Saturday, January 03, 2009

Pod People

Over at the BGDF, Seth posted a blurb about a co-op/traitor game, based on Reservoir Dogs. While everyone loves a good backstabbing divide-the-loot game, I'm not sure how adding a traitor element to something like this would "feel." Sure, there's a lot of traitor-ish games out there, and technically you could just easily boil out a lot of the space opera of Battlestar Galactica and retheme the game, but I'm not sure it would feel right. In others words, it's a strange thematic paradox. Mostly because in a game themed around everyone being thieves, EVERYONE is supposed to be a backstabbing bastard, not just one guy.

Plus, there's something about the EPIC SIZE of the goal of a game of BSG, and to a lesser extent Shadows over Camelot, offer. In the case of BSG, the storyline is nothing short of saving the entire human race. The themetic power of being a traitor against that cause is, well, powerful. Being a tratior is a roomful of untrusty, slightly off-kilter thieves isn't as impressive. And to make matters worse, if the goal really is to take the most loot, then everyone is sort of working against each other anyway, there's no real reason to trust each other to begin with. Traitors need the opposite, the complete need to trust to work together to a common goal, not an individual one, for the traitor goal to succeed.

Converting the theme on it's head a bit, and making it something like old school Mission:Impossible, where a team is working together, and that, to me, makes it more interesting, if only because everyone is supposed to be working together. The traitor is truly a traitor at this point. Granted, this is a stupid theme change, and nothing more, but I think that in traitor/co-op games the theme is important in defining the role and motivation of the traitor; more important really, than the applied theme of most games.

Somewhere at the half-way point of this theme, is probably the hero-thief archetype, ala the Ocean 11 movies (old school or new school, it doesn't matter), or really any heist theme where the criminals are presented as the heroes.

Digressing a bit...

Currently, most co-op games really are just re-themed disaster movies. By this, I think Bruno Faidutti thematically got it right with Red November; a bunch of players thrown into a situation where an escalating bunch of things constantly, randomly going off in their way and trying to deal with it as best. Perfect for a submarine disaster game.

What is a core theme to the M:I and Ocean 11 movies is not really the sense of trust amongst the team of individuals, but the unfolding of the clever, ridiculously complicated plan of the people we are following. What would be interesting, from a design goal standpoint, is a game where it's not a bunch of random obstuctions (like the seeming never-ending stream of ghosts in Ghost Stories), but instead, there's a random world created with a goal, and all the players figure some way to "solve" the world, but this requires some percision of various players needing to be doing X at Y in the timelime at location Z, for another player to do something. Sure, little random bumps can occur along the way to get in the way, but the focus should be on developing and trying to maintain a long term plan, and not simply, "How do we put out the newly created fire at location ZZZ."

And the final digression...

As I spent some time mulling around in my head why I didn't feel that traitors don't work well as a game element in a Reservior Dogs world, I happened across the classic movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And it got me to thinking a slightly different approach.

(For those uninitiated, Body Snatchers involves "space pods" that perfectly clone a human, and then when you sleep, they absorb your thoughts and memories, and then mysteriously somehow displose of your body. The Pod People, then join the rest of the Pod People, spreading the pods around, secretly (or not so secretly) converting people, knowing full well that eventually, they'll fall asleep. Generally, Pod People are pleasant enough, only because they only thing they lack is emotion, so while there is no hate, or greed, there isn't any love or God either. Even though they do have an abundance of "converting to be like us is the greatest thing in the world" moxie. In the end, Pod People wind up sort of just being the same person, just with different physical shells, and that's why you don't want to be one, I suppose.)

As with most traitor/co-op games, there's the team, and then the potential tratior, who conspires against the team against them completing the goal. But those roles, once selected never really change.

What if the goal was more internal? In the case of a Body Snatchers game, the team is trying to do "something," whatever that may be. Getting out of town, finding a cure, whatever. But the real goal belonged to the tratior, and that would be infecting all of the other players, turning them into pod people, who then join his side? All of this is would have to be done somewhat secretly.

In my imagination, it would have to work generally like this: every player would have a set of traits that would be decreasing, low traits man bad things happen, a zeroed out trait means death. Traits could be replenished with some kind of supplies like FOOD, WATER, or SLEEP and whatever else. It is randomly decided at the start of the game which supply actually can cause the conversion (and maybe one of the goals of the team is to determine the cause somehow). Once players have been secretly converted to Pod People they can poison the supply further, and obviously "help" other players to convert to their cause. The game would be designed with the need to replenish your traits often, and hopefully paranoia would settle in as players are strangely offering help, and presumably making slightly different perceived actions once they are converted.

Of course, the hard part in all of this is handling the secret conversions so that true humans don't know where they stand. I never said it was going to be easy...

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home