Farming System and Concepts

I started by creating a list of elements within the Farming System that I will be needing to think about. I tried to strip it down to a minimum so that we have a system that has a good base foundation to develop next semester. 

What do we need in the system?

  • How do you create plots?
  • How do you plant seeds/ingredients?
  • What demands do the different plants have?
  • How do you figure out when a plant needs water?
  • When will the ingredients be ready to harvest?
  • Will there be any obstacles in the Farming System?

I used my video game research I’d looked at previously to help. I’d played games such as Farmville as they had the prime factors that I will be needing to think about within the farming system for Belljar. Having played through the tutorial and playing a little extra, I found there were lots of things that I thought worked well and that I could think about using as inspiration for Belljar. Some elements were too long winded and didn’t feel like it was needed in the game such as when you click a plot to harvest, the player walks over to the crop and then proceeds to harvest it; all in all, this takes about 5 seconds. Yet, think of it this way, if you had a large number of plots or had a large garden then it would make the game seem really long and take forever for the player to harvest anything and maybe the player wouldn’t want to continue to play.
Researching definitely helped me with inspiration for the farming system as it has shown me what sorts of things work and what doesn’t. This has made me more aware and in turn has influenced my design decisions that I have made for the farming system.

How to create plots?

One of the common themes that appeared in games such as Farmville and Farmerama where that the plots were 4×4 squares. I figure this is to do with space as well as visual aesthetics. If the plots were any smaller, they would hide detail from the player and it would be hard to see any other details like water levels and food meters yet, if it was any bigger, there would be an unnecessary amount that the player doesn’t need to see, which would be taking up screen space and potentially memory too.
Therefore I decided that 4×4 squares would be the better choice as it will make the icons easy to see, the plots would also be large enough for the player to see what’s on the square as well as the plots would slot together easily too.

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Concept for Garden Plot layout

The above Garden design gives the player 27 plot spaces plus a space to plant vines which gives the player a fair amount of space to work with. However, one thing I thought about was as your player progresses, they obtain perks. One of the perks could be that you can expand your garden in order to plant more ingredients with the higher demand you could have from clients. The gardens could connect by bridges over water – so essentially your gardens are bobbing on the water. This sort of visual makes the environment seem more fantasy like and also gives a cute and charming feel to it which is what sort of style we’re thinking about. 
By expanding the plots available, the player can keep up with the commissions from customers as well as keeping your stock up to date. There will be times where the player may not have enough room for the ingredients they need to plant so they will need to be strategic in how they plant their products.
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Above is an idea for a potential layout that there could be. As you level up in perks, you can choose which area you wish to unlock. This gives the player a choice and some individuality to the game. This will be something that we can easily iterate on and test next semester once we’ve planned out some of the commission cards and what ingredients the player could need at the same time etc.

How to Plant the Ingredients?

Due to the large target audience that we have, we have to make sure that it caters to all ages, therefore it has to be simple enough for someone younger to operate it whilst offering the opportunity to challenge the older people in the target audience.
I came up with a couple of iterations for now so as to get a flavour of how this part of the system could work. They are all quite similar with the sort of idea; when I was researching, all of the different games had very similar techniques of planting ingredients. I looked at these and tried to make it slightly different by thinking about my design parameters of the PC screen and the Isometric look. See Sketchbook 4, green tab labelled How to Plant the Ingredients, pages 5-8. 

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The above idea took into account the space of the screen and the parameters. I tried to conserve the amount of space that this could take up. The process of planting an ingredient would be going to the ‘Plant’ icon which will bring up the selection of seeds/ingredients you can pick to grow. You scroll through the options and select the required item and then select a plot in which you would like to grow this ingredient.

So, a recap:

  1. Choose ‘Plant’ icon
  2. Choose an ingredient from the selection
  3. Select a plot in which you’d like to grow the ingredient

Very simple stuff. Easy to understand and easy enough to implement. I made a state machine as to how the process would work:
how-to-plant-ingredients-flowchart

Plant demands?

Some of the ingredients that we’re using in the farming system have certain demands due to it’s growing nature. Earlier on in the project, I looked briefly into some of the base demands of the ingredients we currently have as I needed to see if it would effect the layout of the Garden or Greenhouse environment. See Sketchbook 3, yellow tab Growing Ingredients, pages 132-137. There were some plants that couldn’t be near others and others that grew better depending on what they were growing next to. Having a Farming system that is intelligent would be something really interesting and fun to do. It could also offer the player benefits or consequences. 

Rough Code Design:
Bad Things:

– Roses 
Need to be away from these due to shallow root systems and competing for nutrients:
      – Peppermint
      – Chamomile

If placed next adjacently, then a warning box will pop up telling the player of the sorts of consequences and whether they would like to find another plot or plant there.
If the player ignores the warning and continues to plant in that spot, then the quality of their ingredient will be affected. The quality in ingredient will decrease by a percentage slowly over time and the amount of water you need to give your plants will increase.
The player could still get an ‘okay’ ingredient outcome depending on how long it takes to grow and how well they complete the harvesting mini-game. If say, the Roses only took 5 minutes to grow, the damage might not be so bad as something that takes 30 minutes to grow etc. It depends on how much of a risk the player takes and if they have urgent commissions they need to do and they haven’t got the space etc; it’s the player’s choice.

Another example of this is with the Bay Leaves:

– Bay Leaves need to be away from these due to nutrition competition:
– Pine
      – Ginseng
The same rules as above would apply to this.

Rough Code Design:
Good things:

– Ginseng grows better near to forests or tree ingredients.

If you were to plant the Ginseng next to the Pine, the player will get bonuses such as:
– Time until Harvest is decreased
– The quality of ingredient increases slowly over time

I’ve thought that maybe the player will have access to information on each ingredient by selecting the information ‘i’ button next to it to find out strengths and weaknesses. Therefore for the younger players, they don’t have to know to play the game and will get a warning if they place the ingredient in a place which could cause problems for them. The older players can play strategically by looking at the information or background research on the ingredients to see what could benefit them.
It could be something where through Dungeoneering, you could unlock this sort of information but this is something we could always add in as an extra. See the above state machine ^

Ideas of Obstacles in the Farming System?

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I began thinking about what sorts of things can affect crops and gardening in real life and how I could possibly apply this to BellJar’s fantasy theme. I then began expanding and experimenting with these ideas. See Sketchbook 4, green tab labelled Obstacles, pages 13-26.

Season Demons:
Millie has been working on the Seasons system, yet I thought it may be more visually exciting to have season demons that affect the crops to make it seem more exciting and charming. With this in mind, I began to create some brief and initial concepts of what could constitute this.

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Some Simple Concepts of Season Demons

By stripping back the Seasons, I came up with these four sorts of Demons:  Fire, Ice, Snow and Water. They each would have some sort of effect on the crops when their season was happening, for example, it could work like this:

  • Fire: Dries up and dehydrates the plants and ingredients
  • Ice: Freezes plants causing them to stop growing 
  • Snow: Covers up the plants causing them to stop growing 
  • Water: Over-hydrates/drowns the plants

The idea would be, if you see these heads bobbing around your crops, you click on them repeatedly until they leave. If the Demons come into contact with your crops, they will disappear once you click on them and then you will have to try and bring your plant quality back up by caring for it. 

Creatures/Rodents:
I did some brief research into what sorts of creatures are normally found to be pests in agriculture and farming in order to inspire some concepts for BellJar. There quite a lot to choose from so I tried to get a wide range without going over the top. See Sketchbook 4, green tab labelled Creatures, pages 16-20.
I chose two types of pests to focus on for now as these are only ideas for the sorts of obstacles that we could have in the game. I tried to think about how they could look in a fantasy based setting, however, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be to work on this.
This is the Mole I worked on briefly:

I tried to go ‘cutesy’ on the left and it didn’t look too different from a normal Mole so I tried to make it look harsher and fantasy-like from my research – I found of the Star-Nosed Mole. This one also didn’t work too well as you wouldn’t be able to see the teeth in the mouth due to the Isometric parameters as the detail will be too small to see. I think I’ll leave the creatures idea on the side for now and focus on some other obstacles instead to see what I come up with.

Could Nightmares be an Obstacle?

The Belljar store can only stock good, happy dreams – so where do all the Nightmares go? I thought about how maybe they roam the crops and gardens in order to try and sabotage the potion making process by trying to kill off ingredients and cause trouble. But how could these be visualised? What are people scared of? Does it need to be a specific ‘thing’ – people are all scared of different things but some visuals will be recognised as a bad thing.
I created a Pinterest board with some initial inspiration for what the word Nightmare could symbolise. These are some of the images that I felt described the Nightmares the best in Belljar.

I did some sketches alongside the inspiration images that I felt could work as potential ideas for the Nightmares. See Sketchbook 4, green tab labelled Nightmares, pages 21-26
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Out of the ones that I made, these were my favourites as I felt they would suit the game well and not come across as too creepy. They will be dark coloured to contrast with the bright garden environment as well as to make them easy to spot for the player.
They idea is that they will appear in the gardens at random times (we could use a form of procedural generation for this) and will be around a crop causing the quality of the ingredient to drop if not gotten rid of; it will stay there until you exterminate it by clicking on it. If the player doesn’t deal with the Nightmares in time, then the crop it’s on will wilt and be unusable. This would happen over a long time frame as otherwise, it would be unfair to the player. 

When Do You Know When Your Crops Need Watering?

This was a difficult one to think about as not many of the games that I looked at actually paid much attention to this so I didn’t have much influence or inspiration for this. I began to break it down and think about what we would need in order to work out when the crops would need to be watered. That’s when I came up with the idea that each plant would have a hydration level that was unique to their demands. For example, Bay Leaves need to be watered regularly so their hydration will decrease at a faster speed than, say, Roses as they don’t need to be watered as regularly. This hopefully should be easy enough to code and implement as we would need to test out if the levels worked at the right speeds etc. I’ll have to wait until later on when I’ve worked on the Ingredients fully to work out the rough hydration levels for each one. See Sketchbook 4, green tab labelled Water Level/Hydration, pages 27-30.
As well as this, I had a brief think about the sorts of Icons that I could use to symbolise the water hydration levels visually to the player. I made a few concept ideas which are in my book and then transferred these onto Isometric paper to see how they could look. This definitely helped to see if the ideas would work, I will be using Isometric graph paper to test if elements work as this will help show if they will actually work in the game.

These are the rough concepts that I came up with. The blue sections would be how much water is left on the crop, the empty part is the water that is needed to be given to the plant. The watering can, despite being quite fitting, didn’t work very well as an icon for this as it could be slightly too large and overcrowd the crops. Whereas with the others the sizes can be adjusted and the details won’t be skewed too much and it would still be readable to the player. These are starting points for next semester. 

How do you Know When the Crop is Ready to Harvest?

We decided as a team to make the Harvesting System a mini-game as we wanted to break up the gameplay and also have this so that it could possibly affect the quality of the ingredients you harvest, thus affecting your crafting mini-game and final outcome. This adds a challenge to the game. But how do we lead the player to this once the ingredients are ready to be harvested – smoothly??
I spent a lot of time thinking about this one as a lot of the research that I looked at were simply point, click, harvesting process bar and yay! You have your product. Bearing in mind we wanted a harvesting mini-game, I thought about ways I could link the game to the process easily and smoothly. I explored this in my sketchbook (see Sketchbook 4, green tab labelled Ready to Harvest, pages 31-33) before coming up with an idea of having a menu on the screen that displays the ingredients that you’ve planted.
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The benefit of having this is when the player has expanded their gardens, it may mean that they don’t get a chance to see how all of the plants are doing and whether they are complete. By having a menu on the side, this could help the players. On the menu, the ingredients that are ready to be harvested will be pushed up to the top whilst the ones that are still in farming will be there but have a timer next to them so you know how long you have left until they’re completed. 
Once you have clicked on the ingredient you wish to harvest, it will then take you to the harvesting mini-game where you will participate in a timed/points based game (or both!). This will be designed next. 
The code for this hopefully shouldn’t be too difficult, although, if the mini-game is specific to each ingredient, we need to be prepared that we will more than likely need ten different skins for this to fit each ingredient. I will know more about this once I have designed the mini-game which is next on my list of things to do.

Next Steps:

  • Take the system to code and prototype the individual aspects needed
  • Develop concepts further through more research 

 

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