A bit ago, I proposed three different sets of randomly-generated components for designing a game with PGDI. In the last post, I worked out a concept for the first set of components, a game about a minor god trying to gain a following among both the people and the larger pantheon, in order to ascend into greater divinity. In this post, I’m going to work through the second set of components, in order to find a concept for that game. The eventual aim is to select one of these concepts to be made over the next eight weeks, as part of my first quarter in my MFA program.
So, to start, I’m going to write out the list of components for this set, and then briefly describe what those components mean in this context. It is my hope that the concept will flow from there. So first the components:
With Agency, we have a game where every action or decision feels important. This is complicated by Instinct, which requires that the controls be either simple and/or intuitive. The controls of these actions will need to accomplish the making of something, to satisfy the Building component, which looks at being able to customize the game world. Discovery suggests that there will be something to explore or some knowledge to be understood to be able to play the game effectively. I feel like the Instinct component will constrain Discovery to exploration, but knowledge of the game world does not need to stop there. The important part here is to make sure that the Discovery component does not make the controls of the game unintuitive. The one component I haven’t mentioned is that of Character. As a progression component, this means that the player cannot progress through the game until some quality about their character is stronger. A character can be a pretty abstract concept. For example, character progression could be describing a car, or a kingdom. The important part here is that whatever it is the player is concerned with grows in some quality (usually represented by a number) and that quality needs to increase to be able to access a new part of the game.
My initial thought about this is to make a game about a castle architect. The architect would need to explore the surrounding countryside to gather materials, and those materials would be used to create rooms in a castle. The controls would be simple, likely just move using arrow keys or even click-to-move, and click to activate objects for quarrying. The character progression would come in the form of budget and workers, as well as stamina. So, the player needs to get more money from the kingdom to hire more people, which allows the player to have workers harvest materials and build the castle rooms. In addition to this, though, the player is limited by the amount of stamina they have. So, to access further, more difficult areas, the player needs to build up stamina. This could be done by having the player help with the building process.
I feel like this idea really does fit the components in this set, so I’m going to unpack the idea a bit more. This is after a brief break, so I’m going to restate this whole idea in a more cohesive way. So first, you would play as a an architect following a new monarch who wants to make a new kingdom. The monarch wants you to build up the castle (which is perhaps a castrum) so that the kingdom can gain control of the area. You begin with just enough material to make the base castle, barely anything more than a wooden hut. Once the hut is made then the kingdom starts to attract citizens and the monarch starts to give you a budget. That budget allows you to hire the new citizens as builders. You’re given free rein to the building of the castle, and the only thing that affects how high your budget and available citizens is the size of the castle. More interesting rooms, though, are interesting because they are large and therefore require a large number of materials.
As the architect, you have to lead expeditions to gain materials. Although the architect can gather materials or build rooms alone, the work goes faster by assigning workers. Plus you can multitask building and gathering resources. The architect must have some mechanic, I called it stamina above (but don’t like it), that limits how far out you can travel, which can be increased by doing some of the work yourself. Stamina works if the architect must walk to direct the workers (but why are the workers so much more robust?). Perhaps the architect is actually quite weak, which is why the player needs to direct others. Perhaps the stamina for the architect affects the speed of movement (the amount of distance one can make in a day). But the important thing is actually that the player cannot access areas without this value. Perhaps the architect will fall asleep if the stamina runs out, and the workers carry the architect back.
To address the controls, I feel like this can be made so that they are intuitive, either using the mouse for everything (click to move, click to assign), or with intuitive keyboard controls. Since I envision this game being mostly top-down (or 3/4 down), the mouse interface sounds like it works. Below the controls level, the player’s actions are intuitive as well. The requirements for building a room are clear and match well to how the materials are shown in the world. The world, by the way, should be generated in some way, so that exploring it can be enjoyable. However, a static world will work in a pinch, if generation is taking too much time. It could be that there are hidden, random bonuses to exploring. The main impetus to explore will be to get more resources.
Overall, I feel like this whole concept well catches all of the components. Work will need to be made that Instinct is not pushed aside and the controls are visceral and feel like an extension of the player. This design was much easier to come up with in comparison to the last set. This is probably because Instinct seems easy to design for, but is probably difficult in application. It’s a bit worrying that essentially games for set 1 and set 2 are both dealing with building or growing a kingdom. I don’t think that will be the case for set 3, though.
In the next designing with PGDI post, I’ll be examining set 3. For reference, here are the components for set 3:
Edit: 12:05 AM, October 21st, 2014
Somehow I forgot to make suggested titles. Here you go: “Castle Architect”, “Growth of Sovereignty”, “A Kingdom at their Majesty’s Behest”, or “I Will Make Them See It” (this is yet another reference).