The Future of Indie MMOGs
Zwei2stein mentioned the REALLY Indie developers (i.e. Hobbyists and Amatures). This is the bucket where we're catagorized. Some of our greatest hurdles could be handled by throwing more money at it, but it's given us the motivation to find other, cheaper avenues for getting things done.
In our situation, we have a very small team of friends working on the game (both engine and content). At the time, we can only afford the bare minimal amount to host the game's site. Mostly, we put more time and energy into it than money, and even that is difficult while managing full-time jobs, families, social lives, etc.. If we had a large basket of money, we could hire more developers, artists, marketeers, and so on.
Even though we don't have that big basket of money, we still manage. It takes a lot of discipline, sacrifice, persistence. I get up two hours earlier than I really need to, so I can spend the evenings with my family. It takes discipline and determination to get up that early, but it's two hours of uninterupted time while everyone else is sleeping.
Can't afford artists? Well... What we can't do ourselves, we seek elsewhere. We started hitting the art forums and university art departments asking for volunteers. True, many artists are in it for the money. But, there are a few out there who are willing to help us a bit for the exposure and the practice.
Can't afford marketing and advertising? Well... We mention our game on various forums where people are playing a similar style of game. We've also looked into various ad-exchange sites. We've contacted reviewers and offered perks to some other gamers. If you just keep an open mind, there are a lot of fairly cheap ways to spread the word.
My greatest hurdle is getting more content into our game. I have pages and pages of ideas. It takes time to add new content, test it, and release it. I have more content ideas than I know what to do with. And, that's an awesome problem to have.
We didn't start working on our game to compete with other games out there. We don't even view them as competition. We view them as the community. We set out to create a game that we enjoy playing, based on ideas and concepts of other games that we enjoy playing. Yes, we'd love to reach the point to quit our day jobs, but if not much ever comes of it, we're having tons of fun along the way and gaining a lot of useful development experience.
If anyone would like to try our game, we'd love to hear your opinion: www.urbanlegions.net
And, if any of you are developing your own game out there, look us up and let us know about it. We look forward to seeing what you create, too.
A History of Early Text Adventure Games
I have not tried any of the TellTale games, but from what I've seen, they look very entertaining.
One of my favorite point-and-click games of this style was "Day of the Tentacle". Even though the actions were limited, you still had a lot of combinations when doing a trial-and-error approach to solving the puzzles. Even though the interface is point-and-click, you still need to hold object X and apply it to other object Y. X times Y can lead to tons of things to try.
A History of Early Text Adventure Games
There is an excellent tool for writing IF that a friend brought to my attention a while back. It's called Inform 7.
I have tinkered with it a little bit, and it makes writing IF much easier. It takes out most of the programming skills, and focuses on a pseudo-natrual English way of writing the game.
How To Get Out of Developer's Block?
I understand. I've been there myself. I have several different projects I like to work on, but struggled to find the time and motivation to work on them. Especially while balancing other stuff: day-job, family time, social life, chores, etc. I had a hard time sitting in front of a computer for 8+ hours for my day-job, then coming home and working on the computer some more. Plus, in the evenings, there are plenty of other interruptions and distractions.
So, I rearranged my daily schedule. Now, I wake up at 4AM (Seriously... There is a 4AM! It does exist!) and work from 4AM to about 6:30AM. It takes will power. It takes discipline. I've been doing this for 3+ years. Yes, there are still mornings when I want to roll over and stay in bed. But, I have been so much more productive on my own projects when the rest of the world is still sleeping, and before I have to deal with other people's schtuff. Your body wil adjust after a week or two, and it becomes easier.
Also, since some people at that time of morning have trouble thinking, you might want to plan what portion of your project you want to work on, so you can establish focus. Otherwise, you might find yourself Slashdotting and Facebooking at 4:03AM.
Game Design: A Practical Approach
Might be an interesting read. I may not be as interested in the programming side, but I might find some of the other topics to be beneficial.
Can anyone suggest a good book covering Game Theory? I'm looking for something that can provide me with a better grasp of the mathematics of establishing challenges in a game. Ex. Suppose there is a board game with pile of cards to draw from (like Monopoly). The deck has positive and negative game factors. What is the probability Negative should show up over Positive to make the game challenging enough, but not too challenging? And, at what strength do these factors makes the game too easy/difficult? And, how often should the cards be drawn?
But, I'm not just interested in this for board games. I'm interested in this for computer games, too. For RPGs, how does one adequately scale NPCs the players' progression? How often should encounters happen? How much and how often should the player be rewarded? Etc.
Monkey Island To Return
I loved this series. In fact, when I first met my (at the time) wife-to-be, I was playing the entire series. And she still married me (Can you believe it?). My other favorite was Day of the Tentacle ("I feel smarter... stronger... Like I could..." *boink* *boink* "TAKE OVER... THE WORLD!"). My other favorite... Discworld (the first one; never played the sequel).
What I especially love about the LucasArts games and the Sierra Online games were the creative energy poured into them. I think these kinds of games help shaped my sense of humor and let me see things, not just from outside the box, but from the crow's nest perched at the top of the Christmas tree.
I look forward to these Monkey Island releases. I just hope they don't do to these what was done with Legends of Zork (*shudder*).
Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design
I still say I use more time-travel theory in my daily life than Calclueless.
Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design
I slightly disagree with your last statement. I don't think it is the interaction between the person and influence, but it is the psychological state formed from the interaction. Outside influence X creates emotional reaction Y in the person's mind. Enough of this conditioning, and you have a strong compulsion. The addiction comes in which the person believes this state of mind is the only way things are (white = this state of being is good; black = existence is hopeless without that state). To overcome this feeling is difficult, but not impossible. Pavlov proved this conditioning method with his dogs. But, you can uncondition the dog, and replace this mental addiciton with a bicycle horn instead of a bell. In this respect, it is "in the person", because it is created by the positive reactions generating neurological chemical dependencies.
Although I do agree with your comment on grey areas. Not everything in the world is black or white, but various shades of grey. So, I do not believe there is some "magical element" in games (or drugs or celebrities or whatever people attatch themselves to) that can be coded into the next great fbleepin' game. Whatever the next big addictive game is, it will need to create that positive reaction in the person's mind, so that they think, "This game is a good thing. I need more of it. I have a hard time of thinking of other things, because I like thinking about how great this game is. And, if I play just one more turn/round/hour of this game, it will make me happy. Because, this game is a good thing..."
Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design
I don't think game addiction is in the game design itself. I think the addiction is in the player's obsessive-compulsive behavior towards reaching a personal goal. I used to be addicted to Lemmings. I'd stay up late playing, because I wanted to get those Lemmings past one... more... level. "Just one more" is a common catch phrase around people I know how have some form of game addiction.
My mom gets addicted to simple games very easily. In the original version of MS Windows's Freecell, she heard that ever 32,000+ levels were win-able, and she was obsessed with beating each one, just to see if she could. She completed all of them except for the one level which was proven impossible to beat.
The addiction is in the people, not in the game. I think you can design any game, give the player some kind of mission to keep in mind, and make the game somewhat difficult to reach that goal, but not impossible. Then, once they do obtain their goal, give the player a way to keep striving for something even better ("Sorry, Mario... The princess is in the next castle."). Ex. See if you can beat this game of solitaire. You beat it? Okay, now try again, but quicker this time. You beat that, too? Okay, now try it with more cards. Etc.
Throwing Out the Rulebook For MMOs
If you are looking to exercise your brain, story-driven, puzzle-solving, world-building, you might want to check out Urban Legions (*insert tooting of own horn here*). I replied to the original article, but my friend and I started our own browser-based game. Both of us have played various RPGs. He's more WoW, and I'm more Ultima (classic, non-online).
We've taken the elements that we like of the various games, but strayed drastically from what people might consider "the norm". First of all, our game is very text-heavy with movement very simple (almost boardgame-like). It can be described like an RPG meets a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Yes, it does have its share of combat. However, it has several events wtih moral decisions throughout. Do you save the kitty from the tree? Or, do you burn the tree down, cat, leaves, and all? There is a big over-arching plot-line that we periodically add to, much like revealing plot in a comic book. There are side-quests, puzzles and challenges. A lot of the game is simply world exploration and trying various items and abilities in the different settings. We admit the artwork is lacking, which we are working on, but make up for this in the simple, yet descriptive texts.
One thing my friend and I think about as we create this game, is not as much about what the public wants, but what we find entertaining and we would like to play. Plus, the engine running the game is a thing of wonder (designed ourselves). To add content and how the game plays seems simple, but beneath the covers, it is very robust. We constantly try to out-do ourselves or reinvent ourselves. We still think up random scenarios, and see if they are possible with the engine.
I don't know if we'll ever reach WoW levels, but that doesn't matter. We're enjoying what we are creating.
Storytelling In Games and the Use of Narration
Video games are like any media of fiction. It's typical that the crap seriously outweighs the polished.
I think some commenters are losing focus. Not every videogame needs to have a good storyline. In many genres, the gameplay outweighs the plot. Do you really need or even care about storyline for Tetris, PacMan, or any first-person shooter? Not really. What about board games? Do you really need a plot for Monopoly, chess, or Settlers of Catan? Nope.
Good storylines are more essential for the role playing and interactive fiction genre of games. Storylines should to do the following:
- Define environment
- Provide goals
- Define character
- Provide information
Pretty much the same as written fiction. If these elements are not necessary to play the game, then odds are the game itself does not need to focus on a storyline. It's superfluous at that point.
GameStop Selling Games Played By Employees As New
Hello there fellow ex-Babbagarian. I worked there a long time ago in a city far, far away (Store 9... Which no longer exists)
This is old news. And not just Babbage's and GameStop. I know of other software stores that have allowed this. The main reasoning behind it is so the employees can familiarize themselves with the products so that they are more informed when the customers have questions.
I don't mind used software or display software, as long as the disc isn't all scratched up. It's not like a write-once form of media is going to catch a virus (as opposed to ye olde days of 3.5" floppies). The same sentiment goes towards DVDs.
I think it would be a lot worse in other types of stores where employees could be trying out food or undies. 8(
The State of Sci-Fi MMOs
I think the tricky thing is to nail down a definition of SciFi. Then, to design a SciFi game that will please the vast majority of players, and/or get them to migrate to a new MMO from one they may already be playing.
First of all, SciFi can range from anything from futuristic space settings, like Star Trek or Star Wars, down to something that is remotely technological. Batman could loosely be defined as SciFi because of all his bat-gadgets.
Let's assume a it's the former, that the MMO has a futuristic space setting. Okay. Now, is the game going to be featured around space battles? or, interplanetary trading? or, space exploration? or, technological advancement strategy? All of the above? If you have something that doesn't contain enough of these options, you are going to rule out some players who aren't getting what they want. If you have too many or all of these options, are players going to find the game too confusing or cumbersome? I think it might be difficult to find a good balance. Maybe they'll just settle for a good ol' fashioned killing and looting D&D style game (Is anyone out there going to create Munchkin Online?).
Also, both RPGs and MMOs both have origins in the realms of fantasy. Comparing MMOs to the pencil-paper-dice RPGs, you will still find much more fantasy genre games and less sci-fi. You could do the same comparison to other genres. Why aren't there more western MMOs or gangster MMOs?
Or, it could be that an MMO just isn't quite right for format for a SciFi game. Instead of Massive-Multiplayer, maybe it would work better in limited-parties. I think one person's comment was about too many Cap'n Kirks and not enough Ensign Smiths. But, if you had the small crew of the Firefly as opposed to the entire star fleet academy of the Enterprise, maybe it would work better.
Legends of Zork Goes Live
First off... I enjoy various kinds of text games from the early Infocom games, to the King's Quests, to the Monkey Islands, and event a Zork or two. Yes, Legends of Zork took elements from the world of Zork, but it lacks challenge. In the text games, I like trying everything under the sun to try to get that one step further in the game, even if that meant starting over a million times. It was part of the challenge, part of the fun. This... I found very frustrating. It's like the game is so incredibly dumbed down that it's like a slightly interactive advertisement for something I don't want to buy into.
Games like Kingdom of Loathing and Twilight Heroes, are what lit a fire under me to create my own, Urban Legions.
Kingdom of Loathing is incredible. Since the day I stumbled upon it via Wikipedia (looking up "Trifids" of all things), I have been hooked and play it practically every day since. I love the sense of humor. I love collecting all the crazy items. After ascending about 8+ times, the quests are getting a little tedious. But, they add new content, which makes me want to play it even more. I haven't even broken into the Hobopolis or PvP sides of the game, and it's kept me entertained for 2.5+ years.
Twilight Heroes... I played for a while. Then, I got stuck on one of the quests. After a while, it got repetitive and I dropped it (mostly). I go back every once in a while. It's not a bad game. It's as easy to pick up as KoL. It's got a good sense of humor, and I've enjoyed playing it. Yet, it lacks something (for me, at least) to want to keep playing it. Maybe they've found that certain something that I lacked, and maybe I should pick it up again.
Urban Legions... Why did I create this game? Because I told my friend about KoL, how much fun it was, and we both agreed it was something we should try doing ourselves. During the creation of the game, we broke away from several traditions, but kept various elements we enjoy from playing other games. One of the things we broke away from is character creation. All characters start the same except for their names. You enter a name and an alias, and you're off and running. Stats? We limit it to Brains and Brawn. I mean seriously... How often do you roll for Constitution while playing D&D? We also wanted the game to play differently. The world is very much open ended. There is an over-arching plot that we continuously add to, but there are various side quests along the way. We are light years behind KoL in the amount of content, but of what we already have, we are already building a community of people who play on a regular basis and crave more (By the way... We love you guys and gals!). Like the others, KoL, TH, and LoZ, we provide a few turns per day with the options to subscribe for more turns per day or to buy a big block of turns that you can slowly whittle away. Sure, he and I would love to make enough money from this to one day quit our day jobs and focus solely on this and a few other projects up our sleeves, but the enjoyment we have of creating something that we are most proud of and trying to constantly out-do ourselves is also so incredibly rewarding.
So, back to Legends of Zork... As I said, I enjoy playing these kinds of game, if not for seeing "what not to do". One of the first things that irked me is the combat. I can't control what my character does in regards to combat, so why even go through the motions of creating a character? The next thing that bugged me... I went to my inventory to see what I thought I gained, but didn't. To get back into the game, the only way I could figure out was to go back to the map and into the location I was just at. This took another couple of action points to do. Seriously?! It takes an action point if I want to view my character and click ONE LOCATION on the map?! Are you fbleeping serious?! That right there should have been caught during beta. I can see "Exploring the Area" as one action point, and maybe healing at home, but picking which area you want to explore, especially when there is no easy way to go from your inventory back to where you just were?! After that, I decided to call it a day. I think I still have about 22 of my 30 Action Points left. Anybody else want them? Anyone?
If ya'll know of who else is out there in the world of browser-based games such as these, drop me a line. I'd love to check out the "competition". And, if ya'll would like to try Urban Legions, I'd also love to hear what you have to say aboot our game, both the good and the scathing.
Adventure Game Interfaces and Puzzle Theory
A couple years ago, I was telling my friend about http://www.kingdomofloathing.com/. At the time, I was working on a card game that was not feasible as a card game. I kept trying to keep the game simple, yet have most of my druthers included... It just wasn't going to fly. So, he and I combined both concepts and the result is something quite different.
The game is entirely browser-based with no plugins or downloads necessary. We tried to keep the interface as simple as possible. We do have a few people who stumble through it, but most beta testers were able to pick it up and run with it without referring to documentation.
The game is divided into numerous events, each with a set of options. The options are modified by the character's current status, inventory, random chance, or by the choices the character makes. The player's status even helps determine which events are presented to the player.
The thing that I find fascinating is trying to write the content in a way that presents itself randomly to the character, but in a logical order and way. This is as not straight-forward as fiction writing. It's like trying to write a Choose-Your-Own adventure where the reader starts from flipping to any random page and a single choice may lead to many possible pages. I also find it challenging creating the puzzles that blend well with the plot and setting, yet are challenging enough for most without being too straight forward or too randomly difficult.
He and I have had a blast creating our game. And, we have had several people try it and give us positive feedback.
If you'd like to try it out, you can find it at http://www.urbanlegions.net/. If you'd like to discuss the decisions behind our designs, that's really a topic for another thread.