It does indeed feel it needs a bit more balance but it is already quite enjoyable. Graphics are nicer and the opening screens makes it appear more professional from the start (really nice). 

    The strategy changes are great and certainly will make the game more interesting and make a varied approach possible for different maps. A game like this can become repetitive once you figure out how to make the strongest clusters.

    2 comments about the graphics of the game:  - Winding path : level 3 Microbes - my favorite level in Microbes 1 ;) does look a bit too 'busy' for my eyes. Will not prevent me from playing or enjoying and can be a personal preference, but might be something to take into account if others agree. 

    The same applies to the Basophils. I think the "poison" they use - the big yellow circles - are too distracting. Also personal preference. Others may like it and feel free to ignore. 

    Highscores is now hidden in the information menu, I would expect to see the highscores in the main menu.   

    I have played the first version of Microbes quite often and still enjoy it a lot so I hope you will make it possible to play both versions and maybe rename this version to Microbes 2. Thanks and good luck with the boring stuff ;)  
     
  14. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    I'm glad you like it!

    I see what you mean with winding path. This is a consequence of trying to make the tiles look more self-explanatory: a microbe no-go zone is like a wall but you can build on it. In this case, it looks bad though. I'll try to find a solution.

    The big yellow circles are what you see if I didn't design an effect yet ;)

    Highscores in main menu: yes, but the main menu is becoming a bit large. Since you can already see the stars in the main menu, I thought it would be OK to put the detailed highscores a bit deeper in the menu.

    I don't think this version needs to be renamed Microbes 2, the difference is not that big. It's certainly possible to keep the old tech tree around though, in fact that's probably the best thing to do for the level packs that were designed for it. The new mutated microbes don't occur in the old levels either, so in terms of game play, I could make it so that the first levels are just like before (well, except for the time between waves).
     
  15. b_o_b

    b_o_b Advanced Member

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    Ok, thanks for your answer. I realized I might have had some comments a bit early in the development process so that the effect wasn't ready yet doesn't come as a surprise. 

    Tweaking and optimizing is a hard job and because of the amount of variables (what is the best feature of the game) so good balance for the game will be a tough nut to crack. 

    You requested people to make new maps, but it seems to me you can only start with that if balancing is ready. It took me quite a while to grasp the full concept of Microbes 0.8 and probably are only now able to make a descent map. Haven't tried it yet, but I guess it requires a lot of play-testing first.. 

    Highscores in the information menu is not a big deal but I just mentioned it because at first I thought you didn't implement it yet and it doesn't seem to be intuitive. 

    You could also rename the old Microbes version (call it classic) and still use Microbes for this one. Saves you the trouble and time of adding it in this version. 

    Features:

    Now you mentioned the time between waves would it be a good idea to add the time between waves as a variable? And maybe also the time between releasing the individual enemies?

    Some TD game have a huge boss that can be very hard to beat and you really have to prepare for it. Would it be an idea to add something like that. I was thinking about a parasite that will take a huge effort to kill. The parasite could then really damage units and after that level the baddies can finish it off. 

    Just some ideas :)  
     
  16. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    Yes, making maps with the new microbes and in which you really need to use the new units is probably not something that can be done before all stats are final. But I intend the game to be backwards-compatible in the sense that if a map can be done with the old units, then it can also be done with the new units.

    The big parasite boss is an interesting idea.

    Thanks for all the feedback!
     
  17. Askarus

    Askarus Hardcore Member

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    I have exams this month so I can't be much help.

    Some idea:

    We could also need leader units.

    Some leader units which are very strong, boost near units and/or heal them.

    They can be only once on the field as they are special leaders.

    To make it clear.

    Maybe you could add towers that can be used only once but are very strong (and expensive).

    Those should also be upgradeable but my exist only once.

    So you can make a new menu option for boss units or add them at the end of each tech tree.

    Wouldn't this make things even more fun?

    EDIT:

    If you need some more icons, feel free to ask.

    It doesn't take to long to make them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2013
  18. b_o_b

    b_o_b Advanced Member

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    Just tried the editor. Creating a different map is pretty intuitive and doesn't seem to be very hard, great job!

    There a two things stopping me from creating a level pack though:

    - How to play the maps created is a mystery to me. I would expect a play-test functionality in the editor itself.

    - Going into the editor search for the already created map and try to edit the map, results in editing the last played or selected map instead. 

    Feature request:

    - It would be nice to be able to auto-repeat building one icon. Maybe by holding the shift button while placing the icon. Then you could easily build walls that all contain the same icons. 
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2013
  19. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    You save a map to one of the 100 slots. Then you select level pack "Self-made" (you need to unlock it first though, so if that's the problem: either complete the first 5 levels of the first 3 level packs (use difficulty Trivial if you want it easy), or manually modify the savefile in appdata).

    The idea is that you can start making your own levels immediately, but you can only play them when you have unlocked the "self-made" level pack. Maybe that's a lame idea, and I should hide the level editor if you didn't unlock "self-made" yet, or just make everything available from the start.

    The auto-repeat exists: action button Y does this (I assume you're still talking about the level editor). Also, X will erase any terrain. So usually I pick one terrain type with B, then use Y to "paint" with that "color" and X as an eraser.
     
  20. b_o_b

    b_o_b Advanced Member

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    Yep, unlocking was the problem. I already played all levelpacks in the old version but deleted the appdata installing the new version. Adjusted the savefile and it works now as expected. 

    It is confusing to have the editor available and not being able to play them. That also means you can not adjust them after saving (as far as I can tell). 

    So indeed hiding it or make it available from the start seems to be the best solution. I prefer the latter. 

    Auto repeat with Y doesn't seem to work for me. Maybe lost the functionality in the latest version? Auto-repeat and auto-eraser functionality in the editor would be nice to have but at least I can now start working on some maps.  

    Edit: And a clear all option would be nice too :)

    Edit 2: I now think you didn't understand my request regarding auto-repeat (and I didn't understand your answer). I mean by auto-repeat selecting the Y button (or another button) and then be able to keep pressing the button and creating a line instead of pushing the button each time.

    There are quite a few editors with this functionality and it helps to speed up the map making process. Especially if you include this for erasing too. Hope I explained it better now. 
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2013

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