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  Mechanic #024 - Rubber Band Ball
Posted: 06/01/07

A game of applying elastic force to an object in order to navigate it around a maze.



This idea started as a very simple and traditional gameplay mechanic. You've got a rubber ball that you have to navigate around a maze. You use a stylus or mouse to drag a line away from it (not unlike some pool videogames model using the que stick) and release. The ball will continue in the direction that the line "snaps" towards at a velocity related to how long the ling was (how far you pulled back the stick). The ball will bounce around according to basic collisions and eventually friction will slow it down to a stop, and you do it again.

I'm not sure that this mechanic has ever been used in a maze navigation game, though it seems like it must have. I've certainly seen the whole ball in maze thing before (Marble Madness, Oxyd). So, this idea isn't really all that interesting as is. So I decided to change it up a bit. Let's see what happens when it becomes a side view!


Moving to the side view adds in gravity to the mix. I thought it'd be fun to add in some stylus-operated widgets like a cannon that you can rotate or a door you slide open using the stylus, just to give the environment that sort of direct tinker feel. Anyway, after the ball is shot out of the cannon, gravity takes over and it will bounce around the environment. But even this is not a new idea.


You can apply the rubber band force to the ball at any time, even while in midair. In fact, you could probably keep the ball in midair indefinitely, so long as you kept "snapping" it in an upward direction. Pulling the rubber band back even exerts a bit of force on the ball (not much though), so if you don't pull back and snap quickly, you could end up pulling your ball too far in the wrong direction. But wait, there's more!


The rubber band is actually part of the environment. That is, it can be affected by the terrain. Perhaps there isn't enough room to pull it back far enough, or while pulling it back, a bit of terrain gets in the way, bending the rubber band (see right side of image). You could even use this to potentially slingshot the ball at high speeds.

In addition to that, you can use the rubber band to carry the ball around (see left side) for short periods of time. You accomplish this by pulling the ball in the opposite direction from it's current velocity, slowing it down until it finally just has gravity and the rubber band acting on it. The ball is on an elastic band, so the ball will bob up and down and sway back and forth according to how you move the stylud. In addition to that, the rubber band slowly stretches out the longer you carry the ball. Eventually, the tension will increase too far and the rubber band will break. You can always draw another one, but bad stuff could happen while you are scrambling to regain control of the ball.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.