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MMFG: Massively Multiplayer Freeform Gameverse

By Russell Dovey in Technology
Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 05:44:04 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Imagine a game which followed the freeform ideal to the limit. A game that incorporated all genres from first-person shooters to space trading sims to 4X space operas.

A game where someone could fight as an FPS grunt, in a battle directed by a tactical squad commander, as part of a wide battle front directed by an RTS general, which was but one part of a planetary war planned and executed by the ruler of a galactic empire.

A game where you would never go on a cookie-cutter mission stamped out upon request by a vending NPC, because all "missions" would be requests from other players for a particular service, such as transporting a combat team to an enemy stronghold, designing a corporate headquarters, or tracking the movements of a spy working for a foreign power.

Picture this, if you will:

You are the legendary adventurer Corona Saturday Ibn Friday, discoverer of the Bog'Hara Triangle, liberator of the Vyrtt'sa Hyperspace Bypass, and amateur zero-gravity pet arranger.

With the rest of the crew of the privateer ship Other People's Business, you have been climbing around a crashed Utopia Corporation dreadnought for two days, searching for an infocube containing the schematics of a secret executive facility.

This system, only recently discovered, has no other obvious human activity, so you're not expecting any trouble apart from the vicious native predators, the dreadnought's automated defense systems, and the unknowable dangers of the frontier.

Finally, on the messy corpse of a high-ranking courier, you find the right infocube, have a celebratory discussion with your crewmates, and call a dropship down from your starship. Already picturing the fancy new gear you'll buy with your share of the ransom, you head for the exit with the others.

However, on the way out, you get a call in your earpiece. The panicked voice is that of your captain, who stayed in the command ship to direct your search and monitor the surrounding area. His only words are "Get out! Get out of there!" and a glowing green line is laid over your vision, showing you the captain's hastily calculated shortest route to the dropship's position. All attempts to reach the captain come up with: "The player is offline, undergoing resurrection, or has engaged their privacy filter."

The team heeds the captain's last warning, racing for a hole blasted by some unknown weapon in the ship's hull, conveniently providing an emergency exit for people using antigravity.

You're the last out, covering the rear. Fifty metres away from the ship, floating out into the night, your initial relief turns to sick realisation as your radiation counter suddenly starts chattering wildly. Unable to stop yourself, you turn around and look up to see a second sun falling out of the sky.

A cluster of kinetic spears, glowing like a rock in a blast furnace, end their hundred-kilometer powerdive in the dreadnought's guts. The explosion almost fries you through your expensive field-reinforced combat suit, and wrenches you through the air out into the jungle. You end up a kilometer away, battered but still alive, and luckily your synaptic implant still holds a copy of the plans for the Utopia Executive Harem, where all the Utopia execs go to "unwind".

Seeing unfamiliar dropships screaming towards the crash site, you float carefully through the living canopy, towards a Precursor temple mentioned by your captain when he did the preliminary scan. Once there, you will hopefully be able to find some sort of transport off this rock.

But since it's 3AM, and you've got to take the kids to fencing practice at ten, you hide the information cube under an otherwise unremarkable rock, mark the location on your inertial guidance computer, and log yourself out of the game. Tomorrow, it will still be there, unless Utopia searchers get very lucky.

Then, with the money that you'll get from selling the infocube to Utopia's major rival in the entertainment industry, Paradise Unlimited, you'll be able to hire a team to break into the Utopia shipyard to steal back the Other People's Business.

After all, the captain will pay quite a bit for his favourite ship...

The difference between this and your standard MMOG is the sheer depth and dynamism of the gameverse, made possible by emergent, instead of manufactured, structure. All the characters in the world would be played by human beings. The vast majority of NPCs would be player-created; robots, genetic constructs, or AI programs, all built using an in-game scripting language. The exceptions might be mysterious aliens, nebula-dwelling rainbow space pythons, or some other unique creation of the designers, which would give people an incentive to explore.

The main challenge facing such a game would be interface design. You would have to have a sufficiently interactive gameworld, with completely mutable objects and terrain, that a character could conceivably dig a tunnel into the enemy's fortress, kill everyone in the war room, give the enemy forces displayed on the tactical map false instructions, place timed explosives at key structural points, and flee, leaving behind a shattered mass of rubble and a demoralised army.

This person should then be able to flee to their waiting spaceship, launch themselves into orbit pursued by enemy fighters, fight their way through the newly hired mercenaries around the local wormhole and return to their ultra-secret base hidden in an asteroid belt to while away their time designing booby-trapped pleasure gardens with poisonous water fountains, explosive-laced ornamental hedges and acid-coated rotating knife doors.

Of course, you couldn't just jump right in and command lots of people. Everyone would start as a new colonist (from another dimension, to explain the sudden new people in-world) after customising their appearance, and work their way into their preferred profession, by whatever means.

Now, why the hell would an individualistic geek want to take orders from some other geek, and risk his virtual hide for some self-styled general? Doesn't it go against our nature?

No! A group/clan/culture/hive (call it what you will) will be much more effective in battle if its actions are co-ordinated using a tactical RTS-style interface by a suitably hardcore commander, using information from spies, airborne drones, satellites, distributed sensor networks, smart dust, turncoats etc. Anyone who just rushes at the enemy using no co-ordination beyond group chat will be outclassed, except for very small engagements.

The MMFG will need to begin as a blank slate, empty of human habitation until the first colonists started to arrive, so the large-scale order, customs, technology and culture of the gameworld can emerge from the combined activities of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, then millions of players. It might confine the initial player influx to one portal thingy in one place on a planet and let expansion proceed from there, but this is a conservative and restrictive approach. If instead there were a hundred portals in places all over the starting planet, then players could freely choose from between a variety of unique landscapes, climates and levels of habitation, and would not be forced to stick to the developer's idea of a good spot.

The otherdimensional colonists (from an overpopulated galactic culture with cheap four-dimensional hyperfield technology) would trickle, then pour out of the portals carrying nothing but the free gear given to them by their government. As players looked for resources to build objects, found them, built shops, storehouses and clan bases, each portal would seed the organic growth of a player-built city. Thus, the first players would get to build a civilisation from the ground up. Since they'd start with access, for a fee, to high-tech molecular manufacturing technology, this wouldn't take as long as you might think.

The more advanced elements of the scripting system might be released by the developers one by one at certain intervals, allowing them to carefully control the level of tech in order to let the player-designed equipment, vehicles, spacecraft etc mature sufficiently without being overwhelmed by speed.

The admins could eventually make it even more interesting, if they brought mysterious aliens into the mix. Scripted telekinetic space-going cacti, anyone? Maybe the gameverse could be made even more varied and interesting by magic being discovered on some "primitive" planet, enabling new types of gameplay, or if someone found a portal which seems to lead to the afterlife, making it possible to conquer death itself... There would always be a place for the creative urges of the developers, never fear! As long as the developers kept to changes that enabled new things for players to do, they wouldn't impinge on player freedom.

Deus Ex, Privateer, Half-Life, Warcraft, The Sims, Master of Orion 2, and more, all in one game!

Wouldn't it be grand?

Here is a little portrayal of the experience that you could expect from this MMFG, how that would integrate with other player's experiences, and some detail on the gameplay:

From Grunt to Galactic Overlord: A Whimsical Journey

You're a gamer of the near future. You've played a lot of multiplayer. You were there when Doom came out, when Quake's first internet server came online, when Ultima Online started telling everone they could kill Lord British, ya know, in theory.

You've OBLITERATED thousands of town guards on dozens of MUDS, killed uncounted numbers of cute fantasy creatures on several Everquest clones, neatly thrown grenades right through the door of uncounted enemy flagbases, and fought numberless legions of the walking dead.

But you're bored. Playing Grand Theft Auto made you realise what you've been missing: Freedom. The freedom to fight battles your way, or not fight them if you feel so inclined, or destroy your enemy before the batttle is even joined.

Therefore, when a new MMOG comes out, promising freeform gameplay, unprecedented scope, and the chance to shape a new kind of online world from its very conception, you sign up, suspecting that it will turn out to be just another Anarchy Online.

You download the client, lovingly french-kiss your ADSL router (for without it, there's no way you could play this game) and log in for the first time.

After tweaking your appearance, you step through a portal and emerge on a high bluff, overlooking a lush valley filled with rainforest, surrounded by tall mountains. A few clearings are near the base of the bluff, and in them you can see a number of buildings, as well as some holes, with the unmistakable forms of fellow players wandering around between them.

As you stand there and inventory your gear, you notice something strange. Players keep stepping out of the portal behind you, every few seconds,  but instead of standing around some head straight off down the valley.

Curious, you follow one, readying your government-issue taser. After a little while your quarry enters a clearing, and like a newbie dumbass you follow him. You just have time to see a shallow tunnel slanting into the ground with shiny metal streaks at the bottom before the guy turns around, says "Welcome to our clan, buddy" and shoots you in the head with a shotgun you hadn't noticed before.

Before you respawn from the portal, after reading a little how-to on saving your current character in the transmat portal's near-infinite memory, you wonder where he got that gun, and what he meant by his cryptic, boom-click-click greeting.

Soon, you find out that the shotgun toting guy's clan, called "Legion Of Our Half-Inflated Dark Lord", only recruits people it has killed in battle, and that the whole "shotgun blast to the head" thing wasn't personal, man.

You also find that one of the devices you arrived with is a combination prospecting/digging/mineral extraction tool, enabling you to locate minerals, gems or obsidian or gems within ten metres horizontal and two metres vertical, slowly strip away soil at any angle in a wide swathe, and extract anything useful from the soil as it expels it into the air, which simultaneously masks your view of the surrounding area and makes a big, noticeable fountain of dirt that anyone for a hundred metres around can see.

First Person Shooter

Deciding that you don't want to bother travelling far enough out into the valley to avoid being seen by hostiles while you mine dirt, you decide that you will most easily be able to have some fun as an FPS grunt in the illustrious ranks of the LOOHIDL clan. You are inducted into the clan, given a badge to wear, and a shotgun just like the one that greeted you to the clan. As you wait for people to attack, guarding the mine's entrance alongside "Mr Shotgun", he tells you how that shotgun came into being.

"See, the clan designer, after designing the shotgun on his infopad, detailed me and a few grunts to escort him to the transmat portal's backside as he carried a heavy load of minerals from that mine down there."

"The portal, which doubles as a replicator, took the design from the infopad and the raw materials mined by the clan, and spat out a brace of shotguns, charging a set amount of gold determined by the size of the order and its complexity."

You are attacked just as Mr Shotgun is telling you about the designer's ideas for a grenade launcher, and suffer your second death in the world, but not before taking out five of the attackers.

Since you saved yourself in the portal, and your first dividend was stored as credit in the transmat, you are unfazed about respawning and heading back to the mine. As it turns out, the attack was repelled, and you are now accepted as a full member. You continue to have fun as more people arrive, the clan expands its operations, and new weapons are designed for you to play with. The first couple of months go well.

Vehicular Combat

Vehicles are involved in almost all modern FPS games, and rightly so; the experience of running Hunters over in a Warthog has a special kind of satisfaction for anyone who's been stuck with no ammo when one of those bastards is coming for you.

Therefore, when an imagineer joins your clan and shares his design for a giant pogo jeep that kills people by squashing them and simultaneously lets you see the surrounding terrain from an elevated position, you happily volunteer to test-drive the thing. After a few messy high-speed impacts with the canopy, it becomes clear that the pogo's combat effectiveness is rather limited in the jungle, but it is still great for getting the drop on an enemy clearing if you haul it up a tree nearby.

More designs, including a quad bike which unfolds into a quad-mortar and a meticulous reconstruction of Leonardo's wooden tank, make the jungle an even more interesting place. The clan starts cutting roads between its mining sites, bringing faster travel along with an increased risk of ambush.

A self-declared pacifist makes a lot of gold by building an armored combat ambulance and driving through ongoing battles promising "a quick evac or your money back!" He proves to be a remarkably good driver, and soon attracts a following of loyal ninja paramedics, who have specialised in healing other characters without any thought of non-financial reward, and somersault, leap, and crawl through battlefields healing the dying without fear or favour.

All this means that you get killed in novel ways all the time, but at least you're not bored.

Deus Ex: Vice City

It's six months since you entered the game, and the world is waking up. The jungle valley is now dotted with little settlements, and your clan controls several of the biggest.

You've demonstrated your real ultimate power through countless battles with waves and waves of the enemy's own men, and you feel the urge to get involved in higher things, like assassination, "explosives testing" in locations specified by discreet financial benefactors, stealing prototypes from the secure labs of imagineers, and terrorising small towns, enslaving their population to mine gold.

You start getting niggling little worries about being labelled a complete and utter bastard by half the planet's population, and decide to dedicate yourself to protecting peaceable types from the game's less ethical players.

You even forgo a fee, because you are a kind and decent altruist who knows that the equipment on an assasin's corpse will be easily convertable to gold at one of your clan's guarded market halls.

This is where the game starts to have real depth, as you use intrigue, espionage, and politics to make a true reputation for yourself, not only in the valley but in the wider gameworld.

Real-Time Strategy

Okay, so you've done well. You've amassed a ton of loot, your gear is the very latest thing from those quasi-elvish weaponsmith types over in Forest Primeval, and dozens of soldiers now follow your banner into battle. In fact, so many players have joined what is now your clan that you're starting to have trouble co-ordinating your troops in ever-larger battles.

However, just yesterday you got a private message from a whizzo scripter regarding her new product: the Mr Starcraft(tm), a display screen with a stylus, remotely linked to an airborne drone, which can allow a commander to monitor a battle from above and translate on-screen unit directions to a little pathfinder arrow in a simple soldier-worn HUD, also available from the soon-to-be-rich whizzo scripter.

With the new advantage over your enemies that the device gives you, you start taking more interest in directing battles and less interest in being there, until you give up FPS action entirely and direct the actions of your mercenary force from your secure underground lair, hidden under a ski resort inside one of the mountains around the valley.

(Another route to RTS glory is to become a designer of scripted robots, and use the cash you gain from selling them to fund your secret cyborg army of the night, composed of hordes of genetic constructs upgraded with nanoware and slaved to a Mr Starcraft.)

Flight Sims

You aren't having as much fun directing combat as you used to, and one day you are approached by some clever wag who has used the results of a painstaking study of the gameworld's physics to build a simple, fast, maneuverable, flying vehicle called a "spruce moose" for some arcane personal reason.

When you hear about this, you just HAVE to have a go, and you have a newly bought spruce moose fitted with a high-velocity automatic flechette cannon.

With a bit of practice, you learn to fly the thing without careening wildly into a mountain, and start assisting your troops by bombarding enemy positions from the air. Initially, you have a merry old time wasting enemy troops with strafing runs and laughing maniacally.

However, the enemy soon starts using shoulder-mounted homing missiles, giant net cannons, and air-defence lasers, and the first time your craft explodes in mid-air, disgorging your relatively flimsy self to be roasted by laser fire, you realise that perhaps piloting isn't your thing. Your mind is definitely made up when your enemies start using aircraft themselves and prove to be remarkably good at dogfighting, and you go back to directing your army.

Still, you are now newly intrigued by the tactical complexities introduced to your battles by air power, and a fleet of powerful, diverse aircraft becomes a mainstay of your strategic capability.

Civilisation Online

You've done very well. Your little protectorate, with its own army, police force, resource mines, research teams, air force, and jetpack baseketball team, controls the entire valley, successfully fending off attacks by other clans and ejecting internal separatists.

You spend less and less time directing your army, which is now taken care of by your trusted generals, and more time juggling the various balls of power: constant expansion, resource acquisition, public confidence, economic growth, technological prowess, and stopping all those other wannabe emperors from doing so.

As a result, you set your most highly-paid designers to come up with a strategic interface, through which you can give orders to generals, monitor market activity, access your vast array of armoured surveillance zeppelins, order mass consignments from the transmat, plan new construction, and talk to leaders of other clans.

With this innovation, your protectorate becomes a true empire as you direct a grand strategy of expansion against neighbouring protectorates, using the advantages brought by your new interface to co-ordinate entire armies like chess pieces. Your expansion is only slowed when news of your strategic interface gets out and every good leader gets one, and you focus on consolidating your power across the vast area of terrain your armies now occupy.

Expand, Explore, Exploit, Exterminate, Privateer Plus

The planet's frontiers, though still quite huge now that some bright spark has started building submarines, not to mention the recent discovery of a world-girdling maze of twisty huge passages (none alike) by an overenthusiastic demolitions expert, are becoming claustrophobic.

Though your empire is great, many others jostle for position on the various continents and islands, now well-explored. Your population is becoming restless, since there are increasingly few places for them to explore and stake out, and instability threatens all your hard-won power.

Luckily, another empire's chief imagineer, in a fit of rapturous generosity, releases his plans for a space drive across the hypernet, beginning a wave of spaceship building and a new expansion into an infinite frontier, each empire scrambling to expand into the galaxy, explore its wonders, exploit its resources, and exterminate their rivals.

You feel like it's all beginning again, as your newly humbled empire is confronted with the jungle of worlds, stars, asteroids, and stranger things out there in the gameverse.

Still, at least you're not bored...

Fin. (not the shark, the French kind.)

This article is dedicated to 5pectre, because he told me to write it down after a conversation on #kuro5hin involving, among other things, the amazing smash-hit cross-genre game "Halo vs Barbie Home Makeover".

(note: this is a repost, and most of the 40 or so comments attached to the old article were well worth reading.)


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I'd play this game just for:
o the giant pogo jeep. 5%
o the ol' kinetic spears from orbit trick. 5%
o the zero-gravity pet arranging. 7%
o the chance to become king without some watery tart throwing a sword at you. 14%
o shooting people in the face. 8%
o enslaving people and forcing them to mine gold. Muahaha! 14%
o controlling a dread army of cyborg drones. 7%
o strafing the enemy in my spruce moose. 5%
o jizzing my pants while trading in space. 8%
o I don't like multiplayer games, so I wouldn't play this. 23%

Votes: 56
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o Anarchy Online
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o comments attached to the old article
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Display: Sort:
MMFG: Massively Multiplayer Freeform Gameverse | 127 comments (112 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
Your radical ideas (2.25 / 4) (#5)
by Zerotime on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 11:09:04 AM EST

have already kinda occured to others.

"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
In general concept, my idea is not original. (none / 2) (#6)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 11:30:44 AM EST

In my conception of the MMFG, I try to avoid as many as possible of the limitations in design that other ideas along the same lines unconsciously imposed on themselves, while attempting to restrain my imagination to what can be accomplished with existing or near-future software, hardware and bandwidth limitations.

Some sacrifices have had to be made, but I think that I've made an internally consistent vision which actually shows how different interfaces and genres could exist in the same gameworld, by using a flexible scripting language akin to the one used in Second Life which would allow players to be truly original in designing new objects, not just fitting together pieces made by the developer. With a really, really good, deep physics engine, true research is possible within the game, allowing inventors to actually come up with new technologies in-game.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Re: Good Physics (none / 2) (#16)
by fae on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 03:34:25 PM EST

There are few space games I've seen with good physics. When I say good physics, I simply demand that they closely approximate Newtonian physics.

Many games have shameful physics for space flight, such as airplane-sim flying. X-Wing series and Homeworld have this problem.

Asteroid breaking games, Frontier, Frontier FE, Terminus, Lander (by Psygnosis). These are games which let you go in one direction while facing another. They understand what acceleration is.

Lander stands out as it has a good rotational physics as well. If you clip your vehicle on an edge you'll start spinning, and then your thrusters attempt to compensate.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]

All good points. (none / 1) (#18)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 04:00:31 PM EST

But the MMFG would have to do better than Newtonian physics - if a player wishes to build an aircraft, they've got to work out some way of holding it up. Ideally, they would be able to use the Bernoulli effect like any normal plane.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

oh dear (none / 2) (#19)
by fae on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 04:04:04 PM EST

That sounds computationally very difficult. It cannot be done on a server if there are many people.

Would you offload tasks to the client and then trust that they aren't cheating?

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]

Could cheat (none / 1) (#56)
by CodeWright on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 03:38:15 PM EST

In the "imagineer" design interface, describe "flight" as one of the intended attributes and the physics modeling system would describe the amount of Bernoulli effect lift that the design would generate in a number of significant orientations. The design would then be "annotated" with these features. If the design were instantiated in-game, then it would just use FPS-style simple client-based flight model with flight model parameters based on the properties set by the design interface physics modeler. Server side dead reckoning would spot check to prevent (minimize) cheating.

This gets around the complexity of server-side realtime high-fidelity physics modeling.

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
physics (none / 1) (#20)
by clover_kicker on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 04:16:42 PM EST

Wow, i've seen this conversation before :)

For my money, better physics doesn't always make a game more fun.
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]

Well, it doesn't have to be realistic physics... (none / 0) (#21)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 04:46:24 PM EST

...just physics that enhances gameplay by acting in a consistent and logical manner, so it can be exploited by technology. For example, strong Podkletnov antigravity could be built in from the start, so that when someone figured out how to make a magnet spin really fast, they'd have an antigravity device. This would be much better than just releasing an antigravity doodad.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Another game (none / 2) (#34)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 11:13:32 PM EST

Independence War and the sequel have excellent Newtonian physics. There's a flight computer that manages your thrusters in an approximation of X-Wing style flight, but your ship is still ponderous and to be effective in battle you will be using overrides to manually fire thrusters. You could even turn the computer aid off and do some crazy tricks if you were good.

The game does "cheat" a little by having a non-Newtonian "LDS drive" for fast interplanetary travel and a "Capsule drive" for something approaching interstellar teleportation. (If I remember right the capsule drive took you to another universe where everything was smaller, you drove the ship a few kilometers, and popped back into our universe light years away.) But you do spend most of your time in Newtonian flight, and all of your combat except desperate retreats. (Weapons don't work under LDS drive.)

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

cool. (none / 1) (#35)
by fae on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 11:55:55 PM EST

I've heard about Iwar before but never seen it. I'm downloading the demo for I-War 2 right now.

The flight system sounds like this one game Terminus. You can set your speed and it will attempt to get you going that speed in the direction you're facing, or you can turn off the computer and just coast. It all takes place in one solar system, and you go between regions by going through preset portals.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]

Be sure to look for the first one. (none / 0) (#37)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 12:38:37 AM EST

It will probably be very hard to find, and I couldn't even get it to work under XP (but the problem seemed specific to my computer rather than a general one), but it is worth it - the first one has a lot of details that the second one left out, like the way that your ships systems could be damaged and you could prioritize repairs. This led to stuff like getting the crap shot out of me and going to the engineering screen to get one missile launcher and one axis of rotation (if needed) back up before the enemies fixed their own stuff and came in for the kill.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

oohhhh (none / 0) (#42)
by fae on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 03:16:34 AM EST

The atmosphere in the I-War 2 demo is just right. I love the game already!

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
Well, uh... (none / 1) (#47)
by Zerotime on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 08:32:41 AM EST

I wasn't actually complaining or anything, and your idea is a lot more interesting (and much, much better imagined) than the one on E2.

"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
Suggestion (2.55 / 20) (#12)
by metalfan on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 12:28:36 PM EST

Since what you are proposing is essentially a simulation of the universe, I suggest you save yourself a lot of time and money, and go outside.

No, this game is not a simulation of reality. (2.75 / 3) (#15)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 02:25:07 PM EST

For one thing, even if it was, then isn't it better to kill lots of virtual avatars in a war than to kill real people?

Also, this game has several aspects which reality does not:

  • Player resurrection from the last save point.
  • Various wacky developer wild-cards.
  • The ability to choose your own face and appearance.
  • Giant pogo jeeps.
  • Everyone's unimaginably rich compared to us, since they have nanotech.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Gah. I hate it when sleep dep makes me prissy. (none / 0) (#22)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 05:38:31 PM EST

Ignore my humourless reply above. Sheesh.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

+1, Giant Pogo Jeeps [nt] (none / 2) (#36)
by metalfan on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 11:56:40 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Tell me where (3.00 / 4) (#17)
by fae on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 03:40:58 PM EST

Where in reality will they let me fly a space ship? I'll gladly abandon my video games.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
try nasa. (2.25 / 3) (#23)
by noogie on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 05:49:38 PM EST

[ Parent ]
NASA has nothing (3.00 / 4) (#24)
by fae on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 06:17:55 PM EST

I ask for the ocean and you show me a puddle.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
This sort of thing is easy to achieve, (2.37 / 8) (#27)
by ninja rmg on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 07:37:27 PM EST

You just have to give up on modelling it after reality. Real physics, 3d perspective, etc. are entirely unnecessary and computationally and logistically infeasible anyway. Even projects to implement traditional large scale online role playing games get mired in the drive for graphics and variety of realistic play (see Worldforge).

If you look at the history of video games, it becomes immediately apparent that graphics and realism are wholly unnecessary. Look at roguelike games. Still popular, still exhibit more depth than almost any other kind of game. Why? Because they do not get mired in realism and graphics. Want spaceships? Look at vector games like Xpilot. These things could be the foundation of a huge online game simply because they demand relatively little in terms of computational resources. Combined with facilities to cross over from one server to another, the size of the game world could be limitless.

Despite the recent success of flashy first person shooters and real time strategy games, what makes a game is good fundamentals, not graphics and neato features.

Classic bad game design. (2.53 / 13) (#28)
by StephenThompson on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 08:59:53 PM EST

This is a classic of bad game design.  It is a hodge-podge of vignettes from several genre games imagines being all things to all people.  However it lacks focus and structure.  It is one thing to say that the game is going to be good and content such as quests is going to be player driven, it is quite another to put into practice.  

Successful games rarely use player-driven content.  Players play games for fun, not work, and as any game designer knows, content is work.  The average player does not have the imagination to create interesting content and cannot be counted on for making a game interesting for other players.

Successful games almost never free-form: games have rules which restrict the players actions.  These rules are what make the game more than just a bunch a fantasizing and provide structure and goals.  A game conceived without a set of rules, or a game system, is not a game at all.

Games design is guided by principles and philosophy which limit the scope of the game; a game with too large of a scope cannot be implemented within feasable time contraints. It is difficult enough to complete a narrowly focused genre game. Attempting to conflate so many games designs that have conflicting philosophies will lead to a pile of gray goo.

BC3K (none / 1) (#29)
by clover_kicker on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 09:07:16 PM EST

>Attempting to conflate so many games designs that have conflicting
>philosophies will lead to a pile of gray goo.

Derek Smart, is that you?
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]

I missed the reference (none / 0) (#30)
by StephenThompson on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 09:40:27 PM EST

who the hell is derek smart and why do you keep asking people that

[ Parent ]
Derek Smart (none / 0) (#31)
by kjb on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 09:48:31 PM EST

go read up on the game "Battlecruiser 3000 AD".  Derek Smart is a, uh, "character".

Now watch this drive.
[ Parent ]

Tune in tomorrow (none / 1) (#84)
by ZorbaTHut on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 01:31:39 PM EST

when kjb discusses the solar system!

"The sun is, um, big. And hot."

Honestly, one of the things I've always wanted to see is Derek Smart, Alex Chiu, and Gene Ray in a debate together.

I'd *pay* to see that, actually.

[ Parent ]

u r teh smart (none / 1) (#32)
by clover_kicker on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 10:05:57 PM EST

Your "grey goo" comment perfectly described Mr. Smart's game, Battle Cruiser 3000. It was a tremendously ambitious design that never really got implemented. ISTR his publisher eventually lost patience with the constant delays and shipped a beta version of his magnum opus. Derek spent a couple of years patching that festering pile of shit. He never did achieve a playable game, to my knowledge.

Derek was not an easy fellow to like, at least on usenet. There were a few dozen personality conflicts, rabid stalking fans, rabid stalking detractors, a PhD of questionable authenticity, and tens of thousands of messages in the appropriate newsgroups... Derek Smart/BC3K is a minor net.legend.
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]

Good idea, fatal flaw (2.66 / 15) (#33)
by bugmaster on Sun Feb 15, 2004 at 10:44:20 PM EST

This is a good idea in general, but it relies on two faulty assumptions:
  1. Most players like their game to be complex and based on deep social interactions
  2. Most players like performing daily maintenance tasks on their characters
Assumption #1 seems intuitively true, but it's not. In practice, most people like to win -- individually, not in groups. It's much cooler being the baddest bastard in the world than being on the political council of the clan of people which, collectively, represent the best clan in the world. This sort of attitude makes cooperation impossible: why should I listen to what some random dude tells me to do, when I could go out and pop clueless n00bs in the head with my railgun ? If you don't believe this is true, you should try playing on the public servers for Counterstrike or even Warcraft. Individualism is simply part of human nature.

Assumption #2 is false because daily maintenance tasks -- such as buying fuel from your ship, fixing your weapons, mowing your lawn, etc. -- are just the kind of thing that people want to avoid by playing games. Even the real world includes some tools to minimize these tasks; for example, my cellphone bill is paid automatically each month through my credit card. Of course, your game can include several similar tools, but then you might as well eliminate all these realistic tasks altogether.

These problems, and the immense programming challenge of creating a truly free-form game, are IMO the reason why games like this will never be popular, even if they do somehow get released. Sad, but true.

Oh wow, did you get that one wrong (none / 3) (#49)
by lonesmurf on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 09:37:37 AM EST

My brother is a MMORPG fanantic. And the two things you just said are untrue.

1. From what i've heard from him ranting, it's the CLANS and the belonging to the most badass clan (or toppling the most badass clan, etc.) which is so much fun in a lot of games. 2. Have you PLAYED these games? It's all about mindless maintenance! SMACK. SMACK. LEVEL UP. SMACK SMACK SMACK.. ad infinitum.

Personally, I've actually thought about this kind of concept before and think the only thing holding it back is a technological problem of having to have many clients . Although that would be great for profits.. think about it: to play the FPS grunt part, you buy so and so expansion.. to play emperor you need to have beaten grunt, etc. and gained leader status and THEN buy the emperor expansion.. it's just genius.

God the idea gives me giddy shivers.


I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.

[ Parent ]
True and False (none / 2) (#52)
by bugmaster on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 01:36:26 PM EST

Yes, belonging to the most badass clan can be fun, but if and only if there's a clan for you to belong to, as well as other clans for your clan to compete against. If it's every guy for himself, then it doesn't matter even if you do declare some kind of clan allegiance, because it won't make any appreciable difference.

Your brother apparently got lucky because he found a game where most people prefer to play in groups. In most games, however (Diablo, CS, Starcraft, Warcraft, etc.), this is not true: people play to win, not to share the spoils of victory. Other games, such as Everquest, have a necessity for banding together hardcoded into the game (i.e., the fighter/mage/cleric/and maybe thief essential combo) -- but then these games aren't truly open ended, since your options are drastically limited by your class. However, cooperation does fare somewhat better in those kinds of games.

Have you PLAYED these games? It's all about mindless maintenance! SMACK. SMACK. LEVEL UP. SMACK SMACK SMACK.. ad infinitum.
Yes, I have -- in fact, I'd still be playing EQ if I hadn't run out of money before the addiction could really set in. Anyway, back on topic: the level treadmill may be mindless, but it's not maintenance. Killing things gives you an immediate payoff: leveling up. Leleling up also gives you an immediate payoff: more spells, more HP, etc. Which in turn allows you to kill more things. It's a positive-feedback system. However, imagine that, instead of going to the store and finally buying those level-restricted Boots of Butt-Kicking that you've always wanted, you'd have to first go to your landlord and pay him rent... then go to your college administration and pay them tuition... then mow your lawn... then do your laundry... then put gas in your Warthog... then endure telemarketing calls from Spellz'R'Us... then stand in line at the store... then buy the boots finally, but you can't try them out because it's time to sleep now. Sucks, huh.

All these tasks -- payments, house maintenance, laundry, routine communication, vehicle upkeep -- are important in the long term, but they offer no immediate payoff in the short term (unlike leveling up). Analytically, the player can understand that each of these tasks serve some goal, but emotionally, performing these tasks is really really boring. This doesn't meant that people are stupid -- but it does mean that people are still human, and they want to have fun, not get put on hold by Spellz'R'Us because they have too many customers in the queue.
[ Parent ]

I've taken that into account. (none / 1) (#57)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 07:46:24 PM EST

1. The early game will involve a of mindless carnage, but the difference between early players and late players will lie in their equipment, not their level.

Therefore, if a newbie is a good shot, it's quite possible they'll shoot that griefer fucker in the head with a pistol they found lying on the ground.

It also makes it much easier to get good equipment by joining a clan, and protecting the one good imagineer in the lot of you while he devises cool stuff for you all to wear, use, pogo-gib people with, etc.

2. Did you not read the part about the futuristic nano-technology? Making stuff is as easy as putting your design into the transmat with enough raw materials and some gold. You don't need to eat, although you can if you want.

The thing about fuel was interesting. Are you saying that Half-life was a terrible game because there were ammo limits? That Starcraft sucks ass because you have to mine blue crystals and green gas? I think there's a few people'd disagree there.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Re: I've taken that into account. (none / 1) (#62)
by bugmaster on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 09:41:52 PM EST

It also makes it much easier to get good equipment by joining a clan, and protecting the one good imagineer in the lot of you while he devises cool stuff for you all to wear, use, pogo-gib people with, etc.
Again, this sounds really good, but in practice this relies on people who would be willing to imagineer stuff. These people would be very rare and eventuallty extinct, because while you spend your time imagineering, everyone else spends their time buying stock shotguns and shooting you in the head. Imagineering and clans require a lot of cooperation and initial effort in order to pay off; killing n00bz pays off now.
Are you saying that Half-life was a terrible game because there were ammo limits? That Starcraft sucks ass because you have to mine blue crystals and green gas?
No; this was not the kind of drudgery I talked about. Ammo limits and resources were processed automatically: you automatically pick up ammo when you see it, and your probes mine the crystal when you tell them, without your intervention. It seems like the kind of game you want to create would require constant intervention by the player in minute detail -- something almost everyone would love to avoid.
[ Parent ]
I guess it's a balance thing. (none / 1) (#64)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 01:19:36 AM EST

I disagree on point 1. The success of Second Life proves that there are a hell of a lot of people around who have fun JUST from thinking shit up and building it; most of these people would love being a clan's imagineer, where the shit they think up is actually useful to many people.

On number 2, however, you may have a point. Although you do concede, I see, that some level of "drudgery" can be perfectly okay, as long as it doesn't become overly intrusive to the player.

The trick, as I see it, would be to tweak the balance between technological diversity and fiddliness; between being able to build a pogo-jeep and being able to do it simply and logically.

Perhaps the best approach, to avoid stupidity like having to mine saltpeter, carbon and sulphur to make gunpowder for cartridges, would be to have specified little "magic" widgets, that had one basic function, then allow people to combine those widgets in varied and interesting ways. That was, after all, my original idea on this subject. Damn! That'll teach me to change my mind!

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

The Balance Provides (none / 0) (#66)
by bugmaster on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 03:40:23 AM EST

Yeah, you're right about Second Life, but I think it's an exception that proves the rule (i.e., my point). Second Life is a niche game, made for people who want nothing to do but tinker with code and 3d modeling. In fact, I read somewhere that the community suffered a major hit a while ago, when a bunch of MMORPG refugees poured in -- they immediately started blowing things up, screaming profanities at each other, and sniping people in the head -- all without ever picking up the world construction tools.

You're absolutely right about balance "between technological diversity and fiddliness"; however, such balance is, in practice, very difficult (but, perhaps, not impossible) to achieve. This is a problem that permeates all of modern computing, not just MMORPGs.

I like your magic widget idea, but it sounds a bit abstract. I think merely sacrificing some of the realism in favor of simplicity would be good. For example, you could let players buy generic "mining drones", and have the drones mine whatever resources the player wants, with no user intervention. The downside is that you'd lose all the fine control over every aspect of the mining operation (you can no longer manually supervise each vein of ore), but I think this might be an acceptable loss.
[ Parent ]

regarding your points (none / 1) (#116)
by ElChineseTourist on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 03:22:17 AM EST

your idea for number 1. Many people do like to mindlessly win. I do not. I dream for this game.

Aside from whether or not it could ever happen, I am sure that this game is probably not for them.

I do not like performing daily maintenance. If people like me are indeed the only audience for this game, you would be correct. However this is only if the maintenance is boring. In the [i]ideal[/i], perfect game, of course that daily "maintenance" is gonna be fun, and greater than reality. Course this only emphasizes the seeming impracticality of the dream. But what a dream.

[ Parent ]
Cool idea (2.14 / 7) (#38)
by Armada on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 02:00:50 AM EST

Natural Selection combined FPS with Strategy. There's another commercial game out (forgot the name) that does this, too. I guess I just don't see anyone in the open source community coding it cause it would take a lot of money and resources to do.

That's not to say it couldn't be done. I just don't expect it to be.

Timescale is a problem (2.62 / 8) (#39)
by Highlander on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 02:28:19 AM EST

I occasionally hold this kind of idea myself, but there is yet another reason why this won't work well with multiplayer: You need a timescale of one second per second for the FPS game and a larger timescale of at least one minute per second for an RTS game.

I guess you can save parts of the idea by either making it single-player or by making the RTS game have one turn per day.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

Simple. Smaller planets, higher technlogy. :^) (none / 2) (#58)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 07:56:55 PM EST

Travel time is the major problem here, right? Your commander's gonna get bored if he has to sit around for two days while your grunt walks around in the forest?

Well, for one thing, if he buggers off, the game doesn't freeze, his grunts just get tactically outmaneuvered and die horribly, unless of course they send one guy back to tend the Mr Starcraft...

This is a tweaking problem that can be balanced between FPS and RTS. Personally, having played some RTS levels for four hours or more, I think that RTS people would have more patience anyway.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Got a computer, will compute... (none / 2) (#72)
by nkyad on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 09:00:09 AM EST

The best way to deal with group games at this level seems to be letting the computer assume the missing player role. This way people don't get stuck because one member of team is absent doing whatever people do out of the game.

In massive game universes you will expect some average absence - the solution can vary from having defaults at strategic level (that may be even "No action") to letting the game AI take control at a tactical level (if you are fighting an FPS in a group, the group suffer less when someone drops out because the connection went down or because Mon called for dinner "Now, and I mean NOW, mister".

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
speaking of space trading sims (1.20 / 5) (#40)
by the77x42 on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 02:29:47 AM EST

Freelancer is my favorite.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Freelancer (none / 2) (#69)
by UnConeD on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 06:23:38 AM EST

If you look past Freelancer's main campaign (in which the answer to every big battle is 'run away') you get a hollow universe full of pretty pictures and no life whatsoever.

Random generated missions are all the same: 'go to location X and kill baddies'. NPC interaction is laughable. Trading is boring due to fixed prices and no risk at all.
Freighters are mostly useless until the end of the game when you can afford really top armor/guns: turrets aren't really turrets, and wingmen don't exist.

The list goes on... all in all Freelancer is still a nice game if you stick to the main campaign, but the trading and freeform aspect of it is laughable. Space combat also has a bunch of nags which aren't very noticable in the story missions, but which become painfully obvious once you try flying around by yourself and having 'fun', stumbling upon more cool locations, which offer nothing new at all.

[ Parent ]

tell me about it (none / 1) (#73)
by clover_kicker on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 09:39:44 AM EST

Who has the rights to Privateer? We need someone to make a modern version.
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]
Try VegaStrike (none / 0) (#112)
by spurious on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 10:06:53 PM EST

VegaStrike is an Elite/Privateer-like starship trading game. GPL'd, with Linux, Windows and Mac binaries. It's also moddable; mods include Star Trek and Babylon 5.

[ Parent ]
i used to agree (none / 0) (#86)
by the77x42 on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 03:30:14 PM EST

until i stumpled upon all the faqs at gamefaqs.com. try and find the Titan or Eagle ships (the best in the game)... you have to actually fly to some pretty cool locations and befriend a lot of rebels to get them. then you can go off searching for the ship graveyards and upgrade your equipment like crazy. in one system i think one mission got me over $300,000... there's a whole other aspect to the game because once you have those big ships, you can take on the liberty navy (the main good guys in the game) and get in with all the rogue factions. it's a lot more fun if you know where you are going.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
Pfft. (none / 0) (#117)
by Zerotime on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 07:00:21 AM EST

The Sabre is far superior to those flying bricks.

"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
X^2 (none / 0) (#89)
by Eater on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 05:36:22 PM EST

Like Freelancer, only better. Still gets boring after the first couple million credits.


[ Parent ]
Actually... (none / 2) (#41)
by Sairon on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 02:50:30 AM EST

If you want to see someone with similiar ambitions doing something like it already, checkout OneSAF. It's a modernized version of ModSAF, and the OTB is good. Billions of dollars have been spent developing it, it has thousands of users, and several different interfaces for use at different levels.


Hardest problem I see.. (2.20 / 5) (#43)
by Kwil on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 03:30:38 AM EST

..at least coding wise, is setting up some kind of system that could accept items from your "design pad" without it being either enormously limiting or resource (meaning programmer) intensive.

You're going to need some major physics modelling in the system, possibly down to such things as chemical reactions (say one person wants to build a bomb, another wants to build fireworks, how do you handle the difference between the two, and can a smart fella take the fireworks and use them for ammo like one of my friends did (made a home-made gatling type gun for them)?

Good luck with that.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

Wha... Atoms ? (none / 1) (#53)
by bugmaster on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 01:44:00 PM EST

Wait a minute... How did we go from "would you like to play a game ?" to "we need to correctly simulate the electroweak force" ? A game does not need to contain a complete simulation of reality in order to be good and flexible. For example, Morrowind + TES Construction Set is a already a pretty flexible system that allows you to do pretty much anything with the game world -- and it doesn't even simulate gravity or inelastic collisions correctly, AFAIK. As long as you can write some sort of scripts for game objects, and attach them to graphics, you're pretty much set.

Of course, the real challenge here is to prevent rampant abuse ("look, I just coded this sword that kills everything in 1000km radius !"); the other great challenge is to make such a game fun to play, without getting bogged down in mundane tasks ("let's see, I logged in, time to brush my teeth so that my appearance doesn't degrade, and then it's off to work"). I believe these two challenges are actually not worth the effort; still, the "design pad" is not really the problem here.
[ Parent ]

How? Why.. (none / 1) (#55)
by Kwil on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 03:26:32 PM EST

..by the definitions of what he said was possible.

When you have the people designing their own tools, and using previously designed tools as portions of later tools (for instance, a spy sattelite, video monitor, pad interface, heads up display, communication network and helmet) all being put together into one major system (so as to run the RTS portion) and especially when this has to be done by people on the ground in the game (as supposedly none of this existed before), who don't have access to the underlying code.. you're looking at either some serious physics modelling, or some serious programmer time involved.  Because you're looking at some very serious recursion there -- using the game engine to build add-ons to the game engine.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

[ Parent ]
Mods (none / 1) (#61)
by bugmaster on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 09:33:32 PM EST

THat's how all the mods work (Morrowind, Unreal, Counterstrike, Max Payne Kung-Fu, etc. etc.), and that's how Second Life works. I don't see a problem.
[ Parent ]
Okay.. (none / 1) (#120)
by Kwil on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 07:52:04 PM EST

..now show me a mod, or even a combination of mods for a single engine, that can do what this idea does.

Show me a mod that has controllable vehicles that move in three dimensions, while enabling an RTS interface, with deformable terrain, resource harvesting, remote object piloting, visual overlays, and eventually, a full outer-space simulation with links to the objects created on the planet below, so that you could have all of these in a space station built by the players, which of course would behave differently in a non-gravity environment.

Then, once you've done that, show me the mod that allows you to create these things from within the game without any sort of recompile.

Hell, just show me a mod of an FPS that allows you to create something that the designers didn't anticipate (eg giant pogo jeep) without any sort of recompile needed.

Yeah, MOOS can let you create items, I created a nifty little three shell game in one myself once. But the thing is, something you create in a moo can only interact with other items in a very limited way, and there isn't the problem of it having to perform realistically, since it's all actually just text messages and doesn't really have any effect on the underlying system.  

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

[ Parent ]
MOO's do this already.. (none / 1) (#110)
by israfil on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 07:44:51 PM EST

MOO (Mud Object Oriented) executes MOO-code, and the basic rules, beyond the language semantics, the base, room, player, and exit objects are defined as sub-classes of those. The default "Lambda-core" library is a well-articulated social-MUD implementation in MOO-code, but there are others, including more RPG-centric ones. The point is that if you have programmer's permissions, you modify code IN THE RUNNING SYSTEM ITSELF. And you can articulate a programmers interface for in-game programmers, (as opposed to more powerful system/world programmers) which gives you reasonable limitations on what you can create/do. The same could be done in a more visual system, it's just orders of magnitude harder.

i. - this sig provided by /dev/arandom and an infinite number of monkeys with keyboards.
[ Parent ]
-1 unreal (2.00 / 13) (#45)
by F a l c o n on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 04:35:21 AM EST

Great game ideas are a dime a dozen. Come back when you have a working prototype.
Back in Beta (too many new features added): BattleMaster
hostility (2.50 / 4) (#67)
by F a l c o n on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 05:38:29 AM EST

Whew, that was one hell of a hostile rating.

Don't like the truth? Or did I write it too bluntly?

For the record: I happen to be an indie game designer. The critical step is not coming up with the "mother of all games" idea.
The critical step is showing that you can actually do it. That's called a prototype, a demo, whatever.

As for game ideas: They are worthless. Every gamer has at least one. Lots of people I know could write down half a dozen at a moments notice.

Back in Beta (too many new features added): BattleMaster
[ Parent ]

Fair enough. Name six. (none / 0) (#70)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:08:07 AM EST

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

six game ideas (3.00 / 4) (#107)
by F a l c o n on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 07:28:01 AM EST

1) Robinson Multiplayer
All players are stranded on an island and have to survive with what they find, building huts from trees, finding food and fresh water, etc. in addition to dealing with each other.

2) Mad Max Online
After WW3, army base in the desert has survived, must fight mutants and other dangers. Combination of strategy part which determins the missions for the FPS part.

3) There's no Aliens here
Spaceship crashes on planet, players must save the crew before air supply fails and/or hostile aliens rip it apart.
Vehicle-FPS with exploration part (i.e. the map is unknown at game start).

4) Combat Game
Strategy/CoSim game with a twist: Instead of controlling the army during combat, players control their initial positions and their orders, and the battle itself runs mostly non-interactive. During the battle, players can give high-level orders ("defend west", "attack middle") which the units will try to execute.

5) Street Fighter MMORPG
A gladiator/streetfighter like game where players start low and have to build their attributes, learn special moves and buy equipment, magic potions, etc. through gold earned at arena fights. Combines MMORPG with the street-fighter-genre.

6) Space Marines Strategy
A futuristic FPS-for-level-designers. Two teams fight each other over control of the levels. These levels are, however, created by the home team, and thus unfamiliar for the attacking team, which has to explore the level before it has a reasonable chance of winning it.
If the attackers win, the level is added to their supply of levels.
In league mode, each team starts with X levels and is out of the competition if it does not control any levels.

That's six. I could easily write 2-3 pages about each one of them on the spot, like how to solve the problem of people building "unbeatable" levels in 6), or how to create random levels in 3).

I post these here to show that they are, in my eyes, not worth anything. Take 'em. If you write a great game based on these ideas, it was your ability to write a great game that is of value, not my ability to come up with an idea.
Back in Beta (too many new features added): BattleMaster
[ Parent ]

you still bother about ratings? (none / 3) (#71)
by 49399 on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:46:15 AM EST


[ Parent ]
The Thing is : (2.00 / 8) (#46)
by ShooterNeo on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 05:13:21 AM EST

What are you missing in your current life that this sort of fantasy seems appealing?  Well, unfortunatly, admitting something missing implies fault, so the question puts those reading my post on the defensive.  In my own life, I have several huge problems that make fantasy games appealing.  1. I have the normal male sex drive, but thanks to a number of things many here have experienced, have not been having sex.  This problem is quite severe, as I am 22 and nature expected me to be doing it 6-8 years ago.  It should be no surprise that I have stability problems, both physical and mental.  
2.  I am having trouble finding a purpose that actually will allow me to use my talents in the real world.
3.  The real world isn't boring, but most real excitement is very dangerous to me personally and would eventually end my existence.

So there are two possible solutions : I can hope and pray and work my ass off to fix the above problems and others, and someday things may be infinitely better.  Or I can delve into fantasy, where within hours I'll be immersed in a virtual mental world where I start to 'succeed' but some day I'll realize that place is quite shallow and limited and that all my 'accomplishments' are meaningless.  It doesn't make me morally or in any way better to want option one, but maybe the author of this story should consider it.  

Ah, so far from Real Life (tm) (none / 3) (#50)
by spasticfraggle on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 09:51:33 AM EST

I'll be immersed in a virtual mental world where I start to 'succeed' but some day I'll realize that place is quite shallow and limited and that all my 'accomplishments' are meaningless.

Remove "virtual" and you've just described my job >_<

I'm the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]

At the time I had the idea, SLEEP. (none / 1) (#60)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 08:10:21 PM EST

Seriously, though, yes it's escapist fantasy. So what? My life is sometimes quite boring, and I want to unwind.

I'm not stupid enough to believe that even when I get a great job, a wife and kids, a pile of money so big there's snow on it, and millions of screaming fans camped on my lawn bulding effigies of me that they alternately fuck then burn in offering, that I won't sometimes feel like a bit of online gaming.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Nature doesn't expect anything from you. (none / 0) (#125)
by Kuranes on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 04:11:02 PM EST

It just is. Don't scare yourself. You believe anybody's having a normal life?

Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot.
[ Parent ]
Sex is nothing (none / 0) (#126)
by Steeltoe on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 06:18:02 AM EST

I used to have no girlfriend and really wanted this special girl, which changed from time to time (very rarely). I don't really know why, perhaps I bought into the Hollywood-dreams about love. That love is between two persons having sex and mating. However, constricting love this way, is a disaster as not everyone are meant to go this route.

Love is something much bigger than this. Most people that go on *wanting love*, are missing the whole thing. Love is not something you get from others, it is something you GIVE, regardless of what you receieve back.

If you think you *should* be doing something, just because "everybody else does", you are forgetting who YOU are. This will lead to depression and inertia.

First find yourself, then a girl will naturally be attracted to you. With no self-esteem, forget it. The relationship will be riddled with problems because you keep demanding/expecting certain things. Love is there within you. All the people DEPENDING on a mate or anything external for love, will be heartbroken eventually.

I found solutions to my problems in life through courses in Art of Living (http://www.artofliving.org).

It's worth a shot (it's fantastic!), at least way better than feeling sorry for oneself and escaping into drugs and virtual reality.

Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
havent you heard? its okay to like games. (none / 0) (#127)
by markgreyam on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 11:40:37 PM EST

why does everyone assume that just because you are keen to live out a MMORPG thats effectively a huge space opera of star wars proportions that you have to have something missing, or be some sad loser? maybe its because the fucking rat race is boring, and people dont just want to work 8 hrs a day and just sit around and get married and have kids damnit ... they want to be out in the middle of a huge intergalactic society ... okay, ive said too much already ... but seriously dude, in the end what does it matter anyway? just have some fun ... and dont get all worked up on that no sex thing (assuming youre not trolling), its can be pretty overrated ... just whack off, get it out of your system, and get on with it :)

[ Parent ]
-1. what is it? (1.14 / 7) (#51)
by dimaq on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 10:53:07 AM EST

an advertisment? then what for?
a rant?
a fiction post?
an op-ed idea for a meta-game?

An idea to get people thinking. nt (none / 0) (#59)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 08:03:42 PM EST

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Humm,Sounds great, need a developer (none / 3) (#54)
by haplopeart on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 02:41:27 PM EST

...or two, my friends and I scoped out something very similar a few years back. Our target was was to build a fantasy universe, but really what we were designing was a an engine which could be used to do any kind of universe...the fantasy setting was really just the "demo" tech for the engine. Our prime example was a explorer in a dungeon who is presented with a dead end wall. He call see that there is a ledge 10 feet up out of reach he has no "climbing gear" per see, however if he wanted too and had arrows of sufficent strength he ought to be able to fire some arrows into the wall and create some steps. Or drive some spikes, or hammer out hand holds...it was all about unlimited possibilities...
Bill "Haplo Peart" Dunn
Administrator Epithna.com

Witchaven? (none / 0) (#74)
by Zerotime on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 10:23:25 AM EST

It was either this or the sequel, back in 1996 or so, that let you shoot arrows into walls and climb them to reach ledges and stuff. I also, rather bizzarely, remeber it as the first FPS I played that had a "crouch" key.

"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
this would be impossible (3.00 / 6) (#63)
by CAIMLAS on Mon Feb 16, 2004 at 11:30:26 PM EST

This game concept would be impossible, no matter how much I would love to play such a game. Here's why.

Quite simply, it's a massive, massive undertaking. Presumeably, each mode of play would require its own module (one for FPS, RTS control, 'government'/civilization expansion, flight/vehicles, etc.), and they would all have to interact with the same central environment. Think about that - each of these interfaces would functionally be individual programs, in and of themselves. Sure, you'd have the central gameworld, with servers and dynamic environment, but you would need some sort of method to interact with this environment.

It's almost completely unrealistic to expect the gameplayers to script -every-single-component- in the world. It's simply not feasable; you'd either have to have a lot of skilled programmers that actually play the game with strong morals regarding cheating, a simple yet sufficiently advanced scripting language that would take months to conceive, and restrict "not phyiscally possible" scenarios, or some such scenario. Maybe you could hae some sort of "build environment" similar to what SW: Galaxies has, but to a larger scale - but consider how complex that would need to be in order to allow for nearly infinite combinations. You've got to take into consideration these things.

Sure, it could be done. I'm thinking it would probably break down into the following design components (given my limited design knowledge):

  • player control modules
  • player tracking
  • gameworld "AI" (including anything non-player)
  • gameworld terrain and environment generation
  • 'offline player' management
  • and some sort of magic glue to hold it all together
Additionally, there'd need to be literally thousands of programs written for various functions, such as the effects of various enviornmental elements on players, ships, etc., as well as how to handle things such as, say, bringing a ship into planitary descent to dock planet-side (big ship? can it land planetside, or will it crash? small ship? does the user simply end up in the receiving bay of a spaceport, or do we have to do some sort of transparent server transition? etc.) It seems to me as if you don't have a concept of what programming involves.

Another serious consideration to keep in mind would be how to handle offline players. It's kind of unfair to have a single user be able to raid a clan's base, and steal all their cool stuff, because everyone in the clan is currently offline. The only conceiveable fashion I can think of would be to have the player's characters be persistent in the world: hwen the user is offline, the character would be controlled by AI, reacting as the human's score/record demonstrates they should, keeping a consistent kill/whatever average. Of course, nobody owuld like this, and there would be many, many complications, as the designers would have to write hundreds of different AI programs, due to the multifaceted nature of gameplay (argueably one of hte hardest programming tasks).

Then there's the issue of hardware: namely, on the server. While a user is offline, all their data would have to be processed, etc. by the server so as to keep a persistent world. It's simply not economical, let alone physically posisble, to do so using current technology.

I think the level of complexity might be reduced substantially, if the game designers were to 'shape' the game world by creating "government structure", aka clans, buildings, ship types, and other such things throughout the game's life, so as to create more of a coherrent gameplay feel. For instance, a large number of the vendors in the game would likely have to be AI, so as to provide new services, components, etc. as time goes on. However, I don't htink this could compensate for the other technical limitations. I'm waiting, though - I want to play this game. :)

It might just be, but this project seems to be on level of magnitude with designing a next-generation OS, from the ground up, with many, many more considerations to keep in mind.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

I think it's possible. (none / 0) (#96)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 10:12:44 PM EST

The trick is to remember that when I talk about multiple interfaces, it's really all the one interface, looking at the gameworld a different way. The Mr Starcraft, for example, is just a realtime video-feed from a high-altitude drone that puts little red or blue circles around different teams, and lets you click on those circles, then other spots on the map to bring up a little compassy direction/range finder in that soldier's HUD. You can also talk to your own guys, of course. That's the basic sort of thing. As time goes on, imagineers would likely improve upon the basic interface, etc.

To give imagineers more of an incentive to create, it might be a good idea to allow a universal market for object designs. You've just created a new type of weapon, and you want to make some cash?

Put it up on the Market, and allow anyone to make stuff from your design, for a royalty fee each time. Intellectual property, you say! Aaargh! Well, the beauty of it is that each design would be automatically unique, no judge's interpretation required, and identifiable by form, not function.

So IP wouldn't really be a problem, because if you really didn't like it you could just make a widget that did the same thing and post it for free.

In fact, I see that happening pretty much by default, since imagineers generally love this whole open-source shindig, as long as they don't starve. So popular gear would become mostly free over time, thus keeping the entry-level manageable for new users, and encouraging innovation among imagineers. Result: More fun!

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

no, it's not possible (none / 0) (#108)
by CAIMLAS on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 01:28:11 PM EST

It's simply not possible due to the huge amount of resources that would be required to make the game dynamic and balanced.

You don't seem to be aware of the environments of, say, The Sims Online, or Everquest, where people will make objects to use, and they drastically screw up the dynamics of the game: things like having a +4 Sword of Instant Killage that costs 1 gp (I've not actually played either game I mention, but I am aware of what would be possible). This kind of thing would be run into all the time without an EXTENSIVE framework from which item creation would be bound. Game creators spend months and months doing nothing but balancing a game out - and often, such balancing can only be done after the game is played quite a bit, and feedback si gotten from the players. Simply put, there isn't the real-world economy, and simulating it would be inundating: the real-world cost of time + resources of manufacturing something could not be feasibly - let alone easily - implimented.

You also seem to ignore my comments about giving 'imagineers' the ability to create objects would require an extensive -and- simple method through which to create things, otherwise the curve would be way too high, and such creation would not be available to everyone. Not everyone makes game maps or mods, simply because it's an inundating, time consuming, and complex task. Unless it were simple, fun, and not terribly time consuming (ie, design something, and have it churn away in your shop being created for a couple real-time hours while you explore), such tasks would only be done by a select few, resulting in a very drastic polarization of in-game finances: there'd be a couple rich folks, with everyone else sitting at the bottom slaving away for the rich folks' creations.

And you completely ignored the fact that there's currently no elegant way to handle offline players. Either the amount of human-run aspects would have to be significantly scaled down (quests, bases, etc. are run by the computer/AI), or you would have to resort to something more SW: Galaxies-like, where people can sleep in their homes, etc. in order to preserve characters.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

one problem (none / 3) (#65)
by the77x42 on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 02:55:26 AM EST

it's missing a goal.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Damn good point. (none / 1) (#91)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 06:09:19 PM EST

That is the one thing I left out of my article, because I couldn't think of one (except "fun! pogo jeeps! wheee!") before the deadline.

But I had a thought last night before I went to sleep, and I think it could actually work, as incongruous as it seems in an FPS.


Basically, this idea, lifted from Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, means that instead of money, people compete for good feelings from other people.

Approval ratings on a vast scale, you could call it; karma, mojo, whatever! A few games have something similar, but not quite like Doctorow's idea.

However it was actually implemented, it would mean that you got more "cash" to buy stuff in the gameworld the more people liked you or your public doings. This would also discourage griefing, since griefers would be universally hated and get no whuffie money.

The goal of the game would now be a popularity contest, everyone trying to be cooler than everyone else in order to get their approval and sit on a pile of happiness, laughing maniacally.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

well (none / 1) (#97)
by the77x42 on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 10:49:27 PM EST

i was thinking ruler of the universe would be cool too

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
Its a nice thought, but... (3.00 / 5) (#68)
by FishBait on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 06:02:05 AM EST

I played Dark Age of Camelot for a few months a while back and was pretty unsatistfied, and like you had similar dreams of designing the World's Greatest MMRPGTM, complete with player designed objects and free form goals. After thinking about it for a while I realised that it was never going to work.

Such a game would quickly become overrun with bullies and griefers making the game frustrating. For protection, people would band together in groups to enforce rules of conduct, hunting down those continue to do wrong or threaten the group's lands or property. Pretty soon players will find that in order to survive, they must belong to one of these groups and play by their rules. Loners will quickly fall prey to preditory groups.

Because resources are limited, the largest, most organised groups will end up controlling the most resources and basically taking over the game, imposing whatever rules they feel like. Other players will have to tow the line or face consequences that will ruin their play experience.

In other words, such a game will become exactly like real life. You can be sure that if such a game was ever created, one of the first player-made script devices would be a simpler multiplayer game-within-the-game with fixed rules that players would escape to to avoid facing the complex banality of their simulated existance.

If only it were true... (none / 2) (#79)
by mstefan on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 12:38:59 PM EST

For protection, people would band together in groups to enforce rules of conduct, hunting down those continue to do wrong...

That was an assertion made back when Ultima Online hit the street. It didn't happen, at least not in a significant way that lasted for any period of time. Having played the game back in the good old "Dread Lord" days, it was a lot of fun, but the social experiment aspect of it failed horribly. For the most part, people do not want to be virtual guards, policing their virtual realm. They want to play whack-a-mob (or in some cases, whack-a-noob) and otherwise "do stuff". Which, today, means farming gold/plats to sell on eBay. But that's a whole other issue.

The MMOG is a cool concept utterly ruined by the fact that there are other people playing it. And as we all know, people suck.

By the way, a cookie for the person who can identify where waterthread.org got their name.

[ Parent ]
Solution: A constantly expanding frontier. (none / 2) (#90)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 05:55:58 PM EST

Believe me, I thought of this. Obviously, if there's limited resources per unit of gamespace, then the political arena would rapidly stabilise into what you describe.

Now, in any case, the limitations imposed by that group would likely be no more onerous than those imposed by the very makers of the game in most MMORPGs out there, and it would be possible to overthrow them with a well-planned rebellion, adding even more depth of play.

But I agree that the lone player, or independent clan needs a place to have fun, and that's the frontier. Have a constantly expanding gamespace, and the loner can keep riding the edge of the wave of civilisation, moving their base of operations as required.

That's why I included, in the very game design, the first phases of how people would start playing. It's an integral part of an MMFG. An MMFG can NEVER be static, or it will stagnate and become no fun, just like today's world has without any frontier except the intellectual.

Thus, an MMFG is a process, not an established form.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Delaying the problem (none / 1) (#94)
by FishBait on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:28:43 PM EST

You are underestimating how insanely determined the clans can be. Any new teritory would be overrun very quickly if it contained anything of value. Its easy to say there would be enough space for people to wander off and gather the resources they need by themselves - but if that is the case why bother making it massively multiplayer at all?

[ Parent ]
As with most things, it is a balance. (none / 1) (#98)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:35:58 PM EST

You balance the ongoing level of new turf between those two extremes of: too much, which would negate any need for competition, fighting, etc; and too little, which would allow established players and dedicated exploiters to lock out all the goodies for themselves, stifling gameplay.

A state of balance on the frontier would ensure there would be enough land/resource for someone to stake their claim within a reasonable time, yet that claim would be surrounded by other claims, and possibly contested, within a short enough time to stop boredom, and a long enough time so as to allow reasonable digging-in of defenses, enlistment of mercenaries etc.

There are indeed many ways in which the game can fail by going too far towards one extreme or another, but if the designer/admin keeps balance in mind at all times, they can walk the tightrope of bungee cords for a long, long time.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Keeping balance in mind at all times? (none / 1) (#105)
by FishBait on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 06:36:06 AM EST

Are you suggesting that the admins monitor the game to add resources when they see fit, as opposed to the game automatically opening up more resources governed by some pre-programmed rule? Either way, people will discover and exploit the conditions that cause new lands to become available.

Perhaps you are looking at your ideas in the wrong light. Instead of thinking in terms of a game, think what human society would be like if every 2 months an undiscovered continent suddenly popped into existance. The nearest powerful country would immediately seize it and use its resources to help take over the next new frontier. Things would be pretty much like they are now, except that the large countries would have almost limitless resources.

[ Parent ]
The problem I see with this very cool concept... (none / 2) (#75)
by skyknight on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 10:36:59 AM EST

is that to be able to attain the kind of malleability of which you speak, you'd just about have to simulate this massive world on a molecular level. Computationally speaking, this is infeasible. If you want true dynamism, then your far better option is to treat the "real" universe as a game, instead of creating fantasy worlds in which to live. There is no environment that is richer than the "real" world. The only caveat here, of course, is that we don't yet have reliable respawn technology. ;-)

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Yeah. (none / 2) (#106)
by ekj on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 06:48:57 AM EST

I agree it's a pipe dream, if even that, I don't really think the author has any clue how to achieve the dream.

But a lot of the problems related to design of new stuff could probably be solved if you introduced some sorta testing-lab where parameteres of the new items are approved.

A problem is that, when it comes down to it, pretty much any item in such a world has a tendency to be categorizable on three axes; "Movement" (if any) "Toughness", "Damage", that is, in the end it all comes down to moving around, surviving damage, and handing out damage to others.

That's not nearly so "deep" as the author would like. And making it deeper is very *Very* hard.

[ Parent ]

Dr. Smart on line two. (none / 0) (#76)
by Miniwheat on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:21:25 AM EST

Derek Smart called. He wants his idea back.

Good luck with this, stay away from usenet, and watch for Coke machines. They can be dangerous when cornered.

Derek Smart Needs a Reality Check (none / 0) (#87)
by Eater on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 05:27:44 PM EST

That is, he needs to realize that, since BC3000, all BC games have sucked considerably, especially when he tries to expand into other areas. Personally, the independently-produced Star Shatterer game (sorry, forgot the link) is better than the latest BC game (Universal Combat) - even in terms of graphics, it's not that far off, since UC, while having some pretty models, is completely devoid of good SFX.


[ Parent ]
Star Shatterer? (none / 0) (#100)
by Alannon on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:44:29 PM EST

Are you sure about that name? I can't find anything about this game on the net. I'd be interested in looking into it if you could offer the proper name for it. Thanks.

[ Parent ]
Oops (none / 0) (#103)
by Eater on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 01:48:09 AM EST

Try "StarShatter" - one word, no "er" at the end.


[ Parent ]
Savage (none / 2) (#77)
by Arevos on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:36:27 AM EST

Hm. My previous comment seems to have gotten lost somewhere, so I'll post again :)

Anyway, Savage has some of the elements you propose. It's a pure multiplayer game; there's a commander for each team that has an RTS interface, whilst the teams themselves are made up of players playing a FPS. It's meant to be pretty good, so I'd say your idea is certainly workable on a small scale.

As for issues of ego, with everyone wanting to be the commander and no-one wishing to play the grunts; I'm not sure that would happen. Many people would just want to play a FPS, rather than try their hand at strategy game involving a group of fickle players who might very well be irritated if you screw up. I would certainly want to spend quite a bit of time in FPS mode before I even attempted becoming a commander :)

Natural-Selection mod for Half-Life (none / 2) (#115)
by ElChineseTourist on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 03:17:20 AM EST

for perhaps a better example. The RTS/FPS mix has been around for a while actually, pity the majority of people wholly ignorant of such things.. they are indeed a real treat to play. Players with strong preferences for either FPS or RTS do indeed segregate themselves although most decent players do both commanding and grunting. Conflict for the command chair is now rare in recent versions. The main reason may be the stress of commanding and of working with new recruits. Aside from that problem with commanding, Natural-Selection definitely favors FPS soldiering as the universe is constrained, as each game is set on a finite map with well defined goals. In a looser, grand universe these will not be the case. I think the main conflict in the ultimate game universe would be more about positions that convey real advantages relative to others rather than simply command positions, as you could be an overseer of robot janitors or instead for instance an overseer of robot janitors you could program/direct to become your own private army.

[ Parent ]
Keep it simple (none / 3) (#78)
by smarkb on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:53:59 AM EST

Why make the game so complicated that players are defining objects and goals?

It would be as much fun to have a Homeworld / X-Wing / Half Life cross game scripted battles with generals, ship commanders, pilots and boarding parties. You could set up tournament games with 100 or so people with a pre-defined time limit so people don't have to play until 3am. Individuals would be the best in their field - FPS, flying, RTS or whatever.

I reckon this would be a lot less complicated and probably dooable with current game engines. Now all we need is someone to go out and build it.


This probably already exists... (none / 1) (#81)
by skyknight on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 12:43:21 PM EST

but the military is being a bunch of spoil sports and not letting us play.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
This is Second Life (none / 1) (#80)
by gte910h on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 12:40:50 PM EST


A friend of mine built wheel of fortune there. And there are several deathmatch arena's and other things.

Inspired by Second Life, Half-life, Priva-life... (none / 1) (#92)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 06:46:13 PM EST

Grand Life Auto, Deus Life, The Lifes.

Yeah, Second Life contributed the "player-created content" part.

However, Second Life is not designed for combat and competition in the same way that the MMFG is.

I'm certainly going to check out Second Life (when I get a phat broadband pipe), but just from reading about it I can see that it's not designed to be an MMFG, more of a Massive Freeform Environment In Which You May Make Your Own Game, or MFEIWYMMYOG, muh-fay-wim-yog.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Combat works in the game *okay* from my friends .. (none / 1) (#95)
by gte910h on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 09:41:54 PM EST

...perspective. But it only works if you'd like.

We're almost there :)

[ Parent ]

Sounds damn fun, then. (none / 1) (#99)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:37:11 PM EST

I can't wait to get over there and build a Mr Starcraft... :^)

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

A Name of the Game (none / 1) (#82)
by Maljin Jolt on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 12:44:53 PM EST

"U.S. President"

-1 (none / 3) (#83)
by smileyy on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 12:54:41 PM EST

-1, geek masturbation fantasy.  At least Tex.Bigballs versions are more entertaining.

This article needs the k5 equivalent of a postpartum abortion.
...alone in suicide, which is deeper than death...

Ads by Google: (none / 2) (#85)
by Zealot on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 01:39:11 PM EST

Paranoia explained
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I think they may have a point.

Not gonna happen (none / 2) (#88)
by Eater on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 05:32:39 PM EST

Time to make this game: probably over half a decade;
Money: unknown, but would require blank-check payments in excess of those paid to Daikatana;
Profit: monthly fees would provide some profit, but once people realize it's a buggy piece of crap that was released two years too early, profits will slump and you'll go the way of PlanetSide;
Compare this to the costs/benefits of producing another WW2 game or CS clone:
Time to make the game: Only a few years or less, since there is no need to code a new engine or anything, just slap some art together and you're done;
Money: pretty easy to determine from other similar undertakings, which there are literally millions of;
Profit: people like WW2 games and CS clones - with enough marketing, there will at least be a big initial burst of profit from the "softcore" gamer community, and if the game doesn't completely suck, a slow trickle as word-of-mouth spreads good things about the game;


The way to defeat the forces of banality: (none / 1) (#101)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 11:49:45 PM EST

Make sure you do your best to get your conceptions right before you implement them! The whole point of putting up ambitious concepts to be riddled with holes by the machineguns of various netizens is, apart from simple "hey looky this cool thingy I thunk of" playfulness, is to improve that concept to the point where it can be implemented in a form that addresses all the foreseeable holes.

So don't just say "Bah. The whole idea's useless because it would take a lot of effort", because that doesn't actually accomplish jack shit. Instead, put forward some real criticism, ie pointing out ways that the idea could fail and how that might be avoided.

Basically, you're trolling, but it's thoughtless, unimaginative trolling. And what's the fun in that?

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

It's not a troll, it's just cynical (none / 1) (#104)
by Eater on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 01:59:52 AM EST

If you knew anything about how the modern interactive entertainment industry worked, you would know why such an idea would be, more often than not, scraped for another rehash of last year's most popular game. There is no lack of good ideas in the game industry, there is a lack of good publishers, and no matter how bullet-proof your concept is, unless it's titled "Deus Ex 3" or "Unreal Tournament 200$" (that's 4 with the shift key depressed... yeah, I'm original), the chances of it making it into development, much less being released when it's actually finished, are slim to none. Even when otherwise original and ambitious concepts make it into development, since the development team will usually not realize the actual requirements of production and will take longer than they should, the game will be pushed out on to the shelves in state where even a dozen patches won't fix all of the issues. Case in point: X2, Sea Dogs, PlanetSide, Freelancer, and a million other inovative games that would have made history, much like Deus Ex did, had they been allowed their proper development period. On top of that, publishers are beginning to wisen up - they know that trying new things usually costs more than it pays, since for every Deus Ex there are a dozen PlanetSides and Uru Lives, and MMOG's are an even bigger commitment since they require more support, near-constant development after release, and lots of expensive servers. What kind of publisher would want to take such a risk when it can simply put out a clone of another game and watch the sheep munch on it until someone else comes up with the Next Big Thing? In the current state of gaming, innovation is artificially slowed down by the capitalist system, so something like your idea isn't going to make it for a good couple of decades.


[ Parent ]
Shoulda known that DARPA would be working on it. (none / 1) (#93)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Feb 17, 2004 at 07:22:03 PM EST

This article in the National Defense Magazine describes a system being designed by DARPA called DARWARS (those wacky government types, eh?) that might well provide a few structural guidelines for an MMFG.

Specifically, the software might be able to solve the problem of how to have a computer-generated "frontier" environment that would be both diverse and challenging for the players to expand into.

It's designed for training, but even so the project's director Ralph Chatham asks whether DARWARS could improve upon current training simulations by taking a look at MMOGs: (extract from article follows)

"If there is this compelling nature to training, the value to the military is that it may make people want to train," said Chatham. To accomplish this, DARWARS will meld an array of technologies, ranging from digital video of human instructors to gaming, based on the success of commercial multiplayer online games.

"People are paying $15 per month to play these online games," Chatham said. "Can DARWARS create that kind of passion for training?"

DARWARS is part of DARPA?s Training Superiority project, which received $6 million in funding for fiscal year 2003.

The three-year DARWARS project currently is more vision than reality. Offering an example, Chatham paints an almost fantastic picture of what a "DARWORLD" training (scenario) might ultimately look like.

A pilot might be on a carrier in the Persian Gulf, and decide to use his laptop computer to hone flight skills. An eyeball tracking device first verifies the pilot?s identity, then DARWARS helpfully informs him that he neglected to read his last after-action review.

It displays the report, detects that the pilot?s eyes were elsewhere when he should have been reading the third paragraph, and asks him why he did not like reading that paragraph. The answer is sent automatically to a training bulletin board for discussion.

Second, DARWARS asks the pilot if he would like to find partners for his training mission. He can only find two more, but DARWARS provides a third, computer-generated pilot to fill out the formation. The DARWARS server determines what refresher training each of the three human pilots needs.

It also notes that a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, is rehearsing a close-air support mission, calling in a B-52 strike. Yet, the B-52 crew, sitting at their own laptops, will be quitting for lunch, so DARWARS informs the Fort Hood soldier that the carrier-based aircraft will be taking the place of the bomber.

Finally, the carrier pilots are briefed by a simulated operations officer and launch their mission (each pilot manning his own laptop computer).

One pilot needs refueling training and gets it, while the rest of the flight practices navigation. DARWARS sees that the Fort Hood soldier has not practiced emergency first aid for more than six months, so it adjusts his scenario so that enemy resistance grows.

The soldier calls for close-air support from the Navy fighters, and one of the pilots strafes so low that his plane is hit and he ejects. The soldier then treats his wounds. If the soldier is called away to a meeting, DARWARS generates an avatar to play for him while the Navy pilots continue the exercise.

Although the scenario is ambitious, Chatham believes that DARWARS can demonstrate that this approach is both feasible and relatively inexpensive. "Collect it, bottle it, put it on CDs, and it will pay for itself in about two hours," he added.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

justification for a -1 (2.75 / 4) (#102)
by polyglot on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 12:35:13 AM EST

I do not lightly give a -1 to this article, being involved in a bit of game design and implementation myself. It is a grand dream, and I give you all encouragement to pursue it.

However.... it is still a very high-level dream and nothing at all like a game design. You need to pin down exactly what you are going to simulate in your world and arrange that simulation so that you can get the emergent behaviour that you're looking for.

I do believe that you can construct such a simulation, and in a manageable quantity of code (<100k lines) by very careful design, however you will probably need to enlist the help of your players to generate game resources - texture, sound, etc. Otherwise you will need to provide models/textures/sounds for a practically infinite selection of items: weapons, vehicles, scenery, etc, etc. A better way might be to permit user designs into the system - DIY weaponry and vehicles by plugging components together. DIY AIs by providing a scripting engine, yadda, yadda. <P> The major element of your dream appears to be allowing players to participate in the world in a number of ways, the common element of which is communication - tactical commanders in "starcraft mode" telling grunts in "quake mode" where to go, etc. Economic and political interaction can be via a similar interface - a universal communicator device that each player carries in the game allowing themselves to interact with the engine in a number of ways.

As for including FPS/vehicular/flightsim, those elements are readily incorporated into a single battle simulation engine. What will be hard is making the experience consistent between the different inherent timescales of the different interaction modes. Even within a single mode (tactical), you may want to have variable execution speed for nuisances like travel time.

See UF Intruder for an example of how such a project can just peter out; if you want it to happen, you need to be personally involved, heavily committed and willing to spend a few years of your life doing it.

So, good luck. But write something down that is much more specific and concrete. Tell us how you intend this ubergame to work.
"There is no God and Dirac is his prophet"
     -- Wolfgang Pauli

Excellent comment, thanks. (none / 0) (#111)
by Russell Dovey on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 08:28:20 PM EST

I will consider both this and Eater's comments in my further explorations of the MMFG concept. Considering that this began from the sleep-deprived musings on an IRC channel, I appreciate the thought that people have given to their comments.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

emergence (none / 3) (#109)
by Terren on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 03:28:14 PM EST

I think a game like this, if it were possible, would be an incredible experience.

Most games are contrived; that is, the rules have been selected to construct a specific game-playing experience. Card games, board games, video games, sports, and so on, all fall into this category. They are fun, but there is little or no possibility to evolve the game itself.

This is the key difference between contrived games and the author's game - the possibility for evolution of the game itself. And I don't mean evolution in the sense of, for example, the evolution of hockey or the evolution of chess. I mean the kind of evolution that utterly changes the game. The best examples of emergent games are not typically considered games at all - politics, the stock market, individual industries; basically, any dynamic real-life environment that involves the exchange of power and influence counts as an emergent game. As an example of what I mean by evolution in this context, consider what the internet has done to the stock market, or to politics.

The only game I have ever heard of or played that is both contrived and emergent is Nation States. This is first off a contrived game in which you build up a nation and, through choosing solutions to various dilemmas, you affect the way your nation develops (which can range from 'corporate police state' to 'liberal paradise' to 'anarchy'). More important, and more fun, is the game that has emerged from this contrived game. All nations in the game occupy regions; all regions have ruling nations that have the power to kick out and ban other nations. The emergent game - the game within the game - consists of the politics and influence peddling and spying and intrigue that develops as individual nations vye for ruling power, or trusted status with a ruling power.

The interesting thing, and the whole point of this comment, is that the inventor of the game never meant to design anything than the contrived game. In this sense, a new game actually emerged from the contrived game. External websites have been created in service of the game (mostly forums for interaction). The most intriguing aspect of Nation States to me, is that news reporting agencies have been created to report on Nation States news. Now there's an emergent phenomenon.

It sounds like this is along the lines of what the author of the article wants to happen. I would suggest that the author check out Nation States for ideas on how to build a game that truly emerges from a set of basic rules.

But the bottom line is, you don't want to limit the game to your vision of it now, as grand as it may be. For it to be emergent, assuming it's even techincally feasible, you'll have to give up control of its direction.

Way to go! (none / 1) (#113)
by Ashur on Wed Feb 18, 2004 at 11:09:56 PM EST

I think everyone who has ever played a MMOG or MMORPG or whatever and to a lesser extent any video game has had this idea, pretty much. It is pretty much impossible to create a game of this complexity, where players can do almost anything and expect the gameworld to react in a realistic, coherent fashion. What you want is a life simulator, i.e a universe. I'm fairly sure we've already got one of those. And it's got a really good ping.

yep (none / 0) (#114)
by ElChineseTourist on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 03:08:02 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Overrrated (none / 1) (#123)
by sticky on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 12:00:58 AM EST

I pay thousands of dollars a year for a game that won't even let me respawn. Someone should start a class action suit.

Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
eXistenZ anyone? (none / 0) (#124)
by Kuranes on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 03:48:10 PM EST

Saw it again yesterday, and yes, MMFG is "not just a game - it's a whole new gaming system" ;).

Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot.
[ Parent ]
I'd like to see this come out for Linux first. (none / 1) (#118)
by Deadpan Burke on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 01:51:38 PM EST

Hell, you could get a ton of people working on it if "That's Life" was ever developed for linux. I don't see why something like this can't be it's own operating system as well.

But, could this be done it today's market, where publishers don't want to make a good, finished product? Where betas are rushed to stores and dressed up as full releases? Where my DSL owning ass gets killed repeately due to lag from a crappy MMOG server? (Earth & Beyond, almost sued for the refund) Would someone be will to nuture and bring this thing life, and foot the obviously huge bill for initial development and servers? Could we even rely on big game companies to do a proper job on something like this?

Just brainfarting anyways.
sometimes a bowl of oatmeal it just a bowl of oatmeal, and not a metaphyisical representation of the suffering of mankind.

Um (none / 3) (#119)
by trhurler on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 05:20:20 PM EST

Having worked on games that had extensive scripting like this(at levels ranging from thug coder all the way up to "guy who runs the game,") I can tell you already three things:

1. It will be decades before the computer hardware available could even begin to run something like this. At least. You have not even begun to estimate the complexity of such a beast as you describe.

2. We don't know, even in theory, how to manage security for something like this. Yes, I probably have a better idea than everyone else reading this thread - better probably than 99% of so-called experts, in fact, because I've worked directly on smaller versions of the same problem - but at best, the solutions I know of that are effective basically trade security for runtime efficiency and demand a HUGE prebuilt codebase that you don't seem to want. See (1) for why that's bad. If you don't get what I'm talking about when I say security, consider this: what's to stop someone scripting a spaceship that moves at infinite speed, or a device that just lets him appear whereever he wants, or a weapon that kills anyone he can provide a reference to without letting anyone know who did it, and so on? There have to be rules, and those rules have to be enforced by code. And they can't be consensus, either; someone is going to have to be the bastard who makes and implements those rules. Experience has shown that consensus on the design of a universe whose rules are human whim simply does not work(and yes, I mean experience - not thought exercises - so don't bother me with the latter.) By the way, physics alone won't be enough, and if you don't understand why, then you are missing a key difference between a program and a real universe. (Namely, a real universe has a lot of rules that simply ARE, and there is no way to make a new rule that might conflict with or create an exception to those rules. Programs don't work that way unless there is both a good design and a security system as part of that design.)

3. Such a world will inevitably have too many chiefs and not enough indians. Sure, people might occasionally play as a grunt just to kill some stuff, but face it: every single player is going to want to rule an empire. In short, your basic game premise needs revising in some way. Probably an economic one.

That said, one of the key objections you'll get is NOT true. It is NOT true that today's software scaling capability isn't up to the task. It is huge, and you'd need talented people in massive numbers(think Microsoft-size for an example,) but it isn't absolutely impossible. Of course, those people are rather expensive...

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Eventually you will... (none / 1) (#121)
by faustus on Thu Feb 19, 2004 at 10:19:12 PM EST

...probably go to work online. The Sims Work. Traffic can only get worse.

PLATO's Meta (none / 2) (#122)
by Baldrson on Fri Feb 20, 2004 at 09:25:47 PM EST

Actually, an idea like this started to form with the PLATO network circa 1980 when Mike Huybensz and I wrote up a little thing called "Meta" to link together all the multiplayer GUI games on that network with a form of currency with which you could purchase resoruces within said games. The idea was to get people to spend as much time logging in terminals the world over to the games on the PLATO network so you could collect contact-hour royalties. To this end we devised a perverse scheme whereby "Metas", the unit of currency, were minted based on the number of hours you had a terminal logged into a game. Contact hours were the way game authors (and lesson authors generally) gained royalties from CDC and other operators of the PLATO systems around the world. Some of the game authors looked like the might do the appropriate mods to their games to accept Metas in exchange for the increase in contact hours they could enjoy, but before the entire network was up and running, I got snarfed by AT&T and Knight-Rider to do a videotex architecture for them and left quite a bit of work undone at the PLATO network.

This is one of the ideas I'm not exactly proud of but it was at least a somewhat clever business exploit.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

MMFG: Massively Multiplayer Freeform Gameverse | 127 comments (112 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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