Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ideas For Games That Will Never Get Made

Like many of you, I also play those dern vidya games. I have a fondness for Tower Defense style games, but I am tired of the lack of innovation. Every game features an endless line of creepsm the same towers, and varying degrees of polish. They're essentially the same, much like platformers in the early 90s (also like 90s platformers, there's an awful lot of tie-ins).

So here is what I think is the core challenge: To preserve the familiarity of tower defense games but to introduce new mechanics to challenge the player.

My first thought was to change the creeps or the towers themselves, but after a bit of time I abandoned this thought experiment as it's not in line with the first half of my goal (to preserve the familiar). Therefore, we need the six basic towers I see in every game:
  • The cheap, medium-damage and fire rate tower (starter tower)
  • The fast but weak tower (machine gun)
  • The slow, long range tower (usually a sniper or mortar; optional splash damage)
  • The tower that slows down the bad guys
  • The tower that poisons or burns the bad guys (Damage over time)
  • The tower that does splash damage
Some games change up the creeps - the Protector series does an excellent job of this, with various creeps immune to/made stronger by/vulnerable to various types of damage. I think this is a good step towards our goal.

And then my mind turned towards the economy of TD games: Kill an enemy, get money/credits/energy. This is the only thing I have never seen changed.

Well, let's do something about that.

I envision a game where you play the role of an independent contractor charged with the static defense of a space colony. You have numerous contracts with various weapons companies, all of which specialize in turret defense. As one of their top customers, and due to the media attention your company is receiving, your successes and failures have a direct impact on the stock market value of these turret defense companies. Therefore, your primary means of income is not killing enemies but trading stock.

Killing an enemy with a turret made by Altair Industries, which specializes in ballistic weapons (the Rifle, the Machine Gun and Shotgun Turrets) drives their stock value up, while having a negative effect on Betelgeuse LLC (specializing in self-propelled explosives such as missile strikes, mortars, and rocket mines) as the two are in direct competition. Driving a stock price too low may result in BLLC sending mercenaries to the colony to discredit Altair Industries technology.

Other companies include CanDo Construction, whose upgrades allow you to alter the path the creeps use (through barricades, carving new roadways, moats, and other innovations), and Delta Management Solutions (whose "turrets" actually just boost the functions of other nearby turrets - a Media Team increases the stock value of successful kills, especially bosses, while Motivational Speakers might lessen the effects of failure and drive the fire rate up).

Pausing the game allows you to engage in stock trading, while randomized global events keep you on your toes - like the real market, a canny investory can cope with almost any events. Special cards are collected by completing side missions and destroying bosses, and these trump cards allow you to turn events to your favor.

Because every game now needs to have friggin' multiplayer, 4 person matches allow a dynamic market while defending separate maps. An additional sandbox mode allows players to blast away at creeps with your investors supplying money for you but only in between waves - so the resource management aspect stays at the forefront.

By combining economic strategy with tower defense, I hope to create an innovative, engaging experience without branching too far away from what the modern games is familiar with.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Zombie Centric

I can't talk much about it, but I have a project in the works.

On a related note, what are your favorite zombie-related materials?

Night of the Living Dead (1968): I saw this movie when I was 10. Needless to say, a baseball bat stayed under my bed for the next ten years. This is the movie that started it all: The genre, Romero's career, and eventually this very list.

Dawn of the Dead (1978): Dawn is a good example of a filmmaker's evolution. A successful sequel, free from the characters of the previous movie but displaying a natural evolution of the events portrayed. Materialism, militarism, and the failure of the government - themes that Romero will use throughout his career - contribute to the breakdown of society in a huge way for the first time in this movie.

Return of the Living Dead (1985): Look, this movie is fun. I like it. That's about it.

Cemetery Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) (1994): I don't know why I like this one either. It's an existential-romance-horror-porn-comedy with zombies. I suppose I've never seen sex, violence, and death linked together the way this movie does, and I haven't seen any other movie with the thesis that we bear no responsibility for our actions.

28 Days Later (2002): The first zombie movie I saw that didn't actually involve the living dead. It inspired the "fast zombies" trend of the Aughts, and inspired me thinking about how the modern political atmosphere could be used to make movies.

The Zombie Survival Guide (2003): Finally, some nerd sat down and wrote it all out for us. Every angle of surviving the apocalypse has been carefully thought out and documented in this groundbreaking work. If only it were a bit more quoteable.

Dawn of the Dead (2004): This movie has no redeeming societal values. It is gory as shit and fun to watch. As a double bonus, it got me interested in Johnny Cash.

Dead End Days (2004): An internet serial that tackles the worth of advertising, big business, and viral marketing in our society. It's also very funny.

Shawn of the Dead (2004): Without a doubt, my favorite zombie movie. It runs the gamut from being hilarious to to gory to heartrending then back again in a trim 99 minutes. Along the way, it manages to hit on just about every trope in the genre while still taking itself seriously.

Land of the Dead (2005): This was (until Diary of the Dead came out) the weakest of the Romero series. However, I found elements of it intriguing, and I've watched it as research material. The most interesting aspect of this movie, to me, was the scavenging gang - maybe I read too much into it, but I saw those guys as what happened to the bikers in Dawn once someone organized them. The freebirds sold out.

World War Z (2006): This is to books what Dawn was to movies: Thinly disguised biting social commentary. It shows how human nature contributes to the apocalypse more than the zombies ever could.

Left 4 Dead (2008): L4D showed that zombie games could be fun, tense, and mainstream. I also appreciate its cooperative gameplay.

Pontypool (2008): Without a doubt, this is the most terrifying zombie movie I have ever seen. Every zombie movie depends on tension to make it work. Tension comes from incomplete information - and this is the only movie I have ever seen where I never knew more than the characters did. What happens when the virus isn't in the blood, or in food, or spread by the rat-monkey...but the English language? What happens when you only see the outbreak through the eyes of a talk radio jock, instead of at street level, hearing the confused reports of survivors...and the more confused reports from the infected themselves.

Zombieland (2009): Okay this movie is just fun, and it has some of the most innovative zombie kills I've ever seen.

Tell me about yours!