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An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

11 February 2015

Gaul Gloria

I've posted about this before I'm sure, but this concept is pretty neat. I thought it would be good to share it with the world. Maybe one day someone makes something out of it. Any similarities to Fable 3 are purely coincidental. This document was written long before Fable 3 was announced.

Below is a game concept document written in 2010.


Gaul Gloria
Brilliant oranges and reds of a blazing sunset are flooding the smoky, sooty battlefield. Earthy and fiery colours of autumn evoke the feeling of wistful melancholy.

Overview

This action adventure game is set in the dark and dangerous age of the infamous Gaul revolution in the Year of Terror, marked by a wave of mass executions of the “enemies of revolution”. Over 50,000 people lost their lives in a horrific clash of political parties and other power hungry factions. Riots have swept the streets, and Gaul is losing all of its wars – on far, and home fronts. The main images we’ll see are of a city at war, torn apart by internal struggle: riots, hunger, soldiers leaving, and military machines rumbling through the skies, factories, smoke, rubble and general depression.
You are a spy for Gaul’s across the channel neighbour, the Kingdom of Alba, where gentlemen and ladies of the high society drink sherry and discuss the Grey Hound races; walk in the rain and visit opera houses. You have been sent across the channel to disrupt the formation of the radical democratic republic, and a potential danger to the wellbeing and fragile balance of power on the continent. You must select an ambitious and capable candidate, make sure he gains enough reputation and support, unites the warring political factions and becomes the next High King and wins the war. You must not interfere however and act only behind scenes, acting more like a puppet master. Your identity is to remain a secret. Your new name is Paul Barras and you are an ex-army Commandant.
This is a third person action game with RPG elements. The game world is divided into the capital city of Gaul and a small amount of neighbouring villages and interesting landmarks. There is the Eastern Front where the player can experience the early 19th century mechanised warfare, complete with clockwork horses, coal powered behemoth suits and more. There is the Great Forest where myth and legend leak into real life and where Fae make their homes. Areas can be added to capture the look and feel of the setting.
The city is subdivided into districts, such as the Docks and the High Temple, each with its individual look and atmosphere. The districts all contain recognisable landmarks (bars, taverns, brothels, temples etc.), which will be used as strategic points. For example, if you control the tavern and the brothel in the Docks, the area becomes yours and you can get a cut from illegal goods, or bribe the dock master to allow their entry. You can gain influence in other areas as well, e.g. the garrison deployed on the Eastern Front can have a man who will allow you to experiment on prisoners or smuggle weapons for you.
You start the game as you step off from the air ship, an enormous zeppelin-like construction powered by Coal and Magik stones. You are met by your contact in the city; he explains that he is your only link back to the Alba government. Only he knows who you really are. You are then given a detailed dossier on every major character in the city, as well as a list of potential candidates for the job as a new High King. Each has his strengths and weaknesses.
The game runs in real time with all the main characters going about and doing their business, regardless of the player’s actions. The narrative from the player’s point of view is divided into days and if he is inactive he will hear about major events in the papers. On the global timeline there will be key events which can be influenced from the outside, like nodes that branch out into alternative timelines.
As you or your candidate gain influence and manpower you will control more land and have greater freedom with your actions. You can assign a character to do a specific job, like collect “tax” from the docks, or assassinate another character.
Success in Gaul Gloria depends on your cunning and subtle manipulation. You gain influence and increase your area of control through expensive gifts, blackmail, threats etc. and it is all too easy to lose it again if you are not careful. However, the player can always take a break from the high political game and go hunting, gambling, fighting or attempt to take out an entire loyalist cell Rambo style.
The “action” element of the game comes in the form of various adventures, quests you do for people and mythical creatures that appear from time to time to disrupt peaceful citizens. You can travel to the Eastern Front to find a runaway informer, you can travel to the Great Forest to retrieve an artefact that will ensure the loyalty of a noble, and you can get into trouble with the law or attempt an assassination.

Look and feel

The game is set in a fantasy world, in a country called Gaule, which is a stylised and exaggerated version of 1800s France, during its many bloody revolutions. The predominant colours are earthy and hot, thus evoking a deeply melancholic feeling of death and autumn. The music score will try to mix elements of secular music of that time and religious works of popular Romantic compositions.
The first glimpse of the game we will get will be a great panoramic view of the city and the battlefield outside: black metal slugs, spewing sooty smoke and ash into the orange sky; airships are hanging above like bloated, monstrous beasts. Everything is illuminated by the flaming orange setting sun. The brilliance of Rococo and Flamboyant Gothic architecture strikes us speechless: the golden spires and churches, glistening in the sun, the grim gargoyles on the edges of awe inspiring cathedrals. Below us there are troops going into battle. The cavalry riding in columns on their clockwork, armoured horses. Great mythical beasts called Grey Hounds are pulling strings of cannons and massive wagons. The zeppelin passes by the Firewall, a wall of tiny clockwork bots that are programmed to shoot down any unauthorised material, and lands in the midst of chaos of a busy air port. Small clockwork bots wiz up above on their various duties, people sell flowers, bread and fish; automated carriages roar around us. A small, ratty looking man approaches us with our name printed on a small wooden board and the game begins.

The quality of the light will largely depend on the weather, which will create an atmosphere and interact with the game world. There will be all the usual weather, like rain, morning fog and thunderstorm. Rain will make surfaces slippery, reduce visibility and make pools of water appear on the streets. It is very important to make a good impression, so the player will have to take care of his clothes. If you appear in high court in tatters, with rain water running down you, you will be thrown out. In addition there will be two other, special types of weather: aeon storm and maelstrom. Aeon storm will knock out all use of Magik, making everything eerie blue and black. In turn, a Maelstrom will send particles of Magik hectic, thus making its effects stronger but unpredictable and dangerous. A Maelstrom will make the atmosphere greenish white and completely still (no wind). Those types of weather are very rare and will be used more like plot devices or mission backdrops.
The everyday city is filled with a mix of mechanical sounds, like steam powered personal walking carriage or the mechanical horses, and everyday 19th century city sounds: people, stalls, shops, seagulls and so on. Once in a while there will be explosions in the distance, to remind the player that the city is in a state of war.

Target Market and Platform

The game is aimed at males of the age of 15 to 35. An average player is a man in his 20s who enjoys political intrigue, enormous steam powered machines and the zeitgeist of the early 19th century and French revolution era.
We must cover all possible bases and reach as wide an audience as possible. Therefore the game will be marketed as an Xbox360, PS3 and PC release. The controls will have to adjust accordingly and various options, tools and buttons kept to the minimum without restricting control.

Game Play

The game is a mix of strategy, clever scheming and action. The player will be required to deal with politics, control over areas of the city and the occasional supernatural happening. Since the game is so open ended and the player is required to keep track of important information, there will be tools that help with those tasks.

Interactive Time Lines

The player can choose to sit back and watch things unfold, or he can get involved. Regardless of player’s actions, the game world has its own time line, as do all the important NPCs. On each time line there are key nodes, which, if affected, change the fate of the character in question. The player may choose to involve himself in the plot or sit back and enjoy the show. For an example of such interactive time line see Appendix 5.
As you can see the Narrative is largely independent from the player. It’s all too easy to lose track of important events (and it does happen in real life) so the player will be urged to set up a spy network as soon as possible in the game. The spy network will allow the character to see all important events that he missed as cut scenes. This is explained by a Magik operated photosensitive picture stone.

Influence

The aim of the game is to gain enough support and influence to make your candidate the High King of the city state of Gaul. You can gain this influence through doing favours, removing unwanted opposition, blackmail and clever manipulation. Each key location you control gives you more influence points, and with enough points you can tell more people what to do. Each powerful friend or minion you have allows you to do more, gain better information, gives access to better equipment and brings you more money. If you are short on cash you can spend influence points to get what you want. However the more influence you lose, the less loyal your allies become, the fewer people like you and the less you can do without getting arrested.
As it has been mentioned before, clothes are also a very important game play mechanism. You will not be taken seriously if you come in to a ball in dirty clothes.
Like Experience points in other games Influence gives you more cool stuff in this one.

Magik

Magik stones are not so rare but very expensive artefacts that react with whatever they come in contact with. A skilled Elemetalist can infuse these stones with an element to create a weapon. An engineer can power a walking war machine or an air ship. The player can mix a bunch of elements and a tiny Magik stone to create a weapon upgrade. Stones react strongly with Hydrogen element by exploding into clouds and clouds of steam. Placed in automaton’s boiler chamber they can power the entire machine. These stones are commonly found around the Grande Foret area, however their retrieval is dangerous.
Example: The player controls a chemical factory which sold him Sulphur. He then travels to the great forest, battles some Fae and brings back a Magik stone. After all that he goes to an Elemetalist who infuses the stone with sulphur and installs it on the player’s musket. The musket’s bullets start spewing out deadly acid on impact.

Administrative Screen

When you take time out in your accommodation/house/office you get the option to open the Admin Screen. The game will then go into the tactical map, which is an overhead view of the city. There you will have all the useful information you, the papers or your minions have for you: the state of affairs, the price of coal (important for powering machines in conjunction with Magik stones), the advances in technology and many more.
This tool will allow you to manage your resources, check the areas under your control, check your mail, and deal with diplomacy, issue orders and check news. Areas you control will be outlined in green and any problems will turn up as red dots. You’ll also be able access all your notes, dossiers and other administrative paperwork. The resource management is not an essential part of game play - the player can hire an assistant to manage his affairs.

Combat

This in an action adventure game and wouldn’t be much fun without some old hack and slash. The player is a spy of the Albian Empire and sometimes it’s impossible not to get into trouble. At the start of the game the area outside of the city is a warzone where anything can happen. Mythical creatures roam the surrounding country side. Resistance leaders also provide a good release for the player’s aggression.
In addition to normal 19th century muskets and cannons you can get lasers and advanced tech powered by Magik stones. However these weapons stop working during an Aeon storm and sometimes explode during a Maelstrom. Magic stones infused with different elements (sulphur and rubidium as opposed to the cliché fire and water), which all react differently to weather, e.g. rubidium reacts violently with water so try not to use rubidium powered steam rifle during heavy rains.
There is a massive armoury of guns, swords, legendary and rare weapons, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. E.g. Magik musket might melt the target in one shot, but will explode violently if submerged in water.
The combat system is a third person shooter style with an option to go into first person when aiming down iron sights. The fact that black powder muskets are so troublesome to reload the player will have to rely on his melee skills as well.

Land and Control

Each major location, like a city for example, is going to be split into districts.
To take control over a district the player must take over the key locations in that area. For example in the Docks there is the Port, the Brothel and the Tavern. Each will have to be controlled before the area becomes yours. To take over a key location you must buy it, blackmail the owner into paying you homage, befriend the owner by doing a few tasks for him or threaten him.
Once you control a district you start getting income from it, which is equal to all the key locations’ income plus a little bit depending on your influence.
Rivals can sabotage your plans; force a location to close, kill the owner and so on. Then the area is no longer yours and you don’t get income and lose points of influence.

Game Economy

There will be a global economic system. You will be able to ship materials from abroad but it will take time and the more items you buy the more expensive they become. Inside the city the story is the same: the more of one item you buy the more expensive it is, the more you sell the less valuable it becomes. To avoid the player buying all cheap items, which would make the demand soar, and then selling it back to the owner, the shop owners will have a limited amount of cash on them.
You can also buy trinkets as gifts. The better the trinket the better response your gift will receive. It is particularly useful when you want to bribe someone or influence someone into doing something for you.

Global Events

Things happen in the city regardless of player’s actions. Rain might make the bridge collapse, opening a cave from which Fish People crawl out. The crazy Chemist might create a Helium elemental, which will rampage through the Market district destroying all stock and terrorizing citizens with its high pitched whine. All these events are set to happen at a set time but the player will always get one or two chances to get involved.

Online Support

Unfortunately this game is single player only. However there will be challenges for the player to complete and anything you do will be posted on Facebook, e.g. “Artyom Semenov just became the High King on Gaul Gloria” or “Artyom Semenov just assassinated Arch Chancellor Pierre on Gaul Gloria (don’t tell his wife)”

Inspiration

Computer Games

·        The Witcher
·        Fable 3
·        Mafia
·        Mass Effect
·        Cossacks
·        Napoleon Total War

Other Games

·        Houses of the Blooded
·        Dungeons and Dragons
·        Legend of Five Rings
·        Settlers of Ktan
·        Warhammer Fantasy Battle

Books

·        Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
·        Diamond Age
·        The Three Musketeers


Appendix 1: Areas
Different areas of the city offer different advantages/disadvantages. In each area there will be one or two key locations which the player will have to control to claim an area as his.

Brothel

Advantages: Assassinations, information gathering, free entertainment gifts.
Disadvantages: Not very reliable, can be bribed to give false information, can be shut down easily.

Tavern

Advantages: Rumours, storage space and free night’s sleep.
Disadvantages: Taverns can get burned down, lose its reputation (therefore losing money) and many barmen are double dealing, lying scum.

Market

Advantages: Generates great income, great place to gather information and trade rare items.
Disadvantages: Market is easy to shut down in the time of war. In the unstable economic climate the market might die out.

Docks

Advantages: Can bribe the dock master to allow illegal goods, dispose of bodies, store important items and send messages overseas.
Disadvantages: Dock master is not very trustworthy and works for whoever has more money. If you deal with him often, there is an increased chance of you being blackmailed. Docks are highly desirable, therefore there will be trouble.

Air port

Advantages: Allows access to some very rare items and information on comings and goings of important people.
Disadvantages: High risk of damages during Aeon Storms; also requires high influence to maintain.

City Hall

Advantages: Can allow development plans, get people arrested or out of prison. Great source of income.
Disadvantages: Risky game for both you and your contact. If it becomes apparent that you’ve been blackmailing/taking cuts from the city hall you are in big trouble.

The Great Palace

Advantages: You or your agent is a high king! You can do anything you like and no one can stop you.
Disadvantages: Post-great revolution, people are easy to anger, so don’t be surprised if you find a mob on your front step.

Church

Advantages: You can get blessings from the gods and a good income. A church is also useful in time of unrest as a tool for controlling the mob.
Disadvantages: You have to pretend to be overly religious and attend meetings.

Factory

Advantages: Can make things cheaper and get some rare items. It’s also a decent source of income.
Disadvantages: One factory can only make one type of item, e.g. a chemical factory will only make poisons and not iron swords.


Appendix 2: Regions
The game world will be expansive and detailed. There will be no loading screens between areas and the player will be free to explore. The main Regions of the world are outlined below.

The City of Gaul

A massive and mighty metropolis, spanning many miles of beautiful Rococo and Flamboyant Gothic architecture, tiny alleys, squares, parks, waterfronts, palaces, villas and slums. The city is split into districts: the slums, the docks, the rich district, market district, industrial area and so on. Each district will have two or three key locations unique to it.

Eastern Front

To the east of the capital there lies an area in between two hills in which two armies are stuck in eternal struggle. Ferocious battles rage every day and night but no progress in either direction is made. Hulking war automations thunder into battle every morning and come back every evening with more scratches. The mechanised cavalry ride away into the morning mist never to come back. Scores of troops are sent to the front line every day to keep it from moving closer to the city but only a fraction will return. Grey Hounds – huge, formidable beasts that look like a mix between an Ox and a wolf – pull cannons, supply carriages and equipment.

La Grande Forêt

The ancient Grande Foret is where trees whisper of aeons past and myth and legend leak into the real world. Mysterious Fae inhabit the forest and there are rumours that the surrounding villages are mind cleansed by them. According to legend there is an ancient dragon, slumbering in the middle of the forest. The forest will provide interesting story opportunities. The player will want to visit this region to gather illegal herbs, find ancient artefacts and explore.


Appendix 3: Diplomacy
Diplomacy is an important aspect of the game and you can send letters, gifts and threats to people. The better the gift, the business offer or the threat, the more likely you will get what you want.

Letters

You can send a letters to characters in the game in the Administrative View. For speed and simplicity there are several message templates available.

Offer Money

You send some money to the target. You gain some loyalty from the target.

Help

You ask the target to help you with resources. You get some money but lose some influence.

Threat

You tell your target exactly what you’re going to do with him and his family if he doesn’t comply with your commands. Sometimes the target will comply, in other cases you must follow through with your threat. If you do follow through and carry out the threat you gain influence. You can ask the target to be at a certain place at a certain time, give you money, and leave the city and so on.

Insult

A great insult lowers your target’s influence depending on your comparative influence. If you insult the mayor he will lose a lot of influence, but a dock master has no influence to lose. You gain a little bit of influence. Be careful however, insults are not taken lightly in Gaul society and a duel or an assassination can result.


Blackmail

You send your target copies of evidence of his/her shady dealings along with a request for a favour. You gain a lot of loyalty from the target and they will do pretty much anything. It is your choice whether to make the shady dealings public, or forget about it. The former costs you a lot of influence (people don’t trust your word anymore) but you get rid of the target. The latter will gain you influence but the target will lose all loyalty to you.


Appendix 4: Minions
As you gain influence more and more people will want to join your cause. You can hire men to do your dirty work for you, and you will need to as your area of influence grows bigger. The longer you have a minion the better he will get at his job. You’ll have to make sure that your minion’s loyalty is at a high standard. Otherwise they’ll turn on you or simply quit. There are many types of men you can hire and assign to various tasks, however only some are outlined below.

Brute

Does what it says on the tin - makes threats much more believable and can be used as personal guard. A brute can also be sent to quell trouble in a district. Not very loyal to start with but loyalty increases with time.

War Walker

Each WW is a fifteen foot tall ironclad behemoth, a coal-fired Magik-powered engine of destruction controlled by a skilled pilot. Only the best of the best receive a suit of their own. WWs can smash through walls, provide heavy support, crush skulls and look damn impressive. They are however extremely high maintenance and can’t fit through doorways.

Accountant

A useful asset when you can’t be bothered tracking your own income and outgoings. Rather than going around the city collecting money and setting pay rates of your minions, you can pay an accountant to do that for you. He will present you with a neat report at the end of the week. An accountant has an average loyalty rating. If loyalty rating is low money will start disappearing, police might turn up and ask for an obscure bill or fine to be paid.

Physician

Will heal you and your men for free and without any questions; but is quite high maintenance (medical supplies etc.)

Chemist

Will create poisons for you, infuse Magik stones with various elements and sell interesting drugs. Quite high maintenance due to equipment costs, but very loyal.

Personal Driver

Provides a quick travel option. Different modes of transport give you different levels of influence. A mechanical horse is a cutting edge military invention, so it’s quite hard to come by and gives a lot of influence. On the other hand a battered down, rusty carriage is not very cool.

Ele-metal-ist

Someone who is proficient in warping metal and infusing Magik stones with various elements. Can turn scrap metal into things.


Appendix 5: Example of Interactive Timeline
Commandant Arlegui Perran is a commander in the Gaul army. He is a trusted companion and friend of Wincent Legrand. Legrand is a dangerous man, a political activist and the leader of the liberal opposition. Perran is entrusted with some important paperwork.
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
 Perran comes back from a meeting with Legrand.
Perran has a bath.
Perran reviews the important paperwork.
Perran goes for a brief walk before dinner.
Perran has dinner.
Perran wakes up in a state of distress. Someone has broken into his house and tried to find something.
Perran, curious, reads the paperwork. It turns out to be a plot against High Chancellor Neolanop.
Perran spends the night in the brothel
Distressed, Perran gets increasingly paranoid. He spends all day wandering around town, trying not to be seen.
Perran steals a Animal Imitation Automation (AIA), leaves the city and joins the troops at the Eastern Front.
As you can see, there are certain events on Perran’s time line which can be influenced from outside. If the player was after the plot and already interrogated Legrand, he could’ve followed Perran and broken into his house, or killed him while the poor man is having his bath. However if the player is too slow, or the informer is unreliable, he will not find Perran in the city.
This is a simple example of one character’s time line. The stories would normally be more complex and interweave more. In the example above we can bring in the time line of Wincent Legrand, who spends three days in his villa, partying. Three days later it emerges that a very important document has gone missing and Legrand’s trusted ally is nowhere to be found. Legrand is executed as an enemy of revolution unless something or someone interferes.