Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Game Concepts: The Midas Touch

I probably should not have jumped right into The Biggest Project I've Ever Programmed without doing more practice in I7 first. Inform is deceptive; it looks simple, but the rabbit hole goes all the way down, and there's some subtleties that are . . . interesting. Plus, the more you use a tool, the better you get at it. I once swore never to touch lists; I'm coming around. I haven't come around on procedural rules yet; I don't get rules on a fundamental basis, and don't feel comfortable messing with them.

I also go through cycles of interest in this project. This is normal for me. And while I'm invested in the outcome, unless someone else releases a complicated apocalyptic farming sim with all the features I want, this is really more about the journey - there's no deadline. I work on it when I want.

So I keep thinking, as I survey my coding bits, that it would be a Good Idea to finish and polish a smaller piece. It would be good practice, for one thing, and undoubtedly teach me a lot about myself, programming, and the bits that come after programming - beta testing, bug fixing, release, fame and accolades . . .

Unfortunately, I don't seem to really click with small projects. They don't capture my imagination. This sucks, since I'm well aware that even a "small" project can mean months of work.

The most workable idea I have at the moment would be a game based on the story of Midas and his golden touch. Midas could be a fun character, I think. I don't have a voice for him, but he's a greedy, impulsive man with a clear love of life. (You don't hang out with Bacchus if you're a stoic.) And he's in the midst of a massive comeuppance.

The other great thing is that if everything you touch turns to gold, the range of actions is automatically limited. You can't cut things with a gold sword. You can't hug people without killing them. You can't burn, or tie ropes, or kiss, or eat. You can look. You can talk. You can touch things (that then may or may not become useless.)

It does have potential to be sort of a humorless preachy game, or a predictable quest game, but it's sort of nice that there's a clear preset goal: get rid of the touch, so you can eat again. And rescue your daughter, if you go in for that version.

I think there are some interesting puzzles that could be done with a golden touch, although I'm not much of a puzzle person. But the key to an interesting game like this is probably strong writing and storyline.

At first draft, I'm thinking something like this:
- Story opens just after you get the power. Cue glee as you run around touching things. (I think most players know what's coming, but Midas's glee should be enough to carry the scene.)
- Midas touches his daughter, or she touches him, or something. Cue the realization that gold is not really the most awesome thing ever. Probably about this point the servants find out. I suspect their response is not "Yay, the king kills by touching people."
- Quest assignment. Midas prays, or Bacchus shows up, or both, or someone advises him to go to the oracle, or something. Midas has to go either to an oracle to find out how to get rid of the touch, or to a river to wash his hands.
- Midas sets out, having to pass through the city and countryside to the mountain to the oracle/source of river.
- As he passes through the land, he has adventures. Maybe he meets peasants, or bandits, or whatever; these are essentially chapterlets of interest. Puzzles are simple, and can be solved a variety of ways.
- Midas reaches his goal, and is allowed to choose his reward. There's a variety of things he can wish for, although the most obvious is to have his normal touch back. To finish the game, he must go back through the land to the castle; at this point we see the effects of his actions on the way out.
- Ending text differs depending on overall choices and opinion of the populace.

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