Among my different bad habits has been added one more. That of playing Mobsters Vendetta on Facebook. During this time I have not only wondered how addictive this silly game is but also how inherently attractive the concept of a Role-Playing Game (RPG) (originally from Dungeons and Dragons) is in a social context. Not that people do not already know that well enough considering that Warcraft, which is what is known as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), is a huge money-making franchise inspiring many other knock-offs including my favorite game of all time “Knights of the Old Republic” all set to become a MMORPG in its coming incarnation.
So what is a role playing game? In a RPG, you have a choice of different character classes which you fix at the start of a game (say in a Lord Of the Rings Setting you would choose a species—Man, Hobbit, Elf, Dwarf, Orc and a profession—Warrior, Wizard, Journeyman) and your choice of class and character instantly provides you with certain strengths and certain weaknesses (say for example a wizard class may have the power to cast spells but may be physically weak in combat). Characters battle against NPC (Non-playable characters—essentially automated characters from the game) or against other live players, with the battle system essentially being a game-specific algorithm that takes its input the different strengths of the character (measured in points), the weapons or spells they possess (also measured in points), adds a random element and outputs the victor as well damage sustained to the characters (reduction in abilities like health and stamina and magic).
The game arc consists of performing missions, the completion of which gives people experience points and with increasing experience points they move up successive levels opening up new character classes and newer powers for themselves. Mission completion also gives them money and with this money they can buy weapons and tonics for their powers (e.g. a health pack to replenish health points after a battle). Some games also allow players to use the money to invest like buying virtual properties/assets from which they are assured a steady income (Farmville on Facebook works on this only).
RPGs, especially the massively online ones, are huge money-spinners because unlike say First Person Shooters, they have no beginning and no end and people can keep on playing in this virtual world theoretically forever ascending newer levels and exploring newer places. Since RPGs like Warcraft charge per-month as opposed to games which you bought once for USD 60, game manufacturers are assured a steady income and a better ROI which is why even successful franchises are moving into the MMOPRG domain and Facebook is overrun with “social” RPGs like Farmville, Mafia Wars and Mobsters.
With that lengthy preamble, let me come to the reason for the post. I have an idea for an India-themed social RPG concept, which is “inspired” (in the true Pritam sense) from the concept of Mobsters but with an Indian twist.
Lafda. Rise To Power.
And any resemblance to reality is purely co-incidental.
The basics: The objective of this game, like all RPGs, is to gain Experience Points (which we call Influence Points, influence being the ultimate currency of political greatness) and ascend through increasing levels of power. Every character has three core aspects: Health and Stamina and then tertiary aspects: Offensive Ability, Defensive Ability, Rabblerousing, Secularism, Appeasement, Business Acumen, Tax Evasion, Guile, Hypocrisy, Intelligence among others, each of which is measured in points. Using these aspects, players perform missions which enable them to earn Influence Points and Cash which they can then use to invest in properties and schemes and buy weapons and tools and this in turn will build up their character aspects. In addition, they fight with other players enabling them to earn Influence as well as Cash.
At the beginning of the game, you have a choice to join any of the three warring clans. They are:
1. The Five Fingers: The oldest of the secret societies, their agenda is simple. Bring the great G to power by whatever means necessary. Autocratic, organized and skilled in guile and double-speak, the members of this clan get special points in the Pandering aspect. Being member of Five Fingers, gets you a starting 100 points in the Secularism and 25 in the Hypocrisy aspect.
2. The Pink Flower: This secret society started as an alternative to the Five Fingers, opposed violently to the rule of the Gs but has now become a cabal of clueless strongmen needing guidance and leadership. Violent, ruthlesss and skilled in the art of war, the members of this clan get a starting 100 points in the Strength aspect. Being member of the Pink Flower also gives you a special item (a chariot) and 25 Rabblerousing points.
3. The Third Wheel: No one knows what defines these people except their desire to gain power by any means necessary. Crafty, intelligent and opportunistic, the members of this clan get 100 points in the Moral Malleability aspect. Being member of the Heretics gives you a special item (a suitcase of cash) and in addition 25 Appeasement points.
Having chosen your clan, you now have to select your sex, religion and caste each of which gives you special points in specific aspects depending on which clan you have chosen (the algorithm is proprietary) .
Then you have to select your character class. The character classes available to you initially are:
1. Gunda: This class will suit you if you like to give full-out violent and expect to gain Influence points through a lot of fighting. Being a member of this class, allows you to get points in aspects like Strength, Stamina, Defense easily but makes you power up poorly in aspects like Guile, Hypocrisy and Intelligence as compared to say the Student Leader.
2. Pickpocket: If you believe that true power comes not from might but from the wallet then this class is for you. Members of this class have an advantage in financial missions and are able to buy properties at lower prices and get more from them than the other classes. In other words, you get points in aspects like Business Acumen and Tax Evasion but you may find it difficult to take on a Gunda in a battle purely on your Strength, Stamina and Defense.
3. Student Leader: If your style is cunning and guile and you believe that power stems from pulling strings and getting others to do the dirty work for you, then this is your class. While not being as weak as the pickpocket (you have a special initial mastery of the Hockeystick) you are also not as robust as the Gunda but what you lack in Business Acumen and Tax Evasion skills you make up in your Horsetrading and Betrayal assets.
Needless to say the way you want to play the game, whether through all out action or through wealth or through guile will guide you in the selection of character classes. As you get more Influence Points more advanced character classes open up, each with their strengths and weaknesses, like Maverick, Strong Man, Serial Killer, Crowd Puller, Launderer, Crisis Man, Political Don, Legislator, Minister among others.
As mentioned before, Influence Points are accrued through two means:
1. Successfully Performing missions: There is a mind-boggling array of missions in the game—- ranging from “Capture a Booth” , “Make Opposition Withdraw Candidature”, “Collect Hafta from Shopkeeper” , “Smuggle Liquor Across State Lines” , ” Rig Local Elections”, “Do Violent Moral Policing” at the lower levels to “Acquire Government Land For Promoters”, “Collect Commission On Flyover”, “Serve Interests of Real Estate Mafia By Protesting Against Government Acquisition Of Land” and “Blackmail Businessman With Honey Trap” at the intermediate levels to “Broker Gun Deal For Swedish Arms Manufacturers” , “Trigger Communal Riots Across The Country” and “Construct Temples and Theme Parks In Your Name” at the advanced levels. Each of which can be done in multiple ways depending on your character’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a Gunda class character would do a “Make Opposition Withdraw Candidature” by breaking his kneecaps, a Pickpocket class would either bribe the Opposition candidate or pay a henchman to do the violence and a Student leader would cause a strike and an “accidental fire” in the opposition candidate’s cloth mill to get the message across.
Another strategic angle is introduced by the fact that the “success” of a mission (i.e. number of Influence points) you get is determined by the amount of skills you have. For instance in a “trigger communal riots” type of mission, a developed Secularism skill will lead to more Influence points as the press fallout of your action will be much less. Sometimes the effect of a mission success is not just increase in Influence points but also development of character aspects (e.g. Creating Reservations For Backward Classes successfully provides 1000 Appeasement Points)
2. Attacking other politicians: In this game, you will battle with NPCs (non playable characters) and other online players. The outcome of the battle is determined by a complicated randomized algorithm which takes its input parameters like Health, Strength, Stamina, Defense, Business Acumen, Tax Evasion, Horsetrading etc and also the number of assets the fighters possess and determines the winner. Unlike other games where you are not allowed to attack people in the same clan, here you are encouraged to do so. You are even allowed to change clans midway and the penalty you will accrue will depend on the number of points you have in the Moral Malleability aspect.
Money is needed in the game to buy assets like weapons, hire strongmen and press people which in turn serve to increase the chances of winning a fight and succeeding in missions. Depending on your style of play, this money can be gotten by attacking other players, doing special Cash Missions or by owning property like Malls, Desi Daroo Addas, Dance Bars, Gambling Dens and of course Real Estate.
In passing, many of the missions are clan-specific like ” Weigh Yourself In Gold and Prostrate Yourself In Front of Party Leader” and ” Write a Controversial Book To Trigger Unrest” and “Keep Seat Warm For The Boy King” and many of the advanced classes unlocked as one progresses in the game are also clan-specific like Sycophant in the Five Fingers clan and Megalomaniac Dictator in the Heretic clan.
There are many details I have intentionally not mentioned here in order to protect my IP which I shall reveal on the receipt of a hefty advance (in real world cash please) by any developer who may be interested in making this into a MMORPG.
So is anybody interested?