It felt like only a few weeks between Pokemon Go being released and cries for practically every other major intellectual property to get the “Go” treatment. The first I heard of was Harry Potter, and I’m prepared to admit I’m not entirely sure how that would work, but there’s plenty of content there to work with and plenty of other fairly successful games out there to base content on. I’ve heard that it might derive from the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which rather suggests that it’s going to be a near-complete clone.
I started last week by calling Go a work which could become a genre in itself, and I’m apparently not alone. For a long time my Facebook feed was plastered with ideas for other Go games like Skyrim or Dungeons & Dragons (yes, my Facebook feed is just that predictable) and as I may have mentioned, Extra Credits also addressed the subject. Well I already decided to write this before they published the video, and I’m not sure I like their model so much. Let me explain:
Movement – A huge part of the game is the necessity to move around from space to space, to hatch eggs, to get the necessary items, and if you live in an area like mine then you also need to leave the house to get any good Pokemon. A player only ever needs to stop moving if they want to challenge a gym or go after a tricky catch, but otherwise there’s nothing that ever needs to slow you down. If a Go game involves a lot of moving to places, staying there to engage in play for a few minutes then that game is actively keeping you from life.
Engagement – Go is a game you can play while going about normal things, you can choose when to engage by making a few detours to pick up stops and take on gyms when you have time, or if it’s convenient. When you want to play fully the game drags you around, taking you out of your way on routes you wouldn’t have otherwise taken, stopping and sitting somewhere you may have never even thought about in depth before. Or if you’re just walking around, going about your day-to-day duties or running late you can grab the nearest stops and make a couple of quick catches without getting too distracted.
Open World – Whatever the theme, it needs to be suitably open. Pokemon was a little rail-roaded, but had enough of a free-roaming element to build from. Skyrim could easily make for a Go-style game in theory, as could Saint’s Row, or Psychonauts (Tim Schafer, I want credit if you do this). There’s little enough scope for a story and even an endgame if you want to create something that can ever be finished instead of abandoned. You could uncover plot points in the same way that you level in Pokemon, unlocked by achievement rather than going to the right place or meeting the right NPCs.
Themes and Genres
Crime – Rather than encountering monsters, what about a game in which you wander the world encountering crime scenes, gathering clues, reporting to stations at which evidence can be processes after X distance, allowing you to advance the case further.
Dungeon Crawler – Let me adjust Extra Credits’ design a little here. I don’t own a Nintendo DS but I’ve watched people playing Streetpass Mansion with great interest. Rather than going to dungeons and starting quests in certain locations, why not gather pieces of a dungeon in the form of keys to unlock new places, or skills to evade traps and monsters. Dungeons and adventure sites replace gyms. Maybe this is what EC were going for, but their design sounded like it required a lot more stopping to engage.
Cyberpunk – Bit of a curveball, but Niantic set their own precedent here with their earlier project Ingress, the world-hacking game. When a Decker in Shadowrun hacks into a network they enter a Tran-like world in which they have unique powers and abilities, or hells, Tron itself is a fantastic digital world with thousands of possibilities, but we’d need to expand upon what the concept is capable of achieving:
Home Base – The ability to set a point marked “home” makes stationary play a lot more viable. Let’s take the dungeon crawler as an example, you go out undertaking quests to earn the in-game cash to spend in “your village” that grows bigger through your exploits. The cyberpunk game might give us a “home terminal” in which to craft new artifacts out of code fragments or gathered tools. A home base could allow players to occupy time in game while sat safely at home without detracting from the need to wander and explore.
A Closed Story – Pokemon Go seems to be endless. Catch ’em all just in time for another few hundred or so to be released, spend a fortune to attend events with legendary appearances, most important you can pay to improve your game. What about a game you pay for with a narrative, a plot to follow, and a definitive close, but that benefits from being replayable depending on your surroundings? This is a genre that could very easily break free of the Freemium format.
Involved Multiplayer – Right now there’s not a lot of involvement between team-members. You need never interact with eachother, just build up your gyms and knock down your opponents. Trading pokemon will be great, and battles are on their way, sure, but what about co-op, like sharing clues in a puzzle or crime-solver, or fighting together through a dungeon crawl?
There are a lot more design options I could have discussed here. In short I think Go has the potential to be so much more than another Minecraft situation, as it has a far greater variety of routes to go down (that was a Pokemon joke, yes, thank you for noticing) and the rush of attention it has could lead to a lot of copy-cats and derivations leading to a new explosion in mobile gaming that embraces the platform far better than anyone has done in the past.