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amateur looking for game advise...

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Hello All, This is my first experience with this forum (so please be kind). I don''t know if such an amateurish undertaking is acceptable here or not, but I have been reading posts here a couple months and generally find the advise interesting and helpful. I am a programmer by trade and semi-avid gamer. I have been trying to come up with a game idea in my spare time at home using the "new" release of BlitzBasic3D. While it isn''t perhaps as powerful as developing a custom engine in C++ or using a different development language written in such, it is powerful enough (I feel) to give us amateur wannabe programmers an opportunity to perhaps complete a project that would otherwise fail due to lack of experience. I have spent much time trying to think up a game idea. One simple enough that a single person (like me) could write in his spare time that was fun and addictive enough to really capture a broad audience. After all, someone initially thought up Tetris and PacMan and Wizardry and... While those games nowadays might seem old and simple, at the time they were truly different and successful. And every one of those games could potentially be written by someone like me using a language like BlitzBasic. Unfortunately, I haven''t had any light bulbs go off and, while I wish I could aspire for something more, I may have to resign myself to the fact that I''ll be writing a game more for myself and perhaps no one else would ever even see it. In any event, I certainly wasn''t thinking of making money on it and wasn''t planning on quitting my day job anytime soon :o) I originally had an idea for a game with the "look and feel" of Final Fantasy Tactics. I remember playing this on my PS1 and enjoyed the experience. I thought it may not be too hard to develop the game tiles for this style of game as oppose to the lush and expansive game worlds that are so prevalent. And while BB3D does support BSP (forgetting for a moment some potential legal issues), most BB3D developers seem to be working on projects of the FPS variety. Even though this is my favorite genre (along with games like Diablo), I really don''t feel comfortable with trying to write one. I wanted my game to include some multiplayer aspect, so I could battle against an opponent instead of the computer. Not to mention I thought perhaps coding the MP aspects would be easier than trying to develop the AI, since the game would be based strongly on tactics and strategy and the network code wouldn''t have to be time sensitive since the game is "turn-based" and not real-time. So I worked on an editor. Came up with a name (Feudal Efforts). Decided on using a fantasy theme (my favorite), and came up with some design ideas. Someone on the Blitz forums was nice enough to host a little mini-site for me and so I even have my ideas and screenshots up on the web at http://feudaleffort.m2p.dk/ My original ideas were to have a large "game world" map divided into two kingdoms, with perhaps an area in between that was originally "neutral ground". I stated my initial goal as: "Each player rules a kingdom at opposite ends of a continent. Players will make their way across the map, capturing territories along the way. The player who captures his opponent''s fortress will win the game." I hoped to have each player command armies of pieces such as Warriors, Wizards, Druids, Assassins, Archers, etc... as well as perhaps gain the services of creatures such as Trolls and Ogres. At each location, when battle occurred, a player could select from his "library" of pieces a certain predetermined number (I originally thought 4). I wanted battle and success to be very much dependent on tactics. The success would go to the player who best used the combination of pieces'' abilities and the pros/cons that the terrain provided. "Winning" a battle would see that player gain control of that location and provide him the ability to move over that square in the future without the need for battle. I came up with what I thought was a pretty good system for experience. As a player used a certain type of piece, its success (whether casting magic, whacking an enemy, or healing, etc...) would result in both it gaining some experience as well as experience towards the "class" or "type" of piece. Since death would be a frequent occurrence, the idea was that when a player would go to enlist new pieces, it would start out at a level appropriate to the amount of experience the class has gained. So for instance, if I decided to concentrate on using a Fire Mage in many of my battles, that piece would gain experience (till it was killed) but the Fire Mage class itself would offer me the chance to enlist future Fire Mage''s that began at a greater level than the initial one. I also decided that the other class of pieces - "creatures" - could not be enlisted but perhaps had to be "won" somehow (defeating in battle?) or randomly attracted with factors matching the success and fame of the player. Of course, magic items and artifacts would somehow be included enabling the player to use "less cool" classes such as Archers and Warriors with as much success as the "cooler" ones like those with destructive spells. I was doing ok with my game editor until I began to think about the 3D modelling requirements. At this point, I began having doubts. I am not a modeller (although I do have software and am willing to try) and I didn''t want stupid, cheesy-looking models. So I doubted I could produce the models I wanted in the quantity I would need them and still be young enough to see my computer screen. Well, I want to work with this again. I want to try my hand with the modelling and think I could simplify my models enough that I could perhaps do them (even though I still know it will take forever) but give them a distinctive enough look to be satisfying. But as I turn my attention to the game design, I still am plagued with the same problems I faced some months ago. I want to work out this design as fully as I can so I know the game will provide some fun and enjoyment, or decide the ideas just aren''t enough and scrap it. I know I originally started this backwards - namely, I decided on a game system and look-and-feel based on an existing game and tried to make the game follow along afterwards. So finally here is where I can use some help. Assuming a player -vs- player environment, one of my problems that I foresee is, assuming my goal is to capture the opponents castle, getting into this "ping-pong" type game play where each turn would basically see control of central territory going back-and-forth with very little real progress each turn. I think this would be tiring rather quickly. But what other goal(s) could there be for this type of game in a P -vs- P mode? Another problem is that of death. In FFT, you controlled a main character throughout the game and developed his skills to a high level. You also had a number of secondary characters and creatures you could use in any given battle, and rarely would you allow for death to be the outcome of any given battle. (Frequently, you would just reload the game and start the battle over). One of the draws of the game was to see the character gain cool new spells and such. In a P -vs- P situation, death will be a regular occurrence and I don''t see how a piece would ever be developed very far before he met his death. This is the reason for my class-based experience gain. But would it be fun for a player when he really can''t get attached to his pieces because of the turnover? But I just can''t envision a way around this in a P -vs- P situation. Any thoughts? An alternative would be to create the game as a single player experience. Story and characters would then become an important focus and some of these issues would go away. But that means I would need to develop AI to replace the challenge a human opponent would provide. I just don''t know if I would realistically be capable of this. Of course, I still might have some AI requirements in a P -vs- P mode if I allowed for things such as side quests, where players could opt to battle a guardian monster for a powerful artifact instead of just another player, etc... etc... So if you creative folks out there would be willing to share your thoughts with an amateur here, I could use the help. If you wanted to visit my site, you would get a better idea where I was at the point I stopped and where all my "holes" are. I am taking nothing for granted here and given the suggestions, would easily consider a single player or multiplayer (or mixed), different goals and strategies, etc... I am completely open and welcome any ideas. If you''ve read this far, I appreciate your time and wish you all well in your endevours! - Dave

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hello dgroncki,
I think that you have an ideal for a game and have got to a point that allot of programmers get to. Art. Art is the bane of all programmers - why? Well, because we just can''t do art that’s why. And when we see our cool code with those lame graphics we get depressed and our desire is squelched.

In all of my previous projects where I was doing the art and coding my own game I felt the same let down that you have. Programmer graphics should not stop you. I remember using a image of a tank that I drew and for each of the cardinal directions that the tank moved I just stuck a “N, NE, E, SE, S, SW,W,NW” in the image and waited for the artist to give me some graphics to replace my image with. Every time I saw that image I cringed.

My suggestion to you is this: Use your programmer art or for that matter just use 3D models of boxes until you can solicit a modeler to create some better art for your game.

Good Luck,

Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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Hey Dak,
Thanks for replying and regarding art, it makes alot of sense if I get to the point where I give up. I do want to make a stab at it, though, as I am artistically inclined (or was that autistically?? ;-)).
Anyway, are there any game design suggestions you could offer regarding some of the issues I have? Even though the art is an issue, the game design itself is my more immediate and pressing need.
thanks again, Dave

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Sounds like you''ve got a good idea going. Basically if you really like the game, chances are that others will too. It''s only important to consider the market if you''re planning on making decent money out of this thing.

Regarding art, I think for low-key games "stupid, cheesy-looking models" actually add to the game - but that may just be a minority opinion. If you really want something reasonable, there are actually a fair few modellers out there looking for experience, so you might want to try the ''help wanted'' forum to see if you can find one or two.

The game design itself sounds pretty solid - as long as you get the engine up and running you can tweak the details until the game plays more like you''d expect. Have you written a design doc yet? It''s probably a good idea if you haven''t - there''s some links in the ''articles and resources'' section.

btw if you want to prevent the game from being a straight battle, try to introduce some non-linearity into the game. In war games, this is often done by introducing a ''King'' or equivalent piece to each side - which if killed loses the game.

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Hello dgroncki,
After re-reading your post and spending some time on the website that you have, I have some other comments... these are meant to be constructive and I hope you ''read'' them as such.

First of all, I know you are a working programmer and have probably finished some large sized projects... and this is a good thing. But, games are a bit different than application development - there are graphical assets that need to be handled and the game play needs to be balanced and on and on. So, my comment is that you might want to put this game on hold for a bit and get your feet wet with a smaller game. If you choose to continue on with Feudal Effort, make sure you spend more time up front writing technical docs and playing the game on paper to make sure everything is balanced (Excel is your friend when doing this).

It appears that you have the Design Treatment completed and now you need to hash out the Technical specs... here is an example:

In your doc you have this

Rewards
My initial idea is that each location will have a random amount of "loot" that will be available. It could either be a "winner-take-all" scenario and goes to the one who wins the location, or perhaps placed in chests that are randomly strewn about the land and go to the one who has his piece land on it first.

I''m not sure what kind of monetary system to put in place, but there will most likely be a gold component. Also, there will be artifacts such as magic swords, amulets, staves, etc... that can be used by playing pieces.


This is great for the treatment but needs to be more rigid in the design... something like this:

Rewards
Each location will have a random amount of ''loot'' available to the winner of the location. When the player wins a location they will also receive any ''loot'' that is on the location.

The monetary system uses the following coinage:
* Copper
* Silver (1 silver = 10 copper)
* Gold (1 gold = 10 silver or 100 copper)

The amount of loot each location will be generated with is between 1 to 100 copper or 1 gold piece.


This has more specific rules and can be easily programmed from. So, transform the doc that you have now into something a bit more technical... nail down the rules and make the game play balanced.

Other than that, it would seem that you have a great start!


Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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Dak,
Great advise... thanks! I am still struggling with the overall concepts such as game goal and multi vs single-player, but as soon as I am comfortable with those, I do want to nail down a reasonable design doc.
- Dave

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Well, if you have ever played fantasy worlds (I think that is the name) You pick a race/class roll your stats and then play a strategy game. At the end of the game you recieve experience and keep any magical items you have obtained. You can go up levels and such, and when you do your -heroes- start at half your level. Of course in this game heroes could be built, but so could armies, if you worked up your heroes they could beat armies.... you know how it goes... The point is if you don''t want peices to die send them back to the castle and make them heal for several turns. I always enjoyed games where the main peice, -the king-, could be used in play. I always enjoy all games with money used to buy stuff and even more when experience is given, and I get to choose something to go up. Rather than just making a bunch of loser, unknown units, make them personalized by giving them names and stuff. That way people won''t want them to die, and its pretty hard for a lot of games to go back and forth with no apparent winner. To think that I would attack the place you just took over and you would attack the place I just took over is sort of silly, I would kill your units and take over both places.

"Practice means good, Perfect Practice means Perfect"

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