Cave Explorer

edited in Projects
Tunnel down in search of GOLDEN TREASURES.
Avoid being burnt by LAVA and poisoned by RADIATION.
Fire your LASER DRILL.


Windows (34MB)
Mac (38MB)

Spent a couple of weeks on this prototype, so there's a lot that's placeholder and rough. Ultimately, I'm looking to know whether or not you find this interesting enough that you wish someone out there would continue working on it. If there are particular things that you wish it had, I'd be keen to hear too!


  • edited
    I like this IN PRINCIPLE :)

    - Really pretty, when I can see things.
    - The terrain deformation is fun.
    - It's a prettier minecraft? What is the vision for this? Survival? Like, how might this avoid being compared to minecraft and so many other survival crafting games already out there?


    - The visual balance is jarring, while you're digging you're more often than not completely blind (because the laser's a huge mess and dominates the visual field), or at least blind to what's going on. There's very little tell about depth or what you're digging at.
    - Subsequently, if I want to dig a tunnel that turns, I have to basically walk forward all the time and turn, which means even more blind time.
    - One of the points of discovery would be to find a cave and go "oooooh". But right now finding a cave just means you go into a space that's all black. Subtle lighting feels really needed.


    - I run a silly mac, but even then I wasn't expecting that once I started the game from the unity settings panel, the game didn't maximise or anything, it just hung on the panel for a while. Like at least a minute. I went to do other stuff while I heard my fan pick up. I wasn't expecting it to open up at all and then it did. Then it was on terrain generation for another minute or so. I know my mac's a potato and this is a prototype bu I thought I'd mention it.
    - I had all the details and resolution to the minimum and it still lagged more than comfortable. The above points on being blind hasn't to do with the lag though.
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
  • Thank you for playing!

    Is there a reason you didn't purchase sticky lamps to take with you? (I envisioned those to be fairly cheap, and allow you to both light your way and leave breadcrumbs for finding your way back to the surface.)

    As for the performance, I think the game's much heavier on CPU than it is on GPU, so different resolutions or low graphics settings aren't going to make much of a difference here. The bottleneck is largely in the terrain generation, where mesh needs to be created (or recreated) whenever you move around or dig somewhere. :( I'll look into ways of lightening that load though; there are lots of settings that I don't really understand. :P
  • Oh I didn't even see that there was a shop, I saw light blocks and one was for healing and I just went down :p

    I do think though the thing is that you want at least some subtle lighting cues for general feel of the game. I found that with Subnautica, I could explore at least without the light stuffs, even if by outlines and whatever. That really affects the first impression rather than being in completely pitch darkness.
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
  • Hey Jonathan, awesome job on putting this prototype out! I've been wanting to give this a go since I saw your first screenshots :D

    First of all, the tech involved in this is super cool! The terrain deformation feels great. I would love to find out more about how it works.

    In terms of game design, here are some thoughts:

    Right off the bat the player has way too much freedom. Because of the strength of the laser, I got lost, was not particularly motivated to get back to the shop (since I felt like I had what I needed), and didn’t get attached to my character or their goals. I feel like you should start with way less laser capacity and have it upgradeable in different ways, whether it be the amount of charge, how quickly it mines through different types of ground or if it can mine through different strata of ground. This way the initial core loop of the game is shortened and teaches the player the loop of mining a bit and then getting back to the shop, upgrading and then going mining again. In my opinion, having a bunch of smaller upgrades, in the beginning, would make the player more wary about dying and losing their hard-earned minerals because they would have a goal/use for them.

    The laser refill should also be put on some sort of timer which would encourage players to plan and excavate more carefully knowing that they only have so much charge. Right now I can stand by the shop and blast to my heart's content which means I am doing it without much thought.

    In my first play session, I was quite eager to get my hands on the SUPER MEGA DEATH LASER to the point that I didn't see the scanner at the shop. It was really hard to find minerals and when I did find what looked to be a huge vein of minerals that covered the entire side of a cave, I was walking away with about 100 in value which didn't feel great. (Edit: In retrospect now having used the scanner I think that this is fine, I imagine this sort of thing happens all the time in the mining world where there looks like there is a section dense with valuable minerals only to turn out it was just a tiny patch).

    On my second session (which I played while writing this), I grabbed the scanner straight away and tried to use it. It took quite a while to get it working because I wasn't sure if I had to click or if I could hold it in? A little bit of feedback on that would be really useful. At first, it seemed like it wasn't working at all to the point that it sometimes didn't register minerals that were right in front of me. How is it detecting the minerals? With a raycast? Because it seems really finicky.
    That said I did manage to find the motherload! It felt incredible and terrifying because at this point I knew I was doomed. I knew I couldn't make it out because I was just wondering down random caverns trying to test out the scanner and was completely lost. This experience definitely gave me a glimpse into how this game could turn out and I really liked it.
    I must say that my second session was way more fun!


    A lot of mining games like this are 2D and so the player is able to easily see what is coming, where the nearest minerals are and if there is any danger nearby. Whereas in a first-person 3D game you don’t get any of this knowledge. I think that the scanner can be given a lot of affordances in this game and could be used in a bunch of ways (accessed through paced upgrades). It could have limited range at first and then as it is upgraded, it could give more data such as direction, distance, type of things nearby. It could be used as a communication device to drive story (if you go in that direction), it could warn you about shifting environmental dangers or harmful gasses. In a sense, it could be your HUD in the world space. These are just a few ideas.

    One last thing to mention is that I think that context for what you are doing and why would also help a lot. I'm sure games like Subnautica could give a lot of inspiration when it comes to this.

    I think that the prototype has a lot of potential and I would love to see where you go with it. I hope this feedback has been useful.
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
  • edited
    Thank you for the detailed feedback, @blacksheepZA!

    The terrain deformation thing I bought off of the asset store. It's called Ultimate Terrains. It's a bit of a mixed bag, in that its tools aren't good, but the underlying voxel and meshing tech seems pretty sound and seem to run quite fast if you're on a mid-to-high end machine.

    The scanner works by checking a 50-voxel-distance in front of you (so it might not be 50 voxels if you're scanning at a diagonal). It's bad at picking up individual voxels because of occasional rounding errors, but it should be okay at picking up groups of minerals. The problem I have with it is that it's checking along a 1-voxel-thick cast, which is incredibly sensitive. Ideally it should check along a capsule-like shape, but I was struggling with the maths for that and put it on the backburner in favour of showing a prototype earlier. You're absolutely right that it should have feedback (both audio and visual) for when it's actually doing something, even if it doesn't detect any minerals.

    I love your suggestions! Thank you so much!
    Thanked by 1blacksheepZA
  • Its doing weird frame smearing things on my 2018 Mac Pro (no gfx)
    Would you mind posting a video? I would love to see the game playloop.
    Screenshot 2019-02-06 at 14.54.39.png
    1874 x 1318 - 2M
  • I gave this a play a couple of days ago and let it simmer a bit. I collected some thoughts as I was playing it again now. I only spent about an hour playing and I didn't try too hard to achieve anything so bear that in mind while reading through the feedback.

    1) I didn't know where I should be digging. Initially I didn't have enough to buy the scanner and I didn't even realize what minerals looked like. It was only after I suffered my first death that I realized the green stuff wasn't minerals. It could be helpful to have some minerals above ground as a quick way to get the player going. I also think the player can just start with the scanner. At least at this stage in the prototype since there isn't much else to do except digging.

    2) I got stuck underground because my laser ran out. This can be good or bad depending on the style of game you want to develop. Really good if you want to focus on something that's harsher and closer to a simulation rather than the explore/arcade style of other games in the genre.

    3) I know the laser's visuals has been mentioned before, so I'll just say that I also had difficulty with it. I'll add something that I think might help though. I felt like I wanted to "paint" with left mouse and "scrape" with right. So basically holding left mouse button would five me a rough idea of where I would be hitting terrain, and then right clicking would actually fire the laser.

    4) The radiation mechanic feels a bit meh to me. Currently I feel like it doesn't really do much except prevents me from going places. While it is effective at prevent that, there is no reason to go those places in the first place. If there was something like gemstones which were really valuable near them it could be an interesting risk/reward scenario. I think it could also be interesting if the beam itself caused radiation. So your mining isn't just limited by your charge, but also how much damage you can sustain. That would make finding caves/tunnel networks a lot more worthwhile.

    5) In general I feel like there is a lack of risk reward mechanics. If I dig above my head in a cavern, I should be risking a cave in. If I dig below or near my feet I should be risking injury. If I'm digging straight through walls, I should be risking some Purple Worms coming to get me.

    6) I'm not sure why I can by grenades. Sure it clears out a lot more than my laser can in one shot, but what is the actual benefit of that? I don't have any particular reason to clear out large pieces of terrain.

    It's difficult for me to answer your primary question of whether I would like someone to be working on this. For myself as a player I find that I easily get bored with mining style games because it becomes grindy and repetitive extremely fast.

    I think there is more promise to a game that leans to the simulation side, since you can introduce many resources for the player to manage while trying to achieve their primary goal of mining. You could also then make mining the actual mechanic and not just an action the player performs to get to the real mechanics. If mining is only a means to get the resources you need to actually play the game, then I'm out.

    If the game is ABOUT mining though, I'd be on board. Having to make careful decisions about where and when you mine and rewarding the player for methodically investigating their options as opposed to just strip mining everything as fast as possible sounds amazing to me. I think most people would find that tedious and chore like, but I'm a huge fan of planning and management style games and I think if this leaned more to that side where you need to plan and manage the structural integrity of your mine it would be awesome. That sounds like a very difficult game to make though.

    Let me know if you want me to clarify/elaborate on anything. :)
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
  • I'd like to see more. I dig it. (See what I did there) :D

    I think enough about player motivation and game design has been chatted about above.

    My points are that it's really satisfying to blast through rocks and terraform the landscape. I had a lot of false starts since I'd get stuck underground and couldn't get back to fill my laser cannon. Why not make the laser canon infinite?

    So, this morning I found my favorite part. See video. I was drilling and just came out on the other side of a mountain. And saw a vast "mine field". It felt fucking awesome. Like I had discovered the promise land.

    The feeling of exploration and terraforming is cool. What direction you take should still maintain that feeling.

    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
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