Well, that’s gone and done it! I tossed my hat in the ring today and entered the Dream Games contest. Wish me luck. 😉
Sorry about the delay in posts here – our twins had their first birthday on the 13th, and we traveled a bit to visit relatives, have parties, and such. Then I was in the middle of a busy workweek afterwards…but that isn’t what you are reading this for.
We last talked about hammers and nails. I got to thinking about the early thoughts I had for MMOs some. In fact, this blog was named after the subtitle for my “dream game”: Role of the Hero, the roleplayer’s world. ROTH was originally a diceless tabletop RPG I released for sale at GenCon 93. I ran a bunch of sessions there, and got tons of positive feedback, sold almost no copies, and tabled it after a while. So when I started working on game dev, that old name popped up as one I wanted to use for My Game.
ROTH is that great compilation of cool ideas I mentioned earlier. ROTH also was originally designed to incorporate some oddball ideas, like requiring new players to have to apply to play; no one could just register automatically. Prospective players would have to answer a quick quiz (with questions drawn from the huge body of world lore I planned to have on the game’s website), ensuring that the player was at least moderately familiar with the lore and backstory of the game. Then they would have to submit a brief background for their character, which would be reviewed by a GM before they were allowed to play.
As strange as this might sound in an era when MMOGs try to grab every single player they can, it’s grounded in some good concepts.
1) It’s an indie game. I don’t want or need hundreds of thousands of people. In fact, too many people too fast could cause scaling issues, and I wanted to keep the game single-shard. So bringing people in slowly via applications sounds idea.
2) I have a theory about players. If you have eight players in a tabletop game, and seven are hack and slash gamers, with one roleplayer, you will almost certainly have a hack and slash campaign. Take the same GM, same game, same scenario, and play it with seven roleplayers and one hack and slasher, and you will have a heavily roleplay focused game instead. By making the game hard to enter, you will tend to just get the people who really want to play. By marketing the game as “THE” ideal roleplaying world, those people will tend to be roleplayers. Ideally, you get enough of a concentration of roleplay oriented players that they generate the sort of game you’re trying to create in the first place.
3) This isn’t really a new idea. A number of the better MUDs and MUSHes used to use similar application processes to get quality members of their communities. Of course, they were usually free to play, and they had no multimillion dollar competitors…. But the core concept is sound, and has worked well in the past.
All of that work on getting roleplayers in, but for some reason I kept getting hung up on getting a workable full pvp design built, with guild wars, castle conquests, and other Shadowbane style elements. There is a roleplayer/pvper overlap niche out there, mind you – and that was what I was looking to tap.
But that hammer and nails thinking has me wondering if that’s the best route to take for a simplest game. I keep rereading that post; and thinking about what sort of game can be made that will be viable, marketable, and still works WITH the engine and kit instead of against it.
Can a fairly standard ruleset with minor morphs to encourage a story focus work at engaging the interest of the roleplaying population out there? Can one, through GM interaction and cooperative narration with the playerbase, build great story through those somewhat archaic frameworks? If the game is small, very small for a “massive” online game, can the game be built more as a large tabletop game instead of a massively multiplayer version of a singleplayer RPG? Focus on story and socializing, instead of loot and grinding mobs?
Those are some of the questions I am trying to address right now.