New site to me

I’ve just spent several hours reading a blog – new to me, though it’s been there for a while. (The first post – titled Hello World but amusingly enough a TRUE hello instead of the wordpress default – was in September of 2007.) It’s a blog by a pair of MMO developers discussing various aspects of MMOs from that side of the screen. Not just development is discussed – I’ve seen some posts on marketing and player analysis as well. Perhaps the shortest description is: it’s by MMO professionals and about the whole business of putting out MMOs. I’m going to recommend Elder Game, and will probably comment on several things Eric and Sandra have written.

Sigh. You know I can’t leave it at that, not if you’ve been reading a while.

Several of the articles have given me much food for thought on my notional MMO. Simply stated, if I had the money and/or time I think I have a product that would sell. HOWEVER, if I had the money and/or time, one of the things I’d do (per a “doh” thought on reading this post) is poll potential players. Now, I know that the commenter Prince wouldn’t pay for, or even play, my MMO. That happens to be fine as not all things are fun to all people. The poll would be to identify people who might like the game (either as is, or with minor tweaks), and as a consequence decide if there are enough to make it worthwhile to produce.

That said, the most useful thing I had rubbed in my face came from several articles – not gonna link all of them, just go read the site. Basically, while I talked about how I’d like to do this and that sorta nifty thing, if I really get serious about this I need instead to back up and build intelligently.

For example, while I think in the long run large beowulf clusters could be integrated to allow players to swarm a particular space, it would be New Territory. New Territory costs – money to develop, money to catch and find the oopses in operation, money to expand. Trying to do that at the same time I’m creating a game is… amateurs discuss tactics, old soldiers discuss logistics, and this is an old soldier issue. If I want to play with developing an MMO engine for beowulf clusters, that’s one thing (and something that IF it works would be very popular with real MMO developers). But if I do that I should not simultaneously be kicking out a New MMO – other than (maybe) as a demo of the capabilities of the engine.

The authentication tool I wanted to add is another thing, though less egregious. That’s because it’s (wisely) stealing borrowing existing concepts and programming. To reiterate, it’s using universal DTG plus gamer’s registration code for that game to create a unique login. Player uses a password on the client to tell the client he or she is authorized to ‘send the code’, and the client then sends the unique code. It’s possible – probable, even – that the password should also be sent in a burn-sheet encryption so as to also be part of the authorized passcode. The outlines are here if you’ve forgotten.

Still, after reading Eric and Sandra’s writings (or what I’ve read so far) I have come to realize I have a viable game – one that would work for their “small independent” developer. It would appeal to the Competition and Mechanics crowds with strong secondary appeal to Discoverers and Customizers (borrowing from Yee via Elder Game, here). Yes, there would be appeal just as designed so far for other categories but those are the lead customers.

To reiterate the game (in case one of these links draws someone – it’s happened before):

MMO notionally RTS. You aren’t a character, you’re the ultimate and nigh immortal ruler of your proto-empire.

As per RTS mentality: you find and procure resources; you spend resources on combat, exploration, research, colonization…

Gimmicks – or so I thought them – that seem to have been a right idea included: players are PLAYING pretty much immediately, but quasi-safely. You get a system that’s (in terms of resources) identical to every other starting player, and you get your first conquest opportunity which is also (again in terms of resources) identical. What you do with that conquest, and what you do before you open the gate to the rest of the universe, is where your customization takes place.

Also, there’s the ways to auto-increase explorable areas for new players taking that bent while at the same time allowing developer insertion of NPC events and opponents. The backstory works (it’s one of many SF themes: Once upon a time humans spread EVERYWHERE, but something happened and pushed us all back to barbarism. We’re back, we’ve got some things they never had but some of their things are Very Nifty.)

I’m borrowing an existing engine for combat – not (yet) computerized, but written well enough it CAN be computerized. I’ll have to develop a semi-smart AI to run individual ships in a task force and I know that’s going to be special fun all its own, but the base combat engine does not have to be recreated. (For those tuning in late, here’s part of the sample. Beam weapons always hit. Damage can be reduced to zero by range and a bit of randomness from several factors, but they always hit. Projectiles and missiles on the other hand can miss, but if they hit they do a large chunk of damage. Add in that for these relatively few objects modeling Newtonian movement is extremely easy for all three dimensions and, well, a lot of assumptions are wrong.)

Bottom line – along with the other projects, I’m still working this one offline toward possible development. It may never cross the threshold, but I’m working under the assumption it’s possible.

It’s the programming – and the commitment on my part to put in a LOT of hours actually writing the darn thing, then tracking down developers to actually program the thing. (I am not a programmer. I know this. I have done just enough to know how much I don’t know even with the nifty tools available these days.)

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