I have had Thoughts on the making of a Superman video game before, but that hasn’t stopped me from having more. In most of the games these days, you don’t get to start at your full power level. It allows for a feeling of progress as you get more powerful as you go. That’d work for a Jimmy Olsen game too (which, as I have said, would be the best game for the franchise to have right now), but I don’t feel like it’d be the best way to go with a game starring Superman.
I think it’d be important to make a person playing Superman feel powerful right from the start. I’d want players to be able to sit down and immediately start flying around Metropolis, I’d want them to be able to do so without having to play an hour to get from jumping to flight. But does that mean the game would lack a sense of progress? Well, I don’t think it has to. What if, instead of upgrading Superman, the player upgrades Metropolis?
The work you put into superheroing actually has a positive effect on the world around you? That sounds like an ideal for the genre to me. I’m thinking that, as you get your experience points or whatever you want to call them, you get to spend them on various causes and groups and such. I can already picture an interface for this being represented by charts and graphs on a Daily Planet website or something.
It could have multiple effects in the game. Maybe at the start there’s a lot of randomly generated street crime, but as you put your Experience Points into the various neighbourhoods of Metropolis, there’s less of that. Upgrade it further and there’s none. Instead of getting additional powers that help you go through areas by beating up the enemies quicker, you can just remove the annoyances altogether. And it would have to have a visual effect too. Empty lots and terrible slums would be replaced by youth centres and affordable quality housing. Litter and hateful graffiti would be replaced with nice plants and beautiful murals. Here’s a flaw to this part of the plan: You’d essentially have to have (at least) two versions of the city. One for the bad neighbourhood version and one for the good neighbourhood version. And you’d have to make the good version more appealing. It wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done.
But I also mentioned upgrading groups in the city, or at least upgrading your standing with those groups. This is harder to spitball, given that I don’t know the story of this hypothetical game, but let’s pretend we’re playing as a Superman who is still relatively new to Metropolis. Maybe early on in the game, while you’re fighting crime, the police still don’t trust you and will attempt to interfere or arrest you. That’d be annoying, right? Well, when you move up in the world you could throw some experience points at the Police and they’ll start trusting you and not interfering. Upgrade it further and maybe you could even issue orders to Police NPCs so they’ll help take out non-supervillain thugs and save innocent people while you’re fighting the bigger threats. Then there’s scientists. Metropolis seems to have a huge community of scientists. If you put points into upping your standing with the general public, maybe they’ll be more likely to help you with information during journalistic-based missions. Maybe if you put some effort into impressing the academic community they can help you by making gizmos or scanning or something. There’s plenty of options here and each type could also open up new side missions to keep things fresh.
But one option I’d want to include is putting points into gaining the favour of Lex Luthor. Doing so would actually open up new powers, with Lex agreeing to make you stronger if you work alongside him. But the catch is, spoilers for a game that will never exist: If you fully go down the Luthor upgrade branch, you get a bad ending where Luthor betrays you, kills you, and uses what he’s learned to steal your powers.
Anyway, I still think the Jimmy game is the best option given today’s technology, but this was fun to think about nonetheless.