Bow down to an awesome game idea!!….please?
May 27, 2008 § 3 Comments
It is something of a known fact that every gamer has had at least one or two game ideas during their gaming lifetime. Be it a simple idea to improve on an existing game or more in depth plan to invent an entirely new genre, every gamer has had a moment during a lengthy session one evening when they’ve said to themselves, “You know what. I could do this better.” I’ve generally taken the latter approach whenever I’ve thought of a neat idea, the effort usually culminating with several scattered sheets of paper, a lengthy back story but not a whole lot else.
It should come as no surprise to most of you that I’m using this preface of “Every gamer has ideas” to lure you into reading mine. I must confess this idea is not entirely my own, rather it came from reading an article on cracked.com about annoying clichés in video games. At one point the author (“blogger!” some of you may scream. Well no, it’s author actually. Fuck you) in passing suggests an entirely new gameplay concept. You’re stuck on an island, and have to be rescued. This got me thinking of how this game, if made, could be totally awesome.
Let me first set some basic rules for this game. First off, the only HUD that will ever exist is perhaps something similar to Mass Effect’s dialogue trees, and this will only exist when the user needs to communicate with someone (or something…woooo). This means no aiming reticules (no sure if that’s the correct word to use. Please correct me Internet gods!), no health bar and maybe just a smidgen of colour on the screen to show when you can interact with something. This, coupled with a complete absence of cutscenes will hopefully ensure that the player and protagonist’s experience remains exactly the same such as Valve have achieved with Half Life.
When you’re first shipwrecked on the island, there is much to learn in a very small amount of time. In order to survive you’ll need food, drinking water and shelter, as well as some kind of fire. Shelter is perhaps the most interesting of these. You need to explore the island, trying to find sheets of palm leaves suitable for creating cover as well as tree trunks to keep them upright. You may choose to stay close to your wreckage, cutting down trees elsewhere to use in your creation, or you could venture further afield, and try and find a cave, or perhaps a cluster of trees that could provide you with an easier source of shelter. During your first night on the island you may see the (frankly amazing to be honest) physics that come into play. Rain will seep down through the gaps in a flimsy roof, and wind will blow through cracks in the wall, reducing the amount of time you can sleep, and thus reducing your effective play time the next day.
Soon you’ll want to eat something. At this point no fuck-off big sign saying “EAT FOOD NOW” will pop up on screen. No, soon your character won’t be able to run as fast, he may clutch at his stomach or you’ll hear audible rumbles from the depths of his digestive system. Perhaps one easy source of food is the ocean, teeming with life that once tapped will provide years of nourishment. You could simply try and swim out to see, using your bare hands to catch a meal, but it might be wise to first fashion some kind of primitive weapon, cutting down a branch from a tree for example, before cutting the end to form a sharp point. Then when you wade out into the shallows you might be able to spear some fish, but of course, there’s no HUD so aiming might be difficult, just as it would be in real life. Over time, your aim will improve, allowing you to catch more fish and even have surplus supplies, which you then have the option of storing for later.
At some points in the game you may find other humans, alive and well on the island. At this point it is entirely up to you how you react, and their reaction isn’t scripted at all. They may be an indigenous tribe, who have lived on the island for generations and are very apprehensive of you. Perhaps you could take some food to them to show that you mean no harm. In return they may let you sleep in their much better built shelters or use their tools. You might also find those like yourself, who have been shipwrecked on the island and need assistance to survive. It may be possible to convince them to come and share your shelter, and in return collect food for you, or explore the island and report back their findings.
Companions you garner in the game will not come easily. It may be the case that at some points they will be put in danger and you will have to save them. If you don’t save them, the game won’t end, but you’ll have one less set of hands in your fight for survival. You may choose to form an intimate relationship with someone else, dealing with the issue of sex in games in a mature and evolved manor (something which many are now calling out for). I’ve focused on a player who decided to treat friends well, whereas another may seek to kill them, out of paranoia or a desire to have their belongings all for themselves. Such actions could lead to you forming a divide between communities, or having to fight your enemies hand to hand to prove your worth. The implications involved are far more in depth than most games today, where killing someone will nine times out of ten, benefit the player.
And what of the purpose of the game? Well not unlike The Sims, or to a lesser extent Garry’s Mod, the goal is almost entirely set by you. Getting off the island may be a primary concern for some, and so they may concentrate their efforts on keeping a big fire going to signal to any ships that pass by or building a raft out of tree trunks and vines. Other players may choose to build a thriving village. Over time you may add many other survivors to your community, each with their own tasks, until you have a self contained village, complete with livestock that would eliminate the need to go hunting for food on a regular basis. Another method of running your own village may be to take over another’s, and somehow coax the inhabitants of the tribe to let you rule them.
I’ve been sitting here thinking about this idea for perhaps only half an hour and already there’s the basis for what could potentially be quite an amazing experience. Such a thing could easily be seen as art by even the most skeptical critic, whilst also introducing consequence to gamers who’ve been living without them for so long. There are so many aspects which I haven’t even touched on, like multiplayer where other shipwrecked people could be players online, or procreation with other people, but the point is that this game is something unlike any other, and as such could provide a limitless opportunity for gamers and developers everywhere. I do prey that someone steals this idea, so that twenty years from now I won’t still be shooting aliens in the face from a first person perspective or jumping across platforms for…oh I dunno…stars?