Prototype for Alchemist Simulator – SHANGXUAN YANG

What is Alchemist Simulator?

 

Alchemist Simulator is a simulation game, which integrates the elements of exploration, simulation, and resource management. In this game, player will act as an alchemist learning from scratch. With the basic elements and fund provided at the beginning of the game, the player will start their exciting experience of exploring the knowledge of the Alchemy. By combining things together and trying out different machines, player will discover more and more new elements and understand what this magical world is formed from. Player can also choose their own method to earn money which can be used to upgrade machine and purchase rare materials. After player finding out the recipe of “The Origin Element”, the ultimate meaning of Alchemy pursued by all alchemists, the player will be able to explore the elements freely with the help of that. (It is basically like a sandbox mode)

The Bartle Types - Bart, S. (2011) Personality And Play Styles: A Unified Model

The Bartle Types

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This game is designed to be mainly for explorers and achievers, which means the interaction between player and the world of game is very essential in the whole game loop design. To give player a smooth feeling of exploration, the reduction of redundant operation is quite a crucial part to improve the gameplay experience. By simplifying the UI layout and the control function, the player will be able to master the control and gameplay quickly and easily. And the chance of annoying interaction is also reduced to a low level.

The main theme starts from an idea about “mixing things together to get something unknown”. Although it is always very complicated to build up a craft system and it is hard to maintain the balance between amount of content and complexity of the whole system, I still want to make it possible for player to have a fulfilled experience when trying out random combination of elements. In this case, the basic concept of the whole system is built up. The gameplay is splitted into three stages, which is shown as below:

Game Stage Structure

Gameplay Loop:

The gameplay loop is shown below. For the design of prototype, the ultimate goal is mainly about earning money to upgrade the machines and purchase the “Final Element” from the shop. In future design, the upgrade system and final element are mainly related to the craft system, which will enhace the gameplay loop.Gameplay Loop

Game Play Screenshots (Gifs):

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Mechanics:

  1. Control: Drag & play style and designed control panel are the main control functions of this game. Player can use right click to clear the slots. This simple control function can provide more accessibility for most of the players.
  2. The Machines:

    In this part, I use different shapes to identify the type of the slot. And this shape is also matched with the shape of items. So that player can easily understand where the item should go.The main mechanic behind these machines is based on a list searching system. All the crafting recipes are stored inside the specific list by using a designated format. As the production process happens along with the time passing, all the production will be calculated inside the time system. With this design, player need to manage the machines wisely to get higher efficiency.

    There is also an upgrade system for these machines. The upgrade system will not only improve the efficiency but also unlock more possible recipes for player to try. But the upgrade also means higher expense to maintain these machines. Each level of upgrade for each machine will increase the monthly expense. In this case, players will need to figure out how to make good use of the extra efficiency to keep the balance between their income and outcome.

  3. The Shop:

    The shop system is an additional option for players to get materials and elements beyond the composing system. Player can purchase the items with gold. They can also sell their things from the inventory to earn money. Like a shop in real world, you cannot purchase those abstract elements (like Fire, Chaos etc.) from here. In this case, player would still need the decomposer to get the basic elements. Besides providing materials for the players, it is also possible for player to discover some advanced recipes with purchased item. Players will not have to synthesize the elements one by one, but still, they need to pay attention to the cost of the items.

  4. The Inventory: The inventory system is designed as a combination of backpack and item manual. Player can get aware of the items they have discovered and the amount they have right now. In future design, the search slot and filter function will be implemented to improve the readability when there are lots of various items in the game.
  5. The Guidebook: The guidebook system is designed to be the guide for the player. It will provide some basic tips about control and introductions of the machine. Also, all the craft recipes are shown in this system and player can use the filter function to get the information they need. This will give player an intuitive guidance for the recipes which is an important part of the gameplay experience in middle stage of the game.
  6. The resource system: Because the resource management is part of the core gameplay, I designed several resources to give more challenge and motivation when player exploring this world. It can be divided into 3 parts: time, energy, and gold.
    • Time: Most of the production process in this game require consumption of time. However, all the machines can work at the same time. This means that player should arrange the machines and order of work wisely to achieve a high efficiency. Under the pressure of monthly expense, this will be a challenging task for player to deal with in the middle stage of the game.
    • Energy: Energy is mostly used in the refining process, which is designed to enhance the quality of the final products and to concentrate some elements to achieve the purpose of improving efficiency for production.
    • Gold: This is the essential part for the whole trade system. And as well in the design so far it is the only required resource to upgrade machine and get the “Final Element”. Player can earn gold by selling their items. They can also spend money to purchase the material they need. To give more challenge to the player, there is also a monthly expense system. The expense is calculated based on the upgraded machines that player owned.
  7. The recipes: This part is the soul of the game. It decides how the gameplay experience will be for the players. Also it’s the most complicated part of the whole design. For now, due to the tight time frame of the project, the recipes are only done by about 60%. But still the recipes designed so far can roughly show the gameplay loop now. The basic idea of the structure is about setting up a path with theme for player to explore. And player will not only discover the new elements but also find new methods to produce resource. Although it’s impossible to design the result for each available combination, the combination of basic elements is mostly realized to give a rewarded experience to player in the early stage of gameplay.

Future Design:

  1. Accessibility:
  • Colour blindness: For the colour set of functional buttons, there should be multiple sets of colour settings for different types of colour blindness. Also, the colour of the icons is needed to be adjusted to help players with colour blindness recognize them better.
  • Disabled players: There is already the design of control panels with sliders inside the game. This will help disabled player to play the game with only one hand. There is a possibility of developing the function of controlling with Tobi eye tracker.
  1. Readability:
  • Panel with details: A hover small panel which contains the detail information of the item will show up when player hover the pointer on an item. This will improve the readability and player will be able to get more information easily.
  • More visual icon: This is needed to improve the art quality of the game as well as make it possible for players to recognize the items easily.
  1. Enhancement for the systems exists:
  • More perfect recipe table: The recipe table still needs to be completed. To provide more things for player to explore, the depth of the recipe path needs to be deeper. And to extend the gameplay experience of the first and second stage, it is also necessary to consider more mighty combinations of basic elements.
  • More functional trade system: There can also be an upgrade system for the shop. In this case the player will have more motivation to earn more money to get more advanced materials.
  • Fully functional machines: In the design so far, the catalyser and inhibitor are only partially implemented. These elements will give players more options when producing the products.
  1. Additional systems:
  • The Ultimate Element: This element is designed to be the key to the sandbox mode. Player can replicate the items they have by consuming this element. This will improve the gameplay in the final stage of the game.
  • Planting System: This can be an expansion of the resource system.
  • Adventure System: This can be an expansion of the resource system. Player can not only play through the adventure with the tools built by himself, but also he can gathering resources during the adventure.

Deficiencies that still need improvement:

  1. After checking the prototype for this composition mechanic, I found out that it now is only a main structure of a game and still needs some other content to support it or even needs a unique gameplay system or a control style to replace the operation part of this game. There is an unreleased game called Potion Craft catches attention from me that it has a quite similar gameplay loop to my idea. The great thing it does is that it manages to combine its core gameplay and gameplay progression in a very clever way. And I think for my idea it is really important to find out a way to achieve a interesting and unified gameplay experience.
  2. There is content for players to experience in this game mechanics but there is a lack of motivation for players to explore. So the design still needs to be adjusted and refined to solve this. I think there are still a lot of diverse content (such as backstory, main Storyline and NPCs) needs to be done. So that with these things the user experience will become more coherent.

 

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