Red Planet Farming - Domes

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!

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

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

before

before

after

after

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!

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Energy and Solar Panels

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.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Art Explosion

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.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Results Screen UI

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:

before

before

After

After

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.

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

I stopped by just to document some before and after screenshots of how I’m changing the UI for the game, because I think it will be interesting to look back on in a bit!

Here are some “before” images:

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And here are the modified UI elements:

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 15.11.05.png
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Anyways, back to programming!

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Scientific Accuracy

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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 12.35.41.png

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.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming UI Design / Game on itch

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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 13.32.08.png
Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 13.32.35.png
Nina Demirjian
Tutorialization in Video Games

hello and welcome to a long overdue blog post from your favorite programmer, nina. As you may recall in my previous post (from 2018!!!), i had just finished making a game for a solo game jam about farming on mars and surprise! A few months later and the game is back in the works. Its come a long way- saved data between years, an ability to choose the plots in which you plant seeds, and a timeline for the weather system. I’ve also got my friend Noah doing the art for the game and overall its turning out a lot better than the original demo I had submitted for the jam. 

I’ve been working on the game for a few months now and I’ve stumbled across a design problem that I didn’t really think would be giving much too much trouble, but alas, here we are. I’ve never really been a huge fan of tutorials. I think they are a bit boring and I usually skip through them so that I can learn through practice. But I’m feeling like this game needs a bit of exposition at the beginning to explain to the player what’s going on. A lot of the people that will be playing this in the future will probably not have a lot of experience playing games and I’m hoping that the content isn’t lost on them because it just wasn’t explained properly at the beginning. So, I’m inclined to add an expository tutorial to the beginning of the first year. 

Here are some pictures of what it’s looking like right now. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 02.22.43.png
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Anyways, hopefully I’ll write something soon and not do the thing where I completely ignore the fact that I have a devlog to be updating. 

Nina DemirjianComment
Mini Game Jam 11: Red Planet Farming

I just finished working on my project for the 11th Mini Jam game jam, and am now just waiting for my computer to finish downloading support for Unity to build to WebGL. Hopefully it gets submitted on time!

The limitation for this jam was NO TEXT WHATSOEVER, as they described it, and the theme was HARVEST. Along this vein, I decided to make a small farming simulator game that takes place on another planet, where there is no use for English, anyways.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 7.26.11 PM.png

This was my first game jam working alone, and I think it went pretty well. The jam started Friday morning at 12 am and ends tonight at midnight, but I’ve got homework to do so I’m submitting earlier.

For this game, I did all of the art, game design, and programming. The sound effects all come from FreeSound.

The game basically simulates a year with hazards and weather effect. The player has a budget, and chooses seeds to plant and buildings to build before simulating the year and the possible effects that the weather will have on the crops. In order to make it to the next year, you must end with a certain amount of money. Money comes from the profits of the crops that survive the year.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 3.56.26 PM.png

As you can see, different seeds have different costs, and have different effects, and different yields. Only certain combinations will allow the player to make enough profit to advance to the next year.

The most challenging part about this game was programming the simulation of the year. The simulation lasts about 25 seconds, and in that period of time, there are numerous effects that can harm the plants, such as dust storms, freezing temperatures, and if the player hasn’t purchased a water tower, droughts.

Trying to balance this game also was causing me significant problems. In an ideal world, I could have made a spread sheet and calculated and balanced the prices and yields of the seeds and buildings to make the game even, but alas, I did not have time to do this. But after a significant amount of play-testing, I think the balance is at a relatively decent place for a game jam game.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 3.55.39 PM.png

I spent a lot of time making the art for this game because I think that art makes a huge difference when it comes to the polish of the game, even for a jam. I kept the color scheme pretty minimal, to just reds, oranges, browns, and on occasion, green. I made almost all of the art with Piskel.

I’ll come back and post the itch.io link to the game after I finish uploading!

UPDATE:

https://fortynina.itch.io/red-planet-farming

And here’s the page for the jam: https://itch.io/jam/mini-jam-11-

Nina Demirjian