5 Feb 2009

Keep your eyes on Dyson

Dyson is beautiful. Not in the classic, photo-realistic, multitude-of-polygons way that so often permeates critical analyses of games, but in a more poetic sense of the word. There is beauty in the way it moves, the way it sounds. There's beauty too in the way it influences the player, the calming effect it has. It could almost be a form of meditation.

Am I getting carried away? Perhaps. But there is something truly refreshing about the way this game plays and the way it feels to play it. Just look at it:

Created in a single month for entry into the TIGSource Procedural Generation competition, Dyson is a real-time strategy set in space. The premise is unusual though - no starships or evil galactic emperors here. You start off with an asteroid inhabited by Dyson trees and your only objective is to spread their growth across asteroid belts by utilising their seedlings and firing them off into the ether to capture further ground. It sounds a bit wacky admittedly, but once you get a grasp of the rather simple control system it all becomes completely natural.

Without going into to much detail -because you'll pick it up quicker by playing the game than reading this- some trees attack and some trees defend. Defence-trees shoot out homing spike-balls to destroy incoming foes and attack-trees produce the seedlings mentioned above. All asteroids in a level provide different quantities of three resources. Energy determines the size your seedlings will grow to, Speed determines their speed of movement and Strength determines the attack power they will have when fully grown. Simple and effective, but strategically open too.

Looks good? Too good? Well, have no fear, there is bad news too. No multiplayer is planned at the moment for the game, which is a great shame as the AI can certainly have it's moments and I would love to battle it out with someone in such a unique setting. But still, I will complain no more. At the moment you can download the game here and, for free, it's an absolute steal. Get on it.


Nick said...

My ass --> plate

The mixture of fog-of-war and exponential army growth is really destroying me. Yet, I am still stunned at the beauty and elegance of this game.

Any tips?

Also, multi-player really should be somewhere on their agenda because I can see this being huge online (XBOX Live Arcade?). :)

Nick said...

Ok, got it, it's a speed game.

I feel like it could really do with a routing system that allows new seeds (units) to be directed to other asteroids automatically. I find that as you approach the end-game it's very much a case of planet-hopping huge numbers of seeds. Maybe an implementation by which you right click and drag from one planet to any other within the ultimate range of your forces. So new seeds will fall from the tree and then find the fastest route to their destination, planet to planet. Whenever you right click and hold (or shift click maybe as the right button is already used) it should show up the various supply routes, so you can see what's gwaan.

What do you think?

Rowan Davies said...

The game could definitely benefit from waypoints, especially when it comes to critical situations. Having to re-route your forces manually while monitoring an attack on one of your asteroids is a little too much micro-management for my liking.

Regarding it being a speed game - it definitely is. I noticed that after going calmly about my business and then witnessing about 200 of the enemy heading towards one of my perfectly-grown garden-planets, which by the way, was an awesome sight.

Planet-hopping as quickly as possible to a high energy 'roid and then building up forces is safest way to do it, but it's not fool-proof. Gotta say, I'm still in love with the visual stylings. Heading over to the last of my enemy's turf in the game I just played, their remainding forces fled the planet en mass, desperately trying to survive. I may have under-rated they AI...

Nick said...

Yeah, it looks amazing. There is a ton of visual feedback, so you're not dealing with stats/numbers constantly.

Have you noticed that the levels are also procedurally generated? It's good from a replayability perspective, but I've had a few instances where a level has been stacked against me from the beginning, only for me to restart and find it far easier the second time around.

I'd LOVE this to be multiplayer and have some really nicely balanced maps to go with it. Having that consistency would open up a range of more devious strategic moves than is possible against the AI at present.

I'm on the last level btw. How are you getting on?