So, I’ve been going back to Final Fantasy VIII a lot recently. Why? Likely a mix of formative nostalgia and masochism.
Every time I return to it, I keep trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ save, it’s sort of an obsession. Hit all the right notes in the first hour of the game (which soon turns into 5 hours, as I pace through the halls of the opening environment, Balamb Garden and the surrounding countryside, trying to max out my trading card collection as early as possible).
Pretty much everything you need to do has been meticulously poured over in online faq’s, or the definitely-not-quite-comprehensive-despite-the-reasonably-high-shelf-price strategy guide. Someone else has gone through the trouble of doing all the groundwork – making sure that everything is meticulously stated, all the secrets un-obfuscated, and all the pixel hunting has been done for you.
This is especially vital if you want to perfect your ‘exam’ at the start of the game (though non-essential, it wouldn’t be a perfect play-through if I didn’t – or so I keep telling myself), unlock the ‘hidden’ guardians of the game, including the incredibly elusive Doom Train (alluded to in magazines hidden throughout the game, though you’d be excused for thinking that said magazines were just mad ramblings), and to search for rare drops to make the best weapons in a game.
So the thing that’s been scratching my brain recently – what if there were a game with the scope of Final Fantasy VIII that was entirely unique – a game that no single strategy guide could adequately catalogue.
Take a roguelike – some sort of procedurally generated dungeon – ignore that bit, take the procedural generation out of that – but introduce random aspects to EVERYTHING else.
A game like FF8 has a cast of something like 300 monsters and 80 boss monsters. For your base monsters stats could be randomized, rare drops and drop frequency changed up dramatically, and locations shaken up – making hunting for that elusive monster with that elusive rare drop becomes a task of David Attenborough-esque documentation. For boss monsters, mix up the special effects and assign them randomly so that boss strategies have to be formulated on the fly.
Essentially, playing through the game and traversing the world would be the equivalent of building your own encyclopedia – everyone would be playing the same game, but their own unique instance.
What other parts of the game would get the same treatment remains to be seen, but I’m keen on the idea of procedural generation giving everyone who plays with their own bespoke experience.