Also, after another pause. I didn't like how rambling the last piece was, and how this one was turning out, so I decided to rewrite it, hence it's a bit later than I planned.
And yes, I know these posts aren't to everyone's taste, and some of you would rather I binned this wannabe game dev stuff and got back to writing. I hear ya, and I don't blame ya. This is something I do to give the writing brain a bit of a break. It also puts these notes somewhere where I can find them later. (And for anyone else to use as inspiration.)
After talking about the Iratus approach, where the player controls a harem of lovely succubi, I thought I'd get back closer to Darkest Dungeon with the player-as-succubus-bait approach.
For this one I have setting and plot, unlike the generic warlock waffling I did last time (although, that's probably still the easiest and most likely to be successful way of implementing this sub-genre).
We're in H-space. The player is a scientist-type leader of a military/research group. That unit has been isolated deep in H-space because of a weird phenomenon and the goal is to get back home with as many people as possible.
H-space has weird physics that render most human tech, including guns, unreliable. The main purpose of this is so we can upgrade the various conventional fantasy RPG classes (melee, tank, ranged, etc) to present-day equivalents forced to use improvised weaponry (basically, provide a plausible reason for a fantasy-RPG-esque battle system rather than marines running around with machine guns and blasting succubi Doom-style).
We'll want a good mix of front-line and back-line classes so the player can experiment with finding synergistic combinations (one of the strengths of Darkest Dungeon, and a weakness of Iratus, which doesn't quite get that right). Tanks will be especially important as the main combat theme will likely be the succubi pulling party members out of formation to fuck their brains (and soul) out. Instead of Darkest Dungeon's stress mechanic, our equivalent will be based around seduction and willpower. This means we can play around with what constitutes a 'tank'. Sometimes you'll want the frontline to be muscled marines to fend off physical attacks. Sometimes you'll need it to be that skinny, iron-willed chaplain.
We'll need to be fair about what enemies the player faces. It's no good hitting them with an all-physical-restraint party of lamias and then following it up with a party full of seductive, willpower-sapping succubi. One thing we'll want to copy from Darkest Dungeon is multiple regions with their own enemies and flavour. In our case it will likely be an excuse to pool similar monster girls together (a jungle region for plant girls, a desert region for lamias, etc).
The main gameplay loop for Darkest Dungeon is send a party into various dungeons to plunder cash and items required to build up the base camp (the hamlet). This allows the player to increase the strength of their characters, plunder harder dungeons, and then finally challenge the darkest dungeon itself.
It's also very grindy. Personally, I think 'grind' and hentai games don't go together very well. Regular RPGs can get away with it to some extent as gradually building up characters is part of the core loop. For eroges, the primary focus is the sex stuff, and if you're gating that off behind umpteen super-generic combat encounters (which might even be against regular rather than sexy monsters), you're only going to bore the player. This is probably the number one reason why I don't review as many monster girl eroges nowadays – I get bored way before completing them because the devs threw in a bunch of needless grind out of a misguided need to pad out their game.
For that reason, we probably want our dungeon explorations to be more like Slay the Spire or Iratus – each dungeon being a single run to the boss, rather than going back into the same area over and over. The main problem with this approach is that it forces the dungeons to be sequential where I'd rather the player had some choices over the area to go through. I'm not sure how to resolve this. From a plot perspective it would make more sense for the player to traverse the regions sequentially as they tried to get closer to the portal back home.
Now for the important stuff – the sex. As with the warlock approach, a lot of the H-content is going to be pixel art of team succubus getting it on with the other (in this case our) team. We probably also want Bad End snu-snu scenes if the party wipes, but this will force some design considerations.
We'll need to be sparing with the permadeath. While I like the dilemma – it's almost an additional, meta, attack for the succubus to see if she can tempt the player into losing to see her sexy Bad End – forcing the player to have to throw away whatever time investment they've put into their party just to view the sex content seems unfun.
And also, who is being Bad Ended? i.e. Where is the player avatar in all this? In Darkest Dungeon you're the guy that inherited the creepy mansion and you're the one hiring all the idiots to go get killed by Lovecraftian horrors. You're never on-screen and if the party wipes, you just hire the next lot of shmucks off the stagecoach.
I think we'll still keep the player avatar off-screen, but I think we'll let them have a little more 'fun' in our eroge version. In this case, the player avatar is the scientist/commander guy in charge. Now, if the party wipes, it'll be the player avatar getting the nice Bad End scene. If we're running permadeath, I think we'll want the Bad End's to be less game-ending. For this, I'd likely use a plot device where the succubi are forbidden from actually killing the main character. The party wipes, the player gets a sexy Bad End scene, but it's a fake out where the main character is either found or rescued by whatever surviving characters he has left in the overall pool. The player would lose the party characters, but they wouldn't get a full Game Over and would be able to continue (as long as they still have other characters – we'll get to that in a mo).
I would also involve the player character in other ways. One of the things I liked in Domination Quest: Kuro & the Naughty Monster Girls, which they sadly didn't do enough of in my opinion, were the battles where the main character was snatched by the monster girl and the other party members had to rescue him before all his energy was drained (through various sexy means). That could make for some sexy fights. You, the player, are grabbed by a giant alraune or similar monster girl and the party has to fight to free you before the sexy monster girl fucks your life out. It could even be the main focus of most of the combat encounters.
|Rescue the leader before... uh... bad things happen to... hey, are you sure you want rescuing?|
Then we come to the recruits. Most games like this start you off with a limited number of characters, and then you get more as the game progresses (or you can just recruit new ones at any time to replace losses). One thing I haven't really seen in a game, especially a horror game, is one that mimics the 'dwindling party' trope of horror movies. i.e. Your units die and aren't replaced and when you run out of units it's Game Over. Darkest Dungeon has a hard mode where you Game Over after a certain number of party deaths. I think they could have also done a hard mode where you start with a finite number of characters and have to complete the game with just them.
That fits the setting for my hypothetical H-space game. You're teleported to the starting location with a set number of soldiers, scientists and medics. You might pick up a few prisoners along the way, but your starting crew is mostly all you have and you need to manage them in a way to get you (and as many others as you can) to the portal back home.
I think this also plays well for a game based around Bad End sex scenes. Sacrifice can be a major game mechanic. Tossing a soldier to a hungry succubus can be a legitimate strategy (you don't have to be a good commander!) and also another source of possible H content. It also gets around another area where difficulty and eroges don't mesh well. You want to get to the next succubus to see if she's fappable, but you're stuck because there's this irritating boss in the way! Easy way to get around this is to have the ability to sacrifice squads to get around problem encounters. While the succubi are having their 'fun', the player sneaks by with the rest of his forces. This also meshes sexy Bad Ends into the gameplay better. Rather than being punished for seeing that sexy scene, the player can use it as a cheap means to get past an annoying encounter and move on to the next one.
Whew. That was a little more than I thought I was going to write. As I said at the top, this is all hypothetical. I just don't have the current skills or knowledge to create something like this. But maybe it might inspire someone who does, and I think we'd all like to see more sexy succubus and monster girl games!