All posts by ketng

Shark Game

The Shark Game

The Shark Game is one of the best idle games available to play. It’s free, has cute art, solid puns, and some interesting design choices. It’s also possible to experience everything the game has to offer within a day or two if you if you play efficiently. For these reasons I encourage anyone interested in game design or idle games to give this game a spin.

For those that find the discovery element of idle games very important consider this a minor spoiler warning, go check it out and come back here in a bit. The next section discusses some of the mechanics and the reasons I think it’s a game worth playing.

————- spoilers————–

First spoiler warning If you want to go in completely blind stop reading now.

The Rundown

In Shark Game you take on the role of a shark in a strange blue sea. You start game manually catching fish by clicking, from there you recruit more sharks and other aquatic friends who will help you collect more resources. As you gather more and more of a variety of resources you will eventually unlock technologies and the ability to reset and move to a new world where you can reset the game with a persistent bonus.

There are two reasons why I think anyone interested in idle games, particularly from a design perspective, should play this game.

First is the how well coordinated the setting and atmosphere are. The UI is easy on the eyes and the art is adorable, the simple colors and shapes work well with the theme. There is also a lots of humor slipped into the text of the game, be sure to toggle descriptions on. Also be sure to check out the options menu, there are some good UI options that aren’t enabled by default.

Second is the complexity of the resource system. The game dozens of resources when you can collect, some of those resources can be used to buy things directly while others can be process into other resources or will generate new resources. Importantly there is overlap in the things that produce resources. As an example sharks generate 1 fish per second while rays only produce 0.2 fish but also produce 1 sand.

Worlds will give varying bonuses and penalties to resource. This combined with the persistent upgrades the player will purchase forces the player must continually reevaluate their build paths.

This resource system is compounded by the reset system. Once you get sufficiently deep in the tech tree you unlock the gate. The gate lists 6 randomized resources you need to feed it in order to move to the next world. The quantity of resources needed tends to be very large, it’s enough that you will want to adapt what you are producing to focus on meeting the requirements.

From here on I’ll be talking about the problems with the game as well as the most efficient way to play the game. If you haven’t played the game yet I encourage you to do so and come back to this once you have gone through the gate a few times.

————- spoilers————–

Second spoiler warning, if you don’t want to be told how to min/max the game or want hear my opinions on the game stop here.

Problems

I think there are two main problems with the game that could be fixed without altering the feel of the game.

The first is the ability to recycle resources. This ability takes all the variety of the resources and the gate and throws them out the window. Your goal is to create as much as possible of the resource you can efficiently convert into residue, you then convert into the 6 resources bypassing all the interesting bits. There are also some loops with the recycler that net more resources than you put in letting generate them at an exponential rate.

The second problem is the game doesn’t really change as you progress. Once you get past early game and especially once you figure out how to speed through worlds there is no real variety to the game play. There is no noticeable difference in play between a level world at climate level 1 and 100.

Game Guide

Playing the game efficiently is unfortunately fairly straightforward. On every world the early and late game is pretty much the same, only the middle part differs.get crystal and turn it into science and research the early technologies. Once you get to shark machines build them as they allow you to move past the crystal bottle neck. From there the builds split depending on the world, they are all focused on producing as much as you can of the thing you can produce most efficiently, generally but not always it’s something that produces another producer, that lets you get two sets of multipliers on the final resource. However it happens at the end you feed all of your resources into the recycler and turn it into the resources you need to get through the gate.

For most worlds going all in on Berry Sprayers is the way to go, it gives you two levels of multipliers like breeders do but dodges the penalties a few worlds put on them since they are a machine. Just tech till you hit them and then recycle clams and sand into more Sprayers until you get enough to recycle into whatever you need.

Once you go through the game you will be offered three worlds to go to, their climate level determines how much essence you get and is a random amount based on the current world. Always choose the highest number to maximizes the essence you get.

Thoughts

If I were updating the game myself these are the things I’d look at doing.

  • Remove the ability to recycle things. This will force people to adapt to the world they are on. And add diversity to gameplay and force people to explore new parts of the game.
  • Have the game end at world 100. By the time the player gets to that level they will have seen pretty much everything the game has to offer. A cute splash screen at the end and some words would complete the experience of play the game.
  • Throw in some additional modifiers to each world so the game plan on each world is slightly different. It’s less fun when you know exactly what you will be doing as soon as you see the level. Things to do could include adding or removing technologies, additional bonuses to various resources, have resources producing new things they didn’t before or removing resources.
  • Add a little bit of clarity for the upgrades. Some of them are a bit unclear on what exactly they do. Include in the description a list of the things the upgrade unlocks. Similarly it might be useful to also have things you are close to unlocking appear grayed out to give a hint of where to go next.
  • Either remove the whalesong upgrade or expand on it. I like the concept of potentially having a cool thing that helps out people that want to play slower or are going on vacation but as it is it’s just a trap. If I had to choose I’d drop it, this game doesn’t need it.
  • Add variety to the upgrades. Having the upgrades be shuffle around or not alway available would add some unpredictability in the run. Going a step further there could be upgrades that you have to choose between, something like Master of Orion 2 techs.
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Idle Games

A Look at Idle Games

Idle games as a phenomenon have had their initial boom in 2013  and is now in the process of maturing. We are seeing more idle games monetizing and inspiring other games outside of of the genre.

 

In this blog one of the things I’m planning on spending some time on is talking about some of the idle games I have played and some of the interesting things they have done. To start things off let us take a look at the a short timeline of idle games.

 

A Short Timeline

Progress Quest

2002

Progress Quest came out as a game with no interaction after character creation, there were other similar games on Newgrounds but they have been lost to history making Progress Quest the first popular proto-idle game.Zynga-Logo2.png

2009

We hit the boom of Zynga and FarmVille, here we are seeing the Skinner Box being pushed to the limit and the idea of short periods of gameplay spread over the day.

 

 

 

2013

Here we see the emergence of what we consider the modern Idle game with the the releases of Candy Box, Cookie Clicker, and A Dark Room. Once these hit these hit the scene countless spinoffs were created and idle games as a genre were established.

2015

Another noticeable jump in popularity for the genre, a few games have gotten a high degree of polish and made the jump to Steam with monetization. Valve even got in arena with their Monster Summer Game.

What are idle games?

I’m not going to a give a singular definition. Doing so inevitably will have some exceptions, then you are either forced to keep broadening the definition to the point it is meaningless or have a big list of exceptions. Instead I’ll outline some of the common elements to idle games, while this makes it harder to refer to game with a single label like RPG or FPS it makes it a lot easier to compare similar games against each other. Here are some of the labels most commonly associated with idle games

 

Elements

Passive Progress

The most distinctive feature of idle games, the player will advance through the game even when not actively playing. In most cases this takes the form of accruing resources.

 

Exponential Growth

The other distinctive feature of most idle games is exponential growth, one minute you are poking away mining at one metal a second and the next you need scientific notation to keep track.

 

At times this is at odds with the passive progress. In some games you have to actively be involved to take advantage of the exponential growth, it can be the case where a night’s progress is equivalent to a few minutes of upgraded progress.

 

Explorative

Pretty much every idle game is at some level an exploration game. A common theme for idle games is to start by only showing you the most basic mechanics and unlocking more through play, a few have gone farther and included a narrative experience that unfolds at the same time. Extra Credits did a episode called The Waiting Game on this kind of exploration that does a decent job of covering it

 

Mechanics Driven

While an idle game is mechanically simpler than most other games idle games expect you to get your hands dirty dealing with the numbers. Most games take pains to hide the nitty gritty of how things work to streamline the user experience, idle games turn tweaking those mechanics into most if not all of the game.

Trimps Simple
One thing to click, doesn’t start much simpler than this.
Trimps Complex
Five different sections, lots of elements and constantly filling bars, big numbers. It takes some time to work up to this.

New Game +

Another common theme is resetting the game to gain a resource that can be used buy things that will persist through these resets. This makes it easier to stretch out the content and allows the player to re experience material in a new way, generally reinforcing the player’s growth.

 

Other Considerations

In addition to the above elements there are lots of other things to consider when look at idle games.

 

Level of Interactivity

One of the big mistakes idle games can make is, ironically enough, requiring too much attention from the player. Generally it involves requiring the player to be constantly buying more resource producers Trimps Simple.pngor upgrades to keep up with the exponential growth and is often found in games that feature resetting.

 

Auto ClickersCheat

Many idle games involve clicking to get resources. These games have to deal with the existence of auto clicking scripts. Some games ignore them while other design around them. Generally speaking it’s a choice between making clicking a useful activity later in the game and limiting the value of auto clickers.

 

Ludum Dare 34

This last weekend in Seattle we hosted many of our local developers for Ludum Dare 34.

To see all the teams in action the talented Sash Retief has uploaded pictures he has taken over the weekend to his gallery

Here are all the games presented at this game jam, if the Ludum Dare post lacks identification or contact information it has been included underneath.

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Sentient Sewage

Blake O’Hare

http://www.blakeohare.com

 

A clever game game the revolves around deforming water to knock around bricks of chlorine, It’s a striking visual style and fairly slick, and seriously he should wear gloves.

Also worth noting that this is written in Crayon, a language created by Blake.

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Need for Seed

Bilgem Cakir

https://twitter.com/bilgemcakir

 

A simple platformer, jump around dodging giant mutated crows and collecting seeds. Written entirely in about 600 lines of C++

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Racing Enthropy

 

Eliot Hemmingway

http://tangletowngames.blogspot.com/

 

A procedurally generated puzzle game. The player places different elements on the ground to contain disasters and help a plant grow it’s way to the goal.
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Marble Tree

 

Semih Energin, Sergio Paolantonio, Leo Langinger, Carl Craig Juarez

http://leolangingermusic.com

https://soundcloud.com/ntopia

 

A slick puzzle game that involves building a tree of marbles from the top down under some constraints.

stage

Madodiji

 

A game that works best with a touch screen, you must maneuver your character around the field dodging enemies and collecting food.

This was created by our two youngest jammers, Nate and De Ford, 9 years old.

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AngryPeopleHateFlowers

 

A local multiplayer VR game for the Vive. One player is planting flowers with a slingshot from a tower while the other is cutting them down.

 

Ritchie Thai

RitchieThai.com

 

Evie Powell

http://vergeofbrilliance.com/

@parasiteevie

 

Yonas Berhe

@sanoysanoy

https://github.com/YonasBerhe

 

Louis Graham Vichy

https://github.com/louisgv

 

Ket Ng

@slift

ketng.com

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Dryad

 

A puzzle game in the form of a platformer. The player has limited energy that they must spend on various modes of movement to get to the end.

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The Implausible Zone

 

A simple RPG maker.  Has good music, a great voiceover, and some solid humor.

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Kingdom by the Sea

Jesse Freeman

@jessefreeman

http://jessefreeman.com/

 

You have to develop your kingdom in this procedural turn based puzzler. This is made difficult because you game is limited to the life of one monarch, which is a variable amount of time.

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Super Holiday Snake

In this game you try to be the last elf standing in this arena containing an ever growing snake.

 

The game also contains websprockets for local multiplayer and drop in play.

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Sushi Pit Cephalopod

In this game you control a tentacled sushimaster. Ideally you play this game with 4 controllers with each tentacle being controlled by a stick but you can also use the keyboard. The goal is to coordinate your tentacles to knock the sushi over a pit to your assistant.
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Interstate 34

Livio De La Cruz

https://twitter.com/LivioDeLaCruz

http://superheroesinracecars.com/about/

 

In this game you race down the track and knocking aside smaller cars while avoiding larger ones.

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Sproutsong

Andrew McPherson

@ehgoodenough

 

Clear weeds, plant seeds, harvest crops, and sell them at the market. This game pretty much has it all.

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Inflorescence

 

Two buttons and the mouse, this is a clever game that ties your health, the game speed, and your ammo to a single resource

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Vice Grip

A simple platformer with some good jumping puzzles and a final boss fight.

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Super Secret Self Aware Desert Dash

 

You take the role of an escaped BigDog speeding down a Nevada highway and fending off your pursuers with a growing bag of secrets.

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Melissa

http://www.imagossoftworks.com/team/

An interesting idea executed well, a simple choice between X and Y. This may not be your game if you are squeamish.
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Zoom Zoo

Nick Cooper

 

A 4 player local multiplayer racing game with power ups, all for the low price of 8 keys.

 

A special thank you to Tree of Audio for helping so organizing up and helping so many different teams with their audio.

 

Evan WItt

@wittynotes

https://soundcloud.com/evan-witt

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjeI517oeSk5pttCWEBzYCw

 

Leo Langinger

http://leolangingermusic.com/

 

Carl Juarez

 

Individuals winners with their prizes

 

Nate Buck With Sushi Pit Cephalopod:  Fire TV Gaming Edition‎

Livio De La Cruz Fire TV

Blake O’Hare Fire TV

 

Teams

Dryad For First

Melissa Second

Racing Enthropy Third

Marble Tree ChronosVR

 

None of this would have been possible without our wonderful sponsors

 

SURF Incubator

Amazon Appstore

Wimmer Solutions

Epson

Chronos VR

Stress Ninja

Dropleaf

Pulpo Games

Stumbling Cat

Verge of Brilliance

Archive Entertainment

 

 

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