[NGDM] Integrating premise and mechanics

Before we dig too much deeper into the actual nuts and bolts of this nascent game, it’s time to consider whether we want to build the game around a premise, with the intent of specifically modeling genre expectations and in-universe phenomena, or whether instead we want to put together something self-contained and then overlay a premise onto the game (or perhaps several). Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty significant debate in gaming, with strong opinions on both sides. Some gamers, for instance, like to learn as few games as possible, and universal flexible game systems appeal to them – the most ardent actually stick to only one game and try to make everything fit its framework rather than learn anything else. On the other hand, there are those who champion the complete synergy of the game and the premise, preferring them to be built together seamlessly so that the play experience is custom-tailored to the intent. I’ve tried my hand at both, and don’t have the strongly polarized opinions that some do, but I prefer the game and the premise to develop in tandem. Custom mechanics that evoke specific facets of the game universe appeal to me and deepen the immersion for me, personally.

But this game isn’t for me, so this is a good time to step back, early in the process, and determine whether the project is going to continue forward with a built-in premise, or if what we’re building is meant to be adapted for multiple genres/scenarios/etc. I mentioned in the first post of the discussion that I do have a premise in mind that I haven’t done anything with yet, but so far no elements of that have been incorporated into the mechanics, so we can easily toss it out if it doesn’t suit.

So without further ado, perhaps I should unveil the premise? I have been imagining a game dealing with the idea of a robot uprising, the technological analogue to a zombie apocalypse. For one thing, I think that zombies are pretty played out by now, but there’s also a difference in theme that I want to explore. Zombies have, in most cases, have an origin which is supernatural, often mysterious, unpreventable, and personally threatening: they’re a trope of horror. The robot uprising, however, is not about horror but action: the threat is not us (or our remains) turning against ourselves, but our creations rebelling and needing to be destroyed, and in most iterations of the trope, we have the chance to redeem our hubris and reclaim society. I would want to write in options for darker or more dystopic spins on the concept, but that can come much later, and doesn’t necessarily require a mechanical support.

And now I open the floor to discussion: should this game progress with the premise built-in, or should it continue being a generic game that could potentially have this or other premises overlaid on it at the end?