I’ve been studying the subject of game design and development over at Coleman University in San Diego, and the introductory course I’ve taken over the past few months has planted in me one concept for a project I see a lot of potential in.
This design, tentatively named Lost City, hybridizes the city-building and real-time strategy game genres. Influences I can name include the Age of Empires series, SimCity, Black & White 2, Pharaoh, and Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis. It takes place in a fantasy setting mixing various African cultural influences with prehistoric life, a tropical world where African-looking people coexist with dinosaurs and other Mesozoic fauna.
You start a standard game with a small clan of hunter-gatherers sleeping in makeshift shelters, and have the task of keeping them fed and secure as their population reproduces. Over time, your community will upgrade into an agricultural village, then a bustling town, and finally a shining city with grand architecture. As this settlement expands, your people’s needs and desires will evolve too; at first preoccupied with the basics of survival in a harsh wilderness, they will develop a craving for finer luxuries like organized religion or entertainment once they’ve settled themselves in sturdier homes.
While Lost City can be described as a sandbox game, it does have something approximating a victory condition to motivate the gameplay. If you maintain a 90+% level of satisfaction for all your citizenry’s wants and needs after upgrading to the “City stage”, you’ll be rewarded with a Monument (similar to the Wonder in Age of Empires) testifying to your glory. After this moment, of course, you can continue playing with your sandbox. On the other hand, if you persistently fail your task of governance, your subjects will riot and destroy your Chieftain’s Hut or Palace, thus bringing about the terminal defeat condition.
Of course, there are numerous perils to take into account here. Not only is there a variety of dinosaurs to worry about, but you’ll also have to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, brush fires, and plague outbreaks. And once your settlement’s economy fills up with surplus resources, enemy tribes and nations will barge into the map for plunder and conquest.
Here are concept sketches (not to scale) of typical commoner dwellings for each stage of the game. The Clan stage represents prehistoric hunter-gatherers in their makeshift shelters, the Village stage represents the dawn of agriculture, and the Town and City stages represent the evolution of an urban civilization. You advance to the next stage once your reproducing subjects reach a certain population and overall happiness level. It'll be a bit like advancing through the ages in Age of Empires.
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