Red Planet Farming - Updates by Nina Demirjian

It has been two or so weeks since I last posted an update on Red Planet Farming. Noah and I are currently dealing with finals, and I am dealing with graduation, so we have not had time to sit down and focus on the game.

Thankfully, all of that is coming to a close. It looks like we are going to be able to devote a lot more time to the game starting in the next few weeks, now that we are officially being supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation! I am so excited that this grant is going to allow us to continue working on the game and allow it to realize its full potential. I have so many ideas already!

I have also been in contact with Dr. Jacob Cohen and his team at NASA, who have been guiding us with the development of the game and helping us to make it as scientifically accurate as possible. I am so glad that they are on board to continue aiding us throughout the next few months!

Until then, I think I may try to get some of my friends to playtest the game in its current state. I have a lot of ideas on how I want to expand gameplay, but would like to get second opinions on those ideas, as well as try to gather any feedback or new ideas from others as well. Noah and I have so much work to do in the next few months, but it should all be really fun and exciting. I cannot believe that this small game that I made for a solo game jam back in September (!!!) is going to turn into such an expansive project. Overall I feel really proud of Red Planet Farming and I also feel so lucky and grateful for everyone that has helped me get this far and has given me this opportunity to keep working on the game.

Red Planet Farming - Progress by Nina Demirjian

I make a lot of before/after posts on this devlog to show how far Red Planet Farming has come, but here’s really the ultimate before and after:

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The first image is from January, a month after I really started development. The second image is from about an hour ago, after adding in a bunch of new plots of land.

It’s crazy to see how much progress has been made on the game in just the past few months, especially since I was working at the museum and had school to juggle. I am very eager to see what the game looks like in a few months from now!

Red Planet Farming - Building Buttons by Nina Demirjian

Over the weekend, we also got in the art for the buildings and the building buttons.

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Anyways, I’m probably going to post another gameplay video tomorrow or Tuesday to show off some of the new art and features. I’m also having my roommate McKay make a trailer for the game. He works at Vice to I trust him haha.

Red Planet Farming - Forecast by Nina Demirjian

I wasn’t expecting to really get any art or animations in for the forecast by the deadline for the game, but with sprite masks, it turned out to be a lot easier than I had anticipated. We want the forecast blocks to be animated, but are struggling to make them not too distracting, so for now they are just static images.

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Red Planet Farming - Title Screen UI by Nina Demirjian

Finally! I got around to dealing with the title screen UI. I don’t think it’s perfect yet. But I made it a lot more interesting than it was before. Basically, the title screen is in the “sky”, and when you hit start, the camera flies down to the martian surface where the farm is.

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The gif unfortunately makes it look a lot slower than it actually is. In the game it looks so much smoother! Oh well.

We are also working on building sprite animations, so my next post will probably be about that.

Red Planet Farming - Double Upgrades by Nina Demirjian

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I just finished implementing the ability for players to have two upgrades on each plot. Its a feature that a lot of people have been asking for, and I was reluctant to do it because I thought it was going to take a lot longer than it actually did. But I’m happy because I think it will give people a much better game play experience. I was worried that the visuals would get too crowded, but I actually think it looks fine!

Red Planet Farming - Plant Animations by Nina Demirjian

Today Noah and I finally got the plant animations into the game. It makes the simulation so much more fun to watch.

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This is a gif from a playthrough I did a bit earlier. As you can see, some of the crops look more wilted than others, depending on how much damage they’ve taken throughout the year. You can even see the plantains in the bottom right completely wilt from the Cold Snap at the very end of the gif.

I’m so happy that each individual crop has gotten its own set of animations. It adds so much to the game, I can’t stop watching! Here are some more images I’ve taken of the new art:

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This upcoming week I need to work on some bug fixes and the forecast at the bottom a bit more. Next weekend we’re going to finish up the art for the buildings. Its all coming together so fast!

Red Planet Farming - Results Screen by Nina Demirjian

I worked on the results screen for the game today. Basically, at the end of each year, the player views a screen with results and earnings that they made, including a graph. I also added in a pie chart that breaks down the earnings by crop, and I redesigned the layout and color scheme. Here’s what it looks like now…

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And here’s what it looked like before:

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The pie chart was actually pretty easy to make. I took a circle image and set its setting to Fill - radial from the top, and then just set the fill amount to the percentage of earnings that a crop made, and rotated the image based on that percentage.

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Red Planet Farming - Domes by Nina Demirjian

It is amazing to see how far RPF has come even in just these last few weeks, especially with all the art that’s been coming in.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Noah and I working with Dr. Jacob Cohen of Nasa to make this game as scientifically accurate as possible. We’ve have a few phone calls with him and we’ve been talking a lot about how the plots should look, in terms of how they should be covered. Growing plants on Mars in an empty field is not feasible, so we’ve been working on getting like “building” structures on each plot to portray the idea that these are already somewhat-controlled spaces that the plants are being grown in.

In addition, I really like how the art is turning out for the various field upgrades, especially for the domes:

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You can also see from this image the structures that we’ve put around each of the plots to show that they are indoors (player have sort of a birds-eye view of the buildings without their roofs).

I can’t wait to start getting in the crop sprite art next week!

Red Planet Farming UI - Before and After (Part II) by Nina Demirjian

Here’s another before and after comparison of some of the stuff I was working on today:

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Overall, today was pretty successful. Noah and I were working a lot on how we want each of the individual plots to look, and I think it’s coming along nicely. She’s finished some art for the upgrades, so I’ll be putting it into the project tonight or maybe tomorrow, and I’ll make another post updating what its starting to look like!

Red Planet Farming - Energy and Solar Panels by Nina Demirjian

So I watched The Martian for the first time ever last night, and it was quite a wild ride. It’s interesting that the world is set in a time that doesn’t seem too distant into the future.

Anyways, what I noticed in the movie was that there was a lot of emphasis (or at least imagery) on solar panels, and that got me thinking about how I could incorporate this into my game. I implemented an energy system, where different upgrades and buildings take up a certain amount of energy. So you would need enough energy to power, say, three domed fields and a water tower. I added a small energy meter to the UI, and also added a solar panel building into the game. So players can now build solar panels and add to their energy levels.

Each upgrade and building now has a certain amount of energy it requires to remain powered, and I’ve updated the buttons to include this need:

You will notice that now there is a small lightning bolt and the required energy amount.

In addition to all this, I’ve been advised now by multiple people that plots should be allowed to have more than one upgrade. Unfortunately, based on the way that I’ve currently laid out the plots, it is going to be a UI challenge to get more than one upgrade on there. I feel a bit dumb because I think I always knew that more than one upgrade was going to be something that I would want to add to the game, but instead of feeling annoyed with having to redo the UI, I suppose this is a good lesson that I should be more prepared and set up my assets in a way that they can change easily down the line.

Anyways, I feel like I make so much progress each day on the game. It’s crazy to look back even two or three posts ago, which in real time, was only a few days ago, and look at how much I have been able to accomplish in this span of time.

Red Planet Farming - Art Explosion by Nina Demirjian

These days, art is coming in left and right from my wonderful artist Noah. Look at how pretty the game is starting to look:

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The game is finally starting to come to a place where i can just give it to people and i dont have to explain a million things to them before hand. And now, I’ve finally got all of the icons for what each seed type is weak to laid out on the packaging for the crops. I feel like it looks a lot more game-y and will hopefully alleviate the frustration of people being unable to see a plants properties without hovering.

Not only that, but the seed packing and vegetables look so glossy I love it.

Now I just need to start working on that forecast timeline.

Red Planet Farming - Results Screen UI by Nina Demirjian

I am starting to realize throughout the process of making this game that UI is incredibly difficult to get right. I spent months programming the gameplay, and I feel like its going to take me just as long to get the UI to a point where I am content with it.

The two screens I’m struggling with most are the title screens and the results screens for the games. I was messing around with the results screen today and made some improvements that I kinda sorta like but… also not really:

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I don’t think it looks bad. I just think there’s something a bit off with it. Maybe the colors? The screen would look more full based on how many different kinds of crops you grew that year. I think the button colors are a bit too warm. Or maybe the rest of the screen is just a bit too cool. I need to keep messing with it to see what looks good and what doesn’t.

Red Planet Farming - Scientific Accuracy by Nina Demirjian

I’ve really been aiming to use Red Planet Farming as a way to get people excited about sending humans to Mars someday, and with this comes a need for the game to be as scientifically accurate as possible.

I’ve been working with Dr. Jacob Cohen of Nasa out in California to discuss some of the features of the game and how we can make it more accurate. When I originally designed this game for the game jam back in October, accuracy wasn’t my top priority, and I sacrificed accuracy for gameplay. Making the transition over has been in some cases smooth, and in some a bit difficult. For example, as Dr. Cohen has stressed, plants would typically not be placed on just open fields. My artist and I are working together to see if we can get a dome asset placed over each of the fields to try to stress the need for protection in the Martian atmosphere.

In addition, I’ve been trying to add in some more features, or details, to really stress that this is not only a game about farming, but about the Martian environment and climate. I’ve attached an image below of some early-stage work I’m doing with having dynamic temperature and wind speed data for the player that coincides with the various weather hazards in the game.

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I’m really excited about the way that its looking so far!

Anyways, over the next couple of weeks I’m trying to really focus on the scientific accuracy of the game, as well as pulling together the UI. I’m upset because there are a lot of other features (Quests, more content/seed types) that I was hoping to implement, but I think that I need to prioritize making what I have at the moment as clean and accurate as possible.

Red Planet Farming UI Design / Game on itch by Nina Demirjian

Progress on Red Planet Farming is still going strong. A lot of the main gameplay is in place - there aren’t really any other features that I was hoping to implement by late April. So I have been focusing a lot more on the UI.

My brother (a seasoned videogame player) played the game about a week ago and I was surprised to hear from him that a lot of the systems/gameplay didn’t make a whole lot of sense. However, when I explained to him what was actually going on in the game, we found that the real issue was a lack of information on the screen and a weak UI.

UI was not my focus until this week, as I just wanted to make sure that the game ran smoothly without bugs. But UI, it seems, is half the battle and I probably should have started it earlier. As I described in my last post, I added in a tutorial. I’ve also added a lot more explanation text around the game. Field popups now say what a crop needs in order to survive the year.

In addition, a lot of art is starting to come in from my artist, Noah. Pretty much anything in the game that isn’t pixel art or clip art is from her!

Finally, I figured out how to get the game on itch, after much wrestling with Unity not wanting to install support for WebGL. You can play the current draft here.

Below are some images of the UI designs at the moment. I’m still working on title and menu screens but they are definitely on the list.

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