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Game Concept: Outline

Started by Calbeck, Aug 15, 2004, 02:34 PM

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I for one would like to see an open-ended "explore-it-yourself" sort of game, similar in nature to Daggerfall.

Personally, I have in mind that the player is a courier-for-hire, one who fetches and delivers valuable (or "special") items for a higher price.  This way he/she has a wide range of reasons to see various parts of the world, and the "discreet" nature of various missions allow the player to pick and choose when to delve into the larger storyline.  

For example, the delivery of a small casket (whose contents grow progressively more rancid as the journey goes) to a Boar Noble could result in a war between Minor Houses --- and a more imminent need to evade or cut down his Guards before they skin the messenger!  Subsequently, the player could elect to visit the other House for any number of reasons --- to rob them as punishment for the setup mission, or to spy in hopes of obtaining information useful to the Boar Noble (so as to get back into his good graces...or at least out of his bad ones), or just to sign up as a free mercenary fighting for daily wages and a share of the "dog robbery" (looting the fallen).  Or, the player could simply opt to move on in search of a new mission...although it's always possible that bits of the past can affect parts of the future.  Who's to say an evening spent in drink at a tavern many leagues away won't end in a pairing of blades with the nephew of the "slighted" Noble, sent to "finish the job"?

The centerpiece of the story I have in mind continues to devolve on the Orb of Storms, which disappeared into the misty waters at the end of the first game.  Its mode, having changed from "Observe" to "Action", has left it "awaiting input"...and without that "input", the weather satellites the Orb controls have gone into "sleep mode".

Weather patterns so long regulated by exterior means (even benign ones) begin to shift to a more natural state...a state which, when it is done shifting, will turn most of the Knowne Lands into a hodgepodge of scrublands, desert, savannah and marsh.  Either the weathersats must be brought back under control, or the ecology of the Earth itself must change, if the Knowne Lands are to be saved.

So as our Hearty Adventurer goes about his/her business in the World, weather patterns will fluctuate, getting worse and worse, even wiping out whole villages and towns with mudslides or drought.  Refugees begin to clog the roads, at first asking little or no help, and then becoming more demanding as civilization breaks down --- gangs start to rule the roads, nowhere is truly safe...can the puzzle of the Orbs, and of the vanished Humans, be unlocked in time?  

Note: Ecological Solution impossible without Human assistance...they've got all the data and only they would know how to fiddle with things minutely enough not to screw it up even worse.  And that's assuming the few which survive in their cryotubes can be brought back from deep freeze without killing them by accident!  Damn those three-fingered paws! -:D


The courier idea would work as a setup for a sequel; it leads to open-ended gameplay and makes it easy to introduce a larger plot as the courier gets a dangerous package or wanders into a strange situation.

I'd like to be able to choose the hero's race, as that would increase the game's replayability. Having to write different backgrounds for different-race heroes won't be a problem if it's assumed that the hero is always an orphan from a particular mixed-race town.

While ItE should never be about killing, it would be nice to have violence as an option. The combat system in Daggerfall and Morrowind is idiotic, since enemies attack on sight, blindly chase you, and fight to the death, so ItE2 would do better with a more stylized combat system. A fairly simple system in which the loser usually surrenders or flees would be more realistic, more family-friendly, and easier to program than licensing the Unreal engine. =) If you're interested in combat systems you might take a look at the pen-and-paper furry RPG Ironclaw/Jadeclaw.

The thing to do with this plot would be to decide the scope of the game world -- presumably a lot smaller than Morrowind -- and think about an outline "main quest" and the major optional quests. The major game areas (eg. North Island) can be fleshed out partly independantly from the plot; it'd be easy and fun to write up the major sights and characters of a village. The major political factions need to be named and given goals, to start playing with how the plot will unfurl. There's also the issue of how long after ItE1 the sequel takes place; sounds like several years, so figure the original characters are alive but older.

In doing that I'd want to have real NPCs to interact with, though. Morrowind is an extremely lonely game. Interaction means doing more than selling loot and asking where the next puzzle widget is!

Oh, and the local Rennaissance Faire is selling fox-tails. I don't know why.


I drove 250 miles today to start law school, and had lots of ideas under the influence of "world" music. Here's my daydream about How the Sequel Should Be.

Foxes are known as a tribe of wanderers, something like our age's Gypsies. Also like them, they're feared and distrusted, with a reputation as con-men, thieves, and magicians. Some Foxes even deserve it. Usually found in small bands, they act as traders, entertainers, bandits, and itinerant laborers. One of their more popular services is fortune-telling, using a unique set of cards. Their card "The Fox" has the same meaning as our "The Fool": freedom, with the "flipside" of being cut off from normal life.

It was a Raccoon who discovered the Orb of Dreams, a connection to the endless legends of the Human Era. Raccoons grow up hearing many of these stories and are known for making odd references that no one else understands: "Ah, it's like the struggle between Beowulf and the Batman." Most Raccoons are farmers living on the coast of North Island, but an increasing number have turned to seafaring as traders and occasionally raiders.

These people pride themselves on having been the first species uplifted by Humans, and for having assisted Humans with their research "in some capacity." For some reason Humans tended to dislike them, and the whole tribe eventually was segregated into an underground warren of their own design. Humans saw fit to preserve many of their documents in this cave. During the end of the Human era, for reasons the Rats no longer remember, a group of Humans attempted to take over the Rats' home and seal it off from the outside world. They succeeded only in destroying much of the knowledge their kind had saved, and in leaving behind a set of mysterious sealed doors. These doors still stand deep in the warren, beyond even the dusty archives where most Rats no longer go. Rats are often born with incredible intellects, but others are born retarded or otherwise "defective." Rats believe they have a duty to improve their own breeding.

The Boars have expanded to conquer much of the east, under the guidance of famous strategist Okk. Though Boars have a reputation for stupidity and violence, they know enough to let the locals they've conquered take care of their own business for the most part. That means the Boars' subjects may actually be freer -- so long as they pay their taxes! -- than they'd been under other lords.

The Ferrets are in a dangerous position so close to the Boar border, and are attempting to recruit allies. Their technology helps; they have control over the Orb of Hands, guide to machines and science. They have perfected the lens and are learning about astronomy (through the telescope) and biology/medicine (through the microscope). They are on the verge of developing the germ theory of disease and the heliocentric theory of the solar system. More practical even than germ theory is their rediscovery of the crossbow, a complicated weapon that even unskilled people can use well. Ferrets have a reputation for being immensely practical, to the point of having zero patience for poetry and other "pointless" pursuits. Except maybe architecture.

The Festival City:
In the last generation, the festival grounds at the center of the Known Lands have grown into a true city, nominally ruled by the "Gypsy Duke" Rif. He, his wife Rheene, and their twin children don't do much more than supervise the frequent markets and other gatherings. The city is a natural place for diplomatic meetings, the exchange of rumors, and the outbreak of disease. It has the most diverse population of any place in the Known Lands, and the most tolerant culture. Around it are large farms supporting the city's permanent population.

The game focuses on travel, exploration, discovery, and conversation. Early on, the Hero is just starting a job as a courier between towns. Soon, Hero stumbles across the game's main plot: they're the one to find the Orb of Storms. They have the power to control the weather. What part of this power can Hero learn to control, and what will they do with it? The plot grows out of this idea, with Hero learning more of the Orb's commands, trying to hide the fact that they have it (or not!), and using the Orb to alter the Earth. Since the satellites linked to the Orb are no longer automatically managing the weather, the Known Lands' favorable environment is gradually decaying. Will Hero ultimately find out how to switch the Orb back to "automatic" mode, hand it over to someone who can micromanage the world without being evil about it, destroy it, or try to use it himself for good? Floods, storms, satellite viewing, instant communication, drought, wind, heat, and cold are all at Hero's command.

Along the way there are other things to do. Hero can interact with many NPCs including potential friends and allies, do odd jobs for various organizations and rise to power in them, or just explore the world. Little rewards like titles and unlockable costumes are available for completing certain tasks like seeing the Eight Wonders of the Known Lands or becoming an honorary member of every tribe. It may even be possible to start a religion, or join the shadowy one that already exists...

The game uses high-resolution 2D graphics with a 3/4 overhead view, as in most RPGs through the PS1 era. The controls are direction-based; you press up to walk north rather than clicking on a destination. These controls allow a variety of moves such as jumping, running, lifting, and posing. There is Zelda-like movement (sans combat), occasional stealth mini-games, and an environment where it's fun simply to run around banging into things, picking up everything that's not nailed down, and seeing what hard-to-reach places you can find your way to. Little challenges -- like reaching a ledge by pushing boxes to form a stable tower -- are scattered throughout the game world; some have obvious rewards like items, while others just give you a chance to leap between rooftops or eavesdrop on a conversation. Talking with NPCs is mostly text-based, with spoken dialogue mostly for key scenes and "Hello!"s. It's possible to ask most NPCs about a variety of topics, many of which have nothing to do with the main story.


Am willing to make sprites and do game art if someone is seriously going to start this. :D  


Hay-hay-hay, dun' forget about poor ol' Wyrmkeep, Raffia. What if he/she/it wants to do a sequel first, eh? ;)


Then I'll help them. *Nods*


You couldn't set the game in the world of ItE without their permission, which they wouldn't give. It'd be possible to create something similar as long as you stayed away from specific characters (Rif & Co.) and the terms "Known Lands," "Orb of Storms," "Morph," etc.

Besides that, I can write anything that needs writing (down to mundane "Welcome to our town!" dialogue). I know enough about programming to say what's feasible, and enough about the language Python (with Pygame) to have built a Morrowind-like dialogue system and crude moving-unanimated-characters-around-on-2D-tiled-graphics code with room editor. I would suggest getting a real programmer. Art and music are less immediately important. If someone built even a playable demo with Medusa-ugly graphics it'd be enough to attract artists' attention.

I think Wyrmkeep said once in an interview that the general idea for game-making is to make two lists: the bare-bones, necessary features, versus all the cool optional stuff. You build the first list first, then add to it from the second list until you run out of time or money. So, what would be absolutely necessary to make a playable game along the lines mentioned above? Or is the above plot too flawed? Got a better one? The gameplay mechanic I suggested is more like Zelda or Morrowind than ItE; does it go in the right direction, or is it better to stick with a LucasArts/Sierra puzzle-adventure game?


I just want to add that if anyone here is attending MFM, I will probably be there using my real name, Kris, most likely hanging around the gaming area.


QuoteSo, what would be absolutely necessary to make a playable game along the lines mentioned above?

A developer capable of producing:

*An isometric tile rendering engine (3d rendering of this is best and the least haphazard method).
*An internal node-based engine capable of storing data-trees.
*A scene-editor easy enough for someone to use without spazzing out.
*A scripting language to incorporate game-logic, conversations, quests, etc.
**A scripting engine to host aforementioned scripting langauge.
*An inventory-system.
*If combat, this requires:
**A healthy list of weapons.
**Well-balanced statistics, so the game feels "challenging" but fun.
**Six years of playtesting so a weapon 999+ damage doesn't slip through the cracks.

An artist capable of:

*Art. Some kind of art. ;) Alot of people will just stall if they see no visible evidence of improvement or progress. Also, hard to debug rendering issues when all your art is black and white stick-figures (a long-standing issue with rendering order may become apparent if you start using "real" images, but by then you've already done so much stuff to the engien you have no idea where to start searching for the flaw).

A writer capable of:
*A plot. If a character has some strange out of this world power that no one else has, that sort of ability will have to be coded in as a special exception in some cases. ;)

QuoteOr is the above plot too flawed?

The Hero (TM? =D) would have too much power if he actually controlled the Orb of Storms. It could be neutered, but then you would have those situations RPG-lovers hate: the superpowerful boss that took you six hours to defeat joins your party, and he completely sucks ass at everything, despite laying waste and desolation unto you and your party relentlessly and numerous times.

QuoteThe gameplay mechanic I suggested is more like Zelda or Morrowind than ItE; does it go in the right direction, or is it better to stick with a LucasArts/Sierra puzzle-adventure game?

The Final Fantasy series was wonderful - just the right mix of combat, action, and adventure. The style of the game did not exclude wonderfully amusing puzzles, either.


Well then, it seems to me there is more consensus than not on the basic premises of the game.  

Regarding the Orb, I would suggest that its powers be slowly revealed via successful adventures related to investigating Humanity.  Initially, let us say that two commands are relatively easy to obtain: "Assist" from the Raccoons (who learned it in order to make the Orb of Dreams work at its basic levels --- it amounts to the "Help" command), and "Menu" from the archives of the Rats.  Together, these will give the player access to the Orb's directory tree as well as tidbits of info on what each section relates to.

However, each section is also password-locked.  Investigating ancient ruins may or may not result in discovering a given password --- or, of course, the player may guess at it.  I'm also considering a "lockdown" function where if you miss X number of times, that section locks itself off and can only be reopened if the Orb is touched with a keycard from the appropriate Human agency.

I think all of the basics mentioned are eminently graspable --- especially if we were to license an existing 2D/3Q engine which is not likely to see use anytime soon.  You know, something functional yet cheap. -:)  The real hurdle, of course, is Wyrmkeep --- but do we know that they're really not open to outsourcing the work on a sequel?  Has anyone asked?


I think that the plot holes that the original ITE left are enough for not only one sequel. Here's a view of how I would like to see it with a possible plot sketch.

There are few things that weren't fully explained in ITE:
1. Possibility of Boar/Wolf alliance
2. Possible effect of Orb of Storms
3. How did the humans vanished.

It's nearly impossible to solve it all in a one game meethinks... mainly because it make everything clear all of a sudden and the world created would loose it's charm. Every world should have it's mysteries and all of them can't be revealed at once.
Many of you would rather have an open game instead of a close one. I'd disagree. I'd rather see a VERY GOOD adventure game instead of a Morrowind clone.

To make the adventure game more challenging and 'open' it shouldn't be so lineral. Some problems encounter should have more than one solution and diffrent endings should be made possible. The best examples of what I'm speaking can be found in Quest For Glory, Gabriel Knight I or Indiana Jones 4. Choosing a character in the begining would also be nice.

Here's the sketch plot I was thinking off that would fit my expectations:

While traveling PC encounters a meeting of boars and wolves (PC see them as 'robed figures') from their conversation the PC learns that a sinister plot to disturb the delicate balance in the known lands is being planned. Unluckly the PC is discovered before he can hear any details. He makes a run for it and succeds luckly.

Few days later while he's accused of a crime of murder which he didn't commit at all.
The PC escapes again but he's marked as fugitive now. Wanted posters everywhere. Guards after him. Now the PC must escape the Known lands (few ways of doing this) and solve the mystery of framing him.

In his attempts to flee far away from the chase he stumbles upon the orb...

As I said. This is only a sketch of the main plot. As you see there could be a few ways of escaping the Known Lands as well of the usage of the orb. Will you get revenge on the ones who exiled you from your homeland. Turn in the orb in exchange of your freedom or try to solve the case.

I think choosing the races would be a cool idea, since it can be done QFG style. Since some of the puzzles can be solved in diffrent ways by the diffrent species.


In 2004 February I e-mailed Wyrmkeep, saying I'd love to help with the writing for a sequel. (I've got several semi-pro fiction sales, mostly "furry," and the game company Sanguine is supposed to publish my RPG book for "Jadeclaw" Real Soon Now.) They said something about how the sequel was still far away. I don't know what they've been working on lately.

I've been tinkering with AI stuff on my own. I have a new demo available -- see "Technical" thread or just here -- but it's not really a game yet, even ignoring the fact that this version is text-based. I've also offered to help with AI for the Wanderlust Project, a prospective MMORPG, but I've done no AI for them since they're busy building a usable version of a fancy 3D graphics and networking engine. An ItE sequel doesn't need 3D graphics, although the discussion over on the Technical thread suggests it'd be useful to get a 3D engine anyway and just draw everything in 2D, instead of spending forever making 3000-polygon character models. If at all possible I'd like to work in Python, since I like the language, it's free, and all my code is currently in that, but I could be persuaded to (relearn and) use C++ if I had a compiler for it.

If I get my hands on a 2D or 3D program that has characters walking around, in a language I can use, I can build AI as good as "Morrowind's" for it. That's good enough for an ItE sequel, and I can then either help with other coding or on improving the AI while keeping it playable.

I guess we could use VERGE, which is ugly but free (basically C++ with an RPG-style graphics engine and tools), or find something better-but-still-free. Thoughts? Should we ask around on SourceForge or someplace?

The Game
I want to make a game. If Wyrmkeep isn't interested in a true ItE sequel, it'd be fine to change the material we've got and produce something in the same vein, but different. Besides light coding, I can write whatever needs writing.

Calbeck: I like the idea of locking the various functions of the Orb; it's a standard way of restricting the player and gradually letting them do cool stuff. In "Metroid," there are red doors you can't open till you get missiles, green doors you can't open till you get super missles, etc., so more and more of the game world opens up as you play.

Suule: Well, imitating "Morrowind"'s open-endedness is going overboard for an indie project. I'd still prefer wandering and side quests to a game that's completely "on rails," but restrictions on the hero's travel and powers can help keep it reasonably linear. "Deus Ex" is a great example. In each level you have several specific missions, but you can solve each one in several ways and wander around in an open level. The gameplay is a "string of pearls" with a rigid opening and closing to each level, but a spread-out set of possible actions in the middle. For ItE I'd want more open-ended gameplay than that, but not much more. My goal is to have players able to chat with NPCs about things not directly related to the plot, to learn about the world, and to explore a bit; all that doesn't require total open-endedness. "Zelda" might be the model. I also note that in "Deus Ex" it's possible to play non-violently; I got through the first level doing nothing more aggressive than sneaking around and throwing a pack of cigarettes!

Raffia: You still up for doing some art?

Side note: I will be at Midwest Furfest (as "Kris").


Okay... I know I should take this to the Tech Concept, but...
Well as I reviewed some of the available stuff on the net that can be used for 'ItE sequel' and nothing suits my expectations, mainly because most of them have limitations which cannot be overcome other than changing the engine's code. I'm more of an old-school programmer (DOS programming, Assembler) and I'm still learning the ways of using Win-comptiable code. I'd rather write an engine from scratch. Why? Cause we can profile it to suit our needs without some nasty workarounds (which are in most cases messy). If we'd try to make Adventure-RPG then nothing free on the web would be capable of suiting our needs, except maybe SCI studio.

2D is a BETTER choice than 3D in my opinion. Cause in current state we CAN'T produce a super-detailed graphics without the usage of a high-end PC. Since now we can use modes better than 320x200x256 and do even 1024x768x16.7m, there would be no problem in creating a highly detailed world.  We can use such programs as Flash in creating the animation frames for the PC/NPC sprites. It'll be easier to make a 2d game now than it was 10 years ago.

I can help you with 2D BGs and sprites since I'm an artist myself and I can produce some conept art till the end of the week IF the college won't keep me as occupied as usual... In case you're wondering my art can be found here though the site wasn't updated in some time now.

As for the game concept:
That's why I want the game to be more like QFG (especially QFG2 which offered many side-quests class-dependant). The RIGHT mix of action, adventure and openess (at the time of 5.25" diskette)  if we could just expand that idea add more 'openess' it would truly be great. As some of you may remeber QFG was a RPG/Adventure mix with stat building and quests/side-quests, the series would go more and more complex with ever part to really blossom in terms of non-linear playing in QF5 (though it was bug-ridden). My idea is to use the QFG RPG/Adventure mix once more in the possible ItE sequel with some features improved/added.


QuoteI'd rather write an engine from scratch. Why? Cause we can profile it to suit our needs without some nasty workarounds (which are in most cases messy).

You should really think about what you're getting into, 'specially if you're going to write a 2d engine from scratch. There are alot of things you need to take into consideration - Z-ordering, sprite lighting effects, tiling issues, perspective issues, map layout etc - that you get "for free" by using a Scene Graph like OGRE (PyOgre bindings!). Just use thin 2d quads and stretch the images you want to display over them as textures and you're done(ish).

Of course, the best reason to use a 3d scenergraph for 2d is the fact that 3d accelerated hardware is now much faster with its 3d pipeline than the 2d pipeline in most cards, so by going 2d, GDI+/WhateverDrawingSystemHere style, you'll actually be slowing your graphics down.

Also, I like Ham and Cheese.

Check out the demo: http://www.chroniclogic.com/gish/

The graphics look pretty 2d for a 3d game, eh?


Yeah, that's right, I'm the pessimist; deal with it!