Modeling Pico-8 games in Machinations

14 May 2018

One of the difficulties of expressing what Machinations is about is the distance between the game-as-played, and the game-as-modeled. Possibly one way to address that distance is to exhibit, adjacent to each other, the game and the model of the game. Another way to address that distance is to start with a very simple game, so that the abstractions introduced in the process of modeling it are smaller.

Maybe PICO-8 or other fantasy consoles can help? AGAB is a PICO-8 game made by Ayla Myers: This is a little model of AGAB, in Machinations.

The idea of the model is that there are seven things that you do in this game:

  1. jump and
  2. by jumping, make progress (to the right) and
  3. by jumping, fall (and lose all your progress back to the last checkpoint) and
  4. by jumping, reach the next checkpoint (which in some sense gives you novel, as-yet-unseen tomatoes) and
  5. by jumping, find tomatoes and
  6. by jumping, eat tomatoes and
  7. by eating enough tomatoes, win the game.

Of course, the most interesting part of the real game is the slime physics, the wobble, cling, and double jump - all of that is lost in the model, which could model almost any platformer. The most interesting part of the model is the escalating challenge - the first section of the game, up to the first checkpoint, doesn’t have any possibility of falling, which I modeled by having the probability of falling start at zero, and escalate gradually as each checkpoint is reached.