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A game design must justify its existence. If you are going to spend thousands of hours on a title, there should be a good reason behind what you are building. Because I want to is not good enough. Like Title X, but better is not good enough. What is the unique need does your game title fill? Why would anyone play this game instead of other games?

Design Your Game

There is a common saying when it comes to any type of game, program, or development project: "Design Before Development". This means that you must finish the design first. A game design includes all of the little details that define the game, not the code, but rather the content of the game. For example, the background story, how characters are created and what choices players have. Character development and advancement, common concepts such as character movement, PvP, guild support, communication systems such as live chat and community forums. Items, combat, and other elements such as how to handle death. Let's not forget security, anti-hacking and anti-cheating measures too. If you intend to just go with the flow, you're game will suck, no one will like it, no one will play it, and you'll never earn a dime with it. Sure, you might get lucky, but if you attempt this without a plan, you might as well admit that you are not that serious about making your game. Even a poorly designed game has a chance with a good plan.

A browser based RPG that is easily accessible. It should be accessible on mobile platforms like the iPhone via webapp. Joomla RPG (jRPG) offers quick game play for casual gamers and an expandable quest system to provide depth and replay value.

Technology

jRPG will use PHP for presentation and core mechanics. A mySQL database will hold all information used by the game including; player stats, monsters and story elements. The addition of CSS and Javascript will be used for better presentation and AJAX like interactions (no page refresh). The Joomla CMS is used to keep player interactions organized.

Game Play

More in depth discussion needs to be done on game play. The base code is that of Phaos 0.9.81 so we are initially limited by what is achievable in that game engine. More research is needed. A second source of inspiration is The Legend of The Green Dragon BBS Door Game. The player creates a character (all characters seem to be the same) and proceeds to level up until reaching a predetermined level at which point they can attempt to slay the dragon. There does not appear to be a quest system just a series of prescribed events.

These games are almost entirely text based, so what keeps them interesting? I would like to introduce another source of inspiration, that of the facebook games Mafia Wars and My Hero Ability. They are pretty simple and yet they engage and are widely popular with hundreds of thousands of people playing them. These games allow you to create a character from a few archetypes (Brawler, Business Mogul, etc¦ Telepath, fire starter, etc.) with the object to increase your rank or respect. To do this you can participate in jobs or missions which earn you xp and money. With money you can buy better weapons and armor or investment properties. Investment properties in return give you more money over a period of time. You can also fight other players for xp and money.

Mafia Wars Interface

Heroes Interface

They present textual information in an appealing way. Both games use timers to control how much you can do in a day, requiring the player to log in daily to reap the full benefits. All interactions happen fairly quickly and average around 5-10 minutes until you are out of energy and need to wait. A big emphasis is put on recruiting your friends to play, though how you interact is limited.

In our game, players need to Customize, Collect, and Explore. Let's look at each of these in a little more depth.

  • Customize offer many options for character optimization. This should serve two purposes: To visually differentiate players from one another and to vary game play.

    Using a paper doll mechanic during character creation similar to http://www.vside.com would be ideal. More robust use can be seen with the KiSS paper doll. We would want to customize the physical attributes of the character such as face shape, eyes and hair much like the game Farmville does:
    Farmville Character Creation {rokbox thumb=|images/stories/paperdoll.jpg| album=|photos| }images/stories/paperdoll.jpg{/rokbox} For the variation in game play, players choose from different races (which also vary visually) that have unique abilities and they pick a class such as Fighter, Wizard, Paladin, Thief, Assassin, etc. Each class would also have unique abilities.
  • Collect collecting and being able to display that collection can be a great source of fun. There should be several ways and things for players to collect with varying degrees of rarity. Some items should be available for purchase in stores within towns, while others should be loot. Loot might be acquired by killing monsters or from finding treasure chest. Some type of Loot systems and store mechanic should be developed (see systems below). The items available for collecting might include weapons and armor that can be equipped to the player character and are visually represented on their paper doll. Other items might be food or potions that can change a players stats (restoring hit points, adding strength, etc.). It might be fun to add property that can either be rented out for residual income, or occupied by the player character. Having a permanent dwelling could be a sign of status (the location shows up on the world map) and might confer other abilities like restoring health and a safe place to store excess equipment. A property system needs to be developed.
  • Explore exploration might be as simple as a list of destinations to travel to. I envision a world map that list several cities and wilderness areas along with sites of interest like shrines, caves and abandoned forts. Each location offers different kinds of encounters and has a unique map of that area. The unique map for each area will mainly be used as eye-candy to visually differentiate each location, but might also list additional areas of interest. In a city for example, the map of the city will show the location of various shops, the town square, and perhaps the residency of other players (maybe everyone gets a crappy house to start). Each location like a shop, might have a custom splash screen or background image¦ There is one done quite nicely in the iPhone game “Mafia Wars. Wilderness areas on the other hand, might just show a top down of a densely wooded forest with an entrance and exit marked. Let's talk about the various encounters that a player might come across.

Encounters

Encounters are things like shopping, fighting and story interactions (Look/Read/Talk). Not all encounters will be available at each location.

When a player is in a city, they might go to a Weapon Shop where they can buy or sell weapons, a Real Estate Office to buy a nicer dwelling and begin renting out another, an Arena where players can fight each other. Perhaps at the town square players will have the option to take on missions/jobs/quests. We will need to further develop these encounters.

There will be different kinds of wilderness areas; forest, mountains, waterways (lakes/rivers/coastline). In each of these wildernesses the players will encounter different kinds of monsters that they can fight. When the character enters a wilderness they are given new options to look for something to fight much like Legend of the Green Dragon. The battle system will need to be developed further.

Quest / Jobs

The final type of encounters, Story Interactions, will be useful to help the story along. I don't see the Quest system as being an integral part of the game¦ it should be more of a supplement. At the most basic level the Quest system could be a bunch of scripted encounters. They should be easy to add and replace within the game, maybe even tied into the admin. It seems that the easiest way might be to have a series of language or text files for each quest you want to include. In these specially formatted quest files there will be a trigger that will initiate the start of the quest. The trigger should be something like talking to a specific person, reading a certain sign, or entering a particular town. The trigger should inform the player of the initial action they must take or action they should complete. After the trigger event there should be a series of conditions that must be met, a list of requirements. The requirements could be a level the player must reach, a certain item they must have in their inventory, or a monster that must be defeated. The final stage of a quest will be the resolution where the player is given a reward and told good work.