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I got a really warm response when I posted this game a few months ago, (previous discussion: https://lobste.rs/s/tleiej/sandspiel_falling_sand_game_built_rust) and I finally wrote up some of my thoughts and the architecture of the game.

Sorry if it’s a bit rambling, and thank you for reading! Would love to answer any extra questions


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    “Low-fidelity art is also appealingly open to interpretation. If a character is only eight pixels tall, a large part of what we see is within our own imagination.” - Loren Schmidt

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      Their Twitter (@lorenschmidt): https://twitter.com/lorenschmidt?s=09

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      I really like your blog and it saved me from thinking that you’d just landed on this really top of the line sand game on your first try. Thanks for humanizing your amazing work.

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        I’m really glad that came across! To be honest, after writing this, I felt that I had been dishonest in leaving out many negative aspects of the process because those are more difficult to write about. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

        Two things I didn’t write about:

        I was kind of fried when I finished, because I didn’t make time to take breaks and formed a false narrative in my mind that I had to finish the game as fast as possible or I would never release it. I didn’t feel very healthy or happy for the month or so afterward (doesn’t help that it was the middle of the winter and I wasn’t getting any sunlight)

        The upload board community has a lot of spam, bullying, and nastiness. I’ve tried to do things to make it nicer through the design (no tracking of points, no comments), but solving a social problem with a UI design is not working well. This bums me out but I’m not sure what to try next. I wish I had made the element set a little bit more nature oriented and less pyrotechnic - no idea if that would have helped.

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        I played with this for almost 90 minutes last night. It’s addictive.

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          I’ve heard someone categorize the two main pleasures of a video game as creating a mess and cleaning one up - I think that falling sand games capture both of these pleasures : )

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          I assumed that Sandspiel sprang fully-formed from your first attempt. I like it even more knowing how you arrived at the current version. The idea of user-defined elements is really interesting. Are you still pursuing this?

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            only passively - I don’t yet know what wasm toolchain i would use that i can compile & link in the browser.

            another problem is interactions between elements built by different people- how do you mark your alien wood as flammable?

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              I was thinking that the spirit of your idea could be followed by creating a “compounding” mechanism within the game. This would enable a user to create new elements by combining existing elements. The compound is some union of the behaviors of the combined elements. Or you could define a set of even more elemental behaviors that are combined to create a new element. This is more constrained than the original idea, but it eliminates the need to support user-defined code and avoids impedance mismatches between user-defined elements.

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                I hadn’t considered this - I think that some sort of constrained declarative “production rule” language might be another option - I’ve seen those used effectively in similar simulations, like in dave ackley’s research

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                  Sounds interesting! I’ll check it out.