Chained Together

3rd November 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

We value freedom when playing games. That’s why if a developer can remove the illusion of a level being a linear game it is often considered good. (I disagree, but that’s for another post!). What if a game developer took a different approach and said “The player is going to have much less control than normal!”

Here’s my idea.

Imagine a clichéd start to a game. You are a prisoner in a jail and you are being transported to a high-security unit. Suddenly the transport vehicles is ambushed and it over turns. You wake up to metal against metal noises. The guards are dead or at least unconscious. You were chained, by both hand and foot, to a fellow prisoner. He is trying to break those chains but is having trouble.

Being an innocent man your first instinct is to stay with the vehicle because justice will prevail. One of the guards recovers and kills a duo of prisoners with no provocation. Clearly justice doesn’t exist in this region. Nothing left but to disarm the guard and get the hell out of there.

Of course there’s one big problem, you are chained to the other prisoner. Now comes the interesting part. How is in control? Perhaps a little RPG element is played out that effects the rest of the game.

Let’s assume that the chances of you being the boss is 20%. The rest of the game consist of you being coerced into actions and situations against your will.

The gameplay dynamics could be interesting with your fellow prisoner no particularly clever but physically strong. There are plenty of clues as to the best way travel but he has other ideas.

How would a player feel if there were forced to follow this course of action? In reality most games force you to do stuff but give you the illusion of making those choices yourself. If you didn’t make those choices the game simply stops. “Don’t want to shoot anybody anymore? Want to surrender? Not possible. It’s shoot or die!”

The key to making this gameplay idea is interesting is to somehow be able to influence the other prisoner. Perhaps a fixed level of agreement. For example, and this is off the top of my head, as is all of this post, the player is given 100 points. He can use the points to change the other prisoner’s mind about something. Once these points are gone, that’s it. The player has no other options left.

That’s a rather crude idea but perhaps with a little more thought something much better can be developed.

The overall idea is to change the way we play, if only for a short time. By following the other prisoner


  1. cubedude89

    wow how do you think of cool ideas like this 😀

    This would be a very interesting coop game.

  2. wow how do you think of cool ideas like this 😀 This would be a very interesting coop game.

    Well, I feel I have a talent for looking at non-gaming things and twistng them into something that could be interesting. I stress could becasue until somebody builds it and tries it we’ll never know.

    It could be fun becasue a normal coop game, both players (Or more) all have the same objectives. Here the overall objective is the same but perhaps the smaller ones could conflict.

  3. This sounds like a great idea. I think that if this could be implemented, it could open up the FPS genre to a very different type of story and gameplay.

    Also, nice picture from “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” That’s a great movie.

  4. Matt Glanville

    Just a side note really, but the console game Killer7 severely restricted the player’s movement through the game to the point where it was simply moving backwards and forwards along a pre-determined route, occasionally splitting off down branching routes. The game is hailed as being artistically unique with a bizarre visual style and apparently a good story. However, I really couldn’t get into it. This may have been because of the typically obscure Japanese story with difficult-to-get-into exposition.

    I think this idea could be interesting if done properly, but it could go horribly wrong. Most people don’t like being told what to do, especially during a game they are playing to have fun.

    One thing I did like about your post was the idea of having a companion who has conflicting goals to yours. It could create a nasty decision point where you either screw over your friend or sacrifice your own goals.

  5. Oopla

    I just don’t see this working. Most players don’t like being out of control in the game. According to the commentary in HL2:E1 the game originally didn’t do as well with the playtesters in the first draft, where Alyx was leading Gordon around.

    I would like to see more games with the options for Co-op. Playing with your friends is fun. Playing with strangers who often feel no social accountability to you has often proved not fun for me.

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