Best approach to historical game development

Deele 101 Dec 12, 2011 at 02:39 mmo gameplay

What is the best approach to game mechanics, for medieval/historical MMO game, when speaking about historical events and time flow?

Easy part is the start, that could be some predefined year and universe-sate. But what about time flow, and events.

  • Should game just start from predefined point and let players “write their own history” without a time limit?
  • Give some sort of real time flow (like 1 real day is 1 game year), and set enviroment realistic (with people getting adult/old, etc), no historical events that “touch players”.
  • Give time flow and AI driven historical events, if player is situated at historical event location and his current side loses, he lose/is affected too.
  • Make players always neutral, give opportunity to join historical events but their actions does not affect final, just gives some goods.
  • Historical achievements take global scope, new player has current technology level, not the lowest that was in game.
  • If there is time flow, what to do about the point, where “game ends”? “Reset Matrix”?
  • No historical events, tons of graphical/textual data, that “can be readen” while in game or *pops out* when player gets some achievement?

There are tons of approaches but I’m interested mostly in those, that would allow The Game work as educative material, that would allow explore and learn history, feel/understand the life, that was back there.

Summing up: what would be best approach for game universe design, of historical MMO startegy game, that could serve as history lesson about early to late middle ages in europe. I would like to see your suggestions to what should have most accent, what could ruin such game, what could make gamers enjoy “playing history”.

I have seen many games, where developers was using many different approaches, like in “Mount & Blade”, all of those “Hearts Of Iron”, “Age Of Empires”, “Civilization” and many many more, but still, I could not say, they are educating or very close to reality, but I can’t really say, what was that, what they missed to get that teaching perk. What are your thoughts?

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fireside 141 Dec 12, 2011 at 03:59

I don’t think you can change history and call it education. Maybe in a loose sense. You could pick characters that are close to these major players but can’t really change things such as foot soldiers, couriers, etc, and control events. They have a job to do during an important episode in history and have side quests that would make them see things in the area, etc. I’m not sure what you mean by MMO. I don’t think a really educational game would have a massive amount of players. I also think adventure games work better, maybe because I am into them. They are more focused, like history, and don’t generally change the story. The reward is just moving the story forward. The real problem there would be that the player would know what was going to happen, so the side story would have to be pretty interesting.

rouncer 103 Dec 12, 2011 at 06:29

Its actually a good selling point - historical accuracy - I think it is more for the initial setting, and the items/gameplay tools that are available, then you could have historically accurate events during the game, but remember player freedom is important, and actually modifying what actually happened is what the players will do for fun.

I think if you kept it to just that, that would be as far as you need to go with it - then of course study study study… for a game like this, there could be another position on the team for some guy that knows his history well, and hes actually the one whos telling the designer what to do.

Just something silly to say, I often have dreams about games I could have made :) And I had one about an mmo that was placed in time during the industrial revolution (historical accuracy would in fact be important), and one bit I remember you got off the train and this place, and this game notification came up your character telling you “I dont want to be here theres no glassmakers in this town.” or something like that, like there could be some big goods and services thing going during the game. :) But im pretty sure you just took on the role of an indian, or colonist or something and you just basicly did what you want, its just the “setting” was historical.

Stainless 151 Dec 12, 2011 at 12:46

You have to be careful with historical accuracy, it’s all very well having a historically correct world and real world events happening in the background, like the player interacting with the Templars, then suddenly all the Templars disappear because the king of France has killed them all.

Not so good if your player character you have spent weeks training and equiping suddenly drops dead of the plague.

Getting the balance right is tricky.

It’s like trying to put “realism” into space games, nice to have planets created by physically accurate techniques, not so nice when it takes you four years to get there.

alphadog 101 Dec 12, 2011 at 15:23

I am confused a little by your post. Do you want a historically-accurate game environment to give people a feel for some period of history, where history lessons are, to some degree, a side benefit? Or, are you trying to simulate an actual historical event as it has been recorded by historians? The former is much more approachable than the latter. And, I would definitely not recommend the latter as a goal in an MMO setting.

You may want to look into the subgenre of serious games. I’m sure there are plenty of ideas to be had in that community.

I think your issue may be that you are jumping ahead of yourself. What’s the premise? You see, people will line up behind any premise as long as you provide them what the premise promises.

For example, a ludicruous sounding premise that a couple of Italian plumbers would willingly perform mass turtle and lobster genocide whilst collecting coins and mushrooms is still something people are willing to spend hours on… :)

Deele 101 Dec 12, 2011 at 18:33

@fireside “Age of Conan”, MMO RPG took interesting approach - they made a static, fully playable multiplayer RPG world, at the same time, you could go to NPC and *wait for night*, where you went to same city but during a night, and that world, was singleplayer, made changes and finally, you got into fight of whole city, where bad guys rushed into and you got to kill the leader. Finishing that, you could just move onto next city, as first city was *finished*. As with RPG, it is easy, as you carry on your characteristics with yourself, but to do that in strategy game, would be a challange for developer. This method is good for telling main storyline.

@rouncerSounds like your were dreaming about something like Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura :) I agree to you, historical precision could be a good selling point.

@StainlessYeah, I have thought about that. But, if game is strategy game, characters could easely die and could be replaced. If time would be fast paced, individual game units could die from natural causes and born new ones. That could be made playeble, I think.

@alphadogI’m more into telling a history, the way people lived back then, origins of nations, historical events and reasons, why they turned out good/bad to one or another side. The thing is, *I’m searching* for that premise, what objective should such game give player. Maybe, manage some sort of achievement system, where player are awarded for joining historical events, that are somewhat aside from main game.

Thanks for fast answers! Waiting for more to come :)

alphadog 101 Dec 13, 2011 at 17:53

I guess I was trying to ask: do you want players to experience history or affect/change history?

Deele 101 Dec 13, 2011 at 22:03

@alphadog The game should be educative, that means, they should experience history is some manner, their actions, should just affect/change their standing comparing with other players.

Stainless 151 Dec 14, 2011 at 10:09

I would look at it the other way around.

Start by creating a timeline of historical events in your chosen period, then look at them and ask yourself “how would the player get involved ?”

Then you have to come up with a game mechanic that allows history to continue unaltered by the players actions, but still have some target for the player to achieve.

I suppose you could have a time cop type game.

In 1066 William took his Norman army to England and whipped Harold’s posterior, the player could be a Norman knight in a key part of the battle.
If he successfully aids Williams campaign, then the timeline is uncorrupted.
If he fails, then the timeline is damaged affecting the players score, William still wins the battle, but not as decisively.

If the timeline gets corrupted enough, game over man, game Over!

Just one idea

Deele 101 Dec 15, 2011 at 23:26

@Stainless Yeah, timeline was the way I intended to organize real-world-history in my study, that I will need to make for this game. This is good way to look on things from different perspective. But, what did you mean by “time cop type game”? You mean, without global time flow, like single player/individual timeflow? Timeline corruption - good idea. But for now, I need more ideas in multiplayer experience possibilities. Maybe, all players are in one side, and game is cooperative only. Hm.

Stainless 151 Dec 16, 2011 at 09:39

Or the players are organised into two sides (by choice)

Some trying to corrupt the timeline, some trying to protect it.

I don’t know how easy it would be to manage, but it would be really interesting to try a system where when you log into the game you are shown a graph of the timeline with the current state of the game shown as deviations from the ideal.

The player can then choose to jump into the timeline anywhere they like.

So you could have the situation where a bunch of players jump in at 1066, corrupt the timeline and move on to the next major event, which will probably be the purge of the Saxon’s William ordered (I think that was around 1087, but not sure).

Then after they have moved on another bunch of players jump in and fix the timeline.

Going to be a nightmare to control, but could be a hell of a fun game

Deele 101 Dec 17, 2011 at 12:10

@Stainless This approach will be hard to implement in (turn based) strategy game, where players has some sort of towns, cities, resources and stuff… I need to rethink this, but still, interesting idea, thx.