2015 was a pretty great year for RPGs, though the biggest of them—Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3—took us back to familiar worlds. And along with Fallout's wasteland and The Witcher's Slavic mythology, Western RPGs generally put a lot of Tolkien, D&D, and dark fantasy in play, with some cyberpunk and space opera on the side. Now and then there's an outlier—the upcoming YIIK's 1990s town, for instance—but all things considered we've spent a hell of a lot of time in Gothic-inspired dungeons and gleaming space ships. We came back to the office after the turn of the year with lots of creative energy to burn off, so we started thinking about the kinds of scenarios we'd like to see in future RPGs. Just for fun, here are some of the staff’s pet RPG ideas. Come dream with us! Let us know your fantasy for an open world roleplaying setting or premise in the comments.
By: Chris Livingston
Who should make it? Obsidian, Paradox
I’ve always wanted a sprawling RPG set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (opens in new tab). I imagine it like Skyrim, only with a more interesting art style (I'm thinking of something like Dishonored's visuals), fantastical yet still heavy with modern themes, and of course much funnier. I want to live in the delightfully gritty Ankh-Morpork, undertake questionable quests for Lord Vetinari, serve in the Watch or join a guild (as an assassin, thief, or clown), and visit far-flung locations (with The Luggage in tow) like the deserts of Klatch, the castles of Überwald, the Counterweight Continent, EcksEcksEcksEcks, and even Krull, where you can peer over the edge of the Rim for a glimpse of Great A’Tuin. While I doubt any developer has the chops to really do Discworld justice, I’d still love to see someone give it a shot.
Getting drunk, or maybe '50s sci-fi
By: Tyler Wilde
Who should make it? Double Fine, CD Projekt RED
I’ve thought for a while that an RPG about a bar crawl, and getting home safely and drunkenly, would work well—it’s been an adventure for me before. A pee meter, random encounters with assholes, limited money for booze and travel, billiards and darts minigames, the ultimate goal of not feeling like a jackass the next day. Admittedly, I thought this idea was much cooler when I was 25. Now I’m more into sitting quietly, which is a great activity too.
Speaking of which, I was sitting quietly reading The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) the other day, and that’d make a cool RPG setting too. Ignoring the revenge morality tale (with one of the most abhorrent protagonists ever), it describes a fascinating proto-cyberpunk solar system. Corporations are powerful patriarchal clans (it shows its age when the Kodak clan is revealed) and instantaneous, unaided human teleportation has unfurled all of society's rules. The only way to secure buildings is with labyrinths that obscure the location of rooms, and prisoners are housed in the pitch black underground, where aimless teleportation is likely to cause a deep, bloody explosion inside solid rock. Meanwhile, there's a war brewing between the inner and outer planets.
Basically, you've got fast travel built into the fiction, some pretty scary antagonists, and interplanetary war to work with. One of the cooler aspects to draw on are the looters who teleport across the world in search of damaged buildings—structure fires, i.e.—with exposed rooms to ‘Jaunte’ into and devour. While I enjoyed Mass Effect, there’s a ton of really creative sci-fi that I think could be cooler than your 'universe in peril' operatic stuff.
High school football
By: James Davenport
Who should make it? BioWare, Atlus
I haven’t read or seen Friday Night Lights (opens in new tab), but I’ve lived my own incarnation of high school football and it still stands as one of the most intense, dramatic, and trying segments of my life. It’s all so gloriously cliched; the hard work, the glory, the competition—but the drive to play football in high school had little to do with the sport itself. The social stratus of small towns is the puppetmaster, pushing kids to impress fastidious fathers, to separate themselves from an invisible clique, to grab the attention of a crush, to find friends and solidarity, and, yeah, to just play the damn game. I’d love to see an RPG tackle the subject. Give me a daily cycle similar to the Persona series, but the turn based ‘combat’ of a Final Fantasy Tactics. Let me balance my relationships with family, friends, schoolwork, all while trying to help take my team to the very top.
By: Tom Marks
Who should make it? Blizzard
Superheroes make it into a ton of games, but not really big open world RPGs, even though a comic book superhero universe seems like a no-brainer for a Witcher-style game. So much of comics is talking and story, and the rest is filled with epic, superpowered fights. I wouldn’t even necessarily be interested in a licensed hero like the Arkham games, but something new with a classic comic feel. Games like Prototype and the Playstation’s Infamous did a decent job of creating new superheroes, but their dark, gritty themes didn’t have that monthly-comic vibe. And all of those games focused on action so much that I don’t even feel comfortable calling them RPGs at all. A light-hearted, story-driven superhero RPG is screaming to be made—how about an Overwatch RPG, Blizzard?
Brutal office politics
By: Tim Clark
Who should make it? Klei Entertainment
For a genre so fundamentally built on choice, it blows my mind that we’re still largely restricted to fantasy or sci-fi as our RPG backcloths. Given that police procedurals are probably the single most popular genre on TV, law enforcement feels like a woefully unexplored setting. Imagine starting out as a beat cop, levelling up to become a hard-bitten detective, and eventually running a whole precinct. There’s obvious scope for combat, tons of companion options in the form of (expendable) partners, and a natural structure of side quests/crimes to clear up while working on a bigger meta narrative, likely involving corruption inside the force.
But if anything the cops RPG idea is too good and obvious. What I’d really like to see is RPG mechanics applied to more mundane scenarios. How about a game set in an office? Not even a glamorous Wolf of Wall Street thing, just a generic mid-sized company, and you have to graduate from the mail room to having your own cubicle, then become a junior executive. The drama would come from having to outmanoeuvre your rivals with skullduggery as you claw your way up the corporate ladder. Your smartphone would be your weapon, which would be upgradeable with additional apps. Maybe you end up having an affair with the boss’s wife. The final battle happens at the Christmas party. I dunno. Maybe I’m drawing on experience too much here. Sorry boss.
A single city
By: Phil Savage
Who should make it? Obsidian, BioWare, inXile, anyone
I'd love to see an RPG go specific, not broad. I'm in danger of saying my ideal RPG is Dragon Age 2 (opens in new tab) here, but that's not quite what I mean. Yes, I'd like it to be set around a single city, but I'd fill it with lots of smaller individual stories, not a single fate-of-the-world quest. I want an RPG that acknowledges that not everyone can do everything. If I'm a thief, let me do thief-y things, but block off all the big, burly warrior work. If I want to do that, force me to play again as a warrior. Go further, and think of some new professions to play. I've been playing a lot of Gwent (opens in new tab) lately, and I'd love an RPG campaign for a dedicated gambler class. Cities are filled with different types of people, and being able to dial in on that specificity would ensure plenty of rich, distinct moments. None of these class-based campaigns would need to be very long: the point would be to try lots of characters, re-experiencing that same setting from an entirely new perspective. Also, it wouldn't need to be medieval. Shift it forward: perhaps the industrial revolution, or set it in the Roaring Twenties and have a bootlegging class.
Fallout: New Vegas screen by Jspoelstra (opens in new tab).