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Developing an FPS Where Real Money Changes Hands

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Hello All, I apologize for my first post being one seeking consultation, however here goes: I am looking into the idea of making a Half Life 2 Mod (or similar) where players load their account with real money, and on being killed a token amount (10 cents?) is transferred to the player who killed them. This would add a level of excitement to the game. I know this has been done before, Kwari for example, which didn't go down well. But I would put this on the poor graphics, and game play more than the idea. I have little knowledge of programming, and so I am looking for advice on feasibility. Also, so you know this is not a pipe dream I earn roughly $5 million per year and would be financing this venture myself. One question I have is would the Half Life Mod allow to incorporate a secure, billing system? Or is it too closed up. Open for advice, and criticism of the idea. Thanks for your time.

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Yep that would be a concern. Another is laws relating to online gambling, though Kwari seemed to get round them.

Thanks

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A half-life mod consists of a C++ DLL running on the server, and one running on the client.
There's no (technical) reason why the server DLL couldn't open up a SSL (or other secure connection) to a central transaction server to report game-statistics, which could later be processed into monetary transactions.

Obviously with cash involved, people are going to try and game the system, such as running their own hacked servers and pretending to kill people, etc... so you'd probably have to make the game client connect to this central secure server and report their version of the game-statistics as well so that you can detect any data discrepancies (such as a server reporting stats on a player who isn't actually playing!).
Alternatively, you could not publicly release the server-DLL and just run your own game-servers privately, which would reduce the amount of effort required to keep fake game-stats being uploaded. Obviously this would drastically increase operational costs though.

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Original post by Hodgman
A half-life mod consists of a C++ DLL running on the server, and one running on the client.
There's no (technical) reason why the server DLL couldn't open up a SSL (or other secure connection) to the server to report game-statistics, which could later be processed by your own private money-transaction server.

Obviously with cash involved, people are going to try and game the system, such as running their own hacked servers and pretending to kill people, etc... so you'd probably have to make the game client connect to this central secure server and report their version of the game-statistics as well so that you can detect any data discrepancies (such as a server reporting stats on a player who isn't actually playing!).


Yeh, good advice.

And is it free to create a HL mod? Do I need an agreement with Valve? How does the ground lie there?

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Apart from the technical issues for cheating, there's also social ones that you'd need to address. For example, it would be dangerous to allow people to choose their own matches, as there'd be nothing to stop a team of people to collude in working together.

There's also legal issues: if you were to mod an existing game, you'd need to contact the dev team and publisher to check whether it's okay to make money off of their game.

Edit: didn't see your last post. I'd check the TOS of Half-Life 2, but I'd be contacting Valve to see it's okay regardless. Obviously you'd be needing a lawyer to check everything's tight before going too far with this regardless; this is the sort of thing that you want an iron-clad legal agreement for everyone involved before going live.

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Original post by Koobazaur
I am pretty sure all HL modes must be for non-commercial purpose. Aka, valve will not like this idea on bit...


There's the clanger, I'll look into that... However what other engines are there?

And how much harder is it to develop from scratch?

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As Koobazaur says, Valve's game engine and modding tools are for non-commercial use only. You would need to get a license from Valve to use it for commercial purposes which would require either a big up front payment or a 50% back end royalty. - either way a big dent in your project.

Also, as others have pointed out, cheats would very quickly ruin your project.

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Original post by Obscure
As Koobazaur says, Valve's game engine and modding tools are for non-commercial use only. You would need to get a license from Valve to use it for commercial purposes which would require either a big up front payment or a 50% back end royalty. - either way a big dent in your project.

Also, as others have pointed out, cheats would very quickly ruin your project.


Ok thanks. This is fast being shot down, with logic... Though are there any other engines similar to Valves?

If not how hard to develop my own? And how much would it cost, $1, $2 million etc.

** Edit **

... Just doing more research and saw this open source engine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id_Tech_3

Any comments?

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Original post by TheWebdev
Ok thanks. This is fast being shot down, with logic... Though are there any other engines similar to Valves?

If not how hard to develop my own? And how much would it cost, $1, $2 million etc.
With your money, I'd approach an existing developer, pitch the concept, and throw down a few million to get the ball rolling. There's no reason to get your hands dirty as the financier.

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Original post by TheWebdev
I have little knowledge of programming, and so I am looking for advice on feasibility. Also, so you know this is not a pipe dream I earn roughly $5 million per year and would be financing this venture myself.
Can I ask what you do for a living?

Anyway, it sounds like it could be cool if the cheating concerns can be addressed. There are certainly many engines out there varying from free to $millions; however with the added emphasis on security in this game, that may narrow down the list somewhat. You could consider licensing a game engine to actually run the game on the client, and developing your own server software which is designed from the ground up to be secure.

Are you looking to run this project yourself, or follow the kind of route Morgan suggested in the post before mine?

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Original post by TheWebdev
** Edit **

... Just doing more research and saw this open source engine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id_Tech_3

Any comments?
It is a bit old these days, but it depends if you want to make something which competes graphically with the most recent FPS games, or something that looks good.
Normally, I don't like the idea of games which need a hard-core gaming PC to run well, but perhaps this game you suggest might be a hard-core game anyway.

By the way, the Q3 engine is released under GPL for free use, which probably shoots you in the foot. If you're looking into this seriously, you need to read up on various licenses because it can play a big part in selecting an engine to use. I guess wikipedia is a good place to start; the important (and hopefully obvious) thing is not to jump in without a lot of thought and research first.

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Yes, I mostly just lurk here and send around the occasional PM, but since TheWebdev is new to this forum I thought I'd give him a headsup about the message.

Now everyone is aware of my presence, I guess I'll just have to make a new account again... ;)

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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it, but the website Skillground actually has an FPS that does exactly what the OP wants to do, except instead of 10c every kill all the entry fees go into a winners pool that are then divided up between first, second and third place winners. They also have a Rainbow 6 style game, a car racing game and a Tekken style fighting game. I played the racing game LASR a lot when the website first launched and it's actually pretty decent.

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There was a another company called Skillgaming who set up to do the same thing. They failed and went bust.

It is entirely possible to do but as above the main problem with an existing engine (or any new one) will be security. It is far to easy to cheat.

Quote:
Though are there any other engines similar to Valves?

If not how hard to develop my own? And how much would it cost, $1, $2 million etc.

There are lots of engines that range all the way from a few hundred $ to license (Torque) up to $1 million (Unreal). The Half Life and top end id engines are close to the top end of that scale.

How much to make your own? entirely possible but it takes time and costs money. How long and how much depends on where on the above scale you want to be. To develop an engine and make a game that competes graphically with the HL2 Source engine would be in excess of $2 million.

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Original post by Obscure
There was a another company called Skillgaming who set up to do the same thing. They failed and went bust.

It is entirely possible to do but as above the main problem with an existing engine (or any new one) will be security. It is far to easy to cheat.

Quote:
Though are there any other engines similar to Valves?

If not how hard to develop my own? And how much would it cost, $1, $2 million etc.

There are lots of engines that range all the way from a few hundred $ to license (Torque) up to $1 million (Unreal). The Half Life and top end id engines are close to the top end of that scale.

How much to make your own? entirely possible but it takes time and costs money. How long and how much depends on where on the above scale you want to be. To develop an engine and make a game that competes graphically with the HL2 Source engine would be in excess of $2 million.


Strange you mention Skillgaming, I just found out the financier was one of my friends.

Looking into it.

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Original post by TheWebdev
Strange you mention Skillgaming, I just found out the financier was one of my friends.

Looking into it.

Small world. I only know of them because one of the game development companies I work with did some work for them.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
For example, it would be dangerous to allow people to choose their own matches, as there'd be nothing to stop a team of people to collude in working together.


That actually goes much deeper than people think. I know a dev who works on one of the "you play with real money" MMO's and apparently the mob are very fond of useing it for money laundering. Its as easy as buying some random item ingame off another player for $10k real money. When viewing the bank account records it just looks like you paid the game or got paid by the game - no direct link which makes it a nightmare to trace where it came from. Its also alot cheaper to pay a games subscription fees than it is to hire a crooked accountant :P

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If you ask me (which you don't have to), having a game like this requires too much in terms of the technical aspect.. You would have better luck doing a tiered pseudo tournament style trust system. Where each server has a form of value with a single master server that all servers report kills/cost to by user. Take a small % for yourself out of each payment.

By doing a trust system you rely on the player community to weed out the losers, give them some online tools to do so. Require players to pay out to each user by the end of the day. This payment system would be robust with all types of payment methods accepted of course, but not builtin to the hl2 engine. Make the billing a completely separate online interface.

Now this is open to all the other flaws others have stated, but the tiered tournament idea comes in when you allow servers to set (with approval) their kill to cash rates. So a newbie server would cost $0.001 per kill lets say, a practice server would = $0. This way if you don't get paid out for those kills, hey it's a few cents then you can give that user some form of online record of being an a**, and ratings mean close to nothing for this $$ amount. But the higher the risk server the more likely people will refuse to play with questionable players, and the REALLY high value servers could have such a high $$ value that it pays to have dedicated monitoring.

This way users can still host servers, but must register to a master server (yours) somewhere to charge per kill. Then they need to be approved for a $$ amount. And dispute support would be essential, not only for cheating players, but cheating servers. However, by not approving a server for more than a $0.01 value, nobody really looses anything (just time with some ratings quarrels).

Just my 2 cents, seems like it could work, but you need to build the idea out fully first. And the game play without the money needs to be good!

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You wouldn't really have a problem with it being illegal (gambling) if you can prove that your game requires more skill than luck.

All I know is that if Counterstrike did this, I'd be one rich guy. :p

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