game design document (2002)
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A sketch of one part of the "Virtual Creature" phase of the "Critical Mass" video game
I have long dreamed of designing video games that would be implemented and published by talented programmers and artists.
I used some of my spare time in the years 2000 and 2001 to design a video game I named "Critical Mass".
My original idea for "Critical Mass" involved a "game within a game". The main character was Mr. Ca$h, the shifty, con artist president of a video game company. The game begins in a courtroom, with Mr. Ca$h on trial, the target of a class-action suit brought against him for a series of terrible games produced by his company. The plaintiff side is represented by three notorious video game critics. A mass of critics also participates via online chat. Mr. Ca$h must defend himself by playing all 16 of his games in the courtroom. So, the player controls the Mr. Ca$h character, who, in turn, spends most of the game playing one of the sixteen video games published by his company. After each mini-game is completed (essentially like a level in a conventional game), our perspective changes to the courtroom and the critics make comments. I initially thought that Mr. Ca$h would simply win the case in the end, but having him thrown in jail would create more need for vengeance, and the possibility of a sequel.
I discussed the game idea with my friends, and some said that the indirection (i.e., you control Mr. Ca$h, and Mr. Ca$h controls some anonymous game character) was confusing and lacked the focus that mainstream games have: a strong, distinctive character that fulfilled personal fantasies.
I thought the Mr. Ca$h character was great, and I liked the whole plot of the game, but I decided to try to do exactly what some of my friends suggested: focus on a single character, and make this main character a real hero, and simplify the overall story.
So, I eliminated Mr. Ca$h, and the critics, and the courtroom scenario, and instead focused on a guy I named Mr. One, who is forced back to the year 1979 by the evil Dr. Zero (who is spherical and made entirely of dark energy). Mr. One must fight his way back to the future to ultimately defeat Dr. Zero, going through the history and present of video game genres. Dr. Zero's minions are eager to blast Mr. One in to scattered pixels and bytes.
When I was writing this game design document I sometimes couldn't stop laughing, and I thought this would be the funniest and most fun game ever. I am still very confident that this game, if developed, would become a legend.
Anyhow, when I read a book on screenwriting I encountered the following advice: Throw away your first script, because it is bad and cannot be fixed. Ouch!