上周我携手Dave Toulouse（游戏邦注：《Golemizer》和《Star Corsairs》的独立开发者）着手制作我们的手机MMO游戏（文章内容点击此处）。为确保能够在2月份内完成项目，我们坚持设计的简单性原则。我们的想法不是创造最佳水平的电子游戏，而是制作能够呈现若干MMO设计基本要素的可行架构。
关于上述问题，我们收到许多反馈信息，但我无法一一陈述，只能挑选其中几条我觉得颇有价值的观点。遗憾的是，现实情况使得游戏的开发过程不得不向后推迟。我的合作伙伴Dave Toulouse此时手头有2款作品需要处理（游戏邦注：就是前面提到的《Star Corsairs 》和《Golemizer》），现在他还得回复我的邮件。虽然我们获得很多很棒的评论，但我们依然不得不转投美工内容，着手游戏命名，在游戏内容中融入些许启发性元素。
DanVanBeek提出一个非常有趣的观点：“一个有趣的设计理念是，设立会有重要事情发生（Something Important Happened）的初期森林区域。若游戏每周重新进行设定，那从根本来说就像是土拨鼠日（玩家每天都会进行相同的操作），虽然它将体验活动局限于动物世界中。来自未来世界的人类试图影响已发生的事情（Thing That Happened）。游戏出现越来越多的穿越某区域的时空旅者，致使原本的‘时空理论’被打破。”
MMObility: Let’s make a mobile game, part two & three
by Beau Hindman
Last week I started working with Dave Toulouse, indie developer of Golemizer and Star Corsairs, to build our very own mobile MMO. For the sake of completing the project within the month of February, we kept our game designs simple and easy for anyone to play. The idea was not to create a state-of-the-art video game but instead to build a working framework that illustrated some of the basics of MMO design.
Ironically, my first column on the subject was received rather coolly when I consider my normal column response, but last week’s responses taught me a valuable lesson about design: Players often want to talk about what is not possible rather than what is. Dave told me how his players often told him what they wished his games would achieve, without ever considering just how difficult it is to make a game.
Still, there were several great ideas in the comments section. I’m going to use those ideas to break down this week’s update.
Let’s look first at reader DevilSei’s comments: “It would be interesting to have the field respond to player actions; it would lend an ebb and flow to it as players have to adjust how they go about as areas possibly lose available resources.” He brings up a playfield that would actually change as players moved over it and played in it. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of having the actual play area of an MMO change over time. In most MMOs, especially mobile ones, the world that players live and play in is pretty much a stage and nothing more. There are props on the stage, and occasionally the lighting changes, but generally the players are the only things that are altered. Even with dynamic NPCs or events, the playfield becomes predictable and stagnant.
If we allow our mobile game to morph over time, even in a very simple way, we keep players guessing what will happen next. Perhaps each of our map squares could be affected the more players visit it? Let’s say that a square might change after being visited by its 10th player, even changing from a normal square that provides goods to a square that provides even more goods but is very dangerous to visit? As more and more players visit the square, the price becomes much harder to pay. Dave agrees, but now we need a way to indicate to the player which squares carry more goods or are riskier to visit. I think that the artwork of the square might be able to help.
More from DevilSei: “Perhaps a form of leveling that allows people to gain and lose their levels as their contributions fluctuate. If you consistently lose points for your side, your level lowers and the number of points you can use is decreased. As you prove effective for your team and gain points, though, your level increases, which allows you to invest more points from the score to replenish or whatever else items may be able to do.” This is an interesting concept, but I would need DevilSei to clarify a bit for me. He seems to be saying that as a player becomes better or worse at playing the game, the effect is exponential. I could see this becoming a very serious problem if players find themselves in a rut (similar to losing experience upon death), but it could be tapered and tweaked to work out.
Maybe having a player’s stats go up or down based on how successful he is during the game is a good way to throw a wrench into the works? If you have an environment that changes while the game goes on and a player’s stats change based on how effective he is in that environment, you might have a pretty exciting game. A lot of players do not want anything to do with an unpredictable game, though. They want to know their stats and how to tweak those stats to perfection. They want tables and graphs so that nothing is a surprise. While gameplay like that sort of makes me cringe, I can understand the need for perfection and why some players find it exciting. If this small game I am making represents anything, however, I would hope that it represents how I would make a game if truly given the chance. If I had that chance, the game would not be predictable.
“I would also suggest maybe capping the faction availability somewhat,” continued DevilSei “Right now, crows are far and away the highest scorers, with turtles seemingly only having one person playing for them, and squirrels are not far above that. In a competitive game, its always important to ensure as fair a field as possible. This is amplified when you have three factions.”
He brings up a good, solid point, although the crow numbers were the result of a bug. How do you maintain “fairness” or balance in a game? How do we make sure that all sides are equal or as close to equal as we can get them? I’ve asked Dave about a mechanic that forces players into sides to maintain balance, but then I could understand when players complained about being forced. Perhaps we could encourage players to join the less-popular factions by offering free goodies or buffs? Once again this can be seen as unfair by the rest of the playerbase. We also have to consider raising the limit of actions for each player. The initial setting was meant as a test; now that we see how it can work, we might be able to bring it up a bit.
Last week it seemed as though hosting the game inside a browser window confused some readers. The reason a browser is perfect is because most smartphones now have a browser that acts pretty much like a standard one. Truly it is as though the PC browser has been shrunk down to fit in a four-inch screen. Given that ability, we cover several bases with one browser window. The mobile players can play on their smartphones, the desktop players can poke around in the game through their browsers, and the basic images and coding of the game open it up to iOS players. The browser is a perfect platform.
So, we have reached the end of the column for this week. I have a few things to brush up, including new art, and Dave will need to tweak some tables and work that indie dev magic to add in any new adjustments. We’ll be updating this weekend, and by next week we will hopefully have a game with more things to “do” and a more solid story behind it. I am not as worried about having a complex game that plays like a “real” MMO as about having a game that has taught us all a bit about design.
So, I once again need your help, fair readers. Now that the game is going to boast a fantasy setting and the playfield will change as players move through it, we need to answer a few more basic questions.
First, what is the lore behind the game? What are the races involved, and why are they there?
Next, we need to come up with a name for the game. I would like something that has to do with survival, faction-based survival, or fantasy.
I will watch the comments during the week, and by the next installment, we should have a game that is starting to resemble an actual MMO, complete with title, lore, and gameplay. Remember, the more comments and discussion we have, the better. Don’t worry — this is all an exercise, so fire away… no matter how silly the idea! Be sure to follow me on Twitter, I’ll be updating players on this week’s progress as it comes out! Keep an eye on the official game page here.
Last week we continued our discussion about how to make a mobile game, and the Massively readers offered up some great input. I wish I had the space to write up every single comment, but instead I will pick some of my favorites and we can discuss it from there. Unfortunately, real life has pushed development on the game back just a bit. Dave Toulouse, my indie developer partner-in-crime in this series, not only has two games of his own to run, Star Corsairs and Golemizer, but is now dealing with my silly emails. So while last week’s column got some great ideas in the comments section, we were really only able to switch out the artwork, name the game, and add a tad bit of lore.
Fear not, fair readers! I will break down the development that is still planned on being pushed into the game over the last week, and it’s important to note that Dave and I plan on coming back to the experiment over time. I’d like to update the game and continue discussion since it has been so interesting so far! In the meanwhile, click here to go to the official game page!
If we look at the new artwork I made up, I really just sketched out some neat-looking races, named them, and came up with a slightly fancier way to describe their abilities. I had to keep a squirrel in the game, though, so The Squirreliens were a no-brainer. The fun part about this project is just throwing ideas down, any ideas, and seeing how they stick. I drew the map to essentially lay over the old one, but I designed it so that “woods” would fill a certain number of squares and “water” would fill others, along with “desert” and “flatlands.” Later on we can add modifiers to correspond with the different areas of the map; the different races could react to those areas as well.
The environments in MMOs are not often utilized. They are simply backdrops or stages for our characters to exist in, nothing more. I like the idea of a flat map shining from a portable device having more impact on gameplay than a three-dimensional world in a standard MMO. Reader Deliverator brought up GPS or real-life location interaction, something that is done in MMOs like Parallel Kingdom and Fleck. The discussion following Deliverator’s comment is fascinating. Zoning laws could even affect a game based on real-life locations. Residential areas could give bonuses to experience, or industrial areas could help with crafting!
DanVanBeek had a really interesting idea: “An interesting lore angle is to have an early foresty area where Something Important Happened. If it’s reset weekly, its basically Groundhog Day, though it discounts playing as animals. People arrive from the future to try to influence the Thing That Happened. More time-travelers passing through an area destabilize the ‘spacetime whatever,’ increasing the danger from cosmic rips, etc.”
The setting of the game can always be changed, especially to accommodate such a neat idea! Basically, players would be time-travelers who attempted to change a grand event. Their meddling in time would have adverse effects on the game itself, causing random happenings or even weather patterns. These random items could be dealt by the game and could have any number of different effects. Something like a time-travel scenario is also an original idea that adds a lot of flavor to the title. If we break down many of our favorite games, we’ll see that they often share very similar designs but have different flavors and textures that set them apart from each other. Unique flavor is paramount.
What we want to add next is actual movement. As it is right now, we can pick any zone to start in, and the next day can visit any other zone, regardless of where it is on the map. Initially this was done just to illustrate moving across a map, but now we need to make it more realistic. The different races will probably start out in a certain area, and each player will have a movement allowance depending on his race. If someone is playing a Squirrelien, for example, he can move two squares per day. The squares have to be connected, and along the way the player might come across random events, other players, or different bonuses. The more I think about it, the more I enjoy the idea of an MMO based almost entirely on exploration and the sharing of information. If you want your race to succeed, you must get out in the world, survive to discover new areas and useful items, and share that information with your team faster than the other races can.
This is not to say that there would be no combat in the game. There would, but it would not be the main focus. Perhaps settling battles through diplomatic choices would be fun? If you come across an enemy in the same square, you might be presented with the choice to fight him or to discuss the issue. Bonuses could be applied for each race, and the “winner” of the argument could decide to battle or to leave the situation.
We also need a way to show how populated each square is. Dave thought to show the population of each race in individual squares so that players could make decisions based on those numbers. Perhaps a player could receive a buff if she visits a square that is filled with others of her kind? It’s a simple mechanic that could have wide-ranging effects on gameplay.
One way I am describing the design of this mobile game is to call it a MMOBG: a massively multiplayer online board game. There are a few examples of online board games out there already, and I like how the term describes not only how the game might play but what players might expect to see. There is a persistent board in the form of the map, players are represented by virtual tokens, and gameplay is generally turn-based. Yes, it would qualify as an MMO as long as it met some basic criteria. For the sake of this article series, we are keeping the numbers quite small, but it’s easy to see how those numbers could be scaled up to a truly massive size. Instead of 30 or 100 players, there could be 1,000 on the server, all of them wandering over the map while gathering materials, participating in combat, and discovering new items and areas.
I decided to call the game “Worgolt” because it sounded cool. I tried out a few terms and luckily searched them on Google before finalizing. I went through several made-up words, including one that turned out to be Yiddish slang for “prostitute.” Oops!
By next week we hope to have a game that is timed for a week of play and finally has a set of rules that represent MMO design. This has been an interesting experiment with some wonderful results. As we have seen, patches and development schedules can be pushed around even in the world of tiny browser-game development. I cannot say thank you enough to Dave for making time for this series.