In my last entry I said would say something about the project that I'm working on. Basically, my game is a mix between a dating sim, a restaurant simulator, and a card game all at the same time. Now that I've told you what I'm doing, I'll tell you WHY I got this crazy idea to put these things together.
5 years ago in my freshman year in college I got a job at a serving food out to other students in a cafeteria. Sometimes we would dish pre-made food behind a counter, sometimes made to order. Occasionally we would deliver food directly to their table or to their respective dormitory. Sometime during one of those shifts, I was thinking about a game where you would run a restaurant and dish food out to customers. The customers would leave tips and you could update your restaurant to attract more customers. Of course, I wrote this idea down in my game idea notebook and stored it away for awhile.
When I looked at that idea that wrote down years later it still seemed like a really good idea. Then I found out about Diner Dash. I was a little disappointed when I played the game. It seemed pretty simple (because of its casualness) and at the same time it felt ... lonely. It was just you, running around like a damn FOOL serving nameless people that don't truly appreciate your service. It never really captured the feel of working at a restaurant in my opinion.
Then again, maybe it wasn't supposed to. After all, (working != fun), right?
Seeing the restaurant idea implemented like Diner Dash made me realize that it might not the manager role that would make these games more fun. I think that it would be more fun at the employee level. Being a waiter or a waitress serving people, getting to know regulars (plus coming up with nicknames for them), and having to deal with "office politics" around the restaurant. Oh, and we all loooove politics don't we?
This is where the dating simulation like portion of my project comes into play. You will be forced to work the same shift with other employees, who may like you or hate you. Choices that you make and things that you choose say to your co-workers will influence if they will team up with you, or are against you in the game and try to get you fired. After all, you're just another cut in their tips. :)
There's a big problem in designing these kinds of games. That's to not branch your storyline with multiple scenes into oblivion and have the entire thing come out muddled and crappy. And nothing is crappier than a poor chose your own adventure.
My favorite dating sim (and I can't believe I'm talking about this but it's kinda relevant to explain my inspiration) is an OLD OLD game from 95' called True Love. I love this dating sim, because not only do you get control over what you do throughout your day(go to class, work out, groom, work, etc) but you're forced to make choices that slightly influence the characters around you. Want to meet that mysterious woman only seen at night? Start patrolling at the park at night and be sure to be well groomed. Want to go on a date with the leader of the swim team? Hah, too bad, start working out at the gym and maybe it will happen. But then the drama queen of the school won't like you anymore! You can't get everything you want all the time, and that was your choice that you ended the school year with NOBODY (it's possible). It's also possible to end up with your best friend, who is a guy.
The best part about dating sims is that they force you to make a choice and you have to live with it. There is nothing more nerve wracking then someone confessing your love to you, and you're not really interested yet your female childhood friend and the girl you ARE interested in both show up. Crush her heart and tell the truth? Choices, choices...
There's also a bad side to dating sims. But we all know what THAT is.
Seeing characters evolve and situations change based on your choices in the game is addictive, and I wish more games were like that.
(On a side note, at the end of Earthbound a majority of the NPCs said something different to you after you've beaten the game. It was a real treat going around towns and talking to everyone to find out what affect that I - the hero Ness - had on them. Although you didn't really have a choice to save the world ... )
Unfortunately, I still believe that this charm can only be really harnessed in the power of text. Otherwise, you would need a lot of cut scenes to cover the ground of all of the possible story paths, endings etc. I believe that this is the reason why many of the recent Japanese dating sims (with animation and voice acting) tend to be on rails (at least the ones I've played), if you know what I mean.
I'm also not saying that I'm going to be making a graphical text adventure. There will be some bit of action involved. The hard part will be balancing the action with the reading, because kids sure do love to read anything non MySpace related these days. That's why you prototype what you're doing early I suppose. :)
Oh, and you're probably wondering where the card game fits into all of this. Well, I'm not going to reveal all of my cards yet so I'll tell you about that later on with unimpressive screenshots of what I have so far.
(Wow, man was that clever...)