Idea

I want a new, good, wrestling game.

tl;dr in bold.

I don’t remember what started it, but I’ve been thinking about wrestling games a lot lately. It started before I even saw the highly entertaining video from Max Landis, rebutting the bewilderment of people who don’t enjoy wrestling, citing wrestling isn’t real. I haven’t watched wrestling in over a decade. But wresting video games? From Nintendo Pro Wrestling, to WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64, they were fun, especially with friends. And especially in later games when you could team up with your favorite wrestlers to wreak havoc on other players. But after a few duds, I stopped playing them. From the reviews I’ve found of recent wrestling games they haven’t progressed as I would’ve imagined.

It’s important to note that wrestling games have one are in which they’e always reigned supreme – character creation. From early N64 games allowing combining of different wrestler’s body parts and palette-swapping, to more modern wrestling games giving in-depth cutomization and flair other games only dream of. Many of them even allow general move sets and highly specialized moves (akin to Mortal Kombat’s finishing moves.) But the fighting isn’t the most important part. The character drama and plots, the key parts Max Landis touched on, have not been made more interactive. From the reviews I see of recent wrestling games their “career campaigns” have become heavily scripted, giving a near-linear story experience, scaled back from previous games.

We’re in the time of Shadow of Mordor; games should at least have a fraction of the procedural storytelling found in an Elder Scrolls games. What, you want to complain about dealing with data? Crusader Kings 2 has a huge amount of data. Thousands of NPCs have constantly evolving opinions on each other and the player based on several metrics and attributes. That game is often played at several-updates per second, with major changes happening in any update. And the players are rarely of any of those opinions, much less the changes that result in them. But a wrestling game? In this proposed kind of game whose primary draw is drama is predicated upon character attributes that are changed once every ten minutes or so isn’t heavily mapping that data in a way to facilitate more dramatic and interesting gameplay is a crime.

Players (as a new character or an established wrestler) should go through a couple of events (broadcasted shows) a week, each one offering the player an established fight schedule, and the opportunity to interact with other wrestlers. In interacting with other wrestlers, the player’s actions should generate friends and nemeses which leads to plots for the night and generally larger character arcs for them.

Like Crusader Kings II, give each wrestler a data table that indicates how they currently feel about other wrestlers. Add in a popularity meter with the faux audience, and how good/bad the audience views them, and this provides a lot of options for procedural storytelling. Add in the physical traits, and even personality traits to tag the player with that only matter behind the scenes, and things could get even more interesting. If you create a quick, small, luchadore-style wrestler with a zen attitude, the game can trend toward different angles of other wrestlers that you fight against.

The player can be given easy onscreen cues about these things. Presented as a TV show, you can have announcers say another wrestler’s name, talk about their character, standing (good/bad) and have the audience sheer/boo to show his popularity (100/-100). Players should be able to attack, insult, honor (press X to pay respect), challenge, offer to help, or ask for help. But to make it less of a random jump by button pressing every chance you get? Only let a wrestler initiate with another wrestler if their target is 10 or fewer points above the initiator, or 30 points or fewer below the initiator. You could expand this range by raising your popularity, and accomplishments like winning the title. A champ might get a larger group of on-comers and a wider berth to mess with others.

Help a bad guy? You trend from good (face) to bad (heel). Become a champ and help a good guy with low popularity? You could lose some poplarity, but the neophyte gains more and that person starts to like you. If you’re in good standing with someone, offer to create a team or stable of wrestlers who often work together! Or for no reason than to cause drama and maybe raise your notoriety? Stab them in the back!

And if you liked wrestling games in the past, or can just imagine fun fighting? Imagine being able to do that with four players, or even online. I can easily imagine a pay-it-forward style of gameplay in which playing A finishes their match, then player B, then player C, etc. for a large number of players. Even let them schedule it at a certain day/time like a real wrestling event, so they could all interfere with each other. There’s no reason you couldn’t run an entire federation full of players if you want to go turn-based (except for matches between players) with a few slots for spectators.

The big secret to this? In TV, when someone makes a big deal about airing something completely unrelated to the Super Bowl during the same timeslot, and makes a big deal about it? It’s called “counter-programming”. You don’t compete; you go completely against the people your opponents are going for. I think WWE has made such a big deal out of their roster (whom I respect) that this game doesn’t have to be about the roster. This doesn’t have to be a WWE game. Honestly, if a new Tecmo World Wrestling* was released with a bunch of fun characters, customization tools, fun wrestling, and a robust career mode? I genuinely think they could run a good “counter-programming” campaign, and rake in some cash.

*Also acceptable: Nintendo Pro Wrestling, Saturday Night Slam Masters, or entirely new IP. Imagine a Capcom or Square-Enix wrestling game. I can.

Armchair Quarterback
game
Gaming's future
Idea
Uncategorized

Comments (0)

Permalink

Portal Online

The tl;dr of what I want in a new Portal game can best be summed up by reading the lines in bold. If you’re bored, have a read!

Today HTC announced they’d partnered with Valve for the Vive headset (part of HTC’s “re” product line, so, re:Vive). Obviously the thoughts quickly turn to software for it. With Valve being the partner, Portal came up in a post I was reading. (Imagine sailing through the air in first person.) It always felt like Portal 2’s online component didn’t take off like Valve wanted, so, let me pitch a Portal 3, or at least a Portal Online. The chief decision in my choices is that it should be a game with continued updates, like DOTA2, CSGO, and TF2. And even better would be allowing it to rely on community support for content, but still allow financial opportunities for the developer that seem fair to players.

The important part? Each server is a testing facility. The person who runs the server (herein owners) should get a large series of options to better fine tune the experience for players. And this will present financial opportunities for Valve AND for the community members that contribute to the game. Also important is offering several non-required elements for players to improve their experience. Let’s look at those items first.

1. Maps – Highly rated maps should be vetted for inclusion on the marketplace if the creator wants. A very small minimum price should be required. ($0.25?) This pays for the evaluation of maps, as well as hosting, and should benefit the map maker. However, server owners should be able to run maps from outside of the marketplace, just without a logo of approval in server lists.

2. Player components – Players need to be differentiated. Playing as the people unfrozen at the end of Portal 2, suits and colors are a solid start, but offering new purchases (maybe play as robots, especially if done in components) could do well. Components, suits, colors, sounds, and mini-actions are never integral, but can be used as random drops as well as purchasables. Much like TF2, each server can do its own, or abide by the official list.

3. Personality cores – And here’s where it gets a little more interesting.

Server owners will choose a “GLaDOS”-like AI to run their testing facility. You can start by giving players a few basic free options like some of the personality cores from Portal 1 & 2. Imagine bounding across giant gaps with Rick, the Adventure Sphere from Portal 2, urging you on. To triumph in the face of danger! Or imagine a dark room with flickering lights, with the hiss of the evil red sphere from Portal 1. Then it snarls violently as a piston came from the ceiling and tried to smash you. (Or RuXx Emma Thompsonor even actress Emma Thompson who narrated Will Ferrell’s life in Stranger Than Fiction.) Even allow players to fashion their own personality cores and offer them for free download, the better ones vetted and placed in the marketplace.

Each Personality core recording (that costs money in the marketplace) should have story hooks built in for story arcs that rise and fall that trigger X maps into the server. The important part is different script portions that can be used by map makers and communicate the same information in a way specific to that personality core. The types of script needed to be used in the procedural story would be “introduction”, many “normal chamber” lines, appropriate “going away” scripts, and “re-introduction” recordings as well. Why? Each server starts with the introduction. Then the owner’s chosen chambers progress normally. But with the first Valve Update, GlaDOS takes control of the owner’s test chamber from the owner’s personality core, runs a few levels (introducing updates), then the owner’s AI regains control. Maybe GLaDOS patches in via network. Maybe it’s a copy. Maybe the two AIs are battling; maybe they’re working together. That’s not important here.

It’s only really important that personality cores in the marketplace have the appropriate generic audio recordings that maps will assume and reference. The lion’s share will be the large variety of “normal chamber” recordings, but Valve Updates would include maps that would use rare plot advancement hooks that would be required of all personality cores on the marketplace. Those would be the “going away” and “re-introduction” scripts. During the update we may get a new paint color (a la Portal 2) or world item (enemy units, new world mechanics, etc.). Maybe you could even let users trade off cores with the right audio hooks. Maybe some servers wouldn’t care and just want tons of levels.

Another important factor is that while the server owner decides the order of the chambers, this is not TF2. There is no automatic progress. Each chamber needs to be instanced when a player arrives in it. If a chamber already exists, a player should be joined with whoever is currently running that chamber on the server. In the elevator at the beginning of a chamber) players should be able to go the previous puzzle, or restart the current one. “Next chamber” should be possible in exit elevators, as well as beginning elevators if you’ve already completed the current chamber. Servers should track player progress, like they currently do for non-standard TF2 items, so you can easily get back to the chamber you belong on. But people should be able to backtrack and help, if they want. If you get to chamber 2, and I join the server for the first time, I start in chamber 1. Server voice and text chat could be passed off as communicating on a network.

So, players can buy suits, components, colors, sounds, and actions that spread across servers. Server owners can buy AI personality cores to personalize their server, and maps to use in their servers. And occasionally Valve sends updates that temporarily take over servers and seamlessly advance the world.

That’s the Portal Online I’d be happy with. Also, you get two O’s in the logo. POrtal Online. One blue and one orange!

Armchair Quarterback
game
Idea

Comments (0)

Permalink

Armchair Quarterback: OnLive

Is armchair quarterbacking useful? I don’t know. Probably not. But it’s fun. So I wrote this long expansive article that I’m not going to bother publishing here because it’s cumbersome. Let me hit the bullet points.

Problems
OnLive’s business plan emphasized streaming, which was an open-ended cost, but did not actively make money after a game’s purchase. Their CEO Steve Perlman? He was human, and seems to have made some really bad decisions, like kicking EA’s games off the service before launch, and others. Virtualization was not uniform, meaning some games actually requires one real GPU for each instance generated by a player. Finally, latency was a threefold problem: The perception that the Internet was too slow for this, the reality of broadband penetration, and then monitor/kbm/gamepad latency, which people generally don’t acknowledge, and assume it’s your service. That part really sucks. But the key in latency is that it’s not as bad as you think. It’s actually playable.

Income/Cost
I’m not even going to factor in set-top boxes. I’m focusing on PC here, so let me state that now. Retailers generally make about $12.00 per game, but the average gamer, if they did all their gaming on OnLive, would cost about $33.80 annually for streaming. ($0.10 for two hours of HD footage for Netflix as a baseline. Then figure 13 hours a week gaming.) So you’d need to sell three games per year at $60.00, and then you’d only make $2.20 per year per gamer. What does this mean? Streaming will not be a top priority out of the gates.

Controllers can be found for a buck each on Alibaba.com, but we want a good one, so, let’s throw $8.00 at each one. (They cost Microsoft $11.00 in 2006, and I assume the price has gone down. But we don’t want shit controllers, and we want our own brand, so let’s say $8.00. If you can find a hardware manufacturer that wants in with you, then you can save money and feature their brand.

Then you have to worry about salaries, hardware, rent, and other costs of business. I have no idea what that’s going to cost, but, it’ll be a lot.

The Armchair
I like the idea of OnLive. Very much. No more upgrading your PC, no more buying console after console, any device, just games. Let me repeat that. Just games. But we have to build to that. I think the (a?) problem is that they pushed themselves as a console competitor first, with a set top box, when they should have framed themselves as a Steam competitor and expanded from there. GOG launched to much fanfare when they came out, and they had an angle, “Good, old games, DRM free!” Simple and great!

No streaming. Not at first. First I launch as a store with easily navigable social features (Steam hasn’t done that yet) and integration to FB, Twitter, G+, whatever. The client should offer screenshots, an integrated XMPP IM client (Jabber, Google Talk/gchat), and the ability to record videos. Try to be lightweight as much as possible. But the key is to be the Apple to Valve’s Linux. Be stylish.

My OnLive’s sales angle? A free controller with your first $60.00 purchase. Given the $12.00 profit from the purchase, and the $8.00 controller cost, that gives us $4.00 for shipping (which is a little over $1.00, but we’ll call it $2.00). So, on our first sale to each address/credit card/email we make roughly $2.00.

With each controller, pack in a coupon for a free indie game that makes good use of the controller, and has DLC available now, and more coming soon in the pipeline. For each copy you give away, pay the developer $3.00. They make less on each copy, but likely get a lot of interested parties to try to sell DLC to. It’s probably worth it for them. (And it’s definitely cheaper than my other idea for a controller pack-in, a $5.00 coupon on your next $60.00 purchase. A free game with DLC has the opportunity to net you extra cash that way.) So with our second purchase we make $9.00, plus a cut of DLC.

So now gamers have two games in your client, and a spiffy controller. At least one game has DLC on the regular. How do you keep that going?

Cloud gaming, and Mac/Linux/iOS/Android clients. For $10.00 a month, you offer a cloud streaming of any game you own through the client for any platform. Click purchase and play. For $15.00 you get a digital locker too. For $25.00, add a cloud server for any game you want. It doesn’t even have to be one you own with the service. We install it for you.

Maybe, a year into it, we move to the TV with a set top box. Six months maybe, but that’s only if we’re a success. Until then, open a community to help people best make their own TV media servers.

And if you ran OnLive?

Armchair Quarterback
Game Industry
Gaming's future
Idea

Comments (0)

Permalink