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“If you could make any game you wanted, and were guaranteed not only enough money to build it to your precise specs, but even guaranteed that it would be a success (in other words, setting aside all financial considerations), what would you make?”

This is part 2 of a 5 part series exploring some of the pen-and-paper settings which have come to my mind as a result of contemplating that question.  Note that, unlike most of my other posts where I refer to PnP RPGs, in this series of posts I’m talking about setting, not system.  I’m not presenting in any particular order, either… just posting them as they come to hand while I scan across my bookshelves.

Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers CoverStar Frontiers Knight Hawks cover

The Star Frontiers setting, from the game of the same name by TSR published in the early 80s, is one of those that I find intriguing less because of any specific element of the setting, but rather because of the overall perspective it tries to accommodate.

The key word here is essentially “frontier”.  No millenia old Empire, no sector-spanning Federation: just a handful of inhabited planets, some not yet fully explored themselves, huddled in a tiny cluster and surrounded by utterly unexplored (and relatively densely distributed) systems of unknown peril and promise.

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This is to be a series of posts (5 to be exact), and was prompted by a question from Kendricke this past weekend.  He asked, “if you could make any game you wanted, and were guaranteed not only enough money to build it to your precise specs, but even guaranteed that it would be a success (in other words, setting aside all financial considerations), what would you make?”  Being a pen-and-paper RPer for, well, forever, my mind automatically went to past exploits and experiences in that hobby, and two of my suggestions made at the time are in the list to follow (Call of Cthulhu and Gamma World).

After some reflection, I decided that there are 5 such settings that I’d truly love to make and explore, all primarily inspired by pen-and-paper RPGs.  Note that, unlike most of my other posts where I refer to PnP RPGs, in this series of posts I’m talking about setting, not system.  I’m not presenting in any particular order, either… just posting them as they come to hand while I scan across my bookshelves.

And so, without any further ado…

Gamma World

Gamma World 1st EditionGamma World 3rd EditionGamma World 4th EditionGamma World Alternity version

Maybe it’s just a result of growing up in later part of the Cold War Era, but I’ve always loved this setting.  The gritty black-and-white first edition of Gamma World, as cobbled together and spotty as the rule system was, really intrigued me for some reason, and I’ve been an avid fan of the setting ever since.  To wit: you may have noticed an omission in the middle of the set of covers above… I can’t show the 2nd edition rules cover because we literally wore it off the book.  I can’t find it to scan it in.  Yes, it was just stapled on, but still…

(There were other influences as well: the Thundarr the Barbarian Saturday morning cartoon series, various books (Hiero, the Pelbar series), and of course, the Fallout CRPG series, all play into this, too.)

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There was a brief exchange of comments during at the MMMOGIG on Saturday that stuck with me and have been kind of bothering me, and I wanted to get some feedback from the larger world.

We were discussing some of the intricacies and expectation of control schemes in 3D MMOs, as I recall: hold down the right mouse button and attempt to turn, you expect to strafe, not actually turn, that kind of thing, and the statement was made that you usually want to try to build on what has been done before… MMO players are, in general, quite used to these control schemes now.  Even if you think you’ve got something better, why force them to learn something different?

The conversation then briefly moved along the same lines to system mechanics.  Hit points… people are used to them, may be uncomfortable without them… even if you think you’ve got something better, why force them to learn something different?

You can probably see where this is headed.  My “dream game” system, for example, doesn’t have hit points per se.  It has disability ratings per hit location which might be said to be kind of similar (sort of), but not “hit points”.  There are hundreds of other innovations, including some far more original than that, which could be cast in the same light.

What I’m asking is, what is your opinion on innovation: what are the limits that are comfortable to you?  How much and what kinds of innovation do you find enticing, as opposed to disturbing?

As always, your feedback is appreciated…

Well, yesterday morning I ended up with two tasks for the day, in addition to some work at the office to get done: replacing my apparently long-suffering, now utterly burned out video card (ah, the smell of burning plastic in the morning… sigh), and getting my lawn down to something below “prairie grass” length.

Guess which of the two got accomplished.  Two guesses, the first one don’t count.  Maybe I can just have my lot declared a nature preserve, and be done with it?

Little progress was made over the weekend on my test-of-concept project, I’m afraid.  It’s actually in a bit of a “broken” state at the moment: I am moving the socket object refs completely out of the individual screen objects and trying it as a single static reference via the main Game object (where it probably should have been in the first place, logically at least), and since that’s only halfway done, there’s no easy way to “disconnect” the network code like there once was. 

I can’t even run the thing at the moment without 50 compiler errors or so popping up at the moment.  It’ll only take a half-hour or so to clean up, but that won’t happen until tonight at the earliest… lol, one week in and already I’ve missed a WSR (weekly status report).  Maybe if I make it bi-weekly? 🙂

Another meetup has come and gone, more people met, another set of topics discussed.  Again, my thanks to everyone who attended, and I extend the invitation to any and all who can join us to do so for the next one.  Details in brief on this meeting were as follows…

Part 1

Another smaller get-together, but again, not totally unexpected.  Given the other events of the day (more below), the somewhat odd scheduling due to the 4th of July holiday earlier this month, and the awesomely beautiful weather, I expected that attendence might again be light.

The gathering was still marked by the illustriousness of the attendees, however.  We had Erik Hyrkas, lead designer for Granite Games (who is working on the upcoming Dusktreaders MMO), Cameron from Random Battle blog and news editor at Ten Ton Hammer, and Brent from Virgin Worlds.  Also in attendance for a couple minutes by cell phone speaker as we were wrapping up “part 1” was Kendricke from Kendricke Tracker blog and editor at EQ2 Warcry.

Discussion topics were all across the board, again.  I got more feedback from Cameron on how exactly his idea for link-locking to improve cross-blog conversations might be laid out/integrated with existing blog site structures.  Erik shared some of his experiences and insights in terms of creating an MMO as an indie.  A few games were discussed (Ryzom in particular got a little attention), reminiscences of past gaming adventures were shared… it was another free-flowing enjoyable discussion of a variety of aspects of the MMO experience.

Decamping to Cuppy’s for part 2

We did break up early, however, to head over to the big event of the day, Cuppycake’s (Tami Baribeau) farewell party.  It was a lively bash, with people of all interests and walks of life, family, friends, coworkers, and of course, some of us MMO oddballs (namely Kendricke, Cameron, and myself) parked in front of the coolers arguing about whether showing the numbers in an MMO was good, bad, or otherwise.

At any other party, I would have expected some very odd looks… the reaction here was more a shrug of the shoulders, and then step in and try to keep up.  Kendricke does tend to dominate the conversation on occasion, however, so it’s really not very difficult to just walk up and join in… you don’t actually have to say much. 😉

I actually met several people, but it was crowded enough that my little psychological flaw (I have a mild phobia re: crowds and crowded situations) kicked in, and I am ashamed to say that I remember none of their names, and did very poorly in terms of following up on opportunities to interact.

There was an EQ1 player that I would have loved to talk with a bit more, get some feedback from her perspective on various things that have happened since I migrated away from the game several years ago; a couple of gentlemen with console game experience (of which I have almost none, unless you want to go back to Atari), with whom Cameron was discussing Final Fantasy and the like, that would have been interesting to talk with, and so on.  In the end, I simply had to throw in the towel, offer Cuppy one last “good luck”, and head out after a couple of hours.

Kendricke talked someone into taking a couple pictures of the “blogger rat-pack”, as it were: from left to right, it would be myself, Ken, Cuppy, and Cameron.  I’m sure someone will post them at some point… feel free to make fun of my sad attempt at looking “gangsta”. (Oh, lordy…)

Next meeting

The next MMMOGIG is tentatively scheduled for August 4.  Location is still to be determined, we may well go somewhere a little different for the next one, but I’d like to nail down the details a bit more before getting too carried away on the possibilities.  Again, my thanks to everyone who attended, and I hope to meet even more of you next time.

“Same bat time, same bat channel”… er, or something like that.

Saturday, July 14, 2pm-6pm.

Kip’s Irish Pub, Molly Room

For those who are also going to Cuppycake’s Congratulatory Bash, the intent is to head on over there as soon as we’re done deciding how we will Take Over the World(TM).  (Sorry, obviously a little loopy from lack of sleep… “Pinky and the Brain” references is one of my warning signs that it’s time to wrap it up for the night.)  If you haven’t already, RSVP with her so she has some idea how many will be showing up (hint, hint) :-).

Just a quick question: what are people’s general preferences in terms of the buttons/icons/whatever related to actions in MMOs?  Do you prefer more abstract buttons, like those in City of Heroes…

City of Heroes HUD Icons

where colors and geometry hint at the functionality, or more picturesque buttons, like those in EQ2 and many other games…

EQ2 HUD icons

I’m starting in on some buttons for my own little experiments, and I’d like to get some sense as to preferences. I’m not sure how much choice I really have, in the long run… the more activity options incorporated into the design, the more complex the buttons will get… but it’s still useful info.

Thanks, in advance…

“Some people who play MMOs seem to think they’re only worth buying if they are equally fun for all players on day one, day two, and day 2,427.”

Moorgard makes some interesting observations in the linked post, which started as a response to this post on LotRO at Adele Caelia’s blog (reminder: which needs to be added to my blogroll).

It is true, MMOs are evaluated a bit differently than single player RPGs in terms of the purchasing decision: I do it myself.  I started to try to evaluate “why”, and figured I’d post some of my ideas, and request some feedback.  (I’d definitely suggest reading Moorgard’s post first, btw, otherwise a lot of the following might not make much sense…)

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With the apparent imminent demise of Auto Assault looming, an old question I’ve pondered before came back to mind recently.

Whatever happened to the code and data that represented Earth and Beyond?  Motor City?  Jumpgate (the original)?  Asheron’s Call 2?  What about games that never even made it to release, like Wish, UO2, Mythica?

Where does all that work, all that creativity, go?  Do the design docs get dumped into a shredder?  Do the tapes get erased, the disk drives reformatted?  Or does all that material sit gathering cobwebs, guarded by ever larger dust bunnies on some backshelf in a warehouse, slowly disintegrating with time?

Why do I ask?  In part, it’s just morbid curiosity.  In part, it’s wondering why some of these companies don’t monetize the assets they’ve generated in a different way after closing the doors.  (I assume it’s because they don’t get up in the morning unless the number has 7 digits to the left of the decimal point, minimum.)  And in part, it’s because in many cases, I wonder what might have been missed the first time around.

Just wondering…

Edit: LOL, I didn’t realize Netdevil was still running Jumpgate.  Skip that one up above…

I kinda “geeked out” this weekend, which is one of several reasons why the blog has been neglected the past few days (sorry).  As I mentioned a few weeks back, I downloaded the  XNA release to play with.  Hadn’t had much chance to really dive in until just this past Saturday, tho.  I’d done a little playing around with the textures and the like, but an hour at a time just doesn’t let you get very far.

This weekend, I kind of just dived in and lost myself.  Too much fun… and yes, I’m a geek.

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Promos and Events

Live in or near Mpls/St. Paul? Interested in talking MMOs with other like-minded people? Join us on either June 30th or July 14th at MMMOGIGs #1.9 or #2.1 (or both!), details coming soon. You can also join us in Google Groups or to discuss the when/where of the next meeting, provide feedback, etc.
July 2007
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