Coming up with ideas for games is hard. That’s one of the wonderful things about restrictive game jams, you get a set of criteria and you need to work within it. Sometimes it really helps and some super interesting things can come out of it.
But other times you want to sit down and come up with something. And that’s hard. I’ve sat around and thought up many different ideas that I never did anything with, so I’ve dusted off the old notebooks and I’m writing them up here in the hopes that someone, somewhere, takes one of these ideas, turns it into a game, makes a billion dollars and splits it with me.
I’m kidding, they’re free. Take them, make them, succeed. You might wonder why I’m giving you all my ideas, well I’m not, I’ve kept the best ones to myself.
An Australian JRPG
As an Australian, I’ve always been dismayed at the lack of Australia-themed video games. There’s sometimes an Australian character, but they’re usually stereotypes and generally they’re what America thinks of Australia.
But Australia has the Australian Aborigines who have an interesting culture with a very unique art-style. And what better way to showcase their unique stories and art than with a JRPG?
Australia as a Fantasy Setting
In a lot of ways Australia is already a weird evil fantasy land, but I think we can do better than everything is trying to kill you that I see on Reddit.
To begin with, let’s not forget it’s a fantasy land, so we don’t need to have the game set in modern day Sydney. As a fantasy land, it doesn’t even need to be real locations, but what we can do is keep the look and feel of Australia:
- Australian bush-land
- Australian outback
- Australian mountains
- Australian beaches
- Australina wetlands
- Australian city
- Australian town
The monsters in our JRPG can take influence from Australia’s very strange naturual flora and fauna. There’s the Gympie Gympie tree, that will fuck you up. Funnel-web spiders, orb-weavers, huntsmans, red-backs… ugh so many spiders. Snakes, we got us some snakes. Kangaroos, wombats, koalas, wallabies, crocodiles, platypus… hell, you could put some anthropomorphism into this and get some very interesting characters.
But what’s a fantasy land without something more unique than just the background and monsters? Usually, there needs to be some kind of thematic aspect of the story that interacts with the setting.
The Dreamtime and Disconnection from the Land
Australian Aborigines have a disturbing history since colonialisation. It’s really terrible stuff. One of the biggest results of that is many aborigines today live in poverty and have generational problems with alcohol and domestic abuse.
Obviously, we don’t want to include that stuff (that’s a dark JRPG), but we can learn from it.
Aborigines talk about the land and that they feel a connection to it. This is great! We can use this. In our setting, there’s two “types” of aborigines, those on the land, who feel the connection and are a part of it, and those in the mega-cities, who like everyone else, are suffering.
This interacts with the mechanics of the game by way of magic. Only those who are with the land have the ability to wield magic. Likely, the main character would be on some sort of journey along these lines. Perhaps spending time in towns and cities lowers your magical ability, perhaps that’s the trade-off the player is making?
Or maybe the trade-off is between using immediate technical solutions to the problems the game presents, only to have that lower your long-term prospects of using magic to save the day. The end of the game can vary depending on how much the player relied on the “modern convieniences” of his game world and how much they relied upon the land and natural environment.
70’s Taxi Driver
Nothing quite evokes “driving” in my mind like the 70’s. I’m nowhere near old enough to know anything other than what I saw in movies and Driver on the Playstation. But nevertheless, the 70’s meant driving those big silly cars that had hubcaps spinning off at every turn.
This isn’t a game like Crazy Taxi, no, it’s more like one of those walking simulators that plague Steam. In this game, there aren’t any time-limits and scores. Instead, you’re a simple taxi driver somewhere like Manhattan, a real inner city. Your job in the game is simple, get fares, take them where they want to go, and do it properly.
You can speed, but the police will give you a ticket. You can crash, but then you’ve got insurance problems. In both of these situations you might have trouble collecting your fare. But there is a bit more to the game.
There’s no magic overhead arrow, or GPS, just your mini-map (which represents the characters memory); and street/shop signs. You can even yell out the side to ask someone for directions, pull out a street directory, or in the worst case, ask your passenger for directions.
For the minimap, it’s a bit blurry. But it becomes clearer the more you visit a location. The more often you travel roads, the longer it will take for them to blur out again. You have a sort of GPS line to follow in front of you on the road, which again represents your memory, but it too fades out the same as the mini-map. It’s strong on the major roads but gets worse and worse once you’re on side streets.
Why are you playing?
One of the big draws is that it’s basically a taxi-simulator. You get radio calls from dispatch to pick up people etc, you get stuck in traffic jams, you need to fuel up and rotate your tires occasionally. The radio is there to listen to music and talk back, the aesthetics of the game really need to shine through.
But on top of all of this is your job. Getting those fares, getting people to their destination is getting you money. Of course you’ve got daily expenses, food, petrol; but you also need to pay your rent, and pay off your taxi license. And then there’s the people you’re picking up.
Throughout the course of the game, a story starts to unfold in your back seat. You can ask your fares questions, you can hang around after you’ve dropped them off and listen to their conversations. These stories will all be unique but will begin to intertwine and meld into each other; you’ll pick up a few of the same characters and learn and discover more as the game progresses to a finale designed to suprise the player.
But the developing story is stealthily inserted into the game. A player begins by thinking the game is just a pleasant relaxation game, until it gradually becomes something more in the rearview mirror. And that ultimately becomes the draw-card.
The Kids Are Distracted!
If you have children, you’ll appreciate this game.
You play as mum and dad, your goal is fornication. But the children, they are everywhere. The difficulty level of the game is determined by the number of children you want to start out with.
I picture the game to look somewhat similar to The Sims. You don’t buy furntiture and send your avatars to work and school, instead, you’re given a time-limit in which to attempt to make more children. But everywhere you turn, there’s more things in the way.
The kids need to be fed, they need to be occupied, but then they always need something. It’s easier to distract the older children, but that little rug-rat is always not far away. The time-limit is in place because mum and dad are tired, not only are they fighting the children, they will also be too tired eventually.
It becomes a game of planning and anticipation. The level starts off by telling you that everyone just got home from work and school; the kids are hungry! So you anticipate their needs be giving them food and leaving a trail of food into a room where you’ve placed a bunch of toys.
Oh! But the dog has partially eaten the trail so one of the kids has wandered off course! Quick; throw a toy into the hallway and lock the door! But now the baby is screaming because he’s bored of the toys. Let’s calm him down and put him into bed… alright one’s asleep, but now your 3 year old needs a bath and the 10 year old wants to stay at his friends house tonight.
That’ll work nicely, but you got to get him there. Take all the kids so that the other parent can prepare for your arival. Damn, but when you got home you made too much noise and woke the baby!
You get the gist of it. And the real kicker?
You never get some. It never happens. Something always stops you. It’s like the Dwarf Fortress ethos, losing is fun!
Internally, the game would work very much like a sandbox. The children would all have certain needs that are changing over time and as they complete actions in the sandbox. Meanwhile, an overlay of random actions occurs, like a delivery man is coming at 6pm etc. And finally, there’s a list of tasks that need to be completed before you both fall asleep; feed children, put them to bed, feed the pets, fold the laundry etc.
Hopefully, that sort of internal mechanic will allow the game to easily be expanded during development to provide even more things. Again; like Dwarf Fortress.
There you have it. I hope you had fun thinking about the possibilities in these games. They seem a little out there and a bit different, but that’s sort of the point.
If you’ve never made a game before but this sort of thing interests you, you may as well get started. If you want to discuss these ideas in more detail, jump into the forum and we can talk shop.