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  • Results from James Portnow's Game Design Challenge: WWII

    [05.22.08]
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  • Andrew Harrison, Proposed working title: 1944 in Blood and Film
    You assume the role of an American photographer sent to Europe to cover the action of late WWII. Your boss in the States has tasked you with delivering stirringly patriotic images from the front lines, but once you're actually in the thick of battle, you begin to question your assignment. Your paycheck depends on submitting photographs usable in wartime propaganda, but your artistic mindset urges you to capture the terrible realities of combat. Complicating matters further, the commanding officers of the troops you follow insist that there's no such thing as non-involvement, requiring you to carry weapons in addition to your camera gear. Faced with the competing demands of your patriotic boss, military forces, and your own conscience, you head into each mission with several (often mutually-exclusive) objectives; which path you choose to follow will affect your participation in future missions, your rewards, and your interaction with others.

    Use your camera to capture images meeting various requirements and periodically send collections to your boss in exchange for cash and replenishing your gear; doing this fails to satisfy your conscience (and the game ends if you suffer a breakdown) but will assist the troops. Alternatively, meet different requirements to build up a personal portfolio, which will alienate you from both your boss and the soldiers early on but which will result in greater late-game rewards. Finally, you can neglect your photojournalistic duties and assist the soldiers with whom you're embedded (and your unique skills will be needed to help the real fighters, as described below); too much fighting, however, will leave too little time for snapping pictures, leading your boss to fire/recall you and conclude the game.

    The Unreal Engine can be reused for many aspects of the game -- perspective, cover, combat, and so forth -- and a Dead Rising-style camera system would allow the game to track the content of each photograph and score your progress towards meeting photographic objectives. Your role is not a passive one, however; your squad needs to accomplish its mission (and you need to survive!), so your character will be integral in missions. Sometimes you will need to perform a physical role (manning a turret, acting as a decoy, scouting ahead with a zoom lens, contacting resistance forces), and at other times you will need to bolster morale by capturing particular shots (which will provide a temporary buff for the squad), giving the squad the strength to continue in difficult situations.

    The story will hinge on which objectives the player chooses to complete during each mission. It will be crucial to manage your relationship with your boss, the commanding officer, and the troops. Additionally, you'll manage the degree to which you satisfy your conscience's desire to capture stark realities of war. The end result is an RPG-like system of decision-making: What type of character do you develop through the goals you accomplish, and what aspect do you sacrifice -- your conscience, your job security, or the physical safety of yourself and your squad -- in order to strengthen another aspect for a particular mission?

    (If resources permit, it would be possible to adapt the mechanics to work in a multiplayer setting. For instance, extra missions could be supplied as assault-style maps, with one team defending and one attacking. Each team would require a mix of combatants for sheer strength and photographers for their unique abilities. Online cooperative play would be another option, with some minor modifications to the narrative.)

    In short, this game would be a fresh, dramatic take on a tired action genre because the player is more than just a gun -- the player is a person, faced with tough decisions in an unforgiving setting, who must learn that you can't please everyone all the time, and sometimes not even yourself.

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