A Game.
June 24, 2008

Around five years ago, I wrote a videogame.

Or, to be fairer, myself and a handful of other idiots wrote it. After giving up on the initial quest of building a more streamlined version around the Half-Life engine, the plan was to craft the thing in Source and release it episodically as a Half-Life 2 total-conversion mod, and it actually got past pre-production and into the actual creation itself, as the above link suggests. Somehow - and I still can't remember how, but I'd wager it was something to do with it being massively, pompously impossible to actually make - nothing ever got built past the first few minutes of play, and the entire project died on its arse for a second time.

Reading through the notes, looking at the screenshots, and remembering the hours, days, weeks and months we poured into writing the back story, the characters, the narrative and even a decent portion of the script, I feel like crying a little.

'Cause, y'know. Without meaning to sound too egotistical, this would have been my perfect game. I mean, that was always our aim: to write the game we wanted to play.

Which leaves me in a huge predicament. The design documents are far too incomplete to pitch to anyone, and regardless, the chance of any company with the technical ability to create such a monstrous thing actually wanting to take a risk on an indie design is extremely slim. If they could be spruced up into a fully fledged pitch it might be worth something, but that'd take far more time and dedication from myself and the rest of the team - most of whom I've lost touch with - than we're realistically capable of coping with. It wouldn't work as a novel - it's too wordy and too expansive, for a start, and it incorporates the sort of comedy that would be appreciated more by the gaming audience. It could lend itself to a comic, but it'd have to be an enormously long and incredibly detailed one, and it'd lose some of the freeform stuff (what am I saying? All of the freeform stuff) in the translation. A film version would ruin the joke entirely.

Which leaves a final option. I'd love to pretend I've been mulling this over for ages but I'll admit the idea came to me during the writing of this blog. The only way I can see it progressing in any way that wouldn't make a mockery of all the work we've already done is in the guise of an ARG, or at least some form of interactive fiction. I ran one of these in 2004 - it only lasted a month and I had to essentially dedicate my life to it for that time period, but I had so much fun doing it that I've always wanted to make another one. This would be much more expansive, and require a fucking load of skill from a whole bunch of talented puppetmasters. Plus I've already broken rule number one of ARG creation and stepped in front of the curtain, but it's the only way to kickstart such a big project, and the idea of setting the thing in an entirely fictional universe sort of spoils the 'This Is Not A Game' concept anyway.

It would work in this format, though it'd require some major re-writing to allow the action to play out 'at home' instead of the hands-on-guns approach that a videogame would obviously take. The pre-game ambling would be able to be ported straight over, though - CWA's original advertising campaign was always going to consist of a series of fictional websites that allowed the player to discover all the essential bits about the world's history and the narrative setup before they even began playing.

Shit, you know what? I'm getting a bit excited.

ARG's are a shitload of work but an equal shitload of fun to be a part of. I'd have to get in touch with all the old team members, get their permission, potentially get them back on board, make sure no copyright was infringed upon, spend loads of money, invest loads of time, and write practially a whole book of stuff and build a gazillion websites and forums and blogs and all sorts to get the thing up and running. But, despite all that, it still seems like an inviting prospect.

I guess the point of this blog has turned into:

Anyone fancy this absurd idea?

Most recent blog posts from Lewis Denby...

honestgamer honestgamer - June 24, 2008 (04:43 PM)
I know a few of us have at various points considered game design, but something like Half-Life isn't really an approach I would likely take and my other work keeps me too absorbed, anyway.
Lewis Lewis - June 25, 2008 (03:47 AM)
Oh, the HL2 thing wouldn't happen now anyway - I've totally forgotten how to manipulate Source now anyway, it's been that many years.

I'm not necessarily asking for help here, just... I don't know what I'm really asking. I haven't posted any of the concept or story up here for obvious reasons so there's probably not a lot anyone can say anyway!
pup pup - June 27, 2008 (09:54 AM)
A friend and I are setting up and ARG for late July, although it's nowhere near the scale you're talking about. It'll be a post-apocalyptic scavenger hunt/race. Teams have limited time to track down items like medical supplies and weapons, decipher the next location, and get there before the rest of the group leaves. It's just a one-day deal and the most hi-tech element will be text messages, but it should be fun. We might even stage another zombie-walk later that night.
Lewis Lewis - July 16, 2008 (06:21 AM)
To be honest I think that sort of game - relying so heavily on real-world events etc - would be more challenging to set up than one based predominantly online.

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