I've been toying with the idea of building a level editor for TurboGarbageTruck. Going over the advantages versus work required, I think I have to give it a try.
I've been pretty much just conducting experiments in the game so far. Very surprisingly, almost all of the experiments have been successful. While the game is not terribly ambitious, there were a few slightly uncommon elements that I took on right up front. The idea of a continuous, looping play field is likely as old as Pac-Man warp tunnels or Combat on the 2600. Maybe Defender or Asteroids... okay, the fact that I'm pulling this stuff out of my head really dates me. I'm old, nuff said. Moving on.
So anyway, continuous scrolling, or wrapping game levels have one major advantage over *standard* levels. They can feel free and open while still being very small and contained. You know that feeling when you walk really far in one direction knowing every step you take is one more added to the return trip. Continuous levels eliminate that. Exploration is simple and fun. Like a game.
This another one of those times that a technical limitation created interesting mechanics. In Combat for the Atari 2600, lining up a shot that passed through the bottom corner of one side of the screen to hit your opponent in the top corner of the other side, was a carefully honed skill. The headshot of its time. I'm working with Unity3D, a modern 3D game engine with all the appropriate dingers and tweeters. Technical limitation isn't really a problem I'm faced with. Sure, there are limits, but nothing I have come up with just flat out can't be done with this engine. With a small amount of ingenuity, you can create whatever you can dream up.
The problem I have run into is that the built in tools for level building in Unity3D are just not well suited to creating spherical levels. I mean really, outside of Mario Galaxy, how many games are built on a ball. Not too many. I could simply build all my levels in Maya or Silo and import them into Unity. While that would take pretty much no upfront work, it would also give me almost no flexibility. The best option seems to be to create some more appropriate tools.
The first tool I will have to create is a way of placing objects on the surface of the sphere that doesn't require manually rotating them around a point at the center of the planet. The second will be setting up a way to save out the level into either a serialized format or an xml file. There are ups and downs to both, so I'll have to research it a bit more. The positive offshoot of a save system is that I will have also created the basis for a game save system, or even a way to save the state of levels, If I go that route.
Before either of those though, I will go through and just manually assemble one level. While building it I will take notes on all the things that the tools will need to handle. What things will I need to include in the base object class, and what will I need to set up for the save system. These are things you could paper prototype for days, but until they are placed in a running game environment, they will only ever be educated guesses. I have no one to answer too and no reports to prepare, so fuck it, I'll build it and see what happens.
So thats the road map. That is what I'll be working on for the next while, and since I work for an hour or two a day I should be done in the next couple years. I will still be posting up builds though, and depending how deep I go with the editing tools, I'll post that up too. If you like playing with broken toys, follow me on twitter (over on the right there) and I'll spew forth a tweet every time an new build gets uploaded.