Of gardens and hundred acre woods…

Ever start out trying to make a small backyard garden plot, and then look at it and realize it is trying to turn into a hundred acre wood? No? It’s about how I feel right now.

I just turned in my design doc last night. Emailed it at about 11:50pm EST, about ten minutes before the deadline for the initial entry. It’s still a work in progress, mind you. I really would not consider an MMO design doc done til all the mechanics are completely laid out, for instance – and because I have still not 100% settled between the two Torque MMO Kit options, that’s not possible yet, so all I have are the broad strokes instead of specifics. Nor do I have an art list, with every art element required added. Nor are all of the lines of dialogue written, although that’s not *usually* frontloaded into the design doc, I’d like to get it completed ahead of most of the development. Story first, remember. The overall map is done, but not the specific placements of each building and object, nor are things like dungeon maps in there yet.

Still, it’s a decent starting point.

My biggest concern is that the game might be trying to get away from me… “Simplest Game” is a concept I have been trying to use as a guiding principle, and there is a serious danger here of being too ambitious – getting too far ahead of myself, trying to put too much on the design plate. Looking at the design last night, as I prepared to send it off, I wondered if I might have done that. Took too many chances on new ideas and mechanics – added too many zones and locations – mapped too many cities and regions…

Hard to say. But I will be taking a long, hard look at the game design to see about trimming any fat.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been debating posting the design doc as submitted. I don’t want to give out any specific quests, dialogue, or other adventure-specific materials. That would ruin actually PLAYING the game for folks! šŸ˜‰ But that sort of thing isn’t in the doc yet, and I think that most of what’s in there right now will interest people, rather than spoil things.

No one else from the contest has given out their design doc yet. It’s one of those game dev taboos, you know – one of those things you Just Don’t Do. NDAs and secrecy cloud the transmutation of ideas and concepts into hardened document. So I’m thinking maybe I’ll be different. šŸ˜‰ Let everyone else see my writing. Maybe I’ll get some good comments. Maybe my formating of the doc will help someone else out who’s having a rough time. Maybe my wonderful prose will inspire someone to volunteer to help my game out. Who knows? But – I’ll give it a shot and try tipping this sacred cow.

I’ll leave the PDF link in a comment, so click the comments link at the top of this message to read where it is. That’ll leave a track of how many views that page has had, so I know roughly how many people downloaded it. I’m just curious how much interest there will be. šŸ˜‰

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Of gardens and hundred acre woods…

  1. Kevin McLaughlin

    Link to the design doc is:
    http://www.roleofthehero.com/rothdoc.pdf

    Enjoy! All material in there is copyright me, as of yesterday, so please do not purloin it. The rough format is open for anyone to use though, and if you need a nice template for OpenOffice for a design doc, I can send you one.

    Please feel free to post comments here. Really! I would greatly appreciate any comments you might have. Thanks!

  2. Kevin, if you can, please email me a copy to sharlenwar[at]demuria[dot]com. It would be great to have the template, I’ve been looking for one and none is quite complete.

    I’ve briefly went over the design doc. You don’t have any attributes? I was curious if you’ve got that part fleshed out of course. Overall it is a pretty good document.

    I’ve got a proposition for you Kevin, I was thinking we should maybe work on fleshing out “The Simplest Game Design”. By that I mean, maybe specify what exactly that is, what sort of things to expect, etc. I think in a way this would help. Otherwise if you want, I can move forward with it and try to come up with something, then have you review it. Sure it might not be related to ROTH exactly, but I think it would be a good idea to have one in place as a guideline. Plus it probably would help others who are looking to create their game.

    Bah, I could keep on going. Keep up the fantastic work!

  3. Kevin,

    I have enjoyed this beyond words. If I understand what you haev laid out. you are talking about a world where on a weekly basis the game maps will change. Due to player actions.

    How very cool. There used to be a BBS door called BRE I believe. by a Mr. Patel if memory serves. You sent fleets of star ships out in your solar system (the local BBS) or out into the Galaxy. (Other BBS’s) I always loved that game as when a BBS’s players all banned together, you could mob other servers in the game and cause havok and mayhem. But, you also had to be careful about them coming over and whacking your solar system.

    The idea that a MMO is not a stagnant enviroment. That what clans or players do impacts the world is CRAZY. and I love it. Crazy as you never know what those silly players are going to do. (how do you plan for all options they come up with.) But, the world changing due to their actions is an incredible, exciting, wonderful idea.

    I really look forward to seeing how this comes about.

    I see you having a LOT of time involved. and I hope that it is as exciting for you as I find it. šŸ™‚

    Best of luck.

    Tarly
    aka:Cliff

  4. Kevin McLaughlin

    Shar:
    I haven’t had a chance to get that doc out to you, and won’t till next week (I’m away from internet this weekend), but I haven’t forgotten. šŸ˜‰

    Attributes are not set in stone just yet. They are SO central to many core mechanics that I may have trouble doing more than roughing them out until I have finalized engine selection. As you read in the doc, I’m still unsure which version of Torque MMO Kit to use. The differences between them mean that I will have a much easier implementation if I work with the engine I do end up picking…

    The problem with defining ‘simplest game’ is that what precisely that is varies so much! I’d call Dungeon Runners a simplest game; instanced random dungeons that players can solo or run in groups, simple leveling, very basic game. Dawnspire is another simplest game – almost a fantasy FPS, really, all about instanced pvp with no central connecting world at all. The concept behind simplest game is really a tightbeam focus on specific game elements. Simplest game doesn’t try to do EVERYTHING, like most massmarket games do. It tries to do one or maybe two things, and do them pretty well in a fun way.

    Tarly, thanks for the comments! I think that player interactivity with the world and story are essential for roleplaying to really shine in a game. I also think that more and more players are looking for that sort of “real impact” in their games… People who’ve played more than one game are getting tired of doing things that *should* change the world, but not seeing any changes take place. Hopefully, other games will start working on ways to make this happen too.

  5. Kev:
    I guess I’m wondering myself at how exactly you are going to allow the players to change the world? Now in your document it says that the dev team will work closely with the upper levels of each profession. Does this mean that if someone wants to say invade another kingdom, the dev team will move forward and create content for players to facilitate that?

    So for example, Faction A is invading another province. Will the dev team then create quests revolving around the invasion with a specific end? Thus if Faction A fails, then there will be repercussions that the dev team will need to create new quests for?

    I guess a bit more detail would be required in the design document. It almost reminds me of when I used to run my private UO server using an emulator. That is the same sort of things we did when we had players playing our content. We would allow players to in a way direct us at the sorts of quests they wanted to do, etc. We would put on town sieges, caravan protection, etc.

    ROTH is an excellent project, and I can’t wait to see how far you are going to take this!

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