Big Idea: create a libre fighting game that features characters from free culture games, comics, and movies.
Note: This is part of my Big Ideas series, a backlog of ideas that I would love to execute but cannot right now because of current projects. I may get to them someday, but I encourage you to beat me to the punch!
I'm a fan of SuperTuxKart. It's a libre racing game similar to Mario Kart, but with a roster of Open Source mascots as playable characters.
These characters are mascots for software projects. Tux, the penguin, is the mascot for Linux. The red devil is the mascot for the operating system FreeBSD. Every one of these characters is associated with software. Outside of software, they have no fictional backstory, lore, or coherent shared world. This is where SuperTuxKart falls short.
But there are libre characters with their own stories and worlds. Why not use them? The most famous and successful example of a character-mashup in games is the Super Smash Bros. series.
Smash Bros is a wildly successful game that drew in existing fans of different series, then popularized all of those series even more.
SuperTuxKart might draw in computer geeks like myself, but it's lacking the heart and soul of a game like Smash Bros. I think in order to achieve a game like Smash Bros, each character needs to exist in their own right, not as subordinate mascot of a software project.
Simply switching out SuperTuxKart's software mascots for more developed characters would improve it, but I'm not sure I want to do that. SuperTuxKart is already an established game, and I see no reason to over-saturate it. Also, part of what makes Smash Bros great is how expressive it is, which a racing game can't accomplish as easily. Characters in Smash have different movesets that reflect their character, whereas different karts just have different stats. Ultimately what I want is to duke it out with libre characters that I love and connect with, but I don't have much details beyond that.
Libre character roster
Off the top of my head, these characters seem like good choices for inclusion based on their popularity and backstory.
Pepper & Carrot
The libre webcomic Pepper&Carrot has a large following and features detailed art and stories. I could really envision Pepper blasing people with her witch magic and Carrot jumping out from behind her to slash an enemy.
Sintel is a short film that might make you cry. She is already an experienced fighter, making her a perfect addition to the roster. Her staff can be used to slash foes from a range, and her dragon companion Scales could grip to her shoulder and assist with some attacks.
Nina Paley's first feature-length animated film Sita Sings the Blues stars a damsel in distress who faces many hardships. I could envision her attacking with fire, a thematic part of the film.
Angel O' Death
Paley's second film, Seder-Masochism, features a nuclear grim reaper. This guy is all about guns, bombs, war, you name it. I can envision him teleporting across the screen, shooting a machine gun, launching bombs, and maybe using some deathly magic.
Big Buck Bunny
Big Buck Bunny is a dufus gentle giant who gets bullied by other woodland creatures until he snaps and finally retaliates. He'd make a great heavyset character who is slow and powerful, throwing mostly punches and kicks. His bow could give him some range to make up for lack of mobility.
Tobu Tobu Girl
Tangram Games are masters of open-source indie game dev. Of all their original characters and games, Tobu Tobu Girl stands out for having a physical release on Nintendo Game Boy... in 2017. Tobu Tobu Girl jumps hops on top of birds ascending into the sky to rescue her lost cat. In a fighting game she could easily attack with balloons, or by unleashing birds and bats across the arena.
I'm aware there are plenty more, though I'm trying to think hard about which characters would be very well suited for this and give the game variety. Pepper&Carrot alone could fill this roster full of characters. If I find I've missed any great ones, I'll update this article. In the meantime I'd rather keep a short list of the best characters.
Update: someone pointed out Jenny Everywhere which is very cool and could also make an appearance.