Reading the recent Gamasutra article The Top 20 Underutilized Licenses and clapping my hands at the prospect of a Groundhog Day adventure/RPG or a Shaun of the Dead survival horror pastiche action game, I figured I would write my own little list of licences I’d sell my left arm to work on.
One of my favourite webcomics, Schlock Mercenary offers an intricately detailed and hilarious universe with many unique details to set it apart from other sci-fi settings. It also has a protagonist with endless possibilities for unique new verbs: A carbonsilicate amorph. I can see this working as a Mass Effect sort of game, but possibly with less roleplaying and more action. As Captain Kaff Tagon, you could steer your warship Touch-And-Go around the galaxy looking for ways to maximize profit, putting together a ground team from the crew roster when it’s time to board pirate ships or raid bandit outposts. Schlock himself would be overpowered, but awesomely so. Maybe you could even have Kevyn research new technologies as the game progresses!
Blake & Mortimer
When I was a kid, I used to bring home a lot of mystery comics from the library. Some of my favourite series were the tragically small Jonas (not just because of the name, but because of the supreme sense of wonder in those books), and of course, Blake & Mortimer. It would probably be a substantially more down-to-earth version of Tomb Raider with more character interaction and less platforming. And better, simpler action scenes. For co-op, allow each player to control either Blake or Mortimer!
A Wizard of Earthsea
Best fantasy novel I’ve ever read, by my favourite author, Ursula K. LeGuin. The Earthsea Cycle is a perfect specimen of low fantasy with a really atmospheric setting – a great sea dotted with hundreds of tiny islands, the primary means of transportation being by boat. I can see this as a freeform adventure RPG, where actual confrontation would be reasonably rare. Travel from island to island doing magical work for people, all the while collecting the true names of various objects to expand your magical abilities. The overarching storyline would be focused on character development, similarly to Planescape: Torment. And just like Planescape, the Earthsea setting is ripe with opportunities to deconstruct common fantasy clichés.
This franchise is just a goldmine waiting to be ruthlessly exploited in our interactive medium. But it also has a lot of potential for good gameplay. In my mind, there are two ways to go with this. The first option is to draw from the original TV series. The player could be tasked with setting up a team of specialized intelligence operatives and then travelling around the world with them, carrying out Commandos-styled covert missions. Each mission would be completely open to the player’s planning, a sandbox of systems and patterns for the player to exploit and manipulate using the skills of each of his team members. The other option is to lean more on the films with Tom Cruise, letting the player control a single operative – Ethan Hunt – sneaking, hacking, deceiving, or shooting his way through missions – a lot like the Splinter Cell games, but with far more lenient combat and even more hard core melee moves. And maybe more open missions, more like Deus Ex.
Seriously… what the hell is this? I could do better than that. I could do way, way better than that.