April 26, 2013

Prototype 2: Summation

For our second Nurbits prototype I was attempting to explore a mechanic based on the neuroscience concept of summation. Summation is the way that signals combine from one or more incoming connections to bring the neuron's action potential to threshold, making it fire. I was also trying to see what it would be like to give the player more direct control over when loops get played, rather than playing based on a timer like Brian's previous prototype.

design sketch

As you can see this prototype continues with our concept of pie slices representing neurotransmitters, and has a similar connection mechanic to the previous prototype. I wanted the player to be able to use both types of summation: temporal and spatial, which I feel this prototype achieved.

prototype screenshot

Temporal summation is when a neuron receives multiple signals quickly over time to bring it's action potential to threshold. The player can induce temporal summation in this prototype by connecting up a single input node and hitting the red button quickly to bring the output node to threshold to play a loop. Spatial summation is when a neuron receives signals from multiple other neurons that combine to bring the action potential to threshold. In this prototype that can be done by connecting up and hitting multiple buttons.

Here's a video showing this prototype in action:

If you'd like to play this prototype yourself you can do so over here.

I briefly mention at the end of the video that this prototype uses mod tracker files for it's music. We'll have more information about that, and the other options we looked at for our dynamic music system, in our upcoming audio tools post.

April 19, 2013

Prototype 1: Chips and Wires

Hello Everyone. My name is Brian and I am the other half of the programming team on Nurbits. Today I will take you through the design process of the first prototype for our game.

Once we settled on the pie slice game mechanic, I began prototyping what I thought it might look like as a basic step sequencer like puzzle game that relied heavily on the computer chip as neuron association outlined in our grant proposal. I began work with a chip model that had on it one of our 3 patterns of differing time scales. Here are the 3 pattern representations shown below, each with a different pattern, in yellow, that must be hit for a chip to reach its threshold to fire. The patterns not only represent the threshold that must be reached, but also the pattern of signals in which that chip fires on to whichever chip it is connected to.

The patterns on the chips represent beats in a measure of a loop of a song, with each “slice” on the pattern representing either a quarter, eighth or sixteenth note. Having these different note lengths/pattern sizes would help not only with increasing the difficulty throughout play, but also allow for more varied and unique musical composition.

Each chip also has a number of inputs on the left and an output “wire”, on the right, that could be hooked to another chips inputs. The example below shows a 16 beat pattern with two inputs.

The puzzle I came up with for this prototype involves connecting a string of chips together from the starting “stimulus” chip to a goal chip at the other end. The stimulus chip is there to give one or many starting signals to the puzzle, each with their own pattern corresponding the pattern of a chip. The player must recognize and match these patterns with the correct chips, and once a chip is successfully connected, the chips audio will play in time with its pattern. 

To better show this I have made this below video to take you through a level of this prototype. 
Once you've watched the video and understand the basics of our gameplay, feel free to try to play the demo yourself, which we have provided here (Unity Web Player required to play). 

Creating this first prototype took less than a week, which may be clear if you made something unexpected happen in the demo, but it was very helpful not only for me to get my ideas out, but also for the team to have some starting point to critique and iterate on. This prototype was used as the jumping off point for some different gameplay ideas and some more prototypes to come. I hope you enjoyed this look into our development process and remember to keep a lookout for our next post and playable prototype.