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Re: Introductions


First of all, the difficult part of making a game is not so much having a good 
idea than actually implementing it. Don't underestimate the sweat you have to 
put into a game to get it done. No, I'm not speaking of fun coding, but of 
hard work. But I'm sure that you have heard this before. So let's get on with 
the details:

Am Montag, 8. Dezember 2003 05:55 schrieben Sie:
> Greetings,
> Since college I have had a idea that if I could combine the best features
> of games like SimCity, Age of Empires, Civilization, etc  and add to them
> some real flexibility and custom personality I would have a really cool
> game.  Recently I convinced a investor/rich friend that a game like this
> would be worth a little of his money.
> I argued that I could take some of my design ideas and build them under the
> GPL.  I would open the design to the community for refinement and comment
> so that game would truly be a game for the community.  I would use his
> money to buy some project hardware and then use the rest as Christmas
> presents for active developers (nothing beats a bribe... :-] ).  Once there
> was a game ready to release, we could package CD's and release a version
> for windows users.  All proceeds would be divided amongst the people
> involved (that includes the investor and the devlopers, if there are any
> proceeds)

Every text about game design I've ever come across told me one thing: game 
design never is a democratic process. The designer himself has to decide in 
order to get a proper balance (both features and playability) and look and 
feel into the game. 

Therefore, asking the comunity may actually be counterproductive: Either you 
are very cooperative and end up with a bloated, unplayable design or you are 
restrictive and kill people's interest in the game.

The only possible way I see is to do periodic playability tests in order to 
get the balance right and get a grip on the most obvious misconseptions in 
the design.

> To be brief the current design is for a “Epic” RTS game that takes a
> society from cave men to spacemen.  A short list of notable requirements
> are
> 1)The map is isometric clon of SimCity except there is no pre-set size
> limit.  The map will grow as the “fog of war” is revealed.  Each player
> will manage only his own map.
> 2)The main engine is a balanced tree with “game time” as the key.  Each
> player will run his own tree and only check in with a central server
> periodically to stay in sync.  When a unit is moved it must publish  events
> locally, if it moves onto enemy ground, it must publish on both the local
> and remote event tree.

This is a *very* problematic approach. This way you open barn doors for 
cheaters. Because each player has the only authoritative copy of his map 
locally it is on him/her to edit it as he/she likes and noone would even have 
a chance of noticing that.

Online games are by nature very open to cheating. The only measures against 
cheating that I am aware of are rather drastic:

- use a server that decides on *everything*. If a citicen in a player's city 
wants to poop, the server must confirm it.

- encrypt/obfuscate network traffic.

- never release the sources for your network code. This is not as far-fetched 
as it might seem: it's very likely that the people at Valve are rewriting 
their Half-Life 2 network code totally from scratch after the sources leaked 
in October. The release date hasn't been moved for nothing.

Yes, right: it's a lot of effort, but it will only stop people from cheating 
for so long. There is no single method with which you can stop cheating. 
Create an online game and you are forced to enter a fight.

> 3)The technology mapping (i.e bronze age, before stone age, computers
> before lasers) and all unites and buildings are customizable.  The idea is
> to support more building types, units, and buildings then any one person
> can ever play.  Given boundless options, the resulting society will feel
> very personal to the game player.  This has two levels, A example is a
> decision to research "tanks" instead of airplanes.  The other is to set
> "zoning" rules so the buildings in a town are of a style comfortable to the
> player.

Sounds great. Really great. 

But wait: who is going to make all those graphics? Who is going to balance 
such a huge set of units? Who is going to test all this?

Consider: Even professional development teams with sometimes up to 100 or even 
more developers can't create games that have that many different buildings or 
units. And we hobbyists even have trouble finding artists that want to work 
on our projects with us.

> 4)Great Library: A open source game that incourages new unit devolpment
> needs to set rules.  The issue of fairness is solved by having a "Great
> Library" server hosting what units and rules will be used in the current
> game.  This is important since a project goal is to setup a server to
> provide a commen set on the net if the user doesn't want to start there
> own.  This might also move into storing a saved city.

I don't get this.

Do you allow the user to create units of his/her own? If so, what about the 
AI? What about the strengths and weaknesses of the unit? Who is going to 
control and balance that? 

Or do you even allow each player to start an own set of buildings and units? 
Then who is preventing the player ch3a13r from creating a super unit that is 
capable of destroying anything in sight with one blow?

> 5)City Management is similar to SimCity (zoning and taxes) but the purpose
> is to generate money to build a army and walls and weapons.  Too many RTS
> games become routines (i.e. build 10 peons, then a barracks, then a house).
>  Mixing a real city simulation in with the tatical needs of the King should
> be much more interesting and much less predicatable.

Well, I dare to say that games that are too complex are unattractive. I have 
the impression that a lot of (esp. casual) gamers want rather small, limited, 
easy to play games. You are heading into an entirely different direction.

I'm not saying that nobody will want to play your game. I'm just saying that 
it is likely that you end up with a very small community and no chance to get 
near the mainstream.

> 6)Unique units:  This is easiest to explain with a example.  When selecting
> a unit factory (i.e. a barracks) you can decide to build a archer but a
> slider will allow you to generate a more accurate archer, but it will take
> longer.  Also every battle this unique archer fights in will slowly
> increase its unique accuracy factor.  This adds a great deal of game play
> as grouping veterans with rookies in combat units just adds another level.

Again the issue of balance arises here. Combined with your "library" above 
this is getting worse in my eyes.

> 7)Massive online play:  given that each player is running a unique event
> tree it is planned to have massive online games (i.e. hundreds of players)
> There is a plan to allow for citys at different stages of evolution to play
> together but not as direct neighbers.(sprial layout based on a societies
> age)

What about network synchronisation in this case? Will it work differently from 
what you explained above? What about cheaters then?

> 8)Community:  Since the game will support massive online play, and alot of
> personality in each city, the hope is to support direct chat, and other
> "IM" style features to encourage people to go online and let the game run. 
> If there isn't a active battle, you could let the game play a little like
> SimCity and spend your time chating with other players.   Some people will
> want to fight alot of battles and some people will want to run the game
> like a game of Sims or SimCity but will be able to share there designs with
> others.

You are putting your players into two categories here: let's call them 
"builders" and "fighters". If builders and fighters never meet everything is 
fine. But what happens if a fighter attacks a builder? This will spoil the 
fun for both of them: the builder will have a hard time defending against the 
fighter while seeing his carefully crafted city go down the drain and the 
fighter will not get the fight he seeked for.

> Regards,
>    ~Aaron

Except for the issues I pointed out your concept looks good so far. I'd 
recommend you to write it down in as much detail as possible and review it 
carefully for possibly contradicting passages. Given the size of your project 
this concept should at least have 20 pages, better 100 or more. Such a 
concept can be a useful reference lateron and also does an excellent job 
preventing you from drifting off too far from what you originally intended.

Anyway, I wish you good luck with this project!