POSTMORTEM: Pathos – a puzzle strategy game

Posted by (twitter: @McFunkypants)
December 16th, 2012 6:40 pm

I had so much fun this weekend – late nights, inspiration and community.

This also marks the 12th game I made in 2012 – thus successfully completing the 12-in-12 quest. Feels so great! I love my life.

Presenting: PATHOS – A tragic love story and pathfinding puzzle game. PLAY IT HERE!

Click to PLAY!

The brave Princess Pea is on a quest to rescue her one true love, Sir Mushroom.Torment them by building a labyrinth. Can you drive the lovers apart without making it impossible?

Art Credits: Johannes Sjolund, Luke Mehl, FantasyMapMaker, and Piotr Pawlowski. Grateful thanks to the artists above and everyone who participated in the LPC at as well as the Ludum Dare and #onegameamonth communities.

Click to PLAY!

I wrote this game using HTML5 (javascript) using canvas. I’m not using any game engines – this was so simple I just did it from scratch.

Levels were designed using TILED editor‘s export to JSON data. If you’re looking for a great open source level editor for your games, I highly recommend Tiled.

The maps are done in two layers, one for background tiles like grass and flowers, and a second that represents objects that can block pathfinding.

There are 5 levels that you can select from on an overworld fantasy map, with a bonus level that is randomly generated.

This is a turn based strategy game that uses the a-star pathfinding AI algorithm as the base mechanic. Two lovers are randomly placed in the terrain and your job is to spawn new walls in such as way that instead of walking closer to each other for a tender reunion, our intrepid lovers are driven farther and farther apart.

Click to PLAY!

The strategy here is that you can’t make it completely impossible for them to reach each other.

This means that it is GAME OVER if you create a labyrinth in which the two lovers are unable to eventually reach each other.

Why? A true villainous spirit (you) wants to have them never lose all hope – to never give up – but to experience the heartbreak of a love that is just out of reach.

The sound and music is handled bySoundManager2, which uses an invisible Flash sim for compatibility but could use HTML5 sound if it exists. Once browsers “just work” with mp3s I’ll enable this setting.

Click to PLAY!

You can choose to start from any of the six levels. There’s a sandy desert island, a twin rivers bridge level, a lava-filled underground volcano, a grassy lush island and a haunted crypt. Finally, I threw in a basic random level generator for a tiny bit of added replayability.

I hope you like it! I had so much fun making this. Thanks to the Ludum Dare community for being so awesome.

I’d like to flesh out this game engine to build more complex turn-based-strategy games in 2013.

I personally prefer a more cerebral, thoughtful, non-twitch game these days. As 2012 progressed and I found myself getting caught writing games that were technically easy to code (shooters and platformers) I started to come to the realization that I would never generally want to play these kinds of games. I grew out of them decades ago.

Click to PLAY!

Why make the kind of game you wouldn’t want to actually play? This is why I expect to focus on puzzle, strategy and RPG genres in 2013 as I embark on my second year ofmonthly game-making.

This kind of game also lends itself very well to mobile and cross-platform design. Though people have tried to make platformers and shooters on mobile, on-screen joysticks and touch controls on twitch games are frustrating and unsatisfying.

Low-end phones and tablets also struggle to keep up with rendering. I prefer to focus on the kinds of games where I don’t even care what the framerate is.

Turn-based strategy was made for mobile. It works on old computers. It is perfect for busy people who have a coffee in one hand while riding the bus. For relaxing after a long day. There’s enough stress and gunfire in the real world – I want me games to be relaxing, interesting and challenging – like a game of chess or a great novel.

Click to PLAY!

The next step in the development of this simple game engine is to port it to run on my phone using either phonegap or cocoonJS.

If I get enough response from playtesters (please rate and comment upon my game on the Ludum Dare website!) then I will flesh it out into something more complex; more levels, more balancing, additional mechanics. Perhaps even a level editor.

It all depends on whether “it sticks.” This rapid game development technique I’ve enjoyed this year lends itself very well to playtesting. You quickly prototype a game in a weekend, release it to gamedev friends, and see which ideas resonate with others.

This is a valuable technique since many devs find themselves spending an entire year (or more) on a game before letting others try it. Only then do they discover that perhaps their game isn’t going to sell well, or was in need of tweaks to the gameplay.

Click to PLAY!

Creating a dozen prototypes a year is a great way to “throw a whole slew of ideas on the wall” and then find out which ones stick.

Those that do are deserving of further development time and polish.

I think a great idea for my next year’s gamedev would be to work on bringing 1 game out of every 12 I make to fruition. To build it up to professional levels in the hopes of a public commercial launch.

The rest are “incubators” – brainstorms. Mental exercise. A way to hone my skills. To learn new things. And to have FUN! That one reason alone makes them worthwhile – the rest is icing on the cake.

If you’d like to try your hand at rapid game development and prototyping, I warmly encourage you to check out the initial I’ve started called ONE GAME A MONTH. I pitched the idea to a few people on twitter last week and the thing exploded.

The response was more than enthusiastic – it literally went viral. We’ve had over a thousand people sign up.

Your new year’s resolution: join in 2013! Earn XP (experience points) and achievement awards for doing what you love: making games.

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One Response to “POSTMORTEM: Pathos – a puzzle strategy game”

  1. bloxorz says:

    I really like your blog! Continue to write more! Very interesting!

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