Tag Archive for idea

The Challenge of One

An idea that I always come back to that I wish MMOs would figure out a way to feasibly implement would be to allow a player to have only one character (or one character per server). My main reason for liking this idea are for community and accountability. If people are who they always are, its easier to find them, to remember them, and reputations have a much better chance of sticking.

However, building a game that only allows one character would necessitate design changes to the existing paradigms, or major overhauls in player expectations. Assuming I can stick with this theme for a bit, I’m going to examine different elements of existing MMOs and how they would benefit from and/or need to change for a single character per player (per server) design.

This inaugural entry is going to begin to cover what I think will be the biggest impact from a single character decision: alternate characters.

The issues brought up by not allowing alternate characters are many and deep. The first and foremost is education. If a player is new to MMOs, they may not be familiar with the various archetypes present in the genre, so when presented with a character creation screen they might be presented with descriptions of what a warrior or a cleric is, but without game experience they probably won’t understand what that description really means.

One thing I would propose would be introducing the concept of a “trainer module” to the game. A simulation of the game. Let players build a character for the trainer, any level, any skill set, any stats, any items. Then throw them into a randomly generated dungeon, an instance just for them completely detached from the game world. On one hand, this will give players a place to try out and understand characters. On the other hand, it also gives you and your players a tool for testing character builds for bugs and flaws.

If this worked out well for solo play, let players do the same thing but run through the dungeon with a group. Even PvP if you wanted. This might also be a good place to work on that LFG tool so players wanting to test can find each other. Hook it up to an IRC chat server and players can even sit around discussing the game. And if the multiplayer aspect of it works, you might even consider throwing in raid training.

The catch is, nothing is saved. These characters are not persistent. You leave and they are lost. You gain nothing. No experience points, no items, no badges, nothing. If you want to test a buid over and over, you have to rebuild it over and over. Maybe if people complain you could allow them to store builds, but that shouldn’t be a first priority, the major objective here is giving the players the ability to understand characters without investing hard work and time that they’ll get angry about later when they discover the character does not play the way they interpreted the description.

A good idea? A bad idea? Of course, no idea can exist in a vacuum, and future entries I plan to explore more options and issues.

GuildCafe

Though I loathe the idea of joining an infinite number of community building websites, I am on MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. And now I’ve gone and joined GuildCafe.

In much the same way I participate in Wis.dm, I’m interested in GuildCafe for the possibility of gathering statistics that might mean something. And maybe it’ll make finding my next group of people to play online games with a tad easier. Who knows.

Gearing Up for the WriMo

Last year’s attempt to participate in the NaNoWriMo did not go so well. I’m hoping this year goes better. I don’t have any more unmarried brothers, I can’t afford any vacations, the open projects at work don’t look like they are going to surge, so this may just be my year.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, which story I want to write, and I’m still floundering, unfocused. So, here provided is a list of the things I am thinking about doing, cast your vote.

  • The Jumpgate War: In the future we have finally discovered how to travel between distant star systems, in two pieces, the jump ship and the jump gate. The ships are large hulking vessels, expensive and requiring monstrous amounts of power to jump the ship across space. There are very few of them. Once they find a suitable planet, the crew sets down and installs a jump gate and dials home, with a source at both ends the gates are far easier to use. The nations of Earth (and its nearby planets) have their own goals in the universe, and it turns out that we are not alone.
  • Superhero Harry Potter: Those three words are the easiest way to describe my idea without spending pages to lay it out. A girl, the daughter of superheroes, comes into her own abilities, has to deal with High School and maintain her secret identity.
  • “A Willful Destruction of Life”: This is a very odd idea, because it is no idea at all, it is just a title… the thought here is “Come up with an interesting title, then create a story that fits it.”
  • American Apocalypse: A story about the US after terrorists detonate a nuclear device in Washington D.C. on inauguration day, essentially wiping out the political side of the federal government.
  • Land of the Fairer Sun: A fantasy tale about the return of incarnations of forgotten gods, the rise of a brand new religion of a single god and the kingdom caught inbetween.

I’m also trying to put together a writing group this year to meet on a semi-regular basis, probably at my house, so we can cheer each other on and maybe keep each other from quitting.

15 days until go time…

Cinematic Cuisine

The other night I had lightning strike my brain. No, not literally. I mean that I had an idea, and its a whopper.

I love going to see movies at the theater. There is just something about the big screen and even the crowd (when they aren’t doing annoying things like talking loudly or text messaging) that I enjoy. And while I think ticket prices are outrageous, I’ve learned to modify my habits to get a better deal. AMC does $5 tickets for shows before noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. One thing I don’t like about going to the theater is the food.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love having a bucket of popcorn, candy and a soda at the movies. But the prices are so insane that I will only buy something when I’ve got coupons that reduce the cost down to a more manageable level, or I just have the wife bring candy and sodas in her purse.

I’ve learned over the years that mostly this is because theaters make diddly squat from their box office and rely heavily on their concessions for revenue. This is where my big idea comes in…

Rather than have a couple of overpriced counters of undersized candy and a sprawling game room filled with games nobody plays, why not lease out space to food and candy shops?

The most obvious benefit is that the theaters could set lease agreements to make the space profitable, modify rent as needed. Next, they’d be able to cut their own overhead by reducing staff. A little healthy competition between 3 or 4 food/candy vendors would probably do the customers some good. Lower prices would mean more people willing to pay for snacks, and probably more revenue (trying to explain the “lower prices = more money” concept to some business people is infuriating though) for the stores. Better and more affordable food selection might even increase ticket sales since it might make a night out at the movies a little more enjoyable.

Really, I just don’t see why this couldn’t work out well for the theaters. Someone, please explain it to me if I’m completely bonkers…

Stardust

Last night I had the pleasure of going to see a screening of Stardust, the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name.

Really, I went into this not expecting much. I’d never read the book and only had a vague idea of the story as being in the fantasy genre. Something about stars being alive, one falling to earth, and a witch who wants to eat the star’s heart to stay young forever.

I would put this film on par with The Princess Bride. Adventure, romance, fighting, chases, and most of all… fun. From the get go Stardust is an enjoyably fun film full of action and unexpected laughs, love and villainy. It was just, simply put, a good movie.

Most absolutely I would recommend seeing this film. It was good enough that I might even go see it again at the theater. Two big huge thumbs up.

A Tiny First Step

In an effort to move forward on my little game idea, I’ve downloaded (once again) the tools from Multiverse to see if I can make heads or tails of building my own game world. I make no promises, of course, but any motion is good motion at this point.

Bring on the Zombies.

Aspect of the The Walking Dead

I’ve written about The Walking Dead before, and in my continued efforts to talk about my game idea without rehashing the same stuff over and over, I will write about them again.

There are six collections now instead of four as when I wrote before, and the story remains good. There are elements in here that just make sense to me, and are in line with the story of the world I would present in my game. If you haven’t read all the comics, I’m about to ruin one thing for you, so skip the rest unless you want the spoiler… its not that huge of a spoiler, so don’t get too bent…

In the comic, one of the things revealed that I really liked is the idea that everyone is doomed. See, The Walking Dead doesn’t refer to just the zombies. After an incident where someone who died through other means, never having been bitten by a zombie, comes back as a zombie, its apparent that whatever causes the zombies is already in everyone, just dormant. They are all going to become zombies, no matter how they die, unless their death involves the destruction of their own bodies such that they can’t rise.

This aspect will be integral to my game. I talked earlier about how players will have to manage food and resources, and how those will deplete even when offline. When you die, you are dead. There is no resurrecting or respawning, if you want to play more you have to start a new character. Then, if you want, you can travel to your old character’s hide out and kill the zombie-old-you if someone hasn’t done it already. When you die, you are undead. Your body will rise as an NPC, and if there are people unfortunate enough to be living with you, if they aren’t careful, they may be undone from within.

Zombies: Dialog and Quests

After mulling over the ideas in this post over at nerfbat, I thought I’d tackle it as it concerns my game design.

How would I present dialog? Well, thankfully I get out of part of it in that my only NPCs are the undead and all they do is moan. Of course, that brings up an interesting idea of do I display the moans as text or just audio that gets louder the closer they are and the larger the crowd? I like the idea of audio, even directional audio, but there might need to be an option to turn on text, just incase deaf people might want to play and not play as a deaf person. It is a role playing game, after all.

But if there are no NPCs, how will there be quests?

To understand the drive of the game, you have to understand the backbone driving force of the game: the tamagotchi.

Essentially, its a much more complicated version of that simple child’s toy… but if you boil it down, so is life and my Zombie MMO is really nothing more than a Life Simulator in a world of the undead. SimRomero, if you will.

Your character will have a stat sheet where you can monitor and manage things like how much you eat per day and how that affects your energy levels and overall health. You’ll be able to see how long your food supplies will last given your rate of consumption, and a projection of how long you will last without food given your current level of health. There might also be things like progression bars toward dementia, which can be reduced by human contact or reading books or listening to music, basically anything other than dealing with zombies.

So where are the quests? In a way there will be two sorts of quest like devices in the game…

The first will be player designed, largely including trade. If you have a stash of salt, a ton of it, and you have a need for other supplies, you will be able to set up a trade mission where you will trade X salt for Y other product until you have Z of said product. Players who stumble upon your safehaven while you are offline will be met at gunpoint and offered the quest. It will jot down in their notebook what you are looking for and what you will give for it. The twist here is that since you can specify a cut off point, like say you want oranges, 6 at a time, stopping when you have 4 dozen, its possible that player may find 6 oranges, return to you and find that you’ve already hit your limit of 4 dozen and are no longer taking oranges in trade. But that’s okay, its not a total waste since he can use the oranges himself, or in another trade.

The second will be presented in a “kill sheet” style, where you can earn Xbox360 style achievements by doing things. Kill 100 undead and you might get a title. A second title might be waiting at 500, a third at 2000, and so on. Have you been well fed for the past 30 days? Title. Killed another player? Title. Killed 100 other players? Title. Survived for a year? Title. You get the idea… As part of this, the game will include online profiles of players through the website, even the ability to make message board signatures that will include your stats (like the Xbox gamer tags). And of course, the system will include an options for hiding your profile completely, or making it viewable only to people logged in and on your friends list.

It sounds overly simplistic, I’m sure, but that’s the goal of the game: simple and fun. I don’t need to be a WoW-killer, I just want enough people playing so that maybe I can quit my “real” job.

RAD is not rad

Rapid Application Development is not a horrible idea. Of course, much like Communism, it is not a problem with the idea it is the implementation. When most companies get into a RAD style of work, the result more often than not is just flying by the seat of their pants. No project plans, minimal design documents… usually it is just a list of features and a deadline, or a dozen lists and a dozen deadlines, and the lists change daily.

Having worked for two years on one RAD project, and then two and half on another, I really would like to work on something with more structure, or at least be part of team that is doing RAD instead of people one guy trying to work on multiple phases on the same RAD project by myself. I go into one meeting about phase one in the morning, then in the afternoon I go to a meeting on phase two when I have to pretend that I am not aware that phase one is behind schedule… it really is quite maddening.

Zombies: Replenishing the World

One concern that has been brought up by the few people I have discussed this game idea with is: How do you replenish supplies in the world?

This is a very complex issue, that after much though has a very very simple solution, and that is: You don’t. Not directly anyway.

To be honest, one of the problems I have with many games is the endless respawn of stuff. Now, I did say this would be a world of endless zombies, but all my zombie spawns would be “at the edge of the world”. Anywhere a “populated” area meets an “unpopulated” area is a potential spawn point for zombies because they are wandering in from other areas. But monsters and items fading in to view appearing out of thin air while the player watches… not in my game, its immersion breaking.

As for food and other supplies that players go after, in their area they will eventually scavenge it clean, at which point they’ll need to either a) start with the farming, b) widen their scavenging routes, or c) move somewhere else. If they choose a, then there is no need to handle any replenishment of supplies, they will find make them themselves. If they choose b or c… well, you don’t want the world to eventually be totally picked clean, so what you do is, when an area remains “unpopulated” for a length of time, you reset it, and everything goes back to like it was on launch day.

By design, the game will take care of all potential issues except for player memory. Players who used to live in the area that haven’t logged in will have eventually starved to death (as mentioned before, the game is going to have a level of persistance not used in very many games, when you are offline your character is still living), which is one of the factors in deciding to reset the area. However, nothing could be coded to prevent a player from remembering that they used to live in that area but had moved out. They’ll remember clearing the mall and eating all the food, perhaps even burning it to the ground, but suddenly upon area reset the mall will be back and stocked (with supplies and zombies).

The only real issue facing the game is making sure there is enough world to support the players, but that’s an issue that would have to be planned for but addressed only if the game exceeds expectations.