King Machine Spider Walker

On June 26, 2011, in King Machine, by bateleur

Tuning joint behaviour in King Machine is difficult and not very sexy, but now everything's working to my satisfaction I can make cool things like this:

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4 Responses to “King Machine Spider Walker”

  1. Paladin says:

    I'll adopt the counterpoint of my last comment, which focused on the optimistic potential the concept of King Machine has for a large public.

    "Tuning joint behaviour in King Machine is difficult and not very sexy."

    I'll assume you to talk about the current UI rather than the last weeks' coding, and state that while the result is impressive, the process seems a bit tedious to newcomers. You could very well imagine that, after all, building contraptions is a geeky thing that almost exclusively appeals to a dedicated population who's willing to actively learn the language of the game(*). Unfortunately, no self-respecting nerd would run any piece of personal software on Mac OS or Windows – the only OS that natively support Untiy as I write – leading to a harassing long-term support plan you didn't want this project to end with.

    Therefore are you restricted to make your game enjoyable by as many people as possible (and for the better, IMHO). Concerning that, I have only one advice : better take your public for dummies. In their respective domains, World of Warcraft and Magic: the Gathering have many things in common, but the one I want to focus on is that they are far (FAR !) more complicated than their players are willing to admit, especially since those people are usually talking about the game in order to sell it to their relatives. What's more, none of them ever had a newcomer-friendly tutorial/rulebook during years after launch (and this is still true for paper Magic). The only reason why people get over the complexity of these two products is because they're social experiences in which other players are always happy to answer your questions (which can't be said of most online games where "newbie" = "fxxxing mxrxn").

    You won't have that chance. (Dramatic jinggle.)

    And that's a challenging problem (which means "fun" in my language). If something such as LightBot ( seems to be a a funny little thing to programers, but a mindbreaking puzzle to most people, you'll have a hard time inciting the same people to set their own subobjectives by designing their own action recorders and action blocks. Minecraft is able to let people imagine what they can do and exactly how, regardless of every guide, because all its commands are moving, hiting, combining, puting. Redstone (i.e. circuits of logic knots allowing automated tasks) is a good feature for advanced players, but the game was satisfying before its implementation. And as core as you want robot-building-from-scratch to be, most players aren't ready for something more complicated than The Incredible Machine (even more in 3D). If you develop enough content for such people (premade bots parts and all the fuzz), you'll grow your user base, and the interest to all the "advanced" features.

    In every case, I'm still pretty enthusiast concerning King Machine. I just wanted to express my dislike of the common belief that most people are willing to master complicated forms of entertainement, on the sole pretext that those are as fun as they're deep. I'll never integrate the whole rulebook of any paper-pencil RPG, the Magic Rules Compendium, or the characterisics of every unit in a given RTS – not because I'm not smart enough for but because it looks like work, not fun. And programing (even bots) looks like work for most people.

    -insert a positive and lighthearted conclusion here, reminding that the game is freaking awesome-

    *(I personally wish my cat to become part of a dedicated population who's willing to actively train its cooking skills – the neighbours' one already pours her dry food in her water bowl !)

  2. Dom Camus says:

    Yes indeed, I agree with pretty much all of that.

    As far as joint use goes, currently they are annoying and fiddly to an unacceptable degree. I don't think even the most techy people like using bad UIs and even if they were prepared to put up with it I don't think I'd want to inflict that on them! Changes will certainly happen, but I want to hold off on that as long as possible because until I've played more of the game myself I don't know what the UI should be.

    As far as general accessibility goes, the building tasks in the game are unlikely to force the kind of complexity levels seen in this example. My preferred approach is for the game's level structure to teach techniques gradually, but by allowing the player to encounter them rather than through any kind of explicit tutorial.

    WoW and Magic face major problems that I don't, since both attempt to capture very large markets. Indeed, Magic's recent attempts to focus away from its high end players and embrace its wider market have been to the detriment of the game as I see it. Accessibility is good, but only so long as it doesn't come at the expense of what makes your game worthwhile.

  3. Paladin says:

    I partly identified my frustration concerning the last video. One part is that I'd like to be able to make these spiders walk, as I'd like to become a prodigy pianist when I watch one playing – preferable in less than 24 hours. The other part is that the more I watch, the more I find KM awe inspriring, and the more I realize I couldn't share my excitement by showing the game in its current form. That's probably common to most pre-alpha designs, and you shouldn't have to suffer my critics and hubris at that moment.

    That said, call me a naive optimist, but I see King Machine able to capture a market as large as the aforementioned blockblockbusters. 'could be worth keeping that in mind when imagining your average player.

    Now some questions on the demo itself :

    1 – The video is pretty fast. How much time did you actually spend building the spider ?

    2 – Can logic blocks be enlarged ? Of so, is it possible to build a whole giant bot before shrinking it in size in one step ?

    3 – Do you plan to make blocks' weight customisable ?

  4. Dom Camus says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. The project's still at a fairly early stage currently, so if current footage makes it look a bit awkward that's probably an accurate reflection of its state! 😉

    On to the questions:

    1) I didn't time the building process, but the footage I ended up with was 12m long before cuts and speeding up. That said, that's with me doing the building and I've had a fair bit of practice already.

    2) There are currently only two sizes of logic blocks, but this will almost certainly change. Scaling physical objects is another matter… I'm thinking probably not unless I can find some way around the problem of very thin/narrow things behaving really badly under PhysX. That said, there will probably be some way to build complex logic that doesn't occupy much physical space – not so much for the main gameplay as to support people who want to use King Machine as a sandbox.

    3) There will definitely be blocks of different densities. Whether or not block density can be adjusted during play I'm not yet sure. It falls into a wide category of tools which have obvious applications but are possibly a bit too weird. Again it's the kind of thing I'd consider adding as a sandbox feature.

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