I had a game idea floating around for a while and only just started implementing it heavily over the past week. That might not be completely true, I’ve been working off and on for the past month but had too much going on to devote any meaningful time on it. I’m hoping that writing about it will help me get a better understanding of the game and maybe solidify any ambition with the project.

Idea: Deprogram your habits

The only way to reprogram out habits is to know what our habits are, so we need someone that learns our habits and forces us to unlearn our habits. In Behavior Psychology, we know that our habits become reinforced when our reward systems are triggered by our actions. Good rewards to actions reinforcing the belief that our actions are good. Hitting the ‘?’ block gives a rewarding sound, coin +1, power-up which reinforces the action for players to hit ‘?’ blocks as they appear in hopes of more “rewards” of appearing. Slashing the tall grass in Zelda teaches the player that life hearts, rupees, free weaponry can be found and when we are in need of that reward, we reinforce that habit by performing the action of slashing the tall grass. (Music Change) When we know we will be rewarded, we become more likely to perform actions that propagate that reward.

This game is gonna make me Operant Learn all over my new jeans, damnit.
This game is gonna make me Operant Learn all over my new jeans, damnit.

This same principle works with extinguishing a behavior. You can punish a behavior in order expect an outcome to occur. Positive Punishment is when something bad happens because you did something bad. Samus stood in the lava too long and died, so you don’t want to stand in the lava anymore. You took a shortcut in Mario Kart and fell off of the map, so you’re less likely to do it again. Negative Punishment is when some good doesn’t happen due to your bad action. Either of which that you choose, the goal of both is to cause a decrease in a particular behavior.

How can I apply this idea to a full on game, even a small one? Something that’s more meaningful than just a series of death and lose conditions? Something that emphasizes unlearning your habits?

The setting: You’re in a maze. Little light, little knowledge of your surroundings. You can sense the enemy(s), but don’t see them until it’s too late

The goal: Survive for 10-30 seconds while running around the maze

The Enemy: An enemy(s) that chases you throughout the maze. Doesn’t stop until you die.

The Catch:

  1. Every time you survive, you get brought back to the beginning and need to survive again. (Let’s say 10-20 times)
  2. Every time you start over, the enemy(s) learn your movement patterns, and adapt to them.

Ancillary Motivation:

I’m not a story writer, so I don’t expect to build anxiety and tension through clever writing, dynamic characters, or complete artistic tone. That being said, being gripping yet fun gameplay is something that I try to emphasis when I talk about game design and that I hope comes out of this project, regardless of how far I get through it. I should have some time Mid-July in order to get something going while I transition between cities.

 

The Enemy Mind:

I have a few ideas for the learning to happen.

  1. Location Based – This is the idea that based on where you are, where are you likely to go?
  2. Movement Based – Based on the map, what are your actions likely to be?
  3. Pattern Based – With what you can see, what is the likely direction you will go to?

 

The general logic for the enemy starts out rather simple. The Enemy travels randomly until it “senses” you, then calculates the best path towards you and go there. As the stage continually resets, the Enemy learns a few of your behaviors predicts where you’ll be until it “senses” you, then calculates the best path to find you.

I’ll throw up some screenshots in another post once I get a better understanding of how I want the prototype to interact. Let me know if this sounds interesting or not. I’ll read the criticism, though I may or may not heed them.

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