I have an idea for a video game. Someone else has probably made a similar game at some point in the past but I wanted to write out this idea before I forgot it. The tentative name I have for the game is Walk Away. I’m thinking the name will need to be changed because it gives away the crucial part of the game.
Walk Away, or whatever it eventually gets titled, centers on its respawning system. For those that don’t know, respawning is merely the process by which a game resets to a previous state when you achieve a failure condition. A common example is when you’re playing a shooting game and your characters dies you then restart at the last checkpoint you reached. Respawning has been in games for many decades and we’ve seen some interesting usages of it in the past but for Walk Away I have something special in mind. In the Shadow of Mordor games there was a neat feature called the Nemesis System, whereby enemies that killed you would become stronger each time you failed to kill to them and would also remember their victories over you. I want to take the concept of the Nemesis System—aside from the part about enemies becoming stronger each time you die—and push it even further so that both foes and the protagonist remember all the times the protagonist died and the protagonist is deeply effected by those deaths. The protagonist is fully aware of all the times they died in the past and while they’ve not developed full-blown PTSD their mental state and outlook on life are colored by the pain and trauma they’ve gone through.
In order to fully utilize this twist on respawning and to play out the story I have in mind, Walk Away will need to be a harder game. I’m thinking it will probably be in line with the level of challenge found in the Dark Souls games. The game will be tough but will reward players who put in the time and effort to learn an enemy’s pattern and/or weakness.
Another important aspect of the game is that progress will not be lost no matter how many times you die. Enemies that you’ve killed will stay dead, and choices you make will continue to play out even if you die right after making them. When you respawn you’ll find yourself at a place not too far from where you died, but far enough away so that enemies don’t know where you are.
As for the story, I only have some rudimentary ideas at the moment but the plot is directly tied to the respawning system. The protagonist could be male or female, or maybe Walk Away could be the sort of game where you choose your gender at the start. For the sake of this writing piece I’m assuming the protagonist is male and I’ll refer to him as Gauge, which isn’t the most interesting name around but it’s one of the names that came to my mind. Gauge is a seemingly immortal person in the sense that he doesn’t stay dead. Whether or not Gauge gets older with the passage of time like everyone else is something I’ve not determined yet. Gauge has no idea how or why he gained this ability to come back from the dead and respawn. At some point in the past Gauge met another character that somehow has some knowledge about him and his condition. This other character convinces Gauge that he might as well put his apparently immortality to use for the greater good of the world and recruits Gauge to become some sort of mercenary/assassin who goes around getting rid of problematic things and people. All of that is backstory and the game begins a few years down the road. Gauge’s handler has tasked him with traveling to a certain place and do a certain thing and along the way there will be plenty of enemies to kill. As you play the game and advance the story you’ll be killing and getting killed but if you pay careful attention you’ll notice that Gauge is slowly starting to break down mentally. He’s done some bad things in the preceding years and the current quest gets increasingly morally questionable the farther he advances. After awhile Gauge starts to question if he’s doing the right thing or not and as you continue to die and respawn you’ll hear the strength of his conviction begin to falter. Once you reach a certain place in the game and have died enough times then the next time Gauge respawns he will ask himself the question “What if I just walk away?” At this point a giant fork in the road will appear, but they player will not be told about it. On one hand the player can continue the quest all the way to the finish and the game will end there. On the other hand, the player can choose to have Gauge turn around and if they go all the way back to where the game started they’ll find a new path has become open. The option to turn back will remain open right up until just before the end of the original quest. On the way back to the starting area the player will see the results of everything they have done up until that point and maybe there will be new enemies to fight. When Gauge gets back to the starting area his handler will ask what he is doing and if the player tries to take the new path they will have to fight and kill the handler to proceed. As the handler dies, however, he warns Gauge that the “others” will hunt him down. The new path that Gauge then follows seems to be a more peaceful existence, until at some point Gauge is attacked by a mysterious character. When the player defeats this mysterious foe it will be revealed that Gauge is not the only person in the world who has the respawning ability and he is now being hunted by another character who keeps coming back no matter how many times Gauge kills him/her. Where the story goes next I do not yet know.
The moment in Walk Away where the new path becomes available is inspired by a game I played on the PlayStation 3 called Spec Ops: The Line. At one point in Spec Ops your character is about to do something really terrible and believes he has no other choice but to do it. Another character tries to talk your character out of doing this horrible act, telling him that there is always a choice, but your character doesn’t listen and the game proceeds with you doing the deed. As powerful as that moment is for the narrative of the game, for Walk Away I want to give the player what Spec Ops didn’t—the choice to not do the deed and renounce the path that you’re on. As I said earlier, the player won’t be explicitly told that they have the choice, but it will be hinted at and it will be interesting to see how many players decide to just keep doing bad things and how many choose to walk away.
Beyond the respawning system and the basics of the story I have a few other ideas about Walk Away. I’m thinking that the game has a medieval setting but that’s open to being changed. The setting definitely needs to be pre-industrial, however, because I want the combat to primarily involve swords, shields, spears, and other melee weapons. Ranged combat would involve throwing knives, crossbows, bows and arrows, and possibly primitive firearms. Magic might exist in this game’s universe but I’m not sure about that. I’m also toying with the idea that Gauge might have some sort of companion to talk to while he’s on the journey. Maybe early in the game Gauge unintentionally rescues someone and that person decides it’s safer to stick with Gauge than to take their chances on their own.
So, that’s my idea for Walk Away. It’s not the greatest game idea ever and I’ve not done a good job of explaining it but this is the closest I’ve come to a full-fledged game proposal. My dream would be for this to one day get turned into a AAA game from one of major gaming studios (and be both a commercial and critical success). That likely will never happen but if anyone has a few million dollars to fund a delusional writer’s dreams then just send me a message.