My love for the Def Jam gaming franchise has stood the test of time. Vendetta and Fight For NY remain nostalgic favorites for most wrestling and hip hop fans that have been graced with the opportunity to play. As time moves on, PS2 era gamers wonder why we haven’t seen a proper reboot or clone. Personally, I’m trying to lead the charge to change this!
For years, we gamers have seen some of the biggest game franchises become a fusion of ‘traditional’ genres. The Elder Scrolls franchise is hailed as an RPG despite being an FPS style action game with RPG progression. I think we can all agree that this evolution was more than welcome in the pantheon of RPG games. The same can probably be said of The Witcher which is considered to be one of the greatest games ever made as well. I say all of this to validate the need for game sequels and reboots to innovate rather than settle for a money grab. With a return to the Def Jam franchise, I suggested a few ideas for this innovation and want to elaborate a bit.
BUILD A LABEL FEATURE
In Def Jam ICON, this feature appeared to have depth but didn’t end up having much to it beyond budget management for releases. I really think this feature could be expanded to add quite a bit of replayability in single player mode and/or a really interesting basis for a multiplayer mode.
Just off the top, providing a Create-a-Label and a Create-an-Emcee feature would have gamers salivating! After seeing the thousands of creations of NBA teams and logos in NBA 2k as well as wrestlers in WWE 2k could only open the door for MASSIVE creativity when you get passionate fans able to dream up their own hip hop stars, labels, and logos for each! But I digress! To the meat of the situation.
Since the original feature was single player, let’s look at improving what was there. If you refer to the IGN Wiki page for this feature you’ll notice by page’s end that the feature is a bit hollow. The strategy basically tells you spend the max you can on each request for song and album release to gain the most benefit. BOOOOO! Honestly that is boring and requires very little strategy or thought behind it. LET’S PUMP THIS UP!
In the other games, the idea was to battle emcees to bring them under your label’s umbrella and best the rival faction let by Deebo… I mean, D-Mob and eventually Crow (aka Snoop Dogg). To up the ante in a sequel, the objective should be to battle against a number of ‘crews’ around the nation. Each crew could be led by an iconic emcee or parody of a popular emcee. NYC, Jersey, ATL, Houston, New Orleans, Cali, Detroit, Toronto (Canada), and Philly could be a good start (DLC for other international crews could be great too). The player could either choose one of these cities or begin their own crew. Starting in an existing city would force the player to ‘compete’ against the local Kingz before they can ‘flex’ against any others. With that ground work, let’s move onto the actual strategy of the mode.
Label rosters are meant to be somewhat fluid. Contract deals determine for how long you have each emcee. Translate that into the game and you have an element (possibly a ‘business sense attribute’ for each character) that should be included in the game to provide longer gameplay and replayability. Somehow, each of the emcees should have a personality element to them that determines how well they get along. Keep rivals on the same label too long and they could hurt the ‘chemistry’ (or earning potential) of others on the label as well.
Once on your label, the inbetween fights ‘strategy’ could be a kind of convo tree style mini-game that works through your character planning a new emcee’s next album release. Decisions on whether to make a concept album, a true school classic, a club banga, or a radio friendly effort could be thrown in to give options. Success on these would be determined by RPG style attributes (0-100 ratings on different music styles AND fighting attributes) that help or hinder the success potential of the album. Album creation can be training fights against that emcee to ‘provide inspiration’ or maybe even something that just happens in the background with a bit of randomization thrown into the math to keep things unpredictable. Finished product gets a ‘blogger rating’ and then a ‘critics rating’ before the eventual release numbers are calc’d (timing would be vs other label releases at the time of course). Maybe setting it up so that high blogger buzz leads to higher ‘streaming numbers’ while high critical acclaim leads to more award show opportunities and/or sales.
The success would be harder to do given you’d have your label’s budget to spread between your character, as well as the releases and promos of your label mates. Popularity could be handled much like NBA2K players. Performance in fights helps or hurts where the fights don’t ‘end the game’ if you lose. They simply dock your popularity which hits sales numbers of your label.
Somewhere in there, it makes sense to have an element to improve your label mates’ abilities too. The ‘missions’ could be done similar to how the Assassin’s Creed franchise does where you send them off to festivals and concerts where they’ll square off against a number of other emcees from other crews around the nation/world. Maybe having a choice to use that emcee in their fight could also be an option.
Want to expand this and have a mobile game that feeds into it? I got ya covered. The mobile game could be the actual song/album creation mini-game. The easiest template to use is a match 3 style game like Puzzle Quest or Marvel Puzzle Quest. I mention the latter because it involves using a team of 3 heroes with special abilities that affect the puzzle board in different ways once you charge up one of the colors they specialize in. This could be catered to music studio or concert performance events or actions with relative ease. Collecting emcees could be a part of the whole collectible card game thing with microtransactions and different versions of different emcees or producers or dancers. The different powers could be tag lines, ad libs, metaphors, disses, story-telling, bravado, or whatever else could be thought up to represent aspects of hip hop delivery.
As you can see, however it is done, the RPG depth could provide an intense amount of customization and replayability that could even find a sensible way into the multiplayer realm as well! Let’s keep the energy going! Share these blogs with all of the fighting, wrestling, hip hop, gamer fans you know!