Monday, August 21, 2006

Steal This Game Design: Food Fight!

I got this idea while discussing a science fiction story I'm thinking of writing. The story will be very different than this game, but, well, that's the way ideas come to me. So there.

Food Fight!

Food Fight is a Real-Time Strategy game where the four playable "factions" are the four food groups, and each food item fights according to its abilities.

Bread and cereals: huge loaves serve as buildings, baguettes are used as blunt weapons, popcorn cobs get heated up and explode to drown enemies in popped corn. Cereals can soak up milk (see the milk and milk products section to understand this one.)

Milk and milk products: buildings made of cheese, special old cheeses that smell so bad they're toxic to enemies, milk can drown enemies who don't have a way to absorb it, yogurt acts as quicksand, ice cream can be used to build temporary fortifications.

Fruits and vegetables: buildings made of pumpkins and watermelons, many harder fuits and veggies can smash into the enemy, the smaller stuff like berries are thrown as projectiles, pomegranates act as actual grenades, broccoli is used for chemical warfare, and brussel sprouts are obstacles that all units avoid at all costs.

Meat and legumes: buildings built from bones and gutted carcasses, chickens, pigs (with a tomato in their mouth), cows (move slow, but pack a big punch when they charge), lima beans to confuse the enemy, fish to navigate through water-based environments, soybeans and tofu to build fortifications, baked beans to slow the enemy (quicksand-style).

The player will have to play through the four campaigns, and the order in which the campaigns are played affects a few plot points in the storyline. Once all four campaigns are played, a fifth campaign is revealed, where the player will play as the last race he played in the fourth campaign, against the menace of junk food, the fifth food group. Gradually, as the other food groups recover from the previous campaign, they join into the fight.

I left the interface, controls and gameplay vague, here, simply because I would want the game to play like a standard RTS. The idea here is that the setting is so outlandish for a game that the game would just be too hard to do if a new interface, presentation and gameplay were used.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Steal This Game Design: Bobby the Bubblegum Boar

I came up with this design after I challenged a friend of mine to try and come up with a setting and some simple mechanics for a linear (stage-by-stage) 2D platformer. We had to come up with a setting, a main character, a bit of story and at least three original game mechanics (something you can't do in most 2D platformers.)

Unfortunately, real life got in the way of his coming up with a concept of his own, but here's my attempt. Doing this sort of thing is a good exercise because it forces you to be original within a set of tight constraints.

Bobby the Bubblegum Boar

Bobby the Bubblegum Boar is a 2D platformer done in a very cartoony, colorful style, with anthropomorphic animals.

Bobby is a young boar who chews bubblegum. When his forest is threatened by aliens who want to turn all the trees into toothpicks for sale to Klacktorg restaurants (the Klacktorg are aliens that have ten mouths, with 200 teeth in each mouth) he takes it upon himself to drive them away.

Bobby can walk, run, jump (jumping higher if he's been running) and can bump into enemies and destroy some walls after he grows tusks (after the first few stages.) Bobby also chews gum. The more gum he has, the more stuff he can do:

1- he can blow a large bubble and float up and around slowly for a while (careful not to get the bubble popped!)
2- he can also blow a bubble to capture some enemies, which he can then bop into other enemies and obstacles.
3- he can spit a wad of gum on the ground or on a wall to make it sticky. Enemies will stick to the wad, and Bobby can also stick to his wads (can be used to walk up walls, stick under moving platforms, etc.)

There are (at least) 5 worlds, split up into shorter stages:

  1. The forest
  2. A large cave environment (where the Aliens have hidden their UFO)
  3. The Alien UFO
  4. A Klacktorg restaurant (these places are HUGE)
  5. The Alien homeworld, where Bobby will find an Alien President and explain how to make plastic toothpicks cheaper than wooden ones, so the Aliens won't have to destroy forests anymore.

In general, physics are cartoony and exaggerated.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Steal This Game Design: Death

A Day in the Life of the Grim Reaper


You play the Grim Reaper, black hooded robe, scythe and bony silhouette included. You must fill your death quota each day, whether you directly or indirectly cause the deaths. Remember to grab the souls after each death, or it won't count!


The game is played from a third-person perspective, mostly from behind the reaper. You can walk, run, jump, swing your scythe in a few different ways and turn into a dark mist to move around unseen. Whenever you go by people while in mist form, those people visibly shiver.

The environment is a familiar, modern-day metropolis, with people walking around, riding in cars or the bus, walking into and out of buildings. You can only go into a building if you're "meant" to, meaning only if there's potential death target inside. Otherwise, there's an invisible force that prevents you from going where you're not "meant" to go. In general, you can walk the streets and parks freely.

You always get a direction indicator that tells you where the next or closest potential death is, and when the person is visible, a kind of dark aura surrounds them. Take a quick look around to see if there are any easy ways to cause that person's death (drop a piano on them, cause a car to swerve and crash into them, deflect a stray bullet, etc.)

If there are no obvious ways, you can try directly using your scythe on your target, but beware: some people might see you (although most people would likely just ignore you; remember, this is a big city, other people don't really give a damn about you or how you look, they try very hard to ignore you.) If there are too many sightings of you in a particular week, you might lose your "job" (game over, man.)

After a person dies, a ghostly version of their live selves appears nearby (not necessarily directly on the spot where their body is.) You have to get close enough within 30 seconds of the death or this "soul" will go directly to heaven, and that's bad because it means it won't count as part of the soul quota you must fill each day.

If you don't fill your quota for a day, it's game over, but you can replay that day and see if you can do better.

You get style points for creative or particularly elaborate deaths. You also get bonus points for filling your quota early, and for avoiding getting seen for a whole day.

Sundays are special: there is no quota, so it's a free-for-all bonus stage! Now is a good time to practice more complex death-causing schemes, or harder to execute special moves.

The part of the city you play in is half-scripted, and half-AI-controlled: each person has a main objective (which may change depending on the hour of the day) and a secondary desire, so that a guy whose main objective is to get to work might have a secondary desire to get some ice cream along the way; if the're an ice cream truck or stand that's visible on his path, there's a chance he'll stop before going into work.

Any objects that might be useful to the reaper will be under the control of the physics engine, and will behave realistically, although some objects' trajectories might get adjusted slightly to make sure a death occurs in the event that characters and objects don't align perfectly. This should be a subtle, almost imperceptible effect.

Graphics and Presentation

The world around the reaper should be as realistic as possible. Deaths should be graphic but not exaggeratedly gory. The reaper should always look supernatural somehow, like he doesn't fit in with the environment. Any moves and actions he takes have some supernatural-looking effects to emphasize that it's not just a guy in a dark robe with a scythe. The dark fog that is shown when the reaper is non-corporeal should move like smoke and fog normally move, and should look like it's occupying a real three-dimensional space.

Sound and Music

Sounds of the city should be as realistic as possible, to really make it feel like the player is actually in the city.

Any sounds related to what the reaper does have an unnatural depth to them, a kind of weight.

The music should be similar to what is heard on modern-day supernatural thrillers. It would be a good idea to have music playing only on occasion, with special, evil-sounding jingles playing when the reaper does something special (like reaping a soul, for example.)

This game idea came to me after watching an episode of "Dead Like Me". I love that show, it's well-written and does some very original things I rarely see on TV. It was a shame when it got canceled after two seasons. If you like quirky, dark, well-written comedy (I hear it's somewhat similar to "Six Feet Under", which I haven't watched yet) you'll like this.