The appropriate leveling mechanisms for freeform interactive projectile simulations as opposed to linear point systems inside closed systems regardless of skill. (Or: “Called it!”)

In these days of Minecraft, IndieGoGo/Kickstarter, Steam, and online markeplaces on console, it would be easy to say that small/indie developers are where the innovation lies. That the AAA games are just refinement, over revolution. Well, I can think of one idea, relatively easy to implement, that would let any game (AAA or indie) greatly benefit from emergent gameplay. It’s easily demonstrated in FPS’, but really any game with shooting mechanics could do it, and it especially could benefit the open world games that AAA developers love to make.

Calling your shot – Let players tag their target. Just, let them point, hit a button, and have that target marked in some fashion. From there, the possibilities expand exponentially.

1. Skill: If they hit it, dependent upon size, speed, view, power of shot, maybe even weather and penalty of missing given other nearby targets? Give them some kind of recognition or bonus. Hell, give players skill points for using that skill.

I never really used a bow in Oblivion, instead preferring to cleave enemies with an axe. But there was one time I did… When I saw deer. It was natural. It was primal. When I saw a deer, I pulled out my bow, snuck as close as possible, and shot. Invariably my sucky skill meant the deer lived, which meant I had to chase the deg through the first, completely forgetting whatever I was in the middle of. It was like they were purposely meddling with my fun with their… Fun!

2. Challenge: It was just like taking to a rooftop in GTA, pulling out your sniper rifle, and plugging interesting looking civilians. It was a shooting gallery, and I had tools to shoot with. How could you NOT save your game and occasionally do it?

Of course eventually police would come, increasing in number and strength, and eventually take you out. (Usually.) But man what fun it was, plugging a citizen going about their way, and seeing the chaos that ensued.

3. Self-defined Narrative: The key to emergent gameplay is that the player brings it with them. And that’s never more evident than when done with intent. But if you pick out the target, and tell the player why it needs to be done, then there’s no wiggle room. Instead, Let players mark people/places things, and let them tag them as important for themselves, for whatever reason.

Emergent gameplay gave us “zombie” in Halo 3, when it emerged from Halo 2 players consciously creating the rules from thin air. Oblivion gave extra damage if you shot a target while unseen, making initiative on a target worthwhile. GTA had instant kills with headshots.

These are just a few evident ideas that come with letting the player point at things. That’s all I’m suggesting, really. And anyone, AAA or indie, can do it.

Lines edited out of this post:
-Fact: I would’ve been trying to balance apples on the heads of Cyrodiil’s guards.
-Many games check for regional shots/damage. A game could even go so far as to let players highlight not only targets, but regions of targets.
-Imagine an action game that lets you press select/back, pauses the gameplay, and gives you a freeform camera to zoom around and pick your own target, then you get to try for it.
-Maybe a game with one player as the spotter, and the other as the shooter/sniper. Or a game where both players “mark” the other’s target, and they have to chase it down. (Instead of killing each other.)


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Mortal Kombat, the Grimdarkening

Remember Mortal Kombat: Rebirth?

Now the director behind that short, Kevin Tancharoen, says his pitch has been turned down. But he’s not letting that stop him! He’s going pirate, doing ten web-episodes on the riff, including Michael Jai White returning as Jax. Of course it remains to be seen if Warner Bros. will attempt to stop him from using their IP… (Update: misunderstanding… Ignore that.)

Released online June 7th, 2010, the general consensus on the short was overwhelmingly positive. People are comfortable enough with remix culture that we don’t mind seeing a completely new take on an idea (and characters) that are well established. The short reintroduces us to characters, redefining them in a unique, albeit grimdark, way. Instantly plenty of other sites and forums had their own ideas. Here are some of mine, and some others I found online.

Liu Kang: Liu Kang’s parents agreed to be smuggled into the US by Shang Tsung, hoping for a better life, with promises that they could work off the debt. Unknowingly, they were selling themselves into slave labor. After he was born, he was smuggled back to his family in China. Furious at what he saw as their “theft”of his property, Shang Tsung kills the parents as an example to others. Now an adult, Liu Kang returns to Deacon City for revenge.

Kitana / Mileena: Twin sisters, Kitana goodhearted stripper, Mileena… Not so much. More a skanky prostitute. Mileena, driven by her constant envy of her more-loved sister, has multiple plastic surgeries in an attempt to constantly improve her looks, eventually runs afoul of Baraka’s roach motel fronts, and becomes horribly disfigured. (You all know the “mad doctor disfigures someone and sees it as beauty” bit.) As she walks away from her most recent facial surgery, there’s an attempted rape, until the rapist yanks away the bandages and sees what’s beneath… Mileena fights back against her attacker. After seeing her horrible face, the attacker freaks out, and in the struggle, she accidentally kills him. She eventually runs home and sees herself… And slowly falls off the deep end by what’s happened. Far from rational given the circumstances, she focuses her rage on her sister, jealous of the attention always given to her, and blames Kitana for driving her to doing these crazy things, including taking the man’s life, a line she decides was easy to cross. For fun and extra grimdark, she can attempt to hit on one of the other fighters, attempt to seduce him, and slaughter them as well! (Too much?)

Stryker / Kabal / Nightwolf: Stryker is a cop with a history of being “overzealous,” including a raid in a casino that went bad, and left the Native American family that ran it dead. Nightwolf’s family. Reprimanded for his actions, Stryker is “let go” from the police force, and instead takes a job as a private prison guard. Already being known as a vicious dirty cop, he begins living up to the role, beating on inmates for his shits and giggles. He’s fired when he lobs a few smoke grenades into the solitary confinement cell of a gang member. The gas completely destroys his eyes, throat, eyes, and esophagus. The only thing that keeps him alive is an artificial respirator. He wears a gas mask to make the breathing even easier. Yes, that gang member was Kabal. Now, without hope for a return to his glory, Stryker enters the tournament to clean up the streets by murdering what he considers unwanted elements.

Smoke / Cyrax / Sektor: Smoke, a member of the Lin Kuei like Sub-Zero, and friend of Cyrax and Sektor, two DJs who are friends of his who like to sample the screams, bones breaking, and flesh-ripping sounds of his victims in techno gorecore mixes. Think Daft Punk meets Eli Roth’s nightmares,) they’re not fighters, just personalities, and likely easy victims for someone. Potentially, they could also be the insane tech gurus behind some of the more insane fighting facilities, hence the crazy things like spikes and acid traps everywhere. It’d be nice if they turned on Smoke, saying it was only business.

Quan Chi: The true tournament organizer, an albino madman who runs the tournament as both a competition for killers, a terror device to destabilize the area, and snuff film market.

Kano: Quan Chi’s promising new experiment, lightweight durable headgear (not a replacement eye, maybe a contact lens or fucked-up looking implant?) that allows for the recording of the first person murders of the wearer. Kano is the first to test it by removing a man’s still-beating heart from his chest.

To be honest, I’m much happier with this as a webseries than a film. Each episode can revealing part of the world through the set/style, and the larger picture of the tournament/war and what it means, with each episode containing a fight.

Plenty of websites and forums have great ideas, those are some of my favorites, with some of my own thrown in! (Of course, not every character would be a martial artist, and each would not play an equal role. Some just serial killers and crazies to ratchet up the insanity.) Many are cliches, but really, isn’t Mortal Kombat in itself rife with them, only turned up to 11? That’s what it did right.


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