Monday, August 27, 2007

Tools For The Average Game Designer

A-lot of people ask me what tools/software do you need for a designer. Well to be honest it's according what project your working on. In a general term I have written a list of tools and software which myself finds very useful for fleshing out and developing the game title:

Must Need Software
  • Microsoft Word – Microsoft word is the designers Kung Fu. Most design is either written or art, having a good knowledge of word is a good start but to lay out your documents you need advance understanding in its interface and shortcuts.
  • Microsoft Excel – A designer uses excel for many things, project planning, lists for weapons with hit points and health.
  • Microsoft Power Point – Power point can be used to produce game flow presentations as-well as an ideas presentation to team members and to show the flow of the actual game.
  • Adobe Photoshop – Has to be one of the best packages out there. It’s a must for any designer/artist.
  • 3D Modelling Package – modelling packages are good for designers to get a theme or model sense through for the games.
  • Zip (Compressing Software) – Sending big files to your team is a pain so it’s god to zip your files up to reduce the file size.

Optional Software
  • Microsoft OneNote – This is a personal preference. I enjoy one note as it’s quick and easy to jot down notes and pictures as-well as produce quick flow charts and scripts.
  • Microsoft Project – I use this a-lot as it’s good for keeping my projects managed. Deadlines and milestones can be noted and sent to others as-well as able to produce a full schedule.
  • Microsoft Visio – Now I would put this into the must have, but some designers like to be different. Visio is amazing for flow charts and planning out system flow diagrams.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver – Some of my design documents are website format so I find it fun to create a website for the team and mostly publish it on the Internal Wikipedia for people to see as guidelines and updates.

Prototyping Software
  • Microsoft Power Point – Good to show off your ideas and test out game flow practices.
  • Macromedia (Adobe) Flash – Now flash is hard to grasp but once you know some good action script you can basically make a full prototype with it. Everyone uses it for the prototyping and game idea generation.
  • 3D Modelling Package (needs to support animation) – Making small low poly base scenes and animating them can give off a good little representation of your game/game idea.
    Good Engines/Middleware For Prototypes
  • FPS Creator – I use to quickly prototype FPS games, and level based games.
  • Multiverse – I use to test out npc’s, questing, advance scripting ect.
  • Realmcrafter – It can be used for RPG & MMO prototypes in my opinion. Not games. Prototypes.

Games That Can Be Modded For Prototypes
  • Unreal Tournament – Powered by Unreal technology, it’s got to be one of the most powerful and easy (when got to grips with the tech and structure) to mod and create your own prototype.
  • Halflife 2 – HL2 engines has been used to create all sorts of weird and wonderful mods. A good choice to prototype a variety of game types on.
  • Battlefield (1942,vietnam,2,2142) – Very powerful engine, allowing players to run around as FPS and drive vehicles, different objectives. Battlefield has the FPS to it. Although some mods have changed it to a RTS.
  • Command & Conquer Generals – Great for the RTS prototypes. C&C Generals can be modded easily for any sort of RTS – Even space.
  • Freelancer – Is a good and very big space rpg style game. I know a few teams who have used it to prototype space session based games and MMO space games.
  • Quake – Could argue with Quake and Unreal. There both mostly the same. It’s what you prefer.

  • Paper All Sizes – A designer shouldn’t be without paper or at-least a notepad. Able to jot notes and draw ideas out.
  • Pencils – To draw, and note as-well. Some people can write better with pencils then pens.
  • Coloured Pens/Felts – colour in your drawings with vibrant colours.
  • Pencil Sharpener – To sharpen your pencils. Don’t draw with blunt pencils
  • Yellow Posits – Good for writing ideas down and sticking them around your house or studio. Good for reminders as-well just don’t use to many. I found myself a yellow desk after all my work.
  • Eraser – Make a mistake, rub it out.

  • Laser Mouse – With the laser mouse you can move your cursor freely with not jolting in movement or delay.
  • Comfortable Keyboard – You will be using nearly all day so get one your comfortable with.
  • Two or More Monitors – Its easier which anyone will tell you to be able to work on two or more monitors. Especially when using 3ds Max. Photo reference on one screen, Max app on the main one.
  • Printer – Print out concepts, ideas, documents. Just watch the ink.
  • Scanner – Scan in ideas, drawings, from books, scrap books ect.
  • Wacom Tablet – This is a personal preference. I find it better then a mouse.
Other Stuff
  • Lego – Something fun an exciting. Plus good for idea generation. Maybe build your level out in Lego first? There isn’t much limit using it. Especially if you got robotics kits.
  • Laser Tag Guns – Now a-lot of people don’t know this but studios who develop FPS’s play with guns. Not real ones (unless they go to the shooting range). Push up a couple of chairs, get a few laser guns get some of the team/ whole team to join in on the fun. You can practise tactics using them in-game. It also makes work fun.
  • Board Games – Some of the best games are board games. Monopoly, game of life and axis and allies. Those are a few examples but what ever you prefer.
  • Retro Games – Atari, commodore, N64. Look at the very first games and consoles. These were the original titles.
  • Card Games – Some designers like to design a card game for there game first off.
  • Kids books – Designers like Will Wright love to generate new and exciting games. From his experience of reading through kids books, using kids programs and toys.
  • Encyclopaedia – Now this maybe just me but books like this seem to give me a huge handful of game ideas.
  • Remote Control Car – If your developing a racing game. Some studios have adopted Scale Electric cars and remote control cars to have fun building tracks and testing out cars and how fun the actual track design is.
  • Clock (preferably with an alarm) – Random yes, but could come in handy.
It doesn’t stop there. Enhance your creativity with things you enjoy around you and process’s that you can enjoy. I know one designer who writes all his t-shirt. Random yes but if it helps you work why not?
Thanks for reading!

Long Nights?

For those long nights stuck in the studio doing stupid amounts of overtime just to reach your milestone, or if your on the net using msn and working hard away in word. All designers should drink the warmful drink called Coffee! It get's me awake for 20hours a-day working atleast, 4 hours sleep is my usual but can differ from time to time. Have the coffee goodness to get you through those long hours.

It's An Obsession

Everyone has dreamed of getting a super car. Lot's of people like normal cars but there are some who just can't stick to that. Mine is the 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach. All I say is it's love :P

Monday, August 20, 2007

Putting The Fear In MMO's

Hi All,

Me and a few local designers went out for a coffee a few days ago and got into a very good topical talk for the MMO design market. We had a good 2 hour dicussion on How a Horror MMO could be made and what techniques could be used from session based games such as silent hill for the MMO.

It's more of a random drafting of ideas then a well structured article, but I thought It would be good to post to share with the community.

Putting The Fear In MMO’s

We see Fantasy and Science Fiction Massive Multiplayer’s all the time. Even odd twist in a MMO, but what we don’t see is the MMO world expanding like the session base market has. We can explore different types such as; Racing, RTS, Platform, FPS, Horror. My point is we can achieve something new for the MMO genre when looking back into the session based market. My point for this article is to look upon the Horror Genre in a MMO.

Many MMO’s these days like to play it safe and go along the terms of fantasy or sci-fi. What we don’t see enough is original titles. Putting Horror into a MMO is easier said then done. First we must look at how titles such as Silent Hill and Resident evil give us the tense creepy atmosphere making players delve into the world and prone to the zombie or monster jumping out any second. Below I’ve drafted up a list of events and techniques the designers have used to keep the horror genre alive.

· Scripted events – such as the player walks around the corner and something fly’s past the window.

· Dark Atmosphere – All horror games and movies have a darkness to them, there is no point having a vibrant light atmosphere as it doesn’t set the tone “What Lurks In The Dark”

· Abandoned places – Well we could argue that all horrors aren’t in abandoned places, although it seems to be the setting for any of them these days, ghost towns, haunted mansions, deep woodland.

· Folk Lore & Myths – Many horrors are based of Folk Lore and Myths we know of. Some maybe original but a-lot of the scary stuff is from it’s based of real events (Such as the Amityville Horror Killings)

· Horror stories revolve around the actions and emotions of the antagonist, instead of merely using the antagonist as a “mechanic by which drama can be promoted among the protagonists.”

· Horror employs subtle horror techniques. Such as a contrast between the calm music played while horrifically disturbing visual imagery is played. This results in the viewers senses becoming confused. Other visually distorted effects causes the viewer some discomfort, such as varying room heights and characters’ facial characteristics being slightly skewed. Anything, generally visually, that seems wrong somehow gives the viewer a sense of psychological unease, if only subconsciously.

So we looked at techniques for the Horror genre, but we haven’t really looks at what Horror is?

· Merriam-Webster defines horror as a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay – which sounds related to emotions.
· Stephen King defines horror as an emotion to be grappled with, a combat waged in the secret recesses of the heart. The emotions of horror, terror, fear, panic all split us off from the crowd and make us alone.

What about horror in a MMO?

The horror concept within a MMO is easy said the done. You need not only make one player feel the tremble of cold fear up there spine but a wide range of players. Myself and a few others formed a discussion group not long ago talking on the ranges of MMO Ideas we could expand on and pull into full production. One that struck all of us was that the Horror genre is a very difficult theme to get across for an online game. It would be bad enough trying to figure out the story line for 100’s to follow but to achieve the sense of dread and painful emotion into such a widely spread online game would be near enough impossible, but we did have a few brainstorming sessions and found that there is ways to pursue the Horror for the Online Game’s market.

Our first question was to be “What setting could we have for a Horror MMO?”

We could look at Silent Hill for online setting, a ghost town set in deep dense woodland with just a bridge that goes there. Our second was to be looking at a range of storylines like Dawn of The Dead and Resident Evil with a T-virus sort of link. Our last idea which we decided on was to place the players in a dense dark gloomy forest. Why? Because nothing is more scarier then woodland at night with night noises plus we could easily create a woodland with procedurals and a Forest Generator. Gladly could argue our own system or a middleware like Speed Tree.

We all came to the conclusion that using a woodland for a world setting would be a perfect place for all these creepy events. Now to deal with players. We know our woodland is going to be dark and gloomy with mist throughout, but how can we tackle the problem of Day time. Looking at Silent Hills story of It’s bright and still creepy but when it goes dark all hell lets loose. We have decided that it would be a great feature to put into the MMO. The woodland is on endless proportion, we don’t intend the player to move in and out of the woodland. We want daytime to be a relief for players. They will go through the scary dark night wishing they weren’t alive then daytime then can regain ammo maybe find there buddies they lost on the way from running so fast from evil (Blaire witch style).

Deciding what this evil is gains a hard respect on what our story is. Ok we have woodland yes it’s scary but how? Mostly down to psychology and physical being of woodland with night noises from owls and other wildlife but how do we turn the virtual woodland into a heap of evil.
Firstly let’s look at what we could potentially have in this woodland;

· Satanic drawings (Pentagram In the dirt, three stones positioned, bones in the trees)

Satanic structures are one that can pull in the player to evil. Many horror titles have pentagrams and other symbols usually in blood to give that creepy feeling. The game will place other structures such as bones form trees, maybe a few carefully placed (3 stone), hanging corpses and sometimes alive ones. Good reference is Silent Hill The Movie. Were the guy is hanging from the fence still alive.

· Monster (Blood creatures, maybe look at resident evil lickers as reference)
Bloody and burnt corpses crawling across the ground at you, strange shadows running across in front of you. Creatures such as Lickers from resident evil to climb and sit in the tree’s stalking you.
· Ghosts (Able to play with players minds, move objects)

Now ghosts can appear, maybe a ghost appear when you walk closer to a tree you can see one hanging, but we don’t want ghosts to just be a art feature but more element to add to a scary setting. Ghosts can roam and disappear, the ghost of a little gal can skip through the forest singing a song and disappear into the distance.

· Eyes (although many of you may be going that’s not creepy when you come across two
glaring red eyes your first instinct is what is that then second is ok I’m out of here)
We would relate eyes to the creatures in the trees or on the ground so I wont go into any more detail here.

· Night noises (Groans, voices, object noises)
Whispers of voices, little girl, satanic, (reference White Noise) voices directing the players into more evil or taunting them.

We want the player to come across and area and think to themselves. Oh dear I’m not suppose to be here. We also want all the players to experience some sort of scary feeling within the MMO and not just players who have been there for awhile.

So we have a basic setting for the MMO and know a brief outline on what to fill it with, we now come across the players game play.
A very good idea highlighted by Alex was to keep players on there toes and not give them range of weapons such as shotguns, mg’s but to replace all of that with Torches. Nothings more scarier then roaming around a haunted/evil place without any weapons to protect but a torch to guide you.
Wont go into any more greater detail on this, just to give you a rough idea on how to approach a session based genre for the MMO world.

With thanks to:
Alex , Jamie, Tim & Myself

This discussion is continued on the Community Forums:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Revisiting An Old Friend

Many of you didn't know but I was one of the content designers for the online world Contracted for a few months to help them build up there glorious online world space and fill it with 100's of objects and fun games for all its users.

I revisited yesterday and was surprised on how well it's been running. Players have filled the world with there own content. I would advise designers looking to create the synthetic world such as the popular second life to look at

IMGDC 2008

I've just submitted my speech proposal to IMGDC for next year. If successful I will be talking about "MMO Basic Foundations for The Independent Designer". The speech will be talk about basics in MMO design. "You have to crawl before you walk" technique on building a MMO in the independent community. More of an update hopefully next week.

You can visit IMGDC's website using the link below

FPS Games Arn't Dead Just Yet

It's a beautiful thing to see FPS games turn into something new and vibrant. Many FPS are usually remakes of others until Half life 2 my personal word would say FPS games were dying in originality the whole run and gun just got boring after awhile. We now have a new kid on the block. The brilliant team at Irational games presents us with a master piece to turn the FPS evolution wheel again or more than once. Bioshock.

Bioshock bring a twist into the FPS genre and game mechanics of basic FPS. Although it's still a FPS Bioshock gives the player so much more. With genetic mutation devices called Plasmids and other whacked out features such as customizing your own weapons and ammo. What really does bring the compelling world of Rapture (Bioshock's setting) is the AI. The AI is a none scripted oblivion style work of art. Players will come across roaming AI's going about there business such as the Big Daddys and Little Sisters. Other AI's such as mechanical security turrets and Splicers. The game makes the player believe that Rapture is a living breathing world. Although around 20hours of game play Bioshock certainly gives us new hope for the FPS. Truly inspiring artwork, game play and the overall feel allow me to say FPS is reborn.

I advise all game designers to give it ago when it's released on 24th August. It's hard to find a inspiring game but I must say this is one of them.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Multiverse Article Contribute

Today I got my article posted on the MV wiki. Thanks to a-lot of support from the MV users they have got the MV developers to post my article in the MV wiki. I'm very pleased everyone’s taking a liking to my work. Hopefully more to come in the future, but for now you can find it below.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

END - Position Update

I have been with Faramix Enterprises LLC. since the start of June 2007. I joined as a designer to help out polish documents and be an all rounder in programming, art and design. I have now been promoted and placed onto the Core team for Faramix Enterprises LLC. as a CIO, Producer, Creative Art Director,Designer. Some big roles there but I have been doing the positions for arround 2-3 weeks now and I am happy to be one of the 4 Core, driving Faramix Enterprises LLC.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

MMO Studies: Creating A Basic Synthetic World. Part 1

  • Hey all,

    A new Case Study, on the synthetic world is being undertaken. I've just published the first part publically. Hope you enjoy :)

    So looking at the online world the biggest successors except blizzards beat machine “World Of Warcraft” are the synthetic worlds. Yes I’m talking about Second Life. Presenting a virtual online world built by players for players. It’s fun to use in-game modelling tools has really boosted its content, players can create pads to chill out with there friends, have parties or even create there own business’s. Big companies such as virgin and IBM have started to catch on and even universities are hosting lectures virtually. Could the virtual world be turning into our real world?

    This isn’t a review of synthetic worlds its a series of methods to help you “the developer” create your own. This would be assuming you have your bases of the MMO up and running.

    Your first step to a bigger world!

    Now before I begin with development cycle for a synthetic world make sure your MMO has persistent terrain or huge zones. Why? Well players will create content, you need space to create that content. If your looking at a big player base get onto a persistent world module. If however your only looking at a few 100 players using a zone based world would be suitable. In-fact “Sims Online” is a zone based MMO. Each property you go to visit is a instanced zone (Idea Springs To My Head). Further on in part2.

    Phase One

    Let’s get stuck in then. With synthetic worlds there’s one key thing that your MMO must need dynamic terrain, if you cant place dynamic objects your on the wrong path.

    With the object creation you need a system to place the dynamic object onto the terrain, able to move it around and then select place making it a static object. Also able to select it again and turn it into a dynamic object to move or delete.

    That’s it for phase one. It needed to be a simple description but many of you know that’s a hard phase to overcome. There are other ways to get around it, for reference look at my MMO RTS Theory.

    Phase Two

    Ok there are two pathways to take here. The Creation Tools or Pre Made Assets. The creation tools pathway is for developers who want to create modelling tools in game for there MMO. Pre-Made assets is for developers wanting to create a sort of “Go to shop by a lamp, place in house” instead of creating it by tools. There is no right way it’s usually according to how your engine handles. Both are combined in some synthetic worlds.

    The Creation Tool Pathway
    Looking at the most popular modelling packages “3Ds Max” the tools presented there are what we need to integrate into our MMO build mode.

    Basic Shapes
  • 3D
    Box shape , Sphere shape , Cone shape.
  • 2D
    Line spline, Rectangle spline, Circle spline.
  • Extrude
    Allows you to extrude the 2D shapes to 3d using the mouse to define the height of extrusion.
  • Add
    Add tool allows you to add one shape to another, sort of a grouping command, you can Add and Un-add (don’t get mixed up with subtract)
  • Subtract
    Subtract tool allows you to subtract one shape from another. Maybe make a doorway in your wall?
  • Poly Edit
    Poly edit is only for advance developers who really want a creative experience for there players. Poly edit allows players to select the polys which make up the shape. They can move them on a Y,Z,X axis creating more random or complex shapes.

    Once you have these shapes in and tools to add and subtract shapes to and from other shapes you can then start to build huge structures using basic blocks & cylinders. So you have your basic tool creation system in-place now you need to build a texturing system. This will allow the player to look in the servers “Texture Library” and select a texture to be placed on any of the shapes.

    Going into advance building, you could allow users to have some sort of login and user account system via the net so users can upload there own textures to there own part in the server so they can use there own custom made textures, or maybe have a url directing to the texture meaning the engine would need to; look for the textures url, find it, render it on screen (streaming the texture from the image source).
  • Your Cursor
    I’m using the 3ds max Gizmo for a brilliant example for moving your shapes around in build mode. X, Y, Z axis.
  • Move Tool
    A tool which allows you to select your shape and move it on a Y,X,Z axis.
  • Rotate Tool
    A tool which allows you to rotate your shape on a Y,X,Z axis
  • Scale Tool
    A scale tool which can scale on a Y,X,Z axis or All 3 (scaling the complete shape)

    So now you have a Content creation tool ready to be tested extensively until your MMO runs perfectly. No errors in mesh’s, bugs, unwanted gaps.
    Note: You may want to add a shape name tool in there. Just to name each shape player creates to keep track. Although when a shape is added to a shape it will take on a different name. Example shape 1 is added to shape 2 equalling shape 3.

    Pre Made Assets Pathway

    So if you don’t have the skill or the engine just won’t allow you to program a content creation tool set into the engine don’t run away just yet. There are many ways you can get around the problem. This problem is to have a premade asset library. Star wars galaxies is a big example, players could place pre made homes into the world and by pre-made objects. No options on editing the properties of the shape or editing the appearance, but still satisfaction of owning there own home in the world.
    Now you could do this by having a vendor which sells houses, furniture other items. Also you could add the option of a Player Made Content Vendor which would search the library on the server of all the models the players have made themselves. Ways to do this would be for a automated uploading system, or getting the player to email a dev, the dev uploaded to the library manually and allowing 2-3days for the content to appear.

    So my method

    First thing players are going to want are houses. Now its easy to make an estate agent vendor (as it acts like a shop). The vendor sells different types of houses. Player selects his/her house. Purchases the deed. Once the player is happy on there location for there house they drop the deep and boom there is your house.

    Note: Maybe have an option to lock content such as houses so other players couldn’t move them or take them. Easy on this way to create a ownership system where when an object like a house is added the player can claim an ownership allowing them to move it and lock it. Although some engines may need a good hardcode system for this and some don’t as many MMO engines these days support Player housing.

    A Idea

    Just a quick idea on how you could develop a synthetic world by looking at games and real life.

    See now this could be fun, you could get players to go to the estate agents when they join, or maybe even start them off in there own flat like you do in “World Of Kaneva”. Players then get some start off money, they get a Job to gain them money or start there own business. Maybe selling off objects they create? Or paying real money for in-game money. You can then proceed to shop at furniture stores made by NPCs/Players, go to placed like electronic stalls. Which sell a video games console were the actual TV allows you to click on it and play a pre-code game like Tetris or something similar. A game within a game. The TV’s could even have a Sims feel to it, you click on it and can change the channel according to what in TV subscription you bought. Pay every game month for the TV license, get better TV licenses get more channels. The channels would be streamed movies/clips from the internet. Maybe even add guns and other fun games into your world so players could create laser zones for entertainment, allow your tools to be the basics but create a vibrant world of endless possibilities. Allow anything to be streamed onto a wall, documents, videos, audios and even flash games. Get players to create content, give them options to create there own stuff.

    Note:All your MMO to be a tool which allows the player to create there own world

My Inspirations are
Kudos,Sims Online, The Sims, The Sims2, Singles, Second
Life, Star Wars Galaxies.

There’s more to come on this subject, just at the moment I wanted to cover the basics on the synthetic world….

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Explore Your Inner Child

It's a bit of an interesting subject when I started to pick up the concept. Designers today like Will Wright all gather the block buster game hits from the simple things of life. Kids toys.

I had a good research and read of many mediums of kid toy rules and dynamics as well as visual aesthetics within the toys and pointed the direction of mediums of games. Giving the player the same speculation as for example "LEGO". A wide open variety world for the player to build and visually create as well as game play on a easy basis learning curve added.

Download Power Point Presentation

I hope you enjoy the presentation I’ve written and also any questions please post here. This has been written to help others explore there inner child and create new ideas, especially for the MMO market.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

MMO Studies: The Prototype


What a lot of developers do is race ahead to modelling and production and half way through writing documents and really just get into such a mess they don’t know what to do next. You have deadlines ran way over due and team are loosing motivation. So start planning first. I recommend not to go straight into your Full on MMO production.

The Method

Write out your concept document explaining the game idea, the target platform and of course the target audience. Write down some key features your game will have. Once you have completed this get a Prototype document drafted. Now your in pre-production phase. This is a big learning curve. Don’t get anyone onboard until you have a small prototype to show off, it also shows you know the engine and development throughout. As a producer you need to know these things otherwise you can fall in to all sorts of pitfalls.
The prototype document should be just a small extract of your MMO world. Get a small world up and running. Below is an example extract from the “Ancient World Online” prototype document. It just explains what the player should see. The sort of content within the world. A tip is to keep it simple and fresh. Don’t go crowding a huge amount of complex particles, animations and scripts. Keep it simple and easy.

“With the demo we need to get the design idea across by using visual communication. As starting off in the town centre of Delarey we will have many things going on, and many static characters all around us. Traders/Merchants and market sellers all going about there daily work. Also some static models will represent players looking for guilds, selling items or just sitting down, some may be fighting others just thinking. The centre is the central point of the city and must show the most life around. The centre also has the cities 4 most important buildings looking over it. The huge sky scraper of city hall, the galactic space federation council head office, the city bank and also the EUCT HQ. Within the city centre there will be recruitment tents for the EUCT and also quest givers. Vendors and trainers will also be present.
The city will have many places to visit such as the bars and clubs present within the city also a casino will be shown but won’t be allowed to go inside it. The life on the streets will be people sat out side the bars talking each other up, others standing and drinking and some law enforcement there to keep things clean. Bouncers will also be present on the doors. If you have a space ship and fly into Delarey you will probably want to land in its big player airbase. Were players can store there ships with safety, also can gain repairs from the local mechanics. When in here you will see around 10 present space craft which you will be able to fly once you have saved up enough money to buy one.

Wondering down the streets pass the player airbase you will see Information desks for players and also some mission terminals and cash machines by the walls. Walking out near the outskirts of the city you will come to the cities space port were people can have planetary travel by using public transport.

Walking around past the space port you will come to some small hilled areas and grass fields, in the fields you may notice players meditating (displaying some special particles flying around them) and some on the hills camping out with a camp fire and pitched tents. Journeying passed the hills you will start to come to the coast and there in front is a small player base set on the sands. It is under attack from another player and a small battle has begun. Explosions, fires and bellowing smoke can be seen all around. “

What is a key as well in a prototype document is to list the limitations. When I was designing AWO I had many limitations from using a Evaluation package. It’s a good skill to find different ways to get around the limitations. Finding different ways to show off what you want your mmo to look and play like is a key essence. It shows you have skill and have the drive for your game vision. Below is the Limitations extract from AWO.


As using just the Evaluation package of BigWorlds engine we do have many limitations, these are listed below:

1. No scripted entities as we do not have the server to set up on.
2. No Space chooser (terrain mesh program) meaning a small terrain to work with.
3. No means of showing of “Space and combat”.
4. No Showing off of Direct Control NPC and Pet System.”

So what does your prototype need to show. Well for one the games theme and visuals are a key when someone looks at it, but many prototypes are used to get across the game play. The game play for example in Ancient World Online has measurements of RPG and RTS as well as FPS system all built in, but of course the prototype just didn’t allow that thanks to the Evalu engine. So how do you get around that.

Now when looking at RPG system. Your engine may have the capabilities to have shops and vendors even a basic combat system. Well if it does use it. Some engines especially on Evalu don’t let you script anything. So came up with the idea to have speech bubbles above the NPCS with an example speech of a vendor. You couldn’t click it or interact but at least it showed that was what the vendor did.

It’s very easy to get the prototype underway. Create your terrain, your models, then your NPC’s then concentrate on the rest such as skill and combat systems.

Once you have a visually sufficient prototype and shows the game play flow then you can get a team on board as the prototype acts as a sales pitch to your team. You need to have your team buy into your idea and the best way is to give them something to run around in. If your team isn’t motivated by the idea then there are big chances your MMO will fail. Hold on though, don’t quit. Ask them what they want to see in there. Improvements and so fourth. Be prepared to take a lot of criticism your like a mother protecting her new born but you must let everyone have a say. If its just you, your making a MMO targeted for just yourself you need as much input from your team and sometimes the public to help truly build a MMO.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

MMO Studies "Basic Foundation Phases"

I posted this up at the Multiverse forums, some users found it a constructed article and apparently a good read. I thought I would share the same article here.

This is just a method. Not a fact or solution or guide. If you choose to use some ideas from here that’s fine but I’m just making it clear this isn't a guide to create a MMO. More like guidelines ;)

If you look at it realistically you can't achieve it.
If you look at it from a visionary’s point of view it might just be in your reach.

You really need to think hard though about your small MMO project. Planning is a key for mmo success even if it’s only a few months work.

1. What’s the MMO About?
A short description on what your MMO is. Its aim, its genre, its ideas.
2. Game Play Flow
This is a Game Play Flow Diagram (See my example below)
3. World Design
3.1 Setting
Your World Setting, what type terrain, gravity? oxygen? bad weather?
3.2 Contents
Cities, villages, settlements, ruins, battlegrounds
3.3 Quests
Quest Scripts (Set out like Theatre Scripts)
4. Characters (NPC's & Players)
Playable Characters, appearance
None Playable Character, appearance
5. Static Objects (Ties in with Advanced World Design)
6. Scripting
6.1 Scripting Events/triggers
Particles, animations
6.2 Scripting NPCS
Dialog (set as script)
6.3 Scripting Quests
Technical script side to quests
7. Items
7.1 Items
Item List
7.2 Clothing
Clothing List
7.3 Weapons
Weapons List

A-bit of a list, and that's just basic study for the simple MMO. It can be done within a few months. I used to set myself little challenges like this.

Here’s my example of a game play flow for a SMALL MMO project.

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Phase One

Get the Basic Terrain down then start to progress onto character development (playable). I then suggest build a small town and texture it. Once you have that create some NPC's for that town. Start to script just conversation dialogs for NPC's. Then start to graft up some items/weapons to make it more interesting. Add a small Hit point combat system. You should now have a world you can go around exploring different towns (if you wish to build more).Talking to NPC's and able to combat with NPC's.

Phase Two

Add some monsters to your world so you can kill. Now comes the Skill system part. Start by implementing one skill at a time. Test it out before moving onto the next. I would advise start with EXP (Experience). Add skill set + script to the end of combat with monsters. Give each type of monster different exp point to gain from killing it. Once you have around 3-4 Foundation skills you can start to make your quests. Create a simple "Go Fetch Item Quest" then progress to "Kill NPC to Get Item" and so on. Once you have some Skills and Quests you can then start to advance to Phase Three.

Phase Three

Economy systems are hard to get your thumbs around, especially MMO's. Create a simple Economy system. Create a Bazaar Market place in one of your towns. Script in a Shop conversation, and add a game default item like a barrel to the Buy list. Set cost to 10. You may want to look into the start up script and add a give player money event at the start of entering your world for the first time. This is to set the player up. Sufficient 100 would do fine.
Tip. Don’t make your economy too complex. Keep it simple. Keep track of item/clothing/weapon pricing using a Excel spreadsheet.

Phase Four

Well by the time you get here hopefully your few months will be at an end, and hopefully you have a fine MMO project to show off to your examiner.

Hope this helps :)

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I decided to add a site viewer widget to my blog. Just out of curiousity I guess.