I recently had a discussion about game design on the Quarter To Three forums:
The discussion turned into something quite interesting (although almost reads like I’m talking to myself).
When you are finished with this, use the engine to make an isometric RPG
I’ve been thinking about how to design an RPG, but I think that the mechanics involved are just immense. Good RPGs are SO specialized…there is a reason that even the big AAA companies sometimes mess them up!
Still, it’s something that I have played around with…
What I would imagine the best way to do it, would be to have a hybrid RPG/Adventure Game. So an AG with a linear story (easier to control from a design point of view), but with a mostly freeform element of exploration.
I built a prototype a while ago called 1000 Years Later, which had the basic elements of the exploration and map in place.
The Worlds of Ultima games (Savage Empire and Martian Dreams) are good examples of Adventure Games with RPG trappings. Basically an open overworld map and a smattering of wildlife around with which to have RPG combat.
Ill do a bit more research on how those games worked. I was thinking something more akin to how the Blade Runner AG worked, with a large persistent world that moves forward with or without the characters action. The difference being that the characters actions (or inactions) change the direction of the game.
An example I was playing with (actually in the 1KL Prototype) was the idea of a serial killer who is moving from town to town. The player is a bounty hunter who tracks him down.
The kills would take place with the killer staying in a town for a certain amount of time, killing, and then moving on. The player would need to work out which town he would hit next, and try to head him off, while also trying to figure out who he was.
I liked the idea of the game ending because the killer gets away because of the players inaction, or the player making one of those ‘is it town A or B?’ choices, and either just missing him, or getting there in the nick of time to stop something going down.
There would of course be other story elements flowing through the game that would influence which town would be next. For instance, a train was built, but a gang robs it, stopping the killer from getting to one of the larger stops. As a result, a murder happens on a small homestead. The player interference would come in you thwarting the robbery attempt by capturing and receiving the bounty on one of the robbers.
A game like that would be incredibly challenging to plan, but immensely fun!
That serial killer part kinda reminds me of how Fahrenheit was,. if I remember correctly you played in “real time” and had to reach your objectives within a time period before you missed your window…
A game where the ‘world’ continued to struggle on without the player, but where the player could affect the future would be a lot of fun. It would require a lot of simulation but I think it would be worth it — at least as a player, but perhaps not monetary in terms of how much effort it would take 😉
There are plenty of stories where the protagonist goes back in time and tries to change things but fails to change things “enough” – two I’ve read that I can think of offhand are a novel I really love called Replay, a Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Not to mention movies like Groundhog Day and The Butterfly Effect.
I think a game modeled after this idea could be completely awesome. You’d go back (forward) in time and try to change things – but your changes will often have unintended consequences and maybe you’d have to go back and try again. So it’d be like having a bunch of do-overs!
On second thought, yeah, it might not be commercially viable…. but it could definitely be awesome.
For the serial killer game, I have already mapped out how the game would work on a technical level.
Lets say we have 10 murder scenes. Each scene would be planned and played out as a separate, completely unrelated game event.
The game would then trigger each murder, with the order of the murders happening depending on the players actions.
If ALL of the murders happen, the player looses, as the serial killer escapes to a different place. The less murders that happen, the ‘higher’ the player score.
To have a game like The Butterfly Effect, the easiest way would be to attack it like a very linear Adventure Game. Sort of how Telltale has done its Back To The Future series.
If it was a more ‘freeform’ approach, it could be done by separating each element of the story into completely separate and ‘unrelated’ events. For instance, a NPC would have 3 separate ‘states’.
Nice, Mean, and Hobo. Going back to a ‘starting time’ (say 5 years earlier), your conversation would trigger which ‘state’ the NPC would be in the future.
Each NPC would have these triggers, so in the ‘future’ you could have NPC A be a hobo, and NPC B be nice, and going back and doing ‘something’ around NPC A would change his state to ‘Mean’ and NPC B to ‘Hobo’.
In this way, the future would have an ‘infinite’ amount of states (well, with 2 NPC’s, there would be 9, but with more NPC’s, and more states the amount becomes exponential).
Now the tricky part would be having the different states of some characters influencing states of others. The game would essentially become an experience of balance, to try to get each player to a certain state. But chatting to one person could change the state of another without you knowing (ie-a brother turning ‘mean’ would influence his sister. His sisters state would influence her best friend, who would influence her teacher). So you would have to find the trigger to turn the brother back to ‘nice’ to stop the other trigger of events-but the brother being nice could make the best friend ‘mean’.
The idea is that the rules you would set up would be very simple. 3 states. 3 triggers. Each state triggers a different state in someone elses 3 states. This in turns alters the ‘world’ of the present (the states of the people could not only alter their personality and look, but also what their house looks like, and their surroundings).
Or something like that. 😉
I really enjoy thinking of small exercises like this. While they probably wont make their way into a coherent game design, just the act of mapping out how things would work is an extremely useful exercise for any game designer.