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Sci-fi/Paranormal investigator Game Concept

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#1   Members   -  Reputation: 109


Posted 04 June 2012 - 01:50 AM

I have this idea to make a series of episodic paranormal investigation games where the main crux of the gameplay is actually investigating and solving paranormal mysteries on the behalf of clients who are added with each episode.

Essentially you would have an agency and whenever a client would come in to hire you in each episode you would have to go and research the problem in books and through interviewing experts and believers to piece together whats going on, and if there's a tangible monster involved, you would have to figure out how to beat it or if it even really exists.
The pacing would be very slow and mellow with little to no actual fighting in the game until the very end of each investigation where you would have to put your research to work in order to actually solve the problem which would usually involve tangling with some sort of monster or other. One aspect I'm kind of excited about is that you could choose at any time to end your investigation if you think you have all the info you need, and if you face a monster unprepared, you could very well die and have to start the whole episode over again. Now some might find this prospect annoying, keep in mind that the only real chance you have of dying is during that final confrontation at the end, with everything else being a lead up to it.

And with it being episodic, each different release could simply be layered over the pre-existing game world, and it would give a good chance have really cool, inventive missions that would vary wildly, and with little to no time being wasted on the 'busy work' that most free roaming games like this would saddle you with. Not to say there won't be interesting side-missions and secrets hidden all over. After all, most of this idea comes from reading comics, so I would definitely want to sprinkle some references in there.

Also, the prospect of the game being episodic is another thing I'm taking from comics, which would give a chance to do theses really nice self-contained stories layered atop an even deeper more expansive story that would really be about the character, maybe even throwing a Moriarty-like nemesis in there who it turns out has been stirring up a lot of trouble for you. This way it could avoid the silly 'every entry is about the end of the world' thing that a lot of games fall into. I don't think each episode's plot would need to be the most epic thing in the world to be engrossing especially since the episodes would build the overshadowing conflict in the background, sort of like Mass Effect tried to do.

And that brings me to the setting, which is another thing I think will really be cool. I'd like to set this game in the semi far future wherein everyone's moved off Earth onto colonies because of some sort of ecological disaster that happened in the past, and at the time of this series earth has just recently become habitable again and your character runs his agency in what used to be eastern Europe, sort of like the setting to Cowboy Bebop and the early Gundam series. This setting would give a good reason to explain why your character, whose supposed to be knowledgeable about monsters, has to do so much research, because no one's been on Earth in so long, the monsters have changed and much of the knowledge about what is still the same has been lost or destroyed.

It could maybe even work to have some Minecraft style scavenging to acquire parts to build weapons for your battles.

So, to recap: Its a Sci-fi/postapocalypse/paranormal investigator series that would be released episodically, and with an overarching storyline, that wouldn't be central to the experience, but definitely worthwhile. The main focus is research and investigation (looking at you L.A. Noire. Ya fucked up). With little to no action for good chunks of the story. The atmosphere would be more suspenseful, with the player having to juggle all sorts of information and resources in order to get the job done.

So basically Hellboy meets Cowboy Bebop meets Snatchers meets John Constantine, Hellblazer.

Any thoughts?

#2   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2508


Posted 04 June 2012 - 04:06 PM

Okay, the sci-fi/post-apocalypse angle threw me, given that you added it so late in the post. I think that story-wise it would help if the weirdness was foreshadowed in the backstory, e.g. strange things started happening before humanity abandoned the planet, some ancient buildings were almost perfectly preserved despite being abandoned 1000 years ago, there were tales of the poor souls left behind because the ships didn't have enough room, nobody could find the Earth for 500 years despite accurate charts and then suddenly there it was, etc etc. Not an explanation per se (e.g. the hated "being a vampire is a disease"), but just a sense that the problem didn't come from nowhere.

My big question would be how the investigation gameplay works. It's always challenging to be interesting without being convoluted and/or stilted. I think it would be cool if not all cases were supernatural, because it would emphasize strong investigation skills and heighten the shock when something creepy does happen.

#3   Members   -  Reputation: 109


Posted 04 June 2012 - 04:54 PM

Well really the whole sci-fi thing is just back story and not really central to the plot in any way. Really the game will be a lot less expansive in scope than all that. The apocalyptic event is going to have a fully scientific reason and not really be central to the plot in any kind of way. The story is really more of a personal nature. Sort of like Spike in Cowboy Bebop. They never really do much with the gate disaster from that show's backsotry and I like the idea that you would flesh out a game world so much just to have the right vibe.

Plus it would always be cool to set other games in this same universe that have nothing to do with this property.

I wanted the paranormal aspect to be kind of centralized, if that makes any sense, sort of like its not a widely known or credible thing, with most people in the game world giving it no credence at all. Really its all just setting to establish the mood and a lot of things going on around you and a fully fleshed out world going on that knows nothing about you and doesn't care and vice-versa. That's kind of the Hellboy/Hellblazer aspect.

As for not all the cases being paranormal, I think that would definitely be cool to do, or even have some that are complete red herrings and pull some kinda Scooby Doo man in a mask sorta thing. I'm a huge fan of Raymond Chandler books, so there's a lot of stuff I'd like to do in that realm and I think the episodic nature of the series would give me some chances to play with the format a lot.

And finally, yes the investigation would be difficult to balance, but ultimately I guess there's no way to just say it will definitely work. Its more of an attention to details and intuition sort of thing. But I really think I can make it work.

Maybe if I play enough snatchers it'll rub off on me.

But thank you so much for the feedback. I'm pretty stoked about this concept so far. So much work still to be done.


Let me know if there are any concepts you've come up with you want feedback on. Not that I know everything of course.

Edited by ObiwanChernobi, 04 June 2012 - 05:37 PM.

#4   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2508


Posted 04 June 2012 - 08:58 PM

Ah, okay. Could the technology prove tricky in terms of atmosphere? I'm just thinking that if you had extremely high tech, e.g. holograms, nanites, matter transmission, it would be almost impossible to draw a line between paranormal and not. Or were you thinking more retro-futuristic like Firefly etc?

But yeah, the Scooby Doo is also an option. I just don't want it to be a foregone conclusion. I see so many shows and games where the person who believes in UFOs/ghosts/fairies were right all along and are vindicated in the end. It's not to say it can't be creepy or interesting. You could have a Sweeny Todd ending, a people-go-crazy-on-ergot ending, a terrible-secret-under-the-house ending, or a morally-ambiguous-do-I-unmask-the-underground-railroad ending. Plus of course some wholesale crazy-poltergeist action because it's fun.

The key is how many clues do they have to pick up, and how do they show the game they "got it"? Too much precision and it becomes a hidden object game or an adventure game with outrageously obscure solutions. I do like the idea of clues revealing your next task (in a non-linear way). For example noticing foot prints leading from a fireplace and a hole that matches the house owner's cane could lead to finding the secret door in the fireplace (totally stolen from Dark Shadows). But there may be other paths to get more information. Sadly walkthroughs could make such a game very short, but I see it as their own fault if they want to ruin the experience.

PS - you have me slightly at a disadvantage with the book and TV references, as they are franchises I have only dabbled in.

#5   Members   -  Reputation: 109


Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:15 PM

Sorry man. This whole concept kind of revolves around these personal cultural touchstones for me and sometimes I forget that the entire world doesn't revolve around my specific interests. *SNORT* *COMIC BOOKS* *PUSHES GLASSES UP*

But yeah, the tech will definitely be sorta futuro-steampunk-ish. No ray guns or sleek space stations. And everything will sorta be all run down and broken in. But the extreme high tech that you mentioned could definitely exist in tangential parts of the game world and could even be used to throw the player into dead ends in the "man in the mask' style cases, which I think would be interesting.

As far as the scooby-dooin it, I def plan to make the paranormal side of the game a definite reality. Like, the player character KNOWS and is as much of an expert given the backdrop as its possible to be these things exist and one of his jobs is to parse out the fake instances from the real cases. I guess part of his job would be to justify his knowledge and job to the world around him. He's definitely an outsider. And he's capable of being fooled by the non-real cases, but will also find instances of the real thing. Again, I thing the serialized nature of it all would allow the plot to be quite flexible and to cover all of these instances.

Like, it would be neat to include non-paranormal kidnapping/extortion reall world PI cases in between, maybe even as side missions for the player to make money to do the more complicated episode missions.

And in response to the investigation issues, I guess the real way to show that they got it would be to pull the trigger and see if your endgame would turn out favorable. Especially since every mission would be such a wildly varied affair with no real touchstones.
Having said that I like the idea of clues becoming their own path. And like you said, walkthroughs would definitely ruin this aspect of the game, but I agree that anyone who would use one is really only costing himself the enjoyment of the game. But I'll also say that I would hope I could script the game with dialog and situations that could work to make it enjoyable even if someone opts to avoid the more challenging aspects of the gameplay.
Ultimately the main touchstones i want to use for the the investigations would be old school adventure games, but update that format in some way or another. Maybe even have it switch back and forth between the top down/isometric view for getting around and the first person 'look' style view for the actual investigating.

And I'm also a huge fan of simulation games, so I'd want this to be realistic investigations to the point of being a Paranormal Investigator sim of sorts, but including all the story and background to make it an RPG as well.

Then again, I'm probably just way in over my head, but my gut tells me this could be done, and I intend to try, as long as it takes.

Edited by ObiwanChernobi, 04 June 2012 - 10:18 PM.

#6   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2508


Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:25 PM

Don't worry, I'm a geek too but just with different specialties.

Okay, the steam-punkish angle offers opportunities for creepy ambience. Tunnels with steam vents, huge machines, creepy labs anyone? ;) If you did some extreme hi-tech cases you'd need nice big clues so the player doesn't immediately go "I saw a monster, it's a monster".

It's cool that some are real paranormal, I just enjoy red herrings and making the player work for the payoff. Keep in mind that real world plots could work in tandem with the supernatural, e.g. they use it as a tool, it's the motivation for the plot (e.g. valuable creepy artefact), the bad guy disrupts something nasty while lurking and digging, they perceive a supernatural attack as being a plot by their enemies, etc.

I think a Ghost Hunters angle might be fun. Using your hard earned cash to place motion and IR cameras, etc etc. If you don't play smart or have too little gear you can't prove anything, just get blurry footage and a workout. Maybe trying to replicate the spooky events to disprove them.

It would be a hell of a lot of work. I hope you do it, sounds interesting.

#7   Members   -  Reputation: 109


Posted 05 June 2012 - 12:25 AM

Yeah it really will be SO much work. But I think it will be worth it. Its an idea I've had for a long ass time and have always thougt would be cool to play so I'm going for it.

Thanks for all the feedback man.

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