Monday, July 31, 2006

Steal this Game Design: Supervillain

I had to shorten this game's title so it would look better in the heading. The actual title I would want for this game appears below.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about being a
But were afraid to ask…


Terrorize the population! Destroy buildings and stuff! Meddle with potentially cataclysmic forces! Conquer the World!

This game takes the original premise from Dungeon Keeper (being evil is fun!) and applies it to a modern superhero-type universe, as commonly seen in the superhero comic books that Marvel and DC comics publish.


The player starts out as a lone villain, doing some simple thug-type work, either alone, or working under another supervillain. He then realizes he has or gets special powers somehow, and decides to use those powers for evil.

The first few stages are played from the third-person perspective, with the player controlling the villain with fighting game-style controls. After a few missions, some other thugs or minor supervillains join with the player (or are forced to join) and they then go in search of an appropriate lair.

After that, part of the game becomes more of a management game, but the business management is about building up the lair, researching and constructing doomsday weapons and taking over the Earth!

Once in a while, superheroes and various law-enforcement agencies will try to infiltrate the villains’ compound in order to thwart their evil plans, so defenses must be built and maintained.

And sometimes, the villains must move out to accomplish evil things. That’s where the third-person perspective from the beginning comes back in: the player reverts to controlling the supervillain directly, as in a fighting game. His henchmen become AI-controlled, but the player can still give them simple orders like “retreat!”, “cover me!” or “go long!”.

Each play-through should be different, because each new supervillain the player creates will get a few randomly-generated traits:
  • a special weakness: can be some sort of physical Achilles' Heel, or it can be a bad habit, like always divulging all his plans to each and every hero he captures. Some weaknesses become apparent early in the game, others may only surface later. The player is never told outright what this weakness is.
  • a reason for turning evil: either some traumatic childhood event or situation, or some later situation that forced the player into a life of crime.
  • something that could redeem or turn the villain back into a good person (again, this is not divulged to the player, but there are ways in the game for the player to figure this out and possibly avoid it.)
  • a specific fetish: likes a certain kind of animal, music, art/decoration style, books, gadgets, litterary quotes, and so forth. Usually harmless, but it will affect what's found in his lair, and some of the avenues of research that can be followed.
The villain's special ability or abilities are also randomly generated, which means all of them should be made as equally desirable for players as possible.

Once the player discovers his special ability, he gets to design his costume, starting with an acceptable suggestion generated by the game.

Graphics and Visual Style

One obvious graphical style would be to have the whole game cel-shaded to look like superhero comics. There could even be a few options left to the player to choose different art styles, like old-time comics from the forties and fifties, or more detailed and vibrant styles from more recent comics.

All interfaces, HUDs and front-ends should use the same comic strip style, with text boxes and dialogue bubbles where appropriate, and sliding the panels around to move from screen to screen, as the main transition.

One funky option could be for the game to generate the "Hollywood movie based on this comic" at the end of a game, cramming together most of the highlights into a more realistic-looking (no cel-shading) "movie trailer" depicting some of the more impressive parts in the player's game.

Sound and Music

The sound effects should always be exaggerated, overblown, without becoming comical.

The music should be suitably sweeping and grandiose, sometimes with bits that highlight the villain's potential madness.

Other, Similar Games

I will update this last section soon, as I have uncovered a few games that I didn't know about when I first came up with this concept. For now, here's a well-known example:

As an expansion or counterpart to "City of Heroes", the Massively Multiplayer Online Game where each player is a superhero, NCSoft released "City of Villains" where the players could finally be the bad guys.

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