I would love to play a multiplayer Railroad Tycoon style game, with seasons of 1-3 months, shards with 6-12 players, and balanced for 15 minutes to an hour of play each day.
There’s a lot packed in there, so why each of these elements?
- Multiplayer: I like the idea of playing games with other people. In practice, other people are often jerks. I think if you structure the game right, you can bring out better things in people (or drive away the worst people), and make a fun and engaging experience. Puzzle Pirates is my go-to example here – very positive culture, if rather kid-oriented, despite lots of opportunity for competition.
- Railroad Tycoon: There just aren’t enough games out there that don’t in some way revolve around killing people (computer games specifically; board games are another story). Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I find more and more that violence feels shoehorned in and detracts from the game I’m playing (Bioshock Infinite, I’m looking at you). A game like RT lets players be competitive, but by barring direct attacks on other players, it opens up lots more strategies. Maybe another player just built a factory in a town, and you can make money by supplying it with goods, yet at the same time attempt a hostile takeover of their company. The relationships between players become more complex.Plus, I really like watching little virtual goods make their way around little virtual cities. Slap some cutesy graphics on a game like RT3 and you’ve got a fun game with broad appeal – or at least appeal to me.
- Seasons: I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo 3. (Yes, that does contradict what I just said about violence. Too bad.) Seasons are the feature that keeps me coming back. New goals to shoot for and achievements to collect make the game rewarding again, even if the actual gameplay is pretty much identical. Seasons would be a great match for a strategy game, because it would keep players from reaching the peak and getting bored. Every few month you tally up who won the game, then start over with a new set of players on a new map – viola, the game becomes fun again!
- Shards: A strategy game works best when you can understand your options in every situation. Maybe not *know* every possible option, but at least comprehend the scope. If a small number of people are competing on a constrained map, a la Civilization and RT, it’s easier to make strategic choices without feeling overwhelmed. It’s also easier to get to know the other people in the game. Also, different shards would let the developer play with win conditions. You might compete against the people in your shard to have the most money, or you might compete against the whole world for company value on leaderboards. On the other hand, the developer might award achievements and in-game valuables for being the shard with the greatest overall value, encouraging cooperation rather than competition. Shards both make the game more approachable and more flexible.
- 15 minutes – 1 hour per day: Obviously this should not be a hard limit on time, but rather a tweaking of the game mechanics. 15 minutes per day should be sufficient time for a player to be competitive, and actions taken after about an hour should be unlikely to have much impact. It would be a challenge to make the game work that way, particularly for a strategy game where options tend to increase along with time spent in the game. It would be worth it, though, because it would allow relatively casual gamers like me to enjoy the experience. Gamers interested in investing more time could join other shards during the same season (only once per shard, though; wouldn’t want people gaming the system by setting up multiple accounts in a single shard).
I think the company that created this game could gain a lot of fans. And possibly make a lot of money.