A quick primer for those who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo : it’s an annual endeavour that thousands of people from around the world undertake – to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish, in November of each year. There are chapters worldwide, in particular, there’s one in Dublin that meets every week. I’m not taking part, exactly – I’m using this month to make a game. Though to be fair, the NaNoWriMo rules are pretty clear on this restriction : If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.
I suppose there’s no reason why I need the writing competition to inspire me – but I’m so tired of the same old stuff I’ve been working on. I want to do something new, something a little quirky and pointless. Something that doesn’t take itself so damn seriously. And this seems like as good a time as any to do it.
The thing is, I still haven’t decided on exactly what kind of game I want to make yet – I have narrowed it down to three, though.
This one’s a little silly, but I can’t bring myself to let go of the idea.
Basically, it’s a character based puzzle game. You’ve got 5 characters stuck in some sort of difficult situation, and they can all do different things, like one guy can knock down walls, and another can jump over large holes, and so on. They have to work together to progress with the game. Pretty simple, really. I envision something along the lines of a multiplayer Lufia II, where you switch between the five turn by turn.
Here’s the weird bit – they’re all chess pieces. The rook is the one knocking over walls, the knight is jumping over holes, the queen is doing pretty much everything, with the objective of each level being to get the feeble old king to safety. And it lends itself pretty well to some decent characters – the queen could be some kinda terrifying golddigger, bossing all the other pieces around, the king some bubbling old fool who hides behind the rook at the first sign of trouble…
There’s something to be said in defense of this idea, and I’m not altogether certain what it is. I mean, it could be absolutely atrocious – it’s kind of a silly idea to begin with, and it would need to be put together with a lot of care in order to have any merit. Or it could just end up being really boring. I don’t know.
There’s a lot I like about it though. It’s simple. It’s very easy to put together and design levels for, it’s the sorta thing I can realistically work on with a piece of paper during my morning commute. And of all the game ideas I’m considering, it would probably be the most fun.
Technically, there are a few challenges to overcome here. Putting together some good enemy AI, for example, is bound to be pretty tricky. But I still think there’s a good chance that I’d have this one done in a month.
This is probably the most serious of my ideas, and unlike the others, I don’t really know what to compare it too. So no screenshot then. Bah.
A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend about Alan Turing (as you do). During the course of the conversation, he reminded me of a fairly obscure historical character, Marian Rejewski. Before World War II had even started, Rejewski had cracked the famous German cipher Enigma. He spent the rest of the war being evacuated from country to country as they fell to Germany, first to Romania, then to France, then to Vincy France, and finally to Britain, were he worked on comparatively trivial ciphers until the end of the war. Apparently, the Mathematicians in Bletchley Park didn’t even know about him.
I don’t know what most people think when they hear this story, but here’s what I think : that would make a great computer game.
Here’s the basic idea – you’re a regular person in a minor European country at the beginning of WWII, say Poland or Austria or Ireland or Greece or something. Before the game starts, a sequence of events is predetermined for the coming six years – say instead of invading Poland, Hitler decides to sucker punch France before it can prepare and takes over west Europe instead of east. Only now, the Soviets have had plenty of time to prepare and just stroll right into Berlin. Or instead of getting greedy and invading the USSR, Hitler just takes a few central countries and then consolidates his power, so that the war doesn’t even really begin and all counterattacks fail. Whatever way things turn out, the idea is that you, as a citizen of somewhere in the middle, won’t have a clue what to expect.
And what do you actually do in the game? That’s up to you. You can partake in the war effort, if you want, join a resistance movement and fight against the invading forces. Or you can flee – sneak your way out to safety and live out the war making bullet casings in a London factory…
Oh, ok, I haven’t a clue yet. But I think there’s a cool game here, if I could only visualise it properly… I’ve got no idea how long this would take, really – I suppose it depends on the scale I go with.
I think this is the most likely course of action – unfortunately, it’s the most traditional game of the three. It’s an game I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months now – an adventure game set in space.
You start on a dying little planet that has just discovered faster-than-light travel, and sends a crew out to explore the universe. It’s a pretty open-ended RPG will no real objective, just to explore and discover new things, meet new civilisations, that sorta thing. I guess you could compare it to Sid Meier’s “Pirates”. Only in space. Space Pirates, if you will.
Isn’t google images wonderful?
Over the past few months, I’ve had a lot of specific ideas about how the game mechanics would play out – how battles would work, how communication with aliens would work, how the game would look and play – and that’s sorta why I’m leaning towards this one. I know exactly how the game would play, but I’ve got no idea what it’s about. And seeing as I’m supposed to be doing all this as a writing exercise, I can think of no better approach than to make it all up as I go along.
Don’t get me wrong, I want the game to be plot driven – I just think it might be fun to write something that isn’t character driven. I really like the idea that I could just have a basic game in place, and then start adding unrelated random planets and quests as they come to me.
That’s it, I guess. Right now I’m leaning towards game three, but yesterday I was sure I was going to go with that second one, and I’d been thinking about how the first one would work all last week!
I suppose for now it doesn’t matter. All three games are basically RPGs, and I’ve got a little bit of generic engine work to do before I make a decision.
And now for something completely different – a great article I came across a few days ago. Well worth checking out.