I would like to play a game something akin to Mass Effect, but without action. To make a great team of scientists, archaeologists, mathematicians, physicists, paleontologists and so on (like in Michael Crichton’s novels); and to go to undiscovered planets and do research. The gameplay would be about the discovery. Getting samples of unidentified materials (maybe of extinct ancient species), insects, plants, bring it to the ship and research them, just like in StarCraft II – Wings of Liberty. But not to make new weapons and cutting edge laser technology to kill other species. Just to make discoveries to make a better team, with better equipment! After you gain a new and better item, you should go back to previous planets and reach previously unreachable places – such as acid lakes or giant canyons – and make further discoveries. Also, if you have a better cartographer, you should see more detailed maps of the planets.
Your team can comment on the situations, and if you bring the paleontologist with you to the planet, the scientist can inspect the new plant, make samples of it and bring it back to your ship. A few ingame hours you can use it to make a better solution for your space suit (such as better defense against the cold or the heat). If your physicist finds an ancient anomaly about black holes, you can travel faster between planets and use lesser fuel. You can make choices too if you have two different paths, but the game won’t rule out the other choice, so you can go back to previous points (I think omitting this was a bad decision in StarCraft II). The humans in your team can come from different countries on Earth, so you can have a multicultural, but peaceful team, which can work together smoothly… but you are the glue, the „Commander Shepard”, who prevents conflicts. They can have different viewpoints too – I would love to hear a Buddhist chant in a different world from my teammate, and I would love to choose from these different viewpoints, so my character can be a Buddhist or a Christian, or an Atheist if I want to.
The game can have a good story too, if the samples and discoveries lead to a bigger explanation, but not necessarily enormous plot twists (such as humanity’s purpose, or God’s real face and other blockbuster themes), just a slow and fascinating discovery about the ancient and weird species of the past and mystical and questionable future of the humanity. Not to be a yawnfest, the game can have a few action elements – such as time limit to discover a planet, which is going too close to a Sun of its Solar System; or you can bring a dangerous animal to your ships deck, and it can go loose, to play a non-violent hide-and-seek with like the Nostromo crew in Alien. And if you have a better equipment in these missions, you can have a few easier moments (with better tranquilizer shots, you can bring down easier the creature, or in a better space suit you can move faster).
As for the art design, I would consider a retro-futuristic style. In Terry Gilliam’s cult movie, Brazil, you can see small monitors with giant magnifying glasses or gadgets with 60’s futuristic style. In the Ratchet & Clank games you can see similar equipment, but with cartoonish style – I should use a modern and real-life, but similarly retrofuturistic touch to it. On the loading screens you should see art deco space travel agency advertisements, or other companies which you can make contact in the game (to buy food, for example). The games music should be retro 60’s jazz and modern electro-ambient with a touch of psychedelic rock.
(Artworks from Steve Thomas)