The Basic Goal and Concept
I wanted to write up a design doc as an exercise in design. I don't have the time to try and pull together a team or learn to program and make a game all on my own, because I'll be spending about 4 years... elsewhere... pretty soon. And I just don't have the skills to make a game at the moment. This is just a fun thing I'm doing to keep the brain sharp and update the ideas I've had in the past, as more gaming experiences guide the concepts in my head.
I have no intentions of pushing this past a document. If I did, I probably wouldn't be sharing this until I at least had something built. But this is just a fun little piece of virtual paper that I want to share with everyone. That also means it can be as ambitious as I want. I'll try to reign it in though. This is not intended to be a current generation game though, and will absolutely be a PC title.
Here's a basic idea of what I want out of it, before I actually start working on and posting more detailed stuff. Because this wasn't made clear to a couple people, what follows immediately after this is NOT the design doc. This is the first page, the basic pillars of what I want.
- Systems over mechanics. Systems being how things interact (a weapon that causes damage controlled by input by the player interacting with an entity), mechanics being "player tools," (a crafting system, parrying, etc).
- Using Systems to create a complex experience. I'm avoiding the term "depth" because people tend to misuse or misinterpret it in the context of video games. An example of this would be armor types having resistance to damage types. The player input would be the same, but the interaction would not. Obviously there will need to be some mechanics that serve to open this up, but I want to avoid cluttering up what the player is doing.
- Interaction at every possible level. Static should be a bad word in games, but it's become more and more common. Simple or a just completely absent physics, light maps, even character's not casting shadows. Games are supposed to be interactive! Dynamic! Immersive! I want to design something that is, and takes every advantage of it. Shadows you can hide in, or that can give away threats. Physics you can use to adapt to a situation. Traverse a gap, distract an individual, create a warning system.
- An open, hardened world. Enemies are tough, but so are you. Things have lasted centuries, and you've survived for decades. It'll take more than a few smacks with a club to take anything down.
- Combat that reflects the durability of the world. Think of prolonged brawls in the Bourne franchise, or Nathan Fillion getting his ass kicked around in that late scene in Serenity. The player will exert obvious and considerable force on their enemies, with hits feeling heavy and brutal without making enemies feel like tissue paper.
- Exploration will also focus on this idea of a hearty world. Things last a long time in this world. Some might be a little worn on the edges, but it's mostly still standing, and there's always something interesting to find. Even an empty broken down fortress can have potential. Lure a target, plan a meeting, or set up camp.
- Configurable experience for different player types. Want to make the combat faster and more intense? Change the damage ratios. Want to be forced to survive? Turn on various "hardcore" options for things like survival mechanics, lasting impact from combat, more difficult enemy behaviors. Perhaps a "punishing" tier of options to make the experience that much less forgiving. NPCs that are less inclined to help, and more inclined to pick your pockets. Bar brawls that end with you possession-less and beat to hell in jail. If you're lucky, what counts as the law in whatever god forsaken place you've found yourself in managed to drag your necessities back to the jailhouse for when they let you out. More likely, you'll have to find other means of arming and equipping yourself again.
- TLDR: You probably shouldn't be here. But think Skyrim meets Dark Souls meets Day Z meets the-kind-of-crazy-that-funds-an-RPG-on-Kickstarter. With a lot of DnD influences.
Those're the big pillars, I'll start laying out mechanics and engine features layer by laywer, starting with the major and going down that path, and then giving examples of how mechanics and systems can interact.
Edited the top of the post because apparently people were confused. Guess that's what I get for writing at 3 in the morning, or whatever it was. Hope that clears it up!
Step One: Defining a World
I want to start with the world, because this will help communicate the feel of the rest of the game, and shape the tone of the experience.
Caldránta is not an easy place to live. The landscape is hard and unforgiving. Soil is never devoid of sharp and unkind stone. Nothing but the heartiest of vegetation can find a place to sink it's roots, and only the toughest creatures survive Caldránta's crags and deserts. Even it's shores are rugged and unfriendly.