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Darwin's Dinner (Devin Kelly-Sneed)

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Darwin's Dinner is a survival game where your actions shape the evolution of the creatures you eat. Explore the island to hunt a variety of species. There is genetic variation among the individuals of each species. After each foraging cycle, time advances to the next year and the remaining animals reproduce. The genes of those you ate will not be passed along to the new generation. Eat all of the slow bunnies this year? You may starve next year when the bunny population is quick to catch. Try to maintain the existing balance or reshape the species as you see fit. With careful food selection over the generations you can drastically change a species. Can you evolve a chicken into a ferocious dinosaur? Each playthrough is a chance to explore the possibilities as you find new ways to survive.

Vote for this to be one of the prototypes we make over on Humble.com

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Hey everyone, Darwin's Dinner is my Amnesia Fortnight 2017 pitch.

I'd love to answer any questions you have about the game!

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i like the idea of shaping the evolution of the species on an island, i have wanted a game like this for quite a while, if you were to turn this concept up to 11 it could be the ultimate god game, shaping the species and the environment of an entire planet, i don't expect that, but i do like this concept, i voted for it.

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Is this more say a learning as you go type game, testing different concepts in evolution to see their inevitable end and use those in the next playthrough to figure out other particular evolutions?  I'd like to know more about the actual technique of the gameplay.  

I'd love to see the art style in the pitch definitely used.

(I'm presenting questions to each pitch of what I feel I need to know more about to make a better informed decision before actually voting)

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1 hour ago, thestalkinghead said:

i like the idea of shaping the evolution of the species on an island, i have wanted a game like this for quite a while, if you were to turn this concept up to 11 it could be the ultimate god game, shaping the species and the environment of an entire planet, i don't expect that, but i do like this concept, i voted for it.

Thanks for your support!

In creating the pitch I definitely considered some of those larger scale ideas, but ultimately decided to scale back to something that I think can be prototyped during a fortnight. I'm glad to hear that there's excitement for that type of game. I see Darwin's Dinner as a chance to prove out a portion of that vision.

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1 hour ago, Reid_Harris_Cooper said:

Is this more say a learning as you go type game, testing different concepts in evolution to see their inevitable end and use those in the next playthrough to figure out other particular evolutions?  I'd like to know more about the actual technique of the gameplay.  

I'd love to see the art style in the pitch definitely used.

(I'm presenting questions to each pitch of what I feel I need to know more about to make a better informed decision before actually voting)

Thanks for your interest!

The game structure will be similar to games like Don't Starve in that when you die you will start over. It's very much about experimenting and learning as you play, then applying your new knowledge in subsequent playthroughs. Players will want to experiment to find evolution paths that help them survive. I hope that some players will also find delight in evolving weird things that aren't actually beneficial. And I'm sure some players will enjoy the challenge of creating new dangers for themselves (e.g. the chicken into dinosaur example from the pitch).

The bunnies/chicken/dino art in the pitch were done by the fantastic Emily Johnstone (check out her pitch too!). I'm really excited about the challenge of developing an art style for this game that can clearly show the various traits of each species. I'll be collaborating with the artists on the team to figure out a style that can accomplish that goal within such a short development cycle.

I'd be happy to clarify and answer any additional questions you have!

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Well, the question definitely comes... I get the eating part.  I assume by literally cooking and eating animals?  Or maybe even skipping the eating?  

How will the merging work though?  Will it be like Doodlegod... merging elements to see what happens but unlike that... everything can merge into SOMETHING?

 

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I like this a lot! I understand this as actively trying to maintain balance (or harmony) while at the same time changing everything, which sounds great to me!

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1 minute ago, Reid_Harris_Cooper said:

Well, the question definitely comes... I get the eating part.  I assume by literally cooking and eating animals?  Or maybe even skipping the eating?  

How will the merging work though?  Will it be like Doodlegod... merging elements to see what happens but unlike that... everything can merge into SOMETHING?

 

It's not actually merging different species. It's selecting for traits within a single species to change it into something else. There will be variation between individuals of the population. There will also be some amount of mutation in the reproduction cycle just like real world genetics. You can influence the following generation by leaving the ones that have the traits you want. It's based on the same process that humans used to create the various breeds of dog. For gameplay reasons, the mutations will have to be faster and more drastic than in the real world.

An example of how that plays out: In one generation you may notice a couple birds that have short wings compared to the others. By trying to keep those alive and hunting the others you will ensure the short wing gene is more prevalent in the following generation. Over a few generations you may be able to create birds with shorter and shorter wings until they become a flightless species.

Does that clarify the idea?

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So far, this one is my favorite :-)

So if eating all the slow bunnies makes the next generation too fast to catch, does eating all the fast bunnies make the next generation too slow to survive against natural predation?

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This sounds really cool.

Will catching the fastest bunnies always be the best strategy, or will doing that lead to armour plated bunnies, or poisonous ones?

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43 minutes ago, Foran said:

So far, this one is my favorite :-)

So if eating all the slow bunnies makes the next generation too fast to catch, does eating all the fast bunnies make the next generation too slow to survive against natural predation?

At least for the prototype I don't plan to depict any interspecies predation during active gameplay. But may try to model it into the reproduction phase. Slow bunnies may end up having a smaller population than if you had quick bunnies. But also  Kludgey's post provides an interesting idea that I feel fits well with my approach to this game:

44 minutes ago, Kludgey said:

This sounds really cool.

Will catching the fastest bunnies always be the best strategy, or will doing that lead to armour plated bunnies, or poisonous ones?

I really like these ideas! Having natural mutations like poison or armor would provide a nice balancing mechanic. I'll have to do some thinking about how many traits/mutations are feasible to get in. But this fits nicely with my approach to selection and evolution.

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Another voter here :P

I really like the idea of simulated environment. How far you want to go with this? Will animals hunt each other etc.?

In my opinion graphics and animations could be sketchy, even not colored line art. You can check out Dom2D's artwork for what I mean. The time could go into making more transition types and species which we would all like I guess. Just came to my mind, there is an interesting prototype SUNWARD on itch.io. Could be inspiration, I don't know.

Good luck with everything :)

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I wonder whether the fun in this idea really is trying to find a balance. I'd think that it might be more interesting to try to push evolution to certain extremes using your influence, and having the goals be centered around achieving that. 

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9 minutes ago, nettleflap said:

Another voter here :P

I really like the idea of simulated environment. How far you want to go with this? Will animals hunt each other etc.?

In my opinion graphics and animations could be sketchy, even not colored line art. You can check out Dom2D's artwork for what I mean. The time could go into making more transition types and species which we would all like I guess. Just came to my mind, there is an interesting prototype SUNWARD on itch.io. Could be inspiration, I don't know.

Good luck with everything :)

Thanks for your support!

For the prototype I'm avoiding animals hunting each other. We may build some effects of that into the reproduction phase (e.g. if a predator species gets more dangerous and prey species gets weaker you may get fewer of the prey species in the following generation).

Thanks for the suggestions for art and that prototype, I'll check them out when I have some free time.

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3 minutes ago, KestrelPi said:

I wonder whether the fun in this idea really is trying to find a balance. I'd think that it might be more interesting to try to push evolution to certain extremes using your influence, and having the goals be centered around achieving that. 

I agree that it will probably be more interesting to upset the natural balance. I hope to tune the game so that players can select the play style that they enjoy.

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Devin, I'm going to leave this here for you. THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES. 

C8nFg4CXgAIKJpF.jpg

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The scope of this, even focused down to a manageable 2 week project time, seems insane. It boggles the mind.

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The essential concept is really interesting and there are some interesting directions you could go with it! I immediately started thinking about it in terms of a strategy/management sort of game. It seems like in a sort of game where you are essentially trying to maintain a constant balance or keep a scale from tipping too far, there would need to be some kind of variable in there trying to introduce chaos or upset the scale.

Maybe another hunter appears on the island who has much less respect for the balance of the ecosystem?

Maybe some invasive new species of fish or insect suddenly appears and if you don't identify it and manage it, it could be devastating to your ecosystem for quite a long time!

I'm curious to see where this goes!

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Really liking this idea. I love games where there are systems in place, but how things progress are based on how the player interacts with those systems to create their own paths which aren't necessarily designed by the creator. Loving some of the ideas here like creatures becoming poisonous, which presumable would be indicated by colouring as it often is in nature. Perhaps then though some just look poisonous in imitation of those that survived the last eating frenzy before the players hibernation (guessing some sort of hibernation for us to give the population a chance to multiply whilst we're not eating them ;) ) Maybe that could be the goal each time, need to eat enough to survive your hibernation, don;t eat enough and you awake in a weakened state, eat too much you get bonuses the next year but the population of creatures becomes to low to flourish, or perhaps suffers from mutations making them less nutritious. Damn it, I'm thinking way too much about this :D 

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11 hours ago, Anemone said:

The essential concept is really interesting and there are some interesting directions you could go with it! I immediately started thinking about it in terms of a strategy/management sort of game. It seems like in a sort of game where you are essentially trying to maintain a constant balance or keep a scale from tipping too far, there would need to be some kind of variable in there trying to introduce chaos or upset the scale.

Maybe another hunter appears on the island who has much less respect for the balance of the ecosystem?

Maybe some invasive new species of fish or insect suddenly appears and if you don't identify it and manage it, it could be devastating to your ecosystem for quite a long time!

I'm curious to see where this goes!

Good point that upsetting the balance at some point will be important. The main way I've been planning on that is through mutations within existing species that crop up over time rather than a new species. The end result is similar to an invasive species, but it's more of an invasive trait within an existing species. Sudden unexpected traits in a species may need to be addressed quickly before they spread to a larger portion of the population.

I like the idea of introducing a new species or a rival apex predator, but am trying to keep the AF prototype version tightly focused on the evolution mechanic. If I ever get the chance to make a full game out of this I think there would be room for those types of events along with environmental events (flood, drought, etc).

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43 minutes ago, Devin Kelly-Sneed said:

Good point that upsetting the balance at some point will be important. The main way I've been planning on that is through mutations within existing species that crop up over time rather than a new species. The end result is similar to an invasive species, but it's more of an invasive trait within an existing species. Sudden unexpected traits in a species may need to be addressed quickly before they spread to a larger portion of the population.

I like the idea of introducing a new species or a rival apex predator, but am trying to keep the AF prototype version tightly focused on the evolution mechanic. If I ever get the chance to make a full game out of this I think there would be room for those types of events along with environmental events (flood, drought, etc).

Hey, it still works for gameplay purposes! Fine with me!

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I like the idea of basically taking Massive Chalice's breeding mechanics and unchaining them from the limitations imposed by the uncomfortable implications of its theme. Having evolution naturally working against you if you eliminate the easiest to catch or most nutritious food is another good twist.

I do worry about the balance of this game and making it fun, since maintaining a delicate ecological balance is difficult and not inherently fun if you're just maintaining the status quo. Particularly for a prototype that doesn't have much time to be tuned, I think it could be cool to have a "rogue-lite" progression system that gives persistent upgrades upon death (perhaps based on the extent to which the player was able to evolve dangerous creatures). That would provide an in-game incentive to fully explore the simulation while also letting players experience while also auto-balancing the difficulty level.

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if I were working at double fine (a man can dream) this would certainly be my choice of game to work on. I think the thing that hasn't been mentioned yer which I think is what will really make this game sing is the idea unique resources coming from unique species. this would reward players better for strange unnatural selection. what I mean is if you get armour from armourdillows to get better armour you need to grow that species to be better. that poison bunny can be hunted for poison arrows until other animals evolve imunity. this means turning your chickens into dinosaurs gives the play a reward beyond just now having dinosaurs.

long term it would be nice to see things like reforestization affect the animals evolution but I am well aware that's an impossible ask for 2 weeks. 

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17 hours ago, majugi said:

I like the idea of basically taking Massive Chalice's breeding mechanics and unchaining them from the limitations imposed by the uncomfortable implications of its theme. Having evolution naturally working against you if you eliminate the easiest to catch or most nutritious food is another good twist.

This gets to a question I had. I'm a voter and this is my favorite project. I was wondering, Devin, if you're planning on using some of the Massive Chalice code as a starting point for traits to make things go faster for AF? From the teamstreams, it seemed like they had good bones for that system. However, here it seems that evolution IS the gameplay, so of course you would want to have impacts on the trait system go up to 11. 

For the simplicity of the prototype, are you going to start with a few basic and very "readable" traits, such as fast/slow, big/small, etc.? Do you have a design document started where you have a theory of which types of traits are the most fun to mess around with? I would imagine that AF would be a nice place to do a small-scale proof of concept with maybe 4 or 5 traits that are easy to notice and that work well together, and you could always balloon the complexity later on. 

Great idea and best of luck!

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3 hours ago, Acheron said:

This gets to a question I had. I'm a voter and this is my favorite project. I was wondering, Devin, if you're planning on using some of the Massive Chalice code as a starting point for traits to make things go faster for AF? From the teamstreams, it seemed like they had good bones for that system. However, here it seems that evolution IS the gameplay, so of course you would want to have impacts on the trait system go up to 11. 

For the simplicity of the prototype, are you going to start with a few basic and very "readable" traits, such as fast/slow, big/small, etc.? Do you have a design document started where you have a theory of which types of traits are the most fun to mess around with? I would imagine that AF would be a nice place to do a small-scale proof of concept with maybe 4 or 5 traits that are easy to notice and that work well together, and you could always balloon the complexity later on. 

Great idea and best of luck!

I'm not familiar with the Massive Chalice codebase, but I'll look into it to see if there's anything that would be easy to use. My gut feeling is that it will be easier to build a new system that's designed specifically for this project. But if the MC system looks promising I'll investigate it with the other programmers on the team. Anywhere we can leverage existing tech would be great with such a short dev cycle.

The number and type of traits for the prototype are still open questions. It's one of the first things we'll need to figure out as a team once we start. The approach I'm thinking will work best at the moment is to have a few simple traits like you suggested (size, speed) and then also one or two special traits that are more rare and are either present or not on each individual (e.g. poisonous, spiky, etc).

Thanks for your suggestions, questions, and support!

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I still recommend a kind of moster hunter tech tree so breeding a unique ecosystem actually rewards you. also can give a cool meta game if this becomes a full release as depending which way you evolve different creatures effects your end game gear.

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Congratulations @Devin Kelly-Sneed, it seems Darwin has chosen a meal to success!

Edited by Reid_Harris_Cooper
Jokes came across as passive aggressive instead of as jokes.

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