Our game is a combination of farming simulator, creature collecting, and bullet hell where players will need to strategically build a farm, grow plant-creatures, and defend their farm from incoming monsters. The game begins by setting up the narrative (explaining how you became a farmer) and walking through the core mechanics of growing crops/creatures, battling enemies, and upgrading your farm.
(Concept art for our game)
Our story takes place on a farm near a small rural town. The town is full of interesting characters that will both help you and depend on you as you develop your farm. Unfortunately, your farmland is surrounded by an enemy-infested forest that you’ll need to clear out if you hope to expand.
You inherited a small plot of land from a deceased relative, and you want to use this land to become a farmer! As you progress, you will need to expand your farmland by clearing out the surrounding forest. This destruction angers the guardian spirit of the forest, and they send waves of enemy monsters to try to destroy your farm and send you packing. Will you be able to build the farm of your dreams and create a life for yourself in a new town all while fighting off an angered spirit?
- Quirky. Our game takes inspiration from the farming sim genre, a genre which has produced many successful but formulaic games over the years. We want to give players a fresh and distinct experience by subverting any expectations that they might bring from other games. Moreover, we want to keep players on their toes as they discover a variety of comedic plant-creature and weapon types.
- Mysterious. While it is common for stories to leave little room for interpretation, we want our world to be intentionally vague. By nature, our game can raise many questions. What is the origin of the plant-creatures? Where do they go when we sell them? What happens to them there? We hope to give players the space to create their own complete narratives by imagining the answers to these questions themselves.
- Satisfying. We want our game to convey the feeling that “there’s nothing like an honest day of work on the farm”. It is important to us that players can see their farms progress and feel accomplished when they defeat the current wave of enemies.
Our target audience is people who are fans of both farming sims and monster-collecting games, as well as those who enjoy ridiculous premises that combine a cute/whimsical aesthetic with potentially darker themes. The game will involve a combination of twitch and strategic gameplay, so the ideal player would be comfortable with both.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The general gameplay would follow the activities of farming plant-creatures, expanding or leveling up the farm, and battling enemies to defend the farm and progress the narrative. Within this, the plant-creatures serve many possible roles up to player control, including using them as assistive battlers, selling them for money, or consuming them for recovery or other benefits.
(Gameplay example taken from “Archvale”, featuring similar mechanics)
Specific mechanics we discussed including and iterating on to further this gameplay revolve around fostering the plant-creatures and their uses, battling, and narrative.
- Creatures would be grown via seeds and management typical of a farming simulator, and when ready to harvest, the quality or “grade” of the plant-creature depends on how successful the raising process was.
- Creatures would be able to be consumed for health/experience, used in battle a la the specific creature’s ability, or sold for money.
- Money would be used to buy new seeds, expand the land, upgrades to equipment, etc.
- Creatures would be nameable and capable of growing stronger through leveling or some form of training.
- We have still been considering exactly how expendable we would like to design the creatures to be. Different types of plant-creatures should also have different abilities useful for the farm and/or battling, such as having a scout for enemies, defensive capabilities on the farm, or boosting attack.
- For main battles, the farmer would be equipped with a hose-like gun which can also be upgraded with money.
- For example, to have stronger output or different nozzle-sprays (large bursts, rapid wide spray).
- Battling would involve clearing waves of enemies, and after a cleared wave enemies could drop rewards and potentially bring one to a narrative moment.
- Outside of narrative, the game would involve endless gameplay.
- We would still need to iron out what losses would mean, such as if it is just a respawn and continue, what losses would be suffered, etc.
Key design challenges
(Gameplay example taken from “Trigger Witch”, featuring more similar design/aesthetics)
- Endless waves. Games with a limitless number of levels can be appealing for players seeking to refine their strategies over time and get in the rhythm of the game. However, this presents a particular challenge with ensuring the game stays fun and does not become mundane after the first few waves. We will need to find ways to incentive players to continue playing. This includes increasing difficulty levels, new enemies, and greater access to plants and abilities.
- Battles vs. growing. Our game concept revolves around two phases, a battle phase and a grow phase. We must ensure that the experience between these two phases is clear so players intuitively understand the tasks they can and must complete in each phase. Potential solutions include a day/night cycle.
- Clean interface. As a game that will include a variety of enemies, plants, and mechanics, it’s important the game does not become too visually cluttered. We must keep key information readily available (e.g. remaining resources) and provide simple ways for players to interact with the environment (how does planting work? How do the battle mechanics function?).
- Maintaining narrative. The format of our game is not particularly conducive to deep storytelling, although we would like the player to be immersed in our story. We must find a way to smoothly and cleverly maintain a narrative throughout the game. We may want to avoid cutscenes and blocks of text and instead embed narrative elements within the naming/actions of plants/enemies.
Key tech challenges
- Lack of familiarity with Unity engine. Most of our team will be learning from the ground up to develop this game.
- Creature AI. Especially for enemies. We will likely need to program different behaviors and patterns depending on creature type and environment i.e. obstacles, health, etc.
- Collision detection. We need to have good hit registration for projectiles and damaging abilities as well as prevent things such as characters from phasing through walls or getting stuck.
- Efficiency/Framerate. It is important to make sure game runs efficiently and doesn’t exceed resource budget. We should prevent memory leaks and excessive tax on the computer or game engine.
- Networking. We need to ensure strong, reliable connection for consistent response rates if we want to have an option for co-op/multiplayer.
Key art challenges
(On left, a pig-like watermelon creature. On right, a small, sentient turnip.)
- Appealing bestiary. A monster-collecting game needs to offer an interesting variety of creatures so players will be motivated to discover, collect, and form attachments to them! For these designs, we want to blend plant and animal parts in creative ways and potentially build out evolutionary lines to further encourage discovery.
- Consistent visual language. Friendly monsters (AKA the player’s crops) and enemy monsters should be visually distinct and easily identifiable at a glance while still adhering to a cohesive overall game aesthetic.
- Strong atmosphere. The farm environment should be pleasant and engaging so the player will be motivated to grow and maintain their farm.
Before settling on the direction of our current concept, we discussed many different ideas for our game, ranging from cyberpunk to fantastical exploration to interactive online texting. See the many distinct moodboards and ideation our team went through here: