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Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:12 pm
by pointyman2000
Hi Guys,

It's been forever since I last dropped by these forums, but I figure that this is the best community to approach for good feedback. I've been working on a small RPG for kids as of late, and I wanted to show the concept to you guys to see what you guys think of it.

I've included the pitch and some short flavor fiction below (it's short, I promise and hopefully painless) any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated.

---

Meteor Kids is a role-playing game for kids where they take on the role of heroic adventurers in a world after a devastating meteor impact. Waking up to a world drastically changed, and with the adults trapped in cryo-sleep these young adventurers take the bold new steps to help civilization take root in the post-apocalyptic world, protecting their homes and families while helping their community for a brighter future.

The Long Nap
You don’t remember much about the last few days before they put you in to sleep. The grown ups were all worried and afraid, and they would talk about something called Apophis. Some of us checked the internet and figured out that they were talking about a meteor, a giant rock from space, and how it was going to hit the Earth. It was a scary time, but your parents told you that it was going to be okay, and led you to New Haven.

The New Haven Bunker was a super big underground shelter that was supposed to hold a whole lot of families. You guess that there must have been hundreds, and you were led inside with so many other kids, and shown to your nap room.

“We’re all going to take a long nap.” Your mother told you, as she tried not to cry, “Don’t be scared. We’ll all wake up and we’ll be together like we always were. We love you very much.”

You hugged your mom and dad, and they made you lie down in a funny looking bed. It was made of metal and had all these tubes and beeping sounds, and it was very, very cold.

---

You woke up, feeling numb and cold. The room was dark, and all around you were other kids waking up from their nap.

“Good morning,” A woman’s voice came through from the speakers in the room, “It’s time to wake up. Your parents need your help.”

The voice was NAN-E. She told you this as you rubbed the sleep from your eyes. Then she told you something else. Your parents were still asleep, and they couldn’t wake up. Not yet. Not until everything was fixed.

Something had gone wrong in New Haven, and the power was running low. NAN-E woke up those that she could, the ones that took as little power as possible: the children. Now someone has to help fix things, and wake up our parents.

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:00 am
by pointyman2000
For those interested in reading on with the game proper and the mechanics, I've included the first early draft here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Rdj ... oy7dg/edit

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:21 am
by Chainsaw Aardvark
Its looking really good so far - like the Morrow Project for kids. (Or maybe Fallout). I'm not sure about the name, since that seems to imply superhero kids to me for some reason, but that is a minor complaint.

About the only big change I'd suggest so far is I don't really like the titles Chaser/Finder/Brain. I think I'd phrase it more as "in school I really liked Gym / Drama / Science Class" as a way of coaching them into roles.

You might want to include some sort of town progress indicator. Each successful mission or reaching certain goals during one moves a maker along the track and opens up new descriptions or equipment. Give the young players a sense of the world's advancement or that they're helping. (This could also just be a story element - but include some discussion of it). For a little more nihilism, you could also include a Doom track that goes in the other direction for whenever they fail.

(OK, it is kind of hard for me to focus on kids perspective rather than existential terror of an ELE)

A Texas sized rock is going to screw things up pretty badly, so it would be nice to know if you're dealing with ruins in a kind of volcanic ashland near the crater, or mostly standing buildings in a nuclear winter scenario. How soon after the impact is everyone revived?

What age group are you aiming this at? This sort of situation can lead to some grim implications, so a list of appropriate topics might be a good addition. Is it proper for the kids to discuss punishment for hoarding food? How about establishing a government as a democracy or autocracy? Does NAN-E take care of all that and keep the kids unaware of the bigger picture? I certainly get the feeling you don't want things to go "The Lord of the Flies" route. Some discussion of how to either avoid that, or embrace it when darker elements come up would be quite useful.

While it is just a rough draft - you might want to start using the "Styles" function of Google docs, and in turn take advantage of the programs ability to generate a table of contents. It will help keep things organized and easier to read and is best practice from an editing standpoint.

Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:25 pm
by pointyman2000
Hi, thanks for checking out what I've got so far!

I'm still on the fence with regards to the roles. I was hoping to give them snappy but kid-friendly names that imply their roles in society without making it seem too mundane. I'll see if I can come up with alternatives.

The town progress indicator is a good idea. I had a seedling of an idea before of including a rough and largely empty map of the area around New Haven, and a mini-campaign with missions where they can find objects necessary to build the facilities necessary to improve their defenses and general standard of living. Farms, solar panels, a wall / fence around the Safe Zone, that sort of thing. Kind of like how X-COM used to let you build facilities.

The other way of doing it will be to let them "reactivate" the sealed off or deactivated sections of the New Haven Bunker with the technology they salvage, allowing for the eventual goal of waking up their parents.

The choice of an ELE for the main hook of the setting was done because I was hoping to do an rpg for kids that uses a different genre from supers and fantasy. Plus the added challenge of fixing the tone so that it doesn't seem quite so bleak.

I left a lot of the details vague, but I suppose I ought to discuss some of the ways that the world changed around them aside from weird fauna and flora, just to give a better impression of things.

Thanks for the feedback regarding the list of appropriate topics. I'm looking at trying to avoid the Lord of the Flies route here, but it may come up eventually. I was avoiding direct references to killing and violence for that reason.

I'll have to polish up the draft some more, and incorporate some of this advice into the game. :)

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:38 pm
by Chainsaw Aardvark
I took a quick look, and here are some sites about large asteroid impacts, including an effects calculator:

10km asteroid impact
Astronomy Notes
Earth Impact Calculator

One idea for mitigating trauma would be to have the impact in the ocean (mostly tsunami effect) and base the game far inland (the Moscow Metro or Cheyenne Mountain spring to mind) so the affect is less immediate destruction, and more environmental damage. Of course, the nuclear winter effect and destruction of the biosphere would still be noticeable but places would be more "Ghost town" than ruins. Conversely, put it close enough that everything is ruins, so they don't run across remains or other spooky signs of the former world.

Another thought is to make the problem some sort of mutagenic compound from space. Less wide-scale destruction, and more alteration of the environment. The players have been immunized or modified in-vitro, their parents haven't. So adults could be alive and well in the bunker, and society somewhat functioning - however it falls upon the younger generation to actually go outside.

NAN-E could have either automated recovery/ambulance type robots to save players in dire straights or in a creepier twist - have cloning units on hand. You're not a young pre-impact survivor, you're an immature post-impact clone... (OK, that probably won't work in a game for children but might be neat in a game about children.)

I keep wanting to make references to "A Soft Rain Comes" or "The Veldt" in sense of the computer going about its business and the possibility that this is somehow VR training for the kids (its worse outside than you think - this is just to keep the kids happy? No, still too creepy/adult.) For a light game, the AI should be cheerful and friendly, for more grimness it is either just going about its duties with little attention to the children aside from queries - or actively show signs of breakdown like Shodan or Alpha Complex. (NAN-E hates communists, but you're good little cyborgs aren't you?)

Emphasis should be more on retrieving items, navigating terrain (the ruins just happen to by like D&D traps - how odd...) and maybe competing with other teams for recognition than discussions of politics or raiders. Even in a low functioning state, the bunker should run itself and have some food/energy source to keep things from being too desperate. Avoid the sense "We're the only ones left" or "I must be willing to do anything to survive".

An expanding map of the bunker or the area around it is a great idea.

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:41 am
by Onix
Looks like a promising setting, mechanics are simple enough. The major obstacle as already stated by CA is the tone going too dark. To keep the tone heroic, it's important to minimize the possibility of loss or minimize the loss itself. Another way to look at it is keeping the tension level low. That means it's safe to make most mistakes and rolls are usually to defeat a challenge not to avoid being defeated.

I like the thought that NAN-E has drones of some kind that can give the players assistance. Maybe a range of tools like Big Dog walkers to remove and protect the injured. Quadrotor flyers to scout around. This makes the players feel like they're not alone and lightens the tone. Maybe at first you'd think "Oh no, the players will send the drones to do everything and not do anything dangerous themselves!" but that's actually a good thing for kids that are used to playing video games. NAN-E may only allot them so many drones for the whole mission or the month. Once they're destroyed, NAN-E will look at the task as being too difficult and will actively attempt to retrieve the kids even if they don't want to go. It makes it an interesting challenge at that point to have the kids running from the drones to try and still eke out a success. Even if they loose, they're caught and brought back to the town.

Maybe a different kind of drone for each kind of character would work. Instead of an animal companion for some, give the kids powers by the use of their drones.

I'd also suggest making the environment itself part of the challenge. Instead of focusing on combat, which the parents would have NAN-E disassembled for sending their children into harms way, focus on making challenges like negotiating a cave or trekking across the forest floor and finding a less arduous path an interesting challenge.

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:38 am
by vulpinoid
I've had a look through the documentation so far. I'm impressed, so far it seem like a nice clean system, something great for getting kids into the hobby.

I agree with a lot of the points raised by Chainsaw Aardvark and Onix, so I'm not going to restate them.

Keep up the good work. If you need any more suggestions, let us know.

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:10 pm
by Chainsaw Aardvark
May I propose an idea about teaching probability and resource management?

Have a deck of playing cards on hand, and various bonuses to be gained by drawing certain cards. For example, you can have an extra piece of equipment a red card, or a monster just runs away if you pull a black face card. This deck is not routinely shuffled so they need to understand opportunity costs (taking cards from the deck now means they won't be available later), tragedy of the commons (If I take them all for myself, no one else can be saved), and probability (based on what has been seen - is this a worthwhile chance?).

Another idea for using the game as a teaching tool would be to reward in game Out of Character knowledge or study. For example, if teaching kids astronomy they can get +1 to their next roll if they can name the stages of stellar formation or what blue shift is. (Or what is a constellation and is mars closer to the sun than earth for a younger crows). Introducing scenarios based on a lesson plan - (they're lost, good thing you taught them about compasses and the north star) might also work - but would be more designing modules/adventures than a sub-system of the game.

Re: Meteor Kids - Game Development

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:36 pm
by pointyman2000
Hey guys,

Thanks for all the great suggestions! I'm currently swamped by RL work right now, but I'm determined to get this game out the door soon enough. I just need to get artwork to support it. From what I can tell I can tweak the tone to be lighter at parts and the artwork will go a long way to set the mood and tone of the game to one of hope amidst a new world as opposed to the bleak reality of the post-apocalyptic genre.