For our first game, we ended up going with a sort of continent exploration game. The idea was to make something that both had a lot of stuff to discover, but which would be easy to divvy up the writing work (since content generation takes a lot more time than programming). Since we have four people writing stuff for it, hopefully that will end up working out.
The inspiration for Travelogue is actually an old game called Realms of Arkania. Basically you had a map and various roads, and while there was a main plot that asked you to go to specific places in a specific order, I was always struck by the thought of ‘if its on the map, I can go there’ (something the game bore out, letting you go to random islands with small towns on them and having full 3d first person layouts for each of those places).
There’s a bit of an added twist, more of an experiment at this stage (though we named the studio after the idea, so hopefully its one that works). As players do various things in the world, whatever they do will cause small changes in the properties of the local region. Right now the game tracks things that affect ‘life vs death’ (codenamed ‘karma’ in the engine, though thats not quite right), prosperity, unrest, and also just how many players are doing things in that region. We’re then going to take those running averages and feed them back into the game, making some events appear only when unrest is high or low or whatever.
The idea is to make your decisions matter, but not in a sort of local ‘I get the good end/bad end’ way; rather, they affect the world that everyone gets to play in. Griefing is a concern, but because its only four variables and the game is designed to be playable (though different) for any values of those variables, it should be pretty hard to really grief someone.
Right now the engine is basically done. Its a fairly simple HTML5 thing that should run on pretty much anything, though I think in practice we can’t really support things smaller than 640×480 in resolution just because of the sheer amount of text in the game. So for the next month we’re all going to be writing ‘event cards’, so there are plenty of interesting things to run into and do.