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Story concept for a breeder/eater/sim game

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Here's the story concept for my latest game design idea, any comments/suggestions welcome.

You are an alien, of a species of alien which has insect-like social structure. Except the important one is not a queen that hides in the nest producing eggs, it's an explorer/builder who creates a nest, explores to find resources and bring them home, battles enemies, and creates more aliens of assorted specialized types (well, that's sort of like laying the eggs). Let's call this special type of alien a Founder. You happen to be a young Founder who has just gotten kicked out of his birth nest (you were only supposed to be a worker but accidentally hatched as a Founder, and your Founder parent isn't ready to retire yet and won't/can't allow a competing founder to share the nest. So, alone and empty-handed you head off into the wilderness looking for a place to make your own nest.

Along the way you encounter enemies and you battle them, kill them, and of course eat them. You're going to need to stock up all the energy you can get to start building up your own colony. At the end of the first level you get to the colony site. This is where the breeding and sim elements enter in. You can go out whenever you want to to fight and gather more energy and resources. Inside the nest you're safe, instead you spend your resources to build up your facilities, and you experimentally breed the few types of alien you initially know how to create in order to discover more and more specialized types. Specialized aliens open up new resource-processing capabilities, and processed resources can in turn used to be able to create new specialized types of alien. (Perhaps you need higher-quality nests to hatch higher-quality eggs). It might also be necessary to play a minigame to train your newly-created minions. The ultimate goal of the game is to have fully upgraded your nest and discovered all possible types of alien; basically, you would have mastered being a Founder. Perhaps the last type of alien you discover how to create is your own type, allowing you to create an heir (possible new game plus playing as the heir).

So, does this sound fun? What would you add to the story to make it more immersive and emotionally involving? Anyone want to suggest a name for this game?

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I like the premise, especially a non-queen centric insect hierarchy. It's a cool idea to stir that nest up some *BADUM PSH*

A couple things.

1) This story would work rather well with a race of self-sustaining nano-machines, too. Really, it would be a choice of aesthetics over using organic lifeforms, but especially with the rising prominence of nanotech in our own world it might be an interesting thing to explore.

2) What sort of emotional involvement are you looking for? You could swing this story in a lot of different ways. Emotionally, it's a pretty blank slate right now. Do you want to inspire dread into your players at witnessing this hive of cold, mechanically precise aliens consume and grow at a phenomenal pace, absorbing and conquering lesser species? Do you want this to be really cutesy, capturing the whimsical feel of Pikmin? Or are you trying to instill a sense of pride in the player as they see the fruits of their labor blossom before their eyes as their hive expands and prospers? I think it will be hard to progress the story further, or give advice on ways to invest the player emotionally, without knowing what target you're aiming for.

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Thank you. I agree that a machine race would work equally well as an insectoid one; I have a general aesthetic preference for biological life forms, but something like Transformers could be popular with an audience. One could even be done as a sequel game to the other, reusing the code and some of the assets.

With an insectoid alien race I'd be going for both cute and pride-inspiring. When I think of insectoid aliens Invader Zim is one example that springs to mind of a cute graphical style.

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Well it's definitely an interesting concept, but the one negative part that stood out to me was how the game would end. I don't think it would be the best idea to have each player strive to get the fully upgraded hive as well as discover all the aliens.

One of the reasons I feel that wouldn't be ideal is because near the end of the game you would have just recently accessed some cool new aliens or upgrades but you wouldn't be able to utilize them (or at least not much). Even if you would let the player continue playing, it seems like they wouldn't be of all that much use at that point since you would already be done with the game.

Another reason is that it really forces the player to follow specific goals. Perhaps you could simply require that they reach a fully upgraded nest, but not that they discover all types of aliens. Doing so could allow people to determine which aliens they really need (possibly for survival or advancement), and which ones they can skip out on in order to get some kind of benefit such as earlier upgrades to the aliens they already have, or simply reaching the fully upgraded nest sooner.

Despite those two things (which I don't think would be big deals... especially if you are envisioning the game differently than I am interpreting it, or if you changed things a bit) I feel that the biggest problem is simply that it isn't a very satisfying goal. It makes me think a bit of an RTS like Ages of Empires, but instead of teching up to go kill your opponent with good units, you are simply teching up and the game just ends. This ties in a bit with my first point; I feel like at the end of the game I would want to go use my most recent upgrades to conqueror some type of challenge.

It may really depend on the story though and how much you are willing to change it, as my comments don't seem to fit in with what you had in mind. Perhaps the family kicked you out because you seemed too weak for their civilization, which is one that exterminates other races for greedy or selfish reasons. So now while they continue to do terrible things to the rest of the universe, you can rise up as your own power and put an end to them as the one that they thought was too weak to contribute.

Keep in mind I am definitely no writer, and I also just came up with that on the spot so give me a break if it is cheesy or unoriginal. It was just a basic idea. :P

Well... hopefully that at least helped you come up with some more ideas. I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but of course my comments are only my opinion... perhaps the way you envision it now is better than what I have suggested. Either way, good luck if you plan on following through with it!

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It initially reminds me of the life cycle of ants. How mated females fly off to start their own colonies.

I can see plenty of sim possibilities for the game different environments and obstacles requiring you to breed different creatures to tackle. It would be good if your creatures were fairly disposable and you could take control of them or send orders to them. Take control of your lava walker and seem if it strong enough to swim to the bottom of the lava pit to retrieve that strange box. Nope, oh well what if I add more heat proofing…

I’m struggling to see what the story would be though. Perhaps you could take a lost in space approach? Rather then be kicked out of the colony you were travelling to a new colony site when you were caught in spatial rift and transported to alien world with no knowledge of where you are or how to get back to the hive. You could then have the player build up a series of colonies as they try to reconnect with the hive. Add in some Ancient artefacts, friendly and hostile aliens, a few different environments and planets, and maybe a couple of ways to win and could be a good story.

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Impervious - I want the single main gameplay goal to be "gotta breed em all", because this is a goal players often want to pursue in breeding games but I haven't yet ever seen a game that actually has it as the official goal. Pokemon doesn't, you can't even get all the types of monster in any single player game with no trading, and there are few or no monsters only creatable by breeding. Plant Tycoon and Fish Tycoon don't, the goal is to get the 7 magical plants/fish and doesn't even keep track of whether you ever owned the others. Upgrading the hive would consist at least partly of building special nests which are required to hatch different kinds of eggs. Eating enemies is a minigame to break up the breeding play, and primarily gathers energy spent to produce eggs. So, with that as the core of the game, what suggestions would you still make or change about the gameplay?

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Impervious - I want the single main gameplay goal to be "gotta breed em all", because this is a game players often want to pursue in breeding games but I haven't yet ever seen a game that actually has it as the official goal. Pokemon doesn't, you can't even get all the types of monster in any single player game with no trading, and there are few or no monsters only creatable by breeding. Plant Tycoon and Fish Tycoon don't, the goal is to get the 7 magical plants/fish and doesn't even keep track of whether you ever owned the others. Upgrading the hive would consist at least partly of building special nests which are required to hatch different kinds of eggs. Eating enemies is a minigame to break up the breeding play, and primarily gathers energy spent to produce eggs. So, with that as the core of the game, what suggestions would you still make or change about the gameplay?


Well I don't play those kinds of games so I'm definitely not the best person to ask, but I guess I will stick with one of my original comments; you may want to think of a way that once they reach the highest level, they can keep using whatever they recently got, otherwise the aliens/upgrades that you get very late in the game will never be put to good use, and also I still feel that if the game just ends--even if you let them continue playing but there is nothing to do--it will be very anticlimactic and unsatisfying.

Also, it seems that a mini-game may get a bit repetitive or annoying if you have to do it every time you eat an enemy, though maybe a certain kind of mini-game would be interesting enough. I just feel that a mini-game would be better suited for breeding as I believe you initially suggested. That way you won't have to do it as frequently as I can only imagine you will be eating FAR more than you will be breeding/upgrading.

Once again though... I don't play those kinds of games so I'm definitely not the best person to ask about that. Hopefully it at least helped a little bit though.

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For me, breeding has to do something other than recursively feed into more breeding, even if that is the core aspect of gameplay. It's too much like grinding in MMOs, where the only purpose of advancing your character is to be able to advance further still, without necessarily offering much variety between what you do to grind and what your reward for doing so is.

So even while breeding is the stated goal of the game, each creature needs to have a valuable function aside from unlocking other breeds. It would be interesting to me if the game was real-time, and production of creatures was constant. The player can allocate resources to different hives/hatcheries or whatever, altering the resultant mix of creatures produced. These creatures (maybe after training) then automatically carry out functions like processing resources or patrolling for enemies. This automation lets the player focus on the breeding and state of the nest rather than the behaviors of specific individuals other than the Founder.

Maybe the player can adjust traits of a breed of creature within a range, so that there is some ability to respond to challenges without needing to unlock a new breed. Unlocking a new breed should be a major investment of resources and a moderate risk, so that the nest will need to be well managed for the player to succeed in unlocking all breeds as the game advances.

I can think of a few story ideas, but they all revolve around the same theme. My idea is that nests work to advance their own genetic lineage and eliminate others who compete for the resources needed to do so. A given nest can only grow so much and still be efficiently competetive or dominate a given geographical area effectively, so producing more Founders is the de facto strategy for expansion.

But the production of a new Founder requires huge risk for an existing Founder, who is vulnerable during the process (and perhaps very formidable at other times). And the pheremones given off in preparation for/during the process provoke a massive response from other non-related hives, as it is a prime opportunity to off an existing Founder and wipe out that whole hive, not to mention deny the opportunity to produce a new nest.

So the goal of the game is to produce a hive capable of facilitating the birth of a new Founder and also withstanding the onslaught so provoked. This can require a mix of all preceding creature types (though the exact composition might be variable, based on the other nests nearby?), as well as effective management. And choosing when to try unlocking the final creature type is a big decision.

I can imagine different difficulties being based on preceding hives in an area-- you're from a well-established lineage on your continent, so you'll have less threat from others, being the first of your line in a new area for more difficulty, and so on. The hardest difficulty could be one in which you are a mutation, rejected by your progenitor as too different and opposing rather than supporting your lineage's expansion, effectively being a new lineage unto yourself, forced to compete with no support of any kind.

There could also be a meta-component, where multiple playthroughs can advance your lineage until you reach world domination, or take the role of a new or different lineage to compete against the empire you've already established.

Just a couple of ideas, maybe you'll find some use for them.

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So, what happens after you breed the final one? A game over screen and roll credits? Do you use it to defeat some imminent danger to the hive? I think "why" we are breeding them all would be a good question to ask as well. This would help decide a lot of the game play elements. For example,

If we're breeding all of the creatures just because we can, then it would play more like a simulation. No consistent conflict, although there can be random events; no solid story line and therefore no emotional vestment in the character. You're going to find a smaller audience for this type of game, although if done right I can see this being huge on Facebook. Although since you seem against being required to have others assist you in your goal of collecting them all, this may not be the best route.

If we're breeding all of the creatures to overcome a certain obstacle, it would play more like an RTS or Lemmings (I love that game!). You could have a story line, with a consistent antagonist and clear end. Sadly, this would lead to one of two things: The player is forced to collect all of the units to persevere in the final battle, or the player can beat the game without collecting all of the units. Either way this would move the collection aspect to a secondary role which does not sound like a preferred option for you.

The last reason I can think of is to use the individual units for specialized tasks. This would be like Pokemon (and bear in mind its been a looooong time since I've played the game), where you collect/breed your minions and use them in your quests and PvP. You could have a quest line for players to follow and get emotionally invested, but I would leave it fairly open ended so when players hit the end of the road there are still things to keep them playing. Although this does strongly encourage players to collect as many as they can (because in theory the rarer ones are more powerful), once again, it does not conform to you desire to have collecting as the "single main gameplay goal".

Also, in regards to minigames, I think these work best when they are optional. Maybe by completing them you can gain a little boost, but after a while it gets to the point where you are just tired of them ,especially if you are creating hundreds or thousands of aliens that require this training.

Would I play it? Sure, although if it were just breeding and a few minigames I'm not sure it would keep my interest for more than a week or two. I enjoy simulations, but after a bit I lose focus and it all seems to be doing the same actions over and over. As for the name, why not call it "Founder"?

Hope this helps.

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This game is supposed to be a sim which should be easy to complete within 2 weeks of play, maybe even within one week if one played pretty hardcore. My use of the word minigame may have been misleading - I'm talking about combat, probably arcade-style. I was trying to say that it functions as a minigame because the breeding sim gameplay is the main gameplay, while the combat is a secondary thing the player can do whenever they want to take a break from the first. I was aiming to have slightly more story than directly comparable breeding sim games, but I don't think that this type of game needs a ton of story, particularly since it has no dating sim aspects.

I'm torn about the realtime growing thing, because it's so annoying in the sim games I've played that have it. Nothing worse than sitting staring at a screen waiting for 5 minutes to pass so you can make another move. As a player I prefer active grinding to passive waiting, even though neither is ideal. I think if I have a variety of opponent monsters and let the player choose which one to attempt to hunt for, but add a random element to the minor monsters encountered along with the player's chosen one, that should be interesting enough for two weeks worth of play.

The highest level and ending: No I don't want the game to just end anti-climatically. I was thinking that when all except the final type of creature have been bred, the game would announce excitedly to the player that they had almost attained the pinnacle of Founder-hood. Then the game would explain that the ultimate, most difficult thing for a Founder to create was a Founder child. And have a bit of story referring back to the beginning of the game. Then give the player the rather complicated sequence of steps they'd have to perform to do this final thing. And when the player completes that, give them a trumpet fanfare and "you win at life" congratulatory message. Then the credits, preferably with some nice music and humorous use of the game sprites, and finally the choice to play the new game plus. I think that would be a satisfying ending, on top of the satisfaction during the game of seeing the 'book of all possible types of aliens' get filled out as you successfully breed them.

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