As I briefly touched on in this article, the one thing common to every gamer I know is that they all have at least one revolutionary, brilliant, perfect and heartbreakingly unrealized "I Have a Game" concept: some combination of elements, some untapped property or some new direction for a sequel that just never got made, but would shake the gaming world to the core if it did. The single greatest tragedy in gaming isn't what that manipulative bitch Peach is doing to poor Mario's heart; it's that, though we will get endless iterations of Call of Battle: Duty Field from now until the heat death of the universe, we'll never see these masterpieces get made.
But fuck that noise: This is the Internet. This is where dreams come true, even (hell, especially) the awful ones. Why can't we have these? Indie games have more of a market than ever, talented designers are increasingly going freelance and Kickstarter and similar programs are disseminating funding outside of the old publisher model. All we need is a big enough platform to publish our ideas and somebody with the will and ability to take advantage of them. Well, I've got the platform right here, and everybody reading this right now has the ideas. So somebody, for the love of God, please -- take advantage of us.
6A Zombie Game Done Right
This being the Internet and all, I'm sure people are going to generally crap all over and ruin everybody else's wonderful game ideas. Me being a part of the Internet and all, I'm sure I'm actually going to be the first one to do it. But it seems unfair for me to shoot down anybody else's I.H.A.G. idea without putting my own out there for mockery. So here's the one I'm waiting for: the perfect zombie game.
What? Guys, what?! Jesus, stop booing! I'm a person, too! I have feelings! AND THEY HURT SO BAD RIGHT NOW.
I know, I know, zombie games are totally played out nowadays, which is why I find it so amazing -- with the absolute glut that we've all endured over the last decade -- that nobody ever even tried to make one right. There were some good ones, sure: RE4, Dead Rising, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare and so forth -- but there's one very simple, very appealing aspect of the zombie apocalypse that nobody has sufficiently addressed.
The "apocalypse" part.
Source.Which is weird, right? Seems like it'd be hard to miss the end of the whole world.
We don't love zombies because of the monster: We love zombies because of the unique scenario the monster creates. Zombies are just slower horror versions of the bandits from The Road Warrior, or stupider versions of the vampires from I Am Legend. (The book. We will not now and shall never discuss the Will Smith "movie" version.) And yet every zombie game takes place with you either trying to prevent or fighting your way through the zombie apocalypse. They should be taking place, say, a year after it. A year after the large-scale fighting has died out; after the survivors have been whittled down; after what few people are left have already executed their survival plans and are now just dealing with the fallout in a world of the undead.
My perfect zombie game would be an open world one, in the style of Grand Theft Auto IV or the Saints Row series, but with an emphasis on completeness instead of size. See, I think the ambitious scale of open world games these days is actually a weakness. They create vast play areas, sure, but they're ultimately empty and inaccessible. I know that's a matter of hardware and design limitations -- you can't satisfactorily model the inside of every building in LA with current hardware and realistic resources -- but why hasn't anybody scaled down? Instead of creating a two-dimensional theater backdrop of New York City, why not give us every living, breathing inch of Small Town America? A little backwoods city with a modest downtown area, surrounded by a bit of suburb and wilderness, and every inch of it totally realized. You can't tell me we can build World of Warcraft but we can't nail down a decent facsimile of Redmond, Oregon. Give me a small town in the country, with every room in every building built out, as much of it interactive as possible, and the whole damn thing just friggin' lousy with the undead.
Source.Like, objectively just too many undead. So many they don't even have stuff to do anymore; they just loiter.
You start out with a home base and some resources, but your job isn't to save mankind or rescue the Zombie President's daughter or anything so grandiose. Your job is just to start retaking the town however you see fit. Maybe that means you find the other survivor bases and meet up with them, or take them out, or work together to build some new ones. Maybe you cordon off the top floors of all the buildings downtown, nail the doors shut, demolish the stairways and lay planks from building to building to create a rooftop outpost. Or maybe you clear out the local Walmart and have yourself a massive concrete bunker complete with vital Hot Pockets and subpar jean caches.
Source.That game would be called America: Faded Glory.
In general, I would put the focus more on complete interaction with a small environment instead of partial interaction with a large environment, and shift the mood from pure action to strategy/survival. Sure, you'll probably have some intense moments with zombies clawing at the windows as you unload a shotgun in every direction -- but most of the game will be about carefully making sure that scenario never happens.
So, it's like Grand Theft Auto meets Left 4 Dead, with a hefty dose of Minecraft mixed in. But here's the kicker -- here's how you could extend the replayability to infinity: You swirl in just the tiniest dash of Animal Crossing.
Haha, what? Do I want to see Tom Nook torn apart by an undead cartoon hippo?
Of course. The miserly bastard pays how many bells for a shell? This one has motherfucking rainbow swirls, you cheap son of a bitch. The fires of hell should warm your breakfast.
"Stop! Just take it. JUST TAKE YOUR POUND OF FLESH, NOOK."
But that's not what I'm talking about: I'm talking about stealing one of Animal Crossing's online mechanics, wherein you exchange a code with another player that allows them entrance to your town (and vice versa). Because in my tragically fantastical zombie game, what you've chosen to do with your town changes everything completely. Walking into somebody else's play area, even if it started out the same, would be a wholly different experience. Did they hole up in the library, too? Or did they move underground and seal off the sewers? Do they even have a home base, or do they just camp in the woods and keep moving? Did they corral all the zombies together in the Costco and routinely drive a Zamboni through the aisles just to thin out the crowd a little? Or did they go completely mad with isolation and just build a giant, towering metal cock out of the rusting husks of destroyed vehicles?
How It Could Be Ruined:
Nobody would buy it, and you would therefore have nobody to play it with, because seriously: More fucking zombies, man? Ugh. They're just done.
How It Could Be Even More (Unrealistically) Amazing:
If you didn't have to trade codes at all; if the town was semirandomized and every single instance was unique, all linked together by short expanses of highway. There's no way the computing power exists for that, I know, and if it did, the connectivity issues would be staggering. But that's what the word "unrealistically" is doing up there. Because oh, shit, how cool would it be if that were possible? You finally conquer the horde in your city and get bored, so you just hit the road, hopping from town to town, encountering, bartering or butting heads with other survivors. Maybe you find somebody whose strategy is way better than yours, so you form a raiding party and go after their resources. Or maybe you're won over by their superior way of thinking, and you decide to permanently join up with the Grand and Esteemed Order of the Metal Cocktower ...
5A Horror Game That Understands Subtlety
A horror game that isn't at all marketed as a horror game and you could conceivably go through the entire thing and not experience a single ounce of horror apart from perhaps a slight feeling as you're playing that something isn't right with this game world. However, if you go away from the main quest or whatever horrible creepy shit goes down and you realize that as you were playing this game that there was always this horror lying just underneath the surface and you never even saw it until just now and OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL.
Or perhaps similar to that idea a game that is completely normal the first time you play through it again, just a sense of "something peculiar is up and I don't know what it is" and then you get the horror coming through on subsequent play-throughs. You'd need some sort of incentive to do multiple play-throughs, though, maybe something like a promise of multiple endings.
Why It's Awesome:
Subtlety is perhaps the single rarest virtue in any form of modern media. For example, I've always wanted to see CestMoi's exact concept done as a movie: A film that seems maybe slightly unsettling at first, like the overall atmosphere is just a little strange and tense, but it's only if you pay really close attention that you see all the details of true horror in the background. Things like monsters lost in the crowd, reflections that subtly don't match up, things scurrying in the shadows -- but the movie itself never focuses on them. It never explicitly even mentions them until the end. Although CestMoi is right, of course, in that it would be even more killer as a game. A sort of Eternal Darkness that only becomes a horror game after multiple play-throughs, when you start chasing after those monsters you didn't notice in the crowds, or finally exploring what was on the other side of that door with the weird scratches that you've passed by a million times ...
How It Could Be Ruined:
The audience. Obviously, it would be spoiled to hell in the first week, and probably memed into irrelevance by the second. But more importantly, subtlety isn't prevalent in our media precisely because we as an audience just don't have time for it. You'd essentially be asking a dev team to create a somewhat boring game first and hide an amazing one underneath it. That sounds amazing in theory, but I have a few hours a week to play games, if I'm lucky. If the first hour of your game is my character depositing checks at the bank to set up the "normalcy" of the scenario, I'm sure as hell not playing the second hour. And the whole thing hangs on that -- on building a convincing normality and then subtly violating the sanctity of it. We all live normality every day anyway; who wants to play that shit, too? You give us the tiniest bit of freedom in a video game and the first thing we do is jump an ice cream truck through the front door of the police station. A subtle horror game would be trying to set up the atmosphere and we'd all be off in the corner, hitting the squat button and giggling because it looks like our butts are in the teller's face. I mean, it could be done, of course. Normality could be made intriguing long enough to subvert it, but the balance needed to maintain interest while essentially playing through a disposable main plot would take an absolutely masterful horror writer.
How It Could Be Even More (Unrealistically) Amazing:
If they actually got a masterful horror writer to write the damn thing. Seriously, video games, most writers I know work pretty cheap -- why do you keep giving scripting duties to the drunkest intern? Chad's a good guy and all, but his character sketches for "the guy with REALLY big hands" are just not all that scary.