10 October, 2016

Playing with the back end

One of the things I loved about playing Bard's Tale 3 back in the very late 80s and early 90s was the fact that I could use my crude disc copying software of the time to read the byte clusters that made up the software. This meant I could cheat by modifying attributes, adding levels of hit points, activating certain character classes (such as the Geomancer) which normally required quests to be fulfilled, acquiring bonus equipment, or playing with the character image, even applying a monster image where my character's portrait should have been.

That was high school and while it wasn't my first exposure to computer programming, it was my first real attempt at "modding" a game. It was enough of an obsession that my best friend at the time became the best man at my wedding over a decade later and used it as a part of his speech at my wedding. It was also the time when I really thought computers could be used for roleplaying in far better ways than they had so far.

Some time around this point (or maybe a little later), my group of friends discovered "Eamon", which allowed us to have a single character that could go on multiple quests, or even engage the same quest multiple times over (because between the lot of us, we only had four or five different quest discs). We started working out how to program our own quests, but one of the core members of our group committed suicide in 1993 and we all separated, heading our own ways. As a game concept, it was something that had lingered in the back of my mind as one of those many projects I might get around to if I had the chance.

It wasn't long after that when I went to university in the mid-90s, and encountered MUDs and MUSHes (the precursors to the MMORPGs we know today). Those MUDs and MUSHes followed that "Eamon" strategy, but remained always active, you could log in to do quests when you wanted, and chat with other people around the world who happened to be online at the same time. It was one of the first times I had started to make friends around the world through the internet.

I didn't really play too many games like that again for a while, because I got heavily into LARP. But when I got out of LARP, there were a new generation of browser games that filled a similar void. A friend was obsessed with "Urban Dead", I got back into that style of gaming with two that caught my attention more thematically, one about angels and demons, another about pirates...I can't remember either of their names, and I don't think either of them run anymore.

I've wanted to write something like these, but also a bit like the Dungeon Robber game I mentioned in the last post.

So, for the moment, I don't want a game where I have to store characters in my site's database. But I want the opportunity for the user to have an encrypted string that defines their characters. When they leave, they can cut-and-paste that string into a notepad file, and if they want to revisit that character later, they can paste it back into the index/entry page and everything will be entered into the relevant variables and the game will be ready to play. This particular project is not designed to be a MUD/MUSH, instead I'm envisioning more of a "Myst with more NPCs to chat with and random monsters". I'm just not certain about a few of the logistical issues at the moment.

In "Dungeon Robber" you keep playing until you get bored. In games of the "Urban Dead" genre, you get a limited number of action points that gradually refresh (maybe about 50 points with a refresh rate of one every five or ten minutes). You might be able to play through your full action points twice a day. That's not enough action points to walk from one side of the world to another, so it might take two or three full sessions of play to accomplish that. Restoring action points in that manner probably needs central database interaction, something I want to avoid. Instead I may create a system where character accumulate positive and negative traits, where such traits tend to accumulate in the negative, making tasks harder to accomplish as a character keeps going, but all the trait vanish after a certain time of rest. All I would need in this case is a single time and date stamp as a part of the data string defining the character, the longer you soend away from the game, the more of these negative traits fade away. 

More stuff to think about.

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