I’ve come up with yet another new concept for an RPG, albeit one I think I can bring to fruition without agonizing over how to get things done or letting it slide to the back burner for months or years. It’s (tentatively) called “Adventures of the Space Patrol.”
The original idea came from when I realized that Yuuyake Koyake was in fact named after a children’s song that perfectly describes its mood. I got to wondering what other kinds of games could come from children’s songs, and the first one that came to mind was “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” When I looked up more info on the song, I found out that there’s actually a version with a full five verses, and it speaks of the star as a benevolent light shining to guide travelers in the dark of night.
This line of thought met another halfway. Professional illustrators have a certain style of cartooning that’s at least as stylized as manga, but seldom makes its way into the mainstream (with Erin Esurance and certain Nicktoons being notable exceptions) despite being so dang awesome. I had picked up a book of Shane Glines‘ pinup art (NSFW) from Amazon, and the rather silly (in a good way) picture of a girl in a retro-futuristic jumpsuit holding a raygun got me to thinking in terms of “retro-cute sci-fi.”
I’m starting to think that in creating Yuuyake Koyake, Ryo Kamiya really hit on something important. Video games, especially the simpler ones, boil down to how the designers let you do one or more verbs. Some of the cleverest games come from picking an unusual verb, such as “eat” (Pac-Man) or “roll up” (Katamari Damacy) and running with it. Role-playing games are a little more complicated in that respect, but some really brilliant games have come from this same approach. In Yuuyake Koyake the verb is “help.” It makes non-violent role-playing practical, immediate, compelling, and easy to do. Aitsu wa Classmate (another RPG published by Sunset Games) does this too, and while Elite Beat Agents is a rhythm-action video game, its story is also all about helping people (and occasionally other things). I would really like to see more “good samaritan” games come along in the future, but of course the wonderful thing about RPGs is that if you really want something, you can make it happen yourself.
Put all that together, and we have the makings of a game that has the potential to be really moving, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a game where a girl in a silver jumpsuit and jetpack can comfort a girl whose mother was in a car accident.
Most of my attempts at game design revolve around a specific genre for which I can cite at least half a dozen specific works, and more often than not nearly all of those are anime/manga. In this respect Adventures of the Space Patrol breaks with that habit, which is probably good for me as a (wannabe) designer. Although I let some Japanese stuff creep in here and there, the game was inspired by a look and feel rather than a book or a TV show, and it’s up to those who play it to feel out how to put together stories, rather than trying to ape something from another medium.
So far the rules are not especially original. They’re rather like a mashup of The Shadow of Yesterday and Spirit of the Century, with some bits of Yuuyake Koyake, In A Wicked Age, and others thrown in for good measure. I’m less concerned with startling originality of rules than I am with making a quick and fun game that expresses the whole “retro-cute sci-fi” thing well. Characters are created by picking archetypes (Atomic Ranger, Martian Barbarian, etc.) and making a few tweaks here and there. It has SotC-style Aspects, but with the addition of “Bonds,” temporary aspects that define how your character connects with the current episode’s major NPCs. If I get it all the way done, I’m definitely going to include a replay and a couple of scenarios in the book, and do my darndest to get some good illustration-style art to go with it.
Another thing is that, although I really haven’t been trying to do it that way, I keep coming up with ideas for games that would be good for pickup play. (The other two are Raspberry Heaven and Dandelion Complex). I think even though I do tend to play long, convoluted campaigns with my friends, really want to be able to just throw a game together without having to worry too much about organizing a bunch of people week after week. Although it’s often rewarding, sometimes I get tired of being a cat-herder.
If I can, I’m going to try to get a version ready for playtest in the next couple of weeks.