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I've noticed the concept of swarm (there called "clones") in Badland, and I've never seen anything like it. Here's a video showing it.

I'll describe it:

  • you start with one guy, and going on through the level you may "pick up" new guys, which are exactly like the one you already have (there's no "main" one, they are indistinguishable)
  • you can't control them individually: your actions are applied to them all
  • you may lose a few of them along the way, and you "die" if you lose them all

This is very different from Lemmings, were you control the single guys.

At most it could be considered somewhat similar to Cannon Fodder (or Syndacate or some RTS), but even there you had the ability to control a single guy: crowd movements were only a convenience were "it did not matter" to control specific individuals. Here you are forced to control them all together and this is a core feature of the game.

Someone could argue that Pele's Soccer had a similar movement system, but it doesn't have the concept that you could lose some guys and go on (and maybe pick new ones), and anyway it's not a core feature of the game, it's just a simplification due to the capabilities of the console.

Patapon could be considered to have a similar mechanic, but AFAIK being it a rhythm game you don't really get to chose what to do, unless I'm mistaken (I never got to play it).

Games were you have random sidekicks don't really count, since they are very different from you: usually when you get hit you die (like in shooters), or they are just a "second chance" but they almost aren't part of the game as long as they are in the background (like in Donkey Kong Country).

So, is this a novel idea, or did I miss something?

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closed as off-topic by Trevor Powell, Josh Petrie Jul 10 '13 at 16:24

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I made a fairly simple free game based on exactly the rules you describe back in 2008. It was designed and implemented in my spare time in under a week, but as a proof of concept, it was interesting. –  Trevor Powell Jul 10 '13 at 14:35
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Pikmin? Anyone? –  Vaughan Hilts Jul 10 '13 at 14:49
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Regardless, this question doesn't seem to be related to game development; it's asking for references to existing games, not about making new ones. Maybe it would be more on-topic and get more interest/commentary at gaming.SE? –  Trevor Powell Jul 10 '13 at 14:54
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@TrevorPowell Thanks, but no, thanks. –  badp Jul 10 '13 at 16:26
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Old baseball games on the NES used this mechanic. Inputting movement commands moved all players at once. I'm sure inputting the "throw the ball" command also issued it to all players but only worked for the player with the ball. –  Casey Jul 10 '13 at 18:57

2 Answers 2

It's certainly not a new idea in itself. Technically, side scrolling shooters as far back as Galaga, or Breakout-style games where you gain extra paddles, already had clones that you could gain or lose and fit your definition of clones. In Pikmin, or Overlord, picking up a crowd was an essential part of gameplay, although granted, they were not exactly clones, but a crowd nonetheless that are influenced by the movement of the main character.

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Oh true comparing it to extra paddles in Breakout makes sense! I'll wait to see if something else comes by, though. In Pikmin and Overlord if your main character died, game stopped, though? (in that case it wouldn't fit, they would qualify as "sidekicks") –  Lohoris Jul 10 '13 at 10:54

It definitely did not. In my youth, I had a CD with a bunch of Mac game demos on it (came from an old MacAddict magazine issue, if I remember correctly). One of those demos was for Crystal Caliburn, a pinball game that supported a multi-ball mode that behaves exactly like Badland's swarm: each ball is interchangeable and has no more relevance than any other, and the players control mechanism and authority over the swarm is not changed.

I'm pretty sure the multi-ball mechanic is older than that game, of course, it was probably present on real pinball tables. I doubt it's possible to trace the origin of this mechanic, but I'm positive it's been around for longer than Badland.

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Yeah, I ruled out pinball's multiballs since you didn't directly control the balls, rather the flippers (the "environment"), but I forgot to state this in the question -.- Thanks for pointing it out anyway, since it's at least closely related : ) –  Lohoris Jul 10 '13 at 16:17

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