I decided to keep my twelve second physics game relatively simple. I decided to create a game about balancing objects, using simple 2D rigid bodies.
The prototype was relatively simple to get working. A rectangle with a rigid body is balanced on a cube that acts as a pivot. Blocks placed on either side can be used to cause it to tip or be counterbalanced. Using this I explored various different ideas to see if I could create interesting gameplay.
I created a way for players to spawn blocks that could be dropped onto the beam. I realised that counterbalancing could be an interesting mechanic for gameplay, so I limited the player to only being able to spawn blocks on one side.
Blocks could then be placed that players would have to figure out how to match in terms of balance on their side of the beam. I froze the beam during the block spawning so that it wouldn’t tip, and added the ability to unfreeze it if the player wants to see if it is balanced. However this meant that players could then match the opposite side pretty easily and wasn’t much fun.
To add depth, I created a a system that allowed players to change the size and material of the blocks that were being placed. Each block would then have its mass changed according to the material. I initially chose wood, metal and granite as the materials that could be switched between. Wood had as mass of 2, metal a mass of 4 and granite had a mass of 6 at their base size. Meanwhile changing block size modifies the mass. At the smallest size, blocks keep their original mass, while the medium block has a modifier that doubles the base mass, and the largest block triples it.
In order to prevent players matching the blocks exactly, I implemented a mechanic that limits players to the number of blocks they can place in a level.By defining the weight players would have to counter balance, and then restricting their ability to do so, the game evolved into a puzzle game. I implemented a 12 second countdown for the players block spawning phase to create a time pressure on players, encouraging quick and loose balancing. After those twelve seconds the balance beam unfreezes. It needs to stay balanced for five seconds in order to trigger the win state and allow progression to the next level.
Finally I created special blocks to allow easy level creation, that can have their material and mass easily edited in the inspector. This speeds up the process of level creation and experimentation.
When testing the game with people, the first thing that became evident was that people have different perceptions of whether metal is heavier than granite. As different metals have different densities and are potentially have more mass than rock. To solve this issue, I looked at games like minecraft and the order with which materials scale within that game. I changed granite to obsidian, which is a material with a lesser known mass, and this seems to have solved any confusion.
Secondly there is an issue with mass of objects and sizes not being easily readable and understandable. This means that gameplay felt more like trial and error instead of skill and problem solving. I have experimented with several ways to fix this, including displaying mass on the blocks themselves.
THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS
I really like the concept of this prototype, and thing that it has a lot of potential to be fleshed out further. I think that if more time were to spent on designing the puzzles, then it could be quite a compelling little puzzle game.
In terms of where I could take this project further, I think the readability of the blocks is essential, so would add graphics for the different block materials. I also think the control scheme could be improved as the current key selection for cycling through materials and size, while functional, is a little bit obtuse.
I would also potentially change remove the round timer. While it works, the game might be further improved with a longer duration or with it removed entirely.