Indulge me for just a little bit.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve explored several fascinating and diverse landmarks in the region — from the remains of ancient volcanoes to rocky coastlines, and from stark deserts to thick temperate rainforests. Never has a place I’ve lived in contain so many different biomes and land features in such a small area.
I’ve seen games use other real world locations for their settings or for inspiration, such as Tokyo in The World Ends With You, Wyoming in Firewatch, and France in Pokemon X & Y. But as I look at the pine-ridden caldera of Crater Lake or the rugged islands near Victoria, I can’t help but think, “How has none of this inspired a video game yet?”
I know that developers use other means to begin game development, such as Nintendo’s approach with gameplay and controls first, or Naughty Dog who begins with a narrative structure and then fits gameplay around it. So I guess I’m proposing a new method where the setting is the focal point. The world is first designed and built, a world that I know I want to explore, and then the gameplay and narrative is molded around that world.
Let’s get the obvious things out of the way, like a traditional survival game, a farming sim, or a Pokemon region. These would all be cool in their own way, but I want the setting to inspire something a bit more original. I’ve come up with three ideas:
- Game #1 focuses on Vacouver Island and the surrounding area. This could facilitate a canoe-based, sea-navigating game. With all the coastline and islands in the area, the game could follow one of the native tribes in a historical setting. Perhaps the gameplay would revolve around connecting with members of other tribes, or involve the mythology of the region, with its shapeshifting legends. It would use a structure similar to The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, only with other means of progression.
- Game #2 would focus on the coastline, where ponds, lakes, and marshes abound. This game where the player is a bird, maybe a duck or a chickadee, where you overcome the obstacles in the seasons in order to build a nest, find a mate, raise young, and survive. My idea would be similar to the indie game Shelter. Flying and pecking would be the player’s main actions. The player would need to observe their surroundings, find food and materials, and avoid predators. It would certainly afford spectacular views.
- Game #3 is the idea that I’m most proud of. I would set it in the mountains, such as the Cascades with its stratovolcanoes, pine forests, and quirky cities. It would be a spiritual successor to Pokemon Snap. You’d be a photographer that starts out as an amateur with meager materials but as you improve your skills and photograph wildlife you get paid and obtain better cameras, camouflage, and other materials. The higher rated you become as a photographer, the more areas you would be able to explore as well. And of course you would get fantastic vistas to enjoy.
What do you think? Even with trying a new approach, all I could think of were games that already had those elements. Making something original is hard! All the same, I think that these games are the best ones that can reflect the atmopshere of this beautiful region. I’d be open to any other ideas, though. You know what they say, if the book you want to read doesn’t exist, then write it!