Sunday, June 23, 2013

If I made it: Superman (Video Game)

Outline:  Lex Luthor is quietly experimenting with the remains of the Brainiac AI along with some discovered Kryptonian tech.  This experimenting wreaks havoc as the failures that this experimentation causes the release of Bizzarro, brings the attention of The Elite, the return of Cyborg and finally the release of General Zod.  After the final climatic battle with Zod leaves the city in ruins Luthor merges with Brainiac and rebuilds the city overnight using Kryptonian technology turning Metropolis in the literal City of Tomorrow.  But this sudden appearance of Kryptonian technology attracts the attention of The Eradicator as well as Mongul who attacks the city using his interstellar Warworld ship.  But the defeat of Mongul just gives Lex Luthor the opportunity to challenge Superman on the intergalactic stage using his new found powers to try and end the Man of Steel forever.


-Basic Controls

-Not much would change from Superman Returns, the game, while flawed, had some good ideas, they were just implemented poorly.
-Heat vision, super breath and freeze breath selection would be mapped to the d-pad and using them would be mapped to a shoulder button or trigger.  You could select burst mode by pressing the button twice.

-A wide open Metropolis with options of visiting Smallville, the Fortress of Solitude and space.

-The ability to fly THROUGH something at super speed such as a building or a space ship or a massive boss.  The ability to use your whole body as a weapon.  You press strong attack and Superman raises two fists, speeds up a little, lowers his head and gets a red aura around him.  You could also grab in flight.  When flying you press grab, he lowers both arms, raises his head up, slows down a little and gets a blue aura.  You could use them in sequence, fly through a wall and grab a hostage and then go through the next wall with the hostage.  You could do the same thing but grab the bad guy.  You could snatch falling people or objects out of the air.  The body language and the aura are simple indicators as to what you're doing.  You could do the same while running at super speed.

-X-ray vision would be a circle in front of you at the center of wherever you are looking and you can see everything behind the thing you’re looking at in the circle, it would be mapped to a separate button.

-Telescopic vision would appear as a circle in the lower right hand corner near your character, just like the sniping in Second Sight.  You enter telescopic vision and then use an analog stick to adjust how far you’re looking and it would be mapped to a separate button (the best would be a press of the analog stick, possibly the camera stick).
Telescoping vision would look something like this.  The zoom is in the lower right hand corner.  I've always thought it was the best zoom function in any game I've ever played.  Doing it this way still lets you be a part of the game world and see your character and what's around the character while still providing the zoom.

-Combining powers.  There are really only three powers you would need to combine and those are x-ray vision, telescopic vision and heat vision.  Super breath and ice breath are too short range to need to combine them with any other power.  The effects would be different depending on the order you combine them and you can combine all 3.  If you use telescopic vision first you have the limited view in your vision window and then when you switch to x-ray it would be in that limited view but you could zoom through objects and then using heat vision with telescopic vision you create a precision beam.  Use x-ray first and you get a wide field of vision and then use telescope vision to move through the layers in a wider view, this way you can look through whole buildings or go floor by floor looking for bad guys or look through whole buildings to recon enemies positions from a safe place. 

You could use any combination of those three powers.  As an example: someone has put bombs in a building.  You use x-ray and telescopic to find the bombs, go to the bombs and then use telescopic, x-ray and heat vision to cut the wires disarming the bombs.  You could use telescopic and heat to blow out tires in a chase.  Telescopic, x-ray and heat to heat up a gun in a bad guys hand causing him to drop the gun he’s holding on hostages on the other side of a wall.  You could heat the gun up without being seen and when he drops it rush through the wall.

-Super speed and flight mapped to separate buttons.

-Fighting is a weak attack, a strong attack, a grab and a counter.  Superman doesn’t need to block.  Superman is a brawler so there would be very little fancy, mostly just basic punches and kicks but you could combine powers at any time.  Any of the powers, within reason, x-ray vision doesn’t make sense in combat but could be used to find weak points on bigger enemies before using a flying or running charge.  You could start with heavy punches and add in super speed for a flurry of high impact blows or you could combine a charged heavy strike with flight and a grab to launch an opponent into the air, fly after them and grab them to either continue punching them or throw them or combine attack, flight and speed to jump back and rush forward in a shattering high speed attack.


-Tutorial Mission:  Intergang is on a crime spree.  It starts with an armored car robbery continues into a bank heist with hostages, a full on assault on Cadmus, holding the city hostage with bombs planted all around and finally they try to take down a Lex Corp plane filled with political leaders.  This would introduce you to the mechanics of flight, usage of powers, combining your powers, problem solving using game mechanics, the flying grab to grab people falling out of a plane before finally using the flying grab to catch the airplane and deliver it safely to the Metropolis airport.

-Outline:  Lex Luthor is experimenting with Brainiac AI and Kryptonian technology.  The first thing that goes wrong is the failed clone of Superman which almost immediately escapes and starts tearing up the city bringing the attention of Superman.  This would introduce the concept of super powered combat and the best ways to use the game mechanics against super beings.  The destruction caused by Bizarro bring The Elite out of the woodwork.  After a few mission helping The Elite when they go full fascists and try to kill Luthor for creating Bizarro you are forced to stop them.  Luthor's further tinkering with Kryptonian tech awakens Hank Henshaw, The Cyborg and allows him to stretch his virtual consciousness and start taking over technology.  Despite that close call Lex starts to try and access the Phantom Zone which he knows nothing about but believes it to be a portal to a dimension of pure energy he can exploit for financial means.  Opening the Phantom Zone releases General Zod who tries to take over the world with Non, Ursa and Faora.  Superman forces Lex to work with him to create a Phantom Zone projector to send them back.  While collecting the parts Lex needs you would have fights with the escapees that would lead to draws or them defeating you while destroying the city.  With the projector complete you would need to track them down one by one and send them back to the Phantom Zone with Zod being the last and hardest to send back.

  With the city destroyed Lex finally unlocks the true potential of Brainiac which allowes him to rebuild and upgrade the city over night.  This upgrade causes Intergang to go on another looting spree to introduce you to the new city.  The Kryptonian tech used in the upgrade attracts the attention of The Eradicator from the Fortress of Solitude and he arrives and starts trying to reclaim parts of the city, essentially restoring them to normal, and bending the tech against Superman.  This would leave you with a city where some parts are upgraded and some parts aren't, a mixed city.  The newer parts would have less environmental hazards (fires, tornado damage, floods) because of the upgrades natural defenses (fire extinguishers, resistant buildings, pumps) but more crime (robberies, car jackings, hostages) while the older parts would have more environmental hazards but less crime.

  The activity caused by Eradicator would attract the final act of the game when Warworld appears about the city.  Entering Warworld would be a gauntlet of Superman's rogues gallery.  People that would otherwise fit in the story could be fought her under a variety of environments.  After so many are beaten you get an opportunity to fight Mongul.  After you defeat Mongul it's revealed that Lex took advantage of the distraction and took over Warworld.  He appears in his green and purple power suit and challenges Superman on the intergalactic stage.  The fight would first take place on Warworld with Lex changing the environments, including the gravity, at will as well and adding beaten enemies that allow him to team up against you.  You finally oust him out of Warworld and down into Metropolis where the fight continues.  He's able to manipulate Kryptonian tech so you have to bring him to the old parts of Metropolis to make the fights more even.  Eventually the fight leads to Smallville where the battle ends in a large cornfield, the two men slugging it out.  When it's all over Lex is arrested and put on trial.  He gets out of all charges and in the after game if you fly to Lex Corp tower you can see him in office on the top floor.  

  The after game would be stopping random crimes, calming Intergang activity, and providing disaster relief.  The after game would include one mission with Batman to stop the combination of Luthor, Mercy, Joker and Harley.

-The fight with Bizarro starts with the Man of Steel just neutralizing the damage Bizarro does after Bizarro is already gone but ends in a brief battle where the Man of Steel convinces Bizarro to stay at the Fortress of Solitude where you can interact with him afterwards and he can be seen interacting with the Super Pets.

- A fight with the Elite where you have to find a way to stop them without killing them.  The Elite show up after the fight with Bizarro as they feel Luthor is behind it and they arrive to kill Luthor in a public execution.  While Superman doesn’t doubt that Luthor is guilty he will not let The Elite kill Luthor and so must defend his worst enemy from the group of killers.  The challenge is to find ways to confront and neutralize each enemy in a series of one on one or one on two encounters culminating in an epic battle with Manchester Black.

-The fight with Cyborg would be him using the city's tech, combined with his own space ship, against Superman.  Cars driving themselves off cliffs (that Superman has to save) planes falling out of the sky (that Superman has to save), a meteorite gun, a massive space laser, drone ships and a massive mech created from the city itself.

-General Zod manages to be one of the escapee's from the Phantom Zone while Lex is experimenting with stolen Kryptonian technology.  He immediately tries to take over the world resulting in a confrontation with Superman which, in turn, results in a protracted city destroying fight.  There would be moments of direct one on one contact, quick time events and Zod creating distractions that you would need to address (starting massive city fires or putting citizens into danger forcing you to save them instead of continue attacking).  It would end with most of the city in ruins and with you spending a little time helping to clean up before the city experiences a tech jump over night.  Activities would include looking for survivors using x-ray vision, moving huge piece of debris and putting out fires.

-Towards the middle of the game, after Zod and Superman destroy the city, Luthor finally unlocks Brainiac’s power and upgrades the whole city into the city of tomorrow, drastically changing the game environment.

-The fight with Eradicator would involve him trying to contain, control or destroy the Kryptonian technology and would involve him bending the physical city to his will against Superman as he would have a connection with the tech.  Attacks would include using the turbines to pump water into the city instead of out of it, using the cities defenses against Superman (fire suppression, lethal and less than lethal crime defenses, the cities electrical grid).  He would also "de-tech" parts of the city leaving them as they were before the upgrade.  Afterwards the city would loose it's anti-crime defenses leaving the upgraded city vulnerable to crime but resistant to natural disasters.

-A full gauntlet of opponents in Mongul’s Warworld including Metallo, an inferior clone of Doomsday (he would look only sort of like Doomsday, it would be a chance to change up the look of the character a bit), Kalibak, Conduit, Silver Banshee and Parasite etc.

-  Mxyzptlk is a side quest of bizarre random tasks that temporarily cause drastic environmental effects and causes the player to question what is happening including the creation of Superman Red and Superman Blue and a fight against Titano.  Each quest ends when the player gets Mxy to say his name backwards in a variety of ways.

-Side quests involving Livewire, Toyman, Prankster, Intergang, Bibbo and a brief team up with Batman to take on the combined might of Luthor, Mercy, Joker and Harley Quinn in the after game.

-Appearances by Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Cadmus, Guardian, Bibbo, Steel, Superboy, Supergirl, Powergirl, Prof. Hamilton, Lana Lang, Pete Ross and Mercy Graves.

-The Fortress of Solitude contains unlockables including alternate playable characters such as Supergirl, Steel, Eradicator, Bizarro, Zod, Power Girl and Superboy.  It also contains a simulator that lets you fight a variety of Superman villains (some not in the regular story as well as fellow heroes like Wonder Woman, a race with Flash or Captain Marvel) or relive important moments of Superman’s history.  There would also be side quests involving the growth of the Fortress’s zoo and the Bottle City of Kandor.  Also Krypto, Streaky, Beppo and Comet.  The Fortress would be a great place to keep a ton of Easter eggs referencing the cool and ridiculous history of Superman.  It would also play host to a fight between Superman and Lobo.

-Smallville would offer a few side quests of either helping out on the Kent farm or saving the small town (fires, natural disasters, criminal attacks, etc).  Smallville would consist of a small main street, the Kent Farm and lots and lots of open country space.

-Superman is invulnerable so he shouldn’t have a health bar.  His powers also shouldn’t be limited because they need to be used a lot so I would propose using a stamina bar that would behave like a big ass health bar.  It wouldn’t be depleted easily and it would regenerate fast but it would provide some vulnerability but not necessarily end the game.  Also I would use the city health bar from Returns, it’s not a terrible idea but I would make the bar a little harder to deplete.  On situations where it’s applicable you would depend on the life bar of a third party such as a person you need to save, a building or something that isn’t either the city or Superman.  The death of innocents would be a game ender.  The use of Kryptonite would cause physical damage as well as super human enemies which would make the stamina bar practical and may negate the need for a city health bar.  Superman's invulnerability is probably the hardest thing to incorporate into a game.

Final Thoughts:  This Superman game is ambitious, as most of my game ideas are.  It would be a massive world containing as much Superman as possible but the mere concept of Superman provides a lot of design challenges.  Such as a life bar.  How do you create a fail state in a game starring an invulnerable super powered alien?  It’s difficult but I think the Superman Returns game probably had the best idea but they created a fragile city with an easily depleted stamina bar to create something that is more frustrating than functional.  But a Superman game should be about epic world changing battles, huge, powerful enemies and devastating combat.  You need to feel like you are wielding massive power against enemies that wield equal power.  It’s something difficult to get right, which is probably why Superman games have a history of failure, when games are even tried. 

I haven’t played every Superman game, in fact I’ve only played the NES one, Death and Return of Superman for SNES and Superman Returns for 360 so I’m hardly the expert but so far I think Superman Returns, despite all its flaws, is probably the best of the Superman games and worth strip mining of all it’s good ideas to put in a better game.  This game would be epic battles combining real time fighting and QTE, as much of the Superman universe that could be crammed into it as well a persistent crime mechanic and events that need the help of the Man of Steel such as natural disasters. 

My favorite part of Superman Returns was just floating high above the city waiting for the cry of help then rushing in and providing that help.  Imagine doing the same thing from space.  Just the silence of nothing as you float there looking at Earth, the moon, the sun or the solar system at large then that cry of help on your super hearing before flying down at incredible speeds to help.  The goal is to make you feel like Superman, to give the player the power and control.  It’s a difficult task but not an impossible one.

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