Robots: Better, Cheaper, Faster

It’s been a minute since our last dev blog! We’ve been working hard on building out new features and getting to know our new collaborators at FIRST Robotics, so the dev blog has been a little quiet lately, but we should be back to our regular schedule moving forward.

Today we’re highlighting one of the new features we’ve finished since our last development update.

Budget, Time, and Score

Every video game needs a score system to give the feeling of winning, as expressed by numbers going up!

Ok, maybe not every video game, but our game is about engineering. And engineering involves optimizing a solution within constraints. Our challenge objective system is inherently binary: an objective like “Deliver the sandwich to the guest at table 6” can only be complete or incomplete. Having optional sub objectives like “Deliver the sandwich upright on the plate” adds room for optimization, but we wanted even more. We decided to add a complementary system that was not binary, and offered a sliding scale of success for players who enjoy seeing just how far they can take their robot engineering ideas.

To achieve this, our challenges now have a revised Results screen and a new scoring system!

Here’s how it currently works. As always, you earn a bit the first time that you complete each of the three objectives. But now there are three additional bits available from a score meter on the bottom of the screen. You earn a bit the first time you meet or exceed the associated score threshold on this meter, much like the 0-3 star ratings in a game like Overcooked.

During challenge gameplay, we track the following metrics that contribute to your score:

Budget

Each robot part now has a cost per unit. When you add new parts to your robot or resize parts in Edit mode, it increases the budget. This budget does not involve an allowance, store, or checkout aisle: that is, you’ll never be unable to afford parts. Instead, the budget is simply a tally that goes up when you add parts, like an estimate of how much your robot design would cost to manufacture. You can design something as expensive as you like, but a lower budget will be worth more score when the challenge ends.

If you love cosmetic parts as much as we do, don’t fret, as cosmetics that don’t serve a mechanical function will still be cost free! We want to see your full range of creativity expressed, so we didn’t want to create an awkward choice for you between “useless” cosmetics and a better score.

Time

Each time you enter Active mode and attempt to complete challenge objectives, a timer will begin counting up. Similar to the budget system, you’ll never run out of time and you can complete challenges at the pace of your choosing, but a lower time will be worth more score.

Objectives

To keep the score system from just rewarding simplistic designs, we also make sure to count the objectives themselves as part of the score. This way, to get a higher score, you can’t just make something cheap and brute force the main objective. Instead you need to make a cheap and fast design that is good enough to carry out the complexity of the main objective plus the two sub-objectives as well.

Penalties

Lastly, we deduct from your score any penalties incurred from property damage or unhappy humans. This way, to get a higher score, you’ll need an elegant robot that is mindful of its surroundings.

In user tests with other people around our studio, we’ve already seen how these new elements of time, budget, and score can inspire some new design ideas upon replaying challenges. We’ll be interested and excited to see what players do in upcoming user tests! Until then, thanks for reading and following our journey, and make sure you and your friends are in our official Discord! We’ve got some hands-on testing opportunities coming up later this year that you won’t want to miss.

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