Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chess and Video Games: Complicated

Virtual Chess 64
There are two things I am well known for by those closest to me. I love to play video games, but I also love to play the classic board game Chess. I am genuinely interested in both arenas and there has been one time in my life when both of my interests clashed together. There was one game created by Titus, which at this point is long gone, called Virtual Chess 64, and while this wasn't anywhere near a commercial success when it hit the shelves during the Nintendo 64's heyday, it marked the starting point of a general discussion.

For gamers who also played Chess on the side, this was their opportunity to play against either the computer AI or against each other in a video game interpretation of the old thinking man's game. You obviously never hear about Virtual Chess 64 for at least one good reason, and that would be the fact that Titus in general wasn't that successful of a game developing company. In fact, Titus was responsible for creating one of the worst games in the history of the Video Game Industry... Superman 64.

Even so, I never had a problem playing Virtual Chess 64 simply because I understood the language behind playing the game of Chess already, and I actually found some fun things about Virtual Chess. I thought it was a nice touch that the game presented lessons of past classic chess matches that featured some of the best chess players in history. That was a good move, in my opinion.

There's a whole world out there for Chess mechanics.

Now let's talk about present day gaming and discuss whether or not a game that is seemingly presented as being sophisticated like Chess can ever be converted into being an actual fun and entertaining video game experience. I truly believe the answer to that question is yes, and let me explain why. Consider the various genres the Video Game Industry has established throughout the years and take bits and pieces of those genres out for a second. Now wrap whatever features you choose around Chess, and there you will have a foundation of some sort. Here is what I would gather.

Role-Playing Games: Team Formations, Battles, Turn-Based Play
Platforming Games: Point A to Point B, Checkpoints, Collectathon, Boss Battles
4X Games: Exploring, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate
Fighting Games: (Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, etc.), Duels

If we were to implement any combination of the features that I have mentioned above and keep the emphasis on playing a game of Chess, then I believe this kind of video game would have the potential to strike gold out on the markets. Having a game like this would motivate people to get more into the game of Chess while also giving them an amazing experience of going through levels just like any other video game. You get the proper clash of Chess and video games if you were to mold your game world around such a concept.

Imagine this as part of the video game world!
It amazes me that in this day and age of gaming some game developing companies are still in the dark when it comes to creativity. Some of the game ideas that I see are severely lacking in forethought and it makes me wonder how these companies came up with these ideas. There isn't a huge risk to be taken if you were to experiment on expanding the world of Chess and mold it more into the video game environment. It's not like this would be an idea that no one would understand. It's Chess and it has a video game world created around it. I believe it's a concept that makes sense and can attract even the most casual gamers out there. I believe such a concept is marketable and allows for more creativity than what some people think.

Chess has many, many variants to it and you don't need to look very far to find chess variants. There is a website you can check out, and it's called www.chessvariants.org. This website has all sorts of chess variants for chess enthusiasts to sink their teeth into, and some of these variants look really unique and interesting. This proposed chess video game experience could feature some of these chess variants as unlockable content for completing certain tasks in the game. Now we would like to include as many players as possible to enjoy this chess video game experience together, and I don't just mean 2 players.

3-Player Chess: A popular Chess variant
Some of the variants I have seen include 3-player chess, 4-player chess, 6-player chess and even 12-player chess. Imagine being able to access some of these variants and play them in a video game setting. That in itself is intriguing. One main point behind the development of a video game is to make the overall experience fun, and these chess variants would help make the chess video game fun. You make the players ponder all the more what they want to play and how they want to play. Using an analogy, if a bowl of chicken noodle soup is bland in taste, then what do you do? You add spices to that soup and you make that soup have a richer taste to it. Apply the same kind of principles to this proposed chess video game.

You can also implement what I would like to call "Clan Play" in this chess video game. You can form groups of characters in either the console game setting, or in the extended PC game setting and you can move your character along with other players and their characters through this game world looking for battles, chess matches and Mini-Games against other clans. Give the players choices.

Chess may appear to be a boring game to some people, or at least a game that's too hard to understand, but if you wrap it around fun elements and surround it with an appropriate video game setting, then you can expand the possibilities. Sometimes you just need to develop that extra oomph of imagination to get the engine started. That's probably what future chess video games need.

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