I may have mentioned recently that my next game would be The Salesman, and that it would be a dialogue-driven business simulator inspired, in part, by Arthur Miller’s bloody amazing Death of a Salesman. Well, it’s not, I changed my mind. The Salesman has been put on the back burner for the moment while I work on something else.
That something else is Relic Tycoon – a text-based fantasy game about the trade of exotic, tremendously illegal artefacts, set in a world partly inspired by Early Modern and 19th century Europe. That’s the elevator pitch as it stands right now, at least. All right, okay, it might need some work. But now that I’ve got your attention *closes tab* let me explain in a little more detail.
Relic Tycoon is a business simulator in which your business is magical artefacts. The scapula of a long-dead prophet. A consecrated Hand of Glory. A Bishop-fish. A trepan for boring into a person’s soul. Rat-King soap. And so on.
Some of these objects can grant you great power and wealth, while others can shatter your mind and leave you unable (or unwilling) to pick up the pieces. Every new relic is an opportunity for profit, but also incredible discovery and/or incredible physical or spiritual harm. You can choose to keep your head down, simply buying and selling these relics for profit, or you can take the risk and try to unlock their secrets without losing an eye.
But due to the illegal nature of your occupation the job of buying and selling isn’t entirely risk-free. The government is cracking down on the black market, and you’ll need to make use of your stock of relics to protect yourself from police raids. When the constables do come you’ll have to defend yourself using whatever relics you have to hand. However, the world of Relic Tycoon isn’t a world of magical sword and enchanted rings, so defending yourself is easier said than done. When the constables knock down your door you might only have a severed golem’s head and a bottle of Lethean stout, so if you really want to stay out of jail you’ll have to get creative.
Finally in addition to buying and selling artefacts, doing field research, and bonking constables on the head with priceless holy relics, you’ll be able to sponsor expeditions to the far reaches of the earth. As a well-respected relic dealer of some means you can recruit expedition parties, equip them with powerful items, and send them off on perilous journeys into unexplored places. Places like The Midden Pits, The Windward Tomb, The Marsh-Marches, and more. Make sure your party is well-prepared for the harsh dangers they’ll face, or, failing that, at least make sure you’ve purchased an adequate insurance policy (actual feature).
That’s Relic Tycoon, then. I’m currently working on a small prototype for the game, so look out for that in the coming weeks. I’ll also write more posts about Relic Tycoon as development continues – most likely a fortnightly development update right here on the blog.
Major Inspirations: Planescape: Torment, The Luminaries, Fallen London, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Welcome to Night Vale, Ultra Business Tycoon III (THE best game of 2013), VALIS, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, Wolf Hall.
Platform/engine information: Relic Tycoon will be playable on a PC, whether that ends up meaning ‘in a browser’ or ‘as a download’. My current prototype is built in Twine, but I’m planning to migrate that over to another platform soon.
I’ll be making all the game’s art using JP LeBreton’s awesome ASCII art tool EDSCII. The disjointed art style you can see dotted throughout this post is roughly what I’m going for, with minor or major changes depending on things look down the line. But expect the game’s art to be rather minimal – this is a text-based game at heart, and the writing will take centre stage.
Intentions for the game: I want to make a game that’s about exploring a strange new fantasy world without having it all be about biffing orks and giant rats in the face. Relic Tycoon is basically an excuse to build an interesting world that the player explores through unconventional means. But that exploration will be conceptual rather than geographical. Relic Tycoon is a game where you explore a brave new world from the confines of your offices above a pub. And, occasionally, the pub itself.
I want the game to be very open in terms of player choice. Relics can be researched, played with, broken, combined with one another, occasionally melted, or donated to the local museum for societal favour and a smug sense of self-righteousness. One playthrough of the game will be entirely different from another – not because I demand that everyone plays the game dozens of times, but because it’s a game about discovery, and I think it’ll be more interesting if your decisions are the driving force behind those discoveries.
Anyway, I’ll finish off for now. Like I said, more updates and more information soon. Hopefully every fortnight. Now, here is a picture of my face made in EDSCII: