De Blob is an amazing project by students at the Utrecht School of the Arts and Utrecht University. The game was developed by a team of 9 in just four months, with everyone working minimal hours alongside other obligations. The output is tremendous. Joost van Dongen, the lead programmer, describes the game as:
It is a 3D game in which the player controls a ball of paint rolling through the city. The ball can absorb coloured NPC’s to become larger and change its colour. With the paint, the player can then proceed to paint the entire city. Almost everything is paintable: buildings, trees, cars and using the paint trace even the ground. The main goal of the game is to paint all 17 landmark buildings. Hardcore fanatics can also try to collect all 50 coins that are hidden around the level.
Perception vs. Simulation
What’s really interesting about De Blob, as Joost points out in his Gamedev.net post, is that the actual physics simulation of the main character is a simple rigid body sphere. Even though the game feels like you’re controlling a blob of fluid, this is entirely accomplished by the presentation. The squash and stretch of the blob and the squishy-sounding audio creates the illusion. It’s a very powerful example of how our internal, mental simulation of a game world can actually be much more complex than the computer’s underlying simulation.
Player perception is an important lesson for game developers to learn. You could enhance the fidelity of your physics simulation, or you could simply create the illusion of enhanced complexity. The flipside is possible, too, where a player could perceive a physics simulation as less complex than it really is. When you design a system, keep in mind that players spend more time playing the game in their heads than they do playing the hard-and-fast numbers inside some piece of silicon.
Mark Your Territory
The gameplay in De Blob is fairly basic, but remarkably well executed. The goal is to become the same color as various targets throughout the city and then touch them. The game uses a very elegant color-mixing scheme to accomplish this. For instance, if you need to turn green you’ll have to pick up a blue and a yellow person. Some of the targets require careful movement to reach, but for the most part the physics aspects of the game are very simplistic.
De Blob was designed as a kiosk game, where passer-bys in an information center would casually play for a few minutes and then move on. Because of this, the game doesn’t have a lot of structure on top of it. There is only one level, and there aren’t any rewards for actually completing your task.
Still, it’s a surprising amount of fun to play and a visual treat to look at. And, hey, it’s free, so give it a whirl. The only downside is steep system requirements—the developers recommend a 2Ghz machine with 512 MB of memory.
More information on the game is available in this Gamedev.net discussion thread, which was posted by the lead programmer.
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