I reached an impasse where I just could not decide what exactly I wanted that would make WOTAN stand out. Inspired by Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress, I have kept to my original vision of WOTAN being not simply an online gamebook engine, but something where each user is able to create their own piece of the world.
The aesthetic is for it to presented in the style of a gamebook, a throw-back to the bygone 1980's. However, wiki-like, you have the ability to create new pages in the "story." Obviously, knowing me, the first thought was to be able to construct bases, fortresses, lairs, et cetera. The trick in designing it is that, while each is essentially just text written by the user, there are definite rules and boundaries to be followed in the creation.
For instance, you can't simple write that you have a chair in a room; the chair must be placed in the room, and the basic text for "chair" is inserted into the page. The user can enter adjectives to describe the chair, or even better that is done when the user is crafting the chair. The chair will also have default behaviors associated with it -- as an example, it can be sat upon by a user's character.
Part of why I waver between finding this incredibly interesting, and between being bored to death is due to the fact that I always end up thinking, "this is just like a MUD." I'm not sure that I want to make a MUD, web-based or otherwise. I want to make something different. MUDs are just fine by me, but they have been done to death. If I want a MUD experience, I'd rather log into a pre-existing (and high quality) world like Lusternia.
Of course, a big difference between what I envision and a regular MUD is that users will be able to create new portions of the world much easier and without any scripting. Theoretically, a user will be able to create a dungeon room by room by using only web forms, which will appear differently according to some predetermined boundaries, such as character skills, the trust level of the user, game tokens, or a combination. This is basically how crafting would work als0.
So I keep WOTAN in the back of my head and hope for inspiration to strike. The funny thing about that is, I spend most of my work time in Kana and my leisure time in Minecraft. Throw in a dash of Lone Wolf, and what kind of unholy abomination might that produce?
In the meantime, I have been examining PHP frameworks to see what I got right and what I got wrong in my own first steps at creating one. I got a lot wrong, to say the least. But I also got a surprising amount "right" (my opinion), so I feel confident that I will only continue to get better. WOTAN was also always meant to be a "framework" for text-based adventure and exploration games, after all.
I am currently working on a super-secret project at the moment that is gaming-related, but not an actual game. I don't want to say anymore because, hell, it may never see the light of day either. And I don't need this blog to brainstorm as it's a pretty simple idea, but one with potential.
It is so interesting to go back and read old posts. Here it is, yet again, an extended time since my last post. And a big change has come upon me in the intervening time, so if you are at all interested you might as well read on.
For one thing, I have decided to put all Civ4 and Colonization modding on complete hiatus. Meaning I am not abandoning my Grow Tycoon mod, but hey - if I get to it, I get to it; if I don't oh well. GASP!
There is, of course, a good reason and it comes from a sort of realization I had a week ago:
Why am I putting this much time into a mod that may only ever get played by a couple people?
Maybe several dozen if I am very lucky, but the point was for this to be a learning exercise for producing my own stand-alone game. I am at the point where I am learning Blender, of all things. While it and 3D Max are great tools for a 3D artist, I am not one nor do I aspire to master that skillset.
And that too me, is the other and more important realization - that is, what skills am I advancing by making this game nobody will likely ever play?
And in all honesty I can say my time playing with the SDK, Python and XML files was really helpful in getting me into the right frame of mind to begin the next stage of the journey. The brainstorming I did for the mod also has given me a pretty solid vision of what I want out of that game also. It is a shame I don't have a completed project to show for it, but oh well, time marches on.
I am moving forward with my desire to master PHP and using a browser game to do that is perfect. I had hoped to learn Python and experiment with building web apps in that language but I am already familiar with PHP so I'm just going for it.
Currently I consider myself working on two projects, both of the fantasy RPG variety. I actually touched on both in the last post, writing it is probably what got me thinking in the first place.
Project 1, working name: W O T A N
I am developing this game literally from the ground up as an exercise. And exercise it is for my flabby brain muscles, I am just now finishing off the user system, with only an e-mail activation method and a form/method for updating user data to go. Then on to the character system!
The plan for this game is simple:
- develop a character system with all the requisite stats, skills, inventory and such
- write combat, magic and savings throw system for character system
- write a system that allows you to carry out and respond to actions in text using these systems
- make smallish text entries utilizing this and have them display randomly
tl;dr --> A random textual dungeon generator with a character that interacts with the environment.
The character system will come with all you would expect out of an Internet computer game - storage on the server database, linked to your own account, etc. Items will be able to be carried from one dungeon to another. I would like to add in achievements (God, I know) to show which dungeons you have completed with so-many points awarded.
Points will be experience, so the top-ranking players will also be the highest level. The game is, however, very much a solo game. Characters are completely cut off from each other by the very nature of the game.
What I hope to do on the community side, though, is to heighten player interaction by experimenting with blogs or other CMS concepts. Think a WordPress-Mu-like setup where everyone will get there own blog. I am so considering that idea, actually, I mirrored the wordpress user table in my own database design.
I'm hoping that will encourage people to role-play, keep track of their adventures or even write guides ("how to kill that nasty yeti mini-boss that sometimes pops up on level 5 of the Dreaded Dungeon"). I have to admit, my.lotro.com was a big inspiration for that aspect of the project.
Project 2, working name: RePhaos (dev blog)
So after giving World of Phaos a test-spin, I found myself both repelled and irresistably drawn to it. After throwing up a couple times and realizing it was probably just those morning glory seeds I ate, I realized what I must do:
Create an MMORPG on TEH INTERWUBZ.
Overly obnoxious catchphrases aside (at least I didn't write "KTHXBAI!!1!"), this is something I want to do. Something I really, really want to do. And yet it seems so enormously difficult. Oh well, getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult, too.
So I was going to use World of Phaos as a starting point, and I am guess I still am, but I have a feeling by the time everything is said and done not a great deal of original code will be left. Right now this project is on a temporary hiatus whilst I steamroll my exhausted way through the noob-php-coder landscape of W O T A N.
The reason why I have halted this project to work on that one, however, is both to get my skillset up to level to tackle RePhaos but mainly to develop the game engine that I will then integrate into RePhaos.
To put it bluntly I am very dissatisfied with WoP's combat. I am also generally dissatisfied with the browser RPGs I have come across, the exceptions being the various MUDs which have made themselves available via flash and java web clients.
It seems like the run-of-the-mill browser RPGs invariably fall short the one area where they should excel over graphical games: minutiae. Why log in to take a few turns in "the forest"? What is the point? There is pretty much no character customization. I think you get my meaning - I generally find them shallow.
And that is precisely why I had the idea for a web-based MMORPG: because MMORPG players bitch and piss and moan have multitudinous cows, but how many do something about it? Well, I am. I've always wanted to make my own little world, and I want to play to the strengths this medium by replacing eye candy with mind candy. Well, mind candy if you are an accountant or statistician, perhaps.
HOWEVER, I do not, gentle reader, wish to mislead you as to my proper intentions. And those are to pursue another long-time desire of mine, which is to create something that is or approximates an MMORPG framework.
That is a generic engine that anyone with some skill and time can turn into their own functioning MMORPG. This is why I am so bent on rewriting the WoP code rather than simply subverting it to my own needs. I fully intend for RePhaos to be easily customized and highly extensible.
Essentially, once the various aspects of W O T A N are completed, I'm going to be integrating them into RePhaos. I'll probably be keeping (though modifying) systems like the darksmith shops, map, guilds and such. The thing I genuinely like about WoP is the easy flow of travel, explore, fight, explore some more - I like how MUD-like the system is.
I think that by refining the basic systems to make it actually enjoyable to play as well as making the code modular for plugins and customization, it could be big hit.
If you looked at the Google Code repository you will have noticed there are as of yet no changes. That is because I am having a hard time understanding SVN. I am such a noob.
OK, wow. I haven't posted an update in two weeks. But it's been a relatively slow two weeks: not much new in the MMO-sphere with the exception of a controversy, enlightenment and a marketing push.
The Controversy: It seems that articles in Wikipedia dealing with the history of MUDs, specifically Threshold, have come under attack recently. Massively did a pretty good write-up of the situation. I wonder how it will unfold?
Enlightenment: Adam Martin, a former CTO for NCSoft's European development studio offered a very insightful post about the trainwreck that was Tabula Rasa. Which I haven't been able to bring myself to play, even though it is free right now. While not leveling blame specifically, he does seem to lay it at the feet of NCSoft as an organization.
If you have ever worked in a dysfunctional corporate setting or been on a team that just can't pull it together then this angle makes a lot of sense. The most telling example he gave, in fact, was that apparently to this day NCSoft still does not officially recognize TR as a failure. And as he points out, recognizing failures is what helps prevent us from repeating them.
Lastly, the Push: You may have noticed that SOE is now offering their MMO titles on sale through Steam. While I highly doubt SOE is suffering from a lack of subscribers to their various franchises, it seems to me that those numbers could be a lot higher, especially for games like Vanguard.
Hopefully Steam can attract some new blood into games like Vanguard or Pirates of the Burning Sea which have languished in the morass that is borne of failed launches and highly negative word-of-mouth against SOE's management of other games - SWG, CU and NGE are three acronyms will probably always have baggage in many MMO players' minds. And now SOE may be committing another marketing blunder with their adoption of RMT. So Sony can probably use all the positive advertising it can get in the MMO world.