02 February, 2013

Playing with Genre Conventions

If you don't know that the Resident Evil movies are based (loosely) on a series of video games, then then are some points in the later movies where the origins are made abundantly clear. I don;t care whether you like the movies or don't, some say they deviate too far from the games to truly be considered a part of the franchise except for a few general character names and the same evil corporation...despite this, there are some nods to the origins at a few points.

[SPOILER ALERT] For example, there is a scene where the protagonist Alice finds a mass grave, where every body in the grave is a clone of herself. It's like a tongue-in-cheek reference to the way a game player might die over and over, simply respawning to attempt a level again. The most recent movie makes this idea clearer still.

It's a clever way of playing with the genre conventions of a computer game and transferring them into a new linear medium.

Since I'm drawing on the conventions of 8-bit console gaming for Voidstone Chronicles, I've been wondering about ways to add elements like save points and enforced linear storylines, while considering how "8-bit old school" I want the game to actually be.

In the earliest 8-bit games, a character might not get a choice of weapons, or they might get "sword", or maybe pick up a spear or axe along the way...nothing more. Equipment might come in the form of a range of two potions: one that replenishes health, and one that replenishes (or provides) magical energy. But I like a bit more variety in my games. In these early games, you don't even get much choice in your character...and this not only goes against a lot of my early work in the game, it also destroys one of the fun elements in roleplaying games.

One of the other inspirations for Voidstone Chronicles is settings like the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender. Worlds where the elemental forces of the world are manifest in the races, cultures and individual heroes.

That means Voidstone Chronicles won't be as "8-bit old-school" as I've been thinking over the past couple of days. But I'd still like to add in the notions of "save points" and "character resurrection".

I think I'm leaning further toward co-op play in arcade games (or early network PC games like "Doom" or the original "Diablo"). This can be addressed through conceits in the setting. Perhaps the characters are agents of the gods, when they enter holy places, they share a connection with their deities (and thus establish a save point), the gods may rewind time until the last occasion when their heroic agents made a connection...or maybe a fallen hero drops to the ground and respawns at their last visited holy site as the gods reform their agent in the mortal world.

Perhaps the heroes are spirits who animate golem-like creatures, and when their golem is destroyed they must return to a "golem workshop" to inhabit a new form. I'm not sure, this feels a bit contrived. I still think the idea of save points gives more of a console game, 8-bit vibe...but I'm not sure that's the right fit for the game.
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