I posted another entry on #AltDevBlogADay about Unity and a few things I have learnt about it so far, which you can read here. There are also a couple of very insightful comments from Unity veterans which will be more than handy!
Just thought it might be a good idea to write a quick update about the project. I’ve increased my focus on it in the past few weeks but I know that time is very short and there is a lot more to be done. With help from a couple of sources, artwork is slowly trickling in and that’s encouraging. I started playing more with the “forumlas” in the game to try and get it into a more playable state. Examples are:
- Happiness of an individual has 3 components now:
- The wealth component is on a logarithmic scale. The base value needs to be adjusted for balance but basically at higher wealth levels happiness only increases marginally.
- The generosity component is calculated using the percentage of the wealth that individual is voluntarily contributing to the community fund, multiplied by the generosity level (i.e. the more generous the individual, the happier they are when they contribute).
- The additive component is an amount that adds up over the duration of the game, based on the actions performed, which can be both material and spiritual, such as buying a new car, helping clean up the town, etc.
- When an individual gets to $0, a light flashes over their house indicating that they only have a month left. Once the month is over the player “dies”, and a flag is shown to indicate that. I was debating whether to put the concept of “death” into the game… I’m certainly not trying to convey guilt or remorse to players. At the very least I want to use a lighter symbol (not a skull) to convey this.
- Added a few more actions for individuals but many more can be added
Here is a list of things I would like to get done before I can call this demo “done”, in order of priority:
- Create a simple win and lose condition. Win condition is just surviving for 10 years. A high score will be shown and saved. Lose condition is if all 4 individuals die.
- Show image of individuals and some additional info when mouse is hovered over houses. Also show the image on the individual UI.
- Add a simple main menu.
- Add actions and balance them with the rest of the game.
- Add all the models in.
- Use bars to show values such as happiness and generosity.
- Fix the terrain textures.
- Add terrain texture transitions between seasons.
- Add some more seasonal effects.
I’ll try and put up some screenshots soon, or better still a live pre-demo demo.
On a side note I came across the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge. I’m quite intrigued and the timing is just right to enter!
A few days ago I got in touch with a talented artist who has taken on some major art work for the Extremes game. I’m really excited about this as the game will now actually start to resemble… a game!
But beyond that, my new friend started to ask me some really great questions that actually got me to stop and think a bit more about the issues this game deals with. Now a lot of what I write on this blog and also put in the game are based on the Baha’i writings. So I thought it would be good for me to share some of the questions and concerns that came up, perhaps share a quotation or two from the Baha’i writings which apply to the subject, and then put my own reflections on it.
Is the game Extremes about communism and / or socialism?
These terms are extremely overloaded and have many decades, if not centuries of history behind them. My personal understanding has always been that absolute equity and equality are two different things, and that abolishing extremes of wealth and poverty does not mean that everyone has the same amount of wealth, but rather that a few should not be satisfied with extreme wealth, while there exist those in the community who lack a minimum standard of living. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
Then rules and laws should be established to regulate the excessive fortunes of certain private individuals, and limit the misery of millions of the poor masses; thus a certain moderation would be obtained. However, absolute equality is just as impossible, for absolute equality in fortunes, honors, commerce, agriculture, industry, would end in a want of comfort, in discouragement, in disorganization of the means of existence, and in universal disappointment: the order of the community would be quite destroyed. Thus, there is a great wisdom in the fact that equality is not imposed by law: it is, therefore, preferable for moderation to do its work.
What’s interesting is that even though certain laws would be in place to protect the poor, the real answer to this issue is an individual sense of ownership, and wanting to voluntarily share wealth. Again ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in this regard says:
In the divine teachings equality is brought about through a ready willingness to share. It is commanded as regards wealth that the rich among the people, and the aristocrats should, by their own free will and for the sake of their own happiness, concern themselves with and care for the poor. This equality is the result of the lofty characteristics and noble attributes of mankind.
For this reason, as far as the Extremes game goes, I decided to stay away from government, rules, regulations, taxes, etc. as important as those may be. To me what is more important is exploring individual choices in how we deal with our wealth, and how we define happiness.
What’s wrong with being extremely wealthy if it is done honestly and through hard work?
Again looking at the Baha’i writings I see much emphasis on the fact that there is nothing inherently wrong with having wealth and in fact it is encouraged. What’s important is that a) we are detached from it and don’t see our happiness being entirely based on material well-being and b) we use the wealth for the benefit of not only ourselves, but also our communities. Baha’u'llah says:
The first Taráz and the first effulgence which hath dawned from the horizon of the Mother Book is that man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty. Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable and praiseworthy in the estimation of men of wisdom, and especially in the eyes of servants who dedicate themselves to the education of the world and to the edification of its peoples.
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.
With respect to this game, I’m in no way portraying money and wealth as inherently “evil” and unnecessary. Just that the collective happiness (the game score) is higher if all players / characters prosper, not just one or two.
In some countries, many of the homeless are in that situation by choice. Why should the rich be concerned when these people are not themselves trying?
An important question and probably one of the main arguments against having a social welfare system as is the case in many first world countries today. Baha’u'llah uses strong words to describe begging and lack of contribution to society:
It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others. Thus hath it been decreed in this Tablet from whose horizon the day-star of wisdom and utterance shineth resplendent.
The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.
So as much as it is the individual responsibility of the rich to take care of and share with those in need, it is the responsibility of every member of society to exert effort, work, and contribute. Both are required. Again I feel so much of this goes back to individual outlook on life and not so much to the top-down view of government policies and reform (those also have importance). Every member of society should be actively thinking about the problems in their immediate surrounding and trying to contribute in fixing them, rather than being passive and only focusing on oneself. If we see homelessness around, and we think it is by choice, then we should really be thinking about what problems have led to dis-empowering those individuals and what we can do to improve the circumstances (education comes to mind). We can do better than saying “well they chose that life”.
So once again, these individual choices will be the focus of the game.
Anyway this turned into a long post but hopefully clarified the concept of the game. It certainly helped me!