If you could take your favorite game elements of all time and combine them into the ultimate digital experience – the one game to rule them all – what would it be? How would it work? Describe your digital nirvana, build your ultimate game from the still twitching parts salvaged from other titles.
Trying to find my perfect combination of game elements for Skinny Banter #1: Ultimate Game Mashup has proven to be a bigger task than I first realised. After some related soul-searching on the subjects of Meaningful Gameplay and the fact that MMOs have missed the point. I need to return to the roots of pen-and-paper RPGs and tabletop games to describe the essence of my gaming utopia.
The Spirit of Gaming
The real secret sauce to the likes of pen-and-paper systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, Cyberpunk 2020 and BattleTech wasn’t in the rules system, it was in granting a group of players the means to work together using their humour, creativity and wits to participate in epic tales about engaging characters. Every gaming session was an imagination workshop where encounters, challenges and confrontations were played out, leaving indelible memories as powerful as any classic movie scene, yet far more personal.
I want to recapture to magic of being able to create and explore worlds with my friends. Let us have the power to tell stories and to craft mythologies of our own. Give us a game experience which is tailored to the needs of friends without being forced to interact with strangers. Sometimes I want to be able to join my trusted friends to wander through a convincing virtual environment created by others (or even one of us) without fear of an immersion-shattering bunny-hopping gold seller/beggar/griefer.
This wouldn’t be a game about min/maxing and stats, it would be about stories and people – the real spirit of of the roleplaying game. So I’ll give it the working title of SPIRIT.
Neverwinter Nights made a good attempt at providing a powerful tool set (Aurora) to deliver a Dungeon Master-led gaming experience for a select group of players. Sadly it came saddled with the AD&D rule set, which is one of the most cumbersome and nonsensical RPG rule systems available and meant that all gameplay was restricted to the medieval fantasy Forgotten Realms narrative environment. The principle however, was genius and I will be ripping out some of Neverwinter Nights‘ vital organs for use in the SPIRIT system.
Garry’s Mod grew from Half-Life 2‘s Source engine to deliver a versatile tool set for users to deliver the game experience of their choosing. This would provide a perfect additional layer of tools which would provide far more customisation options for our nascent storytelling toolkit as well as realistic physics for the game world itself.
The Movies and The Sims will provide us with a fantastic multi-genre concept with its provision of sets, assets and characters to deliver convincing and varied game environments spanning historical, fantasy, contemporary and futuristic. There will also be a set-builder tool to allow the creation and importing of 3D assets to allow custom characters, props and objects. Powerful camera and recording tools will be included, enabling both the capture of adventures as they play out and the production of scripted machinima projects.
EVE Online‘s metagame community is an asset in itself, capable of producing an endless stream of quality content outside the game client. Such a fervent fan-base would be a huge boon to the SPIRIT project as they would undoubtedly produce a wealth of free content which would showcase the power and the versatility of the tool set.
Whilst SPIRIT will clearly benefit from the creations of a keen community of amateurs and budding games designers, officially licensed story packs, possibly from multiple studios including Funcom‘s The Secret World team, but also consider BioWare‘s Mass Effect writers, Valve‘s Half-Life team and The Witcher‘s CD Projekt RED.
These would set the standard for polish with finely-crafted experiences of immersive storytelling. These premium DLCs will be finished packs with bespoke audio, art assets and story which could deliver a single-player, co-operative or massively multiplayer experience across a variety of game universes.
The end result would be a powerful and versatile modular gaming package which would scale to the needs of the user. At one end it would open a doorway to a multitude of single-player or co-op immersive episodes in a genre of personal preference at the other it would set the stage for a grassroots creative community with access to a simple but powerful software development kit.
The key would be in the scalability of every aspect, from networking to content. There would be game content for single players, exclusive groups and inclusive communities. It could allow for offline solo gaming, classic RPG party experiences and networked commercially-managed MMO environments. Content would range from user-created to licensed material. Participation would be anything from consumer to creator.
For me, SPIRIT would reclaim the real power of meeting up with friends to play a role in a mutually created game experience. But for you, it might be something entirely different. Essentially, this would be the system to let you create your Ultimate Game Mashup for real.