State of the game, January 2018


Automaton Designer is my first commercial indie game project. My goal is to release the game for desktop platforms (Windows, OSX & Linux) at the end of 2018.

Inspired by cellular automatons and complex systems, Automaton Designer is a game about crafting intelligent automatons that autonomously solve specific tasks

I quickly knew the core gameplay would be assembling modules (sensor, movement propeller, energy storage, spike etc) together to create automatons. But assembling modules together is not enough to create behaviours. Modules must be able to communicate information to each other (ex : a sensor gives a direction to a movement module). This adds a second core gameplay, choosing how to connect the modules to craft a behaviour.

I started by creating simple automatons that players would have to design in hypothetical levels of the game. I went trough a few iterations:

First tests, with modules linked together directly on the grid.

I continually worked on improving the system itself to make it simpler and more elegant. For example, there is no priority property anymore as modules don't have properties anymore, just connections to other modules.

The purple modules used to represent a unidirectional movement propeller. It doesn't exist anymore and has been replaced by one movement module that can go in any direction.

I also tried with a two-view creation system where linking is done outside of the grid and automatons have predetermined shapes that can hold a limited number of modules.
For the context, the goal of this level is to create an automaton capable of gathering green nutrients,  bringing them to the light emitting automaton and then starting over. This is an example of an medium / advanced level.

I finally choose to go with the first idea, linking the modules directly on the automaton, without going through a separate flowchart view. It's simpler and more elegant (and it's already nerdy enough. We  don't need to add a "flowchart gameplay" !).

The following image shows two simple levels and two other automatons. See how the system is used not only for player-generated content (the automatons) but also the level design itself (the unlockable door in the second level "The Key") :

I currently have a prototype of the game with level loading, a drag&drop automaton editor with budget, module cost and some basic module linking for behaviour crafting (only movement and sensing for now). My next goal is to extend the game to be able to support more advanced systems like in the "Autonomous Following Key" automaton example.

Stay tuned and see you next time !

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