Ludum Dare: Evolution

It has begun!

105 minutes ago the theme was announced: Evolution.

Fuckin’. Lame. Or so I thought. There’s already tons of games based on evolution, I thought. One could argue that basically every RPG is themed around evolution to some degree, and obviously the Pokemon games and their many imitators and proteges are inspired by that idea. This was what went through my mind in the first minute or two.

But. Is that really the case?

There’s a few ways the word evolution has been used and misused. I’m not going to get too deep into that right now because it would take a lot of energy and anger to do the topic justice and I need to save some of that energy for, you know, actually making my game project. The upshot is this, though: How many games are about the actual process of evolution, of natural selection to fill a niche?

Honestly? Not many.

So yeah. My first idea was some sort of platformer where the more you used certain skills the better they get and the less you used other skills the weaker they’d get, forcing you into a sort of metagame where you’d try to develop a well rounded character to get past obstacles. This is certainly closer to the ideals of natural selection than, say, Pokemon, but is hardly true to the process.

Also, I’m pretty sure other people will be doing basically that same idea, so that makes it less appealing.

That idea only lasted in my head for a few minutes before I decided that I’d prefer to try to hew as closely to the idea of evolution via natural selection as possible. So. Here’s my current idea:

We have a world with randomly generated creatures. They have stats in different areas, such as their tendency to follow or avoid each other, approach or avoid other species, graze or hunt, etcetera. Each associated stat has a trade off of one sort or another, such as size making a creature hardier but making it require more food. These groups of species would breed, with random number generators affecting these stats to one degree or another. Over time, natural selection should let these animals fill niches, which alone should be fun to watch.

I’m still deciding exactly how this will play out, but I think the watchword will be equilibrium. I imagine the player as The Hunter, a creature that feeds on other creatures for sustenance and to become strong. The stronger the creatures The Hunter eats, the stronger she becomes, so it is in her best interest to make sure there’s a strong population of animals. However, the more strong they are, the greater a threat they can pose to The Hunter, so she must maintain balance between the different populations to keep them from wiping themselves or each other out while still giving them as much reign to grow as possible.

This is the basic idea.

For tonight, my goal is simply to get a population of creatures up and running and hopefully interacting with each other to some degree. I would like to see some varied terrain for animals to be differently adapted to– which actually suggests a different more toy-like game where the player can redefine the terrain to see how that changes the behavior and evolution of the species occupying the land. Also pretty interesting.

Which would you guys prefer to see?

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