Hammers are for Nails

It’s late.  I’m at work; I get some downtime here, which is nice.  I’ve been thinking about simplestgame some more over the last week.  And had another brainstorm of a sort.

I’ve been working with the mental concept of a pvp focused simple game.  Players can form guilds, guilds can capture pre-existing forts, gather resources at those forts, and attack player owned forts by depriving them of resources or hurting their resource “hit points” through killing players, npc guards, etc.).  If the resource points of a fort get low enough, the fort becomes open to possible conquest.  It’s a decent idea.  It makes the fight to take a castle something that takes place over days or weeks, instead of being the result of a single one hour battle.  I still like it.  And I’ve got wonderful ideas for how resource management could be tied into all of this.  I may still use some of it.

But I am getting a feeling that I keep veering off the simplest game track here.  That I am still trying to make that “dream game” that I really want to play, instead of making a game that I know I can complete and market.

I’m also looking at engines, and realizing that some of the elements I want to add are going to be tough to implement.  Now, I can do some light scripting – and I am a talented amateur artist, if I say so myself; not pro quality, but not bad – but complex coding is just beyond me.  Nor am I likely to become an expert C++ coder over the next six months.  So I am looking over engines, trying to figure out how to get something done with the existing features and tools.

And I wonder, am I trying to use a hammer on a problem that isn’t a nail?

Realmcrafter, for instance, does a few things very well.  Trying to polish the Zones of Contention game with RC would be a waste of time right now though – because one thing RC does NOT support well is true 3D combat with NPCs.  Works great for pvp, but mobs don’t track Y values very well, so they don’t follow you if you fly up or down…  Nottttttttt so good for a space game!  Likewise, I look at the two Torque kits – both have some limited pvp functionality, both do WOW-style quests, both do skill or class based character building, and a few other bits.  The inherent functionality of both, though, is to make a game that closely resembles EQ, DAOC, or WOW.

Twosided problem, then.  Trying to make a game with those engines that is radically different from the inherent format is going to be much more difficult, coding wise.  But common indie wisdom has long said that you can’t possibly create a WOW clone and expect to compete with WOW.  Sigil Games tried, with millions in the budget, and didn’t do so hot.  Indies don’t target massmarket – they target niches, if they want to do well.  Indie MMOGs should target a niche group of the players (like hardcore pvp, as I have been concentrating on), or an unused genre of some sort, or something else that isn’t really being done right now.  And they should innovate, too – innovation is one of the key things indies can do that big games usually cannot, so design to your advantages.

So, question to ponder for the day: how does one create a game that matches the inherent ‘feel’ or systems of play from the EQ-cloneset, but is in some way viable as an indie marketed game?

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