Asset Brainstorm #5 — Some Phantasy Robots

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.

Wow this one was a story. How I got here isn’t important, what’s important is the assets, and what ideas they inspire. For this month, I grabbed Ansimuz’s Phantasy Tiny RPG Mobs Pack.

Disclosure! I haven’t bought this pack yet. These are made using the preview images from The reason I haven’t bought this pack yet is because Ansimuz has a lot of assets available and I am considering buying up big blocks of packs. Since I don’t want to spend another dang week planning ahead about what I’ll purchase, I’ve grabbed this preview image to work with and hopefully it’s okay.

Alright, this pack gives us five images of robots. Looking at them my impression is that they’re both kind of neutral and kind of sophisticated. I don’t get a ‘military’ or ‘combat’ feel off them necessarily, but they’re also structured in a way that makes me think that with just a simple bit of framing, they could be ‘combat’ robots or ‘non-combat’ robots.

Let’s go through them in order for impressions:

#1. It’s purple, it looks like it could be monocular (the blue or red dot could be a camera). It floats and it has hands. Those hands are articulated, which suggests fine control. This could be some sort of combat robot that needs to be able to pick things up or move things, but the fact it’s not rooted on the ground implies it’s not a heavy lifter of some variety.

#2. This reminds me of a land mine? But it’s got a set of lights on it, and they imply a face. I see the big central red light as the ‘eye’ rather than the nose of a pig-faced thing. This could be a sort of recon drone. It’s got three jets underneath it, which imply it’s fast, and maneuverable.

That big red centre could be a big laser though.

#3. This is the most ‘combat’ looking of them; note that while it has legs to support it and let it push off the ground, it doesn’t have articulated hands. That implies to me that the ‘hands’ are probably for picking things up (with a vacuum pump) or jetting out lasers. This could be a really sophisticated cleaning robot!

#4. Okay, so what the hell am I looking at here? My first thought was that the whole drone was a roller – like something designed to push down earth, flattening things, or maybe like a roomba chewing stuff up. Again, that ‘eye’ in the center could be a camera, or it could be a laser. There’s a certain ’tiltedness’ to this one, where it looks a bit like it’s kinda lopsided in back – like maybe that back chamber is meant to contain the track all spooled up?

#5 is a floater, like #1 and #2. It also has those big fins – which could be like wifi broadcast points, or it could be those fold out for it to fly around at speed or take high speed turns with its neato propeller system underneath it.

Okay, that means that these could either be like, robotic threats with pew pew lasers, or they could be helpful robot frens that are trying to do a thing. If they were helpful or sweet I’d be trying to pick assets that were a little more pointedly friendly. Either way, these could be combat robots, they could be enemies, or they could be utility robots, easily.

Note that these are the only pictures I have of these robots: They are also not scaled down, nor do they rotate. That means we’re looking at a very limited kind of robot here. This asset can’t be interpreted across different fronts. So, for example, if I wanted a ‘small’ version of the robots to put on tokens and a ‘large’ version to put on their board, then the result is going to be a bit.

That gives us about five game pieces. They’re visually nice so we want to make sure they have some presence on the board. They’re also much like retro videogame assets, so what can we do that feels like a videogame with them?
Treasure Island, Mark Paquien

One thought is a hidden movement game. The robots could be surveillance robots moving through a complex area. A small board, a simple grid, with obstacles on it that obscure things, and the player gets to select a number of robots at the start of the game to try and ‘find’ the other player, or possibly caches the other player set down.

A thought that occurs to me here is that if the robots are dumb, it might give an opportunity for a multi-phase kind of play. The player sneaking around may be planting something, like a code bomb or something, so their first arc of the game is planting the bomb and the second is then trying to get out, or surviving long enough for the bomb to go off and disable the robots.

Don't worry, brother... Help is on the way.
Pokemon TCG, photo by Heather Shamrowicz on BoardgameGeek

Another option is a robot battler, where each player gets one of the robots and then has a deck of moves and maneuvers. Heads up duelling games are interesting and can be made with a lot of different ‘components’ to them. Pokemon is a classic example, but its allure is about getting to build things.

Oh hey, what if the robots in this case are sorting through scrap and you get to add cards to your deck? It doesn’t have to be combat as much as it could be a kind of racer, trying to get to the end of a task. If the robots are ‘doers’ rather than ‘fighters’ then the task could be divided into specialities and some robots complete some parts easier or safer.

Mechs Vs Minions, photo by Bum Kim

A final option that I like when you’re dealing with robots is a ‘programmed movement’ game. The most high profile recent game of this ilk that springs to my mind is probably Flamme Rouge, where you’re progressing through a race and start your turns picking which of your cards you’re going to move.

When dealing with ‘robots’ I feel that playing into the ways robots behave, things about them that ‘feel robotty’ would be important. Also, while they were created as RPG enemies, they don’t have to be; there’s a level of potential sophistication there, where these could be interpreted as helpers or tool users.

I think that if I was going to use these, my current thinking is about the material of the game; I think whatever I’d want, I’d need a board for common movements, a player mat to show the robot and explain its rules; some tokens for the robots on the board, and then, some cards or deck that gives players options for how they approach the game. That’s my current feeling for ‘scope’ for these little robots.

They’re videogame assets, they look like they’re from a videogame

How do you make a game like a videogame?

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