I’ve been playing a lot of the so-called “casual” games on Facebook. I’m enjoying them and it’s got me thinking that if I had the programming and art skills, I’d probably put together a casual RPG. There are a lot of casual RPGs out there, but I think most of them get it wrong. They require too much of a time investment or come off as too complicated at the start, or are ultimately boring. The casual games I’ve come across that are successful, and attract male and female gamers alike, incorporate some very specific ideas that I would focus on in my casual RPG.
So what would my casual RPG look like?
You’d start by crafting an avatar. Pick your smile and your eyes and your hair style and color. Pick your build and skin color and so on. There would be a dozen varieties for each trait at the start, though you could later buy/unlock much more using experience or real money. Once done, name your character and off you go.
I’d start you out in a tiny village. There’d be three buildings. One would be for buying & selling weapons and armor. One would be for training. And one would be an arena. There’d also be an exit from the town to seek adventure.
The game would tell you to click on the weapons and armor shop. You’d do so and you’d get some free money for succeeding at the task. You’d also get an achievement — as you will for many tasks throughout the game. Once inside, you’d have the money for a dagger and some leather armor and buy one of each; they’d be auto-equipped. If you clicked on your character, you could edit the appearance of your new equipment — changing the color or picking from a couple designs. Again, you could buy more options with real money.
The shop would also have special items like magic powers or equipment, familiars (a pet), and so forth. You could buy healing potions to heal you while you adventure or magic oils to apply to your sword to make your killing strokes more powerful. And if you bring a pet along, they would help you on your adventures and, of course, you could customize them to great extent.
The shop would have no other equipment available, but as you adventure you’d find parts of guides that would tell a blacksmith how to make additional equipment. You might also stumble across a traveling trader along the way to an adventure, or back from one. You could cash these guides in at the shop and that would further let you buy new equipment.
The second shop is the trainer. He’ll get you new combos to perform, but you need to “learn” the individual moves, first. There might be a 4-hit combo that starts with a slice, follows with a kick, moves on to a back kick before ending with a shield bash. Learn all four individual moves and you can train-and-master that four-hit combo. Then when you watch your character adventure, he’ll occasionally use that routine.
The third shop is the arena. This is where you go to earn extra experience and learn some new moves by fighting against strangers. If you’re on-line and playing, to other players you will appear to be in the arena — giving them lots of different characters to face off against. Occasionally, there might be “events” where you can join the arena and fight your way to the top of the standings for special loot.
When you exit the town, at first there would only be one option for a destination — the typical “killing fields” idea where you’d go to fight monsters and get loot and experience. But as you gain levels, perhaps every three or so levels, you would unlock other areas — a cave, an abandoned fort, a dungeon, and so forth. Each area would provide certain collectible items that, if you earned the complete set, would provide you with bonuses.
For example, maybe the first area is the outskirts of an elven village and you’re fighting rabid deer. As a rare reward, you might earn an elven cloak or elven boots or an elven dagger. Get the complete set of elven gear and you gain some small bonus to your character that stays with your character permanently. This would lend in to the social aspect of the game, encouraging you to trade with your friends (which further encourages you to sign them up for the game).
Adventuring would consist of a single screen and show your character fighting, thus allowing for a more casual experience. It might be fun to watch your character at work, but it would be unnecessary. You could safely leave for hours on end and then check back in with your character later.
I would like to incorporate some element that makes you want to watch, at least a little, now and then. For example, maybe there are fighting stances or marching positions that impact how the fights go. Maybe an aggressive stance works great against deer but stumbles against orcs. Or maybe how you move affects whether you trip booby-traps or alert monsters to your presence prematurely. You’d want to watch for a few minutes and tweak it a little to get it just right so your character’s advancement remains smooth.
Gaining Levels, Making Friends
Every kill earns your avatar some experience and/or loot, but he’ll also take damage along the way. As you gain money, you can buy healing potions or other restorative items.
But as you gain levels, you can bring some of your friends along with you — and assign them to specific roles. These roles would provide modifiers to your character, dependent upon their level. For instance, insert someone into the fighter slot and they’ll weaken opponents for you making it easier to kill the monsters. Add a rogue, and traps do less damage or, perhaps, monsters give more loot. Maybe there would be a healer slot that would let you slowly recover and stay out adventuring longer, or a wizard who lets you earn more experience as you fight.
Occasionally, you’d stumble across something new — a tough opponent or a secret cache — and you could send out a call to your friends for help. Or maybe just as a daily routine, you’ll send out a message to each of your friends asking them for a visit. In their game, if they offer to help or visit, they’ll earn some instant experience and loot — further encouraging you to make friends and get other people playing. There would also be times when your friends would pop into your games, helping you in a fight — so that you take less damage or gain more experience; they would gain experience and/or loot in their game, as well. There might even be some areas where, say, a zombie plague is ravaging a small community. Every time you kill a zombie you free one of your friends from the plague.
If at any point you reach 0 health, your character will decide he’s too tired to continue adventuring and will return to town to rest. He’ll recover on his own, but if your friends check in on you they can click on you or offer you gifts to heal you more quickly.
Want to get rich? Want to take this idea? Let’s get working on it! I’m currently available. :p