No content written, just a couple ideas I had after watching Catching Fire. It started out as a boardgame because I think about boardgames all the time these days, but computers have fewer practical issues.
Setting & Gameplay overview
Key elements :
- NPCs. Many more contestants than players, so a large number of roaming NPCs. A smart NPC AI that can handle all the points below, with different personalities. If it’s a board game, then the AI should also be easy to use, else players will spend too much time moving all the NPCs every turn.
- Player elimination. NPCs open the possibility of a “reincarnation” mechanic, either as a genuine second chance to win or as an attempt to make the game a draw by killing every other PC.
- Skills. Contestants vary in physical fitness, intelligence, military training etc. PCs are median in most aspects with perhaps a special talent or two. Some NPCs are pathetic. Some NPCs are scary.
- Temporary collaboration, Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma-style. Coalitions beat loners, but are vulnerable to betrayal – and everyone knows there can only be one winner. This is the game’s selling point. This tension is what draws us to these stories. Though make sure it’s not friendship-destroying. Coalitions may include PCs and NPCs alike, so must be handled by the NPC AI.
- Cat-and-mouse. Every fight is risky. Better to attack only as an ambush or with overwhelming force. Better still to stay out of the way until everyone else is dead. As a video game, this can be implemented with fog-of-war.
- Wilderness survival. You can hide for a while, but eventually the lack of food, water or medicine will force you to make supply runs in the more heavily contested parts of the arena. Or perhaps it’ll be the angry snakes and poisonous gas. The arena may even shrink over time to force an ending. (If you’re brave, you could take over a supply area from the start, fortify, and stand your ground against desperate challengers.)
- The escape plan. There just might be a way for a coalition to “beat the game” by escaping the arena together. It’s very tempting because it’s a solution to the iterated prisoner’s dilemma that doesn’t require backstabbing allies. It’s uncertain and time-consuming though. Working on it (instead of gathering weapons and stalking enemies) will make you more vulnerable to other coalitions – and to betrayal.