Pollinator — a casual game prototype made with Mobile Processing

I wrote a game about a bee and flowers today

Last sun­day I sat down and cod­ed a pro­to­type of a casu­al game in Mobile Pro­cess­ing. I got the idea for it the evening before: You’re a bee who needs to col­lect as much hon­ey as pos­si­ble in his hive while at the same time keep­ing a flower-bed bloom­ing by pol­li­nat­ing… Play it and let me know what your high score is in the comments!

Thinking and making

I’ve been look­ing for an excuse to get some expe­ri­ence with Pro­cess­ing (par­tic­u­lar­ly the vari­ant suit­able for devel­op­ing mobile stuff) for a while. I also felt I need­ed to get back into the mak­ing part of the field I’ve been think­ing about so much late­ly: Game Design. I agree with Saf­fer, Webb and oth­ers — mak­ing is an impor­tant part of the design prac­tice, it can­not be replaced by lots of think­ing. The things learnt from engag­ing with the actu­al stuff things are made of (which in the case of dig­i­tal games is code) aren’t gained in any oth­er way and very valuable.

Get the game

I’ve uploaded the first ver­sion of the game here. You can play it in the emu­la­tor in your brows­er or if your phone runs Java midlets, down­load the file and play it like you’re sup­posed to: While out and about. The source code is pro­vid­ed as well, if you feel like look­ing at it.1

Pollinator 0.1

How to play

You’re the yel­low oval. The orange tri­an­gle in the top left cor­ner is your hive. Green squares are grass, brown squares are seeds, red squares are flow­ers and pink squares are pol­li­nat­ed flow­ers. The field is updat­ed in columns from left to right (indi­cat­ed by the yel­low mark­er in the bot­tom). A seed will turn into a flower (in rare cas­es a pol­li­nat­ed flower). A flower will die, a pol­li­nat­ed flower will die and spread seeds to grass around it. Move your bee with the direc­tion­al keys, use the cen­tre key to grab nec­tar from a flower. You can cary a max­i­mum of 100 nec­tar. Drop your nec­tar off at the hive (again using the cen­tre key) to up your score. When you first grab nec­tar from a pol­li­nat­ed flower and sub­se­quent­ly from a nor­mal flower, the lat­ter is pol­li­nat­ed. Try to keep the flower-bed in bloom while at the same time rack­ing up a high-score!

You’ll get 10 nec­tar from a flower (in bloom or not). Pol­li­nat­ing a flower costs 5 nec­tar. If you try to take nec­tar more than once from the same flower, you’ll loose 10 nec­tar.2


Stuff not in here that I might put into a next ver­sion (when­ev­er I get around to it):

  • Ani­ma­tion — I need to get my feet wet with some script­ed ani­ma­tion. Thing is I’ve always sucked at this. For now it’s all tile-based stuff.
  • Bet­ter feed­back — For instance show the points you earn near the bee and the hive. I think that’ll make the game a lot eas­i­er to under­stand and there­fore more fun.
  • Menus, pause, game over — It’s a pro­to­type, so you get dumped into the action right away. (The game starts on the first key you press.) And there’s no actu­al game over mes­sage, the field just turns green and you’re left to won­der what to do.
  • Bal­ance — I’m not sure if the game like it stands is bal­anced right, I will need to play it a lot to fig­ure that out. Also there’s prob­a­bly a dom­i­nant strat­e­gy that’ll let you rack up points easily.

The aim was to cre­ate a rel­a­tive­ly casu­al game expe­ri­ence that will almost allow you to zone out while play­ing. I think it is far too twitchy now, so per­haps I real­ly should sit down and do a sec­ond ver­sion some­time soon.

Mobile Processing

I enjoy work­ing with Mobile Pro­cess­ing. I like the way it allows you to pro­gram in a very naive way but if you like struc­ture things in a more sophis­ti­cat­ed fash­ion. It real­ly does allow you to sketch in code, which is exact­ly what I need. The empha­sis on just code also pre­vents me from fid­dling around with ani­ma­tions, graph­ics and so on (like I would in Flash for instance.) Per­haps the only thing that would be nice is an edi­tor that is a bit more full-fea­tured.3 Per­haps I should grab an exter­nal edi­tor next time?


If you played the game and liked it (or thought it was too hard, bor­ing or what­ev­er) I’d love to get your feed­back in the com­ments. Any­one else out there pro­to­typ­ing games in Pro­cess­ing? Or using it to teach game design? I’d be very inter­est­ed to hear about it.

  1. Not that it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly good, I’m an ama­teur coder at best. []
  2. I’m not sure this is the right kind of neg­a­tive rein­force­ment. []
  3. The auto­mat­ic code for­mat­ting refused to work for me, requir­ing me to spend a bit too much effort on for­mat­ting by hand. []

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.

15 thoughts on “Pollinator — a casual game prototype made with Mobile Processing”

  1. Pingback: game!! posted:
  2. Wow! Just sent it to my cell­phone and played it. Only the game was over in about 2 NANOsec­onds ;-) Hehe, might want to adjust the speed a lit­tle, but oth­er than that it looks sweet

  3. Intrigu­ing prin­ci­ple! I scored 100 hive nec­tars the first try. By some crazy click­ing around (indeed a real fast pace) with­out real­ly doing any strat­e­gy at all. I think will do some time killing with it the com­ing time and hope to score some more ;-)

  4. Hey thanks guys, glad you like it. @Lieke: I think I need to fig­ure out a way to cap the fram­er­ate. @Iskander: 100 should indeed be doable with­out much effort. I’ve scored in the high end of 300 but will try again. I’ve start­ed work on a sec­ond ver­sion by the way. Stay tuned!

  5. hey kars,

    nice sketch! don’t have a high­score worth men­tion­ing, but a cou­ple of ideas came to mind while play­ing around with it:

    • agree with your 2nd foot­note: tak­ing points (nec­tar) away does­n’t real­ly fit the game (bees don’t lose nec­tar, do they?). but isn’t los­ing time (i.e. not being pro­duc­tive) enough rein­force­ment by itself?
    • why not make the tiles fade, instead of on/off, so that the action (suck­ing nec­tar, deliv­er­ing, grow­ing, dying, etc.) becomes a grad­ual process. this kills a num­ber of bees, uh flies, with one stone: more feed­back, slow­er pace and more decisions.
    • pollen could also be col­lec­table, so that your bee would be able to pol­li­nate not just neigh­bor­ing flower tiles, but as many as you have pollen for.

    any­way, curi­ous to see your next version.

  6. Wij ( H&M) ff jet­je halen bij je paps en mams,… kun­nen we toch “the bee game” primeur niet aan ons neus voor­bij lat­en gaan.. Leuk idee dit! Ik heb met een paar klik­jes door hoe het werkt… Top! Ciao Harco.

  7. Hi Har­co & Mag­gie leuk dat jul­lie de game ook even getest hebben. Ver­baast me niks dat je hem snel door hebt Harco! ;-)

  8. @Bernard: Thanks for the feed­back, they real­ly help deter­mine what needs chang­ing. I think I have a few hours this week­end so stay tuned, there might be a next ver­sion soon.

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