Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Second Game

Originally written 11 March 2009.
So if this works, this should just be a draft until I actually post it when I'm done. I don't want to give away too much to potential competitors, especially folks with more experience developing iPhone apps than I have who can beat me to the punch.
The game idea is a multiplayer Wizard game where players take on the role of a Wizard/Witch/Warlock (why do all of those begin with 'W'?) where they battle other Wizards and fantasy creatures. They can form covens/guilds and fight other covens for control of magical sites around the world (e.g., Stonehenge). They can acquire mystical artifacts to make themselves more powerful. And they can participate in determining the fate of the world (good, balanced, or evil).
There are so many concepts that I've been documenting and exploring regarding this game. I've been playing iMob a lot and seen what they've done. I like some of it, dislike parts of it, and generally thing that it could have been a better game if they'd thought through things a little more. For instance, they have missions that make no sense to run - the XP gain is so crappy the mission is pointless. And they mistakenly attached monetary gain to the missions and thought it would be sufficient motivation.
Anyway, I've been trying to adapt the things I've learned/synthesized over the years of playing games and talking with brilliant people I know (like Danc and Cooper) to get a good feel for what a "fun" game would be like and, perhaps, make a little money at it. The entire goal of Otto Von has been to free Susie from having to work at Lockheed. If I can supplant her income with something else then she can quit. And if I can make even more at it, then I certainly wouldn't mind being a game developer full-time. :)
I'll start by talking about the combat system decision I just made today. I had been considering two different ways of managing combat in the game. The first method was to have casting points, which were similar to movement points from some RPGs. The idea being that you'd have a certain number of CP each 'round' of combat and that each spell would cost a certain number of CP. For higher-level players, this would mean that low-level spells were cheap and you could cast a lot of them each round (since it had become kind of 'automatic' to cast them). But it would also mean that some spells could take a lot of time (more than 1 turn's worth of CP). For example, if you wanted to cast a Fireball, it might cost 8 points. Problem was that you only got 5 points a turn. Fine - you begin an incantation in one turn (and spend all 5 points) and then next turn your spell completes (using 3 of your 5 from that turn). This would almost certainly require some kind of health system though - energy/health/mana - didn't matter what it was called, but it did require tracking damage.
The second approach was to use a kind of Mana Pool system where each player had a certain amount of MP available to them and could use it to cast spells during a duel/encounter. The MP would regenerate slowly over time (well, not too slowly). The "cool" idea I had about this was that damage would also deplete your MP. One thing Susie and I had talked about was having some kind of "magical tie" to the world and I liked the idea that as you cast spells you were "killing yourself" a little at a time. Another concept that this supported was that we wanted covens to play into individual duels somehow and in this scenario your individual MP is bolstered by a certain percentage of the total coven MP. Bigger coven = bigger benefit. The benefit here was that there wasn't a separate health system - everything was covered in one stat.
One thing we want to do is make dying a very damaging thing, but also relatively rare. In iMob I've died 38 times. But it doesn't really mean anything - I don't lose all of my money, I don't lose my stuff - it's just a random stat. In our game we wanted to make it so that dying meant something major - you lose your stuff and your money (more on money in a later post). You end up in Limbo until your coven can resurrect you.
What we've decided on is the Mana Pool format. I loved the single stat and especially liked that each spell you cast causes you personal harm somehow. It makes the game a little more exciting, I think, and it adds a real consequence. Yes, you could cast that fireball but you might end up dead if the other player hits you hard enough. Maybe you should cast that Shield spell after all... :)
There are still some details to sort out regarding the actual system but I'll be working on that over the next couple of days so we can start to play around with it and see what it looks like. If it plays well, we'll use it as is, otherwise we can tweak.
Anyway - that's it for now. I'll store this for now and post it publicly later.