There are a lot of games I would really love to play. Unfortunately, plenty of them don’t exist yet. In the same way that conjecturing about possible magic systems felt like some of the best writing I’ve done in ages (if only because it’s productive instead of critical or referential), this is going to be some fun stuff to outline.
I’m going to describe a mish-mash of mechanics that I’d love to see, making up a game that I’d love to play. These are going to be very bare bones descriptions – I’m not outlining an entire game start to finish. This time, I’m going to examine the skeleton of my ideal multiplayer versus game.
If you have played Pokemon and Final Fantasy 12, just add those together, and you’re pretty much set. If you haven’t (or are curious what elements I think would be best stolen and blended from the two), then read on, and I’ll show you a magical world where multiplayer battles would be something I actually enjoy.
I don’t have a whole lot in mind for this. Fighting adorable creatures is fine, but, well, since Pokemon hit it big it’s been done to the point of madness. That being the case, I’d say the two best options are to go hard fantasy (wizards that only have summoning magic and spirits they control) or hard sci-fi (future space robots fighting remote wars). Since those both sound fun, lets mash them up – warring factions of wizard golem-crafters, summoning and programming magic golems. That’ll be the context I use for descriptions of the game mechanics below.
Okay, we have a world where proxy battles are performed with pre-programmed golems. Since it’s magically driven, we can include one of the best aspects of Pokemon (and any game with elemental rock-paper-scissors), multiple elemental types with various weaknesses and resistances. Different elements would convey advantages over others, and there could be double (or even triple, if you’re into 3-d charts for referencing possible damage) typing. Like Pokemon, elemental golems wouldn’t have to only do damage of their element, meaning a huge variety of possible actions would be available. Also like Pokemon, the number of moves accessible during any given battle should be limited, partially to cut down on having to plan for an obscene number of scenarios, and partially to force players to evolve strategies within constraints.
Okay, so the Pokemon influence is obvious: elemental types, limited move sets. Now, it’s time for the FF12 influence to jump in and make itself known. The turn based battles of Pokemon are okay, and the complexity when doing double battles or triple battles is enough that it’s better things aren’t real time, but for this imaginary game, it’s going to be one on one only. With the number of fighters capped at one each, real time is a much preferred option (and makes speed an important stat in a very different way than in a turn-based affair). Because this game is intended to be about strategy rather than twitch reaction, each golem will have a pre-set strategy (or AI) controlling how it acts. For live matches, the player can interject and tell their golem to perform a move immediately, but without input, the golems will simply follow their defined commands.
Here’s where the FF12 influence jumps in full force: each golem can be programmed with up to (lets say, for example) 25 priorities. You can’t set every single action that your golem will take in every situation, but you can define how they will act based on elemental typing, current health levels, and known enemy moves. You define the actions to take, the conditions to use them under, and the priority to decide which conditions are most important to respond to. You could even implement a “do this, then this, then one other thing, then repeat from the top” program if you desired. For those not interested in programming their golems, some basic simple AIs would be available, prioritizing offense, defense, buff/debuff, or other general strategies. The option to just call out moves to be performed immediately would still be available, so skipping out on programming would leave one at no disadvantage for a live match.
And then, my favorite aspect comes in: due to the pre-programming nature of the golems, live matches are not a necessity. Battles can be performed automatically by the AI, allowing players to set up their golem team, send them out to do battle, and seeing how they fared when they return later (bonus point – if it’s on the Nintendo 3DS, battles could happen through Street Pass). Rather than pitting your at-the-moment strategy against others, you’d be able to test your programming skills and planning ability against the same of others. A game for everyone, maybe not. But certainly one I’d have a lot of fun with.