PlayByMail.Net

Full Version: Eressea
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
I'd like to take the time to introduce you all to Eressea. It's not an easy game to describe, because I'm no longer sure it's even a game, but here's trying to explain it by way of its history:

Eressea is a fantasy world simulation. It started with a couple of friends who discovered Russell Wallace's Atlantis and after playing in German Atlantis for a while, deciding that what they wanted was a game less focused on magical and military expansion, but an open-ended simulated world in which their small fantasy empires could exist, with no goals other than to have fun and maybe discover some emergent stories.

A small group of developers went to work, set up a game of Atlantis 1.0 with minor modifications, and invited their friends to play. Rules would be changed whenever necessary, to favor long-term open-ended play. Magic was to be completely redesigned. New friends and friends of friends were constantly added, and the world grew outward from a few original islands to more and more area for these new players. A professional game developer joined the development team (that's me), and the game eventually grew beyond mere friends of friends to have several thousand players.

The game continued to be strongly shaped by combat, and all new empires tended to go through a phase of growth, followed by the building of alliances and major battles that would usually eliminate one side or the other. The roots of the old Atlantis game are strong. With the military players' demands shaping much of the development of the game (and a new combat system, NPC monsters), the original design team split to try and build other games in 2005, leaving only me to keep the game running in the years since.

Since the schism of 2005, I have tried several things. The game is fully now automated, and if necessary, it will run for weeks without attention. Registration of new players was always a manual step, and  for several years, new registrations were closed. The resulting attrition has slowly reduced the number of players in the original game back to around 200 (I suspect some players have multiple factions, making this a bit hard to count), a much more manageable figure. To respond to demand, I started two additional games, registering a large number of players in a fixed-sized world, each time with slightly tweaked experimental rules. Starting fresh games like this compresses all the work of world generation and player registration into a week or two, which felt easier than the constant growth pattern of the original game, and given enough demand, I would start more games like that.

The design team has grown to include some of the more dedicated players, and publishing the source on github has brought in a few developers who help me with fixing bugs and building new features. We have a regular release schedule for new versions, integration test servers, and all the software development bells and whistles that a big project like this needs. I'm pretty proud that the game hasn't missed one of its weekly turn in years.

In the meantime, I believe that many of the remaining players are more aligned with the original vision of a long-term open-ended world simulation. They've fought the big battles for territory, and due to attrition, there is more territory - you can't swing a dead hobbit without hitting some lost civilization's overgrown castles. So this year, we started allowing new players into the world again - placing them into the empty wastelands with all their history and ruins. This is mostly attractive to former players who wish to reconnect with the game, and it can be a challenge, because many of these regions are resource-starved and overrun by roving bands of NPC monsters. The nice thing for me is that it's easy to automate this, because no new landmasses are added to the game, instead an algorithm finds the most suitable-looking spots for a new player.

At this point, the term "Eressea" refers to several things: First, the genre of game, to which all three of my games belong. Secondly, the original game world, which is also named Eressea, just to confuse matters. And thirdly, the open-source code base on github that runs the entire game. Each one of these is a project to itself, and there is potential for growth in all these areas. I'm growing eressea-the-world by placing players into the old world, and eressea-the-codebase by open sourcing it and inviting players to help with development.

I'm still trying to figure out how to grow eressea-the-game. I've had several interested parties who were considering running their own game, and a lot of times, they did not get betond compiling the source. I try to help with that, and it has gotten a lot easier over the years (another side-effect of the open source development), but it requires a modicum of technical knowledge. I've offered to try out compromises where I host the game for a GM (Eressea as a Service), but so far, nobody I've talked to has shown enough interest in that, either. Maybe I'm doing too good a job with my three games, and there is no need for another one? I hope not!