Daily Design: Day 45
Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on three randomly generated words. Today, they are;
Lonely, Mechanical and Nil.
As such, the game I’ve designed today is…
Solitary Cyborg is, if I’m completely honest, basically just the video game version of Wall-E, if Wall-E had a solid chance of dying every 20 or so minutes.
Players take the role of the last “living” being on Earth who, as you may have guessed, is a cyborg. It’s the player’s job to explore the world and discover what happened to humanity, as well as scavenge for supplies.
The player requires power, and can only stay away from base for a certain amount of time before they need to return to recharge. This limit can be upgraded by gathering supplies and crafting improved batteries and / or backup packs. Fuel must also be gathered to keep your base running, which gives you an initial goal on every trip.
Which, yes, means that this is a kind of roguelike. Inspired mostly be Don’t Starve, Solitary Cyborg is a game I perceive to be similar, but a fair bit easier. While the difficulty is a huge draw in Don’t Starve, I’ve felt for a long time that the roguelike genre could do with some more forgiving entries.
Many would argue that dying is an essential part of roguelikes, but I disagree – more importantly, I think it’s that the player feels as though there’s a very real risk of dying. The point of roguelikes isn’t that you lose significant progress when you die (or, in some cases, all of your progress), it’s that player’s feel the stakes are higher, and the entire game is more exciting as a result.
I’d like to see a game emulate that feeling with slightly lower risks. I realise that’s easier said than done, and it’s easy for me to say it about a purely hypothetical game, but it’s still something I’d like to see a game strive for.
I imagine ways to do this would include a “smart” loot system, where the player is more likely to find supplies that they need. Say for example that the player is nearly out of fuel, which would lead to their death – this would mean the chance of finding a significant amount of fuel would increase, unbeknownst to the player. Similarly, to increase tension, the more fuel the player has the less likely they are to find any.
The ultimate goal of the game is to discover what’s happened to humanity through exploration. Certain items are discovered that, when combined, lead to an explanation and a completion screen.
While nothing else on the planet is alive, there are certainly dangers. Namely the weather – fuel requirements means that exploration isn’t optional, so unless you happen to be close to base when bad weather hits, you’ll have to find shelter ASAP.
One of my favourite mechanics in gaming – and one I feel didn’t receive nearly enough attention – was the “blowout” mechanic in S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat. Every now and then, the “zone” would suffer from a nuclear blowout, foreshadowed by terrifying weather effects and a warning signal. Unless they were in cover, the blowout would instantly kill the player (and all enemies that hadn’t made it to cover).
This led to great emergent storytelling as you scrambled for cover before the blowout occured, or found yourself sprinting to shelter if the warning signal sounded while you were in the middle of nowhere.
Other dangers would include typical resource management. As a cyborg, the player character doesn’t need to eat, but it’s easy enough to circumvent this narratively if the need arises. There’s already a “power” resource before the player’s battery dies, but it’s a simple job to add something like “lubricant” that’s needed to keep the player moving, for example.
That’s it! I know it was a little “rambley” and the game wasn’t super original, but hopefully you enjoyed the read anyway. I’ll be back again tomorrow with another quick game concept.