I decided I really should start putting my video game concept in one place. I'll be kinda rambling, please don't expect a polished presentation or anything.
Anyhoo, I called the game Complex which is both noun and verb ;) It is, well, the bastard child of a cooperative MMO and a single player Escape the Room game. That is infinitely expandable. You play by yourself, but you need information & help from the other players.
So, you are a citizen in an utopian-but-really-authoritarian society, and you've gotten a little too smart for the PTB. So, under the guise of 'training for an elite gvmt squad', you've been snatched (What, you thought they'd ask you, first?) and left in a strange room. When you awaken, you're greeted by the computer, congratulated on being good enough for this mysterious elite force, and given a unique ID code consisting of numbers, letters & symbols. The door to your cell opens, and you enter the first room.
The rooms, at first, all look the same- Hexagonal, institution grey walls, 1-6 doors set in the walls, and a grey column in the center of the room that holds a computer interface.
The computer greets you by ID "Hello, Star Star Seven Five Aich Five" and bids you place your hand on the green activation panel...
This is where the puzzling begins. Each room can create holograms- from a full 'set' in Trek holodeck style, or floating 3d images- that are fully interactable. Your job is to identify the puzzle(s) in the room, and solve them.
Editorial note: In my perfect world there will be NO Towers of Hanoi or Lights Out puzzles. We hates them, My Preciousss
When you solve a puzzle (and a room will have puzzles equal to the number of doors it has, even if some of those puzzles are multi-layered), you get a Key. Not a physical key- a key code. Ednote Does Room 1 always have to have puzzle A? Or could you say Room 1 has three doors, activate a puzzle form the 3 door database?)
Key codes come in colours- probably a nice ROYGBIV setup. Keys are colour coded to doors. But, here's a hook: the key you get, may not open a door out of the room you're in.
Let's say you've solved a puzzle, the hologram turns off, and the computer flashes a Red Key Code at you. Lo, there is a red door to your right! So you dash over, and input the code on the door keypad. Nada. The computer pings behind you and says "I'm sorry, that is an invalid code for Door 21452. Would you like to deposit this key?"
Keys are held in a pool. When you deposit a red key, you have 1 Red credit. You can spend that credit to draw another key from the pool. and try that one.
Where do the other keys come from? From the other players. As they solve puzzles, they deposit keys (Yes, you would need to start with a pre-filled pool of keys.). _ednote: If "Red Door 12" in "Room 4" always needed "Key Code R2345" for all players, then cheating would be EASY- someone could just post the code. Slightly mitigated if the door keypad won't activate until the puzzle is solved. It would be nicer if the code was player specific- When you activate a room, the system generates a keycode in the database for that room. If keycodes, once generated, are passed out to players randomly- that reinforces the need to pool resources between players._
Get the right key from the computer, open door, activate next room, lather rinse repeat. A Key, once it works in a door, is deleted from the database.
EdNote: What if the rooms' door is Red, but solving the puzzle gave you a green key? Will key colours have different worth? 2 green keys = one Blue? Or is it just a point value, red keys are 1pt, Green are 4, so you need to have turned in 4 red keys before you could withdraw a green? What about starting them with a supply of one of each, or a small starting pool of points? Could you earn bonus points along the way? No monitization/economy around them though- teh suck.
Tomorrow: How the Heek do you be single player and cooperative at the same time? Puzzle variants, teams and other oddities.
Multiplayer and More
So we have PC running around holographic rooms solving puzzles and getting keys to move to the next room. That's the single player part, but where the heck does the multiplayer cooperative come in? Besides Keys going into a collective pool, players will influence puzzle solving. There's two key components- the player ID code, and an in-game web interface.
First, the player ID not only helps the system track the player- but it gives variables by which groups of players can be combined. Then you can do things like "You've completed this room, 9 other players of group Star-Green-Seven need to complete this room for key distribution". or "To complete this room, 5 members of subgroup 342 must input their answers within 20 minutes of each other."
Which brings us to the in-game web interface- players should be able to communicate with each other to coordinate & discuss note- spoilers/answers to puzzles would be strictly monitored in this interface- only subtle hints and 'nudges' allowed. this wouldn't stop solutions being posted elsewhere, but they wouldn't be available in-game
Tangental thought- people don't like being forced to interact with others. What about for X number of rooms solved, you get 1non-transferable bypass code that allows you to skip the multiplayer portion of a room
The web interface (and associated forums, chat, IM, etc) allows room for the next big facet of Complex- actual dynamic story.
Some of you know that I think the way Uru did dynamic story & NPCs to be damn shiny, and something that hasn't been replicated in any other game. So Complex will have it, dammit.
One of the hallmarks of Uru's story was live NPCs, not just pre-rendered avatars repeating the same thing(s) over and over whenever someone spoke to them. So having actual people behind any NPCs, interacting in realtime with players, is important. Those NPCs would be conversing & contacting players through the in game web interface, since you never see anyone face-to face. although having an NPC show up suddenly in your room would kick ass... The NPCs cultivating relationships with players becomes part of what moves the story along (a la Brian & TGT)
Storywise, these NPCs are part of an underground resistance group, cause every creepy authoritarian utopia needs a resistance, right? During the course of the game, the resistance would be showing the PC the seedy underbelly of the world, and that the PC isn't really being trained for some elite brain squad, but being kept under wraps so they don't blow it for the PTB. Possibly helping break people out? How do we make the things the resistance does matter, without creating a needed endgame, since part of the goal for Complex is expandability?
Also important is persistence. While everyone playing will, by necessity, get their own rooms to puzzle in, if something happened in story to change that room somehow, then that change should be there for everyone from the event onward. If the resistance managed to blow up room 762, then anyone entering into room 762 from that point forward would find rubble.
Discussion from original Complex thread:
I have a bunch of clarifying questions: So, are keycodes actual sequences of characters that you type in? Or are they just things the system says you have ("You have acquired key #348. Do you want to use it?")
Let's say that you don't have the red key you need. That means you have to get one from the pool. If the one you get isn't it either? Do you just redeposit and get another? Could you just keep doing that until you get the one you need?
If the keys come from other players, if no player has generated that key, are you just out of luck?
What happens to a key if the player chooses not to deposit it?
It could be either, really. Having an actual code you type in is more visceral.
You could keep redepositing until you get the right one, theoretically. There's prob'ly a better way of handling it.
The key for that room is generated when you activate the room- it just might not be the key that you get for solving that room.
That's one of the bits I'm still pondering. The database would know that the key exists, and which player has it in their possession. it could be that you can a) set a wait time before you try again or b) ask the computer to send a request to the key holder or c) go to the community space and ask for people to unload their X keys. It could also be that you have a time limit on how long keys can be in your possession, and not in the pool people can draw from. Mebby if you hold on to them over that limit, the system automatically returns it to the pool, and you don't get credit.
Because everyone needs to have access to keys to get through, and all of the keys are randomly distributed, it becomes a bad idea to hoard keys. If you don't turn them in, you don't have credits, if you don't have credits, you can't get the key you need.
Keys are mulit-character strings that you have to type in. But the system remembers which keys you've been granted, so if you type in one you don't have access to, it won't work ("two factor authentication on key failed"). Let's say the code it 10 characters.
Deposit the key for a point as you describe it.
When you want a new key, enter in the door number you need.
For one point, you get a random key of the right color.
For each additional point you spend, it locks on of the characters on the correct one - the rest of the characters are determined randomly. So if you spend one extra point, the first character will be right. That means you increase the probability of getting the right key with each point you spend. If you are willing to spend 11 points, you are guarenteed to get the right key. Or, if someone else has your key, they can transfer it to you for free. That means either you can spend a little resources for a chance, a lot of resources for a certainty, and nothing if you are willing to work with others. Now, this might not work if the only keys available are those that have been deposited by players. Also, you'd have to have a reason that people would want to keep keys instead of just immediately recycling them for points.
I feel like there needs to be some considerable incentive to cash in your keys for credits, because otherwise, why not just keep the keys you're given? After all, they could always potentially open the very next door. There's going to be a somewhat irrational perceived value placed on the keys you earn, versus a guaranteed random key that you'd need to trade in for. If my key has a chance of working, I want to keep it. It doesn't matter that it has exactly as much chance of working as the next key I'm given from the pool. The point is, I may already be a winner. Why give away what could be my winning ticket? Would you trade lottery tickets with someone?
Maybe the best way to work around this "already a winner" mentality would be to let players retain instant access to the keys they've deposited. Put them in a "local pool" that is networked to the system. This way, if you're given a key and it doesn't work at the first door they come to, you can deposit it to use later. This puts the key into the global pool as well, but you can also retrieve it at any time by spending the same number of credits that you gained by depositing it (or credits + 1, to perhaps discourage constantly relying on your own keys, if that would even be an issue that needs contending with). That way you're not being asked to give up a possibly useful key, but all of the keys you collect can still be queried by the system for other players to try. If the key works in their door, it's removed from your pool. Otherwise, it gets automatically returned to you again (I'm assuming that the key-to-door ratio is 1:1, so a key can never open more than one door anywhere in the complex).
Something else to consider is perhaps varying the probability that you'll get the right key when you solve a puzzle. If you're at or near your starting point, almost every key you are given will unlock a door in that room. Moving deeper into the complex, however, you'll get keys for doors that are increasingly likely to be elsewhere in the game. This could get new players accustomed to the concept of solving puzzles to get keys, gradually ease them into the local-pool concept by generating more keys for doors in other areas they've already explored, and finally require increasing degrees of p2p cooperation and key-sharing to reach the very deepest parts of the complex (assuming that's the goal).