Musing on game ideas

So last time I talked about games that leave you with something. Some of the ideas I’ve had lately sort of fall into that category, and some of the ideas I’ve had in the past, about things I’d love to see – they really don’t, because they don’t actually conform to this rule.

In hindsight, that’s why I never actually got very far with realising those ideas, because I forgot the key elements.

I talked about how I’d reimagine Populous, taking out the dullness and just allowing the player to be a god. I actually imagine the result would be like a simplified version of Black and White in hindsight.

This is, interestingly enough, not a good thing. It wouldn’t be B&W because it would skip the micromanagement and the overheads attached to getting anywhere but it would hit the same wall that B&W does. You’re interacting with the world, the people (and in B&W’s case, your pet), but no matter how much of yourself you leave on them, even so far as to shaping behaviour under some circumstances, but that’s it.

After spending more time lately playing B&W, I found I didn’t feel any real connection with the game, no lasting impression, just frustration with the interface and a sense of the game missing the point a bit. I’m not sure how much of that is down to Molyneux’s involvement, and the idea is certainly strong but I think the execution missed something quite serious. I just don’t know what yet.

I suspect I’d have the same problem: that I’d create a game that was transiently amusing (either helping or smiting the populace) but had no staying power because there’s only so much you can do and there’s nothing lasting to leave with the player. It doesn’t teach them anything and other than trying to stimulate the player into coming back and having more of the same, I didn’t see what draw there would actually be.

As for Tower of Babel, I look back at that, not just my ideas for overhauling the game, but at the game design as a whole. What does it teach us? What does it leave us with after the event? During the event, even?

Well, assuming I take off my rose-tinted lenses for a minute, I think I can see a glimmer of something there in the corner of my eye, but it’s not exactly bright. It does leave us with a sense of leadership, of learning how to effectively use three separate units, and I guess there’s a slight hint of emotion there when you lose a robot, but I’m not sure that’s enough, and I’m really not sure my proposed additions would make either of those things stronger.

If anything, really, I suspect the opposite will be true: the game will (like so many games of today) be so wrapped up in its mechanics and its own cleverness that the spirit of what it would leave us with is actually removed, or at least seriously distanced.

I have a bunch of ideas floating around at the moment, some more innovative than others and over the next few posts I’ll try to explore them a bit to see what can be done with them. Maybe, if they work out, I’ll build the game and post it here on the site.

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