Bare Bones – Metroidvania Dream Game

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 metroidvania.

I don’t remember when this idea first came to me (perhaps after having Tererria explained to me), but it’s a weird one. The idea is to provide the player with finite (non-replenishing) resources, a sandbox-ish environment, and the ability to get from the start to the end however they choose. In a lot of ways, it was conceived as the opposite of a Metroid game – you start with everything and keep it until you use it up.

At the heart of it, Metroid games consist of keys that are also weapons, which let you unlock doors (that are sometimes scenery) and defeat enemies (often bosses). The standard Metroid formula involves gaining said keys one by one and using them to unlock progressively more and more of the game world. Ot Direm looks to mix up that formula (hence the name) while still staying true to the key-weapon world unlocking.

Same as Metroid, the environment will consist of materials of various strength. A weapon rated at that level or higher is able to destroy that material. More powerful weapons destroy more things, and the most powerful can destroy anything (excluding the ship that you show up in and bosses). The catch which prevents this from being abused: ammunition is limited. Use up all of your ammo for a weapon, and it’s gone. As in forever.

The question becomes one of skill versus resource management. Take the hard way through, using ammo on enemies and bosses while navigating the environment as designed. Or take the easy way through, avoiding enemies and bosses by carefully planning use of your ammo to burrow through the environment (and being very out of luck if you have to battle any bosses without ammo for more powerful weapons).

The environment for such a game would need to be carefully designed, with optimal paths available but difficult to puzzle out. Or would it? Perhaps it could be procedurally generated with some very specific checks for distances and materials along them. Either way, having a highly specific world making it possible to avoid the bosses (with the very same resources that could have been used to fight them) would be the primary requirement.

Honestly, the idea is quite simple. With a good map, the materials the world is made of, and the types and strengths of the various key-weapons, this could be a finished idea. Could be fun (or just brutal).

Side note: It’s been pointed out to me that the experience could potentially be very frustrating if the player made it a significant portion of the way through the game only to find themselves out of resources and everything very difficult. To that I have to say: yeah, that’s the game. Alternatively, there are two solutions: make the game fairly short to minimize frustration, or make the game segmented to prevent overall ammo depletion (refills after each segment).

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