Neverending Saga (Brainstorming)

Brainstorming for a future game design. Work in progress of an entry for gamasutra's Games of 2020 contest. Neverending Saga is an RPG where the player feel the world through the brain, including pain and other sensations.

Ok, I missed the deadline, but here is my description for a game of 2020 (also published in my regular blog). Writen in conjunction with graphic designer friend Carlos Ranna.

1 - Nerverending Saga
The definitive adventure

Neverending Saga is an adventure quite like no one before. It is a world set in another dimension one can enter from anywere, anytime he wants. It is like a dream, but with unimaginable sensations, frenetic pace and painful consequences.

 Concept Art by Carlos Ranna

 2 - How it is controlled

2.1 - The controller:
The key for saga is the revolutionary Mindset-I, a direct-to-brain controller that is similar in shape to a current brain control headset. However, it is capable of not only map the collected electrical waves as input, but also affect these brain waves to form sensations such as images, sound, smells, pleasure, disconfort, pain and even terror.

2.2 - The input:
The player can enter the game from wherever she is by connecting her Mindset-I to the "Net" through any device such as a computer, terminal or handheld device. She just has to stay confortable, start the game and forget about the "outside". If one wants to walk, just think of it. If one needs to fight, just imagine the attack.

2.3 - The output:
There's no monitor, no speaker and no headphone, only Mindset-I. The game is experienced directly inside the brain through real senses. When walking, the world images pass by as the sounds and whispers are heard through the incredbly detailed environment. More importantly, the player feels everything, so if it's cold, one better look for a shelter. Eating something poisoned causes disconfort and when someone gets stabed, the pain is as real as it can be.

3 - Design concepts and innovations

3.1 - Weapons and skills
Anything can be used as weapon or armor, as long as the player can handle it. The skills are all inside everyone's brain, one only have to learn how to control them. Many are good at using katanas while other feel are more confort and safer with an axe.

Skilled players are able to concentrate a physically manipulate objects from distance or even load them with electricity or other form or energy. When the will is strong, an electrified sandstorm can be as deadly as a a small army. There are no limits on what one can do, even flying is possible.

3.2 - Punishment
Everybody knows the main difference between a paintball match and a first person shooter game: the pain. The fear of being shot by an air propeled paintball makes one think twice before going outside any protecting obstacle. In Saga, every hurd causes real pain. This makes every move more important than ever and every fight becomes a life or death survival of the fitest.

There is no need to count experience points or health levels, any fight is over when someone can not handle the pain anymore, all measured by the Mindset-I.

3.3 - Balance
There is the question of balance. How can inexperienced or casual players survive in such hazardous environment?

The key to balance is limiting the power of the player (and npc) weapons. Depending on the area where the player is, there is an atenuation on the amount of damage she can inflinge. One can use any of the learned skills or combine them anywhere, the only difference is that certain areas are made for players still learning their skills. In these areas the atenuation factor avoids unfair fights so even a rookie has a chance again a more experienced player. The veteran has advantages still, since he can control his defence skills better, and be faster at using his powers.

Another important consequence of this atenuation is that the "punishment" sensations generated by the Mindset-I are also dimished, so the pain and disconfort are not as strong as the open areas of the world. Actually there is a small attenuation factor applied even in open areas. This is used as a reserve to be unlocked only in rare worldwide events or catastrofes such as wars or plages.

3.4 Business model
Play solo or as a group, exploring the environment, gaining (real) experience, gathering resources and dueling is all free to play. You can even have you clan and fight for territory, as long as the other clan accept the chalenge. Solo and group quests, dungeons and dueling arenas are all available for an afordable price, but be careful, the dangers are more expensive as well.

The player can use credit card to get some virtual currency, and with it buy better clothes, equipment, not only from dealers, but also from other players.

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