There are those among us who feel games are becoming increasingly predictable – a marketing dominated creative process where developers simply take elements from other successful games, try to throw in some token new thing and call it a day. So I thought I’d just throw out some slightly different ideas, just for the hell of it. If a butterfly flapping its wings can truly destroy the universe (as my people believe) then maybe this article can, uh, take down some butterflies.
Ashes of Destiny: The Cricket Saga
Okay, so you take a sport that everybody loves (Cricket) and you combine it was a genre that everybody really ought to love (RPGs) and this is what you get. I may also be liberally borrowing from the film Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, but I can make it different enough to stop the lawyers from getting involved. So, in a small village in India… no, no, uh… let’s say it’s in a made up country like they always do in Japanese RPGs. Indjiana. Hilana. Amhilnia. Those are all terrible, let’s just call it Crickterion. As the young hero Khan you have always displayed great cricketing potential, but frustratingly you’ve never been able to put it all together in a match. You have the tools kid, but where is the end production?
Every RPG needs a villain, and in this game it’s a demented warlord type figure who has established an evil-fuelled team of superstars (it’s just like the Yankees!). Using this invincible team he has been systematically challenging all the villages and towns dotted throughout the land to a game of cricket – the loser, according to the laws of this cricket-obsessed land, becomes a vassal to the winner. This is how it has always been in Crickterion – instead of war, cricket.
The village elder summons Khan – it is only a matter of time until the evil cricket team arrives at their gates, destroys their team and takes over the village. Soon all will fall before their dark might and they will control the nation. He must leave his home for the first time, travel the land and assemble a team somehow capable of victory. Also, if he happens across a “Garden of Eden Creation Kit” while he’s out there, that would be helpful, but only if he sees one.
The game proper begins, as Khan’s band enters the local cricket league and begins playing matches to gain experience (allowing them to improve their various skills) and fame (which allows them to attract more players to their team). Cricket matches are a bizzaro semi-real time affair. Skilled champions of cricket are attracted to join this heroic struggle and you can choose whether to enlist them – future legends like Spindo (a feisty spin bowling extraordinaire) and Brambillia (a powerful batter with a booming laugh and beard to match) among them.
The Dark Warlord himself elects to play in the final match, he wears a mask and when he removes it… his eyes are black as night, filled with the echoes of history. Can Khan finally realise his cricketing potential and lead his team to victory?
Guild Manager 2010
Unless you’re a fan of sporting management games it’s notoriously difficult to see the appeal – instead of a game simulating a sport, a game simulating the management of a sport?! But the satisfaction of building a winning team from a standing start, of rotating the squad and tweaking tactics, of signing players who become stars – these factors underpin the popularity of the genre. So how about you combine this with that other most obsessive-compulsive of genres, the MMO? In Guild Manager you don’t play an MMO, you play someone managing a guild within an MMO. Recruit new players, train them to improve their skills, organise raids, draw up a complicated system of rules for everyone to abide by.
History Mystery 1887
Our hero cannot remember his name or where he is from. He cannot remember anything past last Tuesday. But he found himself in a detective agency in Victorian London and has been working for a skilled detective who bears a striking resemblance to someone we couldn’t actually afford the rights to, but it’s obviously based upon that person who we can’t name for legal and financial reasons. Going between locations, our bewildered hero must attempt to gather clues, not just about the cases but his own past.
Eventually he discovers his true identity – a Spartan warrior sent forward to Victorian London to chase a Persian magician who is attempting to steal military technology from 1887 and then take it back to his own time to change history and help his people conquer Greece. It’s a little like Terminator, only with Persians and Spartans and its set in Victorian London with a very familiar detective in it. Also amnesia. The game itself is a free roaming affair in a gloomy, gothic London with mystery around every corner. Our hero must use both his wits to solve crimes and gather evidence and his regained Spartan skills to wipe the floor with enemies.
War of Words: No Surrender
Who would win in a fight between the works of TS Eliot and Thomas Wolfe? War of Words: No Surrender investigates this theoretical question by allowing players to pick between a group of literary giants and then pitting them against each other in a weird, metaphysical conflict. They don’t fight each other exactly, but their creations do battle in a turn based strategy setting. Obviously that famous writer who wrote about the demons and 100-foot high robots has a major advantage over most of the others, you know the one I mean? Tennessee Williams right? Who can’t go home now Wolfe, who can’t go home now?!
A real time strategy game where you don’t fight robots, aliens or House Harkonnen. Instead, our oldest enemy – illness! Taking command of a detachment of white blood cells, you are tasked with defending your character’s body against incursions from all kinds of malevolent microbes. Develop immunities through research and experience, devise better responses to infections, fight the good fight. When you click on a white blood cell it goes “Standing by” or “Commander?” and then you order it to attack a microbe and it goes “Affirmative, engaging target” or “I eat pathogens for breakfast”. I’d like it to have the voice of Bruce Campbell. The bacteria could have a charismatic, bald leader who sends cryptic yet threatening messages. This thing writes itself.