Saturday, 4 June 2011

Game Concepts I'd Love To Make

I'm having some serious problems getting my codebrain to work this weekend. I'd blame the heat, but it's worked fine in much hotter conditions than this before (at Broadsword it wasn't uncommon to be working in the mid-30s or higher). What it feels like more than anything else is the mental block I used to get from being stoned, way back when that was something I still did. I not only can't maintain focus easily, but whatever part of my brain is supposed to process all those symbols on the screen just doesn't want to do its job right now. I wind up staring at my IDE wondering when exactly I forgot how to code.

So in lieu of actual constructive work, I've decided to write a blog post instead. I know, I know, procrastination ahoy... but in my defence it is past 1AM at the moment, so any development work I did would be pretty rubbish anyway

There are about a half dozen random concepts I have floating around my head that I'm probably never going to get to make. This is because they fall outside the patterns the industry permits - they're too complex/art-heavy/just-plain-technically-difficult for me to do as a one or two man indie project, but they're way too out there to ever be appealing to a publisher, even assuming publishers were remotely in the mood to assign funding to nobodies like us at the moment. It's possible some of them might happen at some point in the future if we got some actual cashflow moving as a company, but generally very unlikely. Here's a few of them:

1) Extreme Survival In Space
This is one of those concepts that has every single person that hears about it nodding and going "yeah, yeah, I'd buy that game!" Except of course no-one really would.
In short, this concept is First Person Survival Sandbox, not unlike a certain game involving the crafting of mines. However I'm not thinking vlox here; more tundras, savannahs, forests, jungles, mountains. The key to the game is survival, not building massive monuments, although building should certainly be in there somewhere at the very least. Walls would probably be nice.
The storyline would be pretty straightforward. Following a terrible accident, you are the only survivor of an attempted colonisation of an alien planet. You have a certain amount of resources and technology that can be salvaged from the wreckage (with other wreck sites discoverable around the area) and beyond that you have only what you can produce from the resources available. To add to the difficulty of the scenario, the planet's inhabitants are not friendly. They're not sentient, but the wildlife can be very vicious. You have scifi weaponry available, but how long will it last out?
I'm envisioning several play-modes - one a race against time where you know a rescue ship will scan for signs of survivors within a certain amount of time and you need to produce a detectable signal by that point (and survive, of course). Another a (potentially multiplayer) sandbox where the aims are really up to you. Another a Total Survival mode where the creatures are more common, there's virtually nothing to be found at crash sites, and even the air is toxic.
The main con? It's unavoidably a massive project. To be really good, it'd need a sold A-grade graphics engine and assets to match, and that's before the extensive gameplay coding time and immense amounts of testing.

2) Monomyth: The RPG
I'm a huge fan of Joseph Campbell, the mythologist and writer of books such as Hero With A Thousand Faces. One of his many suggestions regarding the structure of world myths was the Monomyth, the core basis of virtually all mythological tales (especially in the West, but also to a great degree in the East).
This covers several specific stages and most of them show up in games all the time for pretty obvious reasons. What I'd like to do is have an RPG featuring a lead character who is a little Genre Savvy regarding RPGs themselves, but more importantly knows the Monomyth well and can recognise the stages of the Hero's Journey as they occur. More importantly, it should be possible to diverge from the Hero's Journey by a considerable margin, although doing so should effectively prevent the player from proceeding.
In short, an RPG in which the only way to level is to cleave to mythic stereotype, in which the lead character is actually aware of said stereotypes. Strikes me as an interesting journey in and of itself. The main con I can think of is that the game would have to be a stereotypical RPG, sort of by default.

(As a somewhat connected aside, for years now I've wanted to see a character in one of the recent crop of "post-modern" horror movies such as Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer who was not only aware of horror tropes, but had actually lived through multiple horror movies and was now an emotionally-scarred ultrasurvivor. Imagine the kid from Zombieland, having lived through having his dreams invaded by Freddy Krueger and then avoided an alien monster attack during a visit to New York... just strikes me as an interesting take on the whole genre-savvy concept.)

3 ) Living Kingdoms
For some reason I have an incredible yen for medieval and cod-medieval economics. The part of the Total War series I really enjoy is the strategic map, and I play all sorts of simulators such as the Europa Universalis series.
But while Grand Strategy has its appeal (and I love most forms of it, especially Hearts of Iron), I'd love to see a direct simulation. One of the useful things about medieval economics is that it's fundamentally microeconomic in nature. For that reason, it should be possible to set up a landscape, set up a bunch of resources on that landscape, set up a whole slew of simple AI agents with basic resource-gathering and processing behaviours, and let them loose to form their economies naturally.
So where does a game come into this? Well, if we make it more fantasy-ish, add in some kind of "mystical blood" which allows almost instant control over the little guys, and then gave the player a radius of control around a moveable main character within which they can direct development as they wish, we have the basis for a sort of economic sandbox. Much like the Settlers series, but vastly less contrived and with more complexity (and less requirement for you to personally handle said complexity, since the resource chains would come into existence naturally).
Cons? Just imagine the quantity of testing required to get a system which reliably produced a workable economy to play in. And that's before we even consider the amount of animation work needed for the little peasant dudes. Essentially we'd have the same problem as the Settlers developers, only 20 times worse.

Right, I'm getting quite sleepy now so I'll leave it there. May go into some of them some more in future, may dredge some more out of my brain at some point. As always, all feedback is welcome.

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