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Email based games

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Hello all I was trying to find some simple turn based play by email games for an internal forum i am administrating but the interest eventually grew a bit more than that :-) I can see some challenges in this kind of a game, primarily the syncrhonization between players and the maintenance of game state, especially when you consider that turns might last for up to a week. Another thing i have been wondering about is whether or not there is a need for modifying a mail server to run the game on... Does anyone know of any good resources about this kind of games?

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Not including chain letters and the like this is the only email game I've every played: Nomic. This isn't a resource for making email games but its a pretty cool game in itself which was like nothing i'd ever played befor.

I'm pretty sure there are others out there - but i wouldn't expect any of them to function around a mail server or any outside hardware/software. Its just the players that maintain the game and its state. Keeping a wikki or something would probably help if things get complicated but with under 10 players it shouldn't be too hard for people to just keep track themselves (especially if you use gmail or mutt and have the whole game in one "thread"). As for player synkronization as long as you make it very strickly turn based you should have no problem. If its jim's go then everyone else just waits till they get jims email, then its franks go and everyone waits for him etc - if your trying to make it realtime or have anyone input whenever I think you'll run into problems (especialy if the players are in different countries and the a mail server laggs or something). But keeping is trickly turn based should solve any such problems.

Did you have anything in mind? or were you just randomly thinking of stuff?

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To be honest, i was thinking something along the lines of "naval wars" or something like that. Its a game were two players set up their ships and try to destroy the other players ships by calling shots. You probably have seen something like that...Only that it would evolve in a much larger "sea" and it would be one against all the others :-) It can also be modified to involve battling to keep a location or maintain an area....

This can be the theme of a Web Based Game ofcourse but i wanted it to be email based because i was looking for a game that:

1. Its fun
2. Its simple
3. Players can cooperate or interact (and have fun :-) )
4. Doesnt take a lot of time to think or a lot of reading to get immersed (see Fantasy games for example :-) )
5. Doesnt distract you a lot from what you might be doing at the time you receive an email...
6. Doesnt require all the gamers to be online at the same time.


The reason i mention a modification on a POP3 email server is because earlier this year i received an email from a team of gamers that had set up a game that had a GUI and operated on a file that would be received via email. The idea was that you receive the file, run the GUI, make your move, save the file and post it back to a specific address within some time limit (2-3 days per turn)....I dont remember the game or the team of gamers (i was a bit busy with other obligations at the time) but i guess the processing of this text file was done by some automated procedure.

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One I really liked was called Stars! (including the exclaimation).

I was really looking forward to their sequal for many years, unfortunately the game got shafted in the search for a publisher.

Basically, here's how it worked:

Startup:

1) Someone (possibly a player) acts as the "host". He gets everyone to email him their race files, and then creates the game.
2) Host emails all player .xy files (IIRC) which are saved for the duration of the game. This contains static public knowledge - aka the positions of stars and their names.
3) Host emails all players their first turn files (.m## IIRC) as well.

Turn processing:

1) Each player recieves their turn file, which contains information about what their fleets have seen, and so forth. This forms the "playing field".
2) They tell fleets to do things and set research projects to focus on and the like, then save their game.
3) This generates another file which they then email back to the host.
4) Once the host recieves all the turn files, or the game is to be continued without them (they missed the deadline or are away on vacation) then the host processes the turn.
5) The game, run by the host, reads in all the actions sent in by the players and generates new turn files to be redistributed to the players.

This form of turn based email games is based completely on the passing of files - one could in theory also play the game via floppies in snail mail, or over a LAN with file sharing.

There was a webpage that was set up by someone to help automate this process, it was set up so you could upload your files to it. You could set a schedual for it to generate turns on, and it would make the turn files available for download.

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WOW, sounds a lot of work for the host! :-)

In this case, what if the host doesnt have the time to process all those files?
I would defenately go for the automated procedure.


One thing i am not too fond of is those web games where you sit around doing nothing but manipulating numbers in boxes and pass the turn.


For the game i would like to see as an email based one, i was thinking something simple like a conquering game (see above postings) or something like that. The players get an email of the map of operations and post back commands like

Group ATeam Attack A2
Group BTeam Retreat (To previous position)
Group A3 Move K2

(Battle outcomes based on probabilities, Soldiers get more experienced after every battle, or through personal training, etc etc.....It doesnt have to be soldiers ofcourse, it might be Frogs fighting for more space on the top of those flowers that float on the water)

And so on. In the case, of illegal moves the move is just not processed or another action could be taken (like an extra turn where players correct their mistakes :-) ). Maybe it would be better as web based where most of the elementary checks could be performed by javascript.


Maybe i am searching using the wrong words (email based games, play by email, etc)...There might allready be something that someone can customize and use.....Any ideas out there? :-)

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Quote:
Original post by 8anOS
WOW, sounds a lot of work for the host! :-)


Yeah, it was :).

Quote:
In this case, what if the host doesnt have the time to process all those files?


Either he has someone else do it or the game is paused :P.

Quote:
I would defenately go for the automated procedure.


If you want automated, yet still email, there's two main variations:
1) Outbound email, inbound http. Simple enough given tools like PHP.
2) In and outbound email. More complicated, how does the server know what to do with the attached file(s)? The data for which game is being played has to either be stored in the file, or inserted into the email somehow (and the interpreted by the server).

Quote:
One thing i am not too fond of is those web games where you sit around doing nothing but manipulating numbers in boxes and pass the turn.


For the game i would like to see as an email based one, i was thinking something simple like a conquering game (see above postings) or something like that. The players get an email of the map of operations and post back commands like

Group ATeam Attack A2
Group BTeam Retreat (To previous position)
Group A3 Move K2

(Battle outcomes based on probabilities, Soldiers get more experienced after every battle, or through personal training, etc etc.....It doesnt have to be soldiers ofcourse, it might be Frogs fighting for more space on the top of those flowers that float on the water)

And so on. In the case, of illegal moves the move is just not processed or another action could be taken (like an extra turn where players correct their mistakes :-) ). Maybe it would be better as web based where most of the elementary checks could be performed by javascript.


Maybe i am searching using the wrong words (email based games, play by email, etc)...There might allready be something that someone can customize and use.....Any ideas out there? :-)


Well, if you're going for a "simple, commands basedgame" kind of thing, you may want to look into making it webpage based. There's simply more tools out there for this kind of thing. There's MMOs based on web scripts, the names of which I can't recall at this very moment unfortunately. Two different ones that come to mind:

1) A risk-esque type of game (called Runescape something like runescape IIRC). There's a map of terrain, you can move your forces to neighboring terrain "tiles" and conqur them, which gains you resources per turn, which can be used to build more troops, or buildings. Everything is done via webpage - HTML, javascript, and Images generated using CGI scripts, and then commands being sent back in the form of HTTP POST requests.

2) Some space based game (totally froget the name) where you have a home system where you build defenses, mine asteroids, and build fleets. You can send them off to attack other systems and/or steal their asteroids. It takes 8 hours to get to any system via wormgate. Done just using CGI scripts generating HTML and i/o done via HTTP.

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Right...Not so specific but i will see what i can do :-)

Thank you very much... a Risk kind of game fits more to what i had in mind.

>2) In and outbound email. More complicated, how does the server know what to do
>with the attached file(s)? The data for which game is being played has to either
>be stored in the file, or inserted into the email somehow (and the interpreted by
>the server).

That is why i suggested basing the interface of the game around a mail server. :-)

In my opinion, the only reasons for getting into such a trouble (which is a lot...a lot of parsing work to be done) are:

1. Get past any kind of firewall so your game wont have connectivity problems from anywhere

2. Build a game that is more of a "lifestyle" than a game. You see, when the game is not invasive and does not require your attention as much as those console games do, you react differently (or maybe its just me :-) ). When you are infront of a console you are "playing a role" in any kind of game (Not onmly RPG).
While when you receive an email and you just sit infront of the computer, thinking about the content of the email, not attached to any kind of graphics etc etc,its like actually taking part into the game...I hope this make sense :-)

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In case someone else ever wants to find some Play by email games in the context i am discribing in this very thread (i am actually replying to my self here, this is not a good sign of sanity) there is this server:

http://www.gamerz.net/pbmserv/

that has an email interface !!! and a set of basic commands to run Play By email based games on.

There are allready some popular board games such as backgammon for example.

The whole system is email based from registration to actual participation in the games...It is worth checking it out if you are a fan of the genre.

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