Ditching Game Idea #2 (and #3), Trying The Next One

After doing some prototyping for the co-op stealth game idea and Prison Escape theme/remake, I’m end the prototyping for these. Co-op stealth is somewhat promising, but it might have the danger of becoming too puzzle like without enough variation. The Escape remake seemed like a fine idea for a single player game, but multiplayer turns out to be a slightly trickier beast to tackle.

In the end it boils down to this question that one of my earlier blog posts about multiplay made me think: would I want to play a game like this?

To be honest, I liked Thief solo-play but that was ages ago. The prison escape (spectrum version) was interesting (and definitely worth a remake), but I think it would not offer much replay value.

This lead me thinking: what have been the most memorable gaming experiences in my life? A pretty immediate answer was “traitor” based games: mafia/werewolf (social/party game, not a video game) and Battlestar Galactica (board game) have been so much fun.

This lead me to the next point: how could I bring this into a video game? Would it work?

Apparently it does, since after doing some research I noticed that Kane & Lynch 2 is having a certain type of multiplayer mode where there’s undercover cop infiltrating among the robbers. Half life mod Trouble in Terrorist Town is a mod that takes the werewolf game’s gameplay and somehow converts it into a video game. While there are certain issues with the gameplay, the mod is relatively fun to play.

So. I’m now prototyping this traitor game idea of mine. In a nutshell it’s about this:

  • 3-6 players (or more)
  • 0-2 of the players is a traitor, unknown to others. Only traitors (if any) know who the other traitors are.
  • The gameplay is about cooperation: with limited resources, the players try to survive day after day until the game ends. Meanwhile… the traitors try sabotage and reduce enough resources.

I’ve yet to decide a theme, but it might be about werewolves. For example, in a 4 player game 3 players are town guards while 1 player is the werewolf. The werewolf shape shifts during nights, attacking the village citizens, terrorizing the town. In day time, the werewolf is in human form and disguises as one of the guards.

Going forward with this.

Ditching Idea #1, Trying Idea #2

Out of the game ideas I got, I tried prototyping one (tactical battle / army building game) but somehow the idea doesn’t feel so good on computer screen. When you are having some physical cards in your hand, and making choices – it’s a different feeling doing it on screen and the computer version has the problem of evolving into a fast clicking experience.

I decided to ditch the first idea and see what the I could bake from the co-op stealth idea. Interestingly, yesterday’s blog post about the C64 Bruce Lee game animation somehow made me think that I could use similar art in my game. In fact, that would solve the budget issue quite easily (me thinks that sort of art is much cheaper to do than – well – many other type of art).

Also, I keep thinking how I want that co-op experience – it’s what I like in games. Therefore I’m going to do some prototyping for 2 player (online multiplayer) stealth game. It’s my aim to make stuff work so that you really need to cooperate with the other to solve the levels.

I started thinking if I should use some existing multiplayer engine but I decided to ditch that idea for now. I’ll just pick something I know and will do some simple prototyping with BlitzMax.

Also, going to try either drawing some art on my own.

We’ll see what comes out of this.

Maybe I’m Onto Something Now

Today I’ve been thinking of combining some of my game ideas into a cooperative browser game. I was thinking samurai theme (zombies could work too) where players would have different roles and they could gain experience to raise “levels” (sounds pretty “it’s been done 700 million times in the past” but me likes it). Players could choose from different roles and they would need to cooperatively be victorious in raids to receive accomplishments.

Game would combine something from the “zombie browser game” (platform, “rpg” aspects) but also from the “tactical battle” idea I had (=stole from Knizia) which would require players to cooperate in order to beat raids.

In a really short summary, I was thinking a game where players would be able to design new raids (“mod” the game so to speak), play anywhere/anytime (browser based), cooperate with friends (certain combos/healing/stuff like that would be designed so that friend aid is required) and it could have leveling options (rpg elements to help grow your character in the way you want).

Besides one aspect (cooperation), these elements don’t perhaps sound so new but the vision I have and the feeling I have about this idea makes me bit more confident to do more playtesting for this idea.

Maybe I’m onto something now.

Engine is what troubles me and I’m now pondering whether indeed a browser version could be possible to create from this. I need to sketch down some gameplay elements and see if I can knock together a brief gameplay demo to see how all this works together.

Not much of a “pratical game dev tip” here in this blog post, but let’s say that following your gut feeling might be just what I need.

Maybe I indeed am on to something here.

P.S. Is “steampunk samurai zombies” as one possible theme too way over one’s head?

Couple of More Game Ideas

One of the goals for my next weeks is to come up with several game ideas and then do some sort of prototype out of it (pen & paper proto is fine as well). I haven’t forgotten the earlier ideas, and right now I want to brainstorm and add as many ideas as I can.

Here’s some more ideas I’ve been pondering:

Morphing creatures – puzzle game
I wrote about puzzle games some days ago, and I’ve been thinking of this puzzle game which would be based on creatures that can morph and clone each other.

For example, if there’s a puzzle where you need to climb to a tree, you could clone your creature, bend down and control the other creature to climb the tree to get the key. The puzzles could have “expert status” which would challenge the player to “finish the level with only N number of clones”. Also, an online high scores could be there so that players could compete to “finish the level with minimal number of clones”.

The creatures could morph into different objects/forms (ranging from boxes to tree-like creatures to rolling creatures and more) which would be needed to solve the levels.

In a way, each level would be something that you simply cannot fail to solve (simply make 100 clones and at some point you’ll have enough creatures there to help you out)… but the real pros could try beat best scores.

“Why” game – philosophical adventure
10ish years ago I had this website where I put “why?” type of stuff. I wrote about why something happens. I wrote about why “Swedish classes felt like they never ended” or “why the school bus had some sort of weird light system”. I wrote tons of questions pondering everything about anything.

Now I was thinking of this game with 2 possible themes. First theme would be about creatures. You are born and lead to move boxes from place A to place B (that’s the mission of your life). At some point you might go asking other workers “why?” and eventually get into trouble. The game keeps asking more and more “why things happen” in this creature world (which of course reflects our real world situations). I don’t know how the game would end but perhaps it would awake people to think what they are doing in their lives. Might be interesting to proceed with this.

Tough choices – philosophical adventure
This is the second theme for the “why game”, but since the mood would be very dark I present this as an alternative idea.

Another theme could be real world. There the game would pose some tough black/white questions where your actions determine the fate of other people. The game would be played in split-screen view: left side would be about your situation, and the right side about the consequences. For example, if you vote for “yes, attack Iraq” then a civilian kills would be shown right. If you choose “ban weapons from home” you would be shown a screen showing how burglars enter people’s home (or alternatively, people shooting themselves accidentally at home). It might possibly be too dark and not sure if it would feel like propaganda (one way or another) but it might get people to think about their actions and perhaps show that there’s always several point-of-views for stuff.

Right now this theme seems too dark for my own mood (I’m so thrilled to have our cute lil baby girl), so I’ll skip this idea. Thought to share it anyway.

Tactical battle game
Reiner Knizia has created a cool game called Battle line. The idea is very simple (2 players, each player tries to form strong formations for his side). I feel that this idea could be expanded by adding collectible “deck building” and even thinking of doing an ice hockey game based on this, or perhaps some sort of cooperative (instead of competitive) game out of this.

I like the idea, and feel that something from this could be used to build something better and fancier.

Thieves – co-op stealth game
I mentioned this idea earlier but I’ve been thinking that this could be worth prototyping. In a very simple level there could be 2 players who need to steal a key card from one guard. The guard would kill players if they get caught, but if the players work cooperatively (one player distracting the guard, other hanging in ceiling ready to pick pocket the guard) they could solve the puzzle.

Zombie survival browser based game
Even though I like Urban Dead I think it’s missing some stuff. I have this idea about a small-scale zombie game where rounds could be faster (think of week for example): group of humans are fortifying a camp while group of zombies tries to get inside the building. There would be more visuals than what Urban Dead offers and players could gain experience points and purchase skills and stuff (which would be permanent). When player dies, he turns into a zombie (until the next round happens).

Not sure how fun this sounds but in my mind it does.

More stuff coming later (feel free to throw comments if you want).

Co-Op Stealth Game Idea

I keep getting these ideas and one potential game I’d like to create would be a co-op stealth game. Game called Monaco won the IGF grand prize this year, and this sort of gave me additional boost of fate in this type of stealth games.

I did have this game idea before I had heard anything about Monaco, and my game idea is somewhat different from Monaco (where you have 4 thieves with different abilities, also the graphics would be very different from what I was thinking). I was checking in some Flash stealth games to see how they are doing things. Also did some research & watched some videos about the Tenchu console ninja stealth game. There isn’t really many PC games where you use stealth, much less in co-op form. This gave me idea about a stealth (solo or co-op) game for PC.

I was thinking Edoiki style here. Players could be ninjas working on secret assignments stealing or assassinating in missions. For example, while other guy lurks in shadows, the other makes noise to attract guards. After the guards leave their spot the lurker can sneak in the house and throw a rope from a window for the other ninja to climb up.

Resource wise this would require quite a bit of work and in case of co-op, some networking coding would be needed (not necessarily in such great detail as for example in FPS shooters, but something for sure).

Simulation Might Be Interesting For Indies

What New Star Soccer and for example Kudos have in common.

  • Both are made by indies.
  • Both are sort of simulation games (or at least the simulation aspect is the thing I found most interesting).
  • Both games sell.
  • Both occupy such territory in the gaming industry that Really Big Corporations (TM) won’t touch that field.

I’m currently drawing a big map (figuratively speaking) about the next possibilities and by playing NHL ’10 I’ve reminded myself about my past interest about doing some sort of “life simulation”. (If you look at Cliff’s games, Kudos, Democracy, Gracious Battles they are all much about simulation. If you’d change the theme from “life/politics/space” and put “soccer” there, you could very well play the same games – with just different theme.

I’ve been some sort of ice hockey fan-ish and enjoy watching that sports. Now I’m adding ice hockey simulation game to my list of potential next projects. The game would be about being (for example) a goalie who is about to build his career in order to become the best ice hockey goalkeeper in the world. This would have several good points:

  • Easy to build from technical perspective: sure, I would need storyline, simulation engine and tons of other things but most of the game would be about adding content (creating events, adding players, writing storyline, and so on).
  • 2D graphics: I would imagine having a cool NHL ’10 style graphics they use in the game menus. This might be too much, so I might need to stick with something easier. Or simply just have good looking menus without people art. Anyway, based on a very brief pondering I think this could be manageable.
  • Fun? I think so. When I try play NHL ’10 as a goalie, I have this feeling how NHL actually points out the worse parts of being a goalie (you suck at deflections, you are punished for making an error, if you make a good save – that’s like expected from you). I’m getting several ideas on how this could be done better by removing action and focusing on rpg/story/events/simulation aspects.

Would anyone play/buy it?
I don’t know.

There’s this easy way to do a market research: google for something.

If there’s tons of results, the stuff you searched info about is probably something people want but everybody is probably doing it. If on the other hand you cannot find many hits (as in “ice hockey goalie simulation”) then it suggest that the niche is so minimal that nobody cares about it. (So, either way you are in shitty situation).

Thank god this time I’m not thinking about market. I’m thinking if doing this game would be fun to do or not. If I see green light then I just might go forward with the idea.

Do You Know Party/Social Game Mafia? (Or “Werewolf”)

I’m not talking about the video game mafia. I’m talking about the mafia party game also known as “Werewolf”.

I’ve played this game live for couple of times and it was the most fun experience I’ve probably ever got out of gaming. We had 8-9 guys and it was amazingly fun. The whole idea of “two secret werewolves and 6 villagers” is an amazingly simple concept, yet it works. (Those who want more information should check the wiki page for more info).

I also very much enjoyed playing Battlestar Galactica which uses a traitor mechanism which makes the game interesting.

I’ve been pondering how to translate this game into a video game, and seen 2 different approaches:

#1: real time (or almost real time) approach:
I’m thinking somehow tie the idea into a real time in such way that for example there’s 3 players in a multiplayer game. 2 of the players are in the side of “good guys” and 1 is “bad guy”. Good guys don’t know who the bad guys is.

The players represent for example fighters who need to combat monsters. Players secretly choose their actions so that it’s not clear how much each person does damage to the monster (but there will be some clues though). The bad guy of course tries to sabotage and keep the monsters alive, while the good guys try to beat the monsters. The game ends after any one player dies (if it’s a good guy, then bad guy wins. If it’s a bad guy, then good guy wins), or when all the monsters are defeated (good guys victory).

By making the game real time, there is certain amount of pressure to handle actions. It also ensures that game moves forward and makes the game slightly similar to the social party game, of course leaving stuff like body language away.

#2: turn based approach
Similar to Mafia games played on forums, or Battlestar Galactica: players encounter something (whether it’s monsters or events or whatever) that they need to collaboratively beat.

No time pressures necessarily, but I’m pondering how well turn based system transforms into a video game.

Both of these could be (possibly) created with PHP/SQL/Ajax based system (although “real time” would need to be faked here, in reality it would take at least some seconds to get responses). Another option is to use some game engine with a real online multiplayer option, which would get the real multiplayer options here but would possibly be more work to create.

The game theme could be anything. Mafia. Werewolves. It could be about “a group of heroes who have just beaten the dragon, got their gold just to realize that there’s one traitor in the group”.

It could be about a heist done wrong (Reservoir Dogs style) where the players point guns towards each other and try to figure out who is the freaking rat.

It could be about a group of survivors fighting against hordes of zombies – with one survivor being infected…

Donuts model
In order to get donuts from this game I’m thinking that there would be couple of options:

  • Pay for customization (pay for gear/make character look cooler than others/badges and stuff)
  • Pay for expansions (additional events, items, characters, stuff could be added in the game when there’s at least one guy playing who has unlocked the expansions)

If the game was an online multiplayer only, it would be important to keep the base game free to build a good player base.

Back to design

This is one online multiplayer game design I’m considering. It has several good points: it resembles the game I’ve enjoyed playing, I have somewhat tested the design with different board games, it could be relatively budget friendly game to create and perhaps quite easy to prototype as well.

I have some other ideas lying in my head (like these ideas). I’ll be writing more about these in public – I’ve noticed that when writing things down (and especially to public) there will be unexpected things happening…