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.

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