In this day and age, video games have become something of a formulaic endeavor. They revolve around space marines, sports, sandboxes, soldiers, or worn-out JRPG stereotypes, involving undernourished teens fighting evil monsters.
It seems like all the originality in the world is rapidly disappearing just like online sports betting in the Philippines, beneath products designed to be bland enough for everyone to want them. It wasn’t always like this, though. In days gone by, and even in recent days, there were clever, new ideas used to make a story interesting. Here are 5 ideas Game developers should look into to bring originality back to gaming.
- Epic Crossovers
Bringing together a crew of characters that people know and love who somehow have to work together for some greater goal. This has been highly popularized, especially in JRPG’s with games like Cross Edge, Soul Caliber, and Chaos wars, but most of these are just fan service cash-ins that have a shallow game design and loopy stories. Only a few franchises have done this well.
Believe me, the Crossovers involving a story are hard to do, because it revolves around creating a believable world to an extent. Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy Dissidia managed to sidestep this, by either calling every character into a new world from their own or by connecting all the worlds with invisible threads. In this way, the problem of making everything fit into place is diminished.
The Super Smash Bros series along with the Capcom VS fighters take another route. They put the story aside for the most part and just revel in the fun of having characters from different franchises interacting and fighting together. For the most part, this works, due to tight game design to capitalize on each character’s unique abilities. While this is the most used of the 5 ideas presented, it is still a verdant ground for a few new hit games, if the companies that own characters are willing to compromise.
- Inducing Time Paradoxes
The next in our list is time paradox. Time travel is another overused plot device in gaming. Abusing time travel is slightly less used. Inducing time paradoxes are the rarest of the lot. In essence, it revolves around willfully changing the past, thereby reshuffling the future, in an insane gamble to hopefully get a better situation. This was well popularized in the Legacy of Kain series and to a lesser extent in other games, such as the Sands of time trilogy if it is talked very specific here.
This is a dangerous and difficult to write plot device as it can leave many plot holes open, however, it is fertile ground for new ideas. In Legacy of Kain, a paradox is induced when Kain the vampire goes back in time to kill a boyhood king. Suddenly, the world players have explored for almost 20 or 30 hours is totally different, opening up vast new venues. Sands of time does this as well, creating a sort of story within a story, where the prince is telling it, while changing time as the players play it. This idea could see some more use in future and the gaming world may touch a new height.
- Crossing Dimensions
Having two worlds that are similar but separated by key events, causing a dimensional split. In games like Chrono Cross and Folklore, this is an interesting idea and well explored. Chrono Cross has two dimensions, one each where the protagonist is alive and dead. This one simple change creates two worlds very similar but different in subtly off ways, such as an invading army in one, while a strong militia holding them off in another.
In Folklore, it is taken to a different extreme, where the fairy realm is right on the top of the real world, but you have to cross dimensions to see it. This changes the normal world to the incredibly abnormal, a world where demons and beasts run rampant. Despite the colorful worlds that could be created by these dimensional rifts, developers don’t seem too interested in them, sadly.
This is something really odd and disturbing. Eating humans is both creepy and raises moral issues and this is great for making a game either horrify or resonate with players. Apart from a few horror games, this has even been taken in other ways. Digital Devil Saga has the players turning into demons and eating each other, while still dealing with the shock of both, while Shadow Hearts puts players in the midst of a Chinese village of cannibals making subtle hints at their tastes. Both are creepy and offsetting, but really make the games seem unique.
- The Age of Exploration
Finding new vistas and hidden worlds is the goal of most players in an RPG or sandbox games, but most of the time, the actual sights are underwhelming. Games like Skies of Arcadia and the Uncharted Waters series put strange new sights and wonders to be found in every corner of the world, making mundane treks fascinating when you could find a town seated upon a tornado, or a lost native tribe. Giving players freedom isn’t always enough. You have to make them want to explore that freedom and create things worth exploring. This is something better and more concrete.
All in all, these ideas are not completely original, but rather underused themes that game designers have conveniently ignored for the cop-out plot ideas. Space marines, soldiers, and JRPG teens are just a couple of examples. There are other such ideas that designers could use, including dream sequence gameplay, such as in NiGHTS, flashback similar to Eternal Darkness, or the copy and paste of myth into a modern-day setting. But these take time and while interesting are not always the most lucrative of ideas. It’s a shame, but no matter how original an idea is, if it doesn’t make enough money, it’s likely to be scrapped in the game industry. Money is the measurement parameter.