[Prototype] Tin Town

edited in Projects
Tin Town, aka Chopper game aka Metropocopter (aka Help me come up with a name) is a new prototype I've been working on.
It's about flying a robotic chopper around and trying your best to build stuff without destroying everything and killing everyone.

Latest build (0.5.0)


For the time being the goal of the prototype level is to construct the building as shown on the billboard. You do this by using your chopper to transport and place a variety of building blocks in order to match the proposed shape of the building.

This was originally inspired by an old game called Ugh!, but the building block idea is very similar to Tangram, for those who played it as a kid. I'm pretty hazy as to where the gameplay is going at this point (see the notes below). It might veer towards twitchy chopper control stuff, or physics-based city building. It'll probably be a combination of a bunch of things, but any feedback about where you think it should go would be well appreciated too.


WASD or Arrow keys: Control chopper
Space: Grapple/release object
Q/E: Rotate grappled object
F: Buy/sell block
TAB: Blueprint mode on/off

I've implemented Xbox controller support thanks to @Merrik's awesome package (hehe) for controller input in Unity. I have no idea how this will work with something like a generic PC gamepad, so if you have one and want to give it a try, let me know how it goes.

Left stick: Control chopper
A: Grapple/release object
Left/Right trigger: Rotate grappled object
X: Buy/sell block
B: Blueprint mode on/off

Major gameplay elements I still want to prototype:

1) 2 or more players, possibly using a combination of a zooming camera and split screen, or just split screen. This has potential to expand into competitive (building competing towns and destroying your rivals' towns) and co-op game modes.

2) Freeform building mode/sim tower type game. Having different building blocks do different things, and letting the player put a whole lot of strangely-shaped blocks together to create buildings that generate electricity, money, and other resources. Perhaps the current goal of building a Tangram-style shape is a type of challenge in the main game. This could evolve into something of a physics-based city builder, but I'll see. I don't want to lose sight of the simplicity of flying around and smashing into shit.

3) Carrying people around, as in using your chopper as a taxi. Ugh! was all about transporting people around while offering a smooth(ish) ride. This might be a nice change of pace during a level.


  • Really really cool! I really dig it so far!!!

    My second playthrough I felt like this:

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    lol, the amazing log lifting chopper! So appropriate.

    I really liked that all the interactions were in-world. It felt more thought through than had there been menu buttons to do things like finish the building. It felt like a toy that I could play with (in a good way).

    Question: Why doesn't it auto-purchase blocks? It seems like removing them from the junkyard would amount to purchasing them. Does it need the extra key press to purchase them.

    I didn't spot the guy with the toxic waste problem the first time. On the second playthrough I killed his house as well (for good measure) and I appreciated that he had some dialogue to go with it. I think the force-field is a little inelegant, but I know it's a prototype and it gets the job done (if inelegantly). For instance: if a police chopper came if you stole the block, and took you to chopper jail, I think that would be more interesting.

    I really like that the game sort of has this story feel, even though normally this sort of game is abstract and flavourless (to get mass appeal for the casual audience). When I say "this sort of game" I mean games where stacking physics blocks is a core mechanic. The approach you are taking reminds me of Little Inferno.

    I did find the movement to be much more sluggish than necessary. I realise you want a feeling of weight, but it still took 5 minutes to stack 6 or so blocks. I don't think it was my computer's fault (the framerate seemed fine).

    I think there might be some other ways to speed up the game a bit and save the player some time. For instance the game could snap the blocks more into place and auto finish the building. Of course, it really depends on where you want the challenge of the game to be. If micromanaging the blocks is the most fun challenge then focus on that of course. Right now micromanaging the blocks makes sense as the focus, but it seems like there might be some economic simulation aspects entering the game (with the costs of blocks) so maybe that's going to be the interesting challenge (I guess I'll have to see and I'm really just guessing now).

    In any case. I really like this idea. I think there's a lot of potential here.
  • @duncanbellsa
    Thanks man - that chopper video is incredible!

    That's some great feedback dude, thanks so much!
    The thing I'd like to change ASAP is the auto block buying. I have no idea why I didn't really think of that, especially since I was aware of how annoying it became when I forgot to buy a block and it sprung back into the junkyard. That springing is fun, but auto buying is more practical, and works nicely with what you were saying about the interactions being in the world. I'd like to keep that feeling as much as possible, especially since I'm planning to focus on that toy aesthetic:


    (Incidentally, I have one of these sitting on my desk, which stared at me long enough to force me into using it as stylistic reference, hence "Tin Town" :P )

    The quest/narrative stuff is something I'd definitely like to keep in, as it does add some flavor and potentially lets me play around with a story. However, it's probably a bit premature. I'd like to focus more on refining the gameplay, and the old farmer dude and his ranch was basically a prototype for how I'd structure missions.

    I need to work on the sluggish movement for the next build. The problem might be two-fold. For one, the chopper is not that responsive. Flying too fast in one direction makes it really difficult to reverse direction, though what @duncanbellsa pointed out is that there may be some learned skill to flying the chopper, so it might be worth keeping the challenge of having to anticipate the movement of the thing, and start changing direction well in advance, etc. etc. I'll play around with that.

    The block carrying and placement is a bigger issue, and I'm not really sure what to do with it. I want to keep the chaotic block placement as part of the game, rather than auto-placing. I also like that if you come in too fast you risk totally buggering up your building(s), and you have to rearrange. One solution may be to make the blocks lighter when carrying them, but heavier once placed. Am I right in thinking that one of the things you mean is that it takes too long to get back to momentum once you've picked up a block? Anyway, I will mess around with that for the next build too.
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    @Manikin I was really thinking ahead when talking about sluggishness and ease of block placing...

    In my imagination there are going to be structures much bigger than the example structure, and what is currently a 5 minute job becomes a 20 minute job, and placing the blocks accurately is currently closer to work than it is to play (and 20 minutes of work wouldn't be cool).

    So I'm expecting that if the game expands much then the junkyard/block placing loop will need speeding up...

    But that's based on certain assumptions... and you might find other solutions that mean that these problems never occur...

    For instance, have you thought about different kinds of basic blocks that do different things when connected to each other (perhaps like Starseed Pilgrim), that might make placing blocks require more thought and planning... That's not necessarily a good idea, but if the player has more to consider/experiment with then the timescale may not be such a problem.

    Or another example might be that with each block successfully placed the player receives a level up of some kind, that way the granularity of progress is much higher and there is less of a feeling of waiting until all the work is done.

    Btw. I'm all for the room for mastery in the movement of the chopper while carrying blocks. Playing with physics is fun. I'm criticizing the amount of time it will potentially cost the player to execute a relatively simple plan if/when the number of blocks they must place increases.
  • @Manikin - Think this is quite a cool concept and could lead to some really cool puzzles. My only crit aside from the "auto-buy" function already mentioned would be with the choppers controls. Found it annoying that the chopper lost altitude every time you took your finger off "W". This made it feel too flappy birdish (even if you didn't have too tap) and was more frustrating than a skill to master. This could just be me, but I would prefer if the craft stayed at the level it was at if it was stationary in the air and you took your finger off "W" and only have it loose/gain altitude when it starts moving with "a" and "d". That would feel more like what I would expect a helicopter to do. Where it looses altitude due to it's slant forward (when moving forward with the nose down) and gain altitude if slanted back (with the nose up while moving backwards). That way you can still rotate the helicopter with "a" and "d" while stationary in the air, but go up and down when holding "w" while pressing "a" and "d". Hope that makes sense.
  • Cool man. :) I played it just now.

    For some reason I wanted the blocks to snap into place if I placed them near enough to a "correct" position. Positioning the block as exactly as I could to go from 85% to 88% complete really didn't feel worth it to me. Depending on how you expand this it might. I can see a scenario a 3% better constructed building has a lot more value to the player, that actually makes it worth it to fiddle with minute distances. It seems like that is what you are going for though.

    I also missed the second triangle piece on my first play. Once I found him I accidentally wrecked his house. That made me feel a little bit sad. :-( But I have a question about this though. What is the motivation for providing the piece even though the player essentially screwed up the mission? I don't mind it and actually think it would be quite cool to have different rewards for completing missions in different ways.

    Are you planning on expanding on this in a "level by level" sort of way where each level you are supposed to build a specific structure or two? Or are you thinking more along the lines of a large city where you can build lot's of things over a period of time?

    Also, how does buying the pieces help me? I was wondering whether the idea would be that the junkyard is closer than other blocks or if you had some other plan? I flied to other places but couldn't find more blocks that were free.

    This looks super cool though. Would love to see more of it. :)
  • Thanks all - it's awesome to get some feedback and this gives me a pretty good list of intermediate things to try for the next small build.

    I see what you mean about it feeling a lot more like work, and yes, this first building is about as BASIC as it gets! So anything bigger will result in a massive chore for the player, which I'd like to avoid. I'll try and put in some kind of snapping, and whatever else I can do to make the process quicker. However, I think perhaps the core idea of building a Tangram-like shape/building might be flawed. I definitely like the puzzling aspect of it, but perhaps that's as far as it should go: once you've worked out which pieces go where and how they're rotated, getting them into those positions should be a much easier task than it currently is.

    As far as a different take on the core gameplay goes, I was kinda thinking of one of the options @Rigormortis suggested: Building a level over time, combined with your suggestion of combining blocks. What I've got in mind is a couple of different block types (like power sources, residences, and artillery blocks) that snap together to make little buildings which you can then move around and lay out. Again, I'm really not sure where to go with this gameplay wise, so I'll just prototype some new ideas.
    I played Starseed Pilgrim a little bit, lately. It boggled my mind a bit, but I'll give it another try. As far as I recall, a block would change its behaviour based on what it was adjacent to, right?

    Thanks for the feedback! I originally based the copper motion of Ugh!'s, which has that same no-hover system. I sort of have a soft spot for it, but from what we understand about choppers it doesn't really make any sense that the thing wouldn't hover. I may try the hover thing, but either way, I'll eventually turn the chopper into more of a clunky flying saucer thing with a propellor, which would be more appropriate for the kind of movement there is at the moment.

    Thanks man! Ye, the snapping thing definitely feels like a must at this point, especially since the accuracy rating at this point always seems to vary be a few percent due to tiny errors in the blocks' positions.
    The mission thing is more of a placeholder right now, and completing it in two different ways (with no real consequences other than a sore conscience :P ) was just a fun way to test my mission/story code. Later on though, I'd definitely love to have missions that can be completed in different ways, with different results, but for now I'll put all that stuff on hold as it may detract from the focus I need to put on gameplay.
    The junkyard idea is really cool, actually, in that you might be paying for the convenience. I'll put some thought into that, but ultimately I'd like to have an environment that's full of blocks, and interesting ways to get hold of them.

    And then as I mentioned above, the stuff about level-by-level or persistent world is an interesting consideration. I'll prototype some stuff with a more city-building flavour and see what happens :)
  • I don't think you need snapping, but rather the activity itself could be simplified to the point of absurdity to create comedy. Think of Octodad - the tasks are so damn menial, but the controls are what gives the game its character. So if you create comedy, that's where the gameplay could shine, instead of creating work :)

    My two cents!
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    @Manikin I'm not 100% behind snapping. It might make building large towers trivial, where with the current system small flaws in the base might have more effect.

    Like @Tuism mentioned, it really depends on where you want the gameplay. Snapping is worth prototyping, and it might make the game less *work* , but it will come at a cost. Surprising mistakes make physics games more humourous, and I'm guessing here, but snapping might mean fewer mistakes. You'd have to try it to find out.

    I'm also really curious as to what the monorail is going to do.

    [Edit] There's also something perversely funny about building a structure that has obvious flaws in it and selling it to people anyway. You would lose that with perfect placement. Maybe there's a kind of block-placement-assistance that doesn't create perfection though? (Maybe you've already thought of that).
  • Some awesome points guys, thanks, and lots to think about. It would definitely feel like missing out by not having the inherent humour that almost always comes from physics-based games. For the next small build, I'll prototype a few different options for snapping, among other things.

    I think the solution here is to not necessarily have so much of a focus on getting every block placed perfectly. For one thing, that idea of selling a totally wonky end product to someone, or having a cloth drop down on building opening day (with a "ta-da") and revealing this ridiculous mess, could add a huge amount to the humour. It's kinda why I wanted robot people instead of humans - the robot people are virtually incapable of judging the aesthetic merit of a structure!
    A smaller emphasis on perfect placement is more in line with my current train of thought: that the game should be more about creating a city of smaller-scale buildings instead of creating one building that has to match an exact outline. I'd like it if building placement mattered somewhat, but not in the goal-chasing way it does at the moment.

    The monorail was a remnant of when I had robotic capsule people milling around. It would arrive and drop them off, and you could then pick them up and carry them to a new apartment. I'll get back to that stuff at some point.
  • @Manikin - i'm also pro no snapping. The physics of swinging items could lead to previously placed blocks being knocked over, which could add another mechanism to master. Alternatively it could be fixed with difficulty modes i.e. easy mode has snapping, hard mode has none.
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