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News flash! Information relevant to actually creating this game can be found at coconut crab game: the implementation. s_alanet, speaking for Bastogne, out.

Introduction

The coconut crab game developed out of a conversation I and Glowing Fish were having one day on AIM. He had previously shown me some various strange animals, including tree octopi. Apparently he has some sort of collection of pictures thereof.

(Learn about coconut crabs! Go read http://www.animalfact.com/article1018.html, an brief, interesting article about 'em.)

Now. We were discussing games and e2 things and suddenly, this idea developed. The idea of the coconut crab game. Here it is:

Coconut crabs could theoretically drop coconuts on you. Wouldn't it be amusing if one could play a game with coconut crabs? They're really huge crabs (37 pounds fully grown)... They could drop a really big coconut on you if they wanted, you know. So. We knew we had to involve a coconut-dropping tree crab.

All the really fun old games had really simple gameplay. Just 2d. No crazy 3d stuff to bother with. A game that was 2d and simple like that would be awesome! Especially if you could play with a joystick with one or two buttons.

I was also reading through a bunch of interviews with classic game designers. Interesting stuff. They liked chase games.

And then it congealed:

You are a coconut crab, and you want to hoard all the coconuts you can. You are in a playing field with trees, various obstacles, coconuts, and some people. The people are, quite understandably, creeped out by there being a giant tree crab running around where they live, stealing coconuts and lowering property values. If they catch you, you lose.

You climb trees to gather coconuts. You can chuck coconuts to distract the people chasing you - they're attracted to movement - but you can't hold very many at a time. If you throw too many, you won't gather enough coconuts to last the winter, either.

And just because, I'm going to post the design for it up here. I don't have time to write it myself. Perhaps it will be interesting, or we can work it into an E2 Coding Frenzy sort of thing.

The Playing Field And Entities Therein

The game takes place in a two dimensional, top down view. The entities on the playing field are:

  • Trees. You can climb them. When you are up in a tree, you can climb around in its foliage. (Implementation note: Tree foliage could be represented by a half-transparent layer above the main game area, or it could be a leaf pattern with enough holes that it's only moderately difficult to track what's happening below.) Foliage is a safe area.
  • Obstacles. Bushes, rocks, fences, maybe even cars or big heavy rolling things such as might squish a giant tree crab. Some of them, such as bushes, you can walk under (but people can't). Most of them block everything. Some will block you but not people (running water, for instance, as tree crabs will in fact drown in water, but people can swim fairly well).
  • People. The enemies of the game. For bonus points, base them on your favorite noders. The behaviour of people is very simple: if there is movement in their field of vision, they head towards it. (Implementation note: it may be necessary to filter out things like other people, though hopefully that would lead to interesting flocking behaviour.) The number of people, and their speed, increases over the course of levels. (Implementation note: it may be beneficial to implement different "classes" of people as well as doing an across the board enhancement - for instance: slow moving people that see really far, fast moving people that can't turn and take a long time to accelerate/decelerate, dumb fat people that neither go quickly nor see far, groupies that only follow other people, etc. etc. etc.) Essentially, the people flock towards movement. However, they don't see too good. Moving coconuts take priority over you, so people are relatively easy to distract. If a person touches you, the game is over. If you drop a coconut on a person, then that person will fall unconscious for some amount of time. (Implementation note: make unconscious people also very interesting to other people, or at least some of them. Having behaviour where people will try to take care of unconscious people could be a lot of fun.)
  • Coconuts. Coconuts appear on the foliage of trees. To pick one up, you run into it. You can only carry a limited number, however. (Implementation note: This could be based on the difficulty level of selected. However, more than seven is probably too many.) Coconuts, on their own, don't do much. You may drop them by hitting a button; if you are on the ground, this causes the coconut to roll in the direction you're facing. If you're in a tree, they drop straight down, hopefully on the head of some unsuspecting person.
  • Your Home. This is actually a hole in the ground where you keep your coconuts. To "rescue" a coconut, you simply pick it up by walking into it, and then walk into the hole. A second later, you come back out, free of coconuts!

Controls

The controls should be straightforward and very simple. I think for best effect, the following controls are needed:

The directional buttons could be replaced with an analog joystick, and in combination they result in diagonal movement.

"Coconut" is used to drop or roll coconuts, depending on if you're in a tree or not. Rolled coconuts go in the direction you're facing. Dropped coconuts go straight down from the tree.

"Climb" is used with trees. Going up to a tree trunk and hitting climb will cause the crab to climb the tree and reach the foliage, or, if the crab is in the foliage, cause them to jump down to the ground. (Implementation note: this could be done GTA style, where you hit climb and the crab goes into "tree climbing" mode. Alternatively, it could only take effect if you were right next to a tree). Climbing takes a second or two to complete. (Implementation note: in play tweaking should be done to determine if the player is "safe" as soon as they start climbing, or only after they reach the foliage. The latter might promote more excitement, but the former might seem more fair.)

Scoring and Goals

Note: this is probably the loosest section of this document. Scoring, after all, is just number-assigning. If you do implement this (which I encourage!), feel free to use whatever scoring system you like, and, indeed, change anything you see fit.

Score is determined by a weighted sum of events. Things like knocking people unconscious, grabbing coconuts, staying alive for one second, etc. should all be taken into account. A "style" reward system, like in GTA3 or Tony Hawk Pro, could be implemented to give the player bonus points for particularly daring maneuvers or close shaves.

The goal is to get all the coconuts off the map, into your home. Conservation of coconuts is in effect, so though coconuts may inadvertently be placed into inaccessible places (like if you roll one into flowing water), they aren't destroyed. Rolling 'em into water is not advised, player. Depending on the difficulty level, differing levels of coconut retrieval will be needed to win. On easy, perhaps only 75% will be needed at the beginning... But at the hardest levels, 100% retrieval will be required. Don't misplace any.

(Implementation note: Extra lives may or may not be needed to increase the fun factor of the game. Implement them as you see fit.)

The Vision

The vision is a light game reminescent of the old video arcade games; seconds to learn, years to fully master. It captures the fun of Thief, in that you win not by destroying your environment, but by mastering the art of distraction and stealth.

Graphics and Sound Style - "Feel"

I think that a moderately cartoony feel would do the game good, but I believe that you could get by with old 4 bit graphics and do pretty well, if the gameplay were solid. Really, it depends on what sort of art can be furnished; I could see many different styles working really well, supporting surrealistic, comic, or just plain loony feels in the game.

I'd say more here, but I think that, as long as the art is big, bright, easy to track and identify, and acknowledges the basic absurdity of the premise, you'll be fine.

The same for the sound effects; big, cartoony, simple.

Conclusion

I hope that someone, someday will make this game a reality (perhaps even me, if I get the chance ;). I tried to make the design simple and readily implementable; not the kind of document that says "using our world-wide deployed MMORPG servers, make fantasy creatures".

If there is an E2 Coding Frenzy type event, then I'd love to make this. We could tie it in to E2 by making the people you play against be the noders currently online. ;)

In any case, I release this document into the public domain, asking only that you /msg me if you ever do create what is described in it. Go forth and implement!

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