I’ve written a bit about my own game design, using it as a template for practical demonstration of some game design elements. There are nuggets in the Balance articles thisaway:
In addition to the things I’ve written so far, outlining some of the features of my tactical RPG (think “hex-based Fire Emblem/X-Com/Final Fantasy Tactics inspired” cobbler), I want to splice on a larger, strategic layer. That’s another place where the X-Com inspiration comes in. That classic game has a tactical layer (turn based initially, real-time pausable later in the series), but it also has the Geoscape, a strategic layer where base management, research and politics matter. This facilitates a sort of strategic persistence, where decisions you make in the tactical combat echo through the campaign against the aliens and vice versa.
For example, falling behind in research is especially damaging to the war effort, but if your soldiers can’t score some salvage to study, you’re going to fall behind. If you can’t equip them with better gear through research, battlefield acquisition and plain old mercantile action, they won’t work well in the field. If they don’t gain experience and become better soldiers, they won’t keep up. The little decisions you make all over the place add up to a greater whole. (See also: The Rampant Coyote’s Game Design: Small Choices article.)
I like that a good commander needed to keep the bigger picture in mind, and that sometimes, short-term sacrifices needed to be made to make a long-term plan viable. I like that tactics and strategy have their own compartments in the game design (they are different, after all), but that they influence each other in profound ways. That’s the sort of gameplay that can make planning and analysis very rewarding, even as randomization of things like alien attacks makes flexibility valuable. I love that about X-Com, and it’s something I’ve tried to let weigh heavily in my own designs.
So, what sort of large scale conflict I’m thinking of for my game? Well, the short form is “post-apocalyptic DNA soup, where blobs are the dominant life form”. Players choose one of three Blob breeds and deal with their neighbors; the Aspirants, the world’s mental giants (these guys correspond to the Focus strain of previous articles), the Ferals, blobs of the wild (Agility units), and Zomblobs (Strength units), slow, relentless, mindless monsters.
In age-old blob tradition, consume your enemies, or be consumed. Use their strengths as your own and rise to be the dominant species. Build blob bases, claim favorable geography, research the apocalypse and dig for hidden DNA caches to give your group the edge via mutation and adaptation.
The zomblobs are coming.