The Animal Kingdom: Africa

The Animal Kingdom: Africa
 The Animal Kingdom: Africa
Design Document by Derek Heath
“Africa” would be the first release in new series of MMORPG console games entitled
“The Animal Kingdom.” You play as an animal of your choosing, and thus live as that
animal would—confronted with finding/hunting food, escaping predators, social
interaction, etc., all while living in a massive and fully interactive realistic African
environment.
Description
“Africa” takes advantage of the massive interconnectivity of a wide variety of people
that web-enabled consoles such as Xbox 360 or PS3 allow for to create a virtual
African ecosystem made up of animal avatars. Gameplay will tend more toward the
freeform since animals ultimately have free will in nature, but naturally occurring
structure will also take effect as a result of the unique lives, needs, and traits of
different species. To make gameplay interesting and fun, an emphasis will be put on
environmental and behavioral realism, player excitement and survival, social
interaction, and pure exploration. Gameplay realism should be to the level that a nonplaying observer seeing the animals interact would notice very little difference between
the game and the real way the African ecosystem behaves.
As you begin the game, there are four areas you can choose to live in and each of
those areas has hundreds of its own respective animals that you can choose from to
be. While browsing the main screen before gameplay begins, you can see realtime ingame stats of how many of a particular species there are, how well they are faring,
how depleted their food supply is, etc. (so everyone doesn’t just end up being lions).
You then choose your animal from available “newborn” spots which correspond to real
in-game avatars who are due to have a baby and will become your parent(s). Once
your animal is chosen, you enter the game as that animal and from then on are
completely immersed in the fully unique life of that species. The core objective is
always to STAY ALIVE. The following are constant objectives that most if not all animals
will have:
1. Find food: Carnivores will be need to use their skills to hunt—alone or with a
pack. Herbivores will have to seek out the plants they need.
2. Avoid predators: Animals higher on the food chain can most likely eat you!
Whether you are an animal that finds safety in numbers or uses your own skill
at running or hiding, you definitely don’t want to end up someone’s meal.
3. Mating: A big part of an animal’s life is attracting a mate and reproducing.
This task would involve activities ranging from keeping up your appearance to
showing off to carrying a pregnancy. Once you have a baby (which is linked up
with a real person) it is your responsibility to help care for and protect your
offspring.
4. Social Interaction: Many animals engage in some form of social interaction with
their own species. For a good number of animals, working as a team,
communicating, being part of a pack, respecting social status, playing, etc. will
be a big part of gameplay. For animals who’s lives aren’t as action packed (like
a fish in a school), this will be what makes the game fun.
The lives of each animal will be highly specific, and the tasks that the animal does will
reflect something that animal would do in real life (ex: A big part of meerkats’ lives
would be planning and digging tunnels).
Since nearly every animal corresponds to a real player, the skill of every player at
being their animal will lead to a natural give and take within the ecosystem. Natural
shortages will occur and populations will fluctuate just as in real life. If your animal
dies, you wouldn’t simply be reborn, but you would be taken back to the main opening
screen where you will have to begin life as a new animal.
Game System
The game is played on a traditional console system with its respective controller. The
game is 3D with a 3rd person perspective. The game itself is devoid (as much as
possible) of human speech and text, so most things are represented with symbols. A
unique feature of the game is that communication between animals is done in the
animal call itself. So, there is an animal training mode where you can learn to
recognize the 20 or so calls of your animal, practice actions, learn about enemies, etc.
Stats and health are kept track of on-screen as the game proceeds. Stats are less of a
“reward” (such as gained items, etc.) and more of a natural result of your skill and
activity. The more you hunt for instance, the better you get at it and the stronger you
become as an animal. The better you are at being a lion, the higher you are in rank
within your pride. Game screens will have to be tailored to every specific animal
depending on what the main things are that that animal has to do.
Narrative Structure
The narrative structure is quite loose as (just as in life) since countless different
circumstances produce their own countless narratives. There is no real story to the
game besides the stories the players create through their interactions. One such
narrative structure for example could be an ongoing rivalry between two prides of
lions. Another could be a mass migration of wildebeests in search of water.
Gameplay Environment
The game is divided into four main environments—desert, savannah, jungle, and ocean.
Each of these environments is expansive but contains a miniature of the variety of terrain,
plant-life, and conditions you would find in their real-world counterpart. For example, the
desert could contain vast areas of sand-dunes, but also a fair number of oasis dotting the
map, rock formations, and possibly even some human settlements (though human
presence would be downplayed). The environments would also (as in real life) lend
themselves to supporting miniature ecosystems all over the map. This way, natural
communities of animals could develop and gameplay would be more contained. Territory is
thus emphasized and competition over resources! Plant life would be controlled via some
in-game engine, but should be true to nature, so herbivores have a source of food, but also
have to compete for it. Climate also plays a role in the game. If you’re a bird for instance,
a storm would surely hinder your ability to fly.
Title and Information Screens
Title screen is a large “hub” where you can view stats of the in-world ecosystem and all
the possible animals you can be. In game information screens will be subtle &
transparent so as not to distract from the realistic feeling of the natural world. The
written word will be avoided wherever possible in favor of symbols or other depictions.
Audio Requirements
Background audio would simply be natural sounds of the environment your character is
currently in. In keeping with realism though, the only audio you hear from other
characters would be natural sounding animal noises.
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