Friday, May 27, 2011

That One Game Idea...

Memorial Day Weekend is about to launch, here in the US.  It's 90 degrees (F) with air so humid you can chew it, and my office closes at 1:00 p.m. today.  I can't even pretend that I'm focused enough to work on one of the 6 or 7 long-form, serious-matter, detailed-research drafts waiting for me in the post editor.  They'll have to keep for working on over the weekend, while my spouse is away (which means I can't play Mass Effect 2 no matter how much I want to, because it's an "us" game and I promised).

So instead, let's get chatty, silly, and idealistic.

Every gamer has one: that idea you've been harboring forever, that you wish you could get someone to make.

Here's mine: a Neverwhere-based MMORPG.  It doesn't even have to take place in London Below; it could take place in any of a hundred cities Below.  But any way, it would be fantastic.  The markets could be special monthly server events.  The appearance customization options are fantastic and enormous.  And the very patchwork nature of London Below would allow for unique class / skill set-ups, different from any other MMORPG out there.

I mean, sure, that much variation and customization means you'd never be able to balance it and it would probably end up being a PvP world prone to griefing and absent the magic of the book, but still... it's nice to dream, right?  ;)

So, that's mine.  What's yours?


  1. I would absolutely love an Oblivion-style Doctor Who RPG, where the player is a generic Time Lord.  You'd be forced out for some reason, be able to recruit people, explore, etc.  In it, there would be actual consequences for time travel.  Namely, if you do something in the past, it has an effect on the future.  Also there would be consequences for your actions:  if you're an evil bastard in the game, there would be changes in gameplay, different quests, etc.

    Yeah, it would be a total bitch to code, but one can dream.  With the advances in phasing, it might be more doable.  And the BBC would never sign off on the license to make a game like that.  I doubt we'll ever see a good game in the Doctor Who universe. 

  2. I've been thinking about this a lot lately - especially as I start applying to game design grad programs. There are so many ideas jumbled in my head. For a few months I thought I'd really like a game w/a female protagonist that, based on a brain injury I had, would involve unlocking memories that had gotten scrambled or shuffled in ones' brain. Then Portal 2 came out and i realized that's basically what I'd been thinking of the whole time - scrambled brain be damned :-P.

  3. This somewhat broad, but I'd like to see a game where the use of violence is actually meaningful.

    I always think of it in 2 contexts.  One is a game like L.A. Noire (haven't played it, so can't comment on it), with the added idea that you play as a PI and if someone gets killed (and especially if you do the killing), you will have to deal with law enforcement.  And you better have an alibi or a patsy to get you off the hook.  I am also sick of games where you slaughter 100's of mooks.  That makes sense in Mass Effect, but I hate that generic slaughter is the unremarkable bedrock of so many games.  That is to say, in games where violence is an option, it becomes the consequence-free default.  Bah!

    A bit further along this, is a game based on Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett.  It's perfect for a game.  You enter a corrupt town run by 3-4 (police, company town CEO, couple of gangs) as a PI hired by a dead man.  You can ally with any or none of them.  There could even be multiple end games - help any particular faction win, or get rid of all of them. 

    The other context is something like a superhero game (but it doesn't have to be).  I got thinking about it after watching Superman's speech to Darkseid at the end of Justice League Unlimited.  Basically, Superman has so much power that he has to pull his punches all the time to keep from killing everyone.  Video game protagonists have to some extent or another a similar amount of power, but there is never any consequence to using all of it all the time.  I mean, there are logistical/balancing limits (i.e., can't use spells beyond their cooldown), but rarely anything more than that.  Side note:  I think Metro 2033 might be the game I'd like to try in this vein.

  4. I am also sick of games where you slaughter 100's of mooks.  That makes sense in Mass Effect,
    but I hate that generic slaughter is the unremarkable bedrock of so
    many games.  That is to say, in games where violence is an option, it
    becomes the consequence-free default.  Bah!

    I agree.  I feel like the only game I've encountered in the last couple of years that even tries (although overall, I think it also fails) to manage violence in a meaningful way is Heavy Rain.  I wrote there about how Jayden's early scenes have impact, and Ethan's 4th trial is also meant to -- but ultimately, I think that game puts you right back where so many others do, with regards to violence in general and gun violence in particular.  (Shelby's rampage through the mansion, while artistic and nicely done, is not exactly a condemnation of shooting people in the face.)

    There are games that aren't generally about killing stuff (say, Portal) but I feel like there aren't that many at all where killing stuff is a serious choice, and the game can be played with or without doing it, to different consequences.  I'd like to see that game, too.

  5. I actually feel like that scrambled-memory game idea has a whole lot of potential in it -- almost to the point where I'm surprised it doesn't exist.  I guess a bunch of games sort of but not quite like it do, but no-one's put all the elements together into a single title yet...

  6. yeah, I think some games, like _Lost in Shadow_ use the scrambled memory thing as a way to gradually reveal the story, but I can't think of when it's been a game mechanic.

  7. An open world game set during the interval between (or up to and including) the Second Punic War. I submit a working title: "Grand Theft Elephant."

  8. I don't know what they did with Metal Gear Solid 4, but with Snake Eater in order to get the "best" ending, you can't kill anything. Not even animals to eat. At least I think that was supposed to carry through the series.

    Red Dead Redemption has a relatively robust system of consequences for your actions. They'll hate you in Thieves Landing if you're an honorable, stand-up sort of guy, but love you if you choose your old ways. The story itself I don't think changes (at least I'd be hard pressed to see how it could change), but then everyone tends to treat you like the outlaw you used to be (and look, talk, and act like, even when doing the honorable thing).

    Fable II (and I'd assume Fable III) have many and varied consequences for good and bad actions. You can, or course, totally remake yourself into utterly good when you were utterly evil in the span of a half hour, but most of the consequences of good or evil choices in the main story stick, as well as the fairly major consequences of the end of the game. It's more a sandbox game in some ways, however, radical alignment changes "just to see" are normal, and indeed encouraged.

  9. Well, I built a mod for Diablo 2 years ago that was something like that... at least in the sense of "Here's a game you love, if you could make it more awesome-er, what would you do?"

    Free range... I'd probably make Yet Another MMO, except this one would finally do pet classes RIGHT, and would have several.

    I may or may not have designed an entire class system for an MMO startup that went under that incorporates some of those ideas....

    Neverwhere Online would rock.  Plus, we could all chant "NO!  NO!".

  10. Civilization with battles played out in Total War format.

  11. Ah, there's my dream game: Red Dead Redemption well coded for the PC.

  12. MGS4 is... well, I remember about 18 hours' worth of movie, some of which was interactive, and then a handful of missions (that I did) and another handful of missions (that I made fun of while M did them).  Story-wise though I remember it being fairly indifferent to anything I did.

    I still need to try the Fable games.  I might get III for my PC when the price drops.

    It's not just "consequences for your actions," though.  Games have been exploring that space, well, forever.  It's specifically the status of violence in the game world.  I used to date a guy who had an idea for an MMORPG where it was always possible and perhaps even simple to kill any other player, but in which the game world consequences -- ostracization, fining, etc -- would make it so strongly undesirable to do so that it would be an extremely rare occurrence.  Like the real world, heh.  His ideas were mostly too complicated ever to be anything beyond a niche title even if someone did want to make it, but it's an interesting thought experiment.

  13. Well, that game already exists. EvE Online.

    Lowsec and nosec space anything goes. High sec space is patrolled by cops, but that doesn't stop suicide gank teams from scanning arriving and departing ships for extremely valuable, low mass cargo, or wardeccing a corp so you can attack them in highsec with no consequences. The only way you could get more consequences is with an "all deaths are final" and that just wouldn't work with a game as easy for your avatar to die in as EvE.

    Even if you packed space with ships, you'd have gank squads in all the newbie systems mass shooting all the new characters that get made one at a time. They'd die before the server lag allowed the cops to kill the gankers.