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(Concept) Alchemyst - Forum Crafting Game

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This is a experimental concept for a forum based browser game that uses a heavily modded

forum software. This game could be seen as both a social activity and a MMO, it is
quite laid-back and targeted more towards grown ups. Gameplay is peaceful but features
competitive gameplay elements as well.
 
What I would like to hear are some SIMPLE ideas about how to make the game more interesting
and appealing to the players. Especially because due to the forum structure, the game
lacks visuals and is not very attractive.
 
I tried to design the game with three principles in mind:
 
* Technical do-able for a single developer
* No F2P mechanics like "Click and Wait forever" or draconic "random loot drops"
* A social component for the players wo don't want to compete with others
 
FYI: This is planned to be a small-scale game with only a few dozen up to a hundred
players, it would be free without a budget and no advertising besides some forum
posts and articles. I have the required code more or less ready to support all features
described below. No art stuff, storyline or template/design so far.
 
Thanks in advance for any thoughts/input/feedback!
 
...
 
Each player takes the role of an Alchemystic, similar to an Conjurer, Magician or Alchemist.
Players strive to become the most powerful and renown Alchemystic of the land, this is done by
crafting all sorts of strange and interesting artefacts. In order to do so, players require
resources that resemble typical alchemistic elements like fire, water, earth and air.
 
Basically, there is no winning in the game. Power is measured with Glorypoints and the
game features a leaderboard that allows the players to compete forever for the top positions.
 
The most basic resource is Materia, that is used to transform into the four elements fire, water,
earth and air. From those four elements, players can craft various different artefacts that
help them to become stronger, have special effects or increase their Glory.
 
FYI: All energies mentioned below regenerate over time, this is the only "wait" limit that
is built into the system to prevent players from blazing through the content too fast.
 
1. Gaining Materia
Gaining Materia is the heart of the game and represents the core game loop. Using Materia,
the players can create all other resources and items in the game. There are four ways to
gain Materia (with more possibilities in the future) in addition, Materia is generated
automatically each hour to provide players with a little bit of an income.
 
1.1 Post!
A social activity limited to a number of posts per day. Players can open new topics and
answer topics in order to gain Materia. The longer the written articles/answers the more
Materia a player gains (with a limit). This feature is social and absolutely freeform with
no real rules. Moderators (like myself) are required to limit and control the posts the
players make, otherwise it would become rather chaotic quickly. Posting would net a players
the lowest amount of Materia: Low Risk, low Reward.
 
Three example what players could write about:
 
* A diary like what their characters have done today, each player maintains a thread of
his own describing their Alchemystic's adventures.
* Figuring out how the various items in the game work and writing topics about them.
* Helping others, welcoming newbies, writing tutorials and guides.
 
1.2 Duel!
A simple 1-click duel allows you to compete with another player on the forum within a
certain level range. This is limited by some kind of PvP-Energy and allows a player to
gain experience as well. High Risk, High Reward.
 
1.3 Explore!
Similar to the PvP Duel, players can choose one of several areas (with increasing
difficulty) to fight against computer controlled monsters (again, simple 1-click combat).
This would also be limited by PvE-Energy and gains experience. Medium Risk and Reward.
 
1.4 Quest!
Simple 1-click quests give you a reward and require a mix of both PvE and PvP Energy with
some additional requirements like resources or even items. Quests have no risk but the
more difficult ones require several items/resources or a lot of energy. Low Risk with
variable Reward according to difficulty.
 
2. Tansforming Materia
Players can now transform the materia into one of four resources: fire, water, earch and
air. This also requires a bit of energy to limit the amount of transformations a player
can do on a daily basis. The resources created this way can finally be used to craft items.
 
FYI: The number of elements could easily be expanded.
 
3. Artefacts
The artefacts mentioned earlier represent all kinds of items and strange objects and
require quite some elements to create. some also require multiple element types and
energy to be crafted. Crafting itself takes no time and items become available in an instant.
 
 Basically there are four types of items:
 
 * Usable items that grant a instant bonus to one of the players statisic or recover them.
 * Usable items that evoke a special effect.
 * Equipable items that permanently boost a players statistics until replaced.
 * Unusable items that act as decoration and are displayed in a players profile on the boards.
 
 Most decorative items simply increase a players glory, Usable items allow to refresh
 energy or recover health. equipable items represent clothes like hats and robes or
 rods and staves that increase a players stats and so on.
 
 some of the more special items allow a player to send Materia, Resources or even items
 to another player. Spy another players inventory and/or equipment, steal materia from
 another player, revive yourself or a dead player and so on.
 
 ...
 
 Finally final there is the possibility to have a Trade Center in order to sell your
 crafted items to other players, there could be skills that allow you to create a certain
 element at a higher rate, there could also be various leaderboards that give rewards, 
 chain quests and even campaigns that span several quests or combine PvE hunting with
 quests in order to get more rewards etc. etc.
Edited by Fhizban

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Just some quick comments.

 

- I'm sure someone will get around to explaining the... shall we say difficulties of a single developer producing an MMO. I'll just say that they are quite significant and assume that at some point you'll think of scaling it down.

- "Materia" being something found in FF7 games, is it considered IP that is already owned?

- The social aspect of gaining materia seems like it'd be open to abuse and cheating and would be difficult to moderate.

- Given the the core of the game is producing the artifacts, you're going to need build a lot of content there that you have only described in very general terms at this point. I think you have a lot of work that you can get into doing at this point that will start to give you a sense of the scope of the project you have in mind.

 

I suspect that you won't end up with an MMO or even an MO or single player RPG but, hey, maybe you can end up with a bunch of interesting content and IP of your own you can use later on by exploring your idea.

Edited by kseh

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You should really look at Gaia Online if you aren't familiar with it, it shows how forums definitely can be graphical games.  There are also several Virtual Pet Sites which are games built around a forum and they either have an avatar system or a pet system where players choose a pet to use as an avatar.  Most of these sites start out small and then add a feature or two each years, and with some you can see where this went smoothly because they planned ahead, and with others they had to use some design hacks because they didn't plan ahead.

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@sunandshadow: Great idea with those Virtual Pet Sites, thats quite close to what Im trying to achieve. Will check out a few of them. Do you have a recommendation or two? The idea to start small and expand is also great, I could prepare my game already and launch with only 40% of the planned features finished.

 

@kseh: Thanks for your comments, mind you it's a simple forum game (thats counts as a multiplayer online game as well)

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@sunandshadow: Great idea with those Virtual Pet Sites, thats quite close to what Im trying to achieve. Will check out a few of them. Do you have a recommendation or two? The idea to start small and expand is also great, I could prepare my game already and launch with only 40% of the planned features finished.

Well, GaiaOnline is the only one I'm aware of that paid players game-currency for posts and other forum actions.  It has changed a lot over the years, so I don't know if they still do that.  It does still have the most extensive 2D human avatar system, and most of their cash flow comes from selling items that can be equipped onto avatars or from advertisers who want them to do product placement item giveaways.  Some of GO's interesting features include their manga, their ability to acquire items outside minigames that can then be used within minigames, their fishtanks, the ability to watch movies showing in their theater, and the fact that they eventually grew an MMO, zOMG.  The problems they ran into arose from trying to animate avatars never designed to be animated, and from not adapting to the increasing age of their playerbase or to the excessive popularity of some forum categories.  Specific to your example, GO does or did have some different crafting interfaces, which mainly involved trading fish, insects, or paper in to NPCs.

 

NeoPets isn't really a Virtual Pet Site but has the best collection of minigames, and a base rule that players may turn in 3 scores per game per day, and players may reject any score to try for a better one.  Some of the minigames would be suitable for crafting gameplay.  They used to have a unique bartering system alongside the more usual marketplace, I'm not sure if they still do.  They encountered the fact that people really wanted to have a way to display their collectibles such as plushies and neggs, and people would turn their personal shops into museums by maxing the prices maximally high; I heard that eventually NeoPets adapted to this by implementing some way to officially display collections.

 

Flight Rising is an actual Virtual Pet Site, and a relatively new one.  There's a combat system which many players like (though personally I found it boring).  There's also an automated turn-based gathering activity which is typical of VP sites, and I think NeoPets also has something similar.  Both combat and gathering are sources of pet food and crafting materials.  "Crafting" is again done through an NPC, with the added difficulty that the NPC only offers one recipe at a time, and these change randomly every hour or two.  Flight Rising has a fairly good market system, particularly in the way dragons can be searched for by various colors and other genetics.  The fact that there is no tax on items bought with cash shop currency encourages circulation of this currency.  It provides players with an automated book for collectibles, and other players can view them.  The system for player-created art is fairly good except I believe it had some layering issues.  Last I knew the game lacked support for auctions of valuable items, which created a bit of a mess in the forums with people always trying to bump their auction threads to the front page.

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