Imagine a sandbox RPG game. Yes, I know, how original!
Alright, now, let’s say that the protagonist starts in a normal town, she gets to know everybody, she helps everybody, everybody helps her, etc, etc. Basically, the player gets to know this bunch of characters and gets to interact with each them in a mechanically meaningful way, for example:
- Do favors for the shopkeeper and he’ll let you buy 3 things at a 50% discount.
- Help the blacksmith with his health problem and he’ll let you customize a piece of metal.
- Adopt the town’s dog and feed him. Eventually he’ll get healthier and start playing with you.
Those are not exactly very good or elaborated examples, I know, but they are not the point of this post, so let’s move on.
Why would we want the player attached to these characters? Oh boy,I’m glad you asked, because, you know… I don’t know for sure. I mean, pardon the phrase, but we have the player by the genitals here, we have them caring about these characters and it’s freaking hard not to perform a low blow. The player likes this guy? KILL HIM, that will make him/her feel something!
It’s ham-fisted, it’s predictable and I can’t avoid it. I keep coming up with these ideas that try to play with the player’s heartstrings as if they were a guitar, the problem is all I can think about is yanking at the strings and banging them randomly instead of, you know, playing music. (I should really start to, perhaps, possibly, read something other than blogposts all day, or at least read blogposts about literature, that should be a good compromise, don’t you think? … Err… where was I? Oh, right, in the middle of a parenthesis).
The idea so far is about a sandbox RPG game kind of like Fallout but with an initial phase where the player gets to know and play with a bunch of characters. Then, the big bad guy kills almost everyone, let’s say, a 95% of the population, where, of course, the player’s characters finds herself in.
Now, hopefully, the players really hate this guy. That was our goal after all.
Good, then, let’s say that this one guy that ruined everything has many, many friends all over the country, and hopefully one of them knows the whereabouts of this guy. That’s where the game opens and becomes a game not too dissimilar to Fallout. The player will find random people in need of random things, most of them interconnected with each other. This time around, the battles are entirely optional and become just one of the many things available to the player.
Again, so far, so pedestrian. But here is the core of this whole idea and post: The player can find the guy at any point in time, be it by luck, by finding those NPCs that really know where he is, by reading a strategy guide, by having played the game before, etc. It doesn’t matter how. Once the player does find him then he’s faced with a … well, I don’t know if I should qualify it as a “difficult” decision, but I’ll at least say that it might be interesting to a section of those who play this game.
The so called decision is as follows: You, the player, could just kill him, but loose all the motivation to explore the country (for example, now your dialog options are only centered around chit-chat instead of asking for the whereabouts of the big bad guy, effectively loosing whole side-quests in the process) … or you could just let him go and pretend to keep looking for him since the chase has become your raison d’être.
I personally find this decision interesting, given that what’s going on in the player’s mind is exactly what is going in the protagonist’s mind: Do I exact my revenge here now and be done with it? Or do I want to keep looking for him, even if I know that revenge is no longer my motivation for my journey?
Any thoughts? This idea went through my mind an hour ago, so please, forgive me if I wasn’t exactly clear or appeared to be rambling a bit too much. I used to write these ideas down in a piece of paper in the past but I find that trying to articulate them in the form of a blog post helps me think more clearly about them and as a bonus I get to update my blog with something, so hey, everybody wins!