Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Open Games

A fond dream of many gamers is the crossover game. That's one of the reasons SNK lasted as long as it did. Its one of the reasons Kingdom Hearts sold gangbusters. Its one of the reasons people write bad fanfiction (and good fanfiction, too).

A fond dream of some of the slightly more inspired gamers is a massive "cross pollination" of games, where you can link games (or game data) to other games regardless of the original source.

For example, you could have two people with two DS. One is playing Metroid, the other is playing Ouendan. Samus' actions reflect in the play of Ouendan, and the performance of the cheerleaders affect Samus' gameplay. It could be supportive - Samus gains bonuses if cheered on well - or antagonistic - the enemies become faster and more numerous if cheered on.

The basic idea being that, in an insane and perfect world, any number of games could be combined into a bizarre meta-verse. Save your character from Final Fantasy Online, port him over to a table tennis game. Or Phoenix Wright. Or whatever.

Of course, the idea is silly. The overhead would be enormous, if it were even possible at all.

XML was based on the same idea, except without any of the awesomeness. "Format-free content": interpret it in whatever way makes you happy.

This is the same idea, except that every game would need an interpreter, and that would be a rather complex piece of machinery. Add on balancing systems and content restrictions, you end up with something as complex as, say, every piece of software on your computer combined.

But... if there was a baseline...

Something which manages content. And by "content" I include gameplay and levels and scripts and so on. A piece of brilliant middleware which helps you build a game - you supply the engine, you connect it to the middleware. Then you build the content, and the middleware plugs it into the engine.

Or, you know, you just plug in random crap from existing games.

No, of course it wouldn't work. Our data processing capabilities simply aren't that good.

But wuddinitbecool?


Patrick Dugan said...

The middleware you describe has (in loosely analogous form) been a dream of mine for two years now, the DMT I once mentioned to you. I think it could be done, given the right people, the right algorithms and the right about of funding, but the latter two won't happen for years even if the first exists right now.

If I were to test that system cheaply, without investing in a lot of content primitives, say using free sprites, I'd build something similar to the whacky metaverse you have in mind. Chrono and Donkey Kong and Mega Man X engaging in a contest of power, politics and drama. Great minds think loosely isomorphically.

Fucking insomnia, I started buzzing about different funding options and I can't stop.

Mory said...

My idea is a bit less ambitious, and considerably more feasible. How about, instead of connecting existing games, creating a new single "crossover" game which incoporates tweaked imitations of the original game mechanics, specifically designed for the purpose? Picture a Super Smash Bros. spinoff in which Captain Olimar is ordering his Pikmin to attack his foes, while Mario is jumping on his head and Link is Z-Targetting them all and hitting them with his bow and Starfox is shooting from above. Or how about a co-op crossover between Super Mario and Legend of Zelda, where the two characters progress through a dungeon, Mario jumping and exploring, Link fighting and solving puzzles, side by side to help each other out, each in their respective interfaces?

Craig Perko said...

Instead of each game having its own engine, you'd like a game with all the engines...

The real problem with that kind of crossover game, aside from programming difficulties, is balance. Balancing such radically different UI would be extremely difficult.

I invented a game - half board game, half LARP - which uses similar ideas. A big part of the game is finagling which UI is being used at the moment. :)

Troy Gilbert said...

Perhaps what you're looking for isn't too far away? ;) Be careful; if you guys keep posting too many ideas out there on the net someone, somewhere is going to put 2 and 2 together and get 22... uhm, October 22? Hmm... Let's just say, "coming soon."

Patrick Dugan said...

Yeah, actually I've thought of that, but I figure we're arcane enough to automatically protect ourselves.

Besides, its not like someone can say "hey! I can just make a middleware engine that allows a variety of spatial and social game content to be genereated dynamically according to adaptive parameters and provides appropriately dynamic UI, and uh, auto-balancing, and uh, I'll be the next EA!"

There's a reason wicked problems tend to be discussed in cozy corners of the blogosphere instead of, you know, implemented. They're wicked, brooms and everything.

Craig Perko said...

I've heard a few rumors about your product, Troy. It sounds interesting, although not exactly what I'm discussing. :)

Ian Schreiber said...

Note that for purposes of crossover games, there are a number of game systems designed specifically for this, in a limited fashion.

CCG-like games are notorious for this. Vs. System and UFS both model specific types of combat, but the combatants can be whoever the designer wants... just map their approximate power levels into the system and you're good to go. Heroclix is similar. Within any of these systems, you could have an Ultimate Showdown Of Ultimate Destiny expansion and it would feel perfectly natural.

Game balance isn't a problem, because it's enforced by the game system itself. If you want to model Unicron with obscenely high stats, go right ahead... it'll just have an unreasonably high cost to go with it.

If all you're looking for is a game system that supports crossovers from other games, I'd advise looking within this genre.

Craig Perko said...

You're right, but that genre is unsatisfying to me. The game needs to come loaded with its own plot and experience.