Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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March 26th, 2006

Game Idea #13: Oceanopolis

High Concept:

Oceanopolis is the game that lets you explore a large virtual world set entirely under the sea. Mermaids and all kinds of magical sea creatures call this world home, and you’re invited to create your own mermaiden and join in on the fun.



Why it needs to be made:

The vast majority of games are designed for young men. The few games that are designed to appeal to young women usually do fairly well in the market, but let’s be honest, they’re pretty shallow games. Oceanopolis is designed to be a robust game world for girls, but if some boys want to come visit, that’s ok too.


The first thing you do in Oceanopolis is design your own mermaid. You begin by defining her looks (hair, face, body, fin), and then her personality (likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams). This mermaid is your avatar in the game world, and your identity in the online community. The second thing you do is design your home, which resembles an underwater sand castle. You begin with a humble home, but as you play the game you can grow and change it to accomodate your possessions, to show off your awards, and to host more friends.

Once you’ve created your character and established your home, you’re free to explore the bustling city of Oceanopolis. The city is full of neat nooks and crannies just waiting to be explored. Sunken treasure litters the game world, and collecting it is the basis of the city’s economy. Treasure can be collected, traded, sold, or used to craft useful gameplay items.

But it’s all of the other mermaids and mermen that make Oceanopolis a fun, dynamic place to visit. Just completed your collection of seashells? Invite your friends over to your pad to admire them. The game features text and voice-chat, but you also have a huge number of ways to visually emote, letting other players know just how you’re feeling.

Why it will be fun:

According to my wife, every girl pretends she’s a mermaid when she goes swimming. So the first and foremost goal would be to make just being a mermaid a fun, easy to control experience. Once that was rock-solid it would be straightforward to pull in proven elements from the likes of The Sims and Animal Crossing. Exploring is fun. Collecting is fun. Building is fun. But making new friends and doing these activities with them online is really fun.

Final Thoughts:

Many thanks to Erin for suggesting the mermaid theme! This idea seems like a total no-brainer, but it’s one that as a male game designer I almost certainly would not have come up with on my own. The moral? More diveristy in design departments will result in more diverse games for a more diverse audience.

9 Responses to “Game Idea #13: Oceanopolis”

  1. Mason Dixon commented:
    posted March 26th, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    I have to admit, I was skeptical at forist, but your description sold me. I want to start a sea-shell collection.

  2. Erin commented:
    posted March 28th, 2006 at 7:10 am

    All I said to Patrick was that every little girl pretends she’s a mermaid when she goes swimming — you know, holding your legs together and swimming as long as you can at the bottom of the pool, imagining you’re Daryl Hannah in “Splash.” I didn’t come close to thinking of all the cool things mermaids could do! Build an underwater castle! Create a shell economy! Have friends over for an underwater tea party! Yay! I wish this game would magically turn into real life (instead of, say, the “Stay Alive” movie game).

    I just have one question: What is MMO?

  3. Patrick commented:
    posted April 2nd, 2006 at 12:57 am

    An “MMO” is a “Massively Multiplayer Online” game. The idea is that instead of sitting alone playing a game, or you playing a game with a handful of people online, that you’re playing a game with hundreds or thousands of other people simultaneously.

    Usually MMOs are played on PCs, but I didn’t see any reason to limit this idea to just one platform. Besides, the consoles really need a cool MMO.

  4. Colleen commented:
    posted April 6th, 2006 at 7:30 am

    Interesting concept, from what I’ve seen most girls enjoy multipler games. I think this is in part due to working on a team. That being said I think it would be interesting if a group of players could costumize their under water cities together. Not just one person creating a temple or building and their own city, but a team of friends creating the city together. Everyone could build on to everyone else’s art or design. Then the city is no longer just one player’s home it becomes every ones.
    Also I’m wondering where the conflict comes into the game. I wonder if there are natural disasters of some sort that a group of players would have to deal with?
    The problems I had with animal crossing was that I became bored with going ang getting “Bob” darn game boy every time I talked to the animals. The animals never did anything cool for me. I became their virtual slave, and if I didn’t pick up their garbage they moved.

  5. Colleen commented:
    posted April 6th, 2006 at 7:57 am

    I just had an idea, just an add on. What if the emotions of the character affect the environment or the textures applied to the character over time. So for example: say player 1 customizes their mermaid gold fish character, now most of the time when the palyer is playing the character, the player choses the character to be sad. In their options they have different emotions to chose from. Now perhaps everytime they log in they are 75% sad in game. Maybe on the 50th time they log in the mermaids scales start turning a different color, or there is a dark mist around them.
    Similar to in “black and white” where your creature starts to change appearance. Your mood changes your character and how they are viewed to everyone else.

  6. Patrick commented:
    posted April 11th, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    I agree, building a city together with my friends would be really cool. Do any of the SimCity games allow for that already?

    As for the conflict in the game, I think natural disasters are a good way to go for the city-building parts. But I don’t see there being an antagonistic force in the game, like deep-sea fishermen out to get the mermaids. Instead I see the challenges coming from the environment. Some building materials could be so heavy that multiple players have to work together to move them. Or some doors can only be opened when one player holds down a lever, while the other swims inside.

    Another challenge could be a big mystery, where all the players are working together (in a relatively low-threat environment) to try to solve a big puzzle. The conflict is the puzzle itself, and the challenge is to get everyone to cooperate to try to solve it. Clues could be gathered from all over the city, and perhaps the solution is actually the blue-prints for a very specific type of building… which you then get to (have to) build!

    Switching gears, I think that using color as an indicator of mood is a fantastic idea. Besides just “I’m happy” or “I’m sad,” you could use them as ways to indicate what kind of interactions you’re looking for. Green could be “I’m looking to race” while pink is “I’m looking for love.” A player off in the distance could immediately communicate to you what kind of “play” they’re looking for, which would make “grouping” much easier.

  7. joanne commented:
    posted April 27th, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    hi. i’m 11 years old and i’m interested to find out when people can start playing Oceanopolis and if it’s free. it sounds like fun! please e-mail me back!


  8. Patrick commented:
    posted April 28th, 2007 at 12:32 am

    It’s just an idea right now. Maybe some day it will be a real game. :-)

  9. Bunni commented:
    posted June 26th, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    LOVE the idea! ^_^ My little sister, when the game is finished, will be VERY exited to play it when she’s older! She is mermaid obsessed. Maybe the game will keep her quiet! ^_^

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