The Heechee Idea
THE HEECHEE IDEAPlease read in full. This may very well be our project for the Summer.
Last night, as I lay awake in my bed, a sudden state of rapid brainstorming settled upon me. I tossed around a bunch of game ideas in my head before finally settling upon one this morning. I have discussed it with Kerlc, and he approves.
I'll try to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible, since we all know I have a tendency to ramble. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one here who has read this book, but my idea is based off of the universe in Gateway by Frederik Pohl.
My idea isn't based off the plot of the book, but rather, the setting where it takes place. Essentially, through a couple of accidental events, humanity has discovered a massive space station named Gateway filled with hundreds of small abandoned ships left by a precursor race known as the Heechee. Here is an excerpt concerning the ships from the wikipedia article about the novel:
Now It has been many months since I read this novel, so I'll be skimming through it soon to collect details and specifications about the ships to make the setting as true to the novel as possible. But the idea here is this:Nearly a thousand small, abandoned starships are at Gateway. By extremely dangerous trial and error, humans learn how to operate the ships. The controls for selecting a destination have been identified, but nobody knows where a particular setting will take the ship or how long the trip will last; starvation is a danger. Attempts at reverse engineering to find out how they work have ended only in disaster, as has changing the settings in mid-flight. Most settings lead to useless or lethal places. A few, however, result in the discovery of Heechee artifacts and habitable planets, making the passengers (and the Gateway Corporation) wealthy. The vessels come in three standard sizes, which can hold a maximum of one, three, or five people, filled with equipment and hopefully enough food for the trip. Some "threes" and many "fives" are armored. Each ship includes a lander to visit a planet or other object if one is found.
You and four others have set out in an "armored five" to an unknown destination. It's a huge risk, since nobody is sure how long the journey will take, and if supplies will last. While there is an indicator in the ship that will let the crew know when the halfway point has been reached (shift in gravity) for each destination, it's still very uncertain whether or not anyone will survey the journey. These four other crew members will most likely be very quirky and unusual, just to add to the fun. While we will vote on the final four personalities of the other crew members besides the player, I'm thinking of having a paranoid schizophrenic, former convict and drug addict, the kind yet incompetent newcomer, and a seemingly stable woman who managed to get pregnant before the journey, and doesn't reveal that fact until later.
The gameplay will take place over each day of the journey. The game will be 2D at an angle facing into the ship, and function similarly to a point and click adventure. Most days will be a mini-game of making sure everyone completes their proper shifts, rations food ( not taking more than their share ), and keeping moral up. Certain, preset days will involve solving critical, pivotal events, such as a conflict between characters, discovering somebody has been eating more than their rations, discovering that someone has smuggled drugs, or perhaps even having to kill off a character since rations are running out. Depending on your previous interactions and relationships with characters, along with how you've managed the ship so far, multiple options will be open at each scenario, and choosing certain options will branch off the story. Numerous endings will exist, ranging from everyone dying, certain people not surviving, being killed yourself, making it to the destination yet not making it back, or, if everything is done right, surviving to the destination and back to Gateway.
Programming such a thing will be simple. What will make or break this game is the story telling, character development, and overall appearance of everything in order to invoke strong emotions in the player. We want the player to feel attached to the characters, and the thought of having to kill off a crew member should cause sadness or joy depending on the player's feelings toward that character and their personality. Gritty, dark realism will be involved. I want the psychological effects of a long journey into the unknown to be felt by all.
Thoughts? I really do like this idea a lot, and can see it happening. My original idea was a lot more fluid with the story, but I want to be able to finish this before September. Having events that will happen, yet can be changed depending on prior interactions (getting to know a character's history, showing partiality / preference to a certain character, giving more food for rations, etc), will be the easiest to manage while still creating an engaging game.