Here's an ongoing idea for a city-building game. It would be really ambitious to make, but we still think about it often.
In a world left almost entirely uninhabitable, communities are beginning to reform in the crowded fertile craters left sparsely scattered amidst the ash and smoke of the Cataclysm. Some of these societies are established unilaterally; ruled without mercy or tolerance in an unforgiving new world. For others, however, the story is more complicated.
Your city has grown organically before you, with clusters of houses being stacked upon iron-works and fish markets along a narrow, cramped cavern as survivors of the Cataclysm stream into the dark sanctuary to rebuild their lives. As various factions emerge to feed and protect their citizens, a peace emerges - but it is threatened, not by greed or malice, but by disease, and the many other dangers which are beginning to surround the city from all sides.
This is where you come in. The factions, in an extraordinary measure, have agreed to make you Auditor-General, and your job is now to audit the city's overall condition and respond surgically: a different supplier here; a new bridge there; a deal between two conflicting factions; and so on. Grasping control or seeking conquest will yield you swift push-back from the factions under your Audition, but securing aid, healing tensions, and eradicating disease will build reputation and trust, permitting you to take more executive action - and, eventually, to shape the future of the city.
In this fictional world (inspired by Stray which in turn took its inspiration from the Kowloon Walled City) we have five types (pandas, wolves, foxes, cats and mice) and five factions (black, purple, yellow, blue, and green). With long-standing tensions between the factions (and some types) they once lived in cities and hamlets spread across the continent, until a devastating event - the Cataclysm - swept ash and fire across the land, making most of it uninhabitable. Only a number of small, secluded pockets of land retained their fertile balance and the survivors, type beside type; faction beside faction, funnelled into these sanctuaries to settle once again. You are positioned into this world as an Auditor, something akin to a mayor but operating under the stern countenance of the city's Faction Union. Here is a brief overview of how your role plays out.
Establish and Audit
Provided with quarters by a faction of your choosing, you now have a small office of staff, each of whom represent a department: auditing, resource management, protection, and so on. Because of Cascade's focus on people, these folk are the main means by which you enact your plans - but, like everything else in the city, they have a type, affiliations to factions, and a life of their own; so you must guide them with prudence and caution. (Though different games offer randomized names and statistics, we envisage the base units to be derived from a roster of hand-designed characters.)
Like Dwarf Fortress' Adventure Mode, your city has a pre-existing history (a tapestry of events - or a 'quilt') - most of which you don't know. You must begin by sending out Subjunct Auditors who will fill in these gaps of knowledge for you. How many people are here? Where are the factions based? What are your city's primary sources of food? Has any disease broken out? Your auditors will also assess the religions and groups which are organically cropping up in the midst of the urban fabric, learning their rites and intentions. (As exciting as sowing conflict might be to come, we would like to set the game as decisively against harassing or eradicating any groups and promoting monopolies. we think some rich game-play and stories can emerge by working to harmonize a messy network of factions and societies with differing desires and intentions.)
(The living city always grows: each turn you advance puts you forward a week, where you can see both how the city has evolved and the impact your changes are having. You'll notice that new residents continue to enter the city every turn, constantly spinning fresh intricate webs of rickety housing and infrastructure. This core tenet will remain: new folk are always welcome here, provided only that they can pay the small tax used to sustain the city. Your actions must continue to accommodate these families.)
Procure, Distribute, Build
Use your connections and modest budget to procure food and supplies according to the tradespeople and markets available in the city. Transport resources to make them safer and more accessible, mindful at all times of the jurisdictions of the ever-evolving landscapes of faction territory. In doing so you will build your reputation, permitting you to broker more effective purchases and agreements. With enough support you can begin to affect the fabric of the city itself. You can replace conduits, restructure housing, and modify transport in increasing degrees. You will be able to carefully adapt zoning laws, ensuring that residences are safely away from industry, and that supply chains are set up in an efficient manner. But remember that all your actions have consequences, and other factions will continue to build and make their own policy decisions.
There is no total conquest or absolute win-state in Cascade - things will always be in flux. Instead, there are Harmonies in various areas: hygiene, diversity, peace, and so on. Your job is to fulfil these Harmonies according to the specific charge you have been entrusted with.