Monday, August 26, 2013

Game Idea: A frog, riding a bicycle!

The title is a joke on the fact that this is a frogger-like game idea.  I guess it's also a paperboy-like idea, with a touch of grand theft auto 2.  Or maybe it's not much like either game, but when I originally imagined it, it was a one-screen atari game, like frogger.  The gist of it is - it can be rather difficult and dangerous to commute to work by bicycle.  You have to deal with cars that can easily kill you or break your bones, and you must do this while racing the clock. These factors could be combined to make a good game. 

As I rode to work one day, I mapped out, in my head, the course I would take, based on the streets I thought were the safest but speediest.  As it turns out, I was incorrect in my assessment.  I thought I could take P to 10th street and have an easy time of it, but when it crosses 16th street, P st loses the bike lane.  After that, it turned out 10th St doesn't have a bike lane either.  This made my ride a little bit more harried than I originally intended. 

I realized that riding a bike safely around town during rush hour is actually pretty tough.  It occurred to me that a frogger-like game where you ride a bike from point a to point b could be a pretty fun game.  Traffic is a factor, time is a factor.  And both these things are affected by the layout of the streets.  You hit a car, you lose a life.  You hit a pedestrian, you lose time, but probably not the full turn.  Different times of the day equate to different traffic patterns, and you can learn a map after repeated plays. 

It’s kind of like a maze.  But you can technically hack your way through much of it.  The initial city is a grid, about 26 x 26, but there are one way streets, high traffic areas and construction zones to contend with.  Stop signs, stop lights and pedestrians will slow you down as you desperately try to make it to your destination on time.  Ignoring the traffic laws may save you time, but it could also get you killed.  I guess you could have a bike helmet item that preserves one life, perhaps a spare tube to repair flat tires.  

The basic idea has the layout of the whole city grid open and visible to the player.  But a ‘fog of war’ approach may be more appropriate.  Or maybe just a scrolling overhead view.  It’s hard to say.  Oh, maybe there could be a map before the level starts, and then actually playing the level would go by memory.  I haven't worked out all the details, but it's fun to think about.  I think it's a game that writes itself.

Having ridden my bike through a few different cities, I know that the danger and difficulty can vary greatly.  For different levels, there can be different cities, with different grid and traffic layouts.  Sublevels within the different cities could just involve moving a few pieces, changing the destination, whatever.  Plenty of room for easter eggs hidden throughout.  

Apart from Paperboy and maybe a BMX trick attack game, I've never seen a game built on riding a bicycle.  It may sound like a humble proposition:  commuter bikes aren't exactly built for tricks.  But dodging traffic and racing against the clock is always fun, provided the programming is sharp.  But I'll leave that part to someone else :)


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