I seem to be on a Japanese game kick at the moment and that means I am playing and looking at a lot of JRPGs. I’ve talked about my thoughts on the state of the Japanese games industry in the past and as a whole the JRPG is a genre that is close to my heart. Simply because I have played a lot of them. I grew up in the 90s with a SNES, Mega Drive, PSone and N64 so JRPGs ended up being around a 1/4 of all the games I played back then. I’ve seen the genre slowly grow and develop over the years to the point it is at currently. One of stagnation with Final Fantasy being the only franchise that is actively attempting to evolve the JRPG with each release. The rest just seem to, for the most part, be riding on the coat tales of past successes.
So while I have been attempting playing through Final Fantasy XIII again recently I starting mulling things over and I sort of stumbled across an idea:
Why not take all those tropes, mechanics and systems that everybody loves in Japanese Role Playing Games and apply them to a more Western Design. In particular a British aesthetic. A British Role Playing Game.
While there are many British made RPGs out there with things like Fable being the most well known. They are all naturally western influenced designs. Lots of freedom, more action heavy combat and most with a Dungeons and Dragons inspired baseline running through them. Those are all very good things and they really work. Fable 2 is one of my all time favourite games because of the freedom it offers and the great combat. But I’m talking about making a game that is JRPG like in its mechanics and systems but with a British twist. So it will need things like:
- Time or turn based combat with a focus on strategy and foresight
- Structured or slightly freeform levelling and character development
- Free exploration but more structure than the norm (each area has its nooks and crannies and then game opens up completely 2/3rds of the way through)
- A strong story and characters to keep the played engaged with the game over a prolonged period of time
- Hidden items, weapons and challenges that only the most dedicated of players can overcome
Setting wise you can’t really touch what has been covered by the Fable franchise, which is a lot. Fable is pretty much a history of British society. The first game deals with a quasi Pagan/Roman Britain/Medieval society. The second deals with the advent of guns and the onset of Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century. While the third is sinked deep in 19th century Victorian Industrial Era and the expansion of the British Empire. So all that stuff is out of the window. Also you can’t really go for full on Medieval or Fantasy based setting because well, that has been done so many times in so many ways that the BRPG would just get lost amongst all the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones like games out there.
So what do you do?
You do a Doctor Who, that’s what you do!
You might be asking yourself, “What are you on about Callum? Make an RPG about a mad man in a box?” That is one major aspect of Doctor Who but that’s not the idea I would want to take from it. I’m talking about using the idea of taking the norm and making it strange or extraordinary. It is an idea at the heart of Doctor Who. From the Weeping Angels and Autons to more….comical monsters like the Adipose. They all take an ordinary everyday thing; statues, shop mannequins or body fat, and twist it into something else. That’s all well and good but how do you implement it without ripping off Doctor Who?
Well, you apply that idea broadly across the whole game.
British myth and legend are the stuff of well….legend. They have influenced so many games, films, comics, books, etc. over the years and it would be criminal not to include them in a BRPG. You have all the well known ones like King Arthur, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. then you have little known ones such as The Wyvern of Coed-y-Moch that helped to give birth to things like Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings.
Why not take all of these rich and fertile ideas and update them. Apply them to the modern world. Take the ordinary and make it strange by putting these British legends, myths, monsters and characters in place of the things we take for granted. You get all your monsters roaming the game’s world map for the battles. The story can be derived from a smorgasbord of British stories and characters. Finally you can do a Flintstones and have things like Will-o’-the-wisps being used as light sources and tamed dragons being used as heavy machinery but all in a Modern Britain like setting. So throw stuff in there like one of the player’s party members being a Chav with a heart of gold (I’m sure on exists out there somewhere) or one of the game’s more tasking dungeons being a bureaucratic labyrinth full of demonic quangos! Make the fantasy and reality one in the same.
So yeah that’s the basic idea. It is one that I will just leave here for now and maybe come back to a few years down the line. But for now it is just a thought and a very rough concept.
So, what do you think of the idea?