I decided just now to see if the subreddit for this had any worthwhile content. I don’t know why, since I’ve been lurking here since forever. However, I found a thread there about what features would be cool to add, and for mysterious reasons it inspired me.
Since it’ll likely go wasted there, I’m picking up the idea and bringing it over here.
I think Cataclysm would be improved greatly by adding a concept of, basically, random events. Acid rain and zombie hordes are kind of weak examples of this idea, but I think the game would benefit from turning it up to 11. Good random events would reward players for being aware of their surroundings, mobile, prepared, and smart enough to recognize what kinds of threats they can deal with. They would also help considerably in making the game more immersive, both by making the world feel more alive (and, not at all incidentally, hostile) and by giving the player a sense of an ongoing catastrophe that they’re trying to survive.
Disclaimer: The rest of this is me brainstorming. Not all ideas are guaranteed to be good. Not all possible good ideas are guaranteed to be represented.
What kind of random events am I talking about? I’ve basically got two categories - environmental and factional.
Environmental events reflect the fact that the world is broken. The Earth was disposed to occasional extremes even before people started opening up gates to other worlds, and of course things are much worse now. Furthermore, unnatural forces that are utterly inimical to human life have been loosed. Let’s see some of that.
[ul][li]Unseasonal temperatures and weather conditions. Heat/cold at the wrong time, snow that instantly melts, etc. [/li]
[li]Rains of creatures. Possibly neutral, possibly not[/li]
[li]Cloud cover so thick the Sun may as well have never bothered rising[/li]
[li]Nights where Something That Isn’t The Moon rises. I’d tell you what it is, but just looking at it out of the corner of your eye makes you feel sick…[/li]
[li]Nights when the moon is unnaturally bright, and all the wolves and dogs band together in packs to hunt anything that moves[/li]
[li]Clouds of poisonous gas drifting over the landscape[/li]
[li]Earthquakes, which possibly open chasms[/li]
[li]Windstorms - chance to be knocked down while outside, increased movement costs, random flying debris damaging everything.[/li]
[li]Flooding - incredible spot rainstorms cause an entire map tile to be covered in water. Probably difficult to implement, moving fluids around is hard.[/li][/ul]
Factional events, on the other hand, would reflect the fact that there are a lot of groups of enemies in the setting and that they should be actively doing things. Giant ants should be building new hives, mi-go should be looking for research subjects, hordes of zombies should be shuffling around being atmospheric, the blobs should establish new pits or take over living creatures or something, the triffid infestation should spread, et cetera.
Implementation of all this is obviously nontrivial. I’d suggest that it might be wiser to have as much of this as possible be global - maintaining information about what strange things have happened to the player this way would facilitate design elements like disabling random events altogether or opting for an especially eventful life. Some of the environmental events (darkness during day, being outside at night being traumatic, etc) seem like they’d be relatively easy to implement, and having giant bees build a new hive seems like it could be accomplished by just changing a map tile. Others, such as a patrol of mi-go wandering around, seem more difficult… but then, we do have zombie hordes to use as a starting point. Other elements are seriously problematic - earthquakes actually damaging things is likely to require some thought about rules for how that’ll work, and implementing things like a roof caving in without it feeling utterly arbitrary is likely to be hard.
Another advantage to taking an approach where random events are a system unto themselves, then, is that the events can hopefully be made modular and not heavily interdependent. An early implementation might be to just get a simple events system in and the “dark during the day” event happening once in a great while.
I’m sure ideas like this have been suggested before - I’m hoping that providing details and some thoughts on why this is a good augmentation for Cataclysm’s current gameplay will help it find fertile ground.