RPG Thought of the Day: Fury Road
Ye mead-swilling gods, what a fantastic movie! From the first few seconds, it melted my face with awesome, then rebuilt it from further awesome, only to melt it again and again with even more awesome.
I could geek out for pages about how Fury Road excels as a work of fiction, a cinematic force of nature, and a continuation of the Mad Max storyline. But we’re here to talk about gaming, so here are five lessons the movie teaches about awesome game design.
Give More Things Backstories
You will not believe how many objects in Fury Road have either a history from the Mad Max timeline or its own story in this most recent chapter. Max’s jacket hails back to the first movie. That music box is from Road Warrior . You just know Furiosa’s arm has a tale written down in somebody’s notes. More objects in games need this kind of treatment. It makes the world richer, and gives players more things to attach themselves to.
Most adventures follow the Plot HookChallengesFinish storyline, and it’s a great storyline. But Fury Road goes Plot HookChallengesPlot TwistFurther ChallengesFinish. That plot twist can create some of the best moments in a game, especially if it was foreshadowed effectively earlier in the session. You can apply this both to encounter design and to overall story arcs.
Use the Weather
Two things on this. One: weather is literally awesome and should make an appearance as backdrop, hazard and enemy more often in games and campaigns. Two: note how in the movie, Furiosa used the weather as a weapon and suffered her own damage as a result. For literal meteorological phenomena, non-weather natural catastrophes, and metaphorical “climate” like politics or unbeatable enemies, this is a good concept to imitate.
Leverage Character Tags
Where other movies have faceless grunts, Fury Road had The Midget Astronomer, The King of the Bullet Farm and That Mutant With the Fat Feet. It turned beings who were essentially bullet sponges into memorable parts of the battlefield. Just one memorable details makes the game more colorful, and makes it easier for you to distinguish between combatants in a complex fight. Bonus points for making a tag part of the action .
Be Your Own Awesome Guy
I’m convinced the writing team for Fury Road had an Awesome Guy. Awesome Guy’s job is to listen to an idea, and respond with the phrase “Not awesome enough” a minimum of five times. No other process could have produced a battle caravan including a blind metal god rolling on a speaker stack with a taiko drum team and a guitar that shoots fire. Every core idea you have in your game, say to yourself “Not awesome enough,” and see what answers you come up with.
Now go away. If you need me, I’ll be spending the next several weeks playing classic Car Wars on a sand table.
(Excerpt from the bonus content in Random Encounters Vol 2, which should go live this weekend)