Friday, March 27, 2009

a better hunting game

Real hunting involves a lot of patience, unless you're on a game ranch. Hunting video games are apparently popular enough that they keep getting made, but I've never known anyone who has owned one (and I live in Texas). Such games aren't mainstream because they focus on realism while ignoring the simple fact that simulation lacks most of the same thrills (smells, buddies, physical exertion, rewards like meat and skins, etc).

So how would I make a more enjoyable hunting game?


Well, first, I'd make the setting a combination of real world and fantasy. By fantasy, I don't mean dragons and elves. The fantasy slant is important for many reasons.

For one, most animals larger than a housecat are well known these days. I would want to recreate the feeling of encountering new creatures... having no previous knowledge of their behaviors, speed, agility, defenses, or potential danger.

Monsters aren't real, right? Well, they used to be. The difference between an animal and a monster is only that a monster is mysterious and dangerous. Cameras, communication technologies, improved transportation, and other things have eliminated the most basic mysteries of wildlife. The invention of firearms, automobiles, electricity, and such have eliminted the danger for most people.

Which brings me to my next reason: being able to hunt animals which are now rare and legally guarded or recently extinct. I never heard a complaint about killing elephants in Everquest 2. In a fictional setting, some rules of reality don't apply. In my game, there would be no limits on what you can hunt or how many. It might include recently extinct animals like Australia's moa or Irish elk.

The third reason for setting the game in fiction is include the benefits of some modern technologies while removing the comforts of others, and even introduce some new ones. In my game, the player would be both predator and prey. Players would experience what it's like to be part of the food chain.


Unlike a typical hunting game, I would give this a game a storyline. Most of it would be emergent, but a backbone would be provided.

I'd probably start the player out on a recreational hunting trip or something similar.... something to hearken to the typical modern view of hunting. At this point, the player would be secure at the top of the food chain and have time to learn. Gameplay might not be limited to shooting either. If you've never seen the movie Hatari!, with John Wayne as part of a group that captures African animals for zoos, I strongly recommend it. That sort of non-lethal "hunting" is a possible side avenue for the game.

Then events would occur, perhaps gradually, to separate the player from that safety and ease.

The heart of the story would be when a dynamically-selected group of beasts, such as a pack of lions, begins stalking the player (ala The Edge) or burdening the player in some other way (ala The Ghost and The Darkness) -- both great films, by the way.

The main problem is what to do after that. In any case, a feeling of film-like adventure is one of the things lacking from past hunting games that has kept them from being widely popular. Providing this sense of story wouldn't be grounded in dialogue or text, but in play systems. That said, some narration or NPC commentary might be good.

When the player's adventure is done, if it ever is, the credits would roll in front of screenshots of the player's most memorable moments. Perhaps the player would take these pictures.


I'm a big fan of systems like the one in Turok, in which AI compete with each other and not just the player. I would have a food web, but also give individual creatures need priorities. That way, the player would see things like a cheetah hunting an antelope, but a starving predator would attack something outside its usual prey menu. Dynamic behavior.

AI would also create other familiar scenarios, such as the normally passive animal becoming aggressive when injured or trapped.

Well, I'm going to stop there so I can get a post up before it's too late in the day. What are your thoughts on this or hunting games in general?


  1. The one mistake I've noticed in games where NPCs fight amongst themselves and with you is that when you get in aggro range, their aggro automatically turns to you. They disregard the bastard they were just fighting and go after you in conjunction with their other enemy like they were buddy buddy.

    Don't do that :P

  2. I think the 'horror' in RE5 could have been better, if the Majini AI didn't just play at attacking you from the off but squabbled between themselves too. Then, once the player became more of a threat, the Majini would then turn there attention to them.

    If this was mixed up in the gameplay, you'd have more of a horror/nightmarish feel...

    ...ahem, a wee bit off the topic there.


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