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Six Guns to Glory

August 30th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I stayed up and caught Hour of the Gun on one of the local TV stations. It’s a middling retelling of the Wyatt Earp story starring James Garner and Jason Robards. It has accusations of rustling, shady lawmen, a few gunfights. And through it all, I thought “Gee. This’d be a nice setting for a game.”

Lots of people think this. Saying “I want a Western game” is like saying “I want scary games.” It’s one of the basic calls of the disgruntled gamer. And it’s not like no one has tried. Last year’s Red Dead Revolover met with some praise, but wasn’t a huge hit. Gun is just around the corner.

In the strategy arena, we’re left with the mostly forgotten America, a game with a tin-ear for social niceties and game play. Set in the West as seen through 1930s Hollywood when viewed by German game makers, America was full of racial stereotypes, clunky gameplay and very imbalanced factions. We’ve been spared the once planned America 2.

I still think that a good Western strategy game can be made, but it can’t be in the RTS mold. America already did that, and had a lot of trouble keeping the game from being offensive. Not Command and Conquer: Generals offensive, but native rain dances and hard drinking banditos are probably out of any sane game design. Not that a clever designer couldn’t differentiate the factions without being offensive, but so long as we are building on what Hollywood has given us, we have to understand that we are treading on boggy ground.

So here are three Western designs that should amuse and entertain:

The ClantonsThe Sims has started getting clones, but they are all pretty much the same. They are usually sexed up takes on modern life (Playboy Mansion, Singles) and offer nothing new in setting or motivation. So why not a Sims-like game set in the West? Control a little town as seen by its inhabitants, satisfy their gun-toting needs and climb the ladder of ranching success.

Gunslingers – In another total ripoff from another game, Pirates! could be redone with a Western theme. Sid Meier always said that his game was done with pirate movies in mind, so why not go all the way and make a gunslinging game? Fight shootouts in the street to redeem your honor, or join a posse to hunt down a wanted man. Accumulate wealth through ranching, mining and stagecoach robbing.

Tombstone – An Old West city-building game. Organized like the Caesar games with scenario goals and a campaign, you develop you little town(s) through the phases of Manifest Destiny. Start with a small outpost successful enough to attract settlers and finish by building the capital of a brand new state. Cities would be rated with the usual combination of lawlessness, profitability and amenities, plus you could have the US Cavalry protecting you from raiders.

Shootout – Take Laser Squad Nemesis and convert the tactical combat game to a Western theme. Have guys with shotguns and rifles and six-shooters blast away from saloons and balconies and corrals (of course). Horses could give increased movement, but decrease accuracy. If this hasn’t been done yet, it should.

So there we have it. Four perfectly reasonable – and completely derivative – models of strategy like games set in the Old West. All are perfectly reasonable and now belong to the internet.


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