Sunday, January 25, 2009

An interesting premise?

Today I was doing some research for an annoying (read: rubbish) physics homework, why it is rubbish is another story! Basically, we had to research how theories of light had changed through time. However, it was quite interesting reading about ancient (BC times) theories of atoms.

The basic idea is that all things are made up of four atoms (indivisible things, not the modern scientific meaning of an atom, which is entirely divisible): Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Each of these has distinct shapes made up of triangles (not so indivisible then). Now obviously many games have used the idea of four elements before and it is largely just a different reality, usually one with fate, magic spells and goblins.

However, what I am suggesting is, supposing they were correct from a scientific point of view. From this base, work through the whole of Physics, Chemistry and Biology to create a world based on these scientific truths. And to make it a bit more interesting, define a few rules. First, each of these atoms have unique properties that exhibit themselves in whatever they are in. The higher the ratio of them within the molecule, the stronger the effect, but even with one, there would still be some effect. Second, where scientific questions are ones that have been raised before, you use another theory that has also been superseded by something else. For example, if you get to the question of light, take the aether to be correct.

The question is, would this create an interesting and believable alternate world to set your game in, or would it be minor differences that make no difference. Also, can interesting things come out as true, ie. can magic work?

Here are a few ideas I have come up with, I might try to expand this at some point, but working through 2500 years of science without the ability to experiment may take some time!

Earth (prthivı) -Mass: 2, Fluidity: 0, Gravity: 3, Repulsion: 5, Temperature: 3, Temperature Resistance: 5

Fire (tejas) - Mass: 0, Fluidity: 0, Gravity: 0, Repulsion: 0, Temperature: 5, Temperature Resistance: 3

Water (apas) - Mass: 1, Fluidity: 4, Gravity: 1, Repulsion: 1, Temperature: 2, Temperature Resistance: 4

Air (vayu) - Mass: 0, Fluidity: 5, Gravity: 0, Repulsion: 0, Temperature: 1, Temperature Resistance: 2

I'll quickly explain my thinking behind these labels. To find out an objects properties, you add up the figures of its containing elements and divide it by the total number of elements (except with mass, gravity and temperature). The mass of an object is how heavy to pick up. Fluidity is it's ability to stay together. If it's fluidity is greater than the repulsion of the thing surrounding it, then the excess fluidity is converted in to motion. For each point of gravity, the atom can attach to that number of atoms, (note, only requires one of the atoms to have it) Any left over draws objects near it (relative to the total size of the molecule) and a velocity equal to the amount left over. Temperature is the temperature of the object. If an object touches another object and the temperature is greater than the temperature resistance of the other object, the second object is annihilated.

I quite like base rules and working up from them. A once read a description in a game design book (Game Architecture and Design, Andrew Rollings) giving an example of emergent game play. In the example, the players are travelling somewhere (I think it is an MMO, but definitely doesn't exist yet). It is cold and they are going to freeze. All they have on them is something that burns at a very cold temperature. However, one of the players remembers that being in the centre of a flame raises the temperature by a few degrees. Still cold, but enough to keep them alive. This would be taking emergent rules to the extreme.

Sorry for the lack of posting, I have a couple of posts in the works. One on programming a unit to move from one location to another (surprisingly complicated) and the other on planning your project. FK, my current project, has had a couple of good weeks with solid progress being made. I hope to have a working province by the end of February, complete with animations and maybe even a building which actually creates the unit.

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