Thinking about why

Don’t worry. I’m not gonna get all philosophical on ya’s with why we exist, but why I and others, play web games. I have talked about this several times before on this blog, but I want to reapproach it again.

So I have been playing several games online and they are pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but they are enjoyable. Anyways, there flaws are starting to show, particularly in the multiplayer departments. THESE ARE MULITPLAYER GAMES! You think they would put a lot of effort into actually playing and communicating with others. But like most games, these ones drop the ball.

Now here is a game theory question for ya’s. Do you ‘force’/strongly encourage the player to perform an action, or do you wait until they decide?

Let me elaborate. If you are playing a strategy game online, why attack another player? You steal some resources. But then you are likely to be attacked in return. And you are surely losing resources for attacking/maintaining an army.

But what if you were to give the players a reason to attack the other players. Such as the only way for anyone to get military experience is to do so through attacking, and that experience is needed to develop new, better weapons.

There also needs to be more thought into the point of the game. Too many games I have played where your sole goal is to be the best player in the game, which pretty much equals “whoever spends the most time ingame wins” style gameplay.

Do I have any better idea’s of the top of my head? Not relly, but an example would be give the players several different paths to play and allow them to try and reach the top in their now paths (Military, research, Political, etc). Make these paths balanced some how and make it advantageous for players of different paths to work together.

You’re still striving to be the best, but it’s just cut the gamae population in third and given you a chance to play the way you want to play and would hopefully be worked in such a way that just because you have no life and spend 12 hours a day playing the game doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best.

So, what are you guys think? Encourage/force cooperation, interaction, conflict, or just wait for the players to decide to do something

Framework for PBBGs? – DB Planning

Good day all.
I don’t know if I mentioned it here, but I am looking into creating a framework for PBBGs using PHP. This is not only to help myself create games but to make it easier others to start to create their own games.

What the first problem you think of when you think of making a framework for games? For me it was databases. We all approach these differently, and will want different info to be stored. After a bit of thinking, the easiest way to do something like this would be to put objects of data into the database and have your code know the schema of the info.
Doing some searching it seems Google beat me to the punch with this idea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BigTable

So this gives me the impression its plausible to do what I’m thinking, but is it really efficient? Can it be done is such as way so that each call isn’t grabbing ALL the info related to a player. The goal would be to return a query then to deserialize it. And not to perform string manipulations on it during the query.

Let me give an example of the problem of having all of ones data in a single object.
You have 5 stats, experiences, weapons, armour, magic, a guild, quests, inventory, gold, friends, mail, an attack history…

I think you start to get the point. That’s a large amount of info when you only want your players names and id. I can think of a number of problems for using a large scale solution like bigtable, but is there a way to keep a similar structure on a smaller scale?

To make descent framework for games, the DB needs to be incredibly flexible and this is the only thing that comes to mind when I try to think of a solution.

So for you all DB guru’s out there, what are your thoughts? Can it be done? I will try to put more thought into it over the weekend.

Also, does anyone know of any good database stress testing tools?

Themes changes

Sorry for all the changes. I don’t really like any of the default themes that are offered so I am constantly torn. I am going to leave it with this until I either get a paid account or my own server to host the blog on.

Can Flash be used for PBBGs?

In short, I think the answer is yes and I will explain myself as I write this post.

This post is in response to a comment by jmucchiello on another post. He has suggested that I write this, and since I have been looking for topics, here it is.

Lets define what a PBBG is.

http://www.pbbg.org/

A persistent browser-based game, or PBBG, is a computer game that satisfies the following two criteria:
  1. It is browser-based. The game is played over the Internet using only a web browser.
  2. It is persistent. Progress in the game is achieved over multiple playing sessions.
PBBGs merge the depth and longevity of an application-based game with the accessibility and portability of a browser-based game. PBBG can be spoken as pee-bee for brevity.
There is the definition from The PBBG project. Now, this definition leaves a little room for interpretation on it’s first point; “It is browser-based. The game is played over the Internet using only a web browser.”
Is flash player part of the browser? While it is not an internal function of the browser it is still part of it through extensions in my thoughts. Without it a browser would be lacking some serious functionality when browsing the web.  It’s expected nowadays that flash is installed. And if Adobe isn’t lying, 98.8% of computers online have flash player installed.
So in my opinion flash part of the browser.  Its simply expected that you will have it.
Now, if you made it this far with reading jmucchiello comment on the other post, go do so since I will be touching on it now.
And by extension should not involve being continuously connected to the host system
This is where the main bit of confusing is araising I think. And while the majority of people know how flash works that read this blog, I will give a quick overview of it.
Flash player does not create a continous connection to a server by default. It simply requests a SWF from your server, downloads and caches it, and is ran in your browser like any other web page.  This is no different than you would expect an AJAX app or a Silverlight app.
So when it comes down it, Flash, AJAX and Silverlight all perform the the same basic functions but in different languages.  With all three you can create continuous connections, or at least mimic a continuous connection (Can an AJAX script make a continuous connection or does it relay on constantly requesting data?) though.
And let me clearify, sine this may be the point of confusion. When I talk about using Flash for PBBGs, I don’t mean to create something to similar to an MMO (Though I am looking into it), but instead to use Flash as an interface instad of just HTML/CSS or AJAX. The answer to why flash is simply I like flash. I’m good at it and it offers me a chance to do things in different ways.
I do still intend on using html/css/ajax for the majority of my work, but I kind of feel I need to make people realize flash is more than just for popup ads and streaming video.
So, I await counter arguements.  Just keep in mind this post is trying to convince everyone to drop everything and must start developing in Flash, but that Flash is an option and shouldn’t be dismissed.

Busy – Looking for idea's

Hey all. Just a little update to let everyone know I am still alive. I’ve been rather busy the last few weeks working for RasiedMedia and doing some freelance.  Hopefully I will be getting a new laptop soon (hopefully in about a month or two) which will increase productivity for me.

Anyways, I was thinking about ‘advanced’ gaming features to develop in my free time in PHP/Actionscript. Anyone have some idea’s they are willing to share? I’m thinking I may try to tackle a crafting system and a quest building system. These both would be targeted to RPGs and likely will use a flash interface since I like flash and think I can make use of it for games. I know I could use AJAX but I don’t know javascript so Flash it is.

But back to the topic. If you have some suggestions for some features I can try to build them. If I do, I will make the code available.  I probably will do the same with the quest and crafting systems if I get them working the way I want.

AIR + PBBGs

With the release of AIR for Linux, Adobe has given us a very interesting piece of software for us to play with and attempt to work into our games. Myself, working mainly as a Actionscript developer, find this app to offer a wealth of potential to us.

For those that don’t know what AIR is, it simply put is a desktop widget system. But it much more than that. It offers the user the chance to interact with your web content from their desktop. Just imagine a player getting a notification in the corner of their screen that they have been attacked in game, or that their research has completed or they have new mail. Imagine that they could easily respond or perform a new action using the same interface such as reply to the map, check their status, or attack back.

This could be a big step for game design.

But I’m more curious as to what everyone elses thoughts on this is. This AIR widget of course wouldn’t be the core of your game. But just a way to always let your players interact with the game.

Current state of PBBGs

I am sad. Of late, I’ve been signing up to a late of different web games that promise to be unique, addictive, fun… So far these games have lied to me. Or the developers of these games are lying to themselves. The majority of games out there seem to largely be TornCity clones (Does anyone know the first big game of this type? TC was the first I noticed). And not even creative clones. Just clones. Sometimes with a better interface. Sometime with a worse one.

Then you have your strats. Clones of Tarvian (Again,  anyone know the first game of this type in it’s genre?).

Oh and I can’t forget the slew of games that have maps that you control your character on. Some of these games are pretty damn cool, but again, the vast majority are clones and just suck.

Here’s what I do. I go to the voting sites and sign up to the top 5 games if I haven’t played them before. I give most of these games two or three days of play. And sadly only one of the new ones I’ve start (Omerta) has kept my attention.

Am I the only one with this problem?  I know PBBGs are difficult to design (I’ve actually pushed my own development back again to learn more advanced PHP), and I know that coming up with original, and fun idea’s can be difficult, but com on! We are a large community. Or the last few years I’ve considered PBBGs to be the one last adventurous computer gaming platform, but it is starting to seem to me I may have been wrong.

So, let us bring this post to a point: What are your views on this? Where do you think PBBGs are now and how does the future look? Are we cursed to just clone each other, each time using slightly better interfaces and tech?  Has gameplay advanced stalled? And if it has, do you think it’s from laziness of developers or technical hurdles?

Ranger Sheck's PBBG Design Blog

Through the comment left by Ranger Sheck on the previous post here at OpenBracket, I found a link to an extremely nice site focused on the design of PBBGs. Ranger Sheck’s home page is a blog about designing PBBGs in just the same vein of discussion as this blog. Some of his most recent posts include a post on interface design, statistics, and a nice javascript library for maps. I strongly suggest checking the site out and following it. To prove the authenticity of Ranger Sheck’s discussions, he is working with a team to design a role-playing PBBG called Pioneers of Aethora. I have been playing it recently and find it a quite satisfying game though still in development. As a side note, the game is being written in Ruby through the Rails framework. This is compelling for me as I am just beginning to learn Ruby on Rails and hope to write about my learning experience as it applies to game development right here at OpenBracket!

PS: My name is Jake and I am the ‘new guy.’ I will be posting a news article on a PHP PBBG engine soon as well as discussing database design. I look forward to a discussion with our readers here! And thanks for bringing me on board, bardicknowledge!

Player Controlled Economies and Player Created Items/Quests

Sorry for the long absence. I lost my job and fell into a nasty slump. Its just one thing after another… But anyways, this isn’t a blog about my life. It’s about PBBGs! And so lets get to it.

As you can guess from the title, I am going to discuss player controlled economies and what would happen if the power to create new items and quest/goals were given to the players. This may sound like a crazy idea, but this level of freedom is not impossible.  Difficult and time consuming, yes, but not impossible. Perhaps through this post and the discuss to follow afterward, we will think of a more efficient way than I may describe in this investigation of the subject.

Player Controlled Economies :

This is something that most often seen in Strats I’ve noticed but a few RPGs have managed to pull it off beautiful. And the first one that comes to mind is Renaissance Kingdoms. In RK all goods on the market are created by players. Wheat, flour, corn, swords, gold, stone… everything. Excluding beer. Thing only makes a player happy. But the point isn’t to describe how great RK is, but instead to see what happens when players control the price of goods.

So what happens when you let people price good at whatever they want? They will naturally try to sell them at the highest they can possibly make a profit at. This will eventually settle down to the perceived value of goods as more people start to sell their wares and figure out the amount of effort need to create the good compared to other goods. In these economies the rarity + time spent dictates the value of the good. So that ring of a fallen Gods son that is plus forty million to every stat and takes a two months to learn the skills and gather the materials will obviously cost one hell of a lot. Whereas the copper pretty ring, that doesn’t do anything but look pretty, is going to be very cheap.

Allowing the players to price their own goods gives the community more of a sense of power over what is happening in their world. Making it so that the players create all the goods (or any of the good ones) gives them an level of involvement that you just don’t get when dealing with NPCs.  It makes them feel like they have a place in the world and with skills, gives them a sense of progression with their character.

This is something I believe we should all look at closely. As I’ve stated in the past, player involvement in your game world is a very important feature, and its hard to get more involved than when you are the only baker in your town or the best sword smith in the county.

Player Created Items/Quests

What is one of the biggest limitations when playing an online RPG? In my opinion it’s the lack of player actions shaping the world. None of the quests I complete change anything, or none of the items I get are really all that rare. Others will complete the same quests and get the same items.  But what if players could create their own quests, or create unique items? That level of involvement is something most commonly seen in pen and paper games where the players can directly communicate with the Game Master.

But say I wanted to create such a system for a web game. How could I even start with it? What would I need to do to make it work in a fair and balanced way? Wells lets see.

I’ll start first with the creation of items since it is the easiest of the two.  I have designed two such systems in the past for games that will likely be a while yet before they get to see the light of day. But the systems work something generally like this: You’re character has a list of stats and skills. Lets use generic RP stats:  str, dex, int, wis, con, and char. And lets say my skills are miner, jeweler, crafter, forging, lore, weapon knowledge, armor knowledge,  and imbuing.  As you can guess, each skill is connected to a stat. lore to int/char, miner to str/dex and so on. Now say that to master a skill or two is really difficult and there are 100’s of different items that can be used.  So you database all the items, each one’s properties using equations based on the players stats  to get it’s numbers. But you also have an rather advanced system where each item has a relation to all the other items on how they mix based on a number of variables such as level, stats, skills, qualities, quantities, etc.

With a system of this size and complexity, you have pretty much created a world where even items of the same kind are unique due to the makers skill. And while players will be producing similar some of the time, players will be exploring and constantly working to find the best combination of skills and materials. And if you level all the properties unknown to the player or what the possible out come may be when combining 2, 3 or even 10 items, you will see a lot of player interaction just to get others recipes, or failed experiments.

When I said this was the easiest, I didn’t mean it would be an easy thing to achieve or even design. This would skill take ages to design and develop but why not put the time in? I know we are for the most part more hobbyists than professionals making a living at this, but this is the time to start. With advance in technology, and an increase in the number of people using the web, now is the time to make PBBGS from a hobbyist thing to full scale game development. This is a plausible system,  but design and creation are hugely time consuming.

Let’s now look at player created quests. This is the hard one. This is not just because of the code, which will be difficult, but because as of now, the best system I can think of to do this requires a human to go over each player submitted quest.

*pauses to go make a rum and coke* it is st. patties day after all. ^^

So, this is a similar to another system I design for another game that will be a while before seeing the light like my other ones.  But I have thought most of the system out. And one of my first thoughts of developing a system like this was how many quests the players would flood me with and how many would be just crap. So I thought, what if I only allowed donators to create quests?  That would cut back the number of quests I would have to filter through. I then thought what if I only let the donators do this twice a month. That would be great! I’d have players create the quests for other players. All that I needed to do was build the system.

*pauses for another drink*

I’ll try to remain as coherent as possible through all of this lol.

So what would the system look like to do such a crazy thing? Well let me describe what I had thought of. First I would have the basic type of quests, where a player can pick a NPC by city, give the type of quest, the place the quest would take place, and the reward.  Several different type of quests would have to be offered and many many goals for each quest would need to be available but so its not always go and gather 10 bee wings for the spellcrafter.

The second type of quest that I intended to offer was one that allowed the player to create a boss-like creature and to give a back story. These ones  would offer better experience and better loot, but requires the players to put in more effort into their creation. Uses the same idea, pick a city, then the NPC to give out the quest.

And thirdly, a story arch. This one requires far more effort on the players part to create this quest. First, the quest would need to fit into the worlds story and history, since a quest of this type is meant to be a story, but just a fetch and deliver quest. This type would all the player to create NPC’s if need be, a response based dialog and make it several tasks long. Such as one where a player needs to stop a small kobold raiding party that is attack outlaying farms. Upon destroying the kobolds you find that more will be coming, and you are given the quest to go and kill the kobold chief that is controlling them and to return with his head.

You can quickly see why a human is needed to …

*pauses for another drink*

needed to review each quest before allowing then to be approved and made part of your game. You could of course discourage this by using a strike system or something of the sort where if you purposely create bad quests you get a strike. Too many strikes and you can no longer create quests.

This system, while not as complex code wise as the items, is still difficult because it requires someone to check each quest. Limiting the number of players that can create them and the number those players can create saves the humans much trouble.

So as you can see, while both these methods are difficult to develop and can be time consuming to manage, it is possible to do. I would now like to open the floor to hear your comments. I am very curios to hear your thoughts on these idea’s and what you think about the longer development times.

And as stated in my earlier post, we have a new writer here at OpenBracket. Hopefully this will prompt me to write more ^^

New writer!

I would like to welcome a new writer to the blog! I have no idea what he plans on using for a handle yet so I can’t tell ya his name, but hopefully he will introduce himself *hint hint*

With another writer now, we will hopefully be able to cover more area and do it more often. Perhaps this will prompt me to start writting more. I am by the way, working on a post for the last few days. Stuff is there describing absence.

Anywho, welcome new guy. I look forward to working with you and I’m sure the readers will be just as pleased to have another persons insigh.