“Madden, but for Ancient or Fake Sports
I know hardcore gamers rarely touch them, but the generic sports game model as seen in the Maddens, MLBs, and NBAs is a really well designed system from a gameplay perspective. It’s actually not too far removed from something like XCOM or the Total Wars where player input is divided between a broad campaign (or season) and small-scale events (an individual sport game or battle), which have mutually impactful effects on each other. But most gamers never bother to give the sports games a chance because of some combination of not finding the sport itself interesting and not caring for the culture around the sport and/or its video games.
So why not bring the sports game model to something most gamers find more interesting? How about Roman gladiator matches? Futuristic combat simulators? Vehicular drone fights? Okay, all I can really come up with are variations on combat, but still, you get the point.
I suppose one potential problem with using entirely artificial league systems instead of basing games on real ones is that the real life counter parts can’t be represented. That is, there is no “Tiger Woods of futuristic gun battle simulations” to put on the cover of “Future Battle 2017.” But with random name and stat generators, entire systems could easily be procedurally generated with only a small amount of directly crafted inputs from the developers needed to create a basis for an entirely made up league system.
An all but forgotten PS2 game called Colosseum: Road to Freedom came the closest to this model that I’ve seen, albeit with a marginal and unnecessary narrative component. The player controlled a nameless gladiator with stats determined by your chosen background (where you’re from, your old profession before being enslaved, your favorite God, etc.) who divides his time between training at his gladiator camp and fighting in the arena. When you do fight in the arenas you get to pick and choose which matches to fight (depending on match type and monetary pay out), you can buy equipment with money earned in fights (minus a cut to be kicked up to your owner since you’re technically a slave), and eventually you can work your way up to fighting famous gladiators with distinct styles. Sure the game was horribly unpolished, but the core concept was phenomenal, and I’d love to see it reimagined today with better technical aspects and more commitment to the sport simulation aspects.”
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