We value freedom when playing games. That’s why if a developer can remove the illusion of a level being a linear game it is often considered good. (I disagree, but that’s for another post!). What if a game developer took a different approach and said “The player is going to have much less control than normal!”
Here’s my idea.
Imagine a clichÃ©d start to a game. You are a prisoner in a jail and you are being transported to a high-security unit. Suddenly the transport vehicles is ambushed and it over turns. You wake up to metal against metal noises. The guards are dead or at least unconscious. You were chained, by both hand and foot, to a fellow prisoner. He is trying to break those chains but is having trouble.
Being an innocent man your first instinct is to stay with the vehicle because justice will prevail. One of the guards recovers and kills a duo of prisoners with no provocation. Clearly justice doesn’t exist in this region. Nothing left but to disarm the guard and get the hell out of there.
Of course there’s one big problem, you are chained to the other prisoner. Now comes the interesting part. How is in control? Perhaps a little RPG element is played out that effects the rest of the game.
Let’s assume that the chances of you being the boss is 20%. The rest of the game consist of you being coerced into actions and situations against your will.
The gameplay dynamics could be interesting with your fellow prisoner no particularly clever but physically strong. There are plenty of clues as to the best way travel but he has other ideas.
How would a player feel if there were forced to follow this course of action? In reality most games force you to do stuff but give you the illusion of making those choices yourself. If you didn’t make those choices the game simply stops. “Don’t want to shoot anybody anymore? Want to surrender? Not possible. It’s shoot or die!”
The key to making this gameplay idea is interesting is to somehow be able to influence the other prisoner. Perhaps a fixed level of agreement. For example, and this is off the top of my head, as is all of this post, the player is given 100 points. He can use the points to change the other prisoner’s mind about something. Once these points are gone, that’s it. The player has no other options left.
That’s a rather crude idea but perhaps with a little more thought something much better can be developed.
The overall idea is to change the way we play, if only for a short time. By following the other prisoner’s ideas with no resistance perhaps he allows you more freedom later on, or perhaps he becomes more belligerent and you lose any opportunity to affect the game flow.
This would become a matter of character manipulation. Office politics if you will. Maybe there could be more than one other prisoner. Perhaps you are a group of 3 or 4 and the game is about human interaction not run and shooting.
A nice twist would be two thirds through the game you manage to remove the chains. At this point both of you have a decision to make: “Stay together or split”
If you split perhaps you have a much smaller chance of survival but if you stay together he could slow you down.
One more thing, the prisoner is very different characteristic than the player. He’s not tall and fit but bulky and slow. Great in up-close encounters but not to go running etc. It now becomes a game where you both need to let the other do what they are good at.
Perhaps this could be made into a coop game? Two players have to be playing at the same time. Each is given a private objective and partly conflicts with the other one.
In many ways having two human players may allow much more interaction than with a game A.I..
There is a game called Army of Two but I feel that having the players in some conflict will actually provide more interesting gameplay.
So, what do you think?
3rd November 2007
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