Daily Design: Day 5
The words for today are…
How, Absurdities and Aboveground, which is apparently a word.
So, today’s game is;
Grounded is an action/rpg roguelike. The player is a citizen of an underground city on the brink of collapse, and is tasked with exploring the surface world to gather artifacts and resources, in order to build and restore the city.
One of my favourite things in roguelike games are when they’re not “pure roguelikes”, and reward players for skilled / successful runs with a permanent unlockable, such as new characters or items, without giving them a simple power increase. This means something like The Binding of Isaac, which unlocks more characters, levels and items as you play, as opposed to Rogue Legacy, which rewards you with flat power increases.
I also love when games let you build a city – from the freedom of Sim City to the hand-holding of Metal Gear Solid V somewhere inbetween, like Dark Cloud, base-building has long been a favourite feature of mine. I think it’s well-suited to roguelikes as part of your “hub” area, and having a city build up between your successful and less-successful adventures is a very addictive idea (as seen in Rogue Legacy).
However, I also think that in keeping with the spirit of the genre, it’s best of your city can collapse. Roguelikes should be tense and difficult, and hub areas often give players too much of a cushion to fall back on. Runs are suddenly less tense, because at least you found so many of X item, and have unlocked this feature for future use. The idea of a hub that degrades if you perform badly for too long is really interesting to me, though obviously teeters on the edge of frustration and the feeling that progress is pointless.
I’d love to see someone have a go at it, though. Rogue Legacy does this to a degree – with each successive run, upgrades cost more and more, and so you have to consistently perform better to keep upgrading. This idea is great, but I still feel that if your hub was actively degrading, you’d be able to achieve a much higher level of tension and reward skill a bit better, as long as frustrations could be mitigated.
The second major part of any roguelike is, of course, the exploration. In this case, the surface of the world would be bizarre and mysterious, ripe for discovery.
My fondest memories of exploration in games are from two in particular – Morrowind and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. In both cases, the worlds are weird as hell. Morrowind is set in the desert-ish nation of Vvardenfell, where wizards live in giant mushrooms and demonic ruins litter the landscape. Exploring the world was a genuine joy, as you never had any idea what was around the next corner.
Wind Waker was similar, in the sense that each new island was bizarre and interesting to explore. Between the mountain of Dragoonroost Island (which came with the best piece of game music ever written) and the devastated Greatfish Isle, you never knew what to expect.
The Elder Scrolls series lost this quite a bit after Morrowind, with the next game – Oblivion – being set in a typically high-fantasy Tolkien-esque world, but recaptured it perfectly with The Shivering Isles expansion, and that kind of aesthetic is exactly what I’d love to capture in Grounded.
The the surface world would be weird, wonderful and vibrant, in direct contrast to the underground hub. Supplies gathered here could be taken back to your city to upgrade it, and players would see their dim underground village slowly transform into a glowing and vibrant city – assuming they could maintain it through skilled play.
I like this rough idea so far, but unfortunately I’m out of time for today. I guess this is one of the big problems with coming up a game idea each day. Thanks for reading!