Sebi and I had many attempts at making our games over the 13 years or so since we have a professional connection with the industry. The problem is that neither of us can really code or do art (though we frequently try to learn), and also that both of us have been kinda busy working, crunching, moving across half a Europe to find home and fulfil our gamedev dream. Furthermore, we both have extra passions; I like to write about gamedev, I read a lot, and Sebi is a professional photographer and has an incredible number of side passions. We also like to game some times – and always complain about the lack of time to play. And we are trying to adjust our lifestyle towards the better, so you can add gym, outdoors, roller blades, hiking and camping to the list, too. Oh, almost forgot. We also like to travel. And if I think 5 more minutes, I could probably triple the list.
So our beloved game ideas don’t get done. Maybe they will, someday, but the chance is higher that they will not. Which is why I am inaugurating this new category today, called Game Concepts, which will host every single game idea, design doc, concept art and whatever we made over all this time (that I can find or remember). Who knows… maybe somewhere, sometime, it will spark someone’s imagination. Or make us actually Do Stuff.
The first game we ever tried to prototype was called Bureaucracy. It was supposed to be a parody of the massive bureaucratic system we encountered in Romania and Italy, and we prototyped it in Neverwinter’s Aurora Toolset.
Try to obtain your hero license in a massively bureaucratic system. It’s a parody inspired by Kafka’s Castle, which I know sounds kinda strange, but picture this massive labyrinthine castle, filled with crazy offices that you have to visit in random order and often-times repeatedly, to try and make all these bored, funny, completely uninterested clerk characters to give you all the documents you need to gather in order to apply for the Hero License. At its base, Bureaucracy is a puzzle based adventure that involves no violence, as any raised fist against an official clerk means… pretty bad stuff.
You start the game at the gates of this Hero Licensing Bureau, a massive, intimidating castle with iron gates, guarded by the skeleton of a hero who died trying, and a very bored, cynical gate keeper who warns you of what you’re about to embark in. The first “quest” you complete is to get a list of the paperwork you need to get in order to apply for the Hero License, and the list is huge, of course, and quite absurd. Throughout the game, you’ll have to flatter, threaten, be diplomatic, bribe, and most of all, repress your desire to smack anyone, which is something you’d wish to do repeatedly. And you’ll meet pretty much every type of clerk you might have encountered in real life, plus some fantasy clerks that don’t exist (or so we think; maybe we’ve been lucky).
The game is a 3D 3rd person with an isometric perspective and the action enfolds mostly within the walls of the Hero Licensing Bureau, which is a labyrinth. We didn’t decide whether the player should have a map or not; in retrospect,the subject is frustrating enough to deserve at least some orientation help. You have your paperwork list and an indication as to which office gives what document, which may or may not be precise. You also have an inventory, to host the hoard of items you’ll be constrained to gather to satisfy the numerous clerks you’ll visit.
The clerks you encounter are varied, funny, utterly bored, some extremely annoying, some mentally disturbed, and, sometimes, rarely, sane and helpful. Very rarely, actually. Each has his or her office, which may have certain rules for visiting, from opening times to codified knocks to slipping an envelope full of coin under the door. Some of these rules are not obvious and must be discovered. Each office is decorated accordingly to the clerk’s personality. Some clerks have pets, too, to which they pay far more attention than they do to you. Some clerks have friends or colleagues over, with which they have important conversations about the weather, latest gossips or fashion, that never end. Does this sound familiar to anyone? 😀
As I said, in a bureaucracy, bribery’s a thing. We considered hiding a way in the game to solve all your problems instantly through bribery, by stealing from the state treasure and… convincing a special character. But then again, we also debated whether the game should be winnable at all. We envisioned an ending scene where the hero obtains all his paperwork, and is told to wait until his Licence is being considered, and, if successful, manufactured. And of course he grows old and dies while he waits, just like the skeleton by the castle’s iron gates.