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Songbird's Journal

April Fools! Oh wait...

Posted by , 05 April 2011 - - - - - - · 517 views

So apparently real life tracked me down and kicked my ass the past two weeks. I'm just now finally recovering, but overall I think I weathered it pretty well. My brother came in from Iraq on two weeks leave, so it was nice to spend time with him. We played Halo Reach (first time for me, I found it fairly enjoyable) and spent some time running some lead through his .45. Add into that a biochemistry test and a paper on the Role of Folic Acid in Human Prenatal Neural Development and you have a recipe for some long nights and a lot of Red Bull.

But now that's over, I can spend a little more time on my project. I finished off the GDD overview, which just runs over the basic high points of the game. It clocked in at 5 pages, which I'm hoping is enough to give potential team members a grasp of what I'm going for. I've also started the full GDD which is going to be a pretty mammoth document by the time I'm done. I've also discovered the joy of Google Docs in terms of sharing. It's very convenient to just e-mail someone a link to the document instead of attaching it or copy/pasting the text. So I have a good chunk of time today and most of tomorrow to focus on getting more of it down on paper. Well, getting 1s and 0s on a hard drive, but you get the drift.

Math, my old nemesis, we meet again!

Posted by , 23 March 2011 - - - - - - · 571 views

So who would have thought you all that math they told us we needed to learn would actually be useful? Turns out, it is, and since I took Calculus more than a few years ago I'm a bit rusty in getting it (math) to do what I want it to. Here's the dilemma...

My MMO have a heavy focus on PvP, so the combat mechanics have to be pretty balanced or it will die a horrible death. But, as with the vast majority of social MMO's, in order to offer the game for free you have to sell the items in the game for real money to keep the servers up and running. And very few people will purchase in game items unless it gives them an advantage over people without those items. But the people without the means to buy those items will quickly get frustrated if they can't compete with the 1% who do. So they get frustrated and quit. Which is bad for business.

So I came up with a logarithmic equation which I thought would solve my problem, and it does to a certain extent. The equation is based off of the sigmoid function, P(t) = 1/(1+e-t) with t being a function of the proposed attack power. This would be multiplied by the actual damage of the attack (based off of a Guassian function, most likely) and added as a bonus to the attack. This would have the result of an attack being 80% effective at around 55% of the max potential attack power. So even if you had the best of the best, you would only be 20% better than the average player. Furthermore, if a 100% effective player scored a hit with an average base amount of damage, the lesser geared player still has a chance to beat him or her if they achieved a hit with a high base amount.

However, this has led to some unfortunate scenarios. First, there is a limit to the max amount of power one can get. When you get to where e-t = -1, you get an asymptote. Any higher numerical value will return the same amount as a number just less. So if my max limit is 1000 power, a person with 999 and a person with 9999 will get the same benefit. This paints me in a corner in terms of expansions and continued progression.
Secondly, I think 55% of max is too low. I would ideally like to see around 65%-70% of max return an 80% efficiency. So while some people might buy their way to the top, it will still give many players opportunity for improvement solely within the game, which is key to player retention. But, try as a I might, I can't get the function to behave in the way I want it to. It's most likely a property of the function I used, but I'll most likely toss it out on the Math and Physics forum to see what other, more mathematically inclined people feel about it. Plus, I'm not sure if the people who purchase in game items for out of game dollars expect more bang for their buck, so to speak.

In the beginning

Posted by , 21 March 2011 - - - - - - · 575 views

Like most of the people on here, my journey to make an MMO started with an epiphany. Unlike most of the people, it was not a brilliant piece of code, a killer app idea, or a group of friends with a common goal. For me, it was a photograph. An ultrasound, actually, showing me that in five short months I was going to be the father of little baby boy. As I thought about how my life was going to change, I decided to give a dream one final push towards the finish line before being buried under dirty diapers and 3 AM feedings. I know five months may not be enough time to get it done, but as long as I have a good enough start I can keep the momentum up until the end.
In order to accomplish my dream-turned-goal, I have to provide myself with a goal which is attainable. Although it would be awesome to have a fully realized 3D MMORPG where you play Ninja Space Pirates, I've decided on a different route. 2D. No moving parts. Focus on game play and graphics, not physics and photo-realism. Something you can embed in Facebook or the iPhone (or better yet, both). What I came up with is a melding of TCG (minus the C, sort of) and social MMO (minus the social, for now). It should be relatively easy to code, maybe some Action Script with a PHP/MySQL back end. And its easy enough for anyone to jump in and play yet challenging enough for the most OCD control freaks out there.
I should be able to do most of the heavy lifting, and anything I can't handle I'll contract out to a Chinese sweatshop. I'll most likely put out a post on the Help Wanted forums when my business plan and game design document are done. I'm pretty certain I can turn a profit. Enough to quit my day job? Maybe, maybe not. If it pays the bills while I work on my PhD (in Pharmacy or Medical Microbiology) than more power to me. If you want to join me on my quest I could use a programmer or two and an artist or two. At the very least I hope you'll help with the Beta test.
My first order of business is to get my business plan done. Hopefully by the end of the week, although that might prove difficult since my brother is in town on leave. The game details are slowly taking shape, but there are a lot of details still left to be done. I'll try to keep this journal updated, although there may be gaps if I get bogged down in school, work, baby/wife stuff, or what have you.

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