Monday, January 29, 2007

Steal This Game Design: Masks

Ok, I know I haven't been keeping up with the weekly schedule I set out with. I only post game ideas I think are worth sharing, and getting such ideas requires real inspiration.

I guess I need a muse. If you think you qualify, post why you think so in the comments.

In the meantime, here's a new idea:


In mythological ancient Greece, become a god!


In the Greece of myths such as Homer's Illyad and Odyssey, you start out as a simple peasant with a destiny. On a routine visit to the Oracle, you are told that you are to become a god, and will someday live in Olympus.

Reeling from this revelation, you find yourself backstage at the Theater, staring into the empty eyeholes of one of the masks the actors use in their performances. The mask has a strange attraction...

You pick it up and put it on. Looking out through the eyeholes, the world seems to shift subtly. It's as if your focus is being pulled to different things, you notice different details from what you usually notice.

Then one of the actors goes by, and acts as if you're part of the show. He pulls you onstage, and you perform as though you're a veteran of the stage who knows the play by heart.

Backstage again, after your performance, you walk past a mirror and you realize that you have become someone else. You hurriedly pull off the mask to find that you're back to being yourself. You put the mask in your pack and walk away before someone notices the theft.

On your way home, you bump into some stranger, who drops what he was carrying in the collision. You help him pick up his things, but suddenly notice another mask on the ground, which presumably belongs to the man. The mask has that same pull that the previous mask did, so you swipe it for yourself while the man isn't looking.

Back home, you try on the new mask, and find that it can also turn you into someone else.

That's when you realize what you must do. You need to find all the masks, however many there are. You somehow know that doing this will lead you to Olympus and godhood.


Masks is played from a 3D third-person perspective which lets the player rotate the camera around the character to fully view the transformations that happen everytime he dons a new mask.

The gameplay is similar to the 3D Zelda games, with a lot of walking around, interacting with people and things, solving many puzzles, along with some fighting. Always with the goal of obtaining a new mask.

Each mask lets the player turn into someone else, be it a slave, a guard, a merchant or even a young woman. While transformed in this way, the player's surroundings change in subtle ways. For example, colors will shift slightly to accentuate certain things over others. A guard will tend to see "trouble" stand out more (troublemakers in crowds will somehow look more colorful than the others around them, for example) while merchants will find that valuables look more attractive (great for distinguishing real valuables from fake ones). A fisherman will see which areas to target when fishing in order to get the biggest load.

Turning into other people will also let the player access areas that would otherwise be out of bounds, for various reasons. Being female can have its advantages, for instance.

A few masks will even let the player turn into an animal or even into a mythical beast, like a minotaur or a griffin. These masks tend to be harder to get, and are often guarded by an animal or creature of the same type the mask provides transformation to.

Eventually, the proper set of masks will open a way into the lower level of Olympus, where the player can then fight and solve puzzles to obtain a god mask and finally take his place in the pantheon of Greek myths.

Note that the player's character has no equipment apart from the masks; each mask provides him with the tools he needs (meaning that a guard mask will provide some armor and a weapon, a fisherman mask will provide a boat and the needed fishing equipment, etc.)

Graphics and Visuals

As realistic as a movie set in this environment would look. This means it should look better than things really looked like at that time, but things are otherwise realistic, with a solid, believable look.

The effect of putting a mask on should seem to initially create ripples in the view, making it look like the world has just shifted a little. Then the colors also change in subtle ways to accentuate the relevant focus for the mask's character.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Steal This Game Design: Dungeon Revolt!

This week's idea probably derives from a bunch of other games, but the gameplay itself should be new.

Dungeon Revolt!


You're a prisoner in the Mad King's huge underground dungeon. Most of the prisoners around you passively await death either through thirst, hunger, age or more likely, being fed to the King's pet dragon.

Unlike the other prisoners, you know you're going to get out. You know this because you got yourself in this mess intentionally. Normally, that would have been a stupid thing, but you and a few friends got yourselves captured and smuggled the magical items necessary for your mission inside your own bodies.

According to plan, you waited three days before you cut your left thigh open with a sharpened rock, and took out your part of the plan: it's a small mesmerizing medallion.

Later that day, your jailer drops by your cell for your daily whipping, but as he walks into your cell, you mesmerize him with your medallion, then quickly turn its powers on the two guards that accompany the jailer. After stealing the jailer's whip and one of the guards' swords, you start to open all the other cells in your section.

In the last cell, one of your accomplices is dying from a particularly bad beating he got from the jailer before he visited you. He gives you his item, a coin that creates a blinding flash when you trigger it, then dies with one last gurgle.

You take your group of ten prisoners into the next hallway, after making sure there are no guards to stop you.


Dungeon Revolt! is a squad-based action-strategy hybrid. You directly control the main character's movement and attacks, and you can order the group of freed prisoners that follow you. Your goal is to get as many of them out of the dungeon and into the main castle, and depose (well, assassinate) the mad king who has been imprisoning more and more of his people in this dungeon, feeding his pet dragon with the fittest prisoners.

You can use most of the objects that you find along your quest as weapons, armor or tools, and you have to make sure your "troops" are as well-armed as possible in order to make them as effective as possible.

Once you secure an area, you decide how many of your guys to leave behind to keep that part of the dungeon secured. If you don't leave enough, they might get attacked while you're busy elsewhere, and you might find yourself stuck with nowhere to retreat to when things don't go as planned.

You also have to balance this with your need to have a group that's large enough to liberate the next section of the dungeon.

Your guys will start out in various states of health, and you have to find ways to heal them, but fortunately, this is a magical world, so you will sometimes find healing potions (on dead guards, for example) or you might actually free a healer who will be able to help you. Each person in your group will have a distinct personality, and will react differently when faced with difficult situations (such as watching someone next to you die, or getting stabbed in the stomach). Most of these will be randomized from a pool of possible choices, but some of the characters will be more defined, and have more interesting personalities and things to say.

Graphics and Visuals

Realistic, vivid, grungy, dirty, cold and damp, oppressive. Realism is important, so you can really feel for those prisoners. As much as possible, wounds, blood and gore should be realistic as well.

The only unreaslistic part is the magic use, but even that should look similar to real-life processes. For example, using the flash coin should generate a flash that is similar to the flash of a picture camera, and magical healing should simply look like accelerated healing. Magical flames should look like the different-colored flames you can get when burning different materials, and so forth. No cartoony magical effects!


Instead of music playing during the game, there should only be sounds appropriate to the environment (and reverberating realistically!) Sound should be used to amplify the atmosphere, with water drips, occasional gusts of wind, the echo of your footsteps, and the occasional scream. The sounds should play randomly and not be part of a looping soundtrack, with some sounds being much rarer than others.

Again, realism is the main concern here.

I feel like I'm not done with the above. There's a few ideas that need expansion. Obviously, you're going to end up fighting the dragon, and probably the King himself at some point near the end. You might also have to endure one of the prisoners in your group betraying you. I'll have to revisit this at a later date.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Steal This Game Design: JZXKWT!

Sorry for the slight delay in coming up with this week's game design. Unfortunately, inspiration doesn't always strike at will...

Another note: the name of this week's game isn't really pronounceable, I know. The reason for it will become obvious as you read the description, but for those of you who stumble in your reading everytime you read a word that you can't pronounce, here's how I pronounce it: "jeh-zix-kwit".


The Story

JZXKWT is an alien life form, about two and a half feet tall, with green skin, pointed ears, three eyes, two mouths and no nose. He just crashed his spaceship on Earth on the way to his rendez-vous with the GZZZTQ fleet at Proxima Centauri.

At first he thinks his ship is beyond repair, but the parts of his on-board computer which still work tell him that he can use his QRTPGH-brand dismatterifficator to absorb certain objects that contain the necessary substances, and the dismatterifficator can then use the stored matter to create the damaged and missing components.

JZXKWT goes out exploring, finding all sorts of objects to dismatterifficate and rematterifficate, accumulating stored matter and its patterns. Absorb four chairs, you now have enough wood to create a table. It turns out the substances needed to create the needed parts are rare on this planet, hard to find, and hard to reach. It's a good thing the QRTPGH-brand matter detector can easily be created using a stored pattern on the dismatterifficator.

If JZXKWT can find all the substances he needs to rebuild and fix his spaceship, he'll be able to get back to his fleet.


JZXKWT is viewed and controlled from a third-person perspective, in 3D. He can walk/run/crawl, jump, hit certain objects with a little force (sending lighter or smaller objects flying, and gently nudging more massive objects) and use the dismatterifficator to absorb objects and create new copies.

JZXKWT needs to be in close proximity to an object to dismatterifficate it. Rematterifficated objects can only appear in front of JZXKWT. This means that most of JZXKWT's time will be spent trying to find ways to get to hard to reach spots that have objects made out of the needed rare substances.

Objects can be created stacked on top of each other, but stacks have to be stable, or they will fall down. Gravity and related physics are modeled as realistically as possible.

Graphics and Visual Style

Somewhere between Katamari Damacy and Pikmin: objects look a little more realistic than in Katamari Damacy, but still retain some cartoony exaggerations, like in the Pikmin games.

JZXKWT himself is cute, but more alien than the character of Olimar in Pikmin.

Textures can be detailed, but never to the point of looking photorealistic.


All the sounds for Earth stuff, things we are all familiar with, are realistic but sometimes exaggerated when needed.

Any alien technology that JZXKWT uses generates alien noises that clash and stand out from the "normal Earth sounds".


After hearing about the wealth of resources available on Earth, others from JZXKWT's planet decide to visit, and try to enrich themselves.

All player characters are dropped into the same "level", and have to compete for its resources. Since some substances are rare, and some needed alien technology requires more than one particular rare substance, some players might try to trade with each other, or attack each other to grab whatever the player is carrying in his dismatterrifficator.

Players can also attack a competitor's ship (but you need to build weapons first, so "rushes" will be hard to execute) and capture all his resources if successful. Players can also build defenses on their ships, but the game will instead encourage players to create various ordinary objects around their ship to make it harder to reach and easier to defend.