The part of the groWorld game where an individual player plays with their own plant, could be a sort of 2D (or pseudo-2D) side scrolling dungeon crawling game.
These sorts of games can also look very nice when rendered in 3D:
But instead of making your way through an existing maze by overcoming obstacles, you would create the maze yourself.
The idea is that you are inside of the plant. You start inside of a seed. And when you carve tunnels down, you're actually creating roots. When you're carving upwards, your creating stems and branches. On this level of the game, you cannot see the world around you. You can only see the inside of the plant. As you dig/carve deeper/further, you discover resources in the ground/air. These can help you develop flowers and leaves, e.g. Perhaps you find explosives and the detonation blows you a flower?
To add to the being-a-plant feeling, you would not control a single avatar but there would be a bunch of “minions” at your disposal. You order them where to work and they do the work for you. You start of with a small number of minions, but you can create more as you continue to play (possibly with resources that you find). There could be different types of minions. Some are better at certain tasks than others.
Examples of minions in games:
If you are not paying attention to the game, the minions keep working, but not as diligently as when you are looking. When you stay away too long they get lazy. Perhaps they ultimately die. To strengthen the bond between the player and these minions, perhaps we could say that they will only be happy when they work. Perhaps they need to carve for nourishment. And they only work when you tell them to. This would create a sense of responsibility in the player (not unlike the responsibility for a house plant).
The entire garden could exist in a pseudo-parallax pseudo-2D landscape that you can travel into (but where rotation of the view is not possible -so you always only see the front of the plant). This offers you the ability to select a plant and zoom in on it. When you do, you get a 2D view of the “inside” of the plant, where the minions are hard (or not so hard…) at work. If this is your plant, you can help the minions and grow the plant.
It would be nice if the shape of the “dungeon” that you carve out corresponds with the shape of the plant on the outside. This probably means that there cannot be total freedom of where the player can make tunnels (as there is a certain pattern to the form of plants, and a different one for each species). This could be explained in the narrative by the minions preferring to eat certain types of dirt over others (perhaps this defines how they differ from each other and how some are good at carving out leaves, while others do roots much better). Giving the minions a sort of “mind of their own” also increases the potential for sympathy of the player for these creatures.
I like the idea of being inside of a plant and being unaware of the outside world except for the things that you “touch”. I also find the idea of carving a plant out of the air very poetic. As if the plant has always been there. Controlling the minions seems like a good way of dealing with a less individualistic mindset. And perhaps the minions resemble the cells that make real-world plants grow. I also like the 'pataphysical aspect of this (pseudo-)theory of how plants grow.
Reminds me of Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeon_Keeper Parts of the plant dungeon could also map onto actual plant functions, in terms of the leaves (photosynthesis), roots (getting nutrients and water), stem (support for leaves), flowers (reproduction for new plants). So perhaps to get enough flowers to reproduce, you need to produce 'fuel' from the leaf sections of the dungeon, etc. – Adrian