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Game design from the beginning
I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and create a new PBM game, along the lines of what I described in the opinion thread. This will actually be more of a Play By Web game, although I could provide a paper mail variant if there is demand, assuming the game actually works.

So I thought I would crowd-source the design and development process -- make it an open experience that others can witness and participate in if they wish.

Here are my high level specs for the development platform:

- web-based interface, with no client-side requirements
- open-source server and development tools
- unix or windows (depending on where I can get hosting)
- java / JSP for the application code, perhaps with Hibernate as the data access layer and Eclipse as the development tool
- MySQL for the database
- some design portability, such that it could be played by web, Facebook, smartphone, etc.

And here are my high level game design specs:
- close-ended
- computer moderated, though I could be persuaded to open it up to human-moderated with computer assistance
- space empire building genre
- heavy control over economic, military, and scientific development
- different races for each player, with different strengths and weaknesses
- some level of automated non-player activity (perhaps an ancient berserk computer player, fully automated, to give everyone an early opponent)

Finally, here is a possible approach to developing it:
- lay out a SIMPLE rule set to start with
- develop the page layouts to support this
- build the database
- build the game logic (again, for a SIMPLE preliminary version)
- incorporate early feedback
- lay out an expanded rule set
- redevelop
- incorporate feedback
- lay out final rule set
- redevelop

I invite any and all readers to give me feedback on this idea. Is my process going to work? What suggestions do you have for the initial rule set? What types of features would you want in the user interface? How important are graphics/images to your user experience?

And, of course, would anyone like to pitch in and help build it? I would do the database and coding, most likely, but could use help in setting up server and hosting, getting a URL, and lots and lots of testing.
I like the idea and wish you good luck! Smile

I would like to stress the importance of doing a lot of playtesting. Looking at your development approach it seems you are aware of this. It's not only to test if the code works and finding bugs, but also to test what features are good and bad. What's fun, so to speak...
Well, to get the ball rolling, here is a draft of a very simple initial set of rules. Very preliminary and full of gaps, but maybe it will get a conversation started.

1. Play takes place in a 3D star cluster.
2. Each star will have 0 or more planets.
3. Each planet will have 0 or more moons (natural satellites).
4. Each planet can be terrestrial, gas giant, or asteroid field.
5. Each player is an independent race of intelligent beings within that cluster, with one home planet.
6. Players can place a single base on any terrestrial planet.
7. Players can place a single space station in any orbit of a planet (of any type).
8. Each player race will have a habitability number. Planets also have a habitability rating. Players whose rating matches a given planet will be able to build open terrestrial bases on those planets, and farm food.
9. Players will build ships of the following standard types: colonization, transport, space superiority, planetary assault, and surveillance.
10. Players will extract resources from planets using mines.
11. Players will use factories to construct production goods.
12. Players will use assembly yards to build finished goods.
13. Finished goods will include ships, mines, factories, and technological advances.
14. Players will be able to communicate with other players at all times, through the game or through email.
15. Technological advances will allow players to build more efficient mines/factories and larger/more deadly ships.
16. Combat will take place in space (space superiority combat), space-to-ground (planetary assault and bombardment), and ground-to-space (bombardment).
17. Player races will grow at standard rates per turn, up to a ceiling for a given planet, adjusted for habitability ratings and (possibly) terraforming.
18. Players will have awareness of all fleets and bases within any star system that they occupy, but no further.
19. Players may trade resources, production goods, and technology, but not population.
20. The game is won when one player or alliance controls half the potential habitability (for their races) of the star cluster.

This is a fairly simple rule set, with lots of room to grow. Yet it should be deep enough to let us build out a decent user interface and perhaps some 3D mapping tools.

Fire away!
What about characters? Will the game have a character system?
That's a good idea. As Margaret Mead once said (paraphrasing here) "Never underestimate the power of individuals to change the course of history -- indeed they're the only ones who ever have."

I'm inclined to say let's put it in the second round of development (intermediate rules set), unless there is popular demand to have characters play a role even at the simplest level.
(01-09-2011, 04:46 PM)ixnay Wrote: 1. Play takes place in a 3D star cluster.

There is a game, Sword of the Stars, where each race has unique ways of moving between stars. Will movement between stars be free or will it follow wormholes/gates? Or will each player be able to chose his propulsion system (that would be cool but tough to balance)?

(01-09-2011, 04:46 PM)ixnay Wrote: 9. Players will build ships of the following standard types: colonization, transport, space superiority, planetary assault, and surveillance.

Following the same line of thought as above. Will there be standardized ships for all races/players or will they be able to create their own designs (like SN:ROTE)?

Start simple and expand is indeed a good way to approach this. More later when I have time to carefully read everything.
Let's broaden the discussion and focus on overall game design first, and drill down into specific rules later.

I had started out more or less wanting to make a simple version of a typical military/economic space empire game, along the lines of Empyrean Challenge, Master of Orion, etc. But the idea of having individuals (characters) play a role has me thinking of that old Avalon Hill/SPI game "Freedom in the Galaxy". This was a pretty naked adaptation of Star Wars to wargame format. The empire player controlled a few key characters, most of the key planets in the galaxy, and all the military forces. The rebel player had a secret rebel base and a strong cast of powerful individuals, who would roam around the galaxy, fomenting rebellion, sabotaging Imperial bases, and laying the groundwork for building a rebel force.

Our approach is to make a web-based game that can be played "casually" throughout the day, perhaps through facebook or a smartphone. Perhaps we could let players assume the role of these individual heroes (Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, etc), OR take command of various military/economic formations.

I will add more later, real life is intruding at the moment...
the problem of using FB and smart phones is that the games becomes dumbed down with repetative actions, making real game play boring (my opinion only) You only have t look and camalot etctype games on FB to see they are not really games but based for FB simple games with click and select type menus. Fun for the first game say or run, but its hard to get players back for a second go once they know the route/clicks to acheive success.
The more I think about it, the more I realize I shouldn't think of the FB platforms so much as the mobile platform. Let people connect from their iPhone, ponder star system reports, draft build orders, etc.

Anyway, based on all the inspiration I've been given on this board, I am going to try to commit myself to working on this project at least a small amount every night. Tonight's mission is to investigate (free) development tools.

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