Game idea: Alien researcher

I was inspired by a thread about Pokemon Snap plus fake Peter Molyneux to hopefully start a series of random game ideas.

Idea: You are a scientist sent to an alien world to do research on native life forms. You collect data on them by taking pictures/video/sound, capturing them alive, or killing them so they can be dissected (scientists do this sometimes right?). Most are harmless, some are dangerous if provoked, others are aggressive. Combat is only for hunting animals and for defense and is not the main focus by far. You must return to your base at night time because of the nocturnal hunters. You could potentially stay out all night but it's very dangerous. The more research you send back, the more funding you get, and you can choose want you want to buy through some "space internet" and a shipment will arrive some days later from the sky. The logic behind that is, you only have so much funding to do this mission in the first place so you need to prove yourself to your backers before they send you more money.

The game hinges on a believable alien world, full of interesting aliens, as hard sci-fi as you can get within reason. They can't just wander around like in an MMO, but need set routines, eating habits, migrations, etc. The world needs to be "dynamic" and react to your presence. For example (over a long period of time though), shooting all of the predator animals because they keep attacking you should cause overpopulation of its prey species. I was inspired for this idea by Pokemon Snap, Pikmin, Metroid Prime, and the art of Abiogenisis. http://abiogenisis.deviantart.com/

Here is some of his work.

27 Comments
28 Comments
Posted by gorkamorkaorka

I was inspired by a thread about Pokemon Snap plus fake Peter Molyneux to hopefully start a series of random game ideas.

Idea: You are a scientist sent to an alien world to do research on native life forms. You collect data on them by taking pictures/video/sound, capturing them alive, or killing them so they can be dissected (scientists do this sometimes right?). Most are harmless, some are dangerous if provoked, others are aggressive. Combat is only for hunting animals and for defense and is not the main focus by far. You must return to your base at night time because of the nocturnal hunters. You could potentially stay out all night but it's very dangerous. The more research you send back, the more funding you get, and you can choose want you want to buy through some "space internet" and a shipment will arrive some days later from the sky. The logic behind that is, you only have so much funding to do this mission in the first place so you need to prove yourself to your backers before they send you more money.

The game hinges on a believable alien world, full of interesting aliens, as hard sci-fi as you can get within reason. They can't just wander around like in an MMO, but need set routines, eating habits, migrations, etc. The world needs to be "dynamic" and react to your presence. For example (over a long period of time though), shooting all of the predator animals because they keep attacking you should cause overpopulation of its prey species. I was inspired for this idea by Pokemon Snap, Pikmin, Metroid Prime, and the art of Abiogenisis. http://abiogenisis.deviantart.com/

Here is some of his work.

Posted by Venatio

I'd play it

Posted by WickedFather

Can you also research them for meat sales back home?

Posted by eroticfishcake

So it's essentially Afrika: Xenoscience Edition? The idea is intriguing and could be really interesting if done well...I'm not looking at another Kickstarter am I? THERE'S TOO MANY.

Edited by Dagbiker

This sounds great, I want a base full of wacky and lovable scientist characters, with fully fleshed out back stories. and as a backer, assuming you use kickstarter, i want, nigh demand you use the gamebro/creation engine.

Posted by Deathmachine117

Game of the Year

Posted by gorkamorkaorka

@eroticfishcake: Mmm, basically. I never played Afrika but part of why it never looked interesting to me is that Africa is full of the most generic animals. At least the ones that they put in that game.

Edited by MiniPato
Posted by Little_Socrates

I might play this!

Also, whenever I hear about Molyjam, I think about this song.

What Would Peter Molydeux?

Posted by Make_Me_Mad

I would play the hell out of this game. Then again, I would play the hell out of a Pokemon Snap sequel that played like Afrika. I like to imagine having to get a shot of a Gyarados, so you can pay up for a top of the line cruise, REALLY pay up for a prototype submarine trip, or... take a crappy raft out onto the water and see if you can survive long enough to snap your picture while one rampages around.

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Posted by RetroVirus

That sound amazing. Pokemon Snap was a childhood classic, and I would definitely like to see a game with that mechanic and more depth than Afrika.

Edited by eroticfishcake

@gorkamorkaorka said:

@eroticfishcake: Mmm, basically. I never played Afrika but part of why it never looked interesting to me is that Africa is full of the most generic animals. At least the ones that they put in that game.

I never played it myself but there is a QL on Afrika. It's doesn't have the same depth that you've described but it's got the basics. But yeah, as much as I love animals (having studied Zoology myself and knowing more about animal penises then most people) Afrika is filled with rather "generic" and typical African animals from what I've seen. It would've been better if they set it Tasmania. Much better stuff there like the Pygmy Iguana. Who am I kidding though? Afrika was just a glorified tech demo from the get go.

Edit: Just remembered something. Beyond Good & Evil had a gameplay mechanic involving taking photos of wildlife didn't it? I actually quite liked that part of the game (unlike say, the stealth sections).

Posted by ShadowConqueror

Fucking sold.

Posted by gorkamorkaorka

@MiniPato said:

Kinda sounds like that game that the Terraria guys are making, Starbound.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=463588

http://facepunch.com/threads/1164490

My idea actually started as a 2D sidescroller I was actually going to make, and be able to make. Remember the opening scene of Metroid Fusion? Samus and two uh, scientists(?) are exploring SR-388 and they run into the X-Parasite. It kind of came from that. It would have been a Metroid like exploration game with no real goal, except to see interesting life forms. Really, not a game at all actually and not meant to be enjoyed as one would normally enjoy a game. Think of it as game programming experience. My blogged idea would take a lot of money and experience that I don't have and I don't plan on even attempting it until much, much later.

The procedural generation of aliens is a neat idea but my game would take place on one planet and have a finely crafted group of species. That's part of the appeal. They all need to work together.

Posted by BeachThunder

Definitely something that I could get into. Photography is cool, interesting alien designs are cool, hard sci-fi is cool.

Edited by Athadam

This sounds like an amazing idea.

You could also play on the motivation of the science and morals.

For example you could be a scientist that collects dead specimen without harming the collective ecosystem too much or perhaps a more evil one that goes out hunting to maliciously kill and collect hundreds of aliens. Depending on what you do and your actions, your motivation to be on this alien planet could either be to expand human knowledge and explore curiosity (good science) or you could do it just to find substances and materials that would improve the economy for your homeworld (bad science).

Depending on what you do, there would be different consequences. You could uncover different facts and knowledge about the world if you chose the good path. If you chose the more greedy path, you would get more funding etc. The organisms that live there could treat you more as a friend or foe.

Eventually, as the story progresses you find out that you aren't the only intelligent life form on the planet. Based on your research, you start uncovering evidence of a vast and intelligent species living underground. They have towns, cities, civilization and depending on how you treated the upperworld earlier, they would also treat you differently.

I don't know, what do you guys think?

Edited by Athadam

Also, to add to my previous post.

It'd be nice if the game could be backed by real science. Get real astrobiologists, evolutionary biologists, and astronomers to help build the sci-fi background,

Imagine. A planet on the edge of the galaxy, whose mornings are shined by the light of 200 billion stars. Or a planet orbiting around two small suns, a planet whose inner-mantle is made of water that is constantly tugged around by the gravity of both stars, giving way to an internal heat source. The volcanoes on this planet would erupt water into the atmosphere. How could life arise under such conditions? How would it affect the lifeforms around?

The possibilities are endless...

Posted by Willin

Sounds like Monster Hunter crossed with Pokemon Snap.

Posted by James_Giant_Peach

Sounds like a cool idea, I want more photography in my games.

Edited by ShaggE

Publisher: "Now, instead of a camera, how about a gun? Guns test well. And instead of all that side stuff, maybe you could shoot the aliens? Just spitballing here."

Posted by Twinsun

@ShaggE: Genius!

Posted by Harpell
@ShaggE
Instant hit. Will easily sell 2 mil. We'll get the marketing department on it ASAP.
Posted by DeF

have you played the original X-COM? :D

Posted by gorkamorkaorka

@Castermhief117 said:

This sounds like an amazing idea.

You could also play on the motivation of the science and morals.

For example you could be a scientist that collects dead specimen without harming the collective ecosystem too much or perhaps a more evil one that goes out hunting to maliciously kill and collect hundreds of aliens. Depending on what you do and your actions, your motivation to be on this alien planet could either be to expand human knowledge and explore curiosity (good science) or you could do it just to find substances and materials that would improve the economy for your homeworld (bad science).

Depending on what you do, there would be different consequences. You could uncover different facts and knowledge about the world if you chose the good path. If you chose the more greedy path, you would get more funding etc. The organisms that live there could treat you more as a friend or foe.

Eventually, as the story progresses you find out that you aren't the only intelligent life form on the planet. Based on your research, you start uncovering evidence of a vast and intelligent species living underground. They have towns, cities, civilization and depending on how you treated the upperworld earlier, they would also treat you differently.

I don't know, what do you guys think?

I can't figure out how to unbold this. I like to be really logical and natural with my design and I don't think this morality system would work. A lot of binary systems came around in the mid to late 2000's and I never thought they were any good and most of the time they felt really forced. You're a biologist and not a surveyor so you can't go out finding minerals. I don't think that would be fun anyway. The point of funding is only so you can explore more of the world. Like I said before, you should really return to your ship at night time but if you could afford night vision goggles and cameras, your chances of surivial would definitely increase. On a related note, ordering a thermal camera might help you discover animals you didn't even know where there. Even if you wanted to be good or bad, you probably would need to dissect some of them anyway. That's the only way you can know how they work on the inside. No "body scanners" here. They massacre thousands of animals in the name of science every year for high school biology classes so I'm sure you could kill a couple aliens.

In terms of things beyond just stupid animals, I don't think I would want to go past something slightly smarter than our great apes. That would introduce a lot of new "systems" into the game that might not flow with the established normal workings of it. I really liked finding out about the fall of the Chozo civilization in Metroid Prime but without the ability to read alien script, it can't really work that way. Archaeology doesn't sound as fun as biology and would result in totally different game play.

But your suggestions did make me think. What if there was some kind of poaching going on? Your main goal is to learn about these creatures but let's say some people back on earth really want some alien furs, or some bio-tech company wants to make a bio-organic weapon based on the apex predator of this planet? It's immoral, but it would let humanity learn more about this world... I don't know how it would be implemented but maybe you could lie about your findings. It happens in real life sometimes. I don't know what the point would be though. Either way, there is never any binary morality system here or morality system at all. Bad things happen to you in this game by chance, or because of something bad you did.

Posted by gorkamorkaorka

@Dagbiker said:

This sounds great, I want a base full of wacky and lovable scientist characters, with fully fleshed out back stories. and as a backer, assuming you use kickstarter, i want, nigh demand you use the gamebro/creation engine.

No this isn't planning on being made right now. Also, I am not sure about other characters. Part of the atmosphere of Pikmin or Metroid was that you were all alone. You should still get emails or vmails (video emails) from your friends/family/the company every so often. It's fun to get a message from someone out of the blue, especially if you're really lonely. Due to the distances involved, there would be too much lag to have instantaneous communication. I'm thinking the game takes place about 200-400 years from now. Humans on Earth built a nuclear propelled space ship (something like Project Orion or Project Daedalus) with sleeper pods and all that to colonize the nearest earth like planet. The trip takes 100 years or something. There are actually two planets with life on them in the system you end up in. You live on planet A, but you are sent to explore planet B, years later after the colony is set up on planet A. Now, you can't get instantaneous communication, but it also doesn't take years for you to get your shipments. You don't have to buy all of your shipments either. You might get an email like "From: The Company. We sent you scuba gear. Go check out that lake over there."

Posted by crusader8463

Needs perma death to make the staying up at night more of a serious risk/reward scenario.

Posted by Dagbiker

@gorkamorkaorka: I was kinda being sarcastic. Not so much about the scientist's and explorers. Which i think would be cool. but about the kickstarter, and the Gamebro engine.

Posted by gorkamorkaorka

@crusader8463 said:

Needs perma death to make the staying up at night more of a serious risk/reward scenario.

Huh well... maybe. I like to have options for who wants what. It would probably be like "You have X amount of days to do research. You will be picked up on X day." so you might not be able to do everything on your first play through anyway. I don't know if people hate that kind of thing or not.