Just an assortment of ideas I’ve had, some of which (like this first Superman game concept) I’ve had floating around my brain for years, while others like the kaiju game concept I’ll explain after that are derivations of older ideas I’ve had. I’m not actively pursuing any of these, so feel free to lift and borrow elements, although I’d appreciate some form of credit down the road should these concepts be used in any significant measure. I’ll probably just add more segments to this original post as I have more ideas, so feel free to tag the thread with a one-character comment or subscribe or whatever this particular forum system allows, so you can keep picking up what I’m putting down, should you feel so inclined.
First off, Superman… Oh, Supes, your potential has always been limitless, so why in the actual f*ck do your games suck sooooo bad? The problem is exactly the fact that his power is nearly limitless, though. And you hear that question a lot: How do you make a game about a character with so many powers and still have it be challenging? The problem is that every dev who’s tackled the problem thus far has been thinking in the framework of conventional game design. They think they have to have a health bar, that there has to be a structured story, etc. These are tropes of the action game genre that have been around for ages, but for a character as iconic and powerful as Superman, they’re more of a prison than functioning design elements. So, how do we do justice (League) to the most OP hero in all of comicdom? Simple: represent him fairly in his own game.
We have Spider-men that swing, Batmen that stalk and detect, etc. Several industry-leading characters have had Hulking smash-hit franchises built around them because the characters’ powers, personalities and comic histories were honored to one extent or another. The most recent Insomniac-developed Spidey-game had those weird chem/tech puzzles, but people put up with them because they were quick, relatively simple, and the skill point rewards provided a tangible reason to engage in them, but most of all they were emblematic of the comic book Spider-Man we all know and love, the nerdy Pete who created his first web fluid using chemicals he lifted from his high school science lab. The puzzels may have annoyed some folk, but they fit the character so well that most people got over it and did them anyway.
The Batman Arkham and Insomniac Spidey games are the glorious works they are because rather than taking a game design and trying to fit a superhero into that framework, they took a beloved hero and designed the game around that hero. So, now to apply that principle to Supes! What do we know about him? Well, he’s invulnerable to almost all damage, meaning that a health bar is probably pointless. Sure, Kryptonite can sap him of his invulnerability, but superhero games often lean waaaay too heavily on devices like that to ratchet up a game’s difficulty and it usually comes across feeling fake and shoehorned. The knowledge of Superman’s vulnerability to Kryptonite has traditionally been held by a very narrow collective of individuals, including Batman and, of course, Lex Luthor. Batman has contingencies against all his super pals, including himself, but the whole reason that Lex never took his knowledge of Kryptonite to the Pentagon or UN or whatever was that Lex never let anyone else see his cards until he could maximize his profits from them. And Kryptonite as the only thing that can tame the closest thing Earth has to a God? There’s no way he’s giving that trump card up to anyone when he can maximize his profits from that knowledge, both financially and politically, by keeping that card close to his chest!
So we have an invulnerable superhero with a weakness that we should not exploit for cheap videogame challenge. What else do we know about him? He’s super-fast, super-strong, he can freeze things with his breath and even shoot lasers from his eyes… But all of these powers are, except in certain OP story arcs, innately limited. Except with his battle with Apocalypse, there has never been a competitor that has broken Superman unaided by Kryptonite. Yet all his other powers are generally shown to have limitations. From the perspective of game design, this is very good news! It means we can have him zip around large areas swiftly without making it some Goku-level instant transmission, we can have him lug around helicopters and large debris one at a time without enabling him to carry fifty of them at once, and we can have him freeze-delay large swaths of AI enemies without sacrificing the need to manage larger mobs.
But I’m doing a lot of round-about examination, which quite frankly is boring me now, so I’ll jump straight to the good stuff. What I propose is an open-world sandbox game where all hell is breaking loose across Metropolis and the surrounding areas. Supervillain “bosses” are running amok in specific segments of the city, dealing in their usual nefariousness, Lex has unleashed his private army upon Metropolis to defend against some alien threat or another in a bid to compete with Superman’s heroism (because of course, he is) and that leaves the city under siege. Superman can’t take any damage from almost anything, so the challenge isn’t about surviving enemy attacks, it comes from the simple fact that Superman, Clark Kent, is a good person who loves his family, friends, and country, and he doesn’t want to see his city and his home destroyed.
Something that the most recent Superman movies have completely missed out on in terms of Superman’s original character is that he’s just a guy with powers. He never wanted to be an outsider, he just wants to live and love like everyone else. Yet, as Stan Lee so famously penned, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and who is more powerful than Superman? This is an opportunity to see the humanizing side of Clark that we just don’t see in most of the big-budget stuff these days, as we follow him around, listening to his inner monologues and hear how he responds to the various threats to his home. This is a natural fit for a game all about saving a city and it’s people. As a sandbox game, you can go anywhere and do anything, so the onus rests upon the player to decide where he or she is needed most and to try to manage each crisis as quickly and safely as possible. Superman can’t be killed, but he can be too late, he can be knocked around or delayed or a million other things that can prevent him from saving the day. The player is basically rushing to save the city before the property damage-meter reaches 100%, because at that point, what the hell are you even trying to save, right? The city is in complete ruin!
And there’s not much else to it, really. Sure, the micro-designs of the particular enemies and the environments themselves, but it’s mostly a game about stopping two military forces and a handful of supervillains from destroying the city you call home. There’s no need for character upgrades or skill points, although some extra costumes to unlock are never a bad thing, and if we assume that we’re playing a younger Clark who has mostly just started his career, then we can avoid many of the plotholes that come with the comic arcs where he’s effectively flawless and all-powerful. (All-Star superman comes most quickly to mind, but there have been other arcs where his powers have become limitless.) Anyhow, as I mentioned above, I’ve had this game idea floating around my skull for years, now, but without working in the industry it’s a bit difficult to utilize such a brilliant design, eh? Ahh, c’est la vie… To be honest, I haven’t got the fortitude to work in a traditional employment setting anyway. I’m an ENTP, so I am to ideas what a nuclear generator is to energy, but it comes at the cost of being unable to focus too long on any one thing without getting bored, except when there’s more ideas to be generated from the material provided to me.
But the primary reason I even bring a licensed character’s game design up in the first place is that it feeds directly into this next game concept:
I started watching One Punch Man fairly recently. Yes, it’s been out for years now, but I wasn’t even interested until I saw an episode of Wisecrack Philosophy on YouTube where they were talking about genre deconstruction and highlighted that anime along with some others. At that point, I still hadn’t committed to watching it, but I did finally decide it was going on my mental list of things to check out in my (very rare) down-time. So when I finally brought it up on Netflix the other day (great intro, BTW) I was quite surprised at how funny and engaging the first few episodes have been. It probably helped that my bar of expectation was so low, to begin with. (Even I can’t think around every corner at all times, it doesn’t shame me to admit. But I can still think circles around most people. ) In any case, there was one scene in particular during the intro sequence that caught my attention more than any other. The main character, Steve or whatever his name was, leaps hundreds of feet into the air and boops a gigantic kaiju on the nose at mach 4 speeds. They did this really cool slow-motion effect of the kaiju’s face distorting and breaking from the force of the punch, too. It was really cool to see.
But it wasn’t long after seeing that, I asked myself how a game could incorporate that sort of action on that scale, and my mind immediately went back to my Superman game concept from years ago, the one I laid out above. Within the usual five to ten minutes, I had a fully fleshed-out concept involving a huge island with kaiju monsters that crawl out of the sea and begin slowly carving paths of destruction through the wilds, suburbs, and cityscapes of the fictional island. They move slowly and steadily toward the center of the island, where an experimental nuclear generator is pumping out radiation that not only draws their attention but also makes them stronger and more aggressive the closer they get. As with the superman game concept above, your character doesn’t have any health to worry about, the game is pure action, albeit in this instance your character is wearing an experimental cybernetic exo-armor suit that enhances his strength and speed, the closer he is to the power-generator at the center of the island. In similar fashion to the superman game concept, as well, you’d have a property damage-meter that shows how much damage the city has sustained, as well as a population meter to show how many lives have been lost to either the kaiju or the player’s own actions or negligence. The player is rewarded after each kaiju is killed, and the reward scales with the property damage, so the less property damage to the city, the more cash you’re rewarded with. The population meter, on the other hand, determines the number of potential emergency assistance personnel and researchers you have to assist you in various ways.
For example, the more researchers you have, the faster upgrades become available to you to purchase. These can be things like grappling hooks, energy blades, jet packs, etc. And each of those would have additional upgrade tiers, as well. Even the suit can be upgraded to be stronger and faster and to be able to operate at greater efficiency further from the power generator. Emergency personnel would be like fire trucks and fighter pilots who periodically bombard the kaiju with missile salvos. The number of fighter jets that will assist you and the frequency with which they do so is also based upon your pop counter, so the more people you save, the more help you get in putting out fires and fighting the kaiju. Additionally, the player can select higher difficulty modes, which add one more kaiju for each tier of difficulty. However, this has the gameplay effect of causing the power generator to pump out more radiation, meaning the player is stronger and faster further from the generator, affording him or her more time to get to and fight each kaiju, all of which rise from the ocean in different directions. Difficulty can be changed in the pause menu, and of course, it is explained in-game as the greater power-production attracting more monsters.
Anyhow, this is a good stopping point for now, I’ll be back a bit later to add more ideas I’m working on. Gotta grab some brain-fuel and walk ol’ Muttley, here. Feel free to leave feedback, but try not to be d!cks about it. I’m here to share my thoughts, I’m not looking for criticism.
There are a lot of City of Heroes clones coming out soon. City of Titans, Valiance Online, etc. Some of them are interesting enough but it seems like most of them are trying to recapture the magic of CoH without taking too many deviations from the established CoH formula. And that seems entirely silly, given the wealth of potentials inherent to the comic book superhero game genre. Some ideas I’ve had to push past the established CoH design fence:
- Completely classless system without leveling or character progression. Once people finalized their characters in CoH or any of its descendants, the’ve typically stuck with those characters. Superhero MMOs aren’t so much about progression as they are about players having a pallet and canvas with which to paint their own identity and story in the setting you provide. So I say ditch the levels altogether and create a completely classless system! If microtransactions are needed to sustain the project, the game can always have a costume parts store with a personality-rich character like Edna from the Incredibles offering wry witticisms from the side of the screen, maybe a bored, smarmy android or an absent-minded scientist who designs superhero costumes on the side to fund his research.
+Though classless, powers would be categorized according to origin (Mutation, Technical, and Arcanum) and also by role (Striker, Controller, Healer, and Tank) and would be combinable in any combination, yet limited by a point-based structure. Certain powers cost more creation points to possess, others cost fewer creation points, enabling players to have as many weaker powers and as many stronger powers as they’d like, so long as the point totals don’t exceed the allotted amount. In this way, players are given the tools to craft exactly the heroes they want to play as.
New powers could be added routinely to the list for free (Costumes are going to be the primary attraction in terms of microtransactions, anyway) and of course, character respecs would be permitted and even encouraged, with a loadout system enabling for multiple power-sets and costumes to be utilized from quick-change stations set around the game world. Powers would be highly customizable, allowing for wing-mutations to sprout from the back, arms or ankles, energy beam projections to be any number of colors, shapes, and forms as well as being projected from the palms, fists, forehead, eyes, mouth, chest, etc. The more options you give players, the more personal their creations can be.
Since the game wouldn’t have character progression, the emphasis would have to be on story-content and group play. In fact, the whole idea would be to create epic stories like you would find in comic books, requiring very particular sets of powers in some instances, although NPC support characters could always be leveraged for players who prefer to play solo. For example, let’s say the player is tasked with tracking down a thief who stole an arcane tablet from a museum. If the player doesn’t have an aura-sensing power, s/he can get another player to help out, or get an NPC mystic who is part of the plot to lend his or her services for a cost. The initial plot would require that traces of arcane power by detected and followed to the thief. If a player does this sub-task, however, bonus rewards are provided. Each story arch would have the type of gameplay required of them listed in the mission description given by the NPC or object that grants the mission, enabling players to play only the sort of missions that interest them. Such labels might include “Solo/Group Action”, “Mystery”, “Stealth”, “Character Story”, etc.
Made to be played on gamepads, please. Not everyone is a savant with a keyboard and mouse. If games like ESO and FFXIV can do it, so can anyone else. Just takes a little bit of thinking through. Besides, gamepads are better-designed for fast-paced reflex-gameplay. XD
The character creation points would be distributed along the lines of a four-part meter. As powers are selected, the point cost of the power in question is added to the meter, indicating how many point the player has remaining for selecting powers. The meter is 10 CPts high/long and segmented into four parts: four, three, two and one. These segments are for specialization, meaning that if the player only selects powers from one type of origin, they’ll get special benefits associated with that origin such as increases to the overall effectiveness of the power/ability in question, etc. The more the player specializes into one origin of powers, the better the benefits. Also, the same power can be selected multiple times, increasing its potency (And altering its visual effects to look more awesome) with each stack but also increasing the Energy-bar drain. Energy and health would be the only two meters and all characters would have a basic hand-to-hand melee attack and a grab action, meaning that characters who specialize entirely in the Super Strength power would be incredibly strong and could jump incredibly high, and run faster than most other characters, but could only use basic melee attacks and grapples in combat. Yet the sheer magnitude of the destruction such a character could cause would be pretty epic. A Super Strength Mutation would, of course, add to the character’s maximum health, as well, though not to the extent that a Super Endurance Mutation-power would have. A character who’s specialized in Tinkering Technical skill could hypothetically create custom power armors and such but would be almost useless in combat and the parts and blueprints required to make anything particularly cool would require enormous amounts of the Reputation or Credit currencies.
All characters would have a Secret Identity model they can customize. The Secret Identity feature can be made to look identical to the Super Hero form, however, if the player wishes the character to sacrifice its anonymity. Some missions would only be available to characters with a Secret Identity, while other missions require a Public Hero without any anonymity. Anonymous Heroes can only gain Reputation currency rewards, while Public Heroes can gain both Reputation and Credit currencies. Certain vendors only accept one type of currency or the other, and Public Heroes are on a registry that requires them to play certain Government-funded missions or pay a fine for noncompliance. This gives players the choice to obtain unique items and schematics for the cost of a little bit of occasional extra work, while also reinforcing a sense of real-world consequences for their choices.
speaking of consequences, the …Oops, just got called to dinner. I’ll continue this a bit later on.]