It’s High Noon.
Did you read it in Matthew Marcer’s voice? If you’ve been exposed to Overwatch at all, I bet you did!
Duel’s have been a cornerstone of the Wild West fantasy and today, I’m gonna tell you about my one-pager cowboy duel game.
The game isn’t a traditional shooter. Instead, it switches between two phases. Main is the actual duel where you typically have seconds to act and come through while the other phase is everything you do outside, that not only runs the story of the game but also has an affect in your duels.
The game has two main modes: One is a sandbox story mode where you play a gunslinger from his youth to whatever age (with potential to retire early one way or the other), and the other is a fully sandbox mode where you can tweak everything (such as no-aging or aging 10x slower.)
Let’s start with the core game, duels. There will be a few duel types, which come with a specific camera angle. I imagine these two be hand-drawn or pixel art and fully 2d. Depending on the type of duel (two possibilities are shared on my one-pager above), you have a specific way to act and you have a short time frame to do so. Everything is decided in almost a split second, like a real duel. I’ll go with the top duel as an example, where rivals meet facing each other, hands ready to draw.
There will be a time where both sides are weighing each other. You will have some options before you actually draw, like trying to talk or fake a move. These might get your enemy to act hesitantly or otherwise to shoot badly. They can also put you into a disadvantage. For example, you could try to fool the enemy into thinking you’ll move slightly left and shoot, but the enemy does not buy it. Now you’re reverting back to your neutral state, meaning you will move predictably, which your rival can take advantage of. It’s also important to note that your enemy will NOT wait for you to start drawing. If you take too long, you may just be shot. That said, observing your enemy might give you clues on how they’ll attack and defend, which may be vital to defeating them.
Once you decide, you’ll start the draw action and the game will be slowed for you to act for a very brief amount of time. Certain actions will require a mouse gesture (similar to Black&White, but nothing too complicated) and cursor will have a hit circle around it, where your bullets can go. As usual, movement will grow the circle and rapid movement even more so. Keep in mind that you aren’t merely aiming for a single spot here. Your mouse movement is sort of your character moving their hand to aim. Since you are drawing at the hip, this means going for a headshot, for instance, requires a lot of movement. If you do it slowly, you may be shot before you hit. If you do it too fast, your hit circle may be too large.
You will also have other actions at your disposal: You can choose to move slightly to a direction which might cause your enemy to mistarget but also causing more movement, which you need to compensate while aiming and a bigger hit circle for you.
You can choose to line up multiple shots in a row: This will take you a bit of extra time, but in case the target isn’t down with a single shot, follow-ups might decide the fate of a duel. You hit the same key that you used to start the draw, to end the draw. Once both sides draws are done and there is no winner, a second round is done. This will continue until there is a winner.
Once a duel is over, you’ll be in the real world, which I imagine again to be a combination of texts and illustrations. You will be able to eat, drink and sleep, talk with people, travel, shop etc. You’ll earn money in a variety of ways from bets to bounty hunting and make money that way. You’ll have a reputation per town that changes pretty fast and one global reputation that changes much slower. Depending on your actions, you’ll likely earn a nickname. There is no internet for instant fame or infamy, but the more your fame spreads, the more you’ll see its affects.
You’ll also be able to affect your duels in a number of ways. For example, a healthy diet might give you a longer life and a smaller hit circle, but people of the Wild West might not like that guy who doesn’t drink until the end of the night. You can get better equipment with a variety of benefits. Finally, you may hire help. An investigator might give you vital information about an enemy. A bodyguard might be useful when you think the enemy will play it dirty… or help you play it dirty, supporting you with a scoped gun from afar or otherwise. A courtesan might slip something into the rival’s drink that will physically impair them and a doctor might help you recover from wounds faster, or give you something to help when you are the one who’s sabotaged. If you get these people on a salary and treat them right, you might have a merry band! Alternatively, you can just hire people on occasion or exploit your team. It will likely work anyway, at least until it doesn’t!
Of course, your actions will affect your reputation: If you are following with a band that hates your guts, well, don’t expect potential hires to be very enthusiastic to work with you. That said, maybe being infamous will open up new ways for you to make money and make you more approachable for certain individuals with certain skillset or items.
As you play through the game, you’ll get to have some advantages. For example, you might find a gun that’s easier to draw (ie a simpler mouse gesture) or harder to sabotage. You’ll have companions etc.
You will also meet people who can teach you things or simply get experience by trying, which will be represented as traits. One trait might get you to move farther with a dodge, while other might give you a slightly longer draw time. Maybe you learn how to taunt even the most cool-headed of enemies into making mistakes or you simply draw faster.
On the story mode, you’ll be aging and your time will come to an end. Whether you go a gunslinger all the way or choose to retire early when you get an offer is up to you. Once the game is over, you’ll see your affect on different towns and how everything turned out eventually.
I think some randomness in world generation can help here since the story is sandbox, and I think the game can benefit from a Shadow of Mordor-esque approach where you take out gangs by taking out the smaller guys… or you take on the good guys, with bounty hunters reporting to deputies and sheriffs.
On the sandbox mode, you’ll be able to tweak all options and effectively just play duel after duel, or play a slightly different story mode.
As usual, this is by no means a complete game, but I think it makes for a nice base upon which to improve. Note to self, since these sort of one-pagers are likely to be in the same situation, I should probably just skip these conclusions or focus on something else.
Anyway, what do you think? What would you add? Would you play it?
PS: I played one or two Call of Juarez games a bit. I barely remember how they were. I’m guessing there are similarities, but this wasn’t based on them. I need to go back and remember now though!