Namaste and I were talking about game ideas tonight. Here’s my priority list (which is different from his):
- Strategy game
- Music and Rhythm game
- Psychedelic action game
- Linguistic magic game
I’ve mentioned these all briefly before on this blog. I’ll run through them, then talk about no. 1 some more.
The main idea for the Music and Rhythm game is that you have a keyboard (computer or music) on which you make beats and riffs. The game would have a certain tempo, but the only thing that the tempo does is make what you’ve already played come around again at regular intervals. Each line would gradually fade out, but you’d get points for keeping lines you’ve already made going… for a certain amount of time, until the points you get for that line are insignificant. Plus support for solo sections, perhaps existing songs, multiplayer (hey, why not just get a jam club together?), etc.
I’m under an informal NDA about the psychedelic action game.
My main idea for the linguistic magic game (which must be attributed to a fellow named Chris who used to come to GameDev) is that it will be a ballistic shooter à la Scorched Earth or Warheads. But instead of aim-fire, you’d have to concoct sentences (in an artificial, completely foreign language) describing what you want your spell to do and who you want it to target. This mirrors what you see in fantasy stories; Harry Potter doesn’t have a list of commonly used spells that he hits numbers to use: he says words and waves his wand to cast a spell.
Okay, on to the strategy game. This is the game we spent the most time brainstorming, and came up with some good ideas. I was thinking that it should be turn-based, but Namaste has managed to change my mind a bit. Still—the core idea for the game is that the speed of light is really really slow, say two “squares” per second, where a board would be 500×500 square squares or bigger. Everything must obey this principle, but it is still an RTS. This has some interesting consequences:
- The first one I thought of is that there is no traditional fog of war. Instead, the fog of war would simply be that the farther away you looked, the farther in the past you would be looking. So you don’t know what distant troops are doing, you only have an idea of what they were doing some time ago.
- There can’t be a traditional micromanagey interface (go to one army, put down a few moves, go to the next army, put down a few moves). If there were, then information would be going through you faster than the speed of light, which is impossible. Instead, you would have to possess one of your squads’ commanders and micromanage them, and then send out your other squads to be managed by other players or by the AI. You could send orders to other squads, but it might take up to 250 seconds (4 minutes) to get there, depending on your distance from them. Also, you could only repossess other commanders if you were in physical proximity to them.
- You can’t communicate to other players faster than the speed of light. You send “look out” to your teammate 100 units away, it takes 50 seconds for him to see it. Indeed, there is a potential for cheating with instant messagers or whatever, but there’s not much you can do about that.
The upshot of all this is that you get a significant “lag factor”. That is, you might find yourself committing to decisions which may or may not be any good just because you have limited information. Clayton Lewis (a games for education researcher here at CU) says that, when you go back and read Napoleon’s logs, you find that he made these kinds of decisions all the time. You don’t know everything, you don’t know whether they have an army waiting for you, you don’t know if they’re just waiting for you to leave to plan a full-scale attack. You pick a plan and you commit to it, for better or worse, because wish-washing is always for worse.
So to make the game not so much about guessing, we’re thinking that we have a 10 minute “planning” stage before the battle. In single player or one-on-one, you would play large scale general, moving this army here and that army there, for the AI to carry out (this game would require a strong AI). In multiplayer, what the game would be optimized for, you would meet with the other players and Diplomacy-style work things out, ultimately for your own benefit. Because it takes so long to communicate on the battlefield, you have to have a strong plan before the battle.
Think about a few example scenarios. Keep in mind that the speed of light is two squares per second, so units move slower than that (probably max 1 square per second). Say you’re hiding a flank somewhere, and you’re waiting to see which way the opposing army goes to see where to stand-off. By the time you see which way they’re going, they’re half way there. The game should be balanced to make it very hard to assemble a strong defensive quickly enough to effectively counter them.
Also we were talking about limited population. Namaste cited several RTSs, but I don’t remember which ones. If you want more soldiers, you have to draw from your work force, which means you get less and worse equipment.
I’m just wondering how much effort it will take to prototype this. I want the battle rules to be really simple. For one, health bars are bullshit. If you get shot in the leg, you can’t keep fighting. You’re damn leg is off! (We were considering ambulances and a hospital for revival if you have limited population) But hopefully we can make do with only few types of squads with simple (rock-paper-scissorsish) rules. If we must incorporate tanks, we have to incorporate trenches too, because tanks need to have an weakness. But I’d be down with on-foot only.