Monday, February 22, 2010

Design Doc: "Paradise Lost"

I have been hard on Dante's Inferno. It is a fun game with responsive combat and exciting visuals. But I've leveled all sorts of criticism at the game's creative elements mostly because I think they're rubbish. I'm also really jealous because I would slay fifty men with a giant cartoonish skull-adorned scythe while yelling HARRRRRRR for a chance to write for a game like that. I think that's really what upsets me: the folks who put this game together had an absolutely absurd chance to do something amazing. How many human beings in the history of the world have had the opportunity to write and create for the Divine Comedy in a multi-million dollar mega-project that is taken totally seriously? The answer is two, and they're the guys who wrote this game. Let their names never be uttered again. What sort of self-respecting person-with-an-interest-in-fiction (we won't use expectation-laden nouns like "writer") would get the opportunity to write for Satan in this venue and throw up this kind of airball?

So rather than curse the darkness, I'm going to light a candle. I'm going to get myself into Visceral as a game designer and fight the power from the inside. Like Malcolm X, I'll go along to get along and work with the system. Yes, that's what Malcom X was about. You saw the Spike Lee film? Well, you understood it wrong. It was on TV this weekend and I watched it. That is a fact. I'm going to give Visceral a game proposal they can't refuse, evolving the Inferno concept. It won't be the game I'd really want to make, but the change will come slowly. Just like with puppies and young children, you have to earn their trust before you start yelling and beating them with magazines. Because otherwise they won't understand how you're helping them.

Paradise Lost
A game in the style of God of War, which means Inferno as well. Third-person action game with lots of blood and flashy effects and cool "quicktime events" where you can hit a couple buttons to pull off a ridonkulous attack and like rip a dude's eyeballs out through his butt. If we can model the eyeballs-butt thing, awesome. Here we follow a different epic poem than the Divine Comedy: here we're doing John Milton's Paradise Lost.

The game is played from Satan's perspective; he's cast as an archetypal epic hero. Milton intended this to be ironic, but at Visceral Games we are NOT about irony. It's full-bore awesome all the way. We are also not about taking risks; at least not with stories or characters. Despite our determination to push the envelope in every other department, in this way we must remain vanilla...because gamers hate to see new things. We open with Satan at the enormous battle between his angels and God's angels in Heaven.

Level 1: War in Heaven
We move the contents of Books 5 and 6 to the start, because they are by far the most metal. As we learned from Dante's Inferno, it's important to concentrate your most eye-popping and epic content at the start of the game. Reviewers are often lazy opinionated nerds and they won't make it too far before banging out their 700 words on deadline. Player takes control of Satan in full awesomesauce armor, with gold and red and a bright shining sword. Some brief tutorials instruct the player on how to fight and Lucifer carves his merry way through dozens of weak angel punks. Lots of blood and screaming and explosions and death, even though the entire war scene in the poem is a parody. Angels can't die so the battle is an utter stalemate. Whatever, here you can kill the shit out of them! Then some stuff explodes, and Jesus shows up on his golden chariot with a fiery sword and owns the piss out of Lucifer's minions! There are four big-titted female angels on the chariot and they're wearing clothes, but they're really thin and white so you can see everything. Yeahhh. The ground opens up and the rebellious angels plummet down to a lake of fire in Tartarus.

Level 2: Pandaemonium!
Lucifer has landed with the remnants of his army and they come under attack by the demonic residents of the underworld. This will be a giant two-part level. First you battle demonic hordes along a trail towards the giant castle of Pandaemonium. We introduce larger demon monsters here, and the first quicktime events occur.

The second part of the level occurs at the castle, as Satan kills the boss guarding its gates by ripping its arms off and affixing them to a still-functioning Fallen Angel war machine. Well, and then by beating it to death while at the helm of the war machine in a fun little sequence with more quicktime events. Love them shits. He then storms the castle and reaches the very top tower, where he battles the Queen of Tartarus. She is a giant black four-winged demon with big tits. On her wings are more tits, and the wing tits should jiggle as she flaps them. This is important. The tits also shoot lethal green acid, and Satan kills the boss by ripping her wings off and juicing them over her head like a lime over a bowl of half-prepared guacamole.

We also learn about Lucifer's character from conversations he has along the way with his henchmen Memnon and Beelzebub. Beelzebub will be a fallen female angel with big tits. In keeping with the tradition of stirring main characters at Visceral (the silent Isaac from Dead Space and the I-have-a-different-motivation-in-every-scene Dante), Satan will essentially be Sting's character from the David Lynch adaptation of Dune. Spiky blonde hair and everything. He doesn't say much, but he does have a manic energy and yell all the time! Like the picture at right, he's saying "What up, bitches! I wrote Fields of Gold!" He likes to stick his tongue out and grin and stuff because that shows you how crazy he is. You keep your tongue locked up in your mouth but his'll have none of it! The one thing this character excels at is dire pronouncements, like the immortal line "I WILL KILL HIM!!!" line from the knife fight scene. Gives me chills. Pay attention: characters are supremely important in video games.

Level 3: The Void
Our hero learns about God's creation of Earth when a convenient deus ex machina character appears to inform him. Adam and Eve have been created in God's image, and Satan yells "I WILL KILL THEM!!!" He takes off across the great abyss to the Garden of Eden. This is a rail shooter as Satan shoots fireballs of evil at ghosts in the abyss. Ghosts of what? Ghosts of shut up, they'll be awesome. Lucifer arrives in the Garden and takes the form of a snake to spy on the first people, who by the way were white people. They are naked and Adam's junk will be carefully obscured. Meanwhile, Eve's innocent yet ample bosoms will be on full display. A sample dialogue:
Adam: "I love you, babe!"
Eve: "'Twere only we could sup from the Tree of Knowledge which o'er yond doth lie."
Adam: "No way! God said no!"
Eve: "A shame, truly 'tis. May we commence our fornication?"
Adam: "God said that's cool as long as we don't enjoy it too much."

Level 4: Snake in the Grass
Lucifer is discovered in the garden by angels, who expel him in chains. But he gets loose and breaks into a big-ass grin and sticks his tongue out 'cause he doesn't give a crap. He heads back into the garden and tears through hordes of angels as blood sprays everywhere. There will be periodic minigames and quicktime events, to get through thick jungle growth or suchlike. We can have vine-swinging and platforming as well. Eventually he fights Gabriel, who's nine feet tall with a giant glowing axe. Gabriel will have a fast melee attack, a slow heavy melee attack and a ranged attack. All except the heavy attack are blockable so the player can just mash the Block button to avoid damage between rounds of beating on the boss. After about eight minutes of bashing and blocking, a badass quicktime event plays where Satan saws Gabriel in half with his own axe. This will allow the player to forget the boring repetitive boss fight he's just endured.

At the end of the level, Satan becomes a snake one again and tempts Eve. She eats from the tree of knowledge and tells Adam, who is upset because he's so smart but she's so dumb! Thus we understand Milton's assertion that women are weak and wicked creatures. Bringing these literary values to the gaming public is really cool and I'm excited about it. Adam eats from the tree because he feels guilty for Eve's fall. Then they have dirty fun sex that they enjoy way too much, sealing their fate. Satan returns to Hell in triumph.

Level 5: Retribution
Satan shows up at Pandemonium to a hero's welcome. He's just ruined God's latest creation and doomed humanity to a fallen eternity. But the celebration is interrupted by God himself! He descends into Hell and attacks the gates ofPandaemonium. There's all kinds of heavy metal music playing and stuff starts exploding. Satan grabs Gabriel's axe and heads into battle.

He tears through legions of angels and big mega-angels with sweet quicktime events. God reveals Himself at last. He looks basically like Safer Sephiroth from the end of Final Fantasy VII, but with way bigger muscles because this is America and not Japan. He will spout such fiendishly original taunts as "Foul demon!" and "I damn you to Hell!" He will have an English accent and talk like Jafar from Aladdin. It is imperative that the creator of all the universe come across as pedestrian and petty, so our audience will know who to root for. The battle against God will take place in a single large wide-open arena. He will not really move, but rather slap at the ground feebly as Satan wails away on his various parts. Blood gets everywhere and big-titted angel women are falling dead from the sky with epic music blaring.

The boss fight itself will have two or three phases; we can pick and choose from a smorgasbord of God of War and Devil May Cry boss mechanics and spawn some small enemies periodically. We know the drill at this point. The fight will climax with some sick quicktimage, but Satan is stopped from killing God at the last second by Jesus. Jesus wraps him up in golden chains along with the rest of the Fallen Angels, and led off by the good angels. God and Jesus go back to heaven and we see an epilogue with Adam and Eve departing Paradise forever. They are wearing clothes and Eve's bosoms are no longer visible. That's how much the world sucks now. Before the credits roll, we see one last shot of Satan being led into a cell, where he turns around and grins. And sticks his tongue out. BAM. Credits. Fin.

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