You'll probably know by now that we're big fans of Dreams here at Push Square Towers. The game offers an unprecedented level of freedom, allowing players to unleash their imaginations with a set of powerful tools and techniques. We're already seeing some impressive results from the community, from simple platformers to interactive music videos.
However, there's something we've not delved into too much yet, and that's the act of creating something ourselves. Just how easy is it to make a game in Dreams? Can people like us, with no working knowledge of programming or design, come up with something functional, and playable? Better yet, can we make something fun?
We're kicking off a new, regular feature in which we try to do just that. In this first instalment, we'll be talking you through the concept for our pretty simple minigame, and our first steps into making it a reality.
The Big Idea
The seed of our vision comes from an anecdote. While on a train, esteemed editor Sammy Barker was sat opposite a girl who proceeded to demolish a large bag of Doritos and a jar of salsa. Fair enough, but it struck Mr. Barker as a little odd to wolf down the cumbersome snack aboard a train, of all places. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Dreams beta test had us pitching games to each other. Remembering the Doritos girl, Sammy and your humble author worked out a simple plan. Snacks on a Train was born.
Put simply, your objective will be to dunk the tortilla chips into the sauce before eating them to score points. The problem is, the jar of salsa is moving about on the table, and if you slam the crisp down at the wrong time, it'll snap, ruining it. You want as much salsa on each dip as possible for maximum points. However, leaving the chip in the sauce for too long will also cause it to snap. You need to finish the bag before the train ride is over.
Doesn't sound too complicated, does it? A small game about consuming salty snacks -- what could go wrong?
Laying the Foundations
When you have to break down the Big Idea to actually start building something, it turns out there's a multitude of ways it can go wrong. We decided it's probably best not to dwell on that, though, and forge ahead with Snacks on a Train. Now that Early Access is here, we're doing that right now, and the first challenge we're tackling is the setting.
We need a train carriage, first and foremost. We build this fairly quickly using the Rounded Cube in Sculpture Mode. Stretching it out into roughly the shape we need, we stamp it into the scene, then switch to subtract, shrink the shape slightly, and stamp again to hollow it out. We create some windows by extending an oblong through both sides of the carriage and subtract from the shape. To make sure everything lines up, we have the grid guide turned on. Done.
Actually, not done -- we need seats, and tables. Creating a table with simple geometry doesn't take us too long, but creating convincing chairs might take a little more artistic skill than we possess. So, it's off to the Dreamiverse to find something suitable. Surprisingly, we find something pretty perfect in seconds. The next step is to place the tables and chairs inside the carriage in a typical layout, and with a lot of jiggery-pokery and liberal use of the clone tool, we're able to get it looking good.
We also need some strip lights to ensure the carriage is bright enough so you can see what you're doing, and creating these takes very little effort. Using the Paint tool, we create a strip of pale yellow, enter its tweak menu, and turn up the Glow meter, illuminating it. Then it's just a case of cloning it a couple of times and lining them up on the ceiling of the carriage, and we have light.
Something that occurs to us during this stage is that the train should look as though it's moving along. We've yet to decide on a camera position, but we quickly come up with a solution to create the illusion of passing through the countryside. We stamp in a giant cylinder. We then apply a Rotator gadget to the cylinder to, well, make it rotate. Adjusting the angle of the spin, we make it so that it rotates clockwise which, when viewed from inside the carriage, looks as if it's the great outdoors zipping by the window. Or at least it will, once we create some rolling hills and paste in a few trees.
However, stamping in a tree from the Dreamiverse, we realise the Rotator doesn't automatically account for the new shape. When we start time, the tree simply falls off the cylinder -- it's not attached. The only way we can figure out how to ensure it spins with the cylinder correctly is to use a Bolt. Affixing one end to the tree, the other to the cylinder, and adjusting the pivot to match the rotation, we manage to get it working.
We've a long way to go, but we have the beginnings of Snacks on a Train in place. We obviously need to do more work to get it looking good, with more scenery outside and more detail on the train's interior, but we're pleased with our early progress. Next, we'll need to implement a character, and the all important props: a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa.
There's a long way to go, but development on Snacks on a Train is go. Have you been busy building things in Dreams? Have you published anything onto the Dreamiverse yet, or are you still mapping out your ideas? Tell us what you think of our silly little experiment in the comments below.