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Prince Toad

History Based MMORPG

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Hi, I'm new here. I wrote a game design document, and I've been looking for some place to help me out with it. (It's... really big, and took me a long time, and I don't want to see it go to waste.) Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I think I'll just post the first couple paragraphs of my Introduction section, if that's cool. If anyone wants something elaborated on, feel free to ask. This is just the tip of the iceberg. (Sorry if the writing is a little... um... florid. I promise, most of the document has simple, efficient language. This is just the intro.) ------------ Overview This is a design document for a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO) called Orbis Terrae, a Latin phrase for "the whole world." The general idea of the game is that players join one of a number of real-world civilizations, such as Egypt, Japan, or the Incan Empire. These nations begin as nascent societies that have just built their first city, and end in the modern day. [If you wish, think of it as an MMO version of Civilization or Rise of Nations, to which I will admit owing great creative debts; however, I have tried to avoid blatantly copying them, and being an MMO, this is an entirely different sort of game.] These civilizations, which are composed of players as well as NPCs, can research new developments, expand their territory through military conquest, deal politically and economically with foreign countries, expand their economies through trade and production, found and spread new religions, establish cities and colonies, influence other lands with culture, and construct mighty Wonders of the World. Players are the driving force behind these actions, as they are the ones running the government, commanding armies, discovering new lands, founding new settlements, making diplomatic agreements, and managing the economies. The nation with the most clever and skilled players will be the one to emerge victorious at game's end. Object of the Game The goal of the game is for a player to help his nation grow in power and influence to become the greatest in the world at the end of a given period of time. Victory is attained by totaling the cumulative scores of each nation at the end of a set time and proclaiming the highest-scoring nation the winner of that game. [I was thinking perhaps thirty days for each game "round," with one day in between games for players to join or leave, but this is just an estimate and would require testing.] The score is a measure of various forms of a nation's success. It takes into account military size and success, territory controlled, population, culture, research, Age advancement, Wonders constructed, wealth, production, stability, and progress in space. Score can only increase, never decrease. Although players will accumulate wealth and fame during each round, their individual actions only apply to scoring in terms of their nation's achievement; it is the civilization, not the player, that attains victory. After each round, the player keeps his "credentials"-- a list of his personal achievements during past rounds-- but does not retain any wealth or resources he may have accumulated in the previous round. ----------------- So... yes. Comments, questions, advice, anything would be welcome. (Like... extremely welcome. I don't want this to die.)

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Hey there.

First off, I want to say I think this is a very interesting idea. I've played with a similar idea myself for my "dream project" the last few years. There are actually alot of gamedesigns problems I've found unfortunatly. I'll list a few here for that applies both to yours and mine idea so we can discuss them.

1) Player organization.
While I'm not sure what player controls in your game (armies, city/ies, goverment departments, power families etc), historically the big picture was always drawn by the really big players. Peace, war, national taxes and trade agreements etc was decided by the ruler for most of history, exeption being a few "viceroy" kinda deals where someone imbued with regency powers were allowed to do something similar at a local level far away from home.

It would certainly add alot to the player experience to have influence on this, but truth is almost no player would (granted this depends alot on if it is 20, 200 or 2000 players in each nation in a game. Still being among the 15 lowest ranking would render the player's opinion unimportent).

So that's a though nut to crack. Splitting the players into different roles early on might help dividing them so they can persue greatness at different levels and avenues. For example instead of the mmorpg class choosing, the player chooses a venue like military, private sector trade, public sector society building or religion and aims to be a mover and shaker there.

Also, to rise through the ranks realistically would mean player vs player on the same side. Getting your position from merit was pretty much Napoleon who introduced on a serious scale, and thats a bit too late. This must be handled with care, I don't know how to solve it. Since I lean toweards small games (more along the lines of 20 players per side), the players would have to be able to cooperate after a coup.

2) Let the civilizations intermingle, and keeping it realistic.
If you're a european civilization you're fine. You're in modern history's hotbed. If you play as the inca's you will spend 300 years (starting about 1200) with 200 players getting almost nowhere in an empty world it took europeans steam through and railroad in the same amount of time.

Most players will probably also be european decendants etc, so how do we make the players want to play incans? Do we allow them to expand into texas or do we keep it realistic? If we do not keep it realistic, how do we preserve the historic feel of the civilization? Incan society would likly have been alot different if they would have streached out over the whole continent. If we do not keep it realistic, how do we motivate a historical game?

3) Tried and true contraints and player's position
In strategy games like civilization or most any turn based game there are game mechanisms that prevent too rapid expansion (corruption as a function of the distance to the capital and upkeep cost in the latest installment of said game for example). Do you keep them? You likly need to stop the nations from growing too large when they are too young or the world will all be claimed 1250 :). If you keep them, the players at the front are probably not too happy to be gimped compared to their fellows in Rome or whereever. This point makes the assumption players control cities, but it's a fair assumption I think.

4) Player motivation.
If the player has no personal score, why does he play? Experiments in webbrowser games shows that the more ways the players can compare themselves with other players, the higher loyalty the players exhibit (granted thats not scientific, just some blogpost I read. But I'm a competative player so it makes sense to me).

5) Where is the strategy part now?
The challange in a 4X is to handle an entire nation at once. If you just handle say, "offensive culture", where is the challange? Is all the player does send out 5 artists and 10 of some other gossip unit and be done with it? Where is the strategy and the tactics? Things like this has not been modeled before in any game I know of. Trade likewise. Everything must be that much more complex as the players interest is no longer the whole battlefield but a subpart. They won't last long on the "being part of a greater picture" deal. At the very least they want some fun for themselves if they're playing.

well thats all at the top of my head...


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Are you working alone? If so, this is (POSSIBLY) enough. I am not trying to confront you or such, but if you are working with a team on this, you will have an IMMENSE conundrum. The reason being that it is not nearly detailed enough, and, for an MMORPG for all things, the design document will likely stretch hundreds of pages. I think you would be better off creating a single-player game and expanding your functional specification (design document) and tech specification (how to implement what is in the design document, and a programmer's bible) to allow such a game.

Well, about your game design itself, I like it. I admit, I am biased toward medium fantasy, but you tread good ground by doing this. I will not specificially give you my RTS ideas, unless I feel like doing it later on in the post, but I can ask you these questions. Do you have a firm ground (Master's, Ph.D, Bachelor's) in history, communication, or in writing or programming/art. Are you good with psychology? Computer Science? Regardless of which subject you choose to major in, you will need to study all of these to even stand a chance of becoming a premier game designer.

Not to discorage you, but it is just from my experience that you need a vast knowledge to innovate. Okay, I will give you a list of historical RTS ideas, as soon as I remember some.

Thank you.

Edit: This is awkward... I just saw the part that just said you only showed part of your introduction.

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Some toad wrote:

>I wrote a [MMORPG] game design document, and I've been looking for some place to help me out with it. (It's... really big, and took me a long time, and I don't want to see it go to waste.) ... I don't want this to die.)

I don't see how it COULD go to waste. To my way of thinking, your having written that is really really good practice for you, assuming you're thinking of pursuing a career in games. Even if you're not, just about all writing one does is time NOT wasted. You enjoyed the creative process, did you not? It was both fun and work at the same time, right?

So, no matter what you were thinking would constitute a waste, I doubt that it would be, in the long run. The document isn't going to "die" even if you deleted the files and shredded the paper. Its usefulness to you as a learning experience will live on.

But I gotta ask. What were you thinking would be a waste?
And what kind of help were you looking for? Just "Comments, questions, advice"?

What kind of comments, questions, and advice specifically?

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Rosecroix: I'll address your concerns one by one.

1) What I have currently is that there are twenty-five nations of fifty players each. The game resets every thirty days, and players are assigned randomly each time. They can pick a server, but they can't pick what nation they'll be assigned to. (Feel free to criticize this also, but I have a defense for it if you do.) Within a short time of the game's initiation, players vote on a "leader," and the leader appoints seven ministers.

Now would be a good time to explain what I call the authority system. This is possibly my favorite idea in the entire game. I won't completely give it away, but essentially, depending on whether you're a leader, a minister, or a normal player, you have different Authority levels in each "sphere." Spheres include things like Military, Economy, Diplomacy, etc. There are seven of them. Leaders have the maximum in every sphere, and ministers have the maximum in the sphere of which they're the minister. So if I'm the Minister of Finance, I have 6 Economy authority. Leaders and ministers can raise and lower other people's authority, except for each other's. Depending on how much authority I have in a given sphere, I can take certain actions which fall under that sphere's governance. (Yes, I had to make a big freaking chart detailing what each level in each sphere permits.) For instance, if you have 1 Economy authority, you can own businesses, manage businesses that you own, establish trade routes with other players, and take a small amount of resources out of the government stockpile every day. (This last mechanism regulates resource usage so you don't have one guy blowing all your resources on ships when you don't need a navy, or ill-advised tech research, etc.)

Anyway, relating back to your concern, that's how you deal with things like that. For instance, you mentioned peace and war; well, only people with sufficient Diplomacy authority can declare peace or war. The authority system covers nearly every aspect of the game, and it's essential to making fifty-person nations viable.

2) Well, I assume you've played Civilization. Everyone starts in the ancient era and researches technology right up until the modern day. (I'm not sure this was clear, but if not, it should be now.)

Players are randomly assigned to each nation, so yes, white boys will end up in Mali, etc. Honestly I don't think people will mind, although it is sort of cool to be a member of your own. There is a mechanism for leaving nations and joining others, if the other nation has fewer than fifty people. (I call it "turning traitor" in the document.)

As for historical accuracy... well, you've seen Civ games. Incans didn't have tanks, but well, they do now. I also took the cheap Rise of Nations tack of giving nations that died out in premodern days a modern unique unit. (But don't get me wrong, I love Rise of Nations to death.)

Also, I decided it's a good idea to include three options for maps. In one, the map is of Earth, and the nations starts where they actually began. In another, the map is still of Earth, but the nation starting positions are randomized. In the third, it's just a random map. So you can join a server that suits your taste.

3) Yes, that's a fair assumption. Players control pretty much everything. No barbarians, no AI. I have a very simple mechanism to deal with this: Infrastructure. One of the kinds of technology you can research is from the Infrastructure subcategory of Transportation technology (don't worry about it right now, but ask if you wanna know more about technology). Every time you research a new Infrastructure technology, your nation can have one more city. Like in RoN, you can capture more cities than your limit, but you won't be able to build more until your limit exceeds your current number. You can also build any number of colonies and bases, which are more limited settlements.

Another limiting mechanism is that, like in Total War games, there's a stability penalty for distance from capital. In fact there's a whole stability system I won't go into right now, but... yeah, there it is.

4) This is a pretty major stumbling block, but I have an answer, if not a perfect one: what I call "credentials." Even though the game resets every thirty days, players keep a running tally of their "credentials," which anyone can check. Stuff on the list includes military record (won/lost with the odds for each battle), nation placings (if your nation finished 1st, 3rd, and 2nd in the last three games, that's something you can compare and brag about), and personal accomplishments like being a leader or minister. It's not a number, but it's a big crazy resume-style list that I think people would like showing off. It would also help when picking a leader at the beginning of the game.

5) I don't understand what exactly you mean. First, I... don't know what 4X stands for. Second, do you mean that the fact that it's so broad means it'll be too complicated? Well... maybe. But like I said, I have already written all the systems, so... you know. There's that.

Players command on the battlefield rather than fight themselves. Just getting that out of the way. The battle system is a little like a fast-paced Advance Wars or Fire Emblem, but I won't go into detail here.

...oh, maybe I understand what you're getting at. You're worried players won't have enough to do? Well, there's certainly no grinding. And you don't have to spend a whole day playing the game. But between exploring, commanding armies (invading or defending), managing businesses and cities, setting up research, constructing buildings and roads, raising armies, handling diplomacy... I figure people will be able to amuse themselves.

Omniblade: Yeah, glad you saw the little "part of the intro" thing. As for my background... well, I know plenty of history, I'm a good writer, and I have some basic grounding in computer science. So I guess I meet your minimum requirements. However, I don't think my background should affect the quality of my idea, yeah? Let's keep the discussion about that.

tsloper: Whoa, the link I found to get here was on your site. Awesome that you check these. Ah, anyway.

That's true, I did love writing it. (Except the interface section, that was horrible.) And I figured I could put it on a resume if I go into the industry in nothing else. What I was thinking when I wrote that was... well, basically, if it doesn't get made into a game (yes, unlikely) or at least help me get a job or something like that... well, you know. But you make a good point.

Well, comments on the idea, suggestions on potential pitfalls or improvements, and advice on how to maybe get it to a company or something. I know, companies don't need ideas, but maybe they need full-fledged design docs? Also maybe some advice on how to send it to people without having to worry about getting ripped off. Copyrighting the thing, I guess?

Thanks for the input, keep it coming.

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Well, you still should post more information. Just trivial information like the different nations, core gameplay, elevator pitch (pitch (presentation made in 60-90 seconds that excites the viewers), and a few unique selling points. I cannot judge your idea if I only know about, say, 2-5% of it. At the same time, if it's more than a few pages, you should probably post a link.

A note to the wise:

If your elevator pitch cannot excite viewers, you should (probably) add another unique twist to your idea.

I am not telling you how to design your game-just giving suggestions on how we can judge it more and how you can use it to excite people.

As for my opinion of it, I like it. Regardless of how much history I and many other people know, though, many people think it is boring. If you could make it fun and unique, it could even encourage people to learn history. A good turn from the traditional fantasy and sci-fi RTSs.

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toady wrote:

>comments on the idea

It's awesome, dude! (Is that what you wanted to hear? All game ideas are awesome. All game ideas are worthless in the absence of a team and the money and the time to create them.)

>how to maybe get it to a company or something.


>I know, companies don't need ideas, but maybe they need full-fledged design docs?

No. Only for games they're planning to create.
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson13.htm (scroll down to the bottom to see the three types of design documents and what they're for)

>Also maybe some advice on how to send it to people without having to worry about getting ripped off. Copyrighting the thing, I guess?

http://www.google.com (search string "how to copyright")

I'm glad you at least understood the point about your not having been wasting your time by writing your GDD.

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Omniblade: Alright, here.

Nations include the following: American, Arabian, Aztec, Carthaginian, Chinese, Cherokee, Egyptian, English, French, German, Greek, Incan, Indian, Iroquois, Japanese, Khmer, Malinese, Mayan, Mongol, Ottoman, Persian, Roman, Russian, Sioux, Spanish. Each has three unique attributes and two unique units. (Yes, it was difficult to come up with that many attributes and units.)

As for basic gameplay, players move around the world like in a standard MMO, although you can move instantaneously to certain points, like in Guild Wars or Oblivion. There's a chatbox for communication, and various buttons to access the various interfaces. So for instance, to access the garrison interface, which you use to handle troops inside of settlements, you click on a button marked "Garrison" when you're inside a settlement. Then you use the interface to, say, give troops orders or reorganize them. There's also a separate battle interface for handling combat.

It's pretty much freeform. So you can run around doing whatever. While managing all the systems (e.g. businesses, research, city/colony management) wouldn't take much time, you could spend lots of time trading with other players, exploring the map, leading raiding parties or full-fledged armies, fighting off foreign raids or invasions, raising units, constructing buildings or roads, etc. I imagine it would also be a decent social medium, since player interaction would be key to winning... so you could probably just hang out with whoever's on, if you wanted. (People do this.)

I think the biggest selling point is the idea of mass cooperation and mass competition, meaning that you have players doing both on a large scale. A lot of games involve one or the other, but very few do both. For instance, World of Warcraft has mass cooperation, but you're only really competing against either the other side or against the monsters. You're not up against twenty different factions simultaneously. In my idea, you're cooperating with many people to compete against many other factions, each of which contains many people itself. The other concept I really like, as I mentioned, is the authority system, which allows a Civ-style game on a massive scale.

The last point is interesting. Would players be interested in a combination of MMO and strategy game? I feel like the player bases for each are pretty distinct.

tsloper: I have to say, that site kinda took away my enthusiasm. I know you're just trying to be realistic, but... jeez. It's harsh. Like, it's obviously not worth bothering to copyright it or send it to companies or anything. Oh well.

And yes, even non-game industry professionals can achieve minimal levels of understanding. At least I got that far. No offense, but I really don't need to be patronized.

[Edited by - Prince Toad on January 1, 2008 2:00:32 PM]

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Original post by Prince Toad
I have to say, that site

Which site? I pointed you to two - mine and Obscure's. (They do both say pretty much the same thing.)
kinda took away my enthusiasm. I know you're just trying to be realistic, but... jeez. It's harsh. Like, it's obviously not worth bothering to copyright it or send it to companies or anything. Oh well.

So, you've built a ship and moved away from the shore, and I've pointed out to you how big the ocean really is -- and that's taken the wind out of your sails.

Yes, it is disappointing that you have to go back to shore and revise your plan, and it's going to take time and work to prepare for a longer and tougher voyage. Another tack you could take would be to sail around for a while and enjoy being on the sea, before heading back to the [end seafaring analogy, switching to cartoonist or old-fashioned inventor analogy] drawing board.

If you're determined and good at what you do, you should not give up entirely on your dreams of working in games. Now that you see what the world is really like, all you need to do is change your approach to it.

As for the snideness in my last post, that was based on your asking something (how to copyright) that you could have easily found out by simply using Google. Sorry.

BTW, you never did say, did you, how old you are (teenager? twenties? thirties?) or what your occupation is (student? professional? blue collar?) or how much education you've completed (high school? college? grad school?)... And whether you're aspiring to work in games as a career or just have this one idea you hope to bring to fruition. It helps keep us from giving wrong advice if we know at least that minimal info about you.

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Yeah, I was talking about your site specifically.

I didn't mean that I'm gonna give up on working in the games industry. I just meant that I now realize there's no way this particular game is gonna get made, despite the work I put in. Particularly because it's a big, complex MMO. So it's more that the site destroyed my enthusiasm for trying to take this game any farther than my general enthusiasm for trying to work in gaming.

Right, well. It seems that no company's going to bother using my idea regardless of how they come by it, so it's probably not worth the trouble to copyright it.

It's cool, I respond more or less the same way when people ask me dumb things.

Well, I was hesitant to say before, since I figured that if the game had a shot at being made, I didn't want my background to get in the way. But since that's clearly not happening... I'm a senior in high school who's thinking about going into the industry, since I love designing games and don't have any other particular ambitions, except maybe to be a writer. But college (and maybe grad school) first.

So I guess my question now would be, what's the best use for the document? I figured it'd look good on a resume if I'm applying for a job at a game company, but I was hoping I could do something more with it. Apparently not, though. Would you say that's probably about all I can do with it now?

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