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Old 06-28-2008, 06:40 PM   #11
MessiahSimple
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Thanks james Hopefully this discussion, interesting as it is, perks up.
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Signatures=pretense. And I'm far too well read for that. :D
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Old 06-28-2008, 07:07 PM   #12
MessiahSimple
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I thought it might be prescient to clarify and qualify my statement about cultural exchange, so here's the wisp of a game idea I was describing. I apologize in advance for this post's breadth, so for directly related stuff look for stuff in bold - the meat of the language system description is found in "2-C. Resource use/crafting." Good luck

EPOCH
An exercise with reciprocal reinforcement in videogames

1. Overview

Epoch is an MMORPG anchored in a prehistoric setting that aims to foster strong communities through it's bond-intensive tribe system. New players are born into a tribe that they become a member of, joining the struggle to control resources, technologically advance, and spread culture. At the beginning of Epoch, the player is given only base knowledge of how the world works – nothing is spelled out. Dropped into the world the player must then figure out a way to find food, combine resources to slowly climb the open ended technology tree, and compete or cooperate with other players to establish a community. Once established in the game the player will have newcomers under him for mutual benefit – just as a hunter-gatherer tribe benefits from having another hand to help, the newcomer also benefits from the established methods and resources of his tribe. Through trade, religion, and war the tribe spreads it's culture to neighbors, eventually leading up to the founding of villages, cities, and empires.
All of this occurs with only subtle encouragement; there are no preset quests regarding player interactions for expansion of their tribe, and no preformed recipes to acquire – there is only invention with a near limitless tool set. Players will determine through experimentation and cooperation everything from their tribe's architectural style to their warpaint, their cuisine to their clothing, and their rituals to their currency.

2. Mechanics
A. New player/class progression

New players in Epoch will start a character with the option of choosing their tribe or being placed randomly. This ensures a solid mentoring system and method of collective culture building without violating the exclusionism necessary to the game's tribe dynamic. The new player's "father" will be their primary mentor, as it is in his best interest to generate pseudo-quests that will lead the player to be a valuable member of his/her community. These pseudo-quests will also build the younger player's attributes and skills, eventually giving him/her a role such as warrior, shaman, artisan, healer, diplomat, clergy, or any combination of the player archetypes. The player's archetype will be determined by the skillset he or she chooses to pursue encouraged by what roles in his/her community need to be filled. These roles are therefore not pursuant to established labels and limitations as in traditional MMORPG's.
The player may choose at any time to roam and start his own tribe, or join another, but this entails obvious hardships.
Key to the progression of a character in Epoch are the visual changes that occur, and are for the most part player generated – the exception being the muscularity of a character being determined by his/her chosen activities, i.e. a blacksmith becoming more muscular over time and therefore a better warrior. The shaman's distinctive decorations, hairstyle, etc., on the other hand, will be player generated. […]

B. Diplomacy/player interaction

Another key mechanic in Epoch is the competition between tribes for control of resources and information. Crafting, for example, will require experimentation and trial and error based on the player's logic – ergo many will be able to figure out how to forge a crude version of a type of sword, but refined information about how to best produce such a source will require cooperation or the wresting of said information from neighboring tribes. Resource and work sharing will function much the same way, as shared land might not produce as much for either tribe, their cooperation in using it will lead to improved techniques for farming.
How to use this dynamic will be hinted at, but will be for the most part decided by tribal leaders. An all out war for resources is expected at the beginning of this model, but as experimentation runs it's course the logical social state leans more toward unity.
Another facet of the game that will weigh heavily on player interactions is the religion system. Religions will start out with the shamans being able to choose a style of deity, essentially unlocking a free form tree of missions that will be at the core of societal development and diplomacy between factions.
Doing the gods' bidding will result in increases to crafting, warfare, agriculture, civic building, etc. The 'missions' handed down by the gods will be chosen based on where the society as a whole wishes to go, meaning that players will in a sense develop their god – if a clan relishes warfare and focuses on Worship in that vein their god will become a warmonger, for example. The system is not such that their god becomes an idle placeholder, it is one way in which Epoch relies on reciprocal reinforcement to engage players to build themselves in a way not possible in other MMO games. The head of a tribe, an NPC, acts as a focal point that enforces the collective will on individuals, both as a means of instilling direction in players and since rewards for Worship are cumulative; the more people there are taking on Tasks of Worship, the greater the reward. This in turn implants a diplomatic imperative to grow the player's chosen religion by spreading it to others for mutual benefit, hence a motive for competition and cooperation between factions while maintaining a sense of identity that draws on players' loyalties.
The religion mechanic also provides a loose sense of direction for players, necessary in such a freeform game style. For example, a starting tribe at the beginning of a new server would have no direction regarding how to go about developing themselves. The Gods step in to suggest using animal skins for clothing, or bequeath fire on their people. At this stage, without a character in the tribe developed enough to take on the shaman role, the Gods would be referred to as a 'mysterious voice' or 'presence.' The Gods provide a readily available form for GM's and development teams spurring on the game's content while allowing the player to do all the work.

C. Resource use/crafting

Resources are not overtly labeled in Epoch, as the player both has to find uses for resources on their own and overcome the in game language barrier. A random name for a particular resource, iron for instance being labeled 'nira,' persists until the resource's properties have been explored, to prevent an anthropology student from taking a starting tribe straight to an industrialized nation in a week. When sharing information with another tribe, the language barrier will enact doubly, until an appropriate amount of information has been shared in person. For example, after exploring the properties of 'nira,' tribe A refers to it as iron. When interacting with tribe B to share metallurgy recipes, they find a substance called 'henga.' After either exploring henga's properties or discussing them with a member of tribe B by getting a description or by cross-referencing recipes, 'henga' becomes 'iron' for both tribes A and B. This leads to an influence boost on tribe A's part, unlocking ways in which to influence tribe B via built in diplomatic mechanics (increase in faction with the NPC chieftain) and also gives tribe B an incentive to develop their crafting techniques as a means of bartering with tribe A. Information regarding resources is thus given a certain liquidity that helps build an in-game economy.
To give life to tasks considered mundane, such as farming or mining, Epoch uses a series of microgames that rely on skill and experience, similar to Vanguard's diplomacy card game. Any given task will be easier to complete with better tools or more experience, reflected here by a less challenging microgame, but the task is fleshed out by a series of resource-specific mouse-based actions. In short, Epoch presents a miniature version of the task, and primarily using the mouse the player cuts wheat, spreads seed, deals with weeds, mines ore out of rock, etc. This keeps mundane tasks from being the dreaded 'grind' found in other MMO games, where players click something and wait for a timer to go down, with no choice but to watch their avatar do a series of movements in accordance with the given task.
Crafting tables will evolve out of the crafting process itself, meaning there are no preset tables or recipes from which to work. Experimentation will be key here, with the player sorting through various tools to get a desired effect, and combining those effects in sequence to get a finished product. Crafting, like resource gathering, will be played out in a series of primarily mouse-based microgames. For instance, to make iron armor, mined iron ore is heated, hammered, and combined into ingots, which are then heated, folded, and shaped into armor in a style governed by that tribe's collective culture. What makes this different from a standard MMO game's crafting system is not so much the process of crafting the armor as it is applying the right tools to the unknown material – iron ore is here 'nira' until it has been fully explored by the process of crafting. Also, an experienced crafter will be able to more easily make new designs by getting 'suggestions' that hint at ways to make the different pieces fit into a workable product or improve an existing design.

I can give the rest of the document to anyone sadistic enough to be interested
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Signatures=pretense. And I'm far too well read for that. :D

Last edited by MessiahSimple : 06-28-2008 at 07:11 PM. Reason: I r t3h n00beR00
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Old 07-04-2008, 01:12 AM   #13
james.portnow
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I've been lazy. I have to clean up the article then I'll put up a link here. Figure it's going to be a few weeks...
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