The Mighty Writer

Posted by (twitter: @miltage)
April 23rd, 2015 2:36 am

It’s been a few days and I’ve had some time to recover most of my lost sleep from the weekend so I thought I’d finally sit down and write a little about my entry and what I did and did not manage to accomplish in those 48 hours.

Upon seeing the theme I instantly thought of the expression “the pen is mightier than the sword” and wanted to incorporate that into my game somehow. I thought about a writer who summons creations from his stories to fight for him. I considered a writer who literally uses a pen to fight, sneaking up on enemies and stabbing them in the throat. I settled on something a little less gory (though not entirely devoid of violence).

I wanted to make a game about a writer recounting an old war story from memory. As he writes the story, the battle plays out behind him, as he recalled it. I loved the idea but did not think I could write a reliable interpreter in such a short time frame. I played around with some other ideas but couldn’t get that one out of my head, so I decided to go for it. The sooner you have an idea, the sooner you can start working and the better the end product will be.

And thus, The Mighty Writer was born.

The Mighty Writer

 

I’m happy with how it turned out, but there are some very obvious flaws and the game is in dire need of some balancing. The concept of writing the actions of the soldiers works well, but with so few possibilities, the game stagnates and becomes boring/tedious fairly quickly. I admittedly did not spend a lot of time playing the game through to the end while developing it, so battles tend to drag on longer than they should, especially with higher soldier counts. This unfortunately adds to the tedium and would definitely be something I fixed were I to work on the project further.

The end result is only a fraction of what I originally planned to accomplish. Look at this list:

  • Game starts in writer’s small apartment. It is obvious from the size of the room and tattered furniture that he is poor. Rain patters softly on the window.
  • Player chooses location of battle from 4/5 possibilities – War torn street, shop interior, train station, library. Writer’s room fades out and battle location fades in.
  • Player chooses time of day – lighting changes to reflect.
  • Player describes the soldiers, picking from several classes, each with their pros + cons – Rifleman, Grenadier, Medic, Sniper. As they describe them, they materialize on the battle field.
  • Player then describes the actions of the soldiers – shooting, taking cover, throwing grenades, healing comrades.
  • Game ends when one of the teams is eliminated.

What I managed to complete:

  • Game starts with writer.
  • Player chooses location from 2 possibilities – indoors/outdoors.
  • Player chooses number of soldiers.
  • Player describes actions of soldiers – shooting, taking cover.
  • Game ends when one of the teams is eliminated.

This is why it’s important to limit your scope. Take whatever you plan to do and half it, and you’ll probably still have more than you can manage to do within the time frame.

I got around writing a complicated interpreter by sticking to very simple rules. This limits the player in how they can structure their commands, but it allowed me to keep my sanity. The subject of the command is always the first word, which is why soldiers only have last names. The second and sometimes third or fourth word is the action of the command. The last few words in the sentence is the target of that action, which is always one of the enemy soldiers.

So in “Carter fires at Soldier 2.”, Carter is the subject, fires is the command and Soldier 2 is the target. You can write anything in between those and it will still work. “Carter fires his high-powered water pistol at the squid-like abomination that is Soldier 2.” for example.

A huge thanks to everyone that has left ratings and comments. Your feedback will be invaluable should I take this project further.

If you’re interested, you can try the game here.


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