What is the Hankerbot?

As game developers, we know firsthand how complicated social interactions are. Games often boil these interactions down a bit to be more manageable, which ends up with situations where you do things like throw turnips at someone every day until they fall in love with you.

While that’s totally on-brand for us, we still wanted to take things in a slightly different direction.

A couple things common to town-life games that we didn’t want to do:

  • Memorizing or looking up what items people like
  • Keeping track of when you can give people gifts
  • Romance through gift-giving (everyone knows romance should be accomplished through some sort of turn-based card game)

What should we do instead?

In Ooblets, we solved these issues in the most obvious way:

with a __ROBOT__

(Not these robots though, these are different robots)

More specifically, the Hankerbot. We don’t have a model of this robot so no picture—it exists more as an idea than a corporeal being. But imagine something like an inverted GRTA

We’re not 100% sure we’re even gonna call it Hankerbot in the finished game (so don’t start writing Hankerbot fanfic just yet), but that’s what we’ve been calling it internally.

If we do go with that name, we’ll say it’s an abbreviation for something like… Heuristic Analysis Needs Knower… for Everyone… Robot— H.A.N.K.E.R.!

So what is the Hankerbot?

The in-game context is that it’s some sort of artificial intelligence machine learning doohickey that anticipates what various townsfolk will want that day. It presents the item desired along with which character wants it so you can give them exactly what they’d like each day.

Right now, it does this through a daily letter but we may eventually upgrade it to an actual little robot…

On the game design side, it sorta turns gift giving into a form of daily mini-quests. Besides giving more direction to the player, this also limits the number of gifts you can actually give out each day (because you can only give gifts to the people listed in the hanker report). On top of that, it lets us do some gameplay pacing to increase the difficulty of desired gifts as you progress through the game.

Each time you give a character the item they want, you’ll get a boost to your friendship level with them (through friendship stickers, obviously). We’re still not implementing romance or marriage because we just don’t think it fits the whole tone of the game, but there are all sorts of little bonuses for becoming better friends with people!

We’d love to hear what you all think of this system, so feel free to leave a comment.