As I start on this, I am not sure where I need to be. To be honest, I don’t do much reading on other guys’ developer blogs out of some misplaced sense of honor that if I am influenced by someone else’s great idea, I am somehow soiled by the mere suggestion that I borrowed a concept. So, pardon me if this series of articles does not seem to flow like other developer blogs.
Hauler is a concept I have worked on time and again over the last year or so, after my initial draft of Boarding Pass became far too complex to produce as an initial game for the small and indie publisher Gamer Nation Studios and it centers on one primary idea. Get it, Haul it and Deliver it. The premise is simple. Travel as fast as you can and fill up the cargo area of your truck with resources that give you the best payout and find the closest city to deliver it to.
My first inspiration came from our beloved game of poker. The payouts (in Green Stamps because after all, truckers refer to money, especially tolls, as green stamps) are based on a modified poker hand. A pair is worth the least, then two pair, three of a kind and so forth. The problem is that a flush can’t happen since the resources are only color coded and not numeric, and a straight cannot happen as such. So, the solution is that the straight becomes a rainbow of all the resources and since resources tend to cluster together and you may have to travel longer to put together your resource rainbow, it is the most valuable cargo configuration.
Well, then how do the truckers get from place to place? My next inspiration came from Rand McNally. I love the way a map looks with the red lines for highways, green for toll roads and the occasional orange for construction, so I drew the map like that, except that I remember that the state troopers in Georgia have all these speed traps that you have to watch out for, so I said to myself “Dave, you need to work in speeding tickets and johnny law into the equation.” And I did. Travel times are pretty close to real travel times on the map, but there is another number on each route that tells you how much faster you get there if you bend the speed limit. Tempting? You Bet! Roll the Hauler die if you speed and let’s say that in a regular stretch of road, you roll a 6, you get a ticket. If you are in a speed trap (yellow stretches of road, since yellow means caution) then you get nailed by that bear on a 5 or a 6.
Let’s talk about the weather now too! Since I am a weather geek, I had to add in the element of the weather. Although I wanted a nice, organized weather pattern that moved west to east like a nice zonal flow in the summertime, there is very close to no way to make that happen. So, I settled on the way I think most weathermen predict the weather, a die roll. Each weather card has 6 cities listed on it to be affected by weather, with of course the northeast, midwest and the north responsible for the majority of weather spots. If the city has a weather token on it, roll the die if you speed and this time, add a 1 to the list of do not rolls, because you could have an accident and be parted with some of your precious greenbacks. Southern California, I hear you snickering that there is no weather there…don’t worry, there are three earthquake cards that just happen to focus on the western cities.
So, we have speeding and weather that can get in your way, why not just travel at regular pace? It might work, it might not. Every speeding ticket you get accumulates and gets more and more expensive, simulating your insurance rates, so by the time you have received 10 tickets, you have wasted 54 greenbacks! AND, you go to jail, losing a turn and allowing your meat, grain and crops on the rig to spoil.
In a nutshell, that is the foundation of the game. I’ll be back next week and talk about how I started in on the resources, the resource addition mechanic and how then end game might look, as well as how a typical turn will be spent in Hauler.