By Aelric 4 Comments
Years ago, when I was younger and had no idea of what development really entailed, my friends and I thought up of a game that we really wished we could make. We drew up outlines, had our friends made up concept art (all lost, unfortunately) and really thought, albeit for only a few weeks (the fickle starry eyes of youth) that we could make a game that encompassed almost all genres of game. In a Skype conversation with one of my friends tonight, we reminisced on our idea and wondered about the potential it had, and if someone else would ever eventually make such a thing. Let me give you some of the ideas that we had originally about it and you can tell me about the likelihood of it ever happening (not by us) on long enough a timeline.
Our Idea was a space sim at it's roots. We had played and loved so many space sims in the late 90's that we felt at the time that is showed the most potential for truly genre bending, open world experience at the time. In it, you would start as a space pilot, let into this open universe that we wanted to establish a Mass Effect amount of lore in (this was before ME was even announced). You would be able to fly to different stations and planets and it would have a trading economy that fluctuated pricing based on not only your actions but also on AI pilots and piracy, that would take place though AI controlled events behind the scenes that you could also randomly encounter. Our big idea for this part of the game was that you could do real time landing on planets with gravity shifting from full weightlessness to almost flight sim controls within the atmosphere. Large objects such as asteroids and such would also have their own gravitational pull and be scaled so even the asteroid would have whole colonies on them. Dog fighting and trade missions would be the bulk of the early game as you tried to establish yourself in the universe.
Once landed, the game would shift to a first person perspective and you could explore, trade, shop, quest, encounter combat from the first person perspective and interact with RPG dialogue with NPCs. You would have multiple reputation meters to reflect you actions that would not only show that places reputation but also contribute to an overall reputation the effected how NPCs reacted, including breaking laws and incarceration. If you were arrested than the prison's you were locked up in would have their own societies and you'd have to live on wits, crafting things like shivs from toothbrushes, bartering food, things like that, with potential for escape or serving you sentence, depending on the severity of your crimes. A good example of what we envisioned was in Escape from Butcher Bay, which was influencing us at the time.
Regardless of legal status, we also wanted to incorporate political simulation, with favors and and anger effecting your ability to do things in the overarching universe. Did you assassinate, be it in first person or in the space sim, a political rival? Then you could potentially recruit other pilots from that area. Did you piss off someone influential? then you better look elsewhere. If you gained enough political capital, than you had the potential to lead command fleets from capital ships. In this instance, we were thinking of something similar to Homeworld, 3D tactical combat incorporating research and upgrades you made in the space sim through economic maneuvering. Political favors and dialogues in the RPG conversations and quests in all the other parts of the game could gain you new ships and guns and such, as well as reinforcements and other powers, such as planetary artillery if you were fighting within range of a friendly planet.
If things brought you down to a planetary surface, be it questing in first person (think science expeditions, wars, artifact hunting, whatever) or otherwise, things could change even more. If, for example, you were trying to take over a planet for resources to dedicate towards research or economy, you could employ RTS style gameplay guiding ground troops and mechs (all also dictated by what I'll call the metagame from this point onward). We were thinking of a game called Ground Control 2 in regards for this, as troops could use cover such as buildings, as well as air, land and sea vehicles. We didn't want base building RTS but rather reinforcement based, which is what Ground Control 2 used, and later World In Conflict, with resources based again from the metagame and things like full retreat being real tactical option instead of actual defeat. Both the ground combat and fleet combat in space would register into the metagame as well. Take a city, gain it's cannons. Infiltrate a planet without taking out it's orbital fleet, face orbital artillery.
Finally, we wanted to create a story that dynamically adapted to your play style. everything was shippable other than the initial space sim aspect. You could continue to play as a dog fighter and that would result in it's own story. become a fleet comander and there is another. Politically maneuver yourself into a galactic empire, we'd incorporate meaningful characters into it, adapting for planet locations and the like. Become a ground commander under a great general, we thought up this idea of betrayal by superiors that would encourage that gameplay. Crash land on an isolated planet, pick berries and conserve water, build shelters and stave off insanity waiting for rescue. All of which was prefaced with this galactic empire of aliens encroaching on humanity in the metagame, along with the political infighting within humanity. All forms of gameplay had endings, at least that was what we wanted.
We thought of other aspects too. We wanted gambling and minigames as well. Arcades in the stations and whatnot for distraction and diversion. We thought, but scraped the idea of Fast and Furious racing in the cities. We though of point and click adventuring in quests. Our ultimate goal was to outline the first true, all genre game as we knew it in the early '00's. If memory serves, it was 2003, but that might not be right. Due to hard drive failures, neglect and other factors, none of the original ideas exist on file. Games have changed since then, obviously, in ways we never expected.
Knowing what I know now, our team of four plus three artist could have never made this, especially considering only one of us even knew c++ at the time, and not even all that well. It was a youthful pipe dream of a game that we all wished to make, but more than that, that we all wished to play on day, be it by us (poor) or by others (better). Now, we've seen genre crossing much more, hade games such as spore and Space Rangers 2 try and create something similar but ultimately fail. If I were to pitch it today, I'd say we needed about 6 separate teams. One to make proper RTS combat, one to make Proper political and economic simulators, one to make proper space sims combat, one to make proper flight sim combat, one to make fun and engaging FPS combat and one overarching team that doubled as management to create an engine that would be able to plug all those separate things together in a way that doesn't break it all. To put it in modern game comparisons, Crusader Kings Politicking metagame incorporating Ground Control 2 RTS, Eve Online economics, Evocron:Mercenary space and flight control incorporating gravity shifts, Mass Effect RPG elements and Butcher Bay melee and FPS elements (or take your pick of FPS with melee) and all put together in a universe that had established fiction but factored in player choice.
Seems impossible without subcontracting, and then the cobbled together version would likely be broken as hell, not to mention what existing engine could handle all that. Shortly after we came up with this, a game called Space rangers 2 showed up, and despite being broken and janky in many ways, incorporated a lot of our ideas. Still, it wasn't really what we wanted and nothing approached the quality we really wanted.
I like to think such a game will eventually exist. In some forms, it sort of already does, though redimentary. I also realize that we couldn't have been the only ones to think of such a thing. The idea of a single game the crosses all genres and does them all well cannot be singular to only my friends and I (and I know not all genres are really included here, but it's what we came to call it in our pipe-dreaming days.)
So, what do you think? Will it ever happen if the tech and cross genre/team cooperation ever becomes possible? We thought single player at the time, but I could see this becoming an MMO idea as well (at time of conception, WoW was still fairly new and untouched by us.)
I'll likely repost this as a blog as well, my first on Giant Bomb. But yeah, leave your comments on the idea, if you bothered to read all that.