May 14, 2008

Rapid Idea #1: Geomancer

So here's the game I'm planning to pitch this Friday. I spent most of the day coming up with it, documenting it, and trying to mock up at least some of the gameplay in a little program called Game Maker. Let me know what you all think, and what I can do to improve both the game and the pitch (except for the general layout, which was specified by the professor).



High Concept

The world has been torn apart by a great magical cataclysm, and all that remains is a barren wasteland. The landscape is still charged with magic and as one of the few surviving geomancers, you are charged with restoring the land. However, the other geomancers also wish to see the land restored, but dominated by their own element (e.g., fire, water, earth, etc.). You must carefully gather mana from the land and invest it wisely to ensure your element is the one that survives.

Why It Needs To Be Made

Building and strategy games arguably offer some of the deepest gameplay available, but in doing so, they are often exceedingly complex and difficult for casual users to engage in. Geomancer strips down the complexities of modern strategy games into a simple set of rules all surrounding one resource: mana. This will allow casual users to get engaged in the deep and engrossing decision making of strategy game without getting bogged down in a complicated rule set. In addition, everyone loves magic and Geomancer would allow for dazzling magical battles across the landscape as the different sides vie for supremacy.


Geomancer is a “real-time” strategy game played from a top-down/isometric perspective on a hex based grid. Though all the actions in the game occur in real-time, it has few, if any, of the standard RTS precepts. Each player starts with a single territory (i.e., hex) that contains their geomancer tower. From there, the player can use mana to convert neutral and enemy territories and cast spells to weaken his enemies or strengthen himself. Spells are used to convert territories, construct buildings, attack enemies and so on. Mana is gained over time, and the rate is determined by how much land the player controls in addition to the effects of any buildings and spells.

Players can invest mana in their own territory (increasing its strength) in order to protect it from enemy conversion as the cost of converting a territory is dependant on its strength. Initially the entire map is a barren desert (with some unique features for the sides to fight over) except for each player’s starting territory. Without the help of spells or buildings, each player can only see territories that border his own territories, so there is a “fog of war” aspect to the game as well. As players convert territories, the lands visually change to reflect their controlling power (e.g., lush forests, vast oceans, fiery volcanoes, etc.), and the player gathers more mana. The goal of the game is for the player to be the last remaining geomancer by converting the territories containing the other geomancer towers without losing his own.

Why Is It Fun?

Geomancer focuses on the simple, primal strategy of claiming territory like classic board games such as Othello or Go, but in lieu of a more contemplative, turn-based setting it occurs in real-time, which makes the game more fast-paced and action oriented. Geomancer has enough simplicity to allow casual gamers to enjoy watching their land rise (and fall) while still being deep enough to appeal to a more hardcore audience.

Why Is It Memorable?

The distinctiveness of the different sides set Geomancer apart from other strategy games. Instead, of simple palette swaps and minor unit variations, the different factions in Geomancer will be visually distinct and each geomancer will have access to unique spells and strategies. Also, the distinction between the sides is immediately recognizable and visually compelling. As vast oceans and towering volcanoes clash with huge tidal waves, eruptions, and other dazzling spectacles players (and even viewers) are immersed in the game, resulting in a deep and memorable play experience.

Final Thoughts

This game would work very well with the current specialization distributions as it there is little need for heavily constructive level design, and substantial work for the programming and art departments. The challenge in making Geomancer will be to combine approachable simplicity with strategic depth. Critical to this effort would be creating AI players that are interesting and fun to play against. The focus for the game should really be the same as the old slogan, “minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.”


  1. So Geomancer = RTS "Avatar: the last Airbender"? :-)

    I think the idea of simplifying certain aspects of RTS (like resource management) to emphasize other strategic decisions is good. But I think you'd still want some variety, especially to differentiate different levels. If everything starts out uniformly as a desert, what makes one level different from another? You could have low vs. high flow of mana. What about seasonal/climactic changes that affect the efficacy of certain kinds of powers. Could even have the development of the conquered territories affect the weather.

    But overall, interesting.


  2. Perhaps I should watch this "Avatar"...

    I agree about differentiating the levels. Actually what I would want to do is have unique tiles and have the map procedurally generated so there is an exploration aspect as well. I don't want the layout to be completely random, but I think if some randomness could be done without destroying the balance that would be solid.

    There's a lot that I've thought through that I would liked to have added to the pitch, but we were supposed to keep it as brief as possible, especially since we had to do a 5 min. presentation. Definitely, will think about it more though if I make it into the semi-finalists. For right now, I need to focus on coming up with a completely new idea to pitch this Friday.

    Thanks for your input! Glad to know someone's looking!