Monday, February 12, 2007

Steal This Game Design: Victor the Exterminator

I recently got a flurry of hits with few or no referrer URLs, so I don't know where you (new?) readers came from. Please, just leave a comment if you see anything interesting! Let me know what you like (or don't like!)

I would really love for this blog to turn into some sort of community that discusses cool game ideas, but for that, there has to be more than one person contributing! Post your own game ideas in the comments! If I see anything worthwhile, I will repost it by itself as a blog post!

Also, really new ideas have been semi-hard to come by for me recently, so I'm thinking about removing the "every Monday" schedule for a while. Maybe the removal will in itself trigger a new batch of ideas, so for all you know, I might actually start posting more often! (Okay, it's unlikely, but it *could* happen!)

Anyway, onto this "week's" idea...

Victor the Exterminator


Victor is The Best, Most Efficient Exterminator in all of the City. When he says it, you can hear the capitalization. Nemesis of unwanted intruders, hero to the infested, Victor leaves no stone unturned when it comes to ridding his clients of pests of any shapes and sizes.

If you met Victor, you'd think you've just met one of those evil geniuses that the heroes of the old movie serials used to thwart all the time. With his pointy mustache and tiny goatee and the voice of a villain from old 70's superhero cartoons, you would more than likely attempt to call upon the Justice League the moment you saw him, then remember that you just hanged up the phone, where you called him to take care of your roach problem. He's that fast.

His uniform, which he designed himself, again has the look of a supervillain's costume, with pointy shoulder pads and a cape that conceals many of his tools of trade. Yellow, red and black are the company colors, but the way they come together have nothing to do with the company logo, and everything to do with his warped sense of style.

When he speaks to you, it is with total confidence, and a deep eagerness to KILL DESTROY ERADICATE EXTERMINATE any pests he comes across. Total satisfaction of the client is only a happy side-effect. Collateral damage is another side-effect that comes with contracting Victor, but that damage is rarely as bad as the consequences of cohabiting with an infestation, and he knows it.

There is this small twinge of a Spanish accent that is all but eclipsed by a theatrical stage voice he developed suddenly at the age of eleven, causing no end of grief to his parents. He never stutters, but he will seem to stick on the oddest of syllables, and in particular, he always pronounces his job title as "Ex-Terminator" (capitalized to highlight his emphasis.)

His one other concession to the company is its logo, which he wears proudly (and about three times the company-recommended size) in the center of his chest, like a superhero crest: a generic but menacing black bug on a yellow background, with a thick red circle and slash that clearly communicate that no bug is permitted to live.

His weapons are many and mighty: Victor carries an assortment of bug sprays, powders and traps. He has also developed, contrary to company policy, a special kind of programmable robot drone that looks like a metal cockroach, and can zap intruders. He affectionately calls these little robots "roachbots".

On this day, an ordinary one to everyone else, Victor begins his mission to rid his district of all infestation (he opens his shop for the first time, after completing the two week training program at the company and spending a further six months developing his arsenal and designing his costume.) Little does he know that in the course of that mission, he will go up against bugs no human being should ever face, and survive (or not, if the player sucks.)

Will Victor be the victor? Can he keep his business afloat long enough to complete his "mission"? What's that on your shoulder? Get it off, Get it OFF GET IT OFF!


This game is a hybrid of a third-person action game (with limited jumping) and a rudimentary real-time strategy game.

The action part applies to how the player directly controls Victor in his moving around the environment and using his various weapons.

The real-time strategy part happens in how the player lays the different traps and poison powders, and in particular, how he uses his roachbots, as they can only run very simple programs and have very limited AI compared to your average RTS unit. This is by (Victor's) design: if the roachbots had more programming and AI potential, they might become pests themselves, and that's something Victor couldn't bear.

The game starts with a map of Victor's district. He only gets to take care of one client per day. Luckily, during the first few days, he only gets one call per day, with the location highlighted on the map. On later days, multiple calls might happen, and Victor will have to choose judiciously (either for financial reasons -- richer clients pay more -- or to prevent infestations from spreading.)

Once a call is accepted, Victor shows up at the place, and a resident takes them through the building to the main visible infestation hot-spots. After this, Victor is on his own, and must formulate a plan to eradicate the infestation before the end of the day, using all the tools he came with, as well as anything he finds around him (moving furniture or wall panels around can be used to direct the infestation toward traps, or to block entries, for example.)

At the end of the day, if Victor has succeeded, he gets full pay, otherwise he gets partial pay (up to half of the maximum) depending on how successful he was.

As the days progress, the infestations become more extreme, and Victor will start seeing abnormally large, fast or resistant bugs, with the worst cases happening in the buildings closest to the local Nuclear Power Plant and the Chemical Processing Plant, which are at opposite ends of the city. In the end, he will have to gather enough evidence to force both plants to close down and clean up.

Graphics and Visuals

Realistic, with an exaggerated, cartoony look to the bugs and vermin. Also, Victor's weapons will tend to behave and look like the gadgets that the villains on the old 60's Batman TV show, with colored smokes and powders, and unnecessarily elaborate traps.

The interface should parallel that gadget-y look, with a little steampunk style added.

Sound and Music

The sounds of infestation should be somewhat realistic, but also exaggerated and amplified (after all, Victor has a keen ear for such things) and should feel creepy, especially in cases of extreme infestation.

Victor's weapons make weird mechanical noises that you wouldn't expect to hear.

The music will vary between sufficient heroic (superheroic, even) and downright creepy. The music will start slow at the beginning of the day, and gradually go up in tempo as the end of the day approaches, to add to the urgency.

Multiplayer (optional?)

Rival companies also have businesses in the district. Players could compete for money, or for fame by trying to be the best, most efficient exterminators in the area.

This week's game is heavy on characterization. It's a good exercise to create and define a new character in detail. Just writing down the description can force you to realize when you're being inconsistent.

Victor here is a funny enough character that he could even have his own TV show. When a character feels like this, there's a good chance you've created a memorable character, where so many games have forgettable main characters.

No comments: