Sunday, 22 November 2009

Levels, Mechanisms, and Mixing

So, here's something exciting:

The video capture doesn't see the mouse pointer, but this is me bringing up the level select menu, choosing a level, and loading it. The level in question features Hugh (our intrepid protagonist) stepping on a pressure pad, which unleases red paint on a water wheel. The wheel turns, and drives a set of gears (via belts which aren't being drawn yet - oops!), and opens a trapdoor, which lets the red paint flow into a vat of blue paint, mixing to make purple. It's all done in ropey placeholder graphics, which is likely to be the norm for a while, until we find a suitable artist, but there are some pretty cool things happening here:

  • A way to define levels in data files (XML in this case), which is massively speeding up the pace of our work. We're also putting effort into turning this into a fully-fledged graphical level editor.
  • Sensible and sane interactions between fluid and solid things. This is a biggie - it's hugely important to the game, it's taken us months to perfect, but perfect it we have. The wheel turns like you'd expect it to, the crates float. Hugh pushes paint around as he walks (we're not sure if that's going to happen in the final game, but it's pretty cool to watch for now).
  • The beginnings of physics "toys" with which to build the puzzles. Admittedly "step on button, wheel turns, drawbridge opens" isn't much of a puzzle, but it proves that mechanisms like this can work.
  • Paint mixing. We imagine that a fair few puzzles in the game will involve mixing colours of paint which you're not provided with at the start of the level, so getting paint mixing in (and looking reasonably nice, if I do say so myself) is a nice milestone to have hit.
Getting the fluid physics right has taken a painfully long time. But now it's done, things should progress much more quickly from here on in. We've proved it can be done, we've proved (at least to ourselves) that watching this stuff splash around is strangely compelling, and the job of creating cool machinery to interact with the fluid is a considerably faster and more fun process than the mind-melting frustration of hardcore physics R&D. Things are looking up!