Spend a relaxing day at the river, fishing. Or, spend a hectic day at the market, selling your fish. Check out the devlog on the blog side.
Economics is fascinating. I've never had the pleasure of formally studying, but I love considering the complex systems of money and goods that happens the throughout the world, and have long contemplated how to model a fun economic system in a game. Fishing is fascinating. I've only fished a few times, with moderate success, but have long contemplated the allure of the sport. People who hate touching fish love to throw a hook and line into the water to see what comes up. People who have no luck fishing love to try and try again. Skilled fishers wake up early to catch the big one that got away last time. What exactly is the magic?
As a purely economic game, I've had multiplayer in mind as a possibility. You start trading in a small village with limited horizons and have the opportunity to take your business to the big city where other players are trading. Build a trade empire, spreading your giant corporation to new cities, building a fleet for international trade, manipulate markets for the highest personal gain. The question is, what is the least common denominator, the basis of all economy? Fishing. If nothing else, you can make a basic little shop where you sell fish that you caught for free. Fish are the great equalizer.
Keep it simple
Multiplayer is not simple. Balancing an economic situation with only one player will be challenge enough without having a dynamic online community. Fishing should be simple. So, the game has become focused on the fishing. Click to cast, and wait to see what happens. Sounds boring, right? I believe part of the magic of fishing comes from a combination of a low entry barrier and high potential reward. Gameplaywise, a low barrier means click-to-cast; even if you've never played a computer game before, you can instantly get this system. The high reward is identical to real fishing - the potential to get the big one. This requires knowing what fish like to eat (a food chain of little fish leading to bigger ones) and where to fish (recognize the signs; movement, color, time of day.) A trophy room with any fish that you care to put into it encourages getting increasingly larger fish as well as the entire gamut of types. How about 100 types of fish to catch?
Two games in one?
Two main ideas in one game is generally considered a bad idea. For a small game, there should only be one focus (either a cozy fishing game or a crunchy eco game). Especially as a new dev, I recognize that I may be going too big, and a divided focus might ruin either game. However, I believe that as a player, you should be able to ignore either half of the game. In fact, the effect I want to achieve is to sell a fishing game, and if you get bored of the cozy gameplay, there is a completely different game of min-max-ing that will take you away from the comfort of fishing. A player will never be able to find a balance. Do you want to make money? You will be forced to sacrifice all the things that make the game cozy. Do you want to relax and feel happy? You will be required to give up on the dream of being filthy rich. The two are meant to be mutually exclusive in this game. For that reason, I believe that it is worth splitting the focus of the game in two.
Things to make it cozy
So, what will make this game cozy instead of just boring? Refer to [this article] (https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TanyaXShort/20180305/315179/Designing_for_Coziness.php) for good information about what it means for a game to be cozy. For CozyFishing, these are the specific features that will be implemented colon
- graphics. I want the game to look absolutely stunning. While you wait for a bite, you can gaze on the work of art that is this game. Beautiful colors, charming animations, and a day-night cycle that never gets old.
- friendly game warden. When you start the game, the game warden gives you a tutorial in the form a few pointers. In fact, whenever you go fishing, he'll want to strike up a conversation, tell you a funny story, point out a new fishing tip, or just give you some free bait. All he wants is for you to have a good time.
- eating fish over a crackling fire. Crackling fires are super cozy, and eating fish is one of the highlights of real life fishing. Personally, I love staring into a slowly fading campfire, watching the flames and coals. Can a digital flame ever really compare? It can at least elicit memories of a real campfire.
- sunsets. Before you cook your fish, enjoy a bit of scenery. At the end of each day, there will be a spectacular and unique sunset to watch. Depending on what part of the river you are at, a different cutscene will be generated at the end of the day.
- soundtrack. The general soundscape should be high quality, with bird sounds, bugs, fish splashing, wind and rain effects, and generally the sort of game that you would just have running in your living room as a background soundscape. The music should be slightly melencholy, wistful, longing. Recently, I heard some picked-guitar that was absolutely perfect. I wish I remember where. Add some relaxing piano (but not too boring) to mix it up. The theme for Offworld Trading Company is amazing. Sometimes I load up the game just to hear that song in the main menu (even though I have the soundtrack - it just feels better to have the game running, too. Is that weird?) That is feeling I want this soundtrack to inspire.
- autofishing. Maybe you could even automate everything, so your avatar goes fishing by himself, has little conversations with the warden, eats something and then starts a new day after watching a beautiful sunset. It's like a mega-screensaver, or interactive art. Your guy won't get rich, but that's not the point, is it?
In short, a player should be able to load this game up and literally do nothing and still enjoy it for hours on end. Just like fishing in real life.
Things to make it crunchy
On the economics hand, there should be a deep game that is practically the opposite of fishing. This is the crunch side. Everything that makes it relaxing will be undone. Do you want to make the catch of your life? Each day is limited, so make the best use of your time.
- game warden. Avoid at all costs. His friendly conversation cuts into fishing time. His free bait is nice, but it's only good for first or second level fish; You've already bought second level fish from the market to use as bait for third or fourth level fish. He'll give you fishing tips, but you've already heard them all or learned that for yourself; his amateur help and fishing jokes are just annoying. Besides, the best fishing spots are secluded, away from him.
- skip cutscenes. Sure, that sunset is lovely, but it also cuts into your fishing time. Hit the escape key, and pull in that unique fish that only comes out during those few sunset minutes that you used to waste on enjoying the game art.
- speaking of skipping, don't bother eating. You'll miss out on the food, and possibly suffer a penalty, but it's worth it for that extra hour of fishing. Besides, everyone knows that fish eat dinner at the same time, so get out there and feed them your hook.
- graphics. The charming animations and beautiful water needs to be just as packed with cues about fishing as with pleasing looks. The shade of the water indicates depth, movement means fish are coming up, different fish move the water in different ways, shade and decorative flora are where the fish hang out, and cute bears splashing in the river will definitely scare the fish away. Every feature that can be admired in an artistic way can also be seen with the piercing gaze of an expert fisher.
- buying and selling. You'll discover that instead of digging worms to catch fish to use as bait for bigger fish, it is much more efficient to buy bait fish at market, and start the day with a much better chance of catching the big one, or the unique one. But going into market to buy and sell is draining and time consuming. Instead of endearing animations, there are numbers. Instead of a relaxing soundscape, you will hear fishmongers shouting out what they are selling. The soundtrack will change; maybe it's still piano and guitar, but now it's the generic elevator style, practically designed to be turned off. Do you really want to squeeze out every last dollar that you can get, or just sell what you can for a few hours, then travel back to the river to catch a few fish for tomorrow's market. This is where the game really divides. You will decide that it's almost never worth the hassle of going into market, and sell in bulk to an NPC who is going, or you will follow the attraction of the money, and abandon the fishing to NPCs. In fact, you can do more than buy fish from dedicated fisherpeople; you can get a corner on the market by buying the marked up fish at market, then marking them up again. If you've spent enough time in town to figure out when different fish are in demand, this market manipulation technique will make a killing. A feast in the palace, or a general celebration will increase demand.
- more in depth supply and demand. The sky is the limit as far as potential complexity. Voting on different policies could affect supply and demand, a complex hierarchy of people and classes could give you another level of gameplay; it's one thing to have an increasing number of money and quite another for that to affect your social circles. Start by selling to the general public, then win lucrative contracts with social elites. Just don't let them catch you hanging out with the commoners at the river. That would destroy your social standing.
what will it look like?
I am not a graphic artist. Since my game company consists of only me, and not even that most of the time, I don't see how I can realistically accomplish the beauty required for this game. Should it be pixel art? That can be very cozy and is in right now. I've seen some pretty pixel art, and it's not impossible for a non-artist to produce decent pixel art. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for SVG. A smooth-but-detailed svg style could be slick and maybe easier to apply lighting animations over. I don't want the fishing areas to be randomly generated. They should be custom made, but there should still be enough randomness that you will never get tired of seeing the sunset, and hopefully never tire of seeing the different river locations.
Note on politics
Politics add a lot of potential for money-squeezing. I don't intend to make a statement in the game about politics, either in general or on anything specific, but analyzing policies to see how they affect supply, demand, and your bottom line would unavoidably make some sort of statement.
Endless Sky, a free space trading game, hints at some political affiliations, but the game never interacts with it. Instead, the draw of the game is seeing your credits steadily increase. The bigger your fleet, the better missions you can take, and the faster you get rich. After grinding for a while, you start to feel that exponetial growth curve, and you just can't stop. Instead of going all out political, CozyFishing could have an automated business system to complement the autofishing. Instead of being the best screensaver on the market, when you get tired of buying and selling fish manually, just hit the automation button to watch your guy buy more and more fish and a bigger and bigger market place. With a generous balance, there is little risk, and you can just check in every once in a while to gleefully cackle at how much money your little avatar has stocked up.
Endless sky is pretty generous in balance. In the beginning, you avoid pirates like the plague and worry about whether you'll make enough in this load to pay interest on your loan. But then you get a little more cargo room and take on missions without hardly looking at what it earns. There is a min-max game there somewhere, because prices on planets vary slightly, and you could calculate whether 8 tons of mission cargo is earning you more than 8 tons of highly valuable medical supplies, but that's hard. Why bother when you can just click "yes" on all the missions that you have room to take on and know that you'll come out richer? CozyFishing could take that approach with the market, and that would be great for automation. Or, there could be a risk/reward structure that requires long range planning (voting, knowing what's coming up on the calendar, factions), and has a real risk that you will be reduced to going back to fishing. That would force you to count your pennies and increase the stress, which I believe adds to the vision of the mutually exclusive nature of the two halves of the game. But it would be hard; a game I would probably buy, but not play. Also, the autoplay version adds a symmetrical dimension.
FAQ: will there be hats?
Yes, I'm glad you asked. This is completely an optional part of the game, but I thought it would be cool if you could identify everyone by their hat. Poor fishers have small, grey hats. Royal gaurds have a red stripe across their hat. The richer people have bigger hats, and the shape, color, and pattern would clue you in to what affiliations they have. This would give you something to spend your riches on, and would be a cool way to tie the two halves of the game together; everybody has a hat.
Um, well, my game that I'm "working on" has to be done first, and there are a couple other game ideas that I might hack out first, games that don't require real graphics. I'd like to see it on the digital shelf in 2021. That will require actual work and sacrifice.
Last updated: December 26th, 2018