The Game Bethesda Needs to Make

But won’t because they don’t accept unsolicited game ideas.  That, and, this premise would be time consuming, require new technologies, innovations and risk any sane company isn’t willing to take.  Bethesda may just be creative and crazy enough to pull it off, though.

What’s in a game?

Here’s the premise.  It’s not a new one but it is a popular one.  It combines all that is good in the gaming world right now with some elements that don’t yet exist but should.  The game, which has no title, is a cross platform free-to-play open world post apocalyptic MMO survival.  A mouthful, I know.  You’re also thinking, isn’t that just an online version of the Fallout games?  It may seem like that on first blush but it differs fundamentally from Fallout.  It differs from many MMOs currently online in many, many ways.

The (back)Story

You are you.  You live in your house and do your usual things.  The game begins with a wonderfully cinematic cut scene that sets the tone for the game.  A hacker has taken the world hostage by wresting control of the world’s current nuclear arsenal from their owners.  World governments haven’t been able to stop them and, in an instant, thousands of nuclear weapons take to the air.  C’mon, it’s plausible.  You watch in terror as society collapses around you.  Nearly every populated center in the world is hit.  Being the intelligent person you are, you run for your basement and hastily construct a shelter from furniture under your stairs.  Just as you finish the world goes boom.  End cinematic.

The Story

Our fearless character, you, emerges ten days after the whole world went belly up.  Your supply of tinned food has run out and your hot water tank has nearly run dry.  Thankfully the fallout has dissipated in most areas, the hardest hit cities are still glowing, so you can roam freely without fear of poisoning.  You emerge into: your neighborhood.  You must build, mine, hunt, fight and innovate your way to survive.  Hook up with a faction to increase your chances, or form your own with a group of friends.  Build stuff, farm food.  All the while you’re exploring familiar territory now destroyed.  There are a series of quests and stories that are begging to be investigated around the mystery of the nukes, but you can simply ignore them and survive.  There are NPC cities and towns to explore.  All the elements from games like Skyrim combined with Minecraft and a touch of Rust.

Why is it Different?

There are so many things that make this unique.  I can’t paragraph them so their each getting a section:

Open World and Crafting

So you have a screw driver, a box of screws and some planks.  What now?  Well why not build a crude shelter, or a wall, or simply board up the windows of your house/apartment (if you find a good one).  Should you be lucky enough to find a book about it, a pickaxe and some iron ore veins, maybe you can make your own steel.  The possibilities are endless.  From building structures to forts to vehicle modifications.  You could even turn a one ton pickup into an armored carrier.  Since a post-nuclear world would be lush with raw materials those with a bit of ingenuity can create nearly endless things.  Digging mines and trading raw ore or materials to other survivors may be a way to ensure you don’t die or build an empire around you.  This is where the first development hurdle comes into play: building an engine that allows players nearly limitless creativity with the environment’s materials.

It’s your world

This is a crazy idea of mine.  During character creation the player has an option to select an image of themselves (or take one) to stitch onto their character.  Players with consoles like the PS3 or Xbox 360/one can even take full body physical likenesses of themselves.  Naturally you can skip that step and select from a huge variety of preset appearances.  Following that the player has the option to input their address; in whatever detail they choose.  From the country they live to their full street address.  If you chose a province/state, the game randomly places you in one of the (real) population centers – or (rarely) in a rural area.  If you chose to put your full street address (excluding postal/zip code) the game will start you (as best it can) in your exact house in your city.  You can also opt out and either have the game randomly place you in a city globally or select from a list of major cities around the world.  In all of these situations you’re presented with a world matching the area you selected – roughly of course.  How?

There’s this little piece of technology called Google Earth.  Many of the major cities in the world are now even 3D mapped.  Here’s where the second astronomical development hurdle comes in.  The game takes the address or location you chose and extracts the meta information from Google Earth about that location: type of building, dimensions and geographic surroundings.  You can even get topographical inlays or use data from topographical maps (freely available online) to ensure the land rises and falls approximately as it should.  If we wanted to get really crazy, and why not, the map generation software could pull the image data from Google Street view and intelligently paste it as textures over the buildings.  None of this data is hard to get and, with the right minds on it, can easily be put into a database the game could quickly pull from for world generation.  Naturally you can program a plethora of “defaults” and “filler” to fill in gaps, most people would just be stoked to have a facsimile of their home in it.

(mostly) Real Life population

Okay, I’ve selected my Province/State, City and street.  I’ve stepped blinking out into the light and nobody is here?  This is the built in beauty of the geo-matched system.  Instead of spawning into a noob area of the MMO and swarming around with all the other new players, you have a whole area of the map to yourself.  Odds are good that another person from your area will eventually join, but that adds to the post-nuclear apocalypse feel.  The world may not be so populated after this event.  Sure there will be some NPCs scattered sparsely around to encourage gameplay and localized questing, as well as spread rumours about several “faction capitals (see below)” based on story driven elements.  Aside from that, we would probably see a real world approximation of a post nuclear blast populous.  How would we ensure population in cities?  That’s where those who choose to be randomly placed come in.  The game knows city populations and maintains ratios across the board based on that.  Once a major center goes beyond its “world population ratio” it places the new character into a different city.  Because this game spans platforms you’re bound to have some other real person join your city.

Cross Platform

Here’s development hurdle number three.  The not-so-simple task of creating a game that someone with any console or capable computer can connect via client and play in the same world as any of the other players.  This way friends with XBox can join those with Play Station and a tag along on PC.  Many of my gamer friends agree this type of game is a long time coming and would be incredibly popular.

Build your own cities

We all know the cities we live in.  However, in a post nuclear world everything about them would be changed.  This game allows you, and a group of people you’re friends with (perhaps a faction) to work together and build a city.  Each player can chose to align themselves with a city to increase it’s population.  Doing so allows you the benefits (defined by city owner(s)) with NPCs that may spawn within the city limits but also comes at any of the costs associated with it (taxes).  A city isn’t founded until a player builds a town hall.  This represents a “capture point” within that city.  The faction or person who controls the town hall controls that area of the city – or in the case where it’s the only capture point the whole city.  Players/Factions, once the town hall has been built, can continue to grow and develop additional points of the city, adding capture points.  Security station, Faction recruitment office, clinic, security outpost and other elements are all capture points.  Each point can be upgraded as well.  A fully upgraded security station, for example, will automatically generate high level combat officer NPCs that patrol the area of the city.  Security outposts would match suit.  An invitation person/faction could take control of the city by capturing these points and holding them.  In cities where there are multiple capture points you must hold them all to control the city completely.  In essence with large cities two factions could hold opposing sides of the city without complete ownership.

There would also be large “faction capitals” in large population areas or where the storyline required.  These large cities would be scattered far apart and represent regional centers of power and commerce with a high NPC population.  They would, however, be just as capture as player cities.  NPC faction presence would make it exceedingly difficult to but, if a faction were large and equipped enough, it could be captured.  Doing so would initiate a war against factions, naturally.  Now, all this talk about factions…

Factions

This isn’t a new concept in an open world game.  It’s not even a new idea when it comes to gaming in general.  What it is, however, a very interesting take on it.  In this game there exists the ability to create factions.  All you need is to be in control of a town/village with a town hall.  You can then create a faction and associate the town/village with it.  People can join the faction or choose to attack it.  Be warned, however, as soon as you create a faction you become fair game in the inter-faction affairs mentioned above.  You may wish to forge alliances with larger factions or become part of an umbrella organization.  Grow as big as you can and control whole areas of the world!  Factions allow you to unlock unique buildings in cities and technology like vehicle and munitions manufacture.  Keeping your members armed and fed is critical.

There are several preexisting factions members can join as well.  Many are the skeletal remains of old world governments desperately trying to control the last one or two major cities in their former countries.  Another is a strangely well equipped and aggressive faction which seems to be in constant desire to destroy the others and run the world.  Surely an allegiance with them is the only way to survive?  The latter faction is, naturally, part of the over-arching story narrative.  They prove to be created and run by the very same person who triggered the global catastrophe in the first place.  Designed to be exceedingly supplied and capable, this faction *should* outlast the other “majors” and over time, if left unchecked, capture all the faction capitals.  The nature of the game, however, means a massive player faction alliance could defeat this faction too.

Creating this faction system is the fourth of a growing list of giant development hurdles.

Economy

Well, that’s up to you guys.  An open trading system means players present six steel girders and sell them to the person who offers the best trade, 12 bushels of food perhaps.  Factions can (and in the case of the major factions do) create and control a form of currency.  Trading between factions, however, would be one of the challenges the faction leaders would just have to figure out.  Conceivably, however, an entrepreneurial player could start a tidy little business empire in game.  A massive mining corporation, inter-city transportation company (with the faction’s permission of course).  Possibilities are endless.

How would we (Bethesda) make money?

Integrated advertising revenue.  In game billboards, TV commercials, radio ads and the like all exist as they would in the real world.  Companies can offer the chance to have their brands plastered on the sides of roadways or buildings.  Why have a generic brand of pop machine?  It could be Coke or Pepsi, whoever chooses to participate.  Companies can regularly update their in game content which helps keep the ambient scenery fresh and different.  They would be encouraged to design content which matches the atmosphere of the game, naturally, but because the game is roughly based on current times, it wouldn’t have to be too crazy.

Micro translations would also be throughout the game.  There would be no “pay to win” type stuff, but it would be game enhancing.  Players or factions could use microtransations to run recruitment adverts around the map.  This would take some consideration based on how the game was developed, but there are many games currently that make a healthy profit from this type of payment system.

In Closing

There are obviously a lot of creative and story gaps left out here, and I’ve done that intentionally.  As a whole, however, this game has a lot of benefits for both company and gamers alike.  It would create and set new multiplayer and open world precedences and allow for endless gameplay and storyline growth.  Quite frankly, given their demonstrated ability to make open world games and deep writing, Bethesda really is the studio to pull something like this off.

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