Thursday, October 8, 2009

Games That Need To Be Made 2: Starship Troopers

No doubt, if any studio announced they were working on a Starship Troopers title, the vast majority of the media would assume a movie spin-off. Huge amounts of venom would be spewed on the company making a cheap Halo clone. Meanwhile, the original Starship Troopers, the Heinlein novel version, is languishing in the shadows... waiting.

Someone needs to bring it out of the shadows. I see this game primarily as an RPG. Character development primarily comes via promotion within the ranks of the military. In the novel, as a soldier moves up the ranks within the military, they still make the drop from orbiting spacecraft to planetary surface. The highest ranking general drops alongside the lowest rookie trooper. In the game, this would mean that as you move up the ranks, complexity and depth is only added. Little is taken away. There would not be a point at which you would stop shooting insects and concentrate on conducting a battle strategy. No, you would be conducting the battle, monitoring your units, watching for strategic opportunities, while doing your job as the Ultimate Orkin Man. Imagine trying to fight in WoW style cmbat while managing a Medieval 2 style battle strategy. Unless you're the poor soul who has to come up with the interface for such a game, that's probably an attractive idea... assuming it can be made fun.

And in between insect smashing action maps, as you visit various bases and stations for training or rest, you will be gradually exposed to the culture and backstory behind the war you are fighting, similar to how you are gradually enlightened in Half Life 2. Story is one factor that seperate great games from simply good ones, and the story in the novel can be easily adopted for the single player campaign of the game, no matter what choices you make.

In addition, the diverse ways to play would add both replay value and depth. Playing through the game without allowing yourself to promote past trooper should not be boring. But working up the ranks to general or admiral of the fleet should be equally interesting, for different reasons. Starship Troopers, faithfully rendered from the novel, should allow for an unprecedented level of depth and diversity within the game outside of the storyline. And that is before we consider the diversity of maps types, ranging from large planetary occupations to ultra small-scale raids.

Bottom line, ignore the movie and read the novel. Just about every location in the book, from boot camp to scorching a planet, can be imagined as part of an engaging and deep RPG. There is a real diamond of a game buried in that book, and I hope someone brings it to light soon.

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