Idea Number 32487535

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!


2 thoughts on “Idea Number 32487535

  1. hmm it… somehow… reminds me Chrono Trigger. Where at any point of the game you could have the chance to defeat the final boss, but, of course if you try to do it too early it could be an imposible mission;

    any way, the freedom to go to the last bad guy at the begining gives you a very low feeling of victory, because you don’t have enough reasons to kill him -_- but in the other side, if you manage to destroy him, you get another kind of satisfaction: “Power”

    so, going throwg the story gives you a final vengace satisfaction for anything he had done to you along the game; but in a sandbox rpg game, the real satisfaction a player is searching is the “maximum power” feeling, two diferent players in the same sandbox game, just try to see who’s most powerfull or hardcore gammer, in other cases where the story is more complex, those two players search to see who have done the more missions, discovered more items or finding more NPC’s to get atached at (like special vendors, funny hidden characters, etc…).

    That’s the difference between sandbox and story telling rpgs players, and the power or adventure players.

  2. Diego Doumecq

    Yeah, that’s precisely what I wanted: A conflict of interest. I want the player to reconsider if he wants to defeat the bad guy now and be done with the game. Of course, the player could just simply save, kill the final boss, see that particular ending and reload…. which isn’t very interesting.
    So, in other words, to actually have the conflict of interest I’m looking for, the player would have to play by the self-imposed rule of not seeking to see all the endings and just stop playing after he reaches one (proper endings that is, playing until you die is a very very different experience …. that at the end of the day has very much in common with this idea).

    Anyway, the reason why I posted this idea here instead of, you know, using it in a game, is that I already know beforehand that this design would only make sense to a very small amount of people. Which wouldn’t be a problem for me if I already was an acomplished and *cough* famous designer with a large following.

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