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Cooperative MMORTS (purely theoretical)

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I am currently developing a simple rogue-like RPG set in the stone age (Maglemosian period, but that's not set in stone) and I've been daydreaming a bit about future installments of the game. It looks to me like it would be the perfect setting for a cooperative MMORTS. Now, for the idea itself. I'm envisioning a game somewhat similar to Settlers, but with more control over the people and less buildings (craftsmen instead of buildings would be in charge of producing stuff). The player would be in charge of a tribe of humans (either cromagnons or neanderthals) and the main challenge would be in keeping the tribe alive (and possibly prosperous). Every tribesman (I'm estimating 20-ish to be the standard tribe size) would be a multi-purpose "unit" and would have stats similar to those found in RPGs (only not at superhuman levels) and skills (flintknapping, basketweaving,...). The stats would be influenced both by character's lifestyle and by genetics. This brings me the second part: reproduction. Unlike in pretty much every RTS you'd be unable to simply click on a button to produce units. Children would be born and would have to be taken care of before they start being useful (say, gathering berries at the age of five). This would obviously mean that women and children would be a very valuable "resource". But it also brings us to the fact that interacting with other tribes would be crucial to long-term survival of the tribe as too much inbreeding would unleash tons of recessive diseases. Another important reason for interacting with other tribes would be trade. Resources would be evenly spread on the map to encourage trade (for example, a tribe living in inland mountains would trade high-quality flint for a coastal tribe's salt). And that brings me to the fact that resources wouldn't be handled in the traditional abstract way most RTSs do; instead all resources would be items and some of them could be processed to other items (for example: flint -> spearhead + pole + sinew -> spear) and the quality of items would be influenced by quality of raw materials, skill of the craftsman and wear and tear (items would diminish in quality over time and foodstuff would spoil). For the reasons mentioned above it's clear that cooperation between different tribes would be very important, but I'm not ruling warfare out. Raiding other tribes for resources and possibly slaves would certainly be doable, but would be a risky action that would need much thinking out because losing tribe members would be a huge blow to a tribe. I'd say that few players would try to eradicate other tribes because it would generally mean huge losses, so raiding when the enemies men are out hunting would probably be the main for of "combat". Anyway, this game ought to take place on a huge seamless map to enhance game immersion. I'd say that 2D is good enough for this game (I honestly can't see what would 3D add) and this might reduce the strain on the server. Speaking of which, I guess that a dozen tribes per shard (is that the word for one "world" in MMO games?) would be more than enough, but I'm not sure how well would even that number be handled by servers as I'm completely ignorant when it comes to multiplayer programming. Sorry if this post seems a bit undeveloped, but I had to see if there are other people who would find this idea as cool as I do. I'm nowhere near implementation, but I guess I could start working on it in five o six years when I acquire sufficient skills and assemble a small team of like-minded hobbyists (I've already talking some friends from Uni into making a sidescroller with me). I appreciate any comments and critics. Thanks in advance for pointing out glaring holes in my theoretical concept.

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Well, to me, (and don't get me wrong... my oppinion is of little conciquence I'd think... I've never played Settlers) it seems like a somewhat decent idea. The idea of RTS units being spawned from procreation using a seemingly pretty complicated genetics engine sounds interesting. Cooperation between tribes (each player, I presume?) being almost forced by the need to trade and procreate without genetic defects sounds interesting... there's only a few things I could see people complaining about if this made it to a real game.

1. What's the point in the game? If it's to simulate primitive tribes and their interactions, well sounds like you have it down. I don't really see keeping a tribe alive and prospering being the most 'fun' task to do in a game.

2. Micromanagement issues. With a somewhat complicated economy (even with just cromagnons or neanderthals) and procreating working off of per-unit stats, (this is what the description sounds like... I may be wrong...) it may be more of an exercise in frustration to even play the game, let alone prosper. To me, this sounds like a big issue. If a game isn't fun, noone would play it. All the sim games are essentially micromanagement, but for the most part, they have systems so that this micromanagement is mostly self opperating, so the player can focus on the big picture. All in all... this really goes back to how is this game fun? If it is to be managing the tribes and getting all the interactions, it would be very difficult to keep it shy of frustrating. If not, then I guess there has to be another goal!

3. A well opperating genetics engine, and a solid MMO economy are very hard to come by. Maybe I'm invisioning the genetics more complicated then need be, but if it's to have implicative ingrowth defects, I'd think it would take more then just an inter-mingling of stats, and perhaps more then a straight up dominant/dormant 'gene' splicing deal... forgive me, it's been a long time sense I've been in biology of any kind!
But more the economy then a genetics engine. It sounds like you want to take actual, physical presence of items after 'gathering' to be taken into account. This can lead to a drastically more complicated economic model then if it was simply a statistical trade. Although I've always looked at it like this: It works in the real world, give the players the tools and resources and they'll manage their own damn economy (with proper adjustments)! But then I'm no econ major. ~.^


As a side note, I'd just like to say servers and communication for an MMO due to come out in several years are essentially mute compared to the restrictions these days. All the new tech coming out along with the ever rapid growth of broadband services will make a very network heavy MMO possible, so long as your code is smart enough to manage that data wisely!

I guess the whole point, next to specifics of the game working, is what would make this game fun for the rest of us? I don't see a large portion of the gaming populus playing a tribal sim, especially if it's 2D. Not meaning to offend, but gamers are DEFINITLEY drawn to flashy graphics and gameplay.

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Seems nice idea, i agree with the aim problem them, people like to concure others and i think that may happen. Ganking of lone tradsmen or hunsmen weakenign and then overrunning could be the tact.

As for micro management i like it so heres my surgestion on how to make it not oever whelming.
Say if u do flint working u get better over time same with hunting, when u come to say i want 50 spears making maybe it lists all your flint workisn on teh right hand side of your screen with their skill (and linked skills) and it tells u what each of them is currently doing then u cna choose which u want to switch to go flint work. that way u dont go loosing units not distinguishing them from others or sending the wrong guy.
i would definatly use a skill modle that if u do it u lean rather than u got 20xp go spend it.

hope that helps a little :)

oo and what about defences of villages :) and theirs always a problem of getting wiped out when not online. Ogame got over this by making attacks take alot of time and u can c them comming

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had few more thoughts :)

womone and children can do resource carrying, also maybe children could do like apprenticing e.g little jimmy helps bob the flint worker gains basic flint skill and bobs work gets done faster, but little jimmy cant do anything with flint on his own.


Also i like the idea of diverse spread of resources, and it could lead some quite kewl tribes who use what they have for difference purposes. e.g tibe buy woods build wooden shacks, those by mountains use caves.

also have u thought of herbalist/appothicay/healer for diseases and wounds?

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Well, the game is intended to appeal to a very specific group within the gamer community, that is the kind of people that enjoy playing tycoon/citybuilder type of games. Ideally it'd be freeware, but I guess that server costs have to be covered somehow. Anyway, I don't think it would be all that boring because from what I've seen all MMO games boil down to tons of grinding. Quests in MMORPGs tend to be dull and when you're done with them all you have left is grinding and PvP, and I think that grinding in an RTS-ish game would be less boring as you don't need to do everything manually. And I'm predicting that diplomacy would be more important here because death in this game would have far greater consequences than in MMORPGs.

That being said, I don't think that an extremely complicated genetics engine would be needed. There would be a single gene for every stat and a single gene for every talent (affinity towards a skill) plus miscellaneous genes for stuff like inheritable diseases. Each person would get a pair of all genes, one set from mother and one set from father. The genetics system would follow Mendel's laws of inheritance and steer clear of more complex stuff (well, a mutation every now and then would be OK, I guess) because I think implementing realistic genetics would take years and would be a massive overkill.

I'm well aware that the economy model I propose would be a nightmare to micromanage with traditional RTS system. The best solution I can think of is massive automatization of production process via AI. That is, each character would have a set of goals which they would pursue when they're left idle (for example, if there's nothing to do make spearheads) that would depend on their skills and on availability of items (so, if there's a shortage of baskets the idle character would make them instead of spearheads, even if he's better at flintknapping than basketweaving). Offcourse. these priority lists could be overridden by player and, to further ease the control, the player could set up a global list of priorities (ie a queue of things that need doing). Being able to make custom "jobs" (templates with different lists of priorities) as well as having pre-made "jobs" would further ease control over the tribe. All this automatization would also mean that the player could log in, play for a while, make a big to-do list and log out and the villagers would continue to work.

This brings me to the problem of attacking offline players, which I still don't have a solution for. Entire tribes blinking in and out of existance would kill the game immersion for me (it's the one of the two things I hate about MMORPGs), but I can't think of a good way to protect a tribe while offline other than hiding in an easily deffendable location (and that is a lame and hacked way to do it).

The apprenticeship idea is wonderful, as well as herbalism. I had some vague ideas about that as well, but nothing truly fleshed-out.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback and keep it coming.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by 95CKILMA
people like to concure others... weakenign and then overrunning...

heres my surgestion on how to make it not oever whelming...
...if u do flint working u get better ...workisn on teh right... tells u what... then u cna choose which u want... u dont go loosing units... if u do it u lean rather than u got 20xp...

... defences of villages ... theirs always a problem ... u can c them comming


Jesus Christ kid, take thirty seconds to look over what you just wrote. This isn't AOL.

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yes kid....
when im scribalign a quick message on a board i dont tend to look it over, but this isnt an english exam :/

anways back onto topic
the idea of a global priority list as well as a list for whats needed is a nice idea, maybe add in maslow list? (as in maslows hierarchy of needs) to help prioratise.
one thing i would do though is if the list is for example
make baskets
make spear heads
pick berries

and our native bob has 1 skill in baskets 30 in spear head making and 10 in berry and 70 in boat making maybe have a calculation that basicly makes him say well i know baskets are more important but hell im crap at them ill make spear heads.

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Quote:
Original post by 95CKILMA
when im scribalign a quick message on a board i dont tend to look it over, but this isnt an english exam :/
No, it isn't; but neither is it Yahoo Chat. You'll find that a lot of people here won't take you seriously if your grammar is that bad.

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Quote:
Original post by Sneftel
Quote:
Original post by 95CKILMA
when im scribalign a quick message on a board i dont tend to look it over, but this isnt an english exam :/
No, it isn't; but neither is it Yahoo Chat. You'll find that a lot of people here won't take you seriously if your grammar is that bad.


Indeed. English exams exist for a reason.

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Hmm, well if you're aiming at that audience, I could see it going somewhere if you worked out the micromanagement issues and all. Which it definitley sounds like you're already started on!

Aside from issues among micromanagement and genetics and all that, I'm still having trouble finding the real appeal. Granted, building a successful tribe and expanding out to trade, etc would be fun, but this is a never ending MMO, is it not? After you expand and become a large presence, what's there to do? I'm betting most people would try to start a war, even people that like sims and all to death!

I guess what I'm getting at is that it sounds like you have quite an evolution scheme (as far as expanding tribes, economics, etc), but to me, I'm not seeing much discussion on where things would head after everyone expanded and how the game would help it stay fun. It's one thing to manage a thriving town, but another to manage a war. Would there be tools to help this? Also, there's a lot to considder when the economics of war comes in to play... a lot of things are strained, including population. To me, it seems like a huge tribe, given the production method of reproduction, would still not be large enough (and stay managable, unless those automation tools are quite powerful =]) to sustain a war without eventually burning itself and others out in numbers, let alone resources... Or perhaps this is part of the fun. ^.~

If the tools were in place to manage this well, I could see expansion, trading, and war to all be very fun and challenging!

I do have two questions, though:

1. How are the skills to be facilitated? As in... basketweaving, masonry, (or similar... I know it's neanderthal etc) hunting, and all going to fit together? Is there really a tribe to centralize all of this? Perhaps it's my lack of knowledge on primal life that's limiting my visualization of this aspect of the game, but a lot of people that would be interested also may not know too much to think for themselves it to be interesting...

2. This is more of conceptual, but how easy is it going to be for people just starting among old players get a footing? Even if war would be difficult, a mean, large player could decide to simply wipe them off the face of 'their' land...

edit: Hmm... after thinking a bit about this... It seems to me that if a few issues are hammered out... this concept could be taken to a real MMORTS. As in something like Warcraft, or C&C, centered around war... not trying to deminish the concept... ~.^ Diplomacy would take a huge role in a war-centered game. Also, as players expand, fighting over resources is bound to happen, sparking wars anyways. If war isn't at least a little bit covered by the design, players will eventually lose interest, not having anything to do after getting a solid footing around the world. As what is in my head right now, it almost sounds like a primitive (litterally, hah) version of something like the Total War series, except obviously the campaign map is the real deal and it's real time... needing actual management and being a lot funner. Also with less war. ~.^

Am I getting these concepts wrong? I know saying it's like the Total War series begs assumptions about the 'tech tree' and diplomacy... but as of now, the specifics of how this works seems to be a bit wanting. =]

Tools and systems for micromanagement, genetics, and server issues are, at least to me, much, much easier to design then a fully working(complicated/challenging enough to keep players interested for a long time) and fun(semi-balanced, not too hard) game design.

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3. A well opperating genetics engine, and a solid MMO economy are very hard to come by. Maybe I'm invisioning the genetics more complicated then need be, but if it's to have implicative ingrowth defects, I'd think it would take more then just an inter-mingling of stats, and perhaps more then a straight up dominant/dormant 'gene' splicing deal... forgive me, it's been a long time sense I've been in biology of any kind!
But more the economy then a genetics engine. It sounds like you want to take actual, physical presence of items after 'gathering' to be taken into account. This can lead to a drastically more complicated economic model then if it was simply a statistical trade. Although I've always looked at it like this: It works in the real world, give the players the tools and resources and they'll manage their own damn economy (with proper adjustments)! But then I'm no econ major. ~.^

I'm no economist or geneticists, but I have though a bout a game very much like yours (see the thread on busting out an RTS [url]http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=418404&whichpage=1�[/url]

In this concept, I had an economy that is based soly on what players would be willing to trade for (a barter economy), and I suppose it could be backed up by threat of force too, but that would be up to the players. I chose not to design a hard coded economy into it and let the players develop it themselves.

As for the gemtics, I thought a paired chromosome system would work best. In this each "character" would have 2 coppies of each chromosome, one from each parent. The parents would randomly provide 1 of their chromosomes from each pair that they had. The child would then (upon getting these chromosomes from its parents) select which one of each pair would be the dominant one and use that to determine its genome (what amounts to the pheno type).

The chromosome would be a sequance of codes that stood for one of the character's abilities. The chromosome is just a string (1 dimentional array) of characters, or integers. To determine the character's ability level all you need to do is count the number of sequances that matched the code for that ability.

For instance, you might choose the character "S" to stand for strength. Each time this letter code appeared in the genome, this would add 1 to the strength of that character. So a sequance like "ASBSCSSBBACCASSB" would give a strength score of 6.

Using this you could also have spacers, or some other code that is needed for the count to go properly. This might be contained on the non-dominant chromosome. As a further example, this might be that an "S" is only counted if the non-dominant chromosome does not have an "S" in that same position (the requierments could be as complex as you like, but this should be fairly simple). This would mean that as inbreeding occures, less and less codes will be validated properly and you will have "genetic" desease effects caused by the inbreeding.

Variations on this basic theme was to allow each chromosome to have a sequance that weights its chances of being selected as the dominant chromosome. This weighting value should be in competition with teh ability codes on the chromosome. So the greater the weighting value, the less positions available for codeing the abilities. The reason for this is that to get an effective genetic algorithm, you need to have competition within the genetic code (which is then translated into the resultant "creature".

Some posible mutations are
Point mutation: These are single mutations in a code. These change the code from one code to a different code.
Swap: Exchange the places of two codes on the same chromosome. If you are using some form of code translation that relies on specific sequances of codes to determine the effect it has (like I described above), then this is a good mutation to include.
Deleation: Remove a code completely, which will shorten the chromosome.
Addition: Add a code to the cromosome, which will lengthen the chromosome.
Breakage: This chances that this occures should be based on the length of a chromosome to stop it becomeing too large. With this mutation, the cromosome is cut and one section is discarded.
Cut and Paste: This should be done before a chromosome is pased onto the "child" from a parent. With this mutation you cut the two chromosomes from one parent in to four pieces and then past the ends onto the other chromosome. The cust on each chromosome do not have to be in the same postions either.

eg: If you had 2 chromosomes the first of which was AB and the otehr CD, then you would cut and paste them so that they were AD and CB (you could do others as well like: AC, BA, CA, DA, BC, BD, DB, DC, etc).

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You know, you do have a point about having nothing to do once your tribe is running smoothly. I agree that combat is needed.

What I used to have in mind is a simple raid system, as seen in OGame. But after thinking a bit about it I decided to scratch that idea because it's frustrating to be unable to utterly annihilate someone. So what I came up with is a rough idea of a system in which it would be possible to destroy other tribes, but not economically sound. What I have in mind is a vassalage system, that is you could conquer tribes (by forcing their owner to either surrender or lose). The conquered tribe would still be commanded by the player who created it, but he would have to pay tribute to his overlords or face the consequences. Granted, this can all be done without in-game support for such a system, but building it into the game interface would encourage players to exploit other tribes instead of destroying them. Sure, bloodthirsty players could wipe out whole tribes (well, a couple of villagers ought to be able to escape) but wouldn't fare well long-term against players who make conquered tribes their vassals.

I can see this system working fairly well, but I'm not sure how much fun it would be for the vassals. Would it be too frustrating to be someone's vassal? Keep in mind that you can rebel at any time you want. Speaking of which, it would certainly be possible with this game's reproduction system for conquerors to overstretch themselves and crumble before a massive rebellion of their underlings. Anyway, it seems to me that with this system a capable player could carve out a small kingdom for himself. Given enough time, the game world would probably end up having it's best territories divided between small kingdoms and the badlands roamed by nomadic tribes (which would be eager to exploit any weaknesses in kingdoms). Granted, this seems a bit too sociologicaly advanced for the stone age, but IMHO playability is more important than historical accuracy.

Would this make the game more interesting long-term, and would it attract more players to it or would it simply turn off those who were interested in it in the first place?

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i think it could be a good idea, because you could build an empire and vasalges may even want to join help with future raids etc so they could be part of a winning empire
i would allow the people winning other tribes to set the rates of tithe and alter them so thire would be more diplomacy involved. e.g people helping with raids may encourage lower tithes or the vassalge may look like hes going to reveolt so the lord drops the tithe so he dosnt etc

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Hmm... conquering would be pretty interesting. Although, I'm still not seeing how these kingdoms... become kingdoms. Are there buildings, a tech tree type deal? o.O Expanding would be a pain without at least a bit of structural aid... even caves. =]

Also, how's all the fighting going to be working, basically? I take it you can, er... produce units very adept at fighting, and may all units pick up arms in defense, sense there's no real class to each unit, just skills? ^.^ How does this whole aspect work? I'm still kinda' confused on visualizing this...

If I may make those assumptions, then with a few additions you may just have quite the snowball rolling. =D

Oh! Something that would make the game very fun to even just have (and provide good challenges to expanding and exploring) would be very dangerous flaura/fauna. Nothing says "oh crap" like a villager walking along to see a mammoth (or sabre tooth tiger, or what ever! I dunno...) bearing down on him. Even just with this addition (if it's not already there) you could make some very interesting environmental exloring to do along with some good rewards for those strong enough to find and take what ever it is... It would also make a neccessity for fighting, though. =/ Which, of course, would increase the chances of tribes fighting because they'd already have the tools to do so.

Just food for thought... =]

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The game itself would revolve around people, not buildings. There would be no such thing as "spearmaker's hut", but there could certainly be a hut that houses a spearmaker. That is, all items would be made by individual characters and they could make them anywhere provided they have the needed raw resources, and the buildings (contrary to popular image stone age people lived in a wide variety of structures, as well as in caves) would be used for lodging (weather would be a major "enemy" in the game) and storage.

Every character in the game would be capable of doing anything, but not everyone would do it equally well. There wouldn't be traditional levels like those in RPGs, instead everything would revolve around skills. Proficiency in skills would depend on physical attributes (strength, dexterity,...) and, more importantly, on practice (the more you use a skill the better you are at it). This means that there would be no discrete units, but you could assign a "job" (AI, really) to individual characters. Specialization would be necessary for success, so a tribe would typically have a specialized healer, a dedicated toolmaker or three (knapper for example) and a bunch of hunters and gatherers that would also double as makers of simples items. Offcourse, this is just one possible specialization scheme, and you could certainly run a tribe consisting of a bunch of jacks-of-all-trades. An aggressive player could specialize his entire tribe for combat and rely on raiding to get the needed items (this would be a risky strategy, though).

Combat could be carried out by all villagers, but not all would be equally capable or willing (unless they're cornered). Good hunters would probably make good warriors. that being said, hunting would compromise the majority of "combat" as this game's emphasis would be on diplomacy rather warfare. This means that there would be a wide variety of historically accurate animals (so that means deffinetly no dinosaurs :p ) that would present real challenges because, unlike in fantasy RPGs, no character could ever progress so far as to be able to take on a mammoth single-handedly or do other superhuman stuff. Even with a large hunting party hunting mammoths would be a risky endeavor and would require quite a bit of planning, but it's rewards would also be quite large (a single mammoth could get a small tribe trough the winter).

As far as conquest is concerned, it would basically mean that the attacker and defender enter negotiations (supported by interface) in which they agree on the amount of tribute that the vassal would pay. The master would send a "tax collector" (this could be automated, offcourse) to the vassal's village every once in a while to collect tribute. If the collector doesn't return the natural thing to assume would be that the vassal is rebelling and that some murdering and pillaging is in order. So the vassal could rebel at any time, but it might not be a very smart thing to do because the player that conquered him might beat him again and this time may be less merciful (perhaps even commit genocide). On the other hand, a master with multiple vassals could see his vassal unite to break free of his rule, and this means that conquering more tribes than you can handle might not be the best course of action.

That's it from me for now, and keep those comments coming because you're helping me flesh out the game concept in my head.

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would u break down the hunters skills at all?
such as archer (not sure what age these came in) or there was certainly spear throwers (spearmen with a secondary wooden tool kinda like a sling to aid in throwing)
trappers?
spearmen?

this would allow for differnt tactics to be used on differnt pray as well as a small amount or protection from trappers traps.

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Quote:
Original post by DJ14IVI3
(Maglemosian period, but that's not set in stone)


I'm sorry, but I just can't let you get away with that pun.

That being said, it sounds like a very interesting idea, and I hope you journal the development process.

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How will you be handleing learning of skill. You mentioned that the units could learn skills by doing them. Have you though about haivng units teach others skills?

In this system there would be 2 ways to learn skills. The first is through using the skill, but this is the slowest method. The other way is being taught the skills by another.

This is a faster method, but it ties up the units in a non productive behaviour (that is they are not produceing resources, etc) while they are being taught.

If the teacher's skill level, in the skill being taught, limits the maximum level that can be taught (eg: if the teacher has 10 levels in Spear Making, then the highest level that they can teach in Spear Making is 10), then you have a tech level that can be losst (eg a raid could wipe out all the teachers and so you are knocked back in your skill/tech developemnt).

You could also have units "Discover" new skills/tech by having a high enough skill level. So a character that has a Skill level of 5 Spear Making, mightbe then able to start learning Bow Making. This discovery might be random, or it might be predefined. Also you could use several skills to trigger the discovery of a new tech (eg: You need a minimum of level 5 in Spear Making and level 6 Wood Working to be able to learn the skill Bow Making).

This does add a lot of micromanagement, but from the sounds of the game, high intensity battles will not be very common and this micromanagement would keep players interest up by giving them something to do.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
A few ideas:


Genetics - keep track of family trees and have an 'inbreeding quotient' be kept for every individual. It gets lower (probably not a linear equation) when you 'breed' individuals with few common ancestors and higher with more shared ones.
(More immediate ancestors having more effect than more remote ones)
You then have an escalating effect (degredation) table that has negative effects/attributes for the new individuals. (This instead of some GA type mechanism).


MMO aspect: Have the game flow be fairly slow so that players can experience the flow of time. Travel times are significant (which will make fast 'warlike' activities much harder to accomplish). The 'people' in the game will have automatic behaviors and will continue logical/prioritized tasks (defendd themselves, etc..) The player would direct new projects and micromanage critical situations (like the hinting party closing with the mammoth...).
Life would go on while the player was offline (and reasonable strategies could be in place to minimize risk of ambushes by bothersome neighbors).


Dissuading 'wars': People in that age lived closer/uncertain/more marginal existances. There were not alot of excess resources to waste on attacks that absorb time and resources (and risk of losing critical personel). The groups had to spend most of their time laying in stores of food and other materials for seasonal shortages and an uncertain future. A warband eats but doesnt produce, and likely will run into more enemy combatants than they can afford to bring (and likely would be spotted by their intended victims who know the territory much better). Much time might be wasted just finding their victims since a tribe might require alot of territory to subside on.


Trade could be extremely important to survival and a warlike group might find themselves consigned to extinction/diminishment when they caused their neighbors to give them the 'cold shoulder'. Mortality rates were high enough, that population pressures arent as great as after agriculture began.


Tribes had affiliations (many thru kinship ties) which facilitated regular trade/interactions. New/improved skills were passed from group to group.












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Well, sounds like you've definitley come along with fleshing it out. =] Perhaps it's time to start writing specifics as to how this all works, now? There's still a few holes in it, that I see... (I hate filling holes in other's work... it takes it out of their hands...) These are:

1. How do all these skills work together? So there's several areas... crafting, hunting(fighting), healing, (spells? how does this area work? =]) diplomacy? There's also the question of what kind of emotions are going to play into the AI? but that can be seperate from skills, as that deals with actions, not with proficiency... =] There's also that whole area of teaching eachother skills, but Edtharan has some good concepts to start. ~.^

2. So there are going to be buildings, for cover (not specific purposes) and storage? I guess that area needs to be thought into who makes them and all... =]

3. Resources! Well there's all the kinds of resources; Food, (meat, berries, fish, etc) supplies, (wood, stone, metal?) produced (tools, clothing, rope?, etc...) How are these all going to fit into the big picture? =] After you store up enough food (and how so?), enough supplies, get enough things... there's still not much to do, except fight (or explore, and be... diplomatic).

4. Diplomatic system? It needs more flesh then Conquest and economic trading... or at least a bit of structure... =] (or maybe I'm just lost here o.O)

5. The point of hostile creatures? Surely it's more then pestering and food... =] They could be used to make exploring fun and challenging among other things...

Well... I lost my train of thought, but it sounds like it's coming along quite nicely in your head... ^.^

And by joe, Anonymous has some good ideas! =D

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Yes, hunting (as well as other complex actions) would be broken into numerous skills such as archery (yes, they had bows in this time period), slinging, spear throwing (javelin throwing?), spear melee, clubs, trapping,... There would also be indirectly useful skills for hunting such as tracking and stalking (stealth). I've even pondered throwing in wind as another factor to be considered in hunt, but I'm afraid that this would be too much to micromanage. I'd also like to incorporate a very popular hunting method of the time - driving mammoths off a cliff with clever use of fire.

Sadly, there won't be a development journal any time soon because I'm not just skilled enough to pull this off. I don't think I'll be any time soon as my current skills are limited to basic C and SDL. I predict it will take me five or six years to get good enough at programming to pull off this project. I am considering, however, making this an open-source project once I start it because it seems like too much work for one man (I'll probably lose contact with my Uni friends in a year or two). BTW, if anyone wants to nick my idea you're welcome to do it, as long as I get a free copy of the game and lifetime subscription :p I'll even do some programming grunt work. And I was wondering if anyone would notice that pun :D

Those are some very nice ideas, Edtharan. I did plan to have teaching, but that's all I planned. Your ideas seem like they would work well with this game. The only thing I'd change would be how new inventions are made. I'd make it a very rare event and this would make technology another thing to trade and would further encourage players to peacefully interact with eachother. On the other hand, you might just steal another tribe's item and have your best craftsmen attempt to reverse engineer it.

The family trees system does the job as well as genetics system when it comes to hereditary diseases, but it seems to me that it wouldn't do that well when it comes to inheriting talents (affinity towards particular skills) and abilities (strength, intelligence etc.). Sure, I could use the parents' abilities and use the average value, but that would make my genetics Lamarckist because abilities of characters would change during their lifetime depending on their behaviour. I'm not envisioning anything too complex, though, a double set of "genes" behaving according to Mendel's laws of inheritance would do.

Your thoughts about travel times have given me an awesome idea on how to handle offline players being attacked. It has already been said that OGame's "early warning system" lets players minimize the damage done by raiders. Similarly to this, you could send patrols to spot any would-be attackers and send smoke signals to warn their tribe. This would mean that catching an opponent by suprise would still be possible, but if your tribe's location has few access routs it would be very hard to pull off. Granted, a player that doesn't log in frequently wouldn't benefit much from this unless you could set contingency plans for your tribe (if attacked then retreat to this cave) but I'm not sure if this would be too much automatization. And, as you've pointed out, attacking other players won't be all that common because it wouldn't be worth it much of the time. Still, a surgical raid on a player that has large supplies and has sent all of his men out to hunt could be a profitable move, as long as you can afford to be shunned by that player and aren't afraid of retaliation. This would mean that an aggressive style may lead to quick progress (some may even specialize their entire tribe for combat and consequently become totally reliant on raiding/conquering) but would also be extremely risky.

Well, I'm not writing a proper design document because I'm not sure what such documents would consist of. I'm currently writing my first real game (ie not a pong or tetris clone) and I'm basically designing as I go. Sure, I have to rewrite stuff all the time, but I'm learning a lot this way. Anyway, as far as your points are concerned:
1. I guess skills could be grouped pretty much how you proposed, and I'm also thinking that there should be some sort of synergy between skills (for example being good at archery makes you good at judging distance so you get a small bonus to javelin throwing). I'm dead-set on not having any spells in this game because it would break game immersion as my goal is to make a game that is as historically accurate as it can get without compromising the fun factor. Healing would boil down to herbalism and trauma treatment (putting broken limbs into splints). I am unsure whether I should include some rituals to enhance healing (and perhaps even other stuff - hunting for example). Sure, they most certainly work in real word (psychosomaticaly) but they reek of magic.
2. Buildings wouldn't do anything on their own. They're basically just a shelter from elements, much like caves. I'm thinking that a modular construction system (like in Sims) would work well with this game.
3. It wouldn't be all that easy to stock up enough resources. As your tribe grows so do it's needs, and the amount of resources is limited. I'm envisioning extending the reproduction system to animals and plants, with a small trickle of them coming from the edges of the map to avoid mass extinction of species. Still it should be possible to drive species to extinction in local areas, so wise use of resources would be needed, as well as seasonal migration unless you find a good spot for agriculture (they had it back then, but it wasn't very efficient and it won't be very efficient in game, either).
4. Trade of resources and of technology would be the cornerstone of diplomacy, but the most important thing would probably be "trade" of people via marriage (dowries would most likely be paid) to ensure healthy genes in a tribe. There would also be the need for tribes to work together on a common goal from time to time, such as two small tribes going on a mammoth hunt together. Still, I realize that this is the portion of the game that needs most work, but I'm just out of ideas at the moment (I'll probably come up with something while I sleep).
5. Well, it'd be fairly common to run into an occupied cave (most likely by a gigantic cave bear) that needs clearing. The animals would be more than pestering - you should think twice before messing with a pride of cave lions - and it might not be very smart to send lone hunters into unknown areas. What I'm also having in mind is seasonal migration of animals such as mammoth or giant elk (these migrations played a HUGE role in lives of our ancestors) so that some animals could be available only at certain times of year (good luck stocking up enough salted rabbits to get through the winter if you miss the elk migration). Speaking of which, seasons would play a huge role because they would determine availability of many resources, especially fruit and berries. I'm not sure how long a year should last, but I'm guessing that a couple of real-world days would be the optimum.

That's it for now, and keep those comments coming. You've given me a lot of food for thought and a bunch of awesome ideas. Thanks.

*edit* I forgot to say how happy I am that there is this much interest for my idea. I'm well-aware that most of the ideas that sound cool to to the guy who comes up with them aren't nearly as entertaining for the general populace. But now it seems to me that people would actually play this game if it was made (a 100 regular players would be a resounding success to me). Thanks, guys, and don't be shy to point out the parts of my concept that seem boring to you - I'm not in position to be objective about it.

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Guest Anonymous Poster



Idea: In most nomad societies once a group gets too large the fission (split into two groups that move apart). Usially its becaise their are too many people for the local area to support or internal arguments make splitting the better alternative to killing each other. There usually are close ties between the groups. One player sould control more than one such group if they have grown that much in population to be able to split.


You mention having a trickle of animals coming on the edge of the map to help fill depletions. You could do the same with individuals (computer run) that often would be accepted into undersize groups as 'new blood' (especially if they have needed skills).


You mention not wanting spells, but actually this is one case where a limited application would work. A Shaman dealt with the spirit-world and aspects of living that people didnt have control of. They could greatly effect the well being of the members of their group (and others) psychologically. Anxiety and fear can have real results on people and controlling those was a significant task. Ceremonies and spells and other convincing actions (like counselling) should modify your peoples psycho attributes. Psychoactive plants played a large roll - more skills and knowledge.... (Plants as medicine was a broad set of knowhow as well.)


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I'm not quite sure if having the players control multiple tribes would be a good idea, mainly due to manageability reasons. However, the idea of tribes splitting has started a whole new train of thought in my head. What if tribes split not only when there wasn't enough food to go around, but also when your people were otherwise unhappy with your leadership? This would be somewhat similar to Tropico's happiness system and it could also be influenced by "politics" (less work means more happiness but also less productivity), religion (reckless exploitation of natural resources may make villagers think that the spirits are unhappy) and availability of luxury items (shellfish jewelry, for example), as well as by availability of basic life necessities such as food (varied diet contributes to both happiness and health), water and shelter from elements. Anyway, when the number of disgruntled tribesmen reaches a critical mass they would leave your tribe and strike out on their own (nobody is insane enough to leave the safety of tribe and live all alone). These splinter tribes would be controlled by computer and would "emigrate" after a while (ie they would leave the map by walking over it's edge), but while they're there they could serve as starting tribes for new players (some heavy game balancing would be needed to achieve this) because that would make the game a bit more credible than having entire tribes appear out of thin air (this would still be possible, though, because we can't really rely on splinter tribes being available all the time).

I think that some individuals from these splinter groups may decide to join another tribe, and there ought to be a trickle of individuals (hermits?) to help tribes that are in bad shape (been massacred by an enemy or something), just as you suggested (nice idea, BTW). Still, it doesn't make much sense for people to join weak tribes over strong tribes. And overdoing this may downplay the importance of people as a resource too much, which would inevitably lead to a much more aggressive type of game. I guess it can be all done, but would have to be balanced with extreme care.

Thinking again about it, I think you're right about having "magic" in game. It's very much in spirit of the game and would add to game immersion if pulled off properly. I think that a subtle "magic" system, such as one seen in UnReal World would fit just fine (there is other interesting stuff in that game, BTW). That is, you would have no way of knowing what exactly did you get out of a ritual (probably a bonus of unknown numerical value to RNG rolls) or even if it worked at all which makes it a bit more mysterious and realistic. That being said, there would be no such thing as instant heal spells - rituals would merely improve the chances of recovery (which takes an amount of time dependant on disease).

As for the diplomacy system, the best idea I could come up with is to replicate the politics of pre-Columbian America, focusing mainly on plains Indians, but also keeping open the option to "go Aztec". Sadly, I'm not very well-versed on this subject so I'll need to read a book or three about it (does anyone know any good online resources?).

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Very interesting. Maybe this could be a group thing. Make it so that a player could make their own server with other players using a Forum with a Group list.

Once at least 2 players have agreed they may create a server. Now they have all 20 units and will begin to work toward the goal of being the dominent tribe. New players can join the server by either invite or an accepted request. It would act in real time with say 1 min. = 1 year. Children of different ages, Women, and Men would all have different ability's and skills.

2 things I would remove are gentics and Rescource quality. The quality of a product would be determined by skill and unless you want disease to be like a random occurance which would end in the lost of many units as their is no cure and if it happened to soon then you probably havn't explored yet.

Players can only have a tribe in one server at a time and you can either have a similiar systme to AoE:2 multiplayer reboot system or just have tribes be controled by AI when no one is playing them.

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I'm sorry, but it seems to me that most of those ideas wouldn't work well with this style of gameplay.

The idea about private games does have some merit. However, having the game hosted on on a client computer can't be done in such long-term games (well, it can, but it'll be very frustrating waiting for host to go online). That being said, allowing players to set up their own shards (there ought to be a minimum number of players needed, though, to save server space and processing player) would work very well in thwarting grievers. Perhaps the players could get invitation upon proving themselves on the public server (that is, proving themselves to be mature players, not achieving some arbitrary level of in-game development) to join a private shard. Maybe it would even be a good idea to allow them to "migrate", that is to transport their entire tribe from the public shard to a private one. I'm not sure yet, I'd have to see it in action.

Resource quality and genetics are integral parts of gameplay and are extremely important. They serve to encourage peaceful interaction between tribes, which is the central idea of the game. Genetics are especially important for reasons explained in my previous posts. It wouldn't be too much to manage, though, because much of it would be automated and you wouldn't actually be able to see your people's genes but only their phenotype.

As for diseases, I didn't plan to have them as random events. I now realize that I was very vague in that regard, but I just tend to get carried away while writing and forget that people can't read my mind. Diseases would be divided into two groups: hereditary and acquired. Hereditary diseases have already been explained. Acquired diseases would range from broken bones to cold (or even pneumonia) and would all be consequences of in-game behaviour of the people (they could get injured in a hunt or get pneumonia from walking in heavy rain for long time). While various transferable diseases would add to realism they would also be capable of crippling entire tribes and would thus make luck too big a factor in the game. Nothing sucks more than losing because of a stroke of bad luck.

The 1 year = 1 minute suggestion is a big no-no. It would make it impossible to simulate passage of seasons in a meaningful manner, and seasons should play a pivotal role in a game about life of prehistoric humans. Our ancestors' lifestyle was dictated by migrations of herds of large herbivores. I assume that your biggest concern is that it would take too long for children to become useful, but keep in mind that this isn't 21st century and child labour is the norm. Besides, I think that one of neanderthals' bonuses should be a shorter reproduction cycle (I'll have to doublecheck this, though), which means that their children would grow up even faster.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about this game in the past few days and I've reached conclusion that this could be pulled off as a 2D isometric single-player game. Granted, much of it's appeal would be lost because I don't think it's possible to pull off a good diplomacy system when AI is on the other end of negotiating table, but it could still be a fun game. If I were to go this route I could start working on this game as soon as I finish my current game in about six months or so. It will take me lots of time (about three years, I'm guessing) if I fail to find like-minded enthusiasts, but it will be a good learning experience and would look good on my resume. And I see no reason why I couldn't make a MMORTS sequel after that because I'd have a solid base and would be taken more seriously by would-be co-developers.

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