Fernando makes games » Blog Archive » Lienzo Fértil postmortem
December, 2010

I’ve finished my little game for this month’s Experimental Gameplay Project, themed “Drawing“. It’s called Lienzo Fértil (“fertile canvas”). Go play it clicking in the image below. I made a little postmortem below that.

Click to play

This is my first EGP entry ever after wanting or attempting to make something for the previous ones for a long time. Though there’s a lot more I wanted to do with this one (mostly adding content) I’m quite happy with the result, and I can say the prototype works for what it is. A prototype must answer a question, and I believe I answered my question with the game in its current state. Anything added to it would be just content, not gameplay.

One of the first builds

I made the game, in total,  in about 3 or 4 days, scattered in a couple of weeks of working on it on some afternoons, between other stuff.

The initial question, put in a poetic way was if I could make an “ecosystem that is interesting to watch and interact with, and at the same time draws something beautiful“.
The idea was to make a pseudo autonomous system made of different entities (bugs) with unique behaviors, and each bug would have a sprite (its body) and a brush (as in Photoshop) that draws a color into the screen. The bugs would each move with a unique pattern (e.g. fly following the mouse, walk through a path, fall) and would draw its path.
There would also be relationships: when a bug eats another, it would morph into another bug with another behavior, perhaps a combination of the two.

Fanart by _mindscout when I implemented trees

I managed to get the system working with just a few creatures. Also, some of the creatures crap seeds while walking/flying that create procedurally generated trees/bushes when they touch the ground.

I intentionally made it so that you don’t directly control the bugs. You just influence the system. For example, the flies follow the mouse, but in an erratic and mostly unpredictable manner. You don’t spawn any creature except the flies, wich later spawn the rest of the creatures.

Testing a black & white palette and a path "bleeding" effect. (The background made a huge difference on how the game "feeled")

I guess the hardest part was to make what you drew good-looking without feeling repetitive. To do this I used a lot of controlled randomness in the movements of the creatures, I made a little randomized flood-fill algorithm and a procedural growing tree generator. Also, I made custom brushes for the creatures and limited them to use four different colours in their lines and patterns. After this I found the game looked a lot like this japanese painting.

I found it very interesting to play with the system and tweak it to change the behaviors of the creatures. I’m happy with the end result, but I guess you can’t really “draw” something, and given that there’s so few creatures every time you play it you end up with more or less the same image.

So, if you like it (or not) let me know what you think, and send me some screenshots! (Press S to save a PNG file) I’d love to see what people do with this.