Saturday, September 26, 2009

Music as a source of inspiration, Part 1: Lost Coastlines

Many things inspire specific game ideas for me. In fact, hardly a day goes by without some crazy, ill-thought-through idea planting its seed in my head. It normally starts with a desire to create a feeling or an emotion. For example, today I was watching a film called Speed Racer (surprisingly good actually) and I wanted to recreate the thrill of racing at absurd speeds requiring stupid reaction times where you had to jump, spin and smash your way to victory. I had even started mapping out the controls and how the single player would work by the time the film ended.

In the following two posts, I will be outlining a couple of game ideas that have been inspired by pieces of music. As with everything else, what normally happens for me is that it conjures up an image in my head, that then translates in to a game play concept.

The first song is an obscure song that was released on the Single of the Week offer run by iTunes. The song is called Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River (Spotify Link). My idea started at the end of the game, I, however, will start at the beginning.

It is a RPG of sorts set on the seas back when wind was the main means of getting around. At the start of the game, you have a simple choice, are you a right honourable sailor, or a pirate? You then arrive in a port and you are tasked with choosing a crew for your ship (which you inherited from your father who died at sea). In the port there would be about 100 people. (This is where the fact that I don't intend to build this in the coming weeks comes in to play): Each one of these would have a in depth and varied history and personality.

The basic game play would consist of a number of potentially unrelated quests separated by expanses of time. This comes back to an idea I discussed on GD.net, with a more "real" world and potential for more varied quests. I'll do a post why I think this kind episodic game play could work at some other point, however, it is not really relevant to this post.

If you're listening to the song, you are probably wondering, other than the vague sea theme, how the song inspired me to make this. In truth, most of what I just said existed before I heard the song, the sea theme is what made the following element glue with the rest of it.

Through out the game, there would be vague hints, mad ravings and general NPC chatter about a "Lost Coastline". At the start of the game, I imagine most players will completely ignore it. However, I hope, as the game develops, and the references are repeated, people will pick up on it. There would be stories of sailors who went mad looking for the coastline, there would be hysterics who claim to have seen it etc. The only thing in common is that everyone who knows anything about it, says it is the most beautiful place ever and that no sailor has been known to return.

Once you complete the game, as with many RPGs, you are free to continue looking around. It would be an open world in which you spend most of your travelling time auto sailing between ports and using maps to find known destinations. However, it will be perfectly possible to freely sail anywhere. Somewhere in the vast sea of the game, there will be the Lost Coastline (of course) and players can try to find it.

At first you are probably repelled by the idea as being cheap. However, if it were easy to find, the whole point would be destroyed. I also regard it as in addition to the main game; for most people, the game will end without more than a cursory search. As it will be so hard to find, I envisage a giant internet cult spawning to try to find this beautiful lost coastline (I love designing without reality messing things up!).

Then one day someone will find it, and it will be a beautiful experience for them. They would be the first person to set foot on the lost coastline. The first person to see all the wonder. True discovery is something that few in the 21st century have experienced. I would employ an artist specially to create it (who would be killed after development is finished, obviously) While I have mapped out what will happen, I don't really feel comfortable typing it out. Suffice to say it would poetic, or at least try to be.

Afterwards the person would run and tell the internet all about it and everyone would rush there, but the magic would be lost. But for that one person, I (hopefully) would have created a unique experience that they will treasure for the rest of their life.

Inevitably, it would be found by some stupid spoilt kid who played the game for five minutes, constantly tried to skip the damn thing because he was bored, until he found out he would be internet famous, but that's life!

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Now playing: Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines
via FoxyTunes

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