I’ve been working on that “mystery game idea” since I mentioned it in the last post in this column, and now I want to talk a little about it.
The idea is relatively simple on paper: you are the head of a corporation in a cyberpunk universe. You have to make your company financially viable by researching, manufacturing, distributing, and marketing products. Being cyberpunk, however, it’s not just about financial warfare; it’s also about actual warfare, so you can steal and sabotage your competitor’s resources which will strike a blow to their pipelines.
And that’s the pitch.
Right now, I’ve got the very initial framework down that allows me to create a CEO and a corporation, choosing a portrait and a corporate logo. All of that saves to disk. You can also choose to load a saved game from disk. Hey, that’s been the Achilles Heel mechanic of most of my previous project attempts, so I’m super pleased that this aspect of the game is already on the books (more or less) so I can concentrate on other things.
The game moves in phases. First, you start with nothing, and need to choose your first item to work on. You’ll get a “market research” panel that will give you three random options, and what it is about current products on the market that they don’t like. Maybe one option will be an anti-cybernetic-rejection drug that should be “more potent” but also “less addictive”. Choice of item really has no bearing on anything except as a way to goad the user into picking something, and giving them a vague target to aim for: better than the attributes the panel say they dislike.
Next, you’ll need to pick a location on the map to set up an R&D facility. It costs money to rent, and you get a level 1 lab which installs the selected item to research. Research is a passive affair, but you’ll need to decide which attributes to boost and which are OK to sacrifice. Each item will have X attributes, but only a few will be relevant when trying to appease the market research subjects. In order to increase your chance of making something better than what they have now, you’ll use sliders to spend points on attributes. But in order to get those points to spend, you’ll need to decrease the sliders on other, less important attributes. If you’ve got the money, you can hire a researcher who adds permanent points to your pool that don’t require you to sacrifice anything, but you can’t hire enough to max out an attribute, only to supplement it so your other attributes don’t suck as bad as they would otherwise.
You can get a market research panel to research new products, keep manufacturing the same stable of products, concentrate on a market or diversify, hire and fire, improve the level of your facilities, and so on.
That’s about as far as I have conceptually. Beyond this, there’s ideas for manufacturing and setting a price, then getting into a market which may or may not have been represented by the initial study that you worked hard to live up to in the first place. You can improve your chances of selling even the crappiest items by crafting a killer marketing strategy by hiring celebrities or creating controversies.
The corporate warfare is something I want to include because it’s a cyberpunk staple. If you’d rather not hire a researcher, say, you can hire a street merc squad to “extract” a researcher from a rival corporation, scoring you not just a researcher but other boosts in the form of bad PR for your target opponent. Of course, they can do the same thing to your off-duty researchers, so you’ll want to hire security for your facilities which could resort in some collateral damage along the way.
There’s a lot to flesh out, including the all important “what’s the damn point” in a game where your actions all support increasing your profit, but currently for no good purpose…and no end. Maybe you’ll have to run your rivals out of business, but how? Maybe you have to reach some kind of domination scenario, but how? I know it’s not really “a game” without a win or lose condition, but there’s always a bunch of opportunities for both when we’re talking about corporate warfare.