Due to other activities, I haven’t gotten round to much coding in the last few days. However, a lot of thinking happened that is equally, if not more important.
In spite of my previous discussion about the game’s objectives, I’ve decided to take the ‘shopping’ path after all. Since none of the actual racing has been implemented, hardly any time is lost. So the game’s objective will be to gather as many items as you can, in a limited amount of time.
Recall that one objection I had was that a time limit on shopping feels arbitrary. The solution is to give the player unlimited time, but to put a limit on fuel instead. I think this will create a huge amount of tension in the game, because every move you make burns a little bit of your precious limited resource – yet you have to burn it to get anything done. Efficient steering and navigation are automatically rewarded, giving the player something to improve upon. I’ll put a bit of the uncontrollable control scheme back, for mayhem’s sake, and because a crash isn’t as disastrous as in a race.
Another objection was the lack of ‘discrete’ objectives: a yes-or-no condition, or a ‘staircase’ of different levels of achievement. For this, I took a clue from actual supermarkets: they often hand out stamps or coupons for each €10 or something that you spend on groceries. A similar setup has the player strive to gather this minimum amount of cash, to get at least one coupon. For a certain number of coupons, say 10, you can unlock the next level. Another ‘discretization’ will be how well you rank amongst the competing players; ranking first will earn you a gold medal, and certain numbers of medals will unlock special items.
The third objection against ‘shopping’ was the need for a good AI. That remains a challenge and a bit of a risk. But it’s a technical challenge – my specialty. And lots of fun to build as well.
Another aspect that received a lot of thought lately, also from my friends (thanks!), are powerup items, things that you can use against your opponents. I almost posted the complete list of wacky items here, but I will refrain from that, because it’s a bit of a spoiler. But the list is not final – if you have any crazy and great ideas about what you could do with items in a supermarket, by all means, let me know!