Thursday, April 19, 2007

Your Turn: Design a Combat-less RPG

I've recently noticed that I'm finally getting some repeat traffic and regular readers. Welcome! Enjoy the sights (well, the text and ideas, anyway)! And most of all, please leave some comments!

Towards that end, I've decided to ask anyone who comes here to try and answer a game design challenge of sorts. I give you a new Stealmygamedesigns feature: Your Turn.

Your assignment: design a combat-less RPG.


Come up with a setting, main character, and goal for that character, in a game that plays like a role-playing game, but offer other means of making the game compelling and exciting than the now-common combat mechanics in most RPGs.

You must find a way to replace combat with something more than a simple substitution. For example, the first PC adaptation of the game Magic: The Gathering included a gameplay mode that played as an RPG, where the combat was replaced with Magic card duels. To me, this still counts as combat.

I would also say that scripted, linear and repetitive action sequences found in many recent RPGs aren't a good substitute either, as they wouldn't work if they had to be played in place of every place where a battle would otherwise have occurred.

I'm looking for the most original and compelling ideas you can come up with. Describe a game YOU would want to play, and hopefully, it'll be a game I will also want to play.

Post your game ideas as comments, I'll comment on your ideas, let you amend your ideas for a bit, and eventually, I'll repost the best ideas in a later blog entry (with proper credit given, naturally.)

Meanwhile, I'll start thinking about my own idea to deal with this challenge, and I'll eventually post my solution.

Don't be afraid to post multiple ideas, if you have them.


David said...

This is not an easy one... Here is my attempt (sorry for the english that may be incorrect):

You play as a gardener in a gardener world where some people are becoming "bad" or "sad".
You are to travel the land to find new flower species, you have to mix them to get original colors, to get biggest flowers and increase their "love power". Ultimately, you are to save the King who is attacked by some villagers that want to bannish love from the country.
You can buy tools, special chemicals to make your flowers grow faster, alter flowers colors and size.
You can plant them everywhere, around people's houses, around people themself (so you need to have flowers that grow very fast to act on people before they leave the area or before they make you feel bad or sad or angry).
In addition to health (you must eat, rest, ...), agility (you have to go in dangerous places to get flowers) and other classical statistics, you have a "love level" that can decrease or increase with time and various events (other people have it too). People are sensible to specific colors, or colors combinations, to size or to perfume and when their love level reaches a limit, they are happy and let you go/give you items/give you hints or missions.

Hope you like this idea...

shutz said...

This seems like an interesting idea that could lead to a very fun game!

Just one thing: isn't this kind of similar to Harvest Moon? I can't really say, because I've never played it, but the theme is similar, I think.

Thanks for sharing your idea.

David said...

I searched for Harvest Moon and I think it is more a "sim" like than a RPG but yes, the "garden" part looks similar. In my idea, the concept was more like in Zelda.
It is true that it is a difficult task to explain what you have in mind (and it is harder when you have to use a foreign language !) and you have a great talent to do so.
I'll try to find another idea !

shutz said...

Actually, David, if you are who I think you are, you're French, right?

Eh, bien, je suis un Canadien Français... un Québécois. Alors, si tu penses que tu peux communiquer ton idée plus facilement en français, vas-y!

David said...

that's true I am french. So, the same in french and a bit more developped:

Dans un pays paisible aux allures de jardin bucolique, un drame se prépare: les gens sont de plus en plus touchés par un mal mystérieux qui les rend agressifs, tristes, malades. Même le roi est en danger car menacé de plus en plus par des personnes venues contester son authorité et répandre la peur.

Le joueur est un jardinier qui cultive tranquillement ses fleurs dans un village peuplé d'autres jardiniers qui ont la charge d'embellir le pays. Lors d'une promenade en forêt, alors qu'il cherchait une fleur particulière pour élaborer un massif au centre du village, il tombe sur une personne apeurée, qui lui raconte la situation dans son village: tous là-bas sont devenus méchants. N'écoutant que son courage, le joueur va décider de se lancer dans une grande et noble quête: restaurer la paix dans le pays à l'aide de sa connaissance des fleurs et leur pouvoir sur les gens.

Il devra sauver les gens de leur mal, protéger le roi, et venir à bout de la source du mal: une gigantesque plante consciente dont le pollen porté par le vent a un effet maléfique sur les gens.

A la manière d'un Zelda, le joueur dirige à la 3ème personne le jardinier. Il parcours de nombreuses contrées, rencontre des gens et réalise pour eux de petites missions typiques des RPG. Le joueur a la capacité d'influencer le comportement et l'état d'esprit des gens en plantant des fleurs. Les personnages sont influencés par les couleurs, la taille, le parfum des fleurs créées et plantées par le joueur. Le joueur devra partir à la recherche de fleurs, les combiner, et utiliser des potions pour créer de nouvelles espèces. Il devra aussi trouver des produits qui permettront de les faire pousser de plus en plus vite pour supprimer l'agressivité et les peines des gens qu'il rencontre.

Selon leur couleur/taille/forme/odeur, les fleurs agissent sur l'humeur, l'agressivité, la santé des gens. Les fleurs agissent plus ou moins loin. Il est possible de combiner des fleurs pour obtenir des effets cumulés ou pour augmenter un effet particulier. Des fleurs pourraient par exemple attirer une personne. En plantant des fleurs assez espacées dont l'attirance est de plus en plus forte, il serait possible de faire tomber une personne agressive dans un "piège" de fleurs chargé de la rendre calme.

Les statistiques des personnages sont classiques: santé (il faut se reposer, manger, ...), habileté (certaines zones sont difficiles d'accès), et autres. D'autres caractéristiques sont gérées: résistance aux différents effets des plantes et des niveaux d'amour, et de bonne humeur qui seront altérés.

Fil Razorback said...

Even tough I won't submit a concept, I'll use this entry to leave a comment for it's the most recent.

I've just discovered this blog (thanks to a link you posted in a comment about an article at lost and started the reading. I enjoy it quite much ^^

I'm not likely to develop one of these concepts (busy with mines ^^) but this is really resourceful and it's good for me to read some GDD (not too long, not too short). Keep up the good work =)

shutz said...


(en anglais pour les autres lecteurs)

Great concept! I would probably work harder on the story to make it even more original and less "cliché". For example, even though it's presented as medieval fantasy, I would remove the King and have, perhaps, an elected government, just to make things weirder and make it possible to do some subtle comments on current events.

As for the gameplay, I wonder about the controls... but then that's not something that needs to be all laid out at the beginning anyway.

Feel free to leave more game ideas/designs in the comments on this or future posts: if I see something worthwhile, I might post it as a new blog entry! (with full credit to you, naturally!)

shutz said...

To Fil Razorback:
(hmmm... Razorback... might you be a Buffy fan, by any chance?)

You don't have to share your ideas, obviously, but let me share one of my experiences:

At my last job, I used to be a game tester for cell phone games. But I kept having lots of cool ideas for cell games and applications, so I started a weekly email newsletter that I would send to the whole staff of the company, with a new idea each week. I called Half-Baked Ideas, later shortened to Half-Baked.

Some of the ideas were better than others, but the point was that none of the ideas were complete, as-is: they all could benefit from further discussion and thought.

I'm trying to reproduce this kind of thing here: I never go into deep detail about the designs, because I'd like visitors to discuss the ideas and suggest their own additions or changes to those ideas.

So I'm not asking you to publish full-fledged game ideas you are working on, but instead, you must sometimes get incomplete ideas for games, or maybe just the "hook" that a game could be built around. If you get some of those, you could do a lot worse than to publish them here and see what other people add to the ideas, and what kind of game can emerge.

Owen said...

When you get a chance please check out The Gamescape is the first game development democracy. It's a community collaborating to make innovative commercial video games by harnessing the talent and enthusiasm of gamers. Game ideas are produced by members. Decisions are made by members. Members control every aspect of design.

Fil Razorback said...

Shutz >>>

Bon je vais répondre en français ce sera bien plus simple pour moi haha.

Pour ce qui est du pseudo, je ne suis pas un fan de Buffy mais de l'auteur français Werber (dont un personnage est nommé Raoul Razorbak) ^^

Pour ce qui est des game designs, je voulais dire que je ne risquais pas d'en développer un mais au sens "faire le jeu derrière" (le programmer par exemple).

Poster mes propres travaux, commenter ceux des autres et d'une manière générale discuter sur le game design m'intéresse beaucoup et je n'ai aucune raison de garder mes GDD dans les placards.

Bref, le mot "develop" n'a pas survécu au passage à l'anglais :P

shutz said...

Fil Razorback:

J'ai entendu parler de Bernard Werber, mais je n'ai encore rien lu de lui.

Si tu es un programmeur, je suis curieux de savoir quel niveau d'éducation tu as atteint dans le domaine, et ce que tu te crois capable de faire au niveau de la programmation de jeux.

Vois-tu, j'ai complété un Baccalauréat en Informatique, mais malgré ça, je ne fais pas un bon programmeur de jeux parce que:
1- j'ai rapidement réalisé que mon intérêt était pour le design, pas pour la programmation.
2- quoique je sois un bon programmeur quand il est question de programmation "pure" (c'est-à-dire pour le genre de programmes que j'avais à faire dans mes cours) je ne me suis jamais assez intéressé à la programmation "système" et à toutes les API de programmation qu'il faut connaître pour programmer un jeu Windows/DirectX, par exemple.

Je me suis récemment intéressé au GBA et au DS, et en particulier pour cette dernière plate-forme, j'ai une idée que j'aimerais bien développer, mais je ne me sens pas assez habile pour le faire seul. Si tu es intéressé, on pourrait en discuter un peu plus.

shutz said...


GameScape seems interesting, but there really wasn't much to look at without registering...

Have any projects started development yet? Did anything playable get released?

You see, it's been my experience that coming up with cool, original ideas for games is the easiest part of game production and development. Hell, you just have to look at my blog to see it's not that hard for just ONE person to come up with a whole bunch of cool ideas (although I do say so myself ;)

Do you have any programmers, artists and producers who "offer" their services to your members? (if so, wow, I'm registering now! I can't wait to put together a team to make one of my favorite game ideas into an actual game!)

For your community to be worthwhile, you'll need about 2 artists and at least one qualified programmer for each designer, otherwise, all that will happen is you'll have thousands of people discussing designs, and no games will get made. (This may sound harsh, but with the experience I've had in the industry, as well as knowing a few indie developers, it's hard to find people who want to make your game.)


a) Gamescape should feature a few projects up front on its home page. Have them rotate randomly, so that each project can get equal exposure, that goes with your democratic philosophy.

b) Try to grab the attention of as many game programmers as you can. They're likely to become your main bottleneck resource. Artists are less likely to be a problem because many of your designers will also be capable artists. I know a lot of your designers will also be programmers, but in my experience, for modern games, good programmers are rarely good designers, and good designers are rarely good programmers.

I'll check out the site again tomorrow, and maybe I'll register then. Right now, it's very late, and I have to go to bed. :)

Fil Razorback said...

Shutz >> Programmeur c'est un bien grand mot pour me qualifier puisque je me limite à la maitrise de l'Actionscript.
Je bosse depuis plusieurs mois, en tant qu'amateur, sur un Tactical RPG du nom de Partisan Tactics Battles et ça m'occupe assez pour m'empêcher de m'investir dans d'autres projets; même si la DS est mon projet d'avenir en tant que codeur, ce ne sera pas avant longtemps ^^

Owen said...


We are actually hiring a professional game developer for the job. The direction of the project and most of the ideas will come from within the community. Everything from the initial game concept to choosing which concept art is chosen for the main character is at the fingertips of the community.


shutz said...


Good to hear that your projects are moving forward.

I recently went through a short stint doing phone tech support for a major cable ISP, and then I found a new job as a technical writer at a company that makes "entertainment hardware" (I prefer not to say who for now... but they don't make games)

Anyway, all of this has kept me pretty busy, which is why I haven't updated in a while.

It's also why I don't think I will contribute to your project. It's not that I've stopped thinking about game design (far from it!) but I don't want to get involved with someone else's project right now, as I don't think I could provide your project with the attention I believe it deserves.

Feel free to send me stuff to review/comment/criticize. A fresh pair of eyes always helps. Just be prepared for harsh (but honest and constructive) comments if they apply (having been a game tester in the past, I don't have much patience for vague ideas and bad execution...)

If I can find some time soon, I will try to update the blog with more on my current status and maybe even a new idea I recently had for an unorthodox setting for an RTS.