Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Technology Side Project: Creating an Invasive Species Computer Game

Lately I've been working on a little side project, which involves figuring out how to make computer games with the game software GameMaker.  The game I've come up with (which is in its early stages!) is called Buckthorn Bash.

Picture 8

The game is intended to consist of a little stand alone ecological simulator.  It contains maples, which grow and try to spread, buckthorn, which grows and tries to spread, and robins, which spread buckthorn seeds but also need trees.  The maple seeds/seedlings die if they touch buckthorn, so usually if left untouched for a while, the buckthorn spreads to the point that the trees can't reproduce, they die of old age, and then the birds die shortly after.  (No one knows if this is exactly what will happen in areas infested with buckthorn, but there is evidence that it inhibits/alters seedling recruitment.)  The simulation is unpredictable though, and every time it is played the results are different.  Last time I loaded it up, the buckthorn in one of the levels died for no explicable reason.  The model could use some tweaking, but I also like that it is emergent like that.

While I like tweaking ecological simulations, I wanted this to be a game, so I introduced this guy (or girl?):

The main character's goal is to manage the forest for maple trees.  How he/she does that is up to you.  But, since the game is under development, your only options so far are to kill the buckthorn with clippers, or to hope it leaves the trees alone long enough that you fulfill your goals without getting rid of it.

Picture 11

The game needs a lot of work, but it is playable right now.  If people like it, I may do more with it, if I have time, so let me know if you like it (or don't like it) as it may influence whether or not I expand the game further.  I have lots of ideas that I could integrate...

Here's a link to the download:

PC : http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/games/184440-buckthorn-bash-demo-for-pc
Mac:  http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/games/184424-buckthorn-bash-demo


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