Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Erik Designs A Video Game: Long Haul

So this week I watched the preview video for the most mind-boggling game I've ever seen:  Spintires.

A few notes:

That music is much, much too exciting for something like "getting trucks stuck in the mud and trying to get them out again."

That background is gorgeous.

It looks like it would be entertaining for about an hour (two if you and your friends are drunk) but then would get tedious.

So, could we make a real game out of that?  I think we could.  Here's my pitch for Long Haul.

You play as Heath, a truck driver up in Alaska (or even Canada, if you think people will buy a game starring a Canadian) who receives a call from his sister.  She's staying up in a remote town north in the middle of the wilderness, and their fuel supplies are getting low.  She also asks to bring along a man named Alvin, a mechanic and machine operator to help fix some of the trucks and other machinery up in the village.

The two of you climb into a fuel truck and start out into dirt roads, logging trails, and empty byways.

However, something is amiss.

As your travels continue, you realize something is attempting to impede your journey.  While moving some deer carcasses from the street, you realize something is moving around in the wilderness around you.  You can't quite make it out, but it doesn't sound big.

Later on, trees block the road.  Alvin points out that not too far back you passed a dirt road leading to a lumber yard, maybe there's a tree lifter there that can help clear the road.  He volunteers to stay behind (and guard the truck in case anybody else shows up, set up flares, and so on) while you head off down the road.  Again, there's something in the darkness waiting for you.  It sounds like more than one thing, this time, and the shadows seem to crowd in around you.  You have a flashlight (one of those nifty ones with a hand crank) that flickers and goes out every now and again, and when it does the darkness feels like it's choking the life from you like a physical force.

You finally get to the lumber yard to find it abandoned.  Cars and trucks belonging to people that work there are present, but there's no other sign of life.  After searching, you find a set of keys to one of the big trucks and drive it out to start moving trees.

When you get back, Alvin is sitting in the cab of the truck and tells you that there's wolves around.  You spot eyes glowing from the darkness, and Alvin volunteers to work the truck to move the trees while you keep watch.  As he works, you hear howling in the distance.  The wolves emerge from the shadows, only they're twisted, dark, and seem unnatural.  Their chests are sunk in unnaturally, a black ooze emerges from the nose and eyes of several of them.  You wind up tying a road flare to a tire iron and using it to keep the wolves at bay, as they seem determined to either kill you or jump into the cab to kill Alvin.

Now, there are a few other options.  You could use some of the fuel in the truck to set up a flame barrier (careful, large fires around fuel trucks don't go well).  You could move the truck to try to create a barrier that the wolves have to go around, or park it so that they can't get into one side of the tree mover's cab, leaving you only one side to defend.

The trip continues, with other hazards making you take detours.  Eventually you have to start to tap from the fuel in the truck to make the journey.  A landslide forces you to detour around a lake, and the dark force causes a dirt road to wash out, forcing you to maneuver through mud.  Depending on the path you take, you could get stuck and use up more precious fuel trying to get yourself out.

The trip takes several days (from the beginning you knew this), so you have to find places to camp.  An actual campsite is abandoned, leaving you scrounging for supplies.  You find a hunting cabin out in the woods, but the men staying there attack you.  It's night time, the lights in the cabin are flickering, and it's hard to see, but you think that same black goop might be on them.

At one point you pass a crater marking where something came down years ago.  There's an abandoned scientist station near it.  There's a medicine lodge that's run down where you find notes about dark spirits that used to inhabit the woods.  You vaguely remember rumors back in town that some bizarre cult had set themselves up in the woods like survivalists, sacrificing wildlife and doing all sorts of stuff (according to the rumors, anyway).

Finally, after maneuvering this whole time, you get to the village where your sister is.  Part of it has burned down.  The rest is empty.  You find a note saying that something attacked the village and they had to flee into the foothills of the nearby mountains.  Whatever it is seems to be scared of light and fire, and they took what was left of their supply, but it's extremely low, perhaps enough for a few more nights.  You aren't sure how long ago the note was written.  This leads you to conclude you need to take the fuel truck with you as you start to drive into the hills.

The game concludes with a showdown where you lure the darkness (whatever it is, you never really get to see it as it always stays just outside of the torch, but will move closer if the torch starts to die) into a cave system and then try to trap it by blowing up the fuel truck at the cave entrance.

I think there's a genuinely scary game there with a good use of whatever driving mechanics exist in something like Spintires.    A combination of that and Alan Wake, with more of a focus of actually trying to keep the "evil" away rather than "shine a light on it than shoot it."  I think monsters are always scarier when you aren't sure what it is and don't see much of it.  You could set fire to the area to try to ward it off, but lighting the wrong area could cause the fire to spread and block your truck's path, forcing you to take a different route, or force you to back up in reverse for a ways to avoid having something bad happen to your truck.

The game would require you to drive different types of vehicles at certain points.  There's the tree mover.  Perhaps a barricade is set up by some people earlier and you need to find a different vehicle to smash through it, so you swipe a large Hummer from a nearby airfield (abandoned, of course) to drive.

So, game developers, call me.  I'll help flesh this idea out.

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