Polymorphic Games: Project Hastur
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Tell me about the Game!
Tell me about the Student Experience!
Tell me about the Science!
Polymorphic Games is an evolutionary video game studio at the University of Idaho. Students in the studio build interdisciplinary collaboration and communication skills through the shared creation of commercial video games that model biological evolution.
Project Hastur is an evolutionary "fortress" game that combines elements from the tower defense and real time strategy video game genres. We draw our inspiration from tower defense games with amazing game play (like KINGDOM RUSH), RTS games with compelling visuals (like STARCRAFT), and thrilling sci fi movies (like EVERYTHING JOHN CARPENTER HAS EVER DONE). Project Hastur takes place on the planet Nyx and its three moons; Clotho, Lacheisis, and Atropos. You play the role of a planetary defense commander who must protect humanity from the PROTEAN SWARM, the formerly space-bound alien menace from our first game, Darwin's Demons. Unfortunately for humanity, the Protean Swarm have made planetfall.
Project Hastur is unique because the enemies are modeled on a biological population that evolves as you play. The enemies that deal the most damage to your base or devour the most civilians have the most offspring - offspring that inherit their parents' traits. This evolutionary model provides a unique gameplay experience to each player, and great replay value because the mutations that create genetic variation in the Protean Swarm are randomly determined.
One thing that we have learned from making evolutionary games - evolution makes games very challenging! Rather than relying on carefully balanced and pre-programmed scripted levels, our games are open-ended challenges in which you face procedurally generated enemies. The procedural generation algorithm reacts to how YOU play the game. The evolvable alien traits in Project Hastur include walk speed, run speed, acceleration, health, armor, energy resistances, damage output, sensory radius, and preferences for destroying towers, civilians, or your base.
Polymorphic Games has created a functional beta version of Project Hastur. The evolutionary mechanics are encoded, we've created many digital assets, and most importantly, encoded a terrifying 3D version of the Proteans, called Vermis apostata, that can evolve within our game engine (we use Unity).
We need YOUR support to bring Project Hastur from the beta stage to the fully realized commercial game it can be. A game with 16 gorgeous 3D playable maps, linked by a story driven campaign, and fully upgradable defensive towers for the player's use.
The evolving swarm.
On each level, face waves of Proteans devouring everything you've built. Try to protect the human civilians - otherwise the Proteans will devour them, too, and turn them into more monsters to bolster the ranks of their swarm.
Five different tower types.
Place five different types of towers to defend against the Proteans. Each tower type has unique capabilities and drives different evolutionary outcomes. Strategic use and placement of the towers makes the difference between victory and defeat.
Keep up with the evolving creatures by upgrading your towers, making them stronger and adding awesome new abilities. That fireball turret? Turn it into a short range flamethrower capable of burning hoards of enemies or a lightning gun that sends forked bolts of lightning to fry them.
Expand your defenses.
Build a network of Energy-Matter Converters to create more turrets. Each EMC allows defenses to be placed around it and increases resource production by providing more capacity for converting Protean biomatter.
Stop an attacking swarm or rescue a civilian from their imminent demise with an airstrike or a deployable robot (pictured above). These can only be used every so often, adding another strategic element to gameplay.
Discover the secrets of Project Hastur.
Fulfill different objectives on each region of the map as you work your way over the planet Nyx and its moons. Destroy Protean burrows, evacuate civilians, and discover the origin of the aliens threatening all of humanity. The planetary system your must defend is conrolled by the Moirai Corporation, a shadowy, galaxy spanning business conglomerate based on the planet Nyx. Morai commissioned "Project Hastur" at great expense, but no-one knows its purpose. What is Project Hastur?
By supporting Project Hastur, you are helping us produce a truly unique and innovative game. But remember: "Evolution Always Wins".
Project Hastur will be released on Steam, and will be playable on PC, Mac, and Linux.
Polymorphic Games - an interdisciplinary student experience.
We believe that undergraduates require a compelling and interdisciplinary context in which they can apply the training they acquire in their majors. Students need to learn the languages of other disciplines and cultivate communication, perseverance, and leadership skills. Polymorphic Games provides these experiences. Polymorphic Games is a unique video game design studio at the University of Idaho (www.polymorphicgames.com). Video game design is inherently interdisciplinary, requiring close collaboration between programmers, designers, artists, musicians, writers, actors, subject matter experts, and entrepreneurs. Polymorphic Games produces games based on evolutionary biology, requiring the inclusion of students from the sciences.
Polymorphic Games supports students from many different majors and colleges at the University of Idaho. Students we have worked with in the past have majored in:
College of Science: Biology, Biochemistry, Mathematics
College of Engineering: Computer Science, Electrical Engineering
College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences: English (both Creative and Technical Writing), Journalism and Mass Media, Lionel Hampton School of Music, Theater Arts, Virtual Technology and Design
College of Business and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Finance
By supporting Project Hastur, you are helping us hire more amazing students from these disciplines and more. These students will gain that skills that will give them a competitive edge in their future careers.
The Science of Project Hastur
Project Hastur is built on a mathematical model of evolutionary biology. Our game includes the foundational ingredients of evolution: Variation, Inheritance, Selection, and Time. Below, we summarize the basics of the science. WARNING: Prepare to get NERDY!
VARIATION: Each individual Protean is encoded by a digital genome of diploid quantitative trait loci. These loci are mapped to "traits", such as health or run speed, using a variety of adjustable (by us, not you) functions. The traits determine the creatures' abilities in the game. Variation in the genes is created by mutations, which are generated from a Gaussian distribution.
INHERITANCE: Proteans are modeled as diploid hermaphrodites, meaning we don't have separate males and females, but new Proteans inherit a chromosome set from each of their two parents. Proteans inherit a combination of their parents traits, determined by the sum of their numerical genotypes at each quantitative trait locus. The loci are encoded with free recombination, but the recombination model can be changed (again, by us, not you).
In addition to sexual reproduction requiring two parents, Proteans can reproduce asexually by devouring a civilian. In this case, offspring Proteans inherit both sets of chromosomes from the same parent, but mutation still occurs.
SELECTION: The player imposes selection on the Proteans by building tower-based defenses. The Proteans are motivated to destroy your base, your towers, and your civilians, and they gain "fitness" for doing these things. At the end of each generation, we perform tournament selection to identify the parents of the next generation based on their "fitness." The Proteans with the highest fitness are more likely to be selected as parents.
TIME: Instead of the classic "waves" in most tower defense games, our game features "generations." Each generation, Proteans with traits that better enable them to evade your defenses, destroy your towers, and devour your civilians are most likely to be selected as parents and to have the most babies.
In other words, that Protean that rampaged through your defenses before finally being brought down by an airstrike? Expect the next generation to be full of its equally terrifying offspring.
Over time, the population adapts to your defenses - thus the difficulty of the game literally evolves in response to your decisions!
Polymorphic Games performs a lot of outreach, and we are collaborating with faculty from the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences to measure the educational impact of our games. By supporting Project Hastur, you are helping us build games based on science that can be used for informal learning of evolution and genetics.
$10,000: CAMPAIGN FUNDED!
Our artists will make 16 gorgeous playable maps, spanning one planet and three moons. Our writers will craft and refine a compelling story that links all the maps and allows the player to discover the mysterious origin of Vermis apostata! Our programmers will link it all together!
$15,000: MORE SCIENCE!
Migration and meta population dynamics! Our programmers and biologists will encode a migration model into the game, allowing the evolved aliens to invade new maps and proliferate. Your choice of which missions to accept will now have very real and very terrifying consequences!
$20,000: EXPERIMENT MODE!
In experiment mode, you'll be able to adjust the parameters of the evolutionary model, including mutation rate, mutation effect size, population size, recombination rates, migration rate, and more.
$30,000: ENDLESS MODE!
We'll create a new custom map for Endless Mode, where you simply must hold out as long as you can agains the ever-evolving Protean Swarm. This mode will be featured on our Steam Leaderboards.
$50,000: NEW SPECIES!
We'll add in a new species of Protean (maybe a tentacled eyeball?) that you'll have to defend against. Some maps will feature Vermis apostata, some will feature the new species, and some will feature both!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
When will the game be released? We are targeting a release date of 6 months after our campaign ends. Thus, September of 2018.
What will the game cost? Our target price point is $19.99.
Can I name civilians, statues, or buildings in someone else's honor? Yes, but we'll need evidence that you have that person's permission.
Will the stretch goals delay game release? Nope. A more successful campaign means we can hire more student developers for more hours per week. More money = more developer bandwidth.
How do I submit my death scream / photos / hobbies / quotes / business logo / sponsorship preference? Once the campaign ends, we'll email you a link that you will use to submit your information. If you live near Moscow, you can also arrange to just come by the studio.
I'm a UI student! How do I join the team? We'll have an open call for applications to any vacant positions once the campaign ends. If you are interested in undergraduate research or creative activity, you can always contact Drs. Soule or Robison using their University email addresses.