I just finished removing most of my conveyor belt code, except for the random number generator and associated morsels which will be necessary for the magic food table. Yes, I know that took longer than it should have; I was busy again at work. Plus, I needed to give some thought to how exactly I wanted to set the new code up.
There will be a table for each player. Foods will be selected randomly, again, and each will disappear independently- I will use my trusty 3-bit counter so every 8 IRQ counts the random number generator will determine whether each food remains or is replaced. I will tweak the random number generator to prevent every food from disappearing - I suspect something much less than a 50% chance of the food vanishing would be appropriate, though the rate could increase as the game progresses to increase difficulty. Then the raptured foods will be replaced with the smoke tile. Every spot with smoke will have to be synchronized, which is a shame, but otherwise I would be using up too many colors on the palette.
Okay, so the other thing that kept me busy this week was playing some games. But that's totally research for a game developer. And I will tell you what I learned, to prove the point.
I've been playing Phantasy Star Universe, mostly because nearly all the family I have in this hemisphere and some friends are all on it, and because it is a good game, for an MMORPG. But, being an old games connoisseur, a spot in my heart had always ached for the days of Phantasy Star Online (which I used to play with the same crew). So I booted up my Dreamcast and logged on to Schthack's server (http://www.schtserv.com/). I was just playing on my own, which was boring enough - the game is really not optimized for offline play. But the other thing I noticed is some serious frustration with the controls. Though a very complex game with a formidable learning curve, PSU has quite intuitive controls. PSO version 2, on the other hand, really shows a great lack of control optimization, even though it was a huge step up from the original version 1!
So, lesson 1: spend the time to make controls intuitive. I did have a visceral dislike for the learning curve of PSU, but it is a complex game, so I can forgive it. But the controls are pretty decent. My plan for Master Chef is to have one button do everything. I like simple games - Crazy Taxi is one of my favorites. But it plagiarizes, in a way, a Saturn game called Courier Crisis. You go around on a bicycle, picking up packages and dropping them off. The difference between this game and Crazy Taxi is, whereas in the latter you brake, accelerate, go forwards and backwards, and steer, in the former, every single button on the Saturn pad is used. Eight buttons and the D-pad!! So two games, similar themes, but one is a favorite and the other a total mess.
Another thing I learned: I downloaded a quest because this was something I had never gotten around to doing in my PSO heyday, and I happened to have a nearly empty VMU sitting around. I ended up serendipitously downloading the Burning Rangers quest. I always liked Burning Rangers until I read someone call it very ugly. Then I remembered - it is probably Sonic Team's most hideous game. Just awful. But pretty soon after reading that statement, I booted it up and started playing again. Yes, it is a terrible-looking game, but it has so much going for it that that doesn't matter! Novel gameplay, including the vocal guides, set it apart as a worthwhile game. So, while I don't think that novelty alone is going to make a graphically unimpressive game (like nearly anything I could cook up on the SMS), I think that the game industry has always had a tendency to beat the same gameplay ideas into the ground, leaving a lot of possibilities unexplored. Nintendo DS developers are really venturing into this unchartered territory with their lovely, original games, but I think there's still a lot of room out there for SMS developers to come out with new ideas.