A Game a Week #3: Mystical Merchant

Click here to download

A post about game #3 is long overdue but now that I have taken a break from my part-time job to focus on my degree, I have more time to update my blog. I created this game almost exactly a month ago and so far I feel it is the game I have spent the most time on over a week. So, here it is, Mystical Merchant (click here to download), a game where you manage little shop and attend to magical customers:

Game Summary

The player plays as Whimsy, the manager of a little shop of curiosities. The player must earn as much as possible in 10 days by trading and selling with the various magical customers that visit the store. Every type of customer will buy and sell each item at a different price so it is vital that the player pays attention to this in order to generate as much income as possible. In addition, specific customers will only visit the store depending on the weather conditions. For example, wizards and fairies visit the store on misty days. The player can check the weather conditions for the following day using the almanac, which will help them to prepare for future customers.

Design Process

This week’s game was an exercise in using maths as an integral part of the programming. The aim was to create a game that contains a vender from which the player can buy or sell resources. The game must also contain some kind of changing factor that affects the price of the resources.  After creating two fairly dark games about death/killing, I had an urge to create something cute and light-hearted. Thus, I designed a fairy tale shop with magical customers and items. I knew immediately that I wanted the player to take on the role of the shopkeeper rather than a customer, as I thought this would likely be different to what my classmates were doing.

The factor that affects the resources’ prices in Mystical Merchant are the customers. I tried my best to make the prices intuitive. For example, fairies will pay more for a tooth. I expect players will figure out the most valuable items for each customer after a few playthroughs. I also implemented a weather system that dictates which customers visit the store. This, along with the player’s ability to check the weather forecast, added an element of strategy, as the player will need to try to stock the items that the next day’s customers will pay the most money for.

There are a few bugs with the game’s numbers, which unfortunately feature in the above video. Occasionally, the wrong price shows up for the love potion. I believe this might be because the game doesn’t register the change in price when the mouse hovers over the transparent sections of the icon. In addition, the figure that displays how much the player made at the end of the day is sometimes calculated incorrectly – I am not sure why this is! At the end of day 10, it always says you only made £10 that day. However, the final total is always correct and that is the most important thing!

Lessons for the Future

In order to make the game sellable, I know I would need to double – or triple – check my equations. It would be extremely frustrating for a user to download and play a game in which the maths does not function properly. Another suggestion I was given was to add an upgrade system. At the moment, the player can only make money and not do anything with it. If the player was able to spend the money earned to make improvements to the shop (such increased inventory space, unlockable decorations, or employees), it would enhance the overall experience infinitely because it rewards the player for playing and making money.

My lecturer also made a very interesting comment about how randomising events can be problematic. For example, even if a bad scenario has only a 1% chance of occurring, that means 1% of players will have a less enjoyable experience. Therefore, if 100,000 people are playing your game, that means around 1,000 people are not having as much fun and are more likely to give it a bad review. Therefore, it is wise to limit randomised factors. Mystical Merchant’s randomised weather conditions would definitely have benefitted from some limitations. During a friend’s playthrough, the game generated four or five misty days in a row, which made it very boring and difficult to make any money. Next time, I would make it so that no more than two days of the same weather can occur in a row.

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