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The viability and marketability of text-only RPGs on mobile


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#1 fr0st2k   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:01 PM

I used to be a huge fan of browser-based RPG's.  The one I played most was called, "Archmage," later reconstructed under the name, "The Reincarnation."

 

The interesting thing about this game, and its genre, was that there were no fancy graphics.  It was based entirely in 1998 browser windows, displaying stats and text with some cool images sprinkled here and there.

 

I would say that this early genre was the foundation for games like Farmville.  In both games, you manage, 'buildings' which grant you income/economy.  You use that income to grow your city.  

 

The main difference between Archmage and Farmville, however, is the amount of cooperation and competition involved.  Farmville and subsequent games have no challenge.  You work with others, and you grow your 'land,' but through an investment of time, not strategy.

 

Archmage on the other hand allowed users to compete with each other.  Strategically, you had to manage your army, and economy correctly, or risk losing units or structures.  You focused on gaining "land" to expand your territory, like Farmville, but it could be stolen from you in battle and you too, could expand by attacking others.  

 

The other difference, and the main meat of this topic discussion, is that Archmage doesn't use a 'field' or placement grid for buildings.  Your city was represented as a bunch of numbers, with gold regen(+ or -) mana, building count, etc.  As is your army.  When you attack, you don't do anything manually.  You are presented with a report, and wit how much land/gold you gained and how many units died.

 

Is there a place for games like this still?   Games that focus more on strategy and numbers than handholding and graphics?  

 

I suppose the questions comes up, does implementing graphics/2d fields/grid take away from the strategy, or hamper the experience.   

 

To start the discussion off, I would argue that, in a way, it does hamper the experience.  If the gameplay requires constant building/rebuilding of structures (which archmage would), it would get annoying to have to manage placement of buildings that might vanish or be destroyed.

 

You could choose to visually show expansion by managing a dynamic image which changes with player power, but I think thats about as necessary as it would get.  

 

This means that the main question is, would players be able to handle a game with no graphics?  I think there is certainly a niche, but could that niche be expanded and grown?



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#2 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:01 PM

Sure there is, and there still is a market for it, though it is much smaller, Or perhaps the same size as it was shortly after these games first started arriving.  However, I don't know of any that truly make money.  I can't recall the names of some of the games, but I have a friend who plays one regularly that involves all sorts of battles, city building etc, and its almost all text on a web browser.

 

I think your key trouble is getting people to try it in the first place.  Ads with images that reflect the game (or in Evony's case, reflect half naked women) tend to attract more people.  

 

However, this seems like a great idea for people to play while working, but since its text, it won't stand out as a game to passers-by.  

 

The key thing is going to be coming up with a concept that you can show in 30 seconds or less that will really pull players in.  I think that a text game is great.  Movies didn't stop the production of books.  Videos didn't kill the radio stars.  The technology can work, but players are technology spoiled, and need a good reason to go try something 'inferior'.  Word of mouth works, if it really is good, but even the players will need a good way to express the core concept of the fun in the game easily.

 

The game that my friend plays has a concept that he brings up a lot, and that is that you can join alliances, but the alliances can use each other's resources when others are logged out.  I.e. After a certain point of not being online, your production stops (resources being full) and other players in the alliance can then call on your soldiers, stone, wood and food into use for them selves.

 

So what will your concept be?  something that can catch people quickly and simultaneously express it self well with just text?


Edited by hpdvs2, 06 February 2013 - 02:15 PM.

Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#3 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:12 PM

However, this seems like a great idea for people to play while working, but since its text, it won't stand out as a game to passers-by.

 

In fact, perhaps you could market it that way.  Its not city wars, but Cube Wars.  Identify pseudonyms for various people and they get roles  related, such as Supply hoarder, Messenger, Captain(boss), etc...  and then you at what ever role your in.  Only it adds fictitious battles based on your needed interactions with others.  Over time, you fortify your cube, and take on your captains idiotic plans to change the country.  It could be presented with fresh jokes about how the battles progress.  

 

You have fortified your cube with a cardboard door. 

 

Your captain has suggested that everyone in the realm must wear a hat on friday.  

Spend X "Hacker credits" and rewrite the message to read, "Must wear a rat"

 

Your boss has now lost 2 credits from the upper management kingdom.

 

Someone has changed your sign with the supply closet and you find that your stapler is missing.  It is red, and obviously yours.

 - enters commands to start "spying" on other players cubes to see what they have.  

 

I think the best part of this would be creating quest/issue/task work for it, as a player design system.  Then after people play out various joke enactments as events in the game, they can vote if they liked it or not.  the more popular something is early on, the more often it will be shown.  

 

 

Any way, thats one concept,  I'd play that.  Though I don't imagine I would pay for it.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#4 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:55 AM

Other comparisons on this revolve around things like fantasy football, or some of the artificial stock trading games to see how you would do.  Which are typically just numbers, and strategy of changing things in it.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#5 Rits   Members   -  Reputation: 259

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 05:23 PM

Sheldon Cooper once said about the text-only RPG he was playing, "it uses the best GPU ever - imagination"

 

I'm a bit confused though, by "text-only" you still include some graphic illustrations right? just that in gameplay, all controls are minimal. Am I understanding correctly?

 

If it is, you might want to do some research on japan's currently android app market, for 2 reasons:

1) japan's 3 major phone companies only uses android. in other words most phone in japan runs android.

2) the top profitable games are all simple text base games with still 2D graphics.

 

one recent example of this popular genre is Final Fantasy Airbrone Brigade, free to play, android.

And then go check out GREE's game, the ones in japan and the new ones that just arrived US.

They are not doing well in the US market though. There are multiple theories of why Japan loves these simple games.

Some say its the gatchapon and slot machine nature, aka gambling addiction. Or some say its just the life style of general android users allow them to enjoy most from spending time and money on games like these, aka cultural matter.

However, I'm not suggesting you to target the japan market. I'm just showing some potential references, perhaps help you to imagine your finish product.

 

Nonetheless, in US market, collectible card games are still a decent market. If once awhile you feel like re-playing pokemon on a gameboy, you know what i mean.

Also if its text-oriented, perhaps the novel/fiction reading culture is where you may grow a whole new market.



#6 fr0st2k   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 09:59 AM

Thanks for all the feedback so far.  I think by your responses really show that this kind of genre can, not so much revive, since it hadn't died, but more so, be lifted back into the lime-light.   

independent Its encouraging, because as an independent developer with no team to help pull off the heavy stuff - this genre is very doable for me, and it's true appeal is game design, not anything else.

 

Other comparisons on this revolve around things like fantasy football, or some of the artificial stock trading games to see how you would do.  Which are typically just numbers, and strategy of changing things in it.

 

This was an interesting thought which I didn't quite put together.  It is definitely similar in nature, and just realizing that is going to help when I continue working on my GDD.

 

I have a prototype up and running, and the great thing is, I just can't wait to start playing it.  

 

As was mentioned, fancy graphics often outweigh good game design. Rits had a lot of good points involving what 'basic instincts' of game design really make a game addicting.  In response to your question, yes, I think some degree of images is required to set the stage and feel of the game.  Imagination is great, but the reason it works in books is due to the level of detail in the description.  Can't really get that across on 1 or 2 lines of a mobile phone.  However, it might be a good idea to allow a 'disable image' button for those at work. Back to the addicting items:

 

- Lotto system : Something randomized that, when 'won' gives the player a euphoric feeling

- Upgrades : For when randomization gets too unlucky. Players like to reach for and hit milestones.  Points of no return where they can call it a day and feel good about their accomplishments

- Smug satisfaction : Feeling more powerful than others.

 

The prototype I have is still trying to fuse all these together...but its fun, and the challenges don't seem impossible.

 

Thanks for input so far.



#7 Mayple   Members   -  Reputation: 187

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:36 PM

Honestly, there are a ton of text-only RPG games on mobile phones. The problem is they aren't marketed as a book.

 

Not sure if you remember the game Mafia Wars, Drug Wars, there are even more that are medival.

 

Mind you some of these examples use graphical clues to keep the player interested, majority if not all of the games components are stats, math and story that is text based. You will see that alot of these have graphics to appeal to the larger audience. As for pure text, with the distribution of media these days, e-books and the fact that real time story mud's isn't used as much its a very very small market. However adding a little flair with some attractive graphics as eye candy help break the barrier of entry for players getting into the Text only style gameplay element.


I usually just give my 2 cents, but since most of the people I meet are stubborn I give a 1$ so my advice isn't lost via exchange rate.


#8 ddn3   Members   -  Reputation: 1270

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:16 PM

This is an interesting idea, combine this with the voice to text input available on Android and maybe iOS too and you might have yourself a niche. Look into IF (Interacrtive Fiction) too, might be worthwhile to port a few of these to the mobiles and see how well they do. Most of them are released under liberal license so re-distributing them to mobiles should be ok..but you should verify this.



#9 Amadeus H   Members   -  Reputation: 1180

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:28 AM

There's a pretty nifty new text-adventure game called CYPHER (video-link). You should definitely check it out.

I think it's viable to reinvent the genre and make it more appealing to todays standards. smile.png



#10 ShiftyCake   Members   -  Reputation: 520

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 04:52 AM

text adventure's in the form of making money, are useless.

On the other hand, for a starting off point in programming or just general story design, it's actually one of the better ways to start. There's literally next to nothing illustrations for you to focus on, the rest is just programming and story design. If you want to learn either of those two tings, I suggest using this at a starter point.

What it doesn't help with, though, is game design. In fact, it could be argued that there's next to no thought put into the actual game design besides the basic types of commands. There are some points, but not worth it if you pursue such.


If, at any point, what I post is hard to understand, tell me. I am bad at projecting my thoughts into real words, so I appreciate the knowledge that I need to edit my post.

 

I am not a professional writer, nor a professional game designer. Please, understand that everything you read is simply an opinion of mind and should not, at any point in time, be taken as a credible answer unless validated by others.

 

I do take brief bouts of disappearance so don't worry if I either don't reply to you or miss certain things. I am quite a lazy fellow.


#11 fr0st2k   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:56 AM

text adventure's in the form of making money, are useless.

On the other hand, for a starting off point in programming or just general story design, it's actually one of the better ways to start. There's literally next to nothing illustrations for you to focus on, the rest is just programming and story design. If you want to learn either of those two tings, I suggest using this at a starter point.

What it doesn't help with, though, is game design. In fact, it could be argued that there's next to no thought put into the actual game design besides the basic types of commands. There are some points, but not worth it if you pursue such.

 

It seems as if the original idea evolved into something else through the course of discussion.

 

Originally, we had a game based completely on game design, with very little graphics to get in the way. 

 

I always called these games, "Browser-based MMORPG's" though im not sure what genre they would be considered now-a-days.

 

The conversation steered into the discussion of a more general "text-based" rpg from the true days of old, where you lay out a story with choices and reactions....ala goosbumps, "pick your choice, go to that page" (not to discount the numerous other books that used that idea) kinda book.  

 

And thats interesting really...because now in the digital age you can't "retract" your answer like every kid in the world did.  It would be quite challenging to design a game/book that does this without forcing the reader to 're-read' continuously, or jump back to his last decision in an "oh, woops, didn't mean to choose that one."  Essentially, make it so engaging the the reader gets a whole new story each time he reads through without feeling like he's re-reading.

 

But back to the original idea, the Browser-based MMO...in regards to game design, its quite challenging, and really expandable and fun.

 

You design resource management between # of units and structures.  Each structure can generate resources based on level (or number of structure).  Units can detract from regen, which means you already have a nice little balancing act going on.

 

You can only grow you economy by acquiring land, which can be done through 'exploring (diminishing returns)' and 'battle.'  I think land is an important feature of the game because it becomes the limiting factor in your overall power.  By allowing it to be destroyed or stolen, players can't expect to always move forward.  You create a game, not a time waster.  

 

The inherent problem with games like, "Mafia Wars" is that there is no competition, and thus no strategy.  Its just a flat out time waster.  Your decisions don't have any impact.

 

For those who are familiar with Archmage and games of its genre, it might be interesting to discuss what would need to be improved to gain a larger audience.

 

It was very niche.  The strategy involved was so in depth that many people just didn't understand what they were doing.

 

The number one thing is to simplify it.  But how do you simplify a complicated game that relies solely on game design and strategy without making a mind-numbing experience ala Mafia Wars.  That seems to be the biggest challenge im facing.  

 

In my first write up, the main things i did was try and 'trim the fat' from Archmage, in a somewhat purely UX role.  What things were annoying, what items work together, what doesn't need to be there.

 

For instance,  in Archmage, you had a total of 200 turns, which you accumulated every 5 minutes (based on server).  This evolved over time into the Zynga token idea.  So why not simplify it and use tokens.  This means you can do more with a single token compared to a 'turn.'  Rather than use 20 turns to build 200 Barracks,  you use 1 token to upgrade a barracks from level 1 -> level 2.  (keep in mind, due to core gameplay mechanics, these things are destroyed and rebuilt over the course of the game)

 

Another example: In Archmage, the structure, "Towns" gave you additional population.  The structure, "Farms" multiplied population to grant you a gold income per turn.  How much added depth was that giving the player?  IMO, not enough to warrant such a complex and confusing game mechanic and management.  So, get rid of it, and add in a single structure that grants gold per turn.  

 

And again, while its possible to simplify, you walk a thin line between making the game have so little strategy it's pointless to play...kind of like Rage of Bahamut ...which I would consider a completely horrible game in terms of game design.  



#12 ShiftyCake   Members   -  Reputation: 520

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 05:53 AM

text adventure's in the form of making money, are useless.

On the other hand, for a starting off point in programming or just general story design, it's actually one of the better ways to start. There's literally next to nothing illustrations for you to focus on, the rest is just programming and story design. If you want to learn either of those two tings, I suggest using this at a starter point.

What it doesn't help with, though, is game design. In fact, it could be argued that there's next to no thought put into the actual game design besides the basic types of commands. There are some points, but not worth it if you pursue such.

 

It seems as if the original idea evolved into something else through the course of discussion.

 

Originally, we had a game based completely on game design, with very little graphics to get in the way. 

 

I always called these games, "Browser-based MMORPG's" though im not sure what genre they would be considered now-a-days.

 

The conversation steered into the discussion of a more general "text-based" rpg from the true days of old, where you lay out a story with choices and reactions....ala goosbumps, "pick your choice, go to that page" (not to discount the numerous other books that used that idea) kinda book.  

 

And thats interesting really...because now in the digital age you can't "retract" your answer like every kid in the world did.  It would be quite challenging to design a game/book that does this without forcing the reader to 're-read' continuously, or jump back to his last decision in an "oh, woops, didn't mean to choose that one."  Essentially, make it so engaging the the reader gets a whole new story each time he reads through without feeling like he's re-reading.

 

But back to the original idea, the Browser-based MMO...in regards to game design, its quite challenging, and really expandable and fun.

 

You design resource management between # of units and structures.  Each structure can generate resources based on level (or number of structure).  Units can detract from regen, which means you already have a nice little balancing act going on.

 

You can only grow you economy by acquiring land, which can be done through 'exploring (diminishing returns)' and 'battle.'  I think land is an important feature of the game because it becomes the limiting factor in your overall power.  By allowing it to be destroyed or stolen, players can't expect to always move forward.  You create a game, not a time waster.  

 

The inherent problem with games like, "Mafia Wars" is that there is no competition, and thus no strategy.  Its just a flat out time waster.  Your decisions don't have any impact.

 

For those who are familiar with Archmage and games of its genre, it might be interesting to discuss what would need to be improved to gain a larger audience.

 

It was very niche.  The strategy involved was so in depth that many people just didn't understand what they were doing.

 

The number one thing is to simplify it.  But how do you simplify a complicated game that relies solely on game design and strategy without making a mind-numbing experience ala Mafia Wars.  That seems to be the biggest challenge im facing.  

 

In my first write up, the main things i did was try and 'trim the fat' from Archmage, in a somewhat purely UX role.  What things were annoying, what items work together, what doesn't need to be there.

 

For instance,  in Archmage, you had a total of 200 turns, which you accumulated every 5 minutes (based on server).  This evolved over time into the Zynga token idea.  So why not simplify it and use tokens.  This means you can do more with a single token compared to a 'turn.'  Rather than use 20 turns to build 200 Barracks,  you use 1 token to upgrade a barracks from level 1 -> level 2.  (keep in mind, due to core gameplay mechanics, these things are destroyed and rebuilt over the course of the game)

 

Another example: In Archmage, the structure, "Towns" gave you additional population.  The structure, "Farms" multiplied population to grant you a gold income per turn.  How much added depth was that giving the player?  IMO, not enough to warrant such a complex and confusing game mechanic and management.  So, get rid of it, and add in a single structure that grants gold per turn.  

 

And again, while its possible to simplify, you walk a thin line between making the game have so little strategy it's pointless to play...kind of like Rage of Bahamut ...which I would consider a completely horrible game in terms of game design.  

 

what I got form this, is that your having a tough time balancing simplification while maintaining strategy.

Slap yourself.

Your thinking all wrong.

Don't consider "how to simplify yet maintain the strategy in my game"

rather think like this,

"how to simplify and ADD strategy in my game"

What do I mean? Let's say you have created one object for your game, where you could have created five. Considering this, you should be focusing on making that one object able to implement all the strategy's those five could have.

This means, while you maintain a simple game that's easy to understand and pick up, you've left a huge strategy base to be worked on and mastered.

Consider it next time your simplifying, it's harder to do but it is well worth it.

 

Don't actually slap yourself though.


If, at any point, what I post is hard to understand, tell me. I am bad at projecting my thoughts into real words, so I appreciate the knowledge that I need to edit my post.

 

I am not a professional writer, nor a professional game designer. Please, understand that everything you read is simply an opinion of mind and should not, at any point in time, be taken as a credible answer unless validated by others.

 

I do take brief bouts of disappearance so don't worry if I either don't reply to you or miss certain things. I am quite a lazy fellow.


#13 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 12:07 PM

text adventure's in the form of making money, are useless.

 

BatMUD, Utopia, Die2Nite etc are still profitable.

 

I always called these games, "Browser-based MMORPG's" though im not sure what genre they would be considered now-a-days.

 

PBBGs - Persistant Browser Based Games

 

For instance, in Archmage, you had a total of 200 turns, which you accumulated every 5 minutes (based on server). This evolved over time into the Zynga token idea. So why not simplify it and use tokens. This means you can do more with a single token compared to a 'turn.' Rather than use 20 turns to build 200 Barracks, you use 1 token to upgrade a barracks from level 1 -> level 2. (keep in mind, due to core gameplay mechanics, these things are destroyed and rebuilt over the course of the game)

 

Good old days. I used to play a lot of Earth, Utopia and Archmage. I am now currently making a modern innovation of browser based MUD (multi-user dungeon) using HTML5 (node.js and socket.io) because of my love for the good old days.

I think some static graphics are necessary. One of the biggest draw of Archmage for me was the strange "cult-like" images. Also, I think

1) The time/energy system. Getting x turns per hour is very very niche and IMHO needs to be replaced by something better. The fact that the most shiny example of this system is Farmville doesn't bode well for it.

The typical excuse is that this system allows "working adults" to play. I am not sure what kind of "working adults" they are referring to because I am a working adult and I am having a hard time playing because I need to be really dedicated logging in everyday just to catch up with everyone.

2) Excel spreadsheet level of complexity is not going to attract a lot of gamers.


Edited by Legendre, 15 February 2013 - 12:08 PM.





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