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Friday, June 09, 2006

What is a good game?

What makes a game a good one? There are many schools of thought on this, but only one thing really matters. What do the players think?

At Persistent Realms we're looking at many different things that factor into a good game. The problem is everyone has a different idea of what's fun and good. Some are really into the role-playing side of a game. Others just love combat, while others are all about the "bashing." How do you fit those all together, to make something that anyone can enjoy?

First we looked at other popular games, both in our genre and outside of it. What do they have that is good? What could be done better?

Let's look at role-playing first.

IRE games are very popular for text based Muds. What do they do to foster role-playing? In the old days, they had great events, with different outcomes based on player choices. These are great, but take a lot of work and slowly events there turned into more of a book that you just HAD to follow. We will stick to the old ways, as events with multiple outcomes and flexibility are just more fun.

Another thing they did well is the politics system, which only a few other games have had this. Ah, but there are flaws in that. A single player could easily abuse their position, making it almost impossible to remove them from office. There is also a lack of options; every government is basically the same. We decided that we too will have player run governments, but with more checks and balances like a real life government. So while you could have a city leader, there is also a city council that can "veto" that leader's actions. Then we looked at how hard it is for someone to be removed, if they get control over the council. In real life we have revolts, why can't a game have them too? So we put in place a revolt system that, while hard to pull off, would lead to a complete change of government. After a revolt the government style could be changed as well. Instead of every city using the same government style, we also implemented things such as dictatorships where the council just doesn't exist. Some cities may prefer this method, if the dictator is good, others would revolt against it choosing another style. All told we have around eight very different styles for governments.

Another issue, related to politics, that we sought to change is the fact that no new cities are born without the administration coding them in. To solve this, we implemented a system where players can actually build their own cities! The requirements to do so are extremely high, and it still has to go through the administration via a form of city charter. As long as the city has enough players backing, and has a role-playing reason to exist, it goes in. That brought up the issue of adding rooms to cities. The solution was simple; add in construction based trade skills for players to take. A city that wants to expand can contact these construction workers (which are fellow players) to build additions to their city. That construction worker would not only need the required in game materials, but also submit a work permit for approval. The reason for the permit is so the administration can change, and fix if needed, the descriptions for these new "rooms." Obviously keeping a high standard of writing is needed, we don't want new people to be seeing poorly written and misspelled descriptions.

So we've got some of those aspects covered, what about the individual player? Most players prefer to be as flexible in their choices as possible, yet most games force them to fit into "cookie cutter" molds of races and classes or guilds. This tends to lead to "guild hopping" where a player moves around to different guilds, just to play with different skills. That harms the over all role-playing of a game, as it isn't easy to explain why John the patron of all that is good and holy, suddenly joins the thieves guild, then a few months later is an elemental mage. Easy solution, give the players what they want!

While we will have set lists of races that fit our world, we've decided that statistics won't be set in stone. Each race will have a list of advantages and disadvantages, with those you get what you get. Other than that, the main mechanics for races would be their physical and mental statistics. Those are easily more flexible. What we decided to do is give each race a set base statistics and then give players an additional 10 points to divide as they wish. What's that? That will just lead to people giving themselves super high strength? You're right, they could do that, but they will have painfully low agility causing them to be hit more often. Then they will also have a painfully low constitution giving them a very weak body. Sure, they can hit hard, but they also fall down a lot faster. We also put the maximum starting for any statistic at 18, meaning that if Ogres have a base strength of 16, you can only put up to 2 more points into your strength.

That leaves us with skills, everyone loves skills right? Remember that we said most games seem to fit you into a "cookie cutter" mold, called class? That just doesn't seem to fit with what most players want; they want choices. Our skills are divided into two types, general and professional. Professional skills could be combat or trade related. We give you the ability to choose which general and which professional skills you want to take. Some skills may require that you have another skill already, or that you don't have a certain skill. Then to top it off, some skills will have branches. For example Spirituality can only be trained half way. After you reach that half way point, you must choose which branch you want to focus on. For Spirituality there will be a general branch that anyone can take, and then if you are in a religious sect there may be another branch based off that sect's beliefs and teachings. We feel that, while harder to balance, this level of customization will allow each player to design the character that THEY want to play. Oh yeah, there are 10 general skill slots and 3 professional skill slots.

To add even more customization to your character, we have designed and implemented a skill effectiveness system. This system is something we've never seen in another game, at least not in the way we have done it. Some games that do have an effectiveness system, meaning your abilities get stronger the more you use them, choose to use just that. We have chosen to use both skill sets, as described above, and effectiveness to add an extreme level of customization. So, how does it work? Pretty simple really, each ability in a skill set is given a type. Types could be things like "forging", "active offence" or "healing." The more you use one ability, the stronger that ability gets. At the same time, though much slower, other abilities of that type get weaker. This allows you to choose your "favorite" abilities of each type, and make them extremely strong at the cost of other abilities. It is possible to become extremely strong in almost every ability, but it's no easy task.

Those are just a few of the considerations and choices we have made, in an attempt to make a more dynamic game. We feel that by making things dynamic, and giving you more choices, our game will shine through as a "good" game.

Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.


Blogger Bully said...

An interesting roleplay environment that isn't too nazi-tastic but is also fairly relaxed, with the possibility for OOC communication between players. Also, without the need for realism destroying convienience to the point it no longer becomes *fun* - game wide channels, etc.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Luke Southworth said...

It looks good so far, hopefully the game can fulfill it's obvious potential.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Larkin D'Ischai said...

I'm very glad to see ideas like this being implemented. I love the flexibility you're trying to build into the game. Like you said, however, the balance will be much more difficult, especially combined with other factors of the game. More customization might lead to more powergamers simply looking for the perfect combination of all things to gain the edge on the majority of fighters.

The thing I love most about Lusternia, last of the IRE games to come out, is the implementation of many different systems that allow room for roleplaying and advancement without the need for combat. You can influence mobs instead of killing them. You can write books for the library or do village quests to help benefit your city or commune directly. These are very tangible things with effects on more than just your "XP" and have very good roleplaying reasons behind them, too. It makes the immersion that much better.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Ilyrias said...

We will get into those, as this we are currently only at part two, of a planned ten.

Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

9:35 PM  

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