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Ideas for New Games July 2, 2010

Posted by oktyabr in games, opinions, software, technology.

60px-Gnome-joysticksvg.png I posted this on a forum for a major game company in a thread where members were invited to share their ideas about “Ideas for New Games”.  I put a lot of time and thought into  my post and thought it might be worthwhile to save it here as well.  The original thread can be found by clicking >here<.

I’ve been an FPS (First Person Shooter) player since the original DOOM, have played these games extensively and watched them evolve and progress over the last (nearly) two decades.  Before that I was a paper-and-pencil wargamer and RPG’er (Role Playing Games) and perhaps even a “rules junky”… collecting obscure games and rule books just to  study the mechanics and the different ways of making a good game.

One of the things that I longed for ever since I made the transition from graph paper and dice to computer monitor and mouse is the same sort of “realism”, scalability,  and  flexibility in “modding” the game being played.  In a paper and pencil game the realism is as real as you want it.  Want a forest burned to the ground?  Huge craters where moments before there were none?  Weather that changes and has an actual effect on the game itself?  Want to command one “unit” (FPS), a small squad, an entire army?  Imagining it is all it takes to make it so.

Modern FPS and wargames in general are getting closer to this level of ease of flexibility but still have a lot of unconquered ground to cross to be complete.  I guess I’m talking about a very flexible engine and a very good set of tools.  A “toy box” if you will perhaps loosely wrapped around an example game.  Modern combat sims like Operation Flashpoint and ArmA 2 are close in the tools department as are RPGs like Neverwinter Nights, designed from the start to provide a high level of customization and replayability.  Classic FPS like Half-Life, Quake and HL2 similarly, from the stand point of being relatively easy to “mod” and thus creating a vast gaming fabric have far exceeded the original game’s shelf  life.

Specifically the perfect FPS should contain some very obvious traits.  Anyone could complete this list if they think out of the box with a little consideration over what has been done and what could yet be.  Consider my list the tip of the iceberg.  Plenty more where these come from:

Truly destructable/constructable environments. I’d like to see a building burn to the ground… I’d like to see artillery rounds leave craters in the earth… I’d like to see high  explosives blow a door off it’s hinges or better yet take down a whole wall. I’d like to see engineers able to erect a portable bridge or build a wall out of sandbags… or a castle wall actually get breached by catapults, etc…

Extend that to vehicles… Imagine what that Apache would be like if the rear rotor got hit with a few rounds and you had to fight it just to keep it from spinning out of control… or a  wheeled vehicle with a couple of flat tires… or tank with one of it’s treads blown off…

Dynamic lighting and weather effects... I’d like to see the same terrain early in the morning, high noon and in the pitch black of night. If a server runs the same map constantly then perhaps it would gradually shift like the real world… if different maps are in a rotation then have a night/morning/midday version of them. I’ve seen snow and rain  in maps but never seen a game where the weather was (un)predictable and could change realistically *during* the game with realistic consequences.  i.e. tanks might move fine across the field in summer but wait until it’s been raining hard for several hours and the “road” turns into a churned morass of mud, clay and stuck vehicles.  Troops run fast through the woods, a little slower (and clumsier) as snow begins to accumulate and make things slippery, slowly when breaking a trail through two feet of fresh powder snow.

More environmental sound where you can have a sand storm outside that is nearly deafening but is muted as you move in doors… Voice commands that are audible to nearby players in the game world, getting fainter with distance… voice comm could also be overheard by a nearby enemy as well as teammates… Positional audio.  Sound FX is crucial to making an FPS in particular “immersive” and things have come a long way in these regards… but the immersion is broken when you have to read a text message in a corner of the screen or type one out yourself.

Scalability is also key.  Some FPS such as Counter Strike are based on small, tactical operations on relatively confined maps.  Others like ArmA 2 encompass vast terrains with possibly thousands of units.  The perfect FPS would be able to encompass both extremes and all that falls in between.  Along with the scalability of the game scope itself should come the flexibility to easily limit and/or adjust the game types and missions.  A straight forward hostage rescue or assassination to the conquest of entire villages or territories by many combat units en masse.

The tool sets should be so good that they ARE the game, if desired! That means integrated into the game itself, fun and easy to use with the extended capabilities to get really creative with perhaps the addition of a powerful scripting language and editor.  In my ‘dream’ game a player with a great idea for a scenario could fire up an existing  scenario/map in ‘admin-mode’ and could change everything around in *realtime*. Perhaps a crew of developers could work together on this sort of thing online on a construction server…

Note that I said “scenario” instead of simply “map”. Imagine taking a single player scenario with a perfectly good map and simply changing a few factors like how many enemies, where they spawn, what sort of combat abilities and assets, etc. and changing them in realtime, in-game, and then being able to take as many test runs as you like to fine tune your adjustments.  Perhaps uploading your scenario onto a public server and seeing what others might do with it.  Collaboration, if desired, should be as easy to accomplish as actually  playing the game itself.  Of course this means that the game MUST have excellent multiplayer attributes (dedicated servers, low latency, etc.)

Imagine something like Neverwinter Night’s toolset and how you can drag and drop functioning fountains, creatures, traps, terrain, everything… now throw that sort of prefab’d items into a 3D FPS or MMO enviroment for quick map generation/scenario tweaking…   Or another excellent example is the often overlooked “Torchlight” by Runic Games.  It’s still missing a multiplayer aspect but the editor is so well designed, so easy and fun to use, that making missions is almost more fun that actually playing them.

Include more dedicated tools for customizing the existing prefabs or even making your own from scratch… The tools should be as deep as the actual game and at the same time *as easy* to get a grasp on, and most importantly, included in the box… if not entirely integrated into the game itself.  Example: I’m also a fan of a couple of well known PC racing sims.  The one thing they all share in common is that you must own (or more commonly, pirate) a very expensive piece of 3D software to develop any new assets or tracks/maps.  This is  NOT what I have in mind.

ArmA 2 has a pretty good editor but the lack of an easy way to create and deform entirely new terrain is in my opinion it’s largest weak spot.

Flexible creativity spanning time and even combining specific historical periods and epochs. Sounds crazy in relation to everything else out there but why not?  Back in the  day of paper and pencil wargames I stumbled across a book that would become one of my most cherished tomes…  it was called “Book of Mars” (1981, 1981 … 100/77 pages … Image Game Company/FASA … ISBN 0425066991) and basically aligned every type of weapon from stone tipped spear to a plasma rifle (and even tactical nukes) on a common matrix which provided an easy platform to use for practically every imaginable scenario…  100 stone age primitives vs. a handful of heavily equipped time travelers?  19th century calvary vs. laser beam wielding Martian war machines?  Crossbows and sharp pointy things in a post holocaust world where gasoline and gunpowder are priceless?  This and more.  A modern computer wargame/FPS that encompass these scenarios would be unprecedented.

There you go, some of my ideas.  Like them?  Someone give me a job!  “Will game conceptualize, design and test for FOOD!”  😉

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