Obvious Idea #3: GPS Quest

Another in my ongoing series of ideas I’ll probably never act on. Do whatever you like with this. If you actually make the game and it runs on Android, let me know. I’d love to try it out.

The High Concept

Play through a role-playing game adventure on your mobile phone while moving around your local park, hiking through the woods, or wandering the streets of your home town. Participate in simple quests solo, or play with friends. Or if you prefer, develop your own adventures and share them online for other people to play.

The Inspiration

In the 1980s and 90s there were a series of books called Fighting Fantasy that let players play through an RPG-like adventure without a gamemaster. Combine a mobile implementation of those books with geocaching and then let the users create all the actual content and you have GPS Quest.

The Technology

Building GPS Quest would be straightforward:

  1. Develop a simple RPG engine with monsters, loot, stats, and leveling up. Leave as many hooks as possible for user-generated content to modify things. Combat will probably want to be turn-based. Write a mobile app to resolve combats in the system.  This is by far the hardest step. Probably do this with just one player for the first version.
  2. Build a back end that can track a player’s RPG stats over time. Include a quest system that can unroll an adventure in front of the player as they move around the world. This would probably be waypoint-based so the user can look at the next place to go on a map on their phone.
  3. Build quest creation tools that let a user (you) write new quests in the actual physical world.
  4. Publish all this to the world.
  5. Iterate until massively popular

There are many hundreds of features that could be added once the basic system is up and running. Some ideas include:

  • Multiplayer. First for small parties of 2-5 people and them maybe for raids of 20-40 people.
  • Audio for monsters, navigation,  and quests. You could download it all before starting the quest so it could play quickly.
  • Custom art for quests. Might want to download this ahead of time too.
  • A builder-maintained bestiary
  • A builder-maintained loot catalog
  • Tools to remap existing quests onto new locations
  • Matchmaking tools to help players find each other
  • The sci-fi, zombie, pirate, superhero, spy, vampire, giant robot, caveman, and not-at-all-fantasy-medieval versions of the same game. That last one is so some SCA people can feel comfortable playing your game.
  • Leaderboards for quest builders, quest remappers, and players to give all of those people bragging rights.
  • More simple geocaching features like buried treasure and traps that players can leave for each other.
  • Ports to whichever platform you didn’t launch for in the first place.
  • Trading systems, auction systems, crafting systems

What do you think? Would you play?


8 Responses to “Obvious Idea #3: GPS Quest”

  1. Johan wrote on :

    I must say, great blog. I’ve had a good time scrolling though it and I’m hoping for another prediction thread for 2011!

    On the idea, I look very much forward to trying it out when someone do pick it up, to me its only a matter of time before we get achievement points for picking up grocery or scoring good on a test. Good read sir!

  2. Steven wrote on :

    Sounds pretty interesting! I can imagine how strange it would look to see a random group of people entering a room, staring intently at their smartphones, and then promptly running off again.

  3. Quakeboy replied on :

    Wow.. great idea.. may be I will try to think more on it and develop..

  4. Joe wrote on :

    Please do! Let me know when it’s live so I can go play. :)

  5. Tim Hot replied on :

    I love this idea Joe. Sort of geocaching with monsters. It would be neat if anyone could create their own adventure and publish it. I could imagine sitting in a Starbucks in some city and see that there were 5 adventures within a 3 block radius. 2 of them take less than 15 minutes and I have a little time to kill, so I choose one and head out the door, read to play.

  6. Derek commented on :

    Brilliant idea. I somehow linked over to your profile from reading up on Scott Hartsman who had also worked on Middle-Earth Online. Started with the three part article describing the downfall of Sierra and have spent the better part of an hour reading your articles. Bookmarked for future reading. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Joe commented on :

    Scott didn’t work on Middle-Earth Online. He was at some combination of Simutronics and Sony Online Entertainment at the time. Welcome anyway, though. :)

  8. David replied on :

    The closest I’ve ever experienced to this is using Waze, the social gps app, which lets you gain points by being the first to navigate down a new street, which is accomplished by chomping pac man style dots as you go, and collecting bonus point in rare locations by seeing “themed” icons on your gps and make the detour. After wasting a few days gas on this, I gave head a shake. Tried it on my bicycle, not as much fun, as the distances to new items are too far away, at least in LA.. that was mid 2010, I’m shocked nothing has done this more justice yet, am I wrong?

Leave a Reply