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Active Sketch 03 - Words

By axcho
Active Sketch 03 - Words by axcho on October 7, 2009

This is my third Active Sketch, a doodle in code. It's an attempt to turn a text into an interesting environment for a game.

I made this for a project with ~brontosaurus. If we can extract some fun out of this idea we will make a game based on it.


I used the Flixel engine to build this prototype. It's great for making pixelated games like this - I'd recommend it.

Click the window to start, then use the arrow keys to move around. You can pick up a word by pressing x or c.

x - grab word
c - grab word
left - move left
right - move right
up - jump up
down - drop down

On the right is your score, and on the left is your score multiplier and the current word you are holding. If you match two words exactly, your multiplier goes up. If you pick up two words that have no letters in common, your multiplier is halved. Otherwise, you get points for each letter the two words have in common, multiplied by your score multiplier.

There is no time limit, and words reappear after they go off the screen, so you can get as many points as you have patience for. It's not a game. It's just a test.

The story is something I wrote over a year ago, a retelling of Where the Wild Things Are with the themes of Ishmael, in the style of a Haida myth. It still has a sappy Western ending, though.

I've also posted the full, formatted text here, if you just want to read it: [link]

If you fall off the story, you can reload the page to start again.

Active Sketches by axcho
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© 2009 - 2021 axcho
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BeeKirby's avatar
I tried to find all the instances of "they." There were only twenty...they say.
axcho's avatar
Awesome, hehe. I should start throwing in a "they say" in my ordinary conversations. Make things seem more epic. ;)
phmongeau's avatar
Wow, I really like the concept. And I love Flixel! :D
axcho's avatar
Yay, Flixel! :D Thanks.
wonderwhy-ER's avatar
There is something magic in idea of using words in some kind of game mechanic. Your thing reminded me of [link] this. Absolutely magical game and game idea/mechanic concept.

In your case words are just words but what if you can-somehow manipulate then which in a way will manipulate game environment or visual representation :)
axcho's avatar
Words are magic! [link] :D

Hmm, maybe moving words around changes the environment... How would adjacent words affect each other? Makes me think of Markov chains... [link] :)
wonderwhy-ER's avatar
Interesting :) Level as story written in words... It may be an interesting mechanics. T

here was one game which was very innovative. There were a poem with words there and there are words hidden in levels. As you change words in a poem with ones you found level changes to resemble the poem. Can't remember how it was called. This one resembles it somehow.

Would be interesting if words had some mechanics related to their meaning. In that way levels them-selfs would be tutorials to how to use them :D
axcho's avatar
Thanks for reminding me about Today I Die. That was a great game, and I didn't think about the connection with words and gameplay until you mentioned it.

I wonder what sort of system would make sense for a story game, longer than a short poem, so it's not feasible to create a new game object for each word...

One thing I was thinking about was procedural creatures generated from each word, though I don't know if that would make sense... :p

I like the way that in Today I Die, there are words that affect your abilities, and words that affect your environment. That could be a good place to start.
wonderwhy-ER's avatar
Yeah Today I Die had a genius concept that was well performed. I would say that it is one of not many games that was purely and art then entertainment.

And I do agree that it would be hard to make a good large game or even game engine on that concept. That would need some kind of way to judge poems for quality + some kind of as you said procedural/fractal style analysis of structure to decide what effects it has. So close to impossible :)

But that what makes this kind of game an art. You do all yourself from scratch for each game :)
axcho's avatar
Hmm, yes. There is a good reason to make everything from scratch, and give it a lot of handcrafted meaning and significance.

It's a question of quality versus quantity, I guess. I'm not sure what would be more appropriate. Or more lucrative.
wonderwhy-ER's avatar
Well in that case may be. But overall I would not agree with that. For you value is in how it was made or what impact result has?
If we have tool that allow us to easily reuse something or make it easier then before it does not lowers its value. Rather it allows to explore that field further finding even better jewels of art or whatever.
Or I understood your point wrongly?
axcho's avatar
Overall I'm definitely a fan of procedural content and not having to do everything by hand. I agree that it's about the impact, not the effort.

For example, a game like Particles is very easy to make but also very effective.

It's just that lately I've been erring on the side of too procedural, and neglecting the benefits of handcrafted content. For something like Today I Die, I can see how a personal touch throughout every element in the experience could be more effective than making it random, and probably easier to design, too!

On another note, you may be interested in reading this discussion of Words and Silent Conversation by Gregory Weir! [link] :D
wonderwhy-ER's avatar
Well there are many sides to this "generated vs hand made" thing. Hand made things are often better because our generated things are not good enough yet.
I kind of prefer to have generating tools at my disposal to make a rough start and then if needed to adjust things by hand afterward.
In the end it just a problem that we and thus computer can't precisely judge artistic things.
NewPie's avatar
This one is by far my favourite to the date. I'm recommending it to a DD.
axcho's avatar
Wow, really? I must be doing something right. :p

What did you like about it?
NewPie's avatar
The idea, the concept and the artwork!
axcho's avatar
Haha, even the artwork? Thanks. :dance:
NewPie's avatar
Simple art at it's best ;)
N3XUZ's avatar
I fell and fell D: Cool stuff though.
axcho's avatar
The world is as sharp as a knife. Make one wrong move and you'll fall right off. ;)

Thanks for trying it.
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