Like many people I have long felt that the Wii U Gamepad is a vastly under-used device. There are many other gameplay features that one could imagine using it for, that are not present in the sadly limited Wii U library. For one thing, it should be near-standard to have the gamepad screen display inventory and/or maps while the main view of the character is on the screen. Anyway, another feature I would love to see is gamepad-based asymmetric gameplay. Local multiplayer where the gamepad player controls something that the other players interact with. With that central premise in mind I present three mini-ideas for what could be done with the gamepad.
1) the D&D-lite dungeon builder/trap setter/build your world ahead of time game
If we can use the gamepad to design stages in Smash Bros 4, we should be able to use it to build dungeons for other players to fight through. Create a whole sprawling compex full of pits and spike blocks and enemies to fight, full of hidden secrets and dead ends and a big monster to finish it off. As it happens I recently heard of a game that might be doing exactly this … for PC. Sword Coast Legends is billing itself as exactly D&D, with the same character stats and traits and ability mechanics. In the video I saw, there were some intriguing ideas, like "DM loot" in the form of additional enemies that can be placed.
Where my idea differs most significantly from Sword Coast Legends, or at least from the mode on display here, is that the DM in my game would literally be able to draw any dungeon map they can imagine, using the same basic grid-drawing facility that exists in SSB4 (but improved with the addition of more specialized tiles). This video seems to show a rather plug-n-play dungeon designer, but from what I understand the game will also have the ability to design longer campaigns ahead of time. My idea is more like the latter, but having both is probably, well, the best of both worlds.
B) the one-sided RTS game
The one-sided RTS game is, of course, similar, but this time it's more of a two player affair. The player with the gamepad is basically playing Starcraft - constructing bases, building resources, amassing an army. The other player, with a wiimote or other controller, is the lone hero cutting down the army single-handedly. Maps would be pre-made, but the players could choose different factions (the army side) and different heroes (the hero side). The gamepad player becomes a sort of chessmaster, able to reconfigure their resource allocation and troop selection to adapt to the tactics and abilities of the hero player. Of course, it goes both ways - the hero player then has to counter-adapt to the new minions.
Also I know that tie-ins aren't really Nintendo's thing but just imagine the tie-in possibilities. Any of the Avengers vs. Thanos' Chitauri soldiers. A Jedi vs. battle droids. Aragorn vs. an army of orcs. Batman vs. everybody.
3) the competitive tower defense game.
This one is a little tiny bit extending the scope of the asymmetric gameplay idea I started with. Meaning, this game could work with anywhere from 2-4 players, and it could even work with Mario-Kart-style splitscreen, without the gamepad. In this game type, all players have their own corner of the map and towers, and all players can deploy troop units of various types and attack/defense stats to try to take down the other players' towers. Is it Starcraft-lite? Well, sort of. I'm still imagining the map full of those winding TD roads, and players would be restricted to placing towers on the sides of roads and moving their troops along the roads. You could have game modes like Survival, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, et cetera. You could have themed maps, like the usual lava, ice, fields, etc. But how about also magitek laboratory, swamp, urban city center, or a damp cave system. With King of the Hill, maybe the center of the map has a magical mystery mcguffin of great power that gives a boon to the next round.
What are your ideas? What else could we do with the gamepad that we haven't seen yet?
NEXT TIME: SPACESHIP RACING