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Column: My Perfect Game

My Perfect Strategy Game: IGDA Indie SIG's Michael Lubker

May 21, 2006 3:10 AM |

sporeme.jpg ['My Perfect Game' is a new irregular feature, where we ask 'interesting people' what their perfect video game would be like. This third instalment is from IGDA's Independent Games SIG co-ordinator Michael Lubker, and deals with his particular obsession - strategy games.]

My perfect *strategy* game would be more about characters and influence. What training your character (leader) has would affect what types of units in a city would be attracted to you and come under your control. Fighting monsters would impress city leaders and attract them to you, or you could send in assassins or gossips and undermine a city's leadership. Don't always start out as an empire leader, but maybe a small town, and influence others (through battles, charisma gained by training and influencing certain groups of people, or all-over charisma by defending towns), diplomacy (influenced by charisma), economics, or covert ops) until you lead a large group. Also, control is important, I'm very much looking forward to strategy games on the Wii.

Resources - I have to say resources are important, and I actually like collection and using economies. I do think it would be interesting to have one or more characters that you actually control as in the above example, so you might zoom out to standard RTS mode and build some buildings (like for example a smithy) and then zoom in, select your character, and have him get training from that smith, thus upgrading his stats for armor and weapons, or buy a weapon from the smith (which comes from your overall resource stock). I'd like to see more economics and not so many RTT's.

Research - technology trees are great, but I'd like to see more connected units such as groups of researcher characters working together. It would be interesting to have scientist "hero" characters that each can learn things from mentors (who live in buildings built in RTS mode) and create new innovations. Each scientist could have his own tech tree which can cross pollinate with others' training and innovations, thus giving you a much wider range of technology. Lego-style creation, as in Alpha Centauri, Impossible Creatures, and Spore, is a great thing to have as well.

Diplomacy - I would like to see much more diplomacy in AI. I know that is a challenge, but an important one. I would like to see more trading abilities as well as effects based on influence and covert operations.

Mounts and Vehicles - I'd like to see mounts and vehicles need riders/pilots, not come with them.

Training and Building - I'd like to see units need training, start out as a worker, then be mentored by various people who live in the buildings you build. And you can zoom in and take control of any character and build him up into a new leader, start a civil war, and install a new character in the palace. Characters should also be customizable (clothing, personality, etc) and saveable, and persistant.

Building should be handled better, with people actually becoming "part of" the building and working there. Also it would be interesting to have people take shelter during rain. Strategy games should also have the option to build roads between buildings ala SimCity (and have pathfinding use the roads you build). It would also add a lot to strategy games to have disasters as in SimCity.

Multiplayer: I like the trend toward multiplayer campaigns and persistant systems. But I would really like it if you could build up and customize characters which you can import into battles. Say, you have your Super Scientist who has all these neat inventions, which you can then use in your next game, and your ally has another, and they cross-pollinate their ideas...

The 'Massively Singleplayer' game idea in Spore is also interesting, as it could be applied to other strategy games too... for example, imagine Rise of Nations' campaign with it averaging out everyone's mileage (not including your country, yours is affected by you) so that you see other countries' territories changing based on real stats from other players' campaigns.

[If you think you fit our random arbitrary definition of an 'interesting person' and would like to contribute, please mail us at [email protected] to check (IMPORTANT - email address is now fixed, sorry if you tried before and it bounced!), and you can write about your perfect game, too. Otherwise - don't call us, we'll call you!]

My Perfect Game: Game Designer/Lecturer Ernest Adams

May 18, 2006 7:18 PM |

eadams.jpg ['My Perfect Game' is a new irregular feature, where we ask 'interesting people' what their perfect video game would be like. This second instalment is from Ernest Adams, the veteran game designer and lecturer who runs popular game design workshops, consults for companies like Ubisoft and THQ on game-related matters, and writes The Designer's Notebook column for sister site Gamasutra. He also has great hats.]

My perfect game includes no villainous thugs nor evil overlords; it takes place in no dungeons or decaying urban landscapes. To defeat an evil overlord was the adolescent fantasy of a generation ago; to be a villainous thug appears to be the adolescent fantasy of today. I am not an adolescent and my needs for fantasy have changed.

My perfect game is a garden of earthly delights, not a den of brutality and pain. My perfect game contains no snarling semi-naked vixens dressed in skintight leather, wielding breasts and weapons of improbable dimensions. My perfect game contains instead fully naked dryads who peep at me shyly from behind the trees that are their homes, and, when I have successfully lured them out, come to sit with me upon the grass and read me verses from Shelley in voices that resound gently like silver bells.

My perfect game is a ramble through the woods in autumn, a wander over hilltops lit by shafts of sunlight piercing through the gathering storm. Ruinous stone circles rise from the earth and whisper ancient magic to me, and men in cloaks and sandals with eyes the color of the sea tell me tales of hunting the walrus on the shores of Ultima Thule. We play games of kubb and hnefatafl on the beach in the gathering dark as the fires of driftwood glow, and we drink the aqua vitae made by the monks of Lindisfarne.

Then the stars burn brighter and I unfold my wings and sweep aloft, sailing among the canyons of the skies and looking down upon the twinkling lights of the cities of men, whirling and diving and rejoicing in the chill night air. South I glide to descend and play senet with young Tutankhamun and mancala with Shaka Zulu. I visit Solomon and dispute philosophy with him for a laugh, but in my perfect game I prove to be wiser than he and he gives me gifts of spices and cloth-of-gold. I load them all upon my robo-camel, fire up the steam engine, and together we trek with a clank and a clatter across the Euphrates and into Persia. And in my perfect game I risk all the spices and cloth-of-gold on a single game of shatranj with a magician in the court of Darius the Great (he must be taught the rules, for shatranj will not be invented for another thousand years). But I win and to pay his bet the magician must bring my robo-camel to life and set her free.

And so laughing I steal one of Darius' horses from the royal stables, and ride like the wind to Samarkand, where we learn to play polo together and I trade Solomon's spices for a palace with a thousand fountains and a personal spacecraft that requires no fuel. And from time to time I invite Kubla Khan for coffee and petits-fours and a game of go. We have a good laugh at the expense of that junkie Coleridge, but later I realize how much I owe to him, because he has made it all possible -- all of it, the walruses and the spices and the spacecraft too, that romantic junkie poet: he invented the willing suspension of disbelief.

My perfect game is filled with mystery and wonder, not sweat and struggle. My perfect game is easy. My perfect game is beautiful. My perfect game is joyous.

[If you think you fit our random arbitrary definition of an 'interesting person' and would like to contribute, please mail us at [email protected] to check, and you can write about your perfect game, too. Otherwise - don't call us, we'll call you!]

My Perfect Game: Jason Scott, Textfiles.com

May 15, 2006 4:07 AM |

jscott.jpg ['My Perfect Game' is a new irregular feature, where we ask 'interesting people' what their perfect video game would be like. The first instalment is from Jason Scott, who runs Textfiles.com, directed the BBS Documentary, and is currently working on both text adventure doc Get Lamp, and Arcade: The Documentary.]

"I'm luckier than most, I guess; I have already bumped into my perfect video game. I've done it multiple times, and with it likely to happen again. Maybe my standards are just low. But I think it's more that my perfect game isn't a specific DESIGN, but an APPROACH.

Coming up through the early video games (where you needed a whole quarter to play), I was more intrigued by the games where you could advance as you accomplished more, cascading into an ever-changing set of levels and sights until finally your faced an end against a horrifying creature and then broke through to a credit screen. Since my experiences could be measured in minutes, this was perfectly fine.

But once I started to play games where you entered greater and greater spaces, added 3-D, and played at home, this ever-changing set of unique levels lost the fun for me. You always ended up with a feeling, at the end, that you'd just walked a long distance, haphazardly, having nothing to show for it but a set of ticks on the right side of the screen, or some arbitrary number.

Maybe it was just me getting older, but I have found the perfect games for me are ones like Hexen, Super Mario 64, Mario Sunshine, Zelda: Wind Waker... games where you start out in a place, and over time you return to the same places, but changes have occured in you and your skillset and now you can achieve things that you couldn't before. Or the location has tweaked ever so slightly and you can make out new avenues to travel. Or maybe there's just a lot more cool stuff where there wasn't before.

If a game has that sense of regarding old locations and events with a new eye and using skills you've acquired within the game, that's as perfect as it gets for me."

[If you think you fit our random arbitrary definition of an 'interesting person' and would like to contribute, please mail us at [email protected] to check, and you can write about your perfect game, too. Otherwise - don't call us, we'll call you!]