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Uncharted themes in new games?

11 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/04/2008

Are there any themes that lack having a game about? I've made a game out of running school districts but it was way too indepth and took around 5hrs to play so I put it aside for the time being. Thinking if there are other themes that no games hold ranking over.

Meldrum's picture
Joined: 10/29/2008
What's more important: a new theme or a good game?

To answer your question sure there are lots of uncharted themes that you could exploit. How about the inticacies of the basket-weaving industry in South-east Asia or the interactions of sea creatures at deep sea thermal vents. Or maybe you could base a game around teaching dogs to do tricks (i.e. there is a set of tricks you must master before you can challenge the final course and win the game). But there is probably a reason that these games haven't been made yet or haven't succeded....... because they are boring themes. I am sure you will get some good postings on here giving you suggestions, but in my opinion it is way more important to make a good game then to worry about having it fit into a unique theme. I would rather play 100 economic german-style board games (where you build a castle or a city) that have unique elements than a game about getting rid of athelete's foot. Sorry for the negative comment, I just wrote an exam today and I have another big one tomorrow so I am a little frazzled. My final point is that if I was at a game store and saw a game about athelete's foot and another one about knights bombarding a castle with catapults, I would choose the one with the knights even if the games had identical mechanics.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

Im not much for controversial themes but an oddball one can certainly get my attention. One of my favorites is Hell Rail where you transport the dammed souls to the proper level of Hell via train. I might not be so found of this if the game play was poor. Instead it’s a good game with a crazy theme. If it was a crappy game with a crazy theme I would rather play the run of the mill pirate game.

kungfugeek's picture
Joined: 09/10/2008
I wouldn't worry so much about being unique...

I think having an interesting theme is more important than having a unique one. Sometimes a theme is uninteresting because it's overdone (Pirates come to mind), sometimes it's uninteresting because it's boring (the Athlete's Foot example), but I don't think your theme has to be unique to be interesting. Games with a theme based on HP Lovecraft's work are everywhere, and that hasn't stopped that theme from being interesting to me...

Joined: 10/07/2008
Mies van der Rohe famously

Mies van der Rohe famously said, “It is better to be good than to be original.” This came from one of the most influential architects of the modern age.

He was not espousing plagiarism but rather prioritizing your goals. Place the experience of the game at #1 and you won't have to worry if the them that best matches it has been used before.

I think it's way better to have an interesting mechanism or a really fun way to interact with opponents than to find an uncharted theme.

Eight Foot Lama makes some really interesting games that have to compete with their unique themes. Monkeys on the Moon is a really good game that doesn't get enough credit. I think the theme is the problem.

Joined: 08/04/2008
I'm more looking for

I'm more looking for interesting themes not explored like the politics of schools that my other game was about. Though that game had a die macher feel even though it had none of the same mechanics. I like die macher myself but others thought my game was too long and once it started to get interesting it ended.

Joined: 08/01/2008
maybe take a 'euro-style' theme

and add science-fiction or fantasy to it.

For example, it's an election, but it's in a fantasy world. Groups of adventurers go on quests to deliver leaflets, parties are fantasy-themed (the Lawful Evil Party - "Vote Lawful Evil! The Dark Lord Commands It!", the Supposedly Good Guys That Objectively Are Genocidal Racists Party) and have different tactics open to them, fantasy races start with a preference for particular parties - maybe some races are worth less, but have higher charisma so generate more useful candidates, or have access to more gold.

OK, I claim the win for naming a theme that is not boring, is game-able, and isn't used.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
there are a few low used themes

Just an idea that came to my mind is that some themes are hard to develop. For example: a ninja theme.

I had problems making a ninja game if you want to make a game that reproduce what a ninja really did. Here are most of the problems

- the ninja act as solitaire, so a multi-player game force it to be cooperative.
- Ninjas are hidden, so you cannot play against an opponent unless you have hidden movement.

For this reason, ninja games seem to give something like Ninja burger which is a game with a ninja theme added on the game.

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
Contest? Also, ninjas

I sense a monthly contest possibility here. Most Boring Theme?

As for ninjas, my first game design idea (at least, in adulthood) was to make some sort of abstract ninja game, involving secret movement orders. I based it on a board game dimly remembered from my youth where one player was an art thief, and the other players were security guards trying to catch him. They all bumbled around the board, trying to figure out where he was, while he wrote in pencil on a scratch sheet that had the board on it and tried to get in a position where he could grab some art, unseen. My game would have been, at best, a clone of this, so I abandoned the idea.

But if you can solve the secret movement thing, there's no reason you couldn't have groups of ninjas all competing to achieve the same objective (likely, kill some VIP chilling out in his fortress and protected by shruiken-fodder guards. Perhaps the VIP side is played by another player, or perhaps by a semi-predictable "patrol/move towards and attempt to kill nearest visible ninja" algorithm).

Joined: 08/01/2008
ninjas could be the theme

for a bluffing-based card game: you can accuse a player of being a ninja, upon which they show you their hand...sort of thing.

Joined: 08/04/2008
ilta that was Clue Museam

ilta that was Clue Museam Caper.

Ninja theme may work if you make the game more like assassination missions etc... Have it be kingdoms and you can send ninjas into other players keeps and assassinate the kings etc... setting players back a bit. And players can have defenses against that stuff. However, this would only be one thing in the game and wouldn't be only about ninjas.

Joined: 12/03/2008
Rock, Paper, Scissors...

Why can't you solve the hidden movement thing by creating action cards for the ninja players to use so that they can plan their attacks with each round ending like a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors when they turn over the cards they selected? If you scale the wall and an opponent attacks, then he loses points because he punched the wall? :)

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